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Authors: Giordano Adrienne Spencer Pape Cindy Stacey Shannon

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Editor's Choice Volume I - Slow summer Kisses, Kilts & kraken, Negotiating point

BOOK: Editor's Choice Volume I - Slow summer Kisses, Kilts & kraken, Negotiating point
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Carina Press Presents: Editor’s Choice Volume I
By Cindy Spencer Pape, Adrienne Giordano and Shannon Stacey

There’s a time and a place for romance: any time, any place!

In honor of our second anniversary, Carina Press brings you a trio of amazing novellas by some of the freshest voices in romance today! A highland laird and an unconventional physician fight monsters and fall in love in Cindy Spencer Pape’s
Kilts & Kraken.
In Adrienne Giordano’s
Negotiating Point,
two security operatives try—and fail—to keep their professional distance while working a high-stakes case. And a driven career woman takes a detour to enjoy
Slow Summer Kisses
in a contemporary story by Shannon Stacey. Three very different tales, three very happy endings.

Edited by Angela James, this anthology includes:

Kilts & Kraken
by Cindy Spencer Pape
Negotiating Point
by Adrienne Giordano
Slow Summer Kisses
by Shannon Stacey

Stories also available for purchase separately.

88,000 words

Dear Reader,

June is a good month for us here at Carina Press. Why? Because it’s the month we first started publishing books! This June marks our two-year anniversary of publishing books, and to celebrate, we’re featuring only return Carina Press authors throughout the month. Each author with a June release is one who has published with us previously, and who we’re thrilled to have return with another book!

In addition to featuring only return authors, we’re offering two volumes of Editor’s Choice collections. Volume I contains novellas from three of our rising stars in their respective romance subgenres: Shannon Stacey with contemporary romance novella
Slow Summer Kisses,
Cindy Spencer Pape with steampunk romance
Kilts & Kraken,
and Adrienne Giordano with romantic suspense novella
Negotiating Point.

From the non-romance genres comes
Editor’s Choice Volume II,
and four fantastic novellas: paranormal mystery
Dance of Flames
by Janni Nell, science-fiction
Pyro Canyon
by Robert Appleton, humorous action-adventure
No Money Down
by Julie Moffett, and
Dead Calm,
a mystery novella from Shirley Wells.

Later in June, those collections are joined by a selection of genres designed to highlight the diversity of Carina Press books. Janis Susan May returns with another horror suspense novel,
Timeless Innocents,
following up her fantastic horror debut,
Lure of the Mummy.
Mystery author Jean Harrington offers up
The Monet Murders,
the next installment in her Murders By Design series
.
And the wait is over for fans of Shawn Kupfer’s debut science-fiction thriller,
47 Echo,
with the release of the sequel,
Supercritical.
Rounding out the offerings for mystery fans, W. Soliman offers up
Risky Business,
the next novel in The Hunter Files
.

Romance fans need not dismay, we have plenty more to offer you as well, starting with
The Pirate’s Lady,
a captivating fantasy romance from author Julia Knight. Coleen Kwan pens a captivating steampunk romance in
Asher’s Invention,
and fans of m/m will be invested in Alex Beecroft’s emotional historical novella
His Heart’s Obsession.

If it’s a little naughty time you’re longing for, be sure to check out Lilly Cain’s
Undercover Alliance,
a sizzling science-fiction erotic romance.

We’re proud to showcase these returning authors, and the amazing books they’ve written. We hope you’ll join us as we move into our third year of publishing, and continue to bring you stories, characters and authors you can love!

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Foreword

When we decided to do a collection of novellas to celebrate Carina Press’s second anniversary of publishing books, and to showcase the diversity of our catalog, I had a hard road ahead of me. How would I choose from the amazing selection of talented authors we’ve worked with over the past two years in order to create this collection?

In some ways, the first author was an easy choice for me. I’ve been working with Shannon Stacey in an editorial capacity for nearly a decade, and her book
Yours to Keep
was the first book I’d had hit the
New York Times
and
USA TODAY
bestseller lists. It was only natural that I’d want to showcase her talents in our anniversary collection.
Slow Summer Kisses
is a contemporary romance novella representative of what Shannon’s writing has always been in my eyes: smooth, terrific, character-driven romance with hints of humor, family and relatable life experiences. It’s always been an irresistible combination and this story is no different!

In selecting the other authors I wanted to work with, I knew I wanted to highlight a steampunk romance story. I was an editor asking for steampunk submissions long before other publishers and editors had ever heard of it as a genre. I remember sitting on an editor panel well over five years ago, saying I wanted someone to write some steampunk romance, and everyone on the panel—and in the room—looking at me and asking, “What’s steampunk?” Once I realized I needed a steampunk romance for this collection, Cindy Spencer Pape was the easy choice. Her Gaslight Chronicles series has been incredibly well-received by fans, and it was as if this niche had been created for her voice. I wasn’t disappointed when
Kilts & Kraken
showed up in my inbox. It has all the hallmarks of what I’ve come to expect in Cindy’s steampunk romances: an incredibly fun world, with stubborn heroes and heroines who have dynamite chemistry, and a fantastic cast of secondary characters who support an engaging plot and story.

Last, but not least, I turned to Adrienne Giordano to round out the selection of novellas. A romantic suspense author, Adrienne first truly came to my attention with her amazing attitude and drive to market, promote and grow her career. An enthusiastic participant in every stage of the writing, editing and selling process, it’s impossible not to want to introduce Adrienne and her books to as many readers as possible. Working with her on this romantic suspense novella also showed me her innate ability to take editorial direction and make her story even stronger. In
Negotiating Point,
we meet two strong-willed characters faced with a task that seems impossible: negotiate the release of their boss’s pregnant wife from the men who’ve taken her hostage. Even in the midst of a tense, dangerous situation such as this, it’s hard for them—and for us—to ignore the sexual tension sizzling between them!

While it was difficult to narrow down my choices to just these three authors and their novellas, I believe readers won’t be disappointed with the selections. I hope you enjoy this small glimpse into the variety of romance subgenres we have to offer. Though it was impossible to showcase them all, I think you’ll find Carina Press romances run the gamut from erotic to sweet, historical to fantasy, suspense and everything in between.

I also hope you’ll check out
Editor’s Choice Volume II,
which features a selection of novellas from the Carina Press non-romance genres!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

Kilts & Kraken
By Cindy Spencer Pape

Magnus, Baron Findlay, longs to bring the wonders of the steam age to his remote island home, but his hands are full fighting the vicious kraken ravaging the coast. When he’s swept to sea during battle and washes up on the shore of an isle in the Hebrides, he is near death.

Struggling to establish herself as one of the first female physicians in Edinburgh, Dr. Geneva MacKay is annoyed when The Order of the Round Table sends her north to care for an injured highlander. To heal him, Geneva escorts the handsome warrior home, just in time to defend the villagers from another onslaught.

As the attacks escalate and they work together to fight off the threat, neither Geneva nor Magnus can resist the overwhelming attraction between them. But as their relationship deepens, a new threat arises—from within the village itself…

37,000 words

Chapter One

Torkholm Island, the Hebrides, July 1858

“Magnus, look out!”

At the shout from his uncle, Magnus Findlay rolled sideways and slashed upward with his sword at the tentacle slamming onto the dock beside him. The sturdy wood gave way with a splintering crash and the tentacle, now spouting gouts of bluish blood, whipped sideways to wrap around Magnus’s waist. The giant squid—its head easily twenty feet from end to end and the tentacles four times that—was the biggest they’d faced yet, in three or more weeks of random attacks from the monstrous creatures.

Someone beside him opened fire with a repeating rifle. Another fired the harpoon gun from a nearby fishing boat. The sounds of the steam-powered engines and gunfire mingled with the screams of the wounded and shattering of wood. Another chunk of the quay splintered as the beast whirled Magnus in its grip.

His sword, enchanted to stay in his hand and aim true, owned by a score of his ancestors, bit deep into the creature’s head. The squid pulled Magnus away from its core, squeezing the breath from his lungs. Enraged and wounded, it dove deep, taking Magnus with it. He gave a silent scream before his head slammed on a rock and the world went black as well as wet.

* * *

Edinburgh, the following day

“Genny, I need you in the Hebrides.”

“I’m busy, Papa.” Dr. Geneva MacKay turned away from her father’s imposing countenance to face her assistant. “Elspeth, go ahead and lock up, if you please. I’ll see you on Monday.”

“Yes, Doctor.” Elspeth Robertson, a sturdy, middle-aged widow and Geneva’s right hand, had already herded the last patient out the door. “Have a good night, Doctor. Sir Fergus.” She bobbed a slight curtsey as she left the surgery.

Geneva finished checking her medical instruments, hung up her white coat and locked her medicine cabinet for the night. “You’re welcome to come upstairs and join me for supper, Papa, but I’m not leaving Edinburgh. As you saw, my practice is—finally—thriving. I can’t go haring off on a moment’s notice to God-knows-where anymore. Find another doctor.”

Sir Fergus MacKay’s freckled face turned an alarming shade of purple, clashing with the auburn of his hair. “I can’t. Both the Order’s physicians are busy elsewhere.”

“Why do you need me out on the islands, of all places? It isn’t Connor, is it?” Business or no business, Geneva would drop everything for her younger brother, who had recently joined their father in the family business—that being the Order of the Round Table, the organization responsible for combating vampyres and other monsters throughout the kingdom.

“No. It isn’t a Knight.” Fergus, his face lined with exhaustion, dropped into a chair.

“Then there are plenty of physicians in Scotland, Papa. I’ve had enough trouble, being one of the first female doctors in Edinburgh. I can’t compound that by vanishing every other week.” She picked up a half-empty teacup from her desk and emptied it into the sink.

Fergus grimaced. “I know, lass. You’ve more than paid back the loan the Order gave you to set up your practice, so you’ve no obligation. ’Tis just—well—I’d take it as a personal favor if you’d see to this lad.”

“I’ll need more explanation than that.” She perched on her examining stool and studied her father’s lined face. He was tired. His eyelids drooped and his mouth was drawn into a tight line. There was something else too—pink flags high on his cheekbones. Was he embarrassed?
Fascinating.
“Tell me the rest.”

He flushed even further. To give him some time to gather his thoughts, Geneva led him up the stairs to her flat, consisting of the second and third stories of the Edinburgh brownstone. She sat him down at the table and began to serve the soup left on the stove by her housekeeper, who’d already gone home for the night.

“Now tell me, Papa. What has you so distressed?”

He lifted a spoon and stirred his soup, staring into it but not eating. “Genny, I’m sure it never occurred to you or your brother and sister, but your mother wasn’t the first girl I ever courted.”

She let that sink in, testing the idea. He’d been twenty-eight when he’d wed—the same age she was now. “I suppose she wouldn’t have been. Are you telling me this injured man is a half brother I never knew about? Mama isn’t going to like that one bit.” Maura MacKay would forgive her husband his youthful indiscretions, but she’d never countenance having not been told.

He reddened further but shook his head. “No. Alice and I—we were engaged, but it never came to that. She was all of seventeen at the time, a pretty Highland lass in Edinburgh for her first Season. We weren’t in love, but I didn’t believe in it anyway, and we were good friends. We’d have been…comfortable together.”

“She jilted you? Silly girl.” It was hard to accept that at one time, he hadn’t believed in love. He and Geneva’s mother were still giddy with romance after nearly thirty years of marriage.

He lifted one eyebrow and winked. “A month after our engagement was announced, she came to me and said she’d had a vision. Alice doesn’t have powerful magick, you understand, but she does possess a touch of what they used to call the Sight. She’d seen the girl I was meant to fall in love with, and if I married Alice, I’d regret it all my days. Alice went home to Inverness a week later.”

“That was—remarkably selfless.” A broken engagement could destroy a girl’s reputation.

“Aye. The next year I met your mother and discovered love does exist, after all. Alice was right. I owe her a great deal.”

Geneva agreed. Since she wouldn’t exist otherwise, she believed she owed this Alice a favor, too. “Is it her son, perhaps, who needs a doctor?”

“No, Alice wed a soldier, but she never had children. She rescued this lad—found him tangled up in a giant squid on the beach near her home.”

“A giant squid? I thought those were only myth.”

Fergus smiled for the first time that evening. “Aye, as are King Arthur and his Knights. You, of all people, ought to know better. Kraken are not even magickal—just obscure, deep water creatures, not normally found near land or on the surface.”

Since the Order was based on the descendants of Arthur and his Round Table, and the MacKay family could trace its line back to Sir Kay, Geneva did indeed, know better than most that many myths were grounded in reality. She tipped her head to concede the point. “Why does she care enough about this man that she’d bring in a physician all the way from Edinburgh?”

Fergus stroked his beard. “I asked the same. Her teletext was the first I’ve heard from her since my brother died seven years ago. Before that it was a note here and there—when I married, when she did, and when each of you was born. She says there’s something about this lad, some magick in him. From the looks of things, he killed a kraken single-handedly. If there’s someone that powerful in the Isles, the Order ought to know.”

“Magick?” Blast it. That put a different light on things. “You can’t bring him here?”

He shook his head. “He’s too weak to travel. Alice doesn’t truly hold out much hope for him. The kraken damn near ripped him in half, and his lungs were filled with brine. At least one of his hips is badly crushed.”

“Which is where I come in.” Geneva pinched her nose to ward off a headache. Her practice was made up of primarily women and children, as those were the patients who most easily accepted a female doctor. Her specialty, though, the skill at which she excelled, was bone-setting. She had a knack for it that bordered on magick. “Very well. Tomorrow is Sunday, and I don’t open the surgery anyway. I’ll go have a look at your mystery man, but the Order is paying Dr. MacLeod next door for covering my patients if I’m delayed. Is that understood?”

“Aye.” He didn’t look any too happy about it. The Order had deep pockets but her father was a thrifty Scot all the way to his bones. “And if you get the chance to do a little digging, you might ask the islanders you meet why the kraken are acting so oddly.”

“So you need me to investigate, as well as act as surgeon? Really, Papa, it might have been better just to put me on the Order’s payroll and be done with it.”

“Aye. But you know you’d rather have a home and a practice.”

Geneva couldn’t argue with that. Her father knew her too well. “And yet, you keep asking me to leave it.”

He winced. “I know, and I’m sorry. I’d come with you if I could, but I’m short-handed here at the moment. I’ll drive you to the airship though, if you’re ready.”

“In a moment.” Geneva tidied the kitchen before she left, and paused in her surgery to collect her instruments and the emergency overnight bag she kept at the ready. The plain brown skirt and white shirtwaist inside would coordinate with the heather tweed jacket she wore today over a matching skirt, and she always carried a spare white coat. She left a letter with instructions for Elspeth, and finally, she popped over to the next brownstone to ask Dr. MacLeod, a kindly man with bright eyes and a white, bristly mustache, to handle any emergency cases for a day or two.

She even kissed her father goodbye without any resentment. Duty was something she understood. Being responsible for a half-dozen Knights and another thirty or so employees, some of them family, couldn’t be an easy task. He did the best he could, poor man, and he’d raised her to do the same. So now she was off to heal a wounded highlander and solve a mystery of the deep. She stifled a laugh. Compared to her bustling practice, this would be practically a holiday.

Less than an hour later she stood alone on the deck of a small dirigible, bound for the island of Mull in the Hebrides. She breathed in the clean, fresh air, now that they were free of the city’s smoke and she had removed the breathing mask necessary on the streets below. Tendrils of her curly hair escaped their pins in the wind, fluttering against her snug-fitting goggles, but there were no other passengers to frown at her lack of propriety. Up here, she was free.

Shortly after dawn the following morning, they landed on a wide, rocky meadow with a rough tumble of hillside rolling down to the sea.

The southwestern tip of Mull fairly glowed with bucolic beauty. Geneva looked around in resignation. Rugged. Isolated. Quiet. The antithesis of everything she loved about Edinburgh. It was a pleasant change, though, to walk outside without her air filter.

The crew waved to let her know it was time to debark. She firmed her shoulders and made her way off the airship. A blustery wind whipped even more of Geneva’s hair loose from its knot as she made her way down the gangplank. It was warmer here than in Edinburgh, despite the salty breezes. That was something, she supposed.

A kilted, silver-haired driver with a dour expression on his lined face sat waiting in a cart drawn by a sturdy Shetland pony. One of the crewmen carried her portmanteau and helped her into the cart. Her medical bag, she carried herself. “You must be Mr. Gordon.” According to the teletexts that had flown back and forth before she departed, her father’s Alice was now a Mrs. MacDonald, and this was her servant, Hamish Gordon.

He spat a stream of tobacco into the heath. “Aye. Thought they were bringing a doctor.”

It was a familiar refrain, but it never failed to grate. Geneva stared him down. “I am a physician, fully accredited and licensed, which is probably more than you can say for some of your local hacks.”

Mr. Gordon shrugged. “No skin off my nose if the big bastard dies.” With a brusque nod at the departing dirigible, he twitched the reins. As the cart bumped away from the shore onto something that might almost have been a path, Geneva used both hands to hold on to the seat so she wouldn’t bounce out. She gripped her medical bag between her feet. After perhaps a quarter mile they reached a snug stone farmhouse with a thatched roof, a tiny walled garden and a sturdy barn in the rear. A handful of hairy Highland cattle and a dozen or more gray-faced sheep dotted the greensward around it. A couple crofts hunkered in the distance and Geneva could still see the ocean over her shoulder and hear the crash of waves on the beach.

Mr. Gordon pulled the cart around the back of the house to the kitchen door. He didn’t bother helping Geneva down, but he did at least grab her bags while she hopped to the ground, grateful for her minimal hoopskirt and flat-heeled boots. One of the benefits of her profession was an excuse to dress for practicality rather than fashion.

Before she’d even shaken out her skirts, the kitchen door opened and a woman peered out, shorter and plainer than Geneva had imagined she’d be. “At last. Come in, Doctor.”

Mr. Gordon cocked his head, a minimally polite gesture to indicate she should precede him. Geneva climbed the two steps to the porch and held out her hand. “Dr. Geneva MacKay, at your service.”

“Oh, dear Lord, you’re Fergus’s daughter.” The woman, probably somewhere in her late forties, seemed to catch herself staring and grinned broadly. The brilliance of it transformed her tired face, giving Geneva a glimpse at what her father might have seen in a younger version. “He must be very proud. His little girl is a doctor.”

“Yes, ma’am.” All Geneva knew about Alice was that she was a widow, childless and had some degree of foresight. “Is the patient still alive?”

“Right this way. Hamish, please bring the doctor’s bags.” Mrs. MacDonald led the way through a pleasant dining room and parlor into a ground-floor bedroom. “My husband was an invalid for some years before he died, so we set up his chamber in what used to be the library. Since I live alone, I’ve never bothered to change it back.”

“That must have come in handy a time or two.” Geneva entered a spacious chamber lined with bookshelves. Heavy drapes hung open, allowing plenty of light to filter in, and a hearty fire crackled in the big stone hearth, a kettle on a hob at the ready. The scents of lye soap, iodine and blood filled the air, but she detected no odor of infection. Though she wasn’t a Knight like her father and brother, Geneva did possess the same, unusually keen senses. She walked toward a carved bed, its curtains replaced by sheer mosquito netting. A table sat beside the bed, holding rolled bandages, medicines, and a pitcher and basin. “This is excellent. Where did you study nursing?”

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