Rico . . . Prince in the shapeshifter House of Terriot
Reckless, hotheaded Rico Terriot seeks purpose and a sense of pride training the resentful guardians of New Orleans to defend a city besieged by a deadly outside force. Torn between his desire for his brother’s mate and the woman tied to the child of another, protecting their future happiness means denying his own on a dangerous path to redemption.
One night of stolen pleasure he didn’t remember and she couldn’t forget…
Amber . . . a single mother hiding a terrible past
Rico Terriot was the stuff of dreams . . . lately all of hers. But there’s no happily-ever-after for someone living in the shadows, protecting dangerous secrets that threaten her and her daughter. Dare she believe in a fairytale prince when he comes to her rescue, not knowing the price he’ll pay for making her troubles his own? From world’s so far apart, is love strong enough to hold them together . . . and keep them alive?
The third book, Prince of Fools is now available; so if The Way to a Girl’s Heart gets your interest, make sure you check out the first book in the House of Terriot series, Prince of Honor.
The Way to a Girl’s Heart with Prince of Fools
I’m so excited to be back at Literary Escapism for Jackie’s uber-fun Black Friday event! My offering was particularly enjoyable (and easy!) to write since it fits right into my latest release, Prince of Fools from my dark shapeshifter “House of Terriot” series, a spin-off of my “By Moonlight” books, as a bridge between the scenes addition (Okay, I had to tweak the time line a bit but I’m okay with moving it back a few months for the sake of the season. Don’t tell anyone!). Take a hardcore bachelor warrior shapeshifter prince and send him on a shopping trip with the pre-teen daughter of the secretive female he wants to be more than friends with. The way to her heart is through the girl’s acceptance in this tender, fun and just a bit scary scene from a mall.
To add to the festivities, I’m offering a winner’s choice of one of the Kindle e-books leading up to this newest addition (pick from Remembered By Moonlight, Unleashed by Shadows, Prince of Honor or Prince of Power). Winner will be announced at the end of our Black Friday event on December 25 on my Facebook page and on my Sunday the 26th blog. Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!
Scene from a Mall . . .
What was he thinking? What did a warrior playboy prince in the shapeshifter House of Terriot know about pre-teen girls? He hadn’t a clue when he was that age and even less of one now? His best smile had no effect on the surly, suspicious kid when she discovered he was the second-string replacement waiting for her to come home from school.
But shopping . . . that was something Rico understood, and he jumped at her suggestion that he fill in for the would-be chaperone who’d stood her up. Currently cooling restless heels a world away from his mountain top home in Lake Tahoe, he had money, time, fashion savvy and an overwhelming desire to shine in the eyes of this little girl and her mother who were the closest to true family he’d ever gotten. Having never met his own mother and raised by indifferent paid strangers, all he knew he’d learned at a cautious distance, watching his brothers with theirs. This up close and personal chance to participate was an unexpected gift. Just like the warm gratitude shining in hardworking bartender/single mom Amber James’ eyes when he’d made the impulsive offer. He suspected trust wasn’t something easy for her to extend and he vowed not to disappoint her, even though he had little experience in the area of reliability. He’d earned his nickname Prince of Fools, not something he was proud of but didn’t deny. He wasn’t the family go-to to get things done. But this, this he could do!
They cabbed it to the Mall. Even a bachelor knew better than to take a 12-year old on the back of a motorcycle without an anxious mom’s permission. In the heart of New Orleans, The Shops at Canal Place beckoned, a soaring, glittering mecca of enticement calling to a young girl’s every dream. Evangeline James stood in round-eyed awe, taking it in like a fairytale ball as shoppers swirled about them, caught up in their own deal-seeking dance.
“Start at the bottom and work up or at the top and work down?” His question brought the bright blue gaze up to his. “What’s on your shopping list?”
Wonder gave way to a delighted grin that took him in the chest like a staggering round house kick.
“Gotcha.” Rico glanced about the endlessly reflected spaces at a loss as to where to start until he spotted a chic mom with two mannerly children in tow. “Excuse me, ma’am. Where might I find things for my best girl here to wear?”
Cool, flawlessly made up eyes assessed him in his baggy laidback clothes and backward ballcap then Evie in her worn cloth coat. Her smile was not unkind. “There’s an affordable outlet mall not far from here.”
As Evie tucked in behind him, withering in shame, Rico flashed a lot of teeth. “Is that where you take your kids? I was thinking more in line with that very nice Dolce your boy there has on. Where did you get that?”
The boy in question whispered up at his mother, “Are those earrings real diamonds?” referring to the two-carat flash in Rico’s ears, the studs marking him within his clan as a Terriot prince.
“Yes, sir, they are,” Rico answered with a warming smile.
“Are you a drug dealer?”
While Mom shrank in horror, Rico gave a booming laugh. Nothing like the honesty of the young to cut through the crap. “No. Just rich.” He winked at the boy as the woman laughed nervously.
“We go to Saks.” She pointed the way then hurried the kids toward the exit as he called after them, “Thank you! You all have a nice day!”
Evangeline stared up at him. “You’re rich?”
“Obscenely. Are you going to hold it against me?”
She took his arm and pulled. “Let’s go to Saks.”
To save on more embarrassment, the minute he steered his little protégé into the exclusive bastion of good taste at a hefty price, Rico flashed his no limit Masters of the Universe credit card along with his smile at the chic woman who approached them. Her demeanor subtly changed in recognition of his status as she purred, “Can I help you find something?”
Rico squeezed Evie shoulder gently. “This little lady is princess for a day. Whatever she wants. No price tags. Could you show us what you have?”
They were instantly ushered down that solid gold yellow brick road.
Daphne, their sleekly perky sales associate didn’t take them to the racks. She brought the racks to them where they sat together sipping designer water on a velvety loveseat. Watching the girl’s awkwardness morph into eager excitement filled a spot Rico hadn’t known was empty. Was this what a parent felt providing for their brood? He wondered as she cast a deferring glance to him each time something caught her eye. He’d never had anyone to please except himself and her enjoyment was an unexpected reward.
“Your daughter has a good sense of style.”
Rico smiled up at the clerk. “I’m not her daddy. Her mama’s a friend. I’m just filling in.”
“Lucky her.” The flirtatious Daphne gave him an appreciative once over as she gathered up the selection of clothes. With a, “Let’s go see how these fit,” to Evie, she lead the way to the dressing rooms.
Rico leaned back to wait, ignoring the curious looks from other upscale shoppers. No. He was the lucky one. Amber James wasn’t the type of female who usually let people get close enough to do things for her. She and Evie were a self-contained household of two and he wasn’t stupid enough not to realize what an honor it was to be allowed within those private walls she protected like a mama tiger. It was more than just being a single working mother alone in the Quarter being constantly hit on by jerks like him. A world of caution, distrust and possible abuse shadowed her soulful eyes. He recognized her demons because he shared them. What took him by surprise was the sudden fierce need to protect her and her daughter from whatever ugliness they’d known. From whatever dark secrets Amber held close. Those he understood, too. He could help . . . if she’d let him. First as a friend then maybe as more. He wanted to be that guy she turned to.
Earning Evangeline’s approval was a major step and he couldn’t afford to blow it.
So, Rico Terriot sat back, allowing himself to be seduced by the pleasure of being part of something outside the reckless, self-indulgent, often lonely life he led as Evangeline James walked a runway of teen fashion for his eyes only in a Gucci pink metallic leather bomber jacket he guesstimated at $2K easy over Dolce & Gabbana flora trackpants. As a mini-adult, she was adorable! That ensemble was followed by a black and red plaid Burberry shirtdress over leggings, Ralph Lauren pleated hem jersey and Zebra print skirt, a floral and camo-print baseball jacket over metallic-coated skinny jeans, teal cold-shoulder top with Gucci lurex skater skirt, and a fuzzy cotton candy pink sweater topping fashionably ripped jeans. He applauded and critiqued each selection as she spun and posed, blushing and beaming with delight.
Why wasn’t there a dad in the picture? True, his own had been a bully and a monster he’d helped overthrow but still he’d been a constant influence in Rico’s life. Evie deserved that stabilizing presence, even from the fool who didn’t know what he was missing.
Unless Dad was what Amber James was hiding from. Something dark and dangerous growled though Rico at that thought.
What he wouldn’t give to enjoy moments like this more often. Maybe even regularly.
When Evie returned, followed by a hopeful Daphne with an armful of prospective sales, the girl gifted him with a tight squeeze and a quiet, “That was fun. Thank you for letting me try them on.”
“We’re not done.” He surprised her. That felt so good, he wanted to go one better. “Don’t you like them?”
“Well . . . yeah. Of course. But . . .”
Her jaw dropped. “I get to keep something?”
He tipped his head, studying the outfits. “I don’t know. I can’t decide which I like best, so I guess we’ll have to take all of them.”
He couldn’t tell who was more delighted by that news, Evie or Daphne, who quickly started tucking the purchases into tissue paper packets. Then Evangeline pulled away with a soft, “I can’t.”
“It’s not shopping without buying. And we’re supposed to be shopping, right?” he cajoled.
“It’s too much.” Now she sounded like her mother and that made him unreasonably angry, not at either of them but at their circumstances.
“No, it isn’t. It’s not enough. We’ve got stores to see and conquer. I thought we were in this together.”
She studied him, a look all too grown up with its shades of consequence but the child in her won out. A grin escaped. “Okay. But I’ve got to pee first.”
His cheeks warmed at her bluntness. Daphne rescued him with calm directions to the ladies’ room. After running his card and handing him the parcels all pristinely bagged, she told him frankly, “She’s one lucky lady.” When Rico glanced toward the restrooms, the clerk corrected, “Her mom. She’s lucky to have you.”
Rico waited by the register as Daphne went to help another customer. Was she? Was Amber James fortunate that a clumsy, know nothing about family guy like him was pushing his way into her life? What could he possibly bring to the table other than a bottomless credit reserve and a broken heart? He wasn’t husband or daddy material. That was his brother Colin, whose family he’d envied and longed to emulate every moment of their growing up years. Especially now that his older sibling had his own mate and child on the way. But the Prince of Fools wasn’t the solid support that this precious pair deserved. He was a sugar rush, not a substantial meal they could rely upon day after day to sustain them.
But he could change. If he wanted to.
Did he want to? For them? To have them?
A prickle of alarm pulled him from his daydreams, alerting him to their surroundings.
Ever the cautious predator, Rico had second sight when it came to danger. A sudden premonition shivered down his arms, pebbling them in gooseflesh. Without betraying his razor-edged readiness, he casually glanced about the mall atrium with its steady stream of foot traffic. Focused shoppers, cranky children, laughing teens, overweight mall cops. Nothing to ruffle the hair at the back of his neck in warning. Yet something had. A threat to him or his little charge?
“Sorry I took so long.”
Rico turned to Evie with a smile. The creepy crawly feeling eased back as she looped her arm through his and leaned close to whisper in awe, “They had chandeliers in the bathroom! Imagine that.”
He suddenly imagined all sorts of unlikely, frightening things, like the permanence of moments like this flooding his footloose life, but laughed it off and led her out into the flow of merriment, letting that fast-moving flow tow them along to the next shop.
Unaware that the cause of the footsteps-over-his-grave uneasiness pressed ever closer behind them.
Meet Nancy Gideon!
Nancy Gideon is the award-winning bestseller of over 60 romances ranging from historical, regency and series contemporary suspense to dark paranormal, with a couple of horror screenplays tossed into the mix, and is currently testing the “Hybrid author” waters. She works full time as a legal assistant in Central Michigan, and when not at the keyboard, feeds a Netflix addiction along with all things fur, fin and fowl. She’s also written under the pen names Dana Ransom, Rosalyn West and Lauren Giddings.
Want to purchase Nancy’s novels?
House of Terriot
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