Folks, help me welcome Lauren Smith to our site!
WHO IS LAUREN SMITH?
Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.
For too long Miss Emily Parr has been subject to the whims of her indebted uncle and the lecherous advances of his repulsive business partner. Her plan to be done with dominating men forever is simple—find herself a kind husband who will leave her to her books.
It seems an easy enough plan, until she is unexpectedly abducted by an incorrigible duke who hides a wounded spirit behind flashing green eyes.
Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, spends countless nights at the club with his four best friends, and relishes the rakish reputation society has branded him with. He has no plans to marry anytime soon—if ever. But when he kidnaps an embezzler’s niece, the difficult debutante’s blend of sweetness and sharp tongue make him desperate for the one thing he swears he never wanted: love.
Yet as they surrender to passion, danger lurks in Godric’s shadowed past, waiting for him to drop his guard—and rob him of the woman he can’t live without.
Warning: This novel includes a lady who refuses to stay kidnapped, a devilish duke with a dark past, and an assortment of charming rogues who have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.
Godric St. Laurent, the twelfth Duke of Essex, leaned back in his saddle watching the abduction he’d orchestrated unfold. Covering his mouth with a gloved hand, he stifled a yawn. Things were going smoothly. In fact, this entire kidnapping bordered on the point of tedious. They’d intercepted the coach ten minutes before it reached Chessley House. No one witnessed the escort of riders or the driver changing his route. Oddly enough, the young woman hadn’t shown any signs of resistance or concern from inside the coach. Wouldn’t she have made some protestations when she realized what was happening? A thought stopped him dead. Had she somehow slipped out of the coach when they’d slowed on a corner before they’d left town? Surely not, they would have seen her. Most likely she was too terrified to do anything, hence the silence from inside. Not that she had anything to fear, she would not be harmed.
He nodded to his friend Charles who was perched next to the driver. A bag of coins jingled as Charles dropped it into the jarvey’s waiting hands.
They had reached halfway point between London and Godric’s ancestral estate. They would go the rest of the way on horseback, with the girl sharing a horse with either him or one of his friends. The driver would return to London with a message for Albert Parr and a wild story that exonerated himself from blame.
“Ashton, stay here with me.” Godric waved his friend over while the others rode the horses a good distance away to wait for his signal. Abductions were tricky things, and having only himself and one other man take hold of the girl would be better. She might have a fit of hysterics if she saw the other three men too close.
He rode up to the coach, curious to see whether the woman inside matched his memory. He’d seen her once before from a window overlooking the gardens when he’d visited her uncle. She’d been kneeling in the flowerbeds, her dress soiled as she weeded. A job more suited to a servant than a lady of quality. He’d been ready to dismiss her from his mind when she’d turned and glanced about the garden, a smudge of dirt on the tip of her upturned nose. A butterfly from a nearby flower had fluttered above her head. She hadn’t noticed it, even as it settled on her long, coiling auburn hair. Something in his chest gave a funny little flip, and his body had stirred with desire. Any other woman so innocent would not have caught his interest, but he’d glimpsed a keenness in her eyes, a hidden intelligence as she dug into the soil. Miss Emily Parr was different. And different was intriguing.
Ashton handed the driver the ransom letter for Parr and took up a position near the front of the coach. Taking hold of the door, Godric opened it up, waiting for the screaming to start.
“My deepest apologies, Miss Parr—” Still no screaming. “Miss Parr?” Godric thrust his head into the coach.
It was empty. Not even a fire-breathing dragon of a chaperone, not that he’d expected one. His sources had assured him she would be alone tonight.
Godric looked over his shoulder. “Ash? You’re sure this is Parr’s coach?”
“Of course. Why?” Ashton jumped off his horse, marched over and thrust his head into the empty coach. He was silent a long moment before he withdrew. Ashton put his finger against his lips and motioned to the inside. A tuft of pink muslin peeped out from the wooden seat. He gestured for Godric to step away from the coach.
Ashton lowered his voice. “It seems that our little rabbit chase has turned into a fox hunt. She’s hidden in the hollow space of the seat, clever girl.”
“Hiding under the seat?” Godric shook his head, bewildered. He didn’t know one woman of his acquaintance who would do something so clever. Perhaps Evangeline, but then if anything could be said of that woman, it was that she was far from ordinary. A prickling of excitement coursed through his veins, into his chest. He loved a challenge.
“Let’s wait a few minutes and see if she emerges.”
Godric looked back at the coach, impatience prickling inside him. “I don’t want to wait here all night.”
“She’ll come out soon enough. Allow me.” Ashton walked back to the coach and called out to Godric in a carrying voice. “Blast and damnation! She must have slipped out before we took charge of the coach. Just leave it. We’ll take the driver back to London tomorrow.” Ashton shut the door with a loud slam and motioned for Godric to join him.
“Now we wait,” Ashton whispered. He indicated that he would guard the left coach door while Godric stationed himself at the right.
Emily listened to the drum of retreating hooves and silently counted to one hundred. Her heart jolted in her chest as she considered what the men would do if they caught her. Highwaymen could be cruel and murderous, especially if their quarry offered little. She had no access to her father’s fortune, which left only her body.
Icy dread gripped Emily’s spine, paralyzing her limbs. She drew a breath as anxiety spiraled through her.
I must be brave. Fight them until I can fight no more. With trembling hands, she pushed at the roof of the seat, wincing as it popped open. Once she climbed out, she brushed dirt from her gown, noticing some tears from the rough wood on the inside of the seat. But the tears held no importance. All that mattered was survival.
Emily looked out the coach window. Nothing stood out in the darkness. Only the faint glimmer of moonlight touched the road with milky tendrils. Stars winked and flickered overhead, pale lights, distant and cold. A shudder wracked her frame, and Emily hugged herself, wanting so much to be at home. She missed her warm bed and her parents’ murmurs from down the hall. It was a comfort she’d taken for granted. But she couldn’t afford to think about them, not when she was in danger.
Were the men truly gone? Could it really be this easy?
She opened the coach door, and stepped down onto the dirt road. Strong arms locked about her waist and yanked her backward. The collision with a hard body knocked the breath from her lungs. Terror spiked her blood as she struggled against the arms that held her.
“Good evening, my darling,” a low voice murmured.
Emily screamed once, before she bit down on the hand that covered her mouth. She tasted the smooth leather of fine riding gloves.
The man roared and nearly dropped her. “Damn!”
Emily rammed an elbow backwards into her attacker’s stomach and began to wrestle free until he grabbed her arm. She swung about, striking him across the face with a balled fist. The man staggered back, leaving her free to dive inside the coach.
If she could get to the other side and run, she might stand a chance. She scrabbled towards the door, but never made it. The devil surged into the coach after her. Turning to face him, she was knocked flat onto her back.
She screamed again as his body settled over hers.
The dim moonlight revealed his bright eyes and strong features.
He caught her flailing wrists, pinning them above her head. “Quiet!”
Emily wanted to rake his eyes out, but the man was relentless. His hips ground against hers and panic drove her to a new level of terror. Her fears of being forcibly taken surfaced as his warm breath fanned over her face and neck. She shrieked, and he reared back away from her, as though the sound confused him.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” His voice vibrated with a low growl, ruining any promise his words might carry.
“You’re hurting me now!” She yanked her arms uselessly against his hold.
The man eased off her somewhat, and Emily took her chance. She tucked her knees up, and with all the power she could summon, she kicked. Her attacker stumbled out the open door and fell onto his back. Emily barely registered that he was winded before she turned and exited the other side of the coach.
The moment she emerged, another man lunged for her. To escape him, Emily fell back against the side of the coach. Rather than grab her, he held his arms wide to keep her from slipping by him, like he was corralling livestock.
“Easy, easy,” he purred.
Emily whipped her head to the left and pleaded with her mind to think, but the man she’d bitten rounded the corner and pounced, pinning her against the coach, his arms caging her in. His solid muscular body towered over her. His jaw clenched as though one move from her would trigger something dark and wild. Emily’s breath caught, and her heart pounded violently against her ribs.
The man was panting and angry. The intensity of his eyes mesmerized her, but the second he blinked, the spell broke and she fought with every bit of strength she could muster.
Alexa: What’s your favorite fairy tale?
Lauren: Sleeping Beauty. I normally don’t like passive heroines, but there’s something about a young woman being raised away from home, living a simple life and never knowing she’s doomed to fall into eternal sleep on her 16th birthday. I think I love the drama behind knowing that no matter what, she’s going to touch the spindle. Then it’s up to a prince to fight through hell to save her, and he’s going off just a chance encounter in the woods. That says a lot about a man who’s willing to do that for a woman he just met. I love that whole idea.
Alexa: What sound or noise do you love?
Lauren: There a wind chime that the house behind me has hanging on their porch and it’s a large metal shape. When it swings in the wind, it doesn’t actually chime, but rings like a bell. It sounds like those old brass bells that were on ships that sailors used to ring every hour during their watches. I loved reading Horatio Hornblower books in high school and when the movies came out on A&E, they always had those bells ringing on the ships and I adore that sound. It takes me back in the past every time I hear it.
Alexa: What was the first story you remember writing?
Lauren: I was 11 when the movie Titanic came out and when Leo DiCaprio’s character died it just killed my 11 year old crush so I decided to re-write the entire story to have a better ending. I watched the VHS tape until it broke and then I handwrote the entire story just like it happened in the movie except at the very end, where of course Leo doesn’t die, but manages to get back upon the wooden door with Rose and they lived happily ever after in New York.
Alexa: What’s something you’d like to tell your fans?
Lauren: I believe the best stories are about people with flaws, and people that have to change from the first page to the last. If you want to see heroes who aren’t perfect, who may in fact come off as arrogant jerks but who truly change by the end of the book due to falling in love with the heroine, then my stories are for you!
Alexa: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Lauren: I drink a glass of wine, and feel a little sad that such a fun story was over, and then about an hour later, I’m so excited about the next book that I’m flipping to a crisp white page in my notebook and starting a new book!
Alexa: What is your favorite tradition from your childhood that you would love to pass on or did pass on to your children?
Lauren: Reading out loud. My mother and father read me stories from the time I was little, so I have a good appreciation for listening to stories and also for teaching children to read aloud and gain good oratory skills.
Alexa: Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?
Lauren: I’d invite the entire league of rogues which is made up of six rich, influential men from Regency London. They are all rakishly handsome, incredibly charming, funny as heck, and their sense of friendship is so familial that I’d feel right at home hanging out with them.
Alexa: What does it mean to love someone?
Lauren: It means to love everything about them, even their flaws, knowing that they might never change but you want them anyway. It also means to sacrifice things that matter to you, to make them happy, or to let them go if that’s what it takes. You must care about them and their needs above your own.
Alexa: What is your hero’s “kryptonite” – in other words, what will bring him instantly to his knees?
Lauren: For Godric, the hero of Wicked Designs, it’s Emily, the heroine’s tears. When she cries, it wounds him to his very soul because he wants more than anything to make her happy. Which considering that he’s a Regency era bad boy, is both charming and cute.
Alexa: What will always make you smile, even on a bad day?
Lauren: My brother sends me funny video .gifs of animals doing silly things and for some reason, animals being funny ALWAYS makes me laugh.
Alexa: What drew you to write in the genre(s) you do?
Lauren: I have been writing love stories for as long as I can remember. I think because my parents have such a strong love and that all of my family member have strong love based relationships, that love is important to me. I was writing romance before I even knew what it was. I started writing fantasy and young adult, but a friend pointed out to me, that I was really actually writing romances because everything always came back to the two people falling in love. Each story I write tries to approach problems couples may have and how they overcome those obstacles to be together. I think love is what gives life true meaning and I couldn’t imagine writing anything else.
Alexa: What has been your most rewarding publishing moment?
Lauren: When readers email me and tell me that they read the book in one sitting and have to know which rogue in the league is next in the series. This are complete strangers who email me and it means everything to me to see my characters have touched people deeply. I love knowing that the story resonated with them. I even had two people tell me they dreamed about the book that night when they were reading it, which was an absolute joy to hear!
Alexa: What's up next for you?
Lauren: The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall (coming Sept 22 2014) and then His Wicked Seduction, book 2 in The League of Rogues series (coming Nov 11 2014)
Lauren: The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall (coming Sept 22 2014) and then His Wicked Seduction, book 2 in The League of Rogues series (coming Nov 11 2014)
Lauren, thanks so much for joining us! It was great getting to know you better.