Welcome to October everyone and give a big SeawitchReviews welcome to our Spotlight Author Lori Austin aka Lori Handeland. Lori Austin is the pseudonym for award winning author Lori Handeland, known for her paranormal romance series, The Nightcreature Novels, as well as the urban fantasy series, The Phoenix Chronicles and the historical fantasy series, Shakespeare Undead. Under the Austin name, Lori writes sexy, adventurous western historical romance.
She is a New York Times Bestselling Author and the recipient of many industry awards, including two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Paranormal Romance and Best Long Contemporary Category Romance.
Lori lives in Wisconsin with her husband, enjoying occasional visits from her grown sons.
So Lori tell us why you chose to write under Lori Austin and about your new story Beauty and the Bounty Hunter.
“a worthy debut. . . . a fine yarn played out against the colorful hills and dusty trails of the old west. ” Publishers Weekly
So now let’s ask Lori our Questions Just For Fun.
Cathleen Chase is no killer—but as Cat O’Banyon, she is a ruthless bounty hunter who always gets her man. Catching one lowlife after another, she continues her search for the only man she really cares to locate: the one whose voice she will never forget; the man who murdered her husband. She’ll stop at nothing to find him.Con artist Alexi Romanov taught Cat every trick she knows. He is a master of deceit, of disguise and of desire. He’s difficult to trust, and even more difficult to resist, but he has news she can’t ignore. The man she’s after has placed a bounty on her head. To get him before he gets her, she’ll have to team up with Alexi again… And just like before, the two of them together are nothing but trouble.
Coming October 2012Abilene, Kansas1870A new customer strolled through the front door of Letty’s Sporting House. Short, swarthy, stocky–the three S’s of ugly–a ridged scar encircled his neck. Nevertheless, nearly every woman in the place straightened, preening for his attention.Cathleen Chase didn’t waste time. She stepped forward. This was her man.A hand clamped onto her arm. “Sissy!”Cat fought not to cringe at the foolish name she’d adopted. What had she been thinking?”We don’t choose them.” The whore tightened her grip, talon-like fingernails pressing sharply into Cat’s skin. “They choose us.”Cat lifted her gaze from the hand on her wrist to the once pretty face. As often happened when Cat let people see what lay beneath, the girl took a quick step back, wrapping her bare arms beneath her satin shrouded breasts as if she were cold. Since she was revealing more flesh than she was covering—hell, so was Cat—it might have been true.Shrugging, the young woman glanced away. “One’s the same as the next to me.””Not to me,” Cat murmured.Her skirt swished just below her knees as she sauntered toward her quarry. Cat had chosen a garnet dress to complement her long dark hair and green eyes. Her skin as pale as any Irishwoman, she’d been spared the red hair and freckles of so many of her relatives. Cat resembled her mother—God rest her soul, and the souls of everyone else she’d ever loved.The neckline dipped dangerously low. Cat had altered the bodice so that her breasts practically burst free with every breath. As she moved across the room, she secretly tugged the garment lower so that when she reached the man his gaze went directly to her chest and stayed there.”How much?” he croaked.”Five dollars.” On the high end even for a white woman but not unreasonable. Still he hesitated, and Cat lifted one finger, tracing it back and forth across her skin.His eyes followed the movement like the pendulum on a clock; then he grabbed her hand and dragged her up the creaking oak staircase without ever once looking at Cat’s face.Sometimes she was so good at this, she scared herself.”Which room?” Voice harsh, his breath came in short gasps.Cat reached past him, making sure to brush her breasts against his arm as she opened the door to her room. Shrouded in shadow, she’d left it that way. Why bother to turn up the lamp? The less he could see—the less she could—the better.She hadn’t taken two steps inside when the man kicked shut the door and yanked her around to face him. He made a beeline for her cleavage, fingers crushing the soft flesh as he lowered his head and lifted her to his mouth. Cat contemplated the peeling floral wallpaper and let him have at it a while. Her time would come.When he began to drag up her skirt with one hand, reaching for his belt with the other, Cat murmured: “Hold on there, solider,” tempering her denial by palming his erection, tightening her fingers just enough to make him moan. “You get what you pay for with me.””Wha-?” He couldn’t form the word, could barely think if his slack expression was any indication.”What’s your name, sugar?” It was always best, before she moved on, to be sure.”C-c-clyde.”Cat’s lips curved, and she kneaded him through the stiff material of his trousers, running her thumb over and back, over and back, across the throbbing head. Leaning in, she increased the pressure and the rhythm. “You don’t want just a quick poke now . . . ” She squeezed him once, just short of pain, and he gasped. “Do you?”His head thrashed, back and forth.
“That would be no to the quick poke,” Cat murmured.
Continuing to touch him just enough to keep him interested, not enough to finish him off, Cat removed a rope from the pocket of her dress with her unoccupied hand. Clyde was so far gone he didn’t notice her looping it around his wrists until she drew the knot tight.
“Shh.” Cat began to unbutton his pants. He shushed.
As she went to her knees, her hair cascaded over her face. Clyde’s breathing picked up when she peeled back his open trousers. Inching closer, she “accidentally” bumped his hands with her head, drew back, frowned. “Maybe I should tie these behind you.”
“No?” The pout in her voice was almost as convincing as the moist rush of her breath trickling over him. Cat knew men; the threat of her displeasure wasn’t half as convincing as the threat that she might not follow up on that moist trickle.
Her smile hidden by her hair, Cat untied his wrists, and he turned. She stayed on her knees, giving him the illusion of control, while at the same time she kept the promise of her mouth on his pecker alive. Cat yanked the knot tight, pressing her gambler’s gun to his spine as she rose. “Now, Clyde, repeat after me: You or her?”
Cat placed the barrel against his temple. “Say it. You or her?”
She closed her eyes and, as it did every time she reached for it, and sometimes when she didn’t, the past returned. She couldn’t see through the blindfold, couldn’t move for the bonds. But her ears . . .
Her ears worked just fine.
“You or her?” Clyde blurted.
Cat’s eyes snapped open. It wasn’t him.
Disappointment flooded her, so stark, so deep her legs wobbled. How long could she keep doing this? How long before someone got the drop on her? How long before she let them?
Cat shoved aside those thoughts. She’d made a vow, and she would not stop until she kept it. No matter how long that took. No matter what she had to do. So far, she’d done plenty.
After testing the knot that bound Clyde’s wrists– never could be too careful– Cat nestled the gun more firmly against him. “Let’s walk.”
Applause exploded from the shadows, and Cat started, nearly putting a bullet into Clyde’s back.
A man swam out of the gloom. His Colt was strapped down like a gunslinger’s. She couldn’t see his face beyond the brim of a dark slouch hat. His hands, which were still applauding—slowly, sarcastically—were shrouded by black gloves. There was something familiar about those hands.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like that before,” he said.
There was something about the voice too—an odd cadence, an accent she couldn’t place. She was good with voices—had to be–even better with accents. That she couldn’t decipher this one caused the itch that had started up when she saw his hands to intensify.
“Who are you?” she demanded. “What do you want?”
She half expected him to say he’d been waiting for her, that he was one of Letty’s regulars, sent upstairs to have a taste of the new girl. A common enough occurrence in this business; it would be a simple matter to promise him she’d be available soon, then disappear.
The newcomer kept his head canted so that the shadow of his hat concealed his face, and that bothered her. What was he trying to hide and why?
“Fucking bounty hunter,” Clyde spat.
“You nearly did, my sad little friend.”
“Nearly did what?” Clyde’s voice was mystified.
“Fuck the bounty hunter.”
Cat’s eyes narrowed. How did he know?
Clyde glanced over his shoulder, and Cat shoved the derringer more firmly against him lest he try anything funny.
“She’s nothing but a whore,” Clyde sneered.
The other man stepped forward. Cat only had time to tighten her grip on the gun before the body she was threatening it with crumpled. It took her several ticks of the clock to understand that the first thud she’d heard had been a fist connecting with Clyde’s jaw, the second had been Clyde hitting the floor.
“Well, hell,” she muttered. “How am I going to get his sorry ass downstairs now?”
When she received no response, Cat glanced up. The intruder leaned against the wall as if he hadn’t a care in the world, or a place to be in this century.
“What’d you do that for?” she asked, turning her gun on him.
“I didn’t like his tone or his language.”
“Names don’t bother me.”
Men like Clyde did. She’d devoted what was left of her life to bringing them in, and if she checked each and every one to see if he was the one . . . Cat gave a mental shrug. It was nothing less than she deserved for doing this job at all.
“Obviously not,” he drawled, “since you use so very many.”
Cat stilled. Did he want her to kill him?
The man flicked an elegant, dark finger at the lightly snoring Clyde. “Does he know who you are?”
“I’m—” Cat’s mind groped for the name she was presently using and came up blank.
“That is often the problem with lies,” he murmured. “So difficult to keep straight. Shall I help you to remember . . . Cat?”
Her trigger finger itched. Should she set it free? This man had seen what she’d done; he knew who she was. She really didn’t have much choice.
“You plan to kill me with that?” A dip of his stubbled chin indicated the derringer pointed at his chest.
“You have been asking for it.”
Laughter erupted, as startling as the applause had been. “Kitten, that wouldn’t even slow me down.”
He might be right. She should get a little closer.
“They say Cat O’Banyon always gets her man.” He indicated the gun, the bound Clyde, then the room with a languid twirl of one gloved finger. “Is this how?”
“This?” She smoothed a hand down the satin-covered ladder of her rib cage, brushing the un-corseted weight of her breasts with her fingertips, curving her palm beneath one ripe swell. “Sometimes.”
If she kept his attention on her body he wouldn’t notice anything else. Like how close she was getting. Just another step and–
He snatched the gun and tossed it onto the bed. His other hand came down on hers where it still rested beneath her breasts. Then he whirled her into the shadows, his large, hard, male body aligning with hers.
Cat wanted to shriek and kick. Instead she went still and quiet. She’d learned disguise from a master, and it involved not only the outer trappings but also the spirit within. Cat O’Banyon wouldn’t panic at the brush of a man’s thigh along hers. Cathleen Chase on the other hand–
Cat shuddered, deftly turning the quiver from fear to arousal with the almost undetectable addition of a moan. She wasn’t stronger; she couldn’t fight. Not with fists. So she lifted her mouth, and she placed it on his.
She’d planned to take charge, to ensure he thought of nothing beyond this until the time he no longer thought at all. She failed miserably as soft and gentle, his lips countered hers. Slow and easy, as if he had eons of time to do anything that he wanted, and what he wanted was her.
This was nothing new. Men had desired her–it was how Cat made a living, or at least how she pretended to often enough—but they hadn’t desired her. Because she wasn’t Sissy the whore, or Betsy the barmaid, or Dorothy the dance hall gal. She was Cat—the woman who’d been born from the ashes that had tumbled across Billy’s grave nearly two years ago.
A sob nearly broke free. She trapped it in her throat, and the stranger set his hand there, as if he’d heard, as if he knew, as if he cared. His tongue flicked out, testing the seam of her lips.
Lust flooded in and, shocked, Cat gasped. He slanted her head with clever fingers, letting his thumb trail across her chest, leaving goose flesh in its wake.
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Funny, but when she touched him he didn’t seem so broad, and she had to reach higher than she’d thought, as if he were taller than he appeared. Her brow furrowed; memory flickered–a mirage—there and then gone and then—
He deepened the kiss, and he tasted like blue night, something dangerous but exciting, something that pulled you in even when you knew you had to get out. She drew in a breath, and he smelled even better—his scent reminding her of places that were green and sunny and gone. Warmth rolled off him; she wanted to bask in that heat like her namesake.
And as long as he was kissing her, he wasn’t paying attention to her hand, which had, seemingly of its own accord, slid across his shoulder—definitely more lithe than large, how peculiar—down his arm, across his oddly slim hip.
Her sigh masked the shift of her palm from his body to her own, the arch of her spine, the press of her breasts into his chest concealing the track of her fingers as they disappeared beneath her skirt.
His tongue traced her lower lip, tickled her teeth, slid through and danced a bit with her own. What would it be like to give in? To feel something more than nothing for a minute?
Cat was tempted, and because she was, she got careless. She concentrated on his mouth when she should have been concentrating on his hands. Ain’t that always the way?
He cupped her breast, one finger dipping beneath the lace and trolling across the nipple. A sharp tug shot through her, awakening sensations she’d forced into slumber long ago. That sob she’d been stifling erupted, becoming a howl of fury as it flew from her mouth. She yanked up her skirt and reached for the Arkansas toothpick strapped to her thigh.
“Looking for this?” He pressed the tip to Cat’s throat, and she froze.
She didn’t much care about living, but she wasn’t ready to die yet either. Not until she found the owner of the voice that whispered through her nightmares. Even if the interminable searching made her feel as if she were just chasing the wind.
Cat lifted her gaze, prepared to beg if she had to. Hell, she’d done it before.
Then her eyes met his, and everything changed.
Wow, I canna wait to see what happens next, can you? Want to go check Lori Austin’s stie out here is the link http://www.loriaustin.net/index.php and for Lori Handeland you can go here http://www.lorihandeland.com/