Hi Dani and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Maid’s Spanish Secret!
Hi Sara, Hi HJs! Thanks for hosting me today!
Tell us about the book with this fun little challenge using the title of the book:
Okay, that is a challenge! Hmmm…
The Hero Enticed (her).
Maybe An Idiot Doesn’t Suspect
Seduction Produces A Nine-month Incident. She Hadn’t
Supposed Extra Consequences Reappearing Even Two (years later!)
How did I do?
Please share the opening lines of this book:
RICO MONTERO ARRIVED at his brother’s villa, two hours up the coast from Valencia, in seventy-three minutes. He’d been feeling cooped up in his penthouse, hungry for air. He had pulled his GTA Spano out of storage and tried to escape his own dark mood, not realizing the direction he took until he was pulled over for speeding.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book.
Poppy was raised by her grandparents. Both her parents are living, but they didn’t take care of her well. She dreams of becoming a photographer, saved up for a trip to Europe, then had all her equipment stolen. She goes to work for Rico’s mother as a maid to save up airfare to return to Canada.
Rico was succumbing to an arranged marriage, but one day his fiancee flips out and breaks off their engagement. That same day is Poppy’s last day in Spain. They have a brief fling and Rico is thinking about going after her the next morning when his fiancee appears and claims she’s pregnant. They *have* to marry (but he only slept with her once and later learns the baby wasn’t his!)
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
1) Poppy, the heroine, is Canadian!
2) Rico, the hero, is the brother of Cesar (from my baby swap book, The Consequence He Must Claim.)
3) My editor said it had one of the most dramatic endings she had read in a while. #nospoilers
What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Rico was aware of Poppy even though he was engaged. When they finally chat, she’s everything his bride-to-be is not–natural and funny and self-deprecating. Later, when he sees her with his daughter, he’s deeply touched by their attachment. His own parents have always been very withdrawn.
Poppy has a crush on Rico. He’s gorgeous (of course.) He later makes some big sacrifices for her, which she doesn’t expect. Her parents never really wanted her so it’s a big deal for her when he makes it clear she’s his everything.
The First Kiss…
“Do you ever think about that day?” he asked.
Constantly. She wouldn’t admit it, though.
“Hmm?” he prompted, lowering his head. He stopped before he kissed her.
She let her eyes flutter closed and parted her lips in invitation.
He only grazed his mouth against hers, provoking a buzzing sensation in her lips.
She put out a hand, but the knit of her mitten only found the smooth leather of his jacket, too slippery to hold on to.
While he kept up that frustratingly light tickle. His hand shifted to cup the side of her neck, the rough seam on his thumb grazing the tender skin in her throat.
“Do you?” He refused to give her what she wanted until she answered.
Her skin grew too tight for the anticipation that swelled within her. Beneath the layers of her thick jacket, her breasts grew heavy. Her thighs ceased to feel the cold through the denim of her jeans.
“Yes,” she admitting on a throb of longing.
He made a noise of satisfaction and stepped so his feet were outside her own. His hot mouth sealed across her lips.
A sob of delight broke in her throat as his hard lips raked across hers, making real all the erotic fantasies she’d replayed in the long nights since leaving Spain. Her arms went up around his neck and he swept her closer still. So close she could hardly breathe.
She didn’t care. The thick layers of their coats were a frustration, one that seemed to hold them off from one another. She wanted them gone. Wanted passion to take her over the way it had that day, blanking out the world around her with levels of excitement and pleasure she hadn’t known existed.
His kiss deepened with greed, as though he couldn’t get enough of her, either. She opened fully to him, licked into his mouth and felt his arms tighten around her in response. She ran her hand up past his scarf, pressed the back of his head, urging him to kiss her harder and harder still. She wanted him to mark her. Savage her.
Because he already had.
This passion between them was as destructive as it was glorious. She needed to remember that. Otherwise, she would succumb and wind up far out of her depth again.
As though he recognized the risk as well, he dragged his head up and sucked in a breath, but he didn’t let her go.
Panting, she blinked her eyes open. His face was in darkness with a kaleidoscope of colors haloed behind him.
“Look.” She seized the distraction to pull herself out of his arms. She wasn’t even sure if what she was seeing was real or the leftover fireworks he had so easily set off behind her eyelids.
She staggered slightly as she led him out of the trees. The expanse of sky was bigger than a thousand movie screens above them and the stars had faded behind glowing swirls. Shimmering bands of pink and purple and red danced within the curtains of green. Every few seconds a spear of color shot toward the earth in knifelike streaks. The jabs of color felt so tangible and close, she expected to be struck by one.
“This is beautiful.” Rico drew her back against his chest and folded his arms across her collarbone and stomach.
She was still weak from their kiss. She leaned into the wall he made, wondering if he could feel the thump of her still unsteady heart through their winter layers.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Here’s there meet-cute. I like their instant chemistry and banter:
His mother’s staff had been off-limits since his brother’s first kiss with a maid before Rico had even had a shot at one. He didn’t usually notice one from another, but Poppy had snagged his attention with her vibrant red hair. Curls were springing free of the bundle she’d scraped it into, teasing him with fantasies of releasing the rest and digging his hands into the kinky mass.
The rest of her was cute as hell, too, if a bit skinny and young. Maybe it was her lack of makeup. That mouth, unpainted, but with a plump bottom lip and a playful top was all woman. Her brows were so light, they were almost blond, her chin pert, her eyes a gentle yet very direct dark ale-brown.
No, he reminded himself. He was engaged.
Actually, he absorbed with a profound sense of liberation, he wasn’t. Faustina had firmly and unequivocally ended their engagement, despite his mother’s best efforts to talk her back on board.
His mother had retired with a wet compress and a migraine tablet. He had come in here because he couldn’t go home. His house was being renovated for the bride who was now refusing to share her life with him. Driving all the way to his brother’s house to get blind drunk had felt like an unnecessary delay.
“I don’t smoke.” He dropped the empty pack and picked up his drink. “I rebelled for a year or so when I was a teen, but it seemed like a good excuse to talk with Ernesto about football and other inconsequential topics.” He was sick to death of jabbering about weddings and duty and the expected impact on the family fortune.
Her shoulders softened and her red-gold brows angled with sympathy. “I’m really sorry.” She sounded adorably sincere. “I’ll, um, give you privacy to…”
“Wallow in heartbreak? Unnecessary.” Faustina’s outburst had been the sum total of passion their marriage was likely to have borne. “I don’t want to chase you away if you’re on your break.”
“No, I’m done. I know we’re not supposed to cut through here to get to the change rooms over the garage, but I was hoping to catch Ernesto myself. He gives me a lift sometimes.”
“Are you American?” he asked.
Her strawberry blond lashes flickered in surprise, her expression growing shy. Aware.
An answering awareness teased through him, waking the wolf inside him. That starved beast had been locked inside a cave the last six months, but unexpectedly found himself free of the heavy chain he’d placed around his own neck. The sun was in his eyes, the wind was ruffling his fur and he was picking up the scent of a willing female. He was itching to romp and tumble and mate.
“Canada.” She cleared her throat. “Saskatchewan. A little town with nothing but canola fields and clouds.” She shook her head. “You wouldn’t have heard of it.”
“How did you wind up here?”
“I’d tell you, but I’d bore you to death.” Despite her words, a pretty smile played around her mouth and a soft blush of pleasure glowed under her skin.
“I came out here to smoke. Clearly I have a death wish.”
After a small chuckle, she cautioned, “Okay, but stop me if you feel light-headed.”
If your hero had a sexy-times play list, what song(s) would have to be on it?
Hmmm, Death Cab for Cutie has a song called Northern Lights. As you see in their First Kiss, that has some significance in this book. Quite a bit more than I’ve shown you here, actually. 🙂
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what – would it be and why?
Well, I should warn Poppy not to trust that charming backpacker who wound up stealing all her money, food, cameras and credit cards! But how would she meet Rico otherwise?
Rico could have opened himself to her sooner, but what Presents hero ever listens to THAT advice?
What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?*
I’m excited to be working on a Beauty and the Beast story that will come out next year. I also have a Cinderella retelling that comes out in 2020.
BUT – please keep your eyes out for my November Harlequin Presents, Bound by Their Nine-Month Scandal. That one features Pia, Rico and Cesar’s sister, meeting Angelo at a masked ball. She also has a one-night heir except the twist there is that she doesn’t have a *clue* who the father is.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I’d love to send a signed set of my baby swap duet to one lucky commenter. (That’s THE MARRIAGE HE MUST KEEP and THE CONSEQUENCE HE MUST CLAIM.) Open in US or Canada only please.
But, fun fact: You can download THE CONSEQUENCE HE MUST CLAIM for FREE at TryHarlequin.com.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Have you seen the Northern Lights? I once saw a milky gleam in the sky that *might* have been them, but I want to see the really sparkling, unmistakable ones. Do you have any other gorgeous or strange weather events in your area?
Excerpt from The Maid’s Spanish Secret:
Here’s the scene where Poppy is making dinner for her grandmother and daughter when Rico arrives out of the blue…
Her glance out the side window struck a dark brown bomber jacket over black jeans, but she knew that head, that back with the broad shoulders, that butt and long legs.
His arrival struck like a bus. Like a train that derailed her composure and rattled on for miles, piling one broken thought onto another.
OhGodohGodohGod… Breathe. All the way in, all the way out, she reminded herself. But she had always imagined that if this much money showed up on her doorstep, it would be with an oversize check and a television crew. Not him.
Rico pivoted from surveying her neighbor’s fence and the working grain elevator against the fading Saskatchewan sky. His profile was knife sharp, carved of titanium and godlike. A hint of shadow was coming in on his jaw, just enough to bend his angelic looks into the fallen kind.
“Poppy—?” her grandmother prompted, tone perplexed by the way she was acting. Or failing to.
How? How could he know? Poppy had no doubt that he did. There was absolutely no other reason for this man to be this far off the beaten track. He sure as hell wasn’t here to see her.
Blood searing with fight or flight, heart pounding, she opened the door.
The full force of his impact slammed through her. The hard angle of his chin, the stern cast of his mouth, his wide shoulders and long legs, and hands held in tense, almost fists.
His jaw hardened as he took her in through mirrored aviators. Their chrome finish was cold and steely. If he’d had a fresh haircut, it had been ruffled by the wind. His boots were alligator, his cologne nothing but crisp, snow-scented air and fuming suspicion.
Poppy lifted her chin and pretended her heart wasn’t whirling like a Prairie tornado in her chest.
“Can I help you?” she asked, exactly as she would if he had been a complete stranger.
His hand went to the doorframe. His nostrils twitched as he leaned into the space. “Really?” he asked in a tone of lethal warning.
“Who is it, Poppy?” her grandmother asked.
He stiffened slightly, as though surprised she wasn’t alone. Then his mouth curled with disparagement, waiting to see if she would lie.
Poppy swallowed, her entire body buzzing, but she held his gaze through those inscrutable glasses while she said in a strong voice, “Rico, Gran. The man I told you about. From Spain.”
There, she silently conveyed. What do you think of that?
It wasn’t wise to defy him. She knew that by the roil of threat in the pit of her stomach, but she had had to grow up damned fast in the last two years. She was not some naive traveler succumbing to a charmer who turned out to be a thief, or even the starry-eyed maid who had encouraged a philandering playboy to seduce her.
She was a grown woman who had learned how to face her problems head-on.
“Oh?” Gran’s tone gave the whole game away in one murmur. There was concern beneath her curiosity. Knowledge. It was less a blithe, isn’t that nice that your friend turned up. More an alarmed, Why is he here?
There was no hiding. None. Poppy might not be able to read this man’s eyes, but she read his body language. He wasn’t here to ask questions. He was here to confront.
Because he knew she’d had his baby.
Her eyes grew wet with panic, but through her shock, she reacted to seeing her lover, her first and only lover twenty months after they had conceived their daughter. She had thought her brief hour with him a moment of madness. A rush of sex hormones born of dented self-esteem and grand self-delusion.
Since then, her body had been taken over by their daughter. Poppy had been sure her sex drive had dried up and blown away on the Prairie winds. Or at least was firmly in hibernation.
As it turned out, her libido was alive and well. Heat flooded into her with the distant tingles of intimate, erotic memories. Of the cold press of his belt buckle trapped against her thigh, the dampness of perspiration in the hollow of his spine when she ran her hands beneath his open shirt to clutch at him with encouragement. She recalled exactly the way he had kissed the whisker burn on her chin so tenderly, with a growl of apology in his throat. The way he had cupped her breast with restraint, then licked and sucked at her nipple until she was writhing beneath him.
She could feel anew the sharp sensation of him possessing her, so intimate and satisfying, both glorious and ruinous all at once.
She blushed. Hard. Which made the blistering moment feel like hours. She was overflowing at the edges with mortifying awkwardness, searching her mind for something to say, a way to dissemble so he wouldn’t know how far he’d thrown her.
“Invite him in, Poppy,” her grandmother chided. “You’re going to melt the driveway.”
She meant because she was letting the heat out, but her words made Poppy blush harder. “Of course,” she muttered, flustered. “Come in.”
Explanations crowded her tongue as she backed up a step, but stammering them out wouldn’t make a difference to a man like him. He might have seemed human and reachable for that stolen hour in his mother’s solarium, but she’d realized afterward exactly how ruthless and single-minded he truly was. The passion she’d convinced herself was mutual and startlingly sweet had been a casual, effortless, promptly forgotten seduction on his part.
He’d mended fences with his fiancée the next morning—a woman Poppy knew for a fact he hadn’t loved. He’d told Poppy that he’d only agreed to the marriage to gain the presidency of a company and hadn’t seemed distressed in the least that the wedding had been called off.
Embarrassment at being such an easy conquest had her staring at his feet as she closed the door behind him. “Will you take off your boots, please?”
Her request gave him pause. In his mother’s house, everyone wore shoes, especially guests. A single pair of their usual footwear cost more than Poppy had made in her four months of working in that house.
Rico toed off his boots and set them against the wall. Then he tucked his sunglasses into his chest pocket. His eyes were slate-gray with no spark of blue or flecks of hot green that had surrounded his huge pupils that day in the solarium.
After setting his cold, granite gaze against her until she was chilled through, he glanced past her, into the front room of the tiny bungalow her grandfather had built for his wife while working as a linesman for the hydro company. It was the home where Gramps had brought his bride the day they married. It was where they had brought home their only son and where they had raised their only grandchild.
Seeing him in it made Poppy both humble and defensive. It didn’t compare to the grandiose villa he’d been raised in, but it was her home. Poppy wasn’t ashamed of it, only struck by how he could so easily jeopardize all of this with a snap of his fingers. This house wasn’t even hers. If he had come here to claim Lily, she had very few resources at her disposal. Maybe it would even be held against her that she didn’t have much and he could offer so much more.
“Hello,” he greeted her grandmother as she muted the television and set the remote aside.
“This is Rico Montero, Gran. My grandmother, Eleanor Harris.”
Rico’s brows went up a fraction, making Poppy squirm.
“It’s nice to meet you. Finally.” Gran started to rise.
Poppy stepped forward to help her, but Rico was quick to touch her grandmother’s arm and say, “Please. There’s no need to stand. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Oh, he knew how to use the warmth of his accented voice to slay a woman, young or old. Poppy almost fell for it herself, thinking he sounded reassuring when he was actually here to destroy their small, simple world.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
“You will come to Spain. You will marry me…”
He will claim his heir
For sweet maid Poppy Harris, her one and only passionate experience was scorching and absolutely forbidden. She shouldn’t have succumbed to Spanish aristocrat Rico Montero’s tantalizing seduction, but his touch was all consuming…and had a nine-month consequence! Poppy believes they could never be anything more. Until Rico appears on her doorstep demanding his hidden daughter—and determined to make Poppy his wife!
Meet the Author:
Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins thrives on giving readers emotional, compelling, heart-soaring romance with laughter and heat thrown in, just like real life. Mostly she writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Presents and Tule’s Montana Born, but her backlist of fifty books also includes self-published erotic romance, romantic comedy, and even an epic medieval fantasy. When she’s not writing—just kidding, she’s always writing.
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