France, 1942. The world is at war. The Nazis have stolen the infamous blue diamond, Le Coeur Bleu, intending to barter it for weapons that will destroy the Allies. Jewel thief Hunter Smith is given a choice; help the French Resistance steal back the diamond and avenge the death of his best friend, or stay locked up in an English prison. He chooses revenge.
Resistance fighter Madeleine Bertrand’s husband died when he was betrayed by Hunter Smith. How can she now pretend to be married to the arrogant American? How can she betray Jean Philippe’s memory by her passionate response to Hunter’s kisses? Neither is prepared for the maelstrom of attraction that erupts between them. To survive they must uncover the mysteries of the past and conquer the dangers of the present. But first Madeleine must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband and the Resistance or with the greatest love of her life.
“From now on you will be known as Jacques Lemay, Monsieur Smith.”
Monsieur Gagnon filled his pipe, dropping bits of tobacco onto his wife’s immaculate floor. Madeleine sat off to one side of Monsieur Gagnon’s kitchen, watching as Madame Gagnon prepared breakfast for her husband and their “guest.”
Madeleine silently seethed as Smith—non, Lemay—helped himself to another piece of bread. Did he have to eat so much? Didn’t he know that food was scarce here in Lille, just as it was all over France?
She listened as Smith handed over the new two-way radio to Monsieur Gagnon and explained its use.
“It’s supposed to have a clearer and stronger signal than the radio you’re using now,” Smith said. He flipped a few dials to illustrate. “They also told me it is easier to scramble the signal to avoid detection.”
“Bon.” Monsieur Gagnon beamed in pleasure. “Good communications are essential to our work. Thank you for bringing it.”
“No problem. What else can you tell me about my cover here?”
“You are to work as a junior gardener at the chateau. I wrote to the head gardener, as if I was you, inquiring about work. He’s desperate for help. The Germans have rounded up many young Frenchmen and shipped them east to work in factories in Germany, so there are few able-bodied men available. You start tomorrow.”
He paused as his wife set a bowl of porridge in front of him. Monsieur Gagnon could not be connected with Jacques Lemay in any way; their comings and goings to this house had to be done with the utmost discretion. Madeleine knew the importance of keeping Monsieur Gagnon and his wife safe. He was the heart of their operation, their connection to the outside world through the radio he operated. If something went wrong and Hunter Smith was captured, it was crucial that no trails led back to Monsieur Gagnon. The safety of their réseaux, their Resistance network, depended on it. She hoped Smith understood the danger.
“I said in the letter that you had not worked as a gardener before, so he is not expecting you to know the difference between a delphinium and a dianthus.” Monsieur Gagnon poured milk onto his porridge. “But he is expecting you to work hard. If you don’t, you could be fired, or your cover could be blown.”
“I can manage.”
“The job might require a little more than sticking a shovel in the ground occasionally and spreading a bit of manure,” Madeleine said. The others turned to stare at her.
She immediately regretted her sarcastic remark, regretted throwing his words in his face. She shouldn’t let this man get to her, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. They needed to work together for the sake of the mission. But she hated him. After what he’d done to Jean Philippe…
Hunter’s gaze locked with hers, and the heat of his anger scorched her clear across the room. She refused to back down from the challenge in his stare. She’d be damned if she’d let him intimidate her.
“Madeleine, enough.” Monsieur Gagnon spoke sharply. “Regardless of your feelings, we need him. He is our only hope for getting the diamond out of the hands of the Nazis.”
He was right. If they couldn’t steal Le Coeur Bleu, Jean Philippe would have died for nothing. She couldn’t let that happen.
She inhaled deeply and looked away. “All right. We’ll work together.”
Renata Cabral needs to hide for the weekend. Her cousin’s Valentine’s Day wedding means she’ll face embarrassing questions from her large, extended family. Questions like “Why aren’t you married yet?” Since the breakup of her last relationship, she’s not ready to answer that question. She invents a work-related excuse and escapes to a friend’s lakeside cottage.
Noah Brownlee has been hiding for two years. But now he’s ready to come home and mend his broken relationship with his brother. When a friend offers the use of his lakeside cottage, Noah arrives in the middle of a blizzard with his English Mastiff, only to find the place is already occupied. With her big brown eyes and quirky sense of humor, Renata stirs feelings he thought long dead.
As the blizzard rages, the candy hearts predict love. Can Valentine’s Day work its magic between them?
The bedroom door swung open and Renata stood in the opening wearing a short robe that revealed her lovely legs. A light floral fragrance drifted to his nose—he envisioned a field of flowers. Spike brushed past her and entered the room.
“Oh! I didn’t realize you were with Spike.”
“I’m sorry. When he gets a notion, he’s pretty hard to stop. I’ll get him out.”
“No, that’s okay. I don’t mind having him in my room. Besides, I doubt you could make him leave if he doesn’t want to.”
She was probably right. “You’re sure? He snores something awful. And did I mention the drool?”
She smiled. “Yes, I discovered the delights of sleeping with Spike last night. But I have to admit, I kind of like having the big lug around.”
“You’re sure you don’t mind?”
“I’m sure.” She took a step backward into her room, holding the door between them. “I should get some sleep.”
She hesitated, as if waiting for him to speak. For a moment he thought she was going to invite him into her room. But then she swallowed and lowered her gaze.
“Goodnight, Noah. Sleep well.”
She quietly closed the door. Noah’s heart beat frantically as he stood outside. He wanted her in a way he hadn’t felt in a very long time, a deep primal urge, an overwhelming desire. Should he knock, ask to come in, ask to spend the night with her? Should he throw caution to the wind and let her know how he felt?
He raised his hand, ready to knock. What if he’d misread the way she’d responded to his kiss? Were his feelings for her simply a product of their isolation together? If she made love with him tonight, would she later regret it?
Fear slapped him in the gut. He couldn’t face another rejection. He let his hand drop to his side and walked to his room.
After causing three cooking fires in her apartment, Iris Jensen finds herself evicted and homeless. She lands on Riley Benson’s doorstep, looking to rent a room in the beautiful old home he’s restoring. It’s only for six weeks until Iris leaves Portland, Oregon for her new job on a cruise ship. Firefighter Riley knows firsthand what a bad tenant she can be. But he needs money to finish the work on the house he loves. And something about Iris pulls at his heart…
Meanwhile, in Heaven, two angels watch over the young lovers. Angelica and Hildegard work in Heaven’s Relationship Division, where angels match mortals with their soul mates. The angels believe so strongly in Iris and Riley’s love that they break Heaven’s rules to help them. Can the angels convince them their love will last a lifetime?
~~ Excerpt ~~
Riley looked into her beautiful blue eyes and her smiling face and did the only thing he was capable of doing at the moment.
He kissed her.
Maybe later, he told himself, when sanity returned, he’d think of a hundred reasons why pulling Iris into his arms, holding her snug against his body, and plundering her soft, sweet mouth was not a good idea. But for now, right now, as she wound her arms around his neck and made tiny sounds of excitement deep in her throat, it felt exactly right.
Heaven. Having Iris in his corner made him believe everything was possible.
He stepped backward toward the stairs, pulling Iris with him, intent on taking her upstairs to his room. He suddenly tripped, nearly losing his balance. He glanced behind him and saw the object he’d stumbled over. A set of luggage sat next to the stairs, still bearing tags from the retailer.
“What the hell is this?”
Iris kissed his neck. “I’m sorry. I should have taken them up to my room.”
Iris had bought new luggage for her trip. Her plans hadn’t changed.
She’s leaving me.
The thought acted as effectively as a bucket of cold water tossed over his head. What was he doing? She was leaving in three weeks and didn’t plan to return. The calendar in the kitchen reminded him of that every day. Why start something that would only lead to heartache?
He’d already lost too many people in his life.
And Riley instinctively knew that if he let himself get close to Iris, let himself love her, a part of him would not survive when she left.
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with their Pug/Terrier cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com