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HIGH-STAKES PASSION
Silhouette Desire
ISBN: 0-373-76644-0

A LONESOME COWBOY... Reporter Audrey Tyson had come looking for Mark “Lone Cowboy” Malone - the squarejawed, melt-your-heart hero that had haunted her dreams for a decade. Only, the heartthrob with the sexy smile that had once made her go weak in the knees was gone. In his place was a broken-down bull rider with a wary heart that hid dark secrets...

Audrey had secrets, too... and feelings so raw and tender she wouldn’t share them with anyone, even Mark, the man who now ignited her long-suppressed passion into a sensual inferno.

Was their explosive lovemaking enough to make a former plain Jane believe in herself, or a worldweary cowboy realize he might be worth loving?

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Reviews:

"I started reading this book at night, expecting to read a chapter or two before bedtime. Well, bedtime came awfully late that night because I couldn't put the book down until I had read every last page! Mark Malone is a classic tortured, flawed hero. He's a secretive man and although he survived a painful childhood, he emerged into adulthood with plenty of baggage. In many ways Audrey is lacking in self-esteem but she can be just the woman to give Mark the swift kick he needs. I loved the depth of both Mark and Audrey, and the support of the secondary characters. HIGH STAKES PASSION is thoroughly engrossing. I highly recommend this book." - Alane Coppinger, Reviewer, Romance Junkies.

"Aubrey came for a story - to find out why The Lone Cowboy has disappeared off the rodeo circuit. She's determined to put her school-girl crush and hero-worshipping ways behind her and prove she has what it takes to be a journalist. All those thoughts go right out the window, however, when Mark looks into her eyes and puts his arms around her waist. High-Stakes Passion (4 1/2) by Juliet Burns has everything a romance needs rolled into one neat package. Passion, suspense, drama and plenty of good old-fashioned chemistry with a cowboy doesn't hurt either." - 4 1/2 Stars! Romantic Times.

"High-Stakes Passion is Juliet Burns’ debut novel and what a winner it is! Her hero and heroine are not your typical Desire characters. Both have body-image issues: Audrey and her weight and Mark and his injured leg. And Mark’s probably the meanest hero I’ve ever seen. Ms. Burns, however, does a remarkable job of redeeming him and endeared him to this reader. This made the happy ending even sweeter for having brought the hero so far to attain it. While I was able to predict the black moment, I never saw the resolution coming and was completely taken aback at the excellent use of circular storytelling that played back into the scene that set up the action in the first place.

My hat’s off to Juliet Burns for breaking the mold and taking a chance. She pushed the envelope on her first book and pulled it off brilliantly. I look forward to more from this talented author
." - Marilyn Puett, Writers Unlimited Reviewer.

"Author Juliet Burns combines steamy lovemaking and strong emotional conflict in her compelling debut novel. Audrey's undercover reporter and Mark's drinking provide a new twist to the much-loved rancher/housekeeper plot hook. With his deep issues of betrayal, Audrey's secret profession leads inevitably toward a powerful black moment. I look forward to seeing more books by this talented writer." - Rob Preece , Books For A Buck.

"Juliet Burns does a fantastic job of developing both Mark and Audrey. Both of these characters have some hang ups and Juliet clearly illustrates these to the benefit of the story... I enjoyed watching them grow and change as they realize their problems are not insurmountable. What a great story to sit and read and enjoy." - 4 Stars! Debby at CataRomance.

Excerpt:

Audrey caught a movement from the corner of her eye and jumped back. Her heart banged against her chest when she glanced up and found Mark standing in the doorway, glaring.

“What the hell are you doing with that?”

With a shaky breath, she dropped the picture back on the armoire and casually moved past him to the bed, smoothing the comforter over the clean sheets.

Flexing chest muscles and a flat stomach revealed by low riding jeans distracted Audrey from his question. Hadn’t his shirt been buttoned before? It was hard to concentrate with his brown chest hair arrowing down to well-defined abs.

“Just dusting.”

He raised one brow in disbelief as he lifted a bottle of beer to his lips. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he took a long swallow. Following the movement of her hands, his piercing gaze journeyed slowly to her chest, lingered a moment, and continued to scorch over her hips and thighs.

Her façade of poise withered under his scrutiny. His intense gaze made her feel like someone else, someone alluring and sexy. It seemed awfully hot in here. Maybe she should have turned down the air conditioner. Changing sheets was hard work.

But that didn’t explain the sharp ache between her thighs.

Mark’s gaze shifted to the bed, then back at her. “Gonna help me get it all rumpled again?”

Audrey blinked. The romantic haze cleared from her eyes. She crossed her arms and looked pointedly out the bedroom door. “I thought you wanted to watch TV.”

He smacked his lips together and wiped his mouth on his shirtsleeve. “Changed my mind.”

She rolled her eyes and grimaced, biting her tongue to keep her criticism to herself.

“What? Go ahead and say it, Miss High-and-Mighty. I can see you’re dying to give another lecture. You got your own personal crippled cowboy crusade? I suppose you never drink?”

“Not at ten o’clock in the morning!”

His brows drew together and his scowl blackened. He advanced on her, taking another swig from his bottle, and wiped his mouth on his sleeve again. He closed in until she was nose to chest with him, caught between him and the bed. He was so close she could smell the beer on his breath.

Refusing to be chased away, she stood her ground.

He towered over her with a narrow eyed glare. “You know, you should’ve been a missionary or something. I can see you now. Marching for prohibition with all the other Miss Priss, Goody-Two-Shoes, dried up, old spinsters!”

Audrey’s stomach heaved, like someone had socked her. His words echoed in her mind--dried up, old spinster. It was true. That’s exactly what she was. Refusing to cry, she forgot about holding her temper. “Well, at least I don’t sit around wallowing in self-pity all day!”

He leaned into her and nuzzled her neck. “You know. I kind of like you all riled up. Your eyes spit fire and your...” He stared blatantly at her chest. “I want you, darlin’.”

Oh, God. Her nipples peaked of their own accord, as if straining to rub against his chest. Tiny goose bumps rose as his lips nibbled the sensitive skin of her neck. Even with the smell of beer on his breath, she wanted his arms around her and his lips on hers.

No. This drunk was not the man she’d once thought he was. She pushed against his chest. “Move, and I’ll leave so you can drink yourself into a stupor in peace.”

He set the bottle on the bedside table and abruptly fell forward, pushing her down with him. Arms straight, he held himself above her, his hands spread flat on the bed. Audrey lay perfectly still, trapped between his strong, flannel-clad arms. His lips parted and hovered just above hers.

“Peace is a pipe dream, Baby. I’ll take passion any day.”

Eyes wide, she reined in the urge to grab a hunk of his hair and pull his mouth down to hers. Despite the long hair and beard, she kept seeing the handsome, smiling hero from that long ago night at the rodeo.

“Beautiful green eyes,” he mumbled. “Give me a kiss, baby.” Feverishly, his lips covered hers, moving over her mouth, begging for a response.

No need to beg. Audrey ran her fingers through his hair and kissed him back with all that was in her.

He slowly lowered his body, settling onto her chest with a low groan. His tongue slid in, stroking her lips and tongue.

She shivered and couldn’t hide a little moan of pleasure as his lips traveled down her cheek to nuzzle her neck. The evidence of his desire pushed against her thigh, long and hard. He pushed it against her again and she realized his hand was sliding under her shirt.

She must be insane! A minute ago, he’d called her an old spinster. He only wanted her because he was drunk. She recovered her wits and pushed on his shoulders. “No!”

He rolled away and sat up. “What’s the matter?”

Audrey bolted off the bed and flew to the other side of the room, breathing hard. She didn’t know which feeling was stronger—humiliation or regret. “You don’t even know me and you were trying to, to...”

Grabbing his beer, he took another swig and ran a hand through his hair. “Hell, what’s knowin’ someone got to do with it? The women who wanted The Lone Cowboy didn’t know me.” He thumped his chest and snarled at his famous moniker as if he were speaking of someone else.

Crossing her arms, she dropped her jaw in disbelief. “That doesn’t mean— Oh!” Did he think because she was a fat spinster she wouldn’t say no?

Mark frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. “I get it. The cripple ain’t good enough.”

Is that what he thought? As if that would make a difference if she really— never mind. “Your injury has nothing to do with— ”

“Save it, lady. I know how women are.”

Audrey fumed, wishing she could scream. Why bother arguing with him? “Think what you want. Do what you want. You leave me alone. I’ll leave you alone, okay?” She spun on her heel and left the room.

Mark cursed and pitched his empty bottle on the floor.

Yeah, Mark thought. Alone. He was damn tired of being alone.

Excerpted from the book HIGH-STAKES PASSION, by Juliet Burns. Released March, 2005 from Silhouette Desire. ISBN: 0-373-766440, © 2005. (Silhouette Desire #1644) Visit the Desire Authors Website - click here!

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