With Double Fantasy, the Queen of Erotic Romance turns up the heat again... and again...
Reviews for Double Fantasy
"Smart, sexy and seductive, Holt's stories lure readers into wanting more and more of her emotional, riveting love stories. Her latest is scandalous yet romantic, tempting yet tender and very memorable."
— Kathe Robin, Romantic Times BOOKreviews
"I have been reading Cheryl Holt for years and can honestly say that Double Fantasy is my favorite. From cover to cover I was spellbound. On Ms. Holt's website Double Fantasy is listed as her 13th and final erotic romance. I am praying this isn't so but if this bit of information is true, I can honestly say that she saved the best for last because Double Fantasy is truly outstanding."
— Natasha Smith, Romance Junkies
"REVIEWER TOP PICK! The rapidly paced, action-packed romance, Double Fantasy, is a great fun read for the New Year. Cheryl Holt's many personable characters have flaws that make them vulnerable. The dialogue is easy to follow, the action intense and the love scenes are explicit which makes Double Fantasy a doubly fantastic page turner."
— Dee, Night Owl Romance
"Cheryl Holt's Double Fantasy is a classic love story with hot, fiery passion and family turmoil dripping from every page. There's nothing better than curling up with a great book and this one totally qualifies."
— Mandy Burns, Fresh Fiction.com
"WOWeeeeee!!! This is one great book! I'm so thrilled!"
— a quote from my editor, Jennifer Enderlin, on reading the finished manuscript
What fans are saying about Double Fantasy
"What a great book! I found myself laughing out loud. Love this book! Wish my sister and I had found twins like those two! My 83-year old aunt is going to love it!!!"
— Becky, Poulsbo, Washington
"Just wanted to let you know that Double Fantasy was a fantastic read. I loved it!"
"After reading this great book, I feel like you are an old friend. Once I opened the cover, I couldn't put it down. Thank you so much!"
— Carla, Gilmer, Texas
"It was great!!! I loved the characters, even the bad ones. That Jamie Merrick is a hotty! Hope you write more novels with him in it!"
— Joanne, Lyndhurst, New Jersey
"I enjoyed every word!"
"You put so much story in the first three chapters. I couldn't put it down!"
— Lorie, Quebec
"I can only say "Bravo Ms. Holt!"
— Isabel, Sao Paulo, Brazil
"One of the top 25 erotic writers of all time"
— Romantic Times BOOKreviews
Awards for Double Fantasy
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!!!
Double K.I.S.S. award for double heroes!
Nominated Best Sensual Novel of 2008
Double Fantasy Sneak Preview
Chapter One: Gladstone estate, rural England, 1813...
Anne Carstairs walked down the path that wound through the woods. Warm June sunlight drifted through the trees, dappling her shoulders in shades of green. The air was thick with the tantalizing odors of a verdant summer day.
Off in the distance, she could see Gladstone Manor. The mansion was nestled against the rolling hills and surrounded by acres of manicured gardens. Horses grazed in the pasture. It was a bucolic site, yet she scarcely noticed.
At any moment, Jamieson Merrick, the recently-installed Earl of Gladstone, was due to arrive, accompanied by his twin brother, Jackson Merrick. There were two horses tethered in the drive out front, so apparently, some of his entourage had already appeared. Soon, his fancy coach-and-four would follow his outriders, and the Merrick family crest would be insultingly visible for all to witness.
As babies, the twins had been sent away from Gladstone, forced to make their way in a cruel world. They'd been called pirates, thieves, smugglers — and those were the polite descriptions. Gossip abounded that they'd committed hundreds of murders, that they would kill at the drop of a hat. Jamieson Merrick, especially, was reputed to be violent. He ate small children for his supper; he drank their blood for his wine.
He was coming to Gladstone, demanding justice, demanding recompense and admissions of guilt. What might such a brutal individual do to pursue his goal of vengeance?
Since he held her fate in the palm of his hand, she was terrified to know the answer. Such an angry, evil criminal might be capable of any perfidy.
She approached the stream and stepped out on the ancient rock bridge. It was slick with moss, and she tiptoed carefully, bound for the other side, when movement out on the ridge caught her eye.
She halted and stared.
A man was there, fists on hips, feet spread wide, and he was covetously taking in the view. He was smug, in his element, as if he was finally standing precisely where he was meant to be.
From his shabby condition, he had to be one of Jamison Merrick's disreputable sailors, down from London to help him lawfully seize the estate from her cousin, Percy.
Percy had been Earl of Gladstone for eighteen of his thirty years, having assumed the title at age twelve. But now, with the discovery of a tattered birth certificate and a stained, crumbling marriage license, Jamieson Merrick was earl and Percy Merrick was not.
Anne never ceased to be fascinated by how such a simple event could totally alter the lives of so many. Her future was winging toward her like a bad carriage accident, and now that she'd glimpsed the first member of Merrick's crew, she was more distraught than ever.
What would become of her?
When Percy had initially broached the problem regarding the earldom, the story had seemed too fantastic to be believed. Supposedly, Percy's father had impregnated and secretly married a housemaid who'd died birthing the twins. Afterward, he'd panicked and hid evidence of the union and his two low-born sons. He'd subsequently wed the appropriate debutante, had sired Percy and his twin sister, Ophelia, and they'd all proceeded on with Percy as heir, as if the siring of Jamieson and Jackson Merrick had never occurred.
But after three decades of silence, someone had come forward and told the truth, and the whole estate had been pitched into chaos.
Anne had embraced Percy's false hope that everything would be fine. She had dawdled and delayed, had made no contingency plans, but Jamison Merrick had proved a wily adversary. He'd won every legal skirmish, and he was eager to claim what was his.
Anne and her only sibling, Sarah, were an unwanted pair of hangers-on, two dedicated spinsters with no skills and no money. They had nothing to recommend themselves to Jamieson Merrick — not even kinship. Yet Gladstone was their foundation, the only home they remembered. Where would they be when he was finished with them?
What if he tossed them out on the road? She couldn't envision herself trudging away, a satchel slung over her shoulder like a common vagrant. The concept was too bizarre to imagine, and the man strutting before her was the complete embodiment of all that had gone wrong the past few months. She couldn't quit gaping.
He was tall, every inch of six feet, and he was whipcord lean, his anatomy honed by arduous labor, with Merrick as his brutal taskmaster. His shoulders were broad, his waist narrow, his legs impossibly long. He looked strong and tough, ready to fight, ready to win.
His hair was black as a raven's, and it was untrimmed and messy, lengthy enough to be tied in a ponytail with a strip of leather. He was wearing what had to be a red soldier's coat, but most of the gold buttons were gone, the cuffs frayed, the hem torn, and she uncharitably wondered if he'd stolen it from the corpse of one of his victims.
His boots were scuffed, his trousers faded. He resembled an impoverished farmer who was down on his luck, yet he exuded a power and determination she couldn't deny.
As if he perceived her attention, he turned toward her, and she was disturbed to note that he was the most handsome man she'd ever seen. He had a perfect face, aristocratic nose and generous mouth, but his eyes! Oh, his eyes! They were a startling sapphire, as dark and mysterious as the waters of the Mediterranean were said to be.
He assessed her from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, his rude appraisal as thorough as if she'd been a slave or prized cow. He lingered on her lips, her breasts, her stomach, each torrid glance like a caress that had her squirming and wanting to cover herself even though she was fully clothed.
She was the dreaded poor relative, with no dowry or prospects, so she hadn't spent much time around men. As a consequence, she wasn't overly familiar with seduction, but still, she recognized lust when she saw it. He was a cad of the worst sort, one who might do any reprehensible thing to her. And he'd enjoy it, too!
He seemed to read her mind, seemed to realize the moment she'd decided she should be afraid of him, and he was humored by the notion. He smiled, a roguish, mesmerizing smile that promised all kinds of naughty behavior, and he started toward her, his fleet strides quickly crossing the grass to where she was perched on the bridge.
It was a strange impression, but she felt as if he was her fate, as if Destiny had pushed him into her path when she didn't want him there. He was Doom and Destruction, descending on her like a thundercloud she couldn't outrun.
With a squeal of alarm, she spun to hurry away, but the stones were very slippery. She wobbled, then plunged over the edge into the cold river. The water wasn't that deep, nor was the current brisk, but the weight of her garments dragged her under before she could gain her balance.
She had a brief instant to consider the ludicrousness of her predicament — would she die in sight of the manor on her last day at Gladstone? — when he reached in and fetched her onto the bank as if he were a fisherman and she a trout.
"There now, I've got you," he murmured, his voice a rich baritone that tickled her innards.
He sat and pulled her onto his lap, their positions appallingly intimate. Her torso was stretched out with his, their chests and bellies melded, her hip wedged between his thighs. One of her breasts was pressed to him, and the placement had a riveting effect on her nipple. It hardened and ached, and she suffered from the most peculiar desire to rub against him like a lazy cat.
"I could have drowned," she said, amazed by the petty disaster she'd averted, and she shivered, which earned her a tight hug.
"You're too pretty," he replied. "I wouldn't have let you."
She was stunned that he'd throw out the word pretty. In her entire life, she didn't think anyone had told her she was pretty before. With her auburn hair and green eyes, her petite frame and shorter height, she was too different from her statuesque, blond cousins, and his opinion was exciting to hear.
"And if I'd been an ugly old hag," she asked, "would you have allowed the stream to carry me away?"
He grinned his devil's grin, and she was shocked at how her heart pounded. She wanted to fall into that grin, wanted to wallow in it forever, which was embarrassing and horrifying.
He was a wicked one, indeed, and she had to beware, lest she linger when she oughtn't. She shifted, desperate to regain her footing, but the attempt only brought them into closer contact.
"Help me up, you bounder," she scolded.
"In a minute, my little maid. I rather like having you just where you are."
"Well, I don't, and I'd appreciate it if you'd keep your hands to yourself."
His long, crafty fingers were stroking up and down her arms and back. She was chilled to the bone, and the stirring caresses warmed her, but she wouldn't surrender to how marvelous they felt. If it hadn't been so improper, she'd have lounged there all afternoon, letting him massage and fondle.
She put her palms on his chest and shoved him away, creating space, behaving herself.
"Help me up!"
"If you insist," he sighed.
As if she weighed no more than a feather, he lifted her, and he followed so that they were both standing. He peered off into the woods, and whatever he saw made him frown.
"Dammit," he muttered. "Get down."
He was dragging her to the grass, again, and she dug in her heels.
"I will not. I am — "
Like a madman, he tackled her. They landed with a painful thump, with her on the bottom and him on top, his body shielding hers.
A loud bang — that sounded like a gunshot — rang out and echoed off the hillsides. Birds squawked and flew away in a huff, then all was quiet.
Anne was bewildered, speechless and aggrieved, and struggling to figure out what had transpired.
He raised up slightly, shrewdly scanning the trees. Apparently, whoever had been there had fled. When he realized there was nothing to see, he relaxed onto her, but his large torso didn't seem heavy. He felt welcome and thrilling.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm fine."
He shuddered with relief and rested his forehead against her own. It was a tender gesture of affection, and when he drew away again, and he assessed her oddly, as if he didn't know what to make of her.
He dipped down, and for a hesitant second, he brushed his lips to hers. He was very tentative, as if to pretend that the hasty advance had been an accident. Then he pulled away, acting nonchalant and blas, so she tried to ignore the liberty he'd taken, but it was difficult to feign apathy.
It had to have been the quickest, most fleeting kiss in history, but it was her very first, and she reveled in it. For a man who was so rough and tumble, his mouth was incredibly soft, his breath sweet and intoxicating, and she knew she'd lie awake many nights in the future, pondering the bizarre encounter.
"Let's get you home." He rose and tugged her up.
"What... what happened?" she stammered. "What was that noise?"
"Someone shot at us."
At having him affirm the absurd event — in such a cool and calm manner, too! — she was incensed.
She'd been with him for all of about two minutes, and she'd nearly drowned, then been murdered by an unknown assailant. If she loitered in his company for a whole hour, how would she survive it?
"No one shot at me!" she declared. "I'm the most pleasant person in the world. If anyone was being shot at, it was you!"
"I'm sure you're correct."
She studied the forest, and it seemed much more dense and threatening than it had previously.
"Shouldn't you search for him or something?"
"There's no need. He's gone."
"How can you be so certain?"
"I have a devious mind, so I understand how devious people think. He fired, he missed, he ran."
"What if you're wrong?"
He was so annoyingly positive, and she couldn't abide such arrogance. She almost hoped their attacker would strike again — merely to prove he was mistaken.
"Why would someone shoot at you?"
"Probably because they don't like me. Why would you suppose?"
"Aren't you the least bit concerned?"
"No. I'm too tough to kill."
"I'll just bet you are."
She was much smaller than he, so he towered over her, and with him being so close, it was easy to see what she hadn't noted prior. There were age lines around his eyes, brackets around his mouth, his skin tanned from outdoor living. He couldn't be more than thirty, but he looked much older. Obviously, he'd had a difficult life, his face providing evidence of years of toil and heartache.
The brief connection they'd shared had vanished, and she was scared of him again. He had a raw, desperate edge that was frightening in its intensity. She didn't care to tarry, didn't care to experience the anxious, disturbing feelings he ignited.
"I'd best be off," she told him.
"What's your name?"
She was about to blurt it out, then thought better of the idea. "It's none of your business."
"Tell me anyway."
"Are you Anne or Sarah?"
She scowled, wondering why he'd been apprised of her and her sister.
Anne was twenty-five, and Sarah was twenty-six. After the back-to-back deaths of their parents, they'd been orphaned, tiny girls requiring shelter. Their Aunt Edith, Percy's mother, had brought them to Gladstone. For over two decades, the Merricks had grumbled about her and Sarah being a burden, but had fed and clothed them nonetheless.
She and Sarah lived dull, quiet lives filled with monotony and routine. There was no detail about their existence that was curious, that might pique a stranger's interest. Who had informed him about them? Why had he been informed?
"I'm guessing you're Anne," he ventured when she didn't reply.
She neither confirmed nor denied his deduction.
"Thank you for rescuing me from the water. Good-bye."
She was eager to be far away from him, and she was about to spin and go, when he asked, "Don't you want to know my name in return?"
Nothing would have pleased her more. "No."
He laughed, but his voice sounded rusty — as if it didn't occur often.
He shrugged out of his shabby coat and held it out to her.
"If you're going to the manor, you'll need this."
"Trust me. Put it on."
The last thing she'd ever do was prance into the house, wrapped in a man's coat. She'd never be able to explain it, but he was staring at her so keenly, his hot gaze drifting to her bosom and remaining there.
She peeked down to see what had captured his attention, and she was shocked by the state of her wet garments. The moistened dress was stuck to her breasts and delineated them so clearly that she might have been wearing nothing, at all. The bodice hugged every curve and valley, especially the pointy tips of her nipples in the center.
"Aah!" she shrieked, and she clasped an arm across her chest. "Shut your eyes, you despicable scapegrace!"
"No. I'm enjoying the view too much."
He reached out, his finger on her chin, and she stood, frozen, as he traced it down to the neckline of her gown. For a mad instant, it seemed that he'd burrow under the fabric, that he would touch her, bare skin to bare skin.
Her cheeks flaming with embarrassment, she whipped away, and he draped the coat over her shoulder, waving it like a flag, urging her to take it. Without further argument, she grabbed it and stuffed her arms in the sleeves, and she was overwhelmed by how his scent clung to the material. It was such an alluring fragrance that she could hardly keep from rubbing her nose in the weave.
Disgusted with herself, she stomped off, but she could feel him watching her. Just as she arrived at a bend in the trail and would have disappeared from sight, he called, "Miss Carstairs?"
Don't turn around! Don't turn around! She whirled around.
"I hope to see more of you again. Very soon!"
Even though she was a sheltered spinster, she recognized the salacious innuendo underlying the comment. Burning with mortification, she ran all the way home, more of his rusty laughter ringing in her ears.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!!!
HE IS HER NEW MASTER...
Orphaned as a young girl, Anne Carstairs was taken in by her cruel, malicious relatives. She's lived a lonely life at their Gladstone estate, but with a new earl coming, everything is changing. Anne has heard many rumors about him, but she is completely unprepared for him to be the most deeply seductive man she's ever encountered. No sooner do they meet than he brushes her lips with a delicious kiss that leaves her wanting so much more...
IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE...
As a boy, Jamieson Merrick was denied his inheritance and forced to work as a privateer on the high seas. Until years later, when Jamie discovers that he is the rightful heir to Gladstone. Now, as the new earl, he's determined to claim what is his... including Anne Carstairs. Once he lays eyes on the petite beauty, he vows to take her to his bed and make her his own. She's a pawn in his plan for revenge. But he never dreamed that revenge could be so sweet...