In 2011, Harlequin Desire put out a submission call for new writers to pitch their story ideas to their editors. At the time I was a new writer and had only ever written two romance stories previously. But I was a huge fan of the Harlequin Desire line with some of my favourite authors being Day Leclaire and Brenda Jackson. So you can imagine how excited I was to pitch a story to them.
The pitch event went well and I can still remember how excited I was when I messaged Empi to say they had requested the first 3 chapters of the story, which meant I had to actually write the full story. Yikes!
Anyway, long and short of it, I wrote the draft while blogging it and a few of my online friends read the story as I went along and gave me helpful pointers. I submitted it to HD. Eventually they came back and said it wasn't for them.
At the time, I had just signed a contract with Breathless Press, so I decided to park the story and concentrate on completing the Men of Valor series which I had just sold to BP.
Fast forward to 2013 and I dusted it out and revised it, subbed it to a couple other publishers. They both liked it, but the direction they wanted to take the story didn't suit me. So I cancelled the offered contract and decided to go it alone. So here we are.
And I hope you'll all love Felix and Ebony's story, the first of an exciting new series, The Essien Trilogy, bringing you Secrets, Scandals, and Seduction under African skies.
Book 1 - Keeping Secrets is out now
Book 2 - Making Scandal is coming Aug/Sept 2014
Book 3 - Riding Rebel is coming Nov/Dec 2014
KEEPING SECRETS - Book Blurb
Have you ever loved someone and didn’t even know it?
That’s the dilemma facing Felix Essien when he wakes from a coma to find he is married to the most beautiful and sensual woman he’s ever known. He cannot remember her or their wedding; he who had sworn never to get married or to give his heart to another. Yet, he feels an intense bond with her that he intends to explore fully.
Ebony can’t believe her good fortune when her paper husband wakes not remembering the temporary marriage arrangement with no intimacies he’d proposed, and is now the adoring husband she’s always dreamt of.
She plans to make the most of the passion blossoming between them. However, would he still feel that way when he regains his memory and realises she’s been keeping secrets and their marriage is not what he thinks it is?
“Mrs. Essien, your husband is out of his coma.”
Phone pressed against one ear, the other hand reaching for the remote control, Ebony bolted upright. Her hand shook as she fumbled to mute the television news channel she’d been watching. The discarded controller clanked onto the clear, glass-topped side table.
“D...did I hear you correctly? Felix is awake?” She couldn’t hide the tremor in her voice, nor relax her tight-knuckled grip on the overstuffed arm of the upholstered cream sofa. Disbelief warred with hope, trampling all over her troubled mind.
“Yes, madam,” the nurse said at the other end of the line.
Breath rushed out of her lungs. The living room turned blurry. She lowered her lashes and slumped backwards, the velvet cushions a haven of soft comfort. A tear seeped from the corner of her eye and rolled down her cheek. She didn’t bother to wipe it. This didn’t represent sadness. No. This spelt relief—pure and simple—at prayers answered. At last.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
Eyes flickering open, she took in the bare cream walls of the living room and her gaze landed on the pile of framed wedding photographs in the far corner, overshadowed by a dark wood sculpture of a couple cinched in passion.
Since she’d taken delivery of the photos, she hadn’t been able to bring herself to put them up.
“I’m still here.” She swiped another tear with the back of her hand and cleared her throat.
“How is he? When did he wake up?” The words rushed from her lips, relief now overtaken by excitement.
Soft laughter filtered through the phone. “Take it easy, madam.”
Ebony grimaced. The respectful term for a woman only made her feel ancient; she’d prevented her household employees from using it to address her. But she didn’t tell the nurse on the phone.
“Sorry,” she said instead as she curled her lips with joy for the first time in weeks. She could forgive the woman who delivered such delightful news.
“No need to apologise. I understand, Madam,” the nurse continued in a cheerful voice. “Your husband woke a few minutes ago. The doctor is with him now and he seems okay, considering his condition. There is a request on his note to contact you as soon as he wakes up. This is the reason for my call.”
“Thank you so much, Nurse. I’ll come to the hospital straight away.” Ebony ended the call and sprang to her feet, ready to race to the bedroom to change.
Bad move. Her head swam, making her nauseated by the sudden movement, her stomach heaving like a turbulent sea.
Sinking back into the sofa, she breathed through the queasiness, head tilted slightly forward on her hands.
Oh, Lord. I hope I haven’t picked up a stomach bug.
It’ll teach her to buy street food. Last night, she’d craved Kilishi so much, she had to stop on the way home from hospital to pick up the beef jerky-style food cured and seeped in spices.
The omelette and toast she’d had for breakfast hadn’t stayed down, to the dismay of the housekeeper. The poor girl had looked appalled at the notion she may have poisoned her mistress. Hence the reason Ebony had been sitting in the living room when her phone rang, instead of being already at the hospital, her usual routine.
Perhaps, the stress of the past few weeks finally caught up with her. Long days and even longer nights, staying up worried about Felix.
Her chin dipped into her chest and her shoulders slumped as a wave of guilt hit her.
I should’ve been there when he woke up. He should’ve seen me first. Not the nurse or doctor. Me, his wife. Today of all days, too. Is it fate that he woke on Valentine’s Day?
“Aunty, are you okay?”
Ebony exhaled a sigh and lifted her head. The word ‘aunty’ gave her familial closeness to the addresser, a sense of not being alone in this mansion or dealing with faceless employees, but rather engaging with a member of the family.
Bisi, the housekeeper, stood beside her sofa twisting her hands, her anxiety plastered on her round face, her outfit—a blue check dress, white pinafore, and white sandals—creaseless and stainless, her hair plaited in neat straight cornrows, pulled into a bun at the back. The twenty-year old girl always took pride in her appearance. Living in meant Bisi became part of their household, which made her family.
Ebony curled her lips into a reassuring smile. “I’m more than okay. Stop worrying.”
She stood carefully and this time, the world stayed the right way up.
“Just tell Kola that I’ll be ready to go the hospital in thirty minutes.”
“Yes, Aunty.” The girl nodded. “I’ve packed the bag ready for you. Do you want me to skip class tonight, in case you need me?”
“No. There’s no need for you to miss your lesson.”
Ebony paid for Bisi to study Home Economics at their local college, with emphasis on Cookery after she discovered the girl’s interest in food and flavours. She should tell her Felix woke up. But after waiting so long to get some good news, she wanted confirmation with her own two eyes before announcing it to the rest of the household staff.
“Thank you for packing the bag.”
She patted the housekeeper on the shoulder and headed upstairs, bare feet slapping on cold marble. Crockery tinkled behind her as Bisi cleared up the teacup and saucer from the side table.
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AUTHOR BIO & CONTACT LINKS
A lover of books, as a teenager Kiru Taye used to read novels under the blanket with a torch at night. These days, with a young family to take care of, she's still sacrificing sleep for the pleasures of a good book.
During the day though, she transforms her wildly vivid imagination into sensual, atmospheric romance stories with passionate characters.
When she’s not writing or reading, she'd hanging out with family and friends or travelling. Born in Nigeria, she currently lives in the UK with husband and children.
You reach her via her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest
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Read book excerpts and free short stories on her website.
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To celebrate the release of Keeping Secrets, I'm giving away a goodie pack, which includes $20 Amazon gift card, signed paperback of An Engagement Challenge, Keeping Secrets t-shirt and face cap.
Leave me a comment to stand a chance of winning and complete the Rafflecopter to enter the contest.