What was meant to be a one-night affair has turned into much more for Texas businessman Matthew Wheeler. Something about Evangeline, the mysterious woman he met at a masquerade ball, propels him from his self-imposed exile. He’s finally able to forget his tragic past and lose himself in this incredible woman.
But letting go has a price.
Evangeline’s pregnancy announcement brings reality to their Venetian villa. Are they ready to take their secret affair public? Or will their romance end with the morning light?
Purchase Pregnant by Morning (Harlequin Desire) at Amazon
I addicted to Kat Cantrell’s books and it’s no secret why. She writes great stories. The book blurb pretty much tells the story so need to go into detail on that aspect. It was a great romance read; the kind that makes you want to light a fire, sip hot chocolate, and get lost in the book.
I’m giving it 5 stars.
Excerpt – Reprinted from Amazon
Matthew Wheeler stepped into the fray of Carnevale not to eat, drink or be merry, but to become someone else.
Venice attracted people from all over the globe for its beauty, history or any number of other reasons, but he doubted any of the revelers thronging Piazza San Marco had come for the same reason he had.
Matthew adjusted the tight mask covering the upper half of his face. It was uncomfortable, but necessary. Everyone wore costumes, some clad in tuxedos and simple masks like Matthew, and many in elaborate Marie Antoinette-style dresses and feathered headpieces. Everyone also wore smiles, but that was the one thing he couldn’t summon.
“Come, my friend.” Vincenzo Mantovani, his next-door-neighbor, clapped Matthew on the shoulder. “We join the party at Caffe Florian.”
“Va bene” Matthew replied, earning a grin from the Italian who had appointed himself Matthew’s Carnevale guide this evening. Vincenzo appointed himself to a lot of things, as long as they were fun, reckless and ill-advised, which made him the appropriate companion for a man who wanted to find all of the above but had no clue how to accomplish it.
Actually, Matthew would be happy if he could just forget about Amber for a few hours, but the ghost of his wife followed him everywhere, even to Italy, thousands of miles from her grave.
Vincenzo chattered in accented English as he and Matthew pushed through the crowd along the edges of Piazza San Marco and squeezed into Caffe Florian, where it was too loud to converse. Which suited Matthew. He had the right companion, but he wasn’t sure Vincenzo did.
Like most Venetians, the man had never met a stranger and had immediately latched onto the American living by himself in the big, lonely palazzo next door. Vincenzo’s description, not Matthew’s, though he couldn’t deny it had some truth. He’d outbid an Arab prince by the skin of his teeth to buy the palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal as a wedding gift to Amber, but they’d never made it to Italy in the eleven months after the wedding. He’d been too busy working.
Then it was too late.
Matthew sipped the cappuccino his new friend had magically produced and summoned up a shred of merriment. If he planned to think about something other than Amber, dwelling on her wasn’t going to work. She would hate him like this, would want him to move on, and he was trying. His sole goal this evening was to be someone who wasn’t grieving, someone who didn’t have the weight of responsibility and his family’s expectations on his shoulders. Someone who fit into this fantastical, hedonistic Carnevale atmosphere.
It was hard to be someone else when he’d been a Wheeler since birth.
Matthew, along with his brother, father and grandfather, comprised the foundation of Wheeler Family Partners, a multimillion-dollar commercial real estate firm that had been brokering property deals in North Texas for over a century. Matthew had firmly believed in the power of family and tradition, until he lost first his wife, then his grandfather. Grief had so paralyzed him the only solution had been to leave.
He was a runaway from life, pure and simple. He had to find a way to get back to Dallas, back to the man he’d been.
The beaches of Mexico had failed to produce an answer. Machu Picchu had just exhausted him. The names of the other places he’d been had started to blur, and he had to do something different.
A month ago, he’d ended up in Venice. Until real life felt doable again, this was where he’d be.
Near eleven o’clock, Vincenzo herded a hundred of his closest friends—and Matthew—the few blocks to his house for a masked ball. The narrow streets allowed for only a few partygoers to pass simultaneously, so by the time Matthew arrived at the tail end of the group, the palazzo next door to his was already ablaze with lights and people. In marked contrast, Matthew’s house was dark.
He turned his back on it and went up the stone steps to Vincenzo’s back entrance. The sounds of Carnevale blasted from the palazzo, drowning out the quiet lap of the canal against the water entrance at the front.
Inside, a costumed attendant took his cloak. An ornate antique table in the hall blocked Matthew’s path to the main area, an oddity with its large glass bowl in the center full of cell phones.
“It’s a phone party.”
The gravelly voice came from behind him, and he turned to find the owner.
A woman. Masked, of course, and wearing a delicate embroidered dress in pale blue and white with miles of skirts. The neckline wasn’t as low cut as almost every other female’s, but in combination with so much dress, her softly mounded breasts drew his eye. Whimsical silver butterfly wings sprouted from her back.
“Was my confusion that obvious?” he asked, his gaze firmly on her face.
She smiled. “You’re American.”
“Is that the explanation for why I don’t know what a phone party is?”
“No, that’s because you have more maturity than most of the people here.”
So she must know the guests, then. Except for Vincenzo, who had disappeared, Matthew knew no one. This little butterfly was an interesting first encounter.
Most of her face was covered, with the exception of a full mouth painted pink. Caramel-colored hair hung in loose curls around her bare shoulders. Stunning. But her voice…it was sultry and deep, with a strange ragged edge that caught him in the gut.
He’d been looking for a distraction. Perhaps he’d found one.
“Now I’m curious. Care to enlighten me?” he asked.
She shrugged with a tiny lift of her shoulders. “Women drop their phone into the bowl. Men pick one out. Voila. Instant hookup.”
His eyebrows rose. Vincenzo partied much differently than Matthew had been expecting. “I honestly have no good response.”
“So you won’t be fishing one out at the end of the evening?”
A tricky question. The old Matthew would say absolutely not. He’d never had a one-night stand in his life, never even considered it. This kind of thing had his brother, Lucas, written all over it. Lucas might have pulled out two phones and somehow convinced both women they’d been looking for a threesome all along. Well, once upon a time he would have, but in a bizarre turn of events, his brother was happily married now, with a baby on the way.
Matthew did not share his brother’s talent when it came to women. He knew how to broker a million-dollar deal for a downtown Dallas high-rise and knew how to navigate the privilege of his social circle but nothing else, especially not how to be a widower at the age of thirty-two.
When Matthew left Dallas, intent on finding a way to move on after Amber’s death, he’d had a vague notion of becoming like Lucas had been before marrying his wife, Cia. Lucas always had fun and never worried about consequences. Matthew, like his father and grandfather before him, had willingly carried the weight of duty and family and tradition on his shoulders, eagerly anticipating the day his wife would give birth to the first of a new generation of Wheelers. Only to have it all collapse.
Becoming more like Lucas was better than being Matthew, and nothing else had worked to pull him out of this dead-inside funk. And he had to pull out of it so he could go home and pick up his life again.
So what would Lucas do?
“Depends.” Matthew nodded to the bowl. “Is yours in there?”
With a throaty laugh, she shook her head. “Not my style.”
Strangely, he was relieved and disappointed at the same time. “Not mine, either. Though I might have made an exception in this one case.”
Her smile widened and she drew closer, rustling her wings. The front of her dress brushed his chest as she leaned in to whisper in her odd, smoky voice, “Me, too.”
Then she was gone.
He watched her as she swept into the main room of Vincenzo’s palazzo and was swallowed by the crush. It was intriguing to be so instantly fascinated by a woman because of her voice. Should he follow her? How could he not follow her after such a clear indication of interest?
Maybe she’d been flirting and it hadn’t meant anything. He cursed under his breath. It had been far too long since he’d dated to remember the rules. Actually, he’d never understood the rules, even then, which was saying something for a guy who thrived on rules. But this was Venice, not Dallas, and he was someone else. There were no rules.
Matthew followed Butterfly Woman into the crowd.
Electronic music clashed with old-world costumes, but no one seemed to notice. Dancers dominated the floor space on the lower level of the palazzo. But none of the women had wings.
Along the edges of the dance floor, partygoers tried their luck at roulette and vingt-et-un, but he didn’t bother to look for his mystery woman there. Gambling was for those who knew nothing about odds, logic or common sense, and if she fell into that category, he’d rather find a different distraction.
A flash of silver caught his eye, and he glimpsed the very tips of her wings as she disappeared into another room.
“Excuse me.” Matthew waded through the dancers as politely as he could and chased after the only thing he could recall being interested in for eighteen very long, very cold months.
When he paused under a grand arch between the two rooms, he saw her. She stood at the edge of a group of people engrossed in something he couldn’t see. And he had the distinct impression she felt as alone in the crowd as he did.
Tarot junkies crowded around Madam Wong as if she held the winning lottery numbers. Evangeline La Fleur was neither a junkie nor one to buy lottery tickets, but people were always amusing. Madam Wong turned over another…
The author – KAT CANTRELL read her first Harlequin novel in third grade and has been scribbling in notebooks since she learned to spell. She majored in literature, officially with the intent to teach, but ended up in middle management, until she became a stay-at-home-mom and full-time writer. She was the 2011 Harlequin So You Think You Can Write winner and a 2012 RWA Golden Heart finalist for best unpublished series contemporary manuscript. Kat, her husband and their two boys live in north Texas.