Lured by the promise of a family mystery, art historian Evangeline “Evie” Ryder agrees to attend her cousin’s house party in a rambling Pennsylvania mansion once owned by her great, great Aunt Eva, for whom she was named. Aunt Eva lived in the old house with two handsome men for decades, but no one really knew the nature of her relationships with them. Armed with a couple of photographs Evie sets out to uncover the truth.
When the house party guests arrive, Evie discovers among them two men she has lusted after for months. When she learns that the men are best friends and roommates she tells herself they are off-limits but can’t help wanting them. Both of them. As Evie investigates the past, each clue brings her closer to learning her aunt’s secrets – and discovering the passionate promise of love with two men.
Today we welcome Joy Daniels to Romancing the Book. She’s sharing an interview with Evangeline “Evie” Ryder, art historian and heroine of Hide and Seek. Here we go…
Joy: Thanks for sitting down with us. I understand you have a busy weekend ahead. Where are you going?
Evie: I’m going to a house party in Pennsylvania, a going away thing for my cousin Suzie and her fiancé, Blake, who are moving back to the UK. She says it’s going to be a “traditional English house party” in a rambling old mansion but we’ll see.
Joy: You don’t sound like you’re looking forward to it?
Evie: I’m not. It’s nothing against Suzie – I’m just not into large gatherings. Never know what to say. Especially among Suzie friends who tend to be as clever and sophisticated as she is.
Joy: If you don’t mind my asking, then why did you accept?
Evie: Suzie promised me a mystery. During her recent trip home to the UK she grilled her relatives about our mutual great, great aunt Evangeline and uncovered a secret.
Aunt Evangeline is the relative Suzie and I share by marriage. My mother named me after my aunt but never told me much about the woman. The mystery has driven me crazy for years. Suzie promises that I’ll have a chance to learn everything this weekend. I couldn’t resist. Suzie knows me too well.
Joy: Tell us more about this “rambling old mansion”?
Evie: It belonged to Aunt Evangeline. I visited once when I was six. It has a fabulous maze of rooms, a big old kitchen, and lots and lots of chimneys. There’s a great staircase in the front hall with a smooth, polished banister – I dreamed about sliding down it the whole day I was there but didn’t dare. Climbed this big, old beech tree in the back, though – and fell out of it. My mother was so pissed. She hated that I’d embarrassed her like that. Unfortunately I still do sometimes.
Joy: You and your mother don’t get along?
Evie: Not really. We’re nothing alike and she refuses to accept that. She’s a high-powered lawyer like my dad, and I’m an art historian. An appraiser for a small auction house. Hardly the career she wanted for me. You see, she had my life all mapped out and now she’s pissed that I’m not following the right path. But I want something different, you know? Something exciting. I’d never admit this to her but I want magic in my life. True love.
Joy: Speaking of love – is there anybody special in your life now?
Evie: Sort of. It’s more like… Well… Two guys. Not that I’m with them. Not both of them. I mean not either of them. I just met them at this holiday party that Suzie and Blake had. And I kissed them both. One on the balcony and the other in the back hall. Not just pecks, but serious full-body-contact, muscle quivering, melt your insides kinds of kisses. With total strangers! Maybe that wouldn’t be a big deal to anyone else – I kissed them both under pieces of mistletoe, after all – but I’d never done anything like that.
Joy: Tell us more about these mystery men.
Evie: I don’t even know their names! Both were British. The first guy was tall, blond, and gorgeous, and had the most wonderful laugh. I heard it from across the room and when I looked to see where it had come from he was staring right back at me. I slipped out to the balcony to get some air and he followed. I didn’t mean for him to, I swear. When he spotted the mistletoe he touched his lips to mine. Lightly. I was the one who wanted to go further. Thank God we were interrupted!
Anyway when I recovered from that insanity I fled to the bathroom. I figured that I’d be safe there. Safe from myself. But there was another man back there, the most beautiful male I’d ever seen. Tall with dark skin and piercing eyes, and a long, lean body. When he stepped towards me it was like being stalked by a great, big cat. I couldn’t move. And when he kissed me – Good Lord. It sparked something deep inside. Something that had been missing from my life for a long time.
It’s been months but I can’t stop thinking about that night and those men. Dreaming about them. Fantasizing about them. Both of them. I have to get them out of my mind.
Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m going to this party of Suzie’s. Maybe I’ll meet someone. Or maybe I’ll just find a nice library or parlor to hide in until the weekend is over.
Find out what happens to Evie at her great, great aunt’s mansion in Hide and Seek!
Suzie was pointing at a black-and-white photo mounted on the wall. Aunt Eva sat on a low couch between two incredibly handsome men. The one on her right had dark hair, dark eyes, and a piercing gaze. His arm circled her shoulders. A tall blond man with pale blue eyes sat on her left, his hand resting on her thigh. From descriptions, I recognized the dark-haired man as Uncle Bertie. I assumed the other man was Reginald Cartwright. All three subjects looked happy and relaxed.
“Hey,” Melina said. “That’s the couch in the picture.” She pointed at the Art Deco couch, the one in the room I’d been trying to avoid looking at.
Suzie looked between the photo and couch, delight dawning on her face. “Drew and Sebastian could be the two men in the picture.”
It took me a moment to see where Suzie was going with that. I started to back away but it was too late. She waved a hand at the couch. “Evie, go sit with them and I’ll take a picture of the three of you. It will be just like this one – two Evas with their men, past and present.”
The group laughed at her words. I swallowed, trying to will down my fierce blush, then I turned to face my fate. Drew patted the space between them. I risked a glance at Sebastian and saw a single eyebrow raised in challenge. There was no way to get out of this so I slunk over to the couch and perched between them, on the very edge of the cushion. Every nerve in my body could sense the men sitting behind me, from their unique scents to the heat coming off their bodies. My inner muscles clenched.
Oh God, let me get through this without embarrassing myself.
Suzie picked up her cell phone and I plastered a smile on my face. She sighed with exasperation. “Evie, that’s not how the picture looks. Sit back. Get comfortable. Sebastian put your arm around her, Drew move in close.” She shook her head at me “Relax, Evie, they won’t bite.”
Even with our limited acquaintance I could guess the words going through Drew’s mind: not unless she wants us to.
I scooted back until my butt met the cushion behind me. Sebastian looped an arm around my shoulders and I felt the muscle in his bicep tighten as he pulled me to his side. Before I could protest or scoot away, Drew closed in on the other side. He put his hand on my thigh and heat flared like I had been branded on that spot. My heart rate accelerated and I was sure the two men could hear it pounding through my body. I pressed my thighs together in an attempt to control my reaction but the movement only increased my arousal. I took a deep breath. The sooner I got this over with, the sooner I could put some distance between myself and these inhumanly attractive men – a floor and a few doors at least.
A half-dozen people pointed cell phones at us. I swallowed and at the last moment remembered to smile. When the clicks and flashes ceased, Sebastian removed his arm. Unlike at the table, I felt heat and more radiating from both sides, and knew it was time to get away before I got any crazy ideas.
* * * * *
Joy Daniels writes erotic romance because she likes to expose her characters completely: strengths, flaws, and scars. A native New Yorker, she now makes her home south of the Mason-Dixon line and her stories bounce between the two locales. In 2012, she contributed an essay to the non-fiction compilation “Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey,” and her first novella, “Revving Her Up” – the first in the Full Throttle series – was released by Samhain Publishing in January 2013. She is currently working on the next Full Throttle story, a paranormal series, and a MF novel that takes place in Nashville.