Saturday was the release day of TWO Kelli Ireland books: Conquering the Cowboy and The Immortal’s Unrequited Bride.
Conquering the Bride Kelli’s fourth cowboy romance set in New Mexico and features a rugged cowboy who handles climbing recertification, and Taylor, a search and rescue team lead who is struggling with a traumatic climbing mission gone wrong.
The Immortal’s Unrequited Bride is the third book in the Assassin’s Arcanum Series featuring sexy Irish Druid Assassins and the ladies that love them.
Trusting him is dangerous…
When a mission goes disastrously wrong, search-and-rescue team lead Taylor Williams is left with indescribable terror at the prospect of climbing. But she knows she has to face her fear to overcome it. Now she’s at a ranch in New Mexico, where her climbing recertification is in the hands of cowboy climber Quinn Monroe. Only this devilishly handsome rancher is about as friendly as a spur in the backside…
As they prepare for the climb, Taylor can’t ignore Quinn’s rugged physicality. The scorching heat between them helps distract Taylor from her fear, but her growing feelings make spending time with him dangerous. In the end, conquering her past may be a small feat compared to conquering this cowboy…
Quinn rarely delved into the emotional side of his life. Hell, rarely was actually more like never. It was foreign territory, somewhere he didn’t go. So wandering around there with Taylor, a virtual stranger, left him out of sorts.
Struggling to find his balance, both in the situation and with the woman, he asked the first question that came to mind. “When did you start climbing?”
She blinked up at him, obviously caught off guard. “I, uh…” She shook her head and laughed, the sound slightly self-deprecating. “Last thing I thought you’d ask.”
“What would’ve been the first?”
A shadow passed over her face, piquing his curiosity, but the pallor that followed and settled over her cheeks told him he’d hit on something significant. “Maybe later.”
He shrugged with feigned nonchalance. “Tell me about your first climb, then.”
“I summited on my first climb, though it was admit- tedly an easy attempt. I was fifteen.” She picked at a loose thread on her shirt and didn’t look up when she elaborated on her answer. “It was a stupid thing, really. Our family vacation was to the West Coast, and I was hell-bent on doing something different. I used my allowance to hire a beginner’s guide.”
She shrugged, dismissing the observation. “I saved.” Then she looked up and smiled, the move changing the entire disposition of her face. “One of the best investments I’ve ever made.”
Quinn had to clear his throat for his voice to come out as more than an approving grunt. I’ve gone Neanderthal. Great. “So, I take it you liked it?”
Taylor shook her head. “No. I didn’t like it. I loved it. For the first time in my life, I was free. My well-being, my very survival was in my hands and the hands of my belay partner. I was free from the confines of…” Her voice faded even as her gaze darted away again. “Sounds pretty pathetic, I’m sure.”
Quite the opposite, actually. He could relate, having found himself in the same spot, but at eleven years old, not fifteen. “The first time I set foot on a mountain with the sole intent to climb, I was lost to it. When I summited?” He grinned. “I swore I’d never come down. I was eleven. Turned out supper was a bigger impetus to a preteen boy than making a statement about his newfound love, and I ended up back home before dark.”
She snorted. “I feel like a bit of a voyeur, getting such a personal glimpse into your life.”
Quinn chuckled. “It’s not too personal. The entire town watched me grow up and more than half were compelled to provide running commentary. There’s never much pri- vacy in a town this small. Someone’s always got something to say about what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.”
“What’s it like, always having people around who know you or know what you’ve been up to?”
She appeared fascinated at the intimacies of living out here, so he went on to tell her more about his childhood and what ranch life was like, leaving out most of the hard- ships and sharing the high points.
Several anecdotes in, she held up her hand to stop him so she could catch the breath laughter had stolen. “Uncle. I’m calling uncle already. I can’t take any more.” Wiping her face, she shook her head. “It sounds wonderful.”
“It had its moments,” he admitted, surprising himself a little with the truth. Memories he’d dragged up and let roll around for fun caught him somewhere just behind his heart, and they shocked him. He’d never looked at his childhood like this, never recognized how much he’d been part of a home, not just on the ranch but in the county.
“Sounds like it was a great way to grow up.”
He nodded, unable to put into words everything that rolled around inside his head…and heart. Instead, he slapped on his hat and nodded at her, touching the brim as a matter of courtesy. “I’ve got to finish up chores. The horses and our mammoth donkey, Cob, will be up at the gate ready for their dinner.”
“Your donkey’s name is Cob?” She looked up at Quinn, brow furrowed. “Is it because he eats corn cobs?”
The laugh surprised even Quinn, rolling up from deep inside him, a sound he hadn’t issued since long before the funeral—an authentic, heartfelt, genuine laugh. Ignoring the way Taylor stared at him, he shook his head and rubbed his upper lip. “Cob got his name when he was born. C-o-b stands for cranky old bastard.”
“And he got the name when he was a baby?”
“Sometimes animals, and people, are born as old souls. He was one of them.” Quinn glanced at the door, the per- sonal nature of the conversation making him antsy. “I’ll need to get the stock fed and put up for the night before I can call it a day. My intent is to get started on your ground- work tomorrow after breakfast.”
Her eyes widened. “Okay.”
His internal barometer shifted, dropping into the Trou- ble’s Brewing range. Shifting so he was square in front of her, though several feet away, he asked, “You okay with that plan or is there a problem?”
“It’s fine,” she blurted out, the words all but tumbling over each other.
“Okay,” Quinn said. He needed to get out of here and gain some personal space and, with any luck, perspective. “I’ll see you in the morning, then. G’night.”
Flustered, Quinn pushed through the screen door, crossed the porch and took the cottage steps two at a time. His booted feet hit the pathway with a whump. He didn’t pause and definitely didn’t look back. Rounding the cor- ner of the house, he started across the field toward the barn and the last of his nightly chores. Not that bringing Taylor dinner had been a chore. He’d…enjoyed himself, had enjoyed chatting and talking about things he hadn’t thought of in years.
Ahead, in the near dark, a horse nickered and the don- key’s bray punctuated the greeting with a demand for food. After seeing to those animals he could hang up his hat and crawl into bed…where his mind would likely defy him and drag up Taylor’s image.
Like it did now.
As Quinn walked between the cottage and the barn, twi- light ceded to nightfall and shadows stretched and deep- ened, seemingly in time with each step that carried him farther away from the cottage.
From the surprising comfort he’d found.
A love that endures beyond death itself…
Ethan Kemp is a healer, not an assassin. But he’s found an unexpected home in the Irish stronghold that houses the Assassin’s Arcanum—men who will kill to protect their Druid brethren. Too bad there’s a ghost that won’t give him peace…
Centuries in the grave, Isibéal Cannavan has longed to be reunited with her beloved. Finally, he’s returned to her. She’d recognize Lachlan anywhere, even as an American warlock called Ethan. But her path to reuniting with him in the land of the living runs through hell itself, and she’ll have to take Ethan with her…
Ethan pressed the heels of his hands to his temples and slowly shook his head. “So much. All of it? At least most of it.” He slid down the wall at his back until he sat, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. “I need to talk to her to be sure, though.”
Rowan’s eyes narrowed. “Explain.” “I’m not sure how.” “Try.” Cool air brushed over his forehead, and Ethan knew she hovered at his side. Listening. Letting his head fall back, he gently thumped his skull on the stone wall. “I remember her, us, growing up together. I remember days playing by the loch, nights by the campfire telling scary stories. I remember Iz curling up next to me for protection. Gods, I ate that up.” He smiled. “She knew it, too. She always seemed to know. “There was my first magick and then hers, our skills growing in tandem. There was our first kiss,” he mur- mured, closing his eyes, “and the night I proposed to her, thinking to be romantic. Our wedding day…and night. “Four years we were married, Rowan. Before that? I called her my own for every day I knew her as Lachlan. Marriage only added another level of knowing. Of… intimacy.” Ethan couldn’t stop the pained, animalistic sound that escaped him. “And then?” Rowan asked. Grief and rage and loss warred within him, none more dominant than the other, until revenge settled into the mix. “She was taken from me,” Ethan said with cold quiet. “Her life was cut short by Sean, a man who thought it his right to give and take as he saw fit. My brother,” Ethan spat even as he clutched his shirt over his heart and pulled. “He… Gods, save me, I saw…”
“Enough,” Rowan said gently, not looking at him but, seemingly, at nothing.
Ethan knew better. He looked in the same direction, resented that he couldn’t see her, hear her, touch her. Pressing his hand flat over his chest, he bowed his head. “I can’t even kill him, seeing as he’s probably already dead.” He sighed. “I can’t remember.”
A heavy, male hand landed on his shoulder. “Sean Cannavan was cast out of the Arcanum and shunned by all Druids when I was a wee lad. It was never known why by any of the elders. There’s a chance your brother lives, but if he does? He’s lost everything, Ethan. Sean was infamously banished. The decree set down by the Elder’s Council said he was never to be acknowledged by a Druid again. He was sent into a life of absolute exile, Ethan. Not much you can do that’s worse than that.”
Ethan smiled, slow and sure. “You’ve never seen me lose my temper.”
“No one’s heard from him in centuries. As far as I know, he’s presumed dead. How do you intend to avenge someone who’s already dead?”
He glanced at Rowan. “Helps to have a friend who sees dead people.”
“I won’t be responsible for helping you strike out blindly. Only heartache comes from foolishness.”
Ethan shot to his feet and gripped Rowan by the bi- ceps, ignoring the man’s pointed look. “If she was yours? If you could set to rights your own loss? And if not that, at least deliver some semblance of justice that might, might, let you sleep at night?”
Rowan went rigid as he closed his eyes. “Aye, man. I’d do whatever was necessary.” Then he looked at Ethan. “Whatever was necessary.”
“Then you’ll understand that I need to borrow your power. I need to talk to her.”
The giant Druid’s eyebrows shot to his hairline at the same time a cold gust of air blew over Ethan.
He spun toward the disturbance. “Isibéal?”
The window to his right exploded outward and rained glass down the side of the keep, the merry, tinkling sound in direct opposition to the violent war of emotions that raged within him.
Isibéal was gone.
Ethan stared out into the night sky and rested one hand over his heart.
He would find a way to touch her, hold her, save her from an eternity of nothingness and avenge the wrong done her—them—if those were the last things he did.
And they very well might be.
Kelli Ireland spent more than a decade as a name on a door in corporate America. Unexpectedly liberated by Fate’s sense of humor, she chose to carpe the diem and pursue her passion for writing. Ever a fan of happily-ever-afters, she discovered she loved being the Puppet Master for the most unlikely couples. Seeing them through the best and worst of each other while helping them survive the joys and disasters of falling in love? Best. Thing. Ever.
You can find out more about Kelli by visiting her website at www.kelliireland.com.