I can’t believe it’s almost time for the release of Heartbreak in Rio! June 1st is right around the corner. The novella is part of an anthology called Endless Summer Nights, and all the stories take place in Rio de Janeiro. I can’t wait for you to meet Sidney and Rodrigo and experience their love story.
What can you expect?
The usual passion and chemistry between the main couple. And being the foodie that I am, you know I had to mention Brazilian dishes in the book. If you want to see some of my pictures of authentic eats in the Brazilian part of Atlanta, check out my Facebook photos. I was doing “research” while writing Second Chances, the first book I wrote with Brazil as the setting. (It was a difficult job, but somebody had to do it.)
About the couple
Sidney is the sales rep for a fashion house called Haute Moderne. Rodrigo is the head of a large clothing retailer in Brazil. What Sidney doesn’t know is…well, let me not spoil it for you. Read the blurb and Chapter One below. Afterward, enter the contest for a chance to win an autographed copy of the anthology.
Sidney Altman and Rodrigo Serrano once shared a scorching affair before he returned to Brazil to take over his family’s fashion empire. Now she’s in Rio on business—and Rodrigo intends to win her back and prove that his biggest regret was ever letting her go….
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sidney Altman sighed contentedly, taking in the sparkling waters of Copacabana Beach from the terrace of her sixth-floor suite, across the street from where a promenade ran parallel to the water’s edge. The luxurious art deco building where she stayed contained four restaurants, including a piano bar she had visited last night to wind down with drinks after her long flight. After she concluded her business in the next two days, she planned to take full advantage of the hotel spa and the famous beach, where she currently watched with envy as tourists and cariocas sunbathed and frolicked in the waves.
Well-rested, she was now ready to face the buying team in her first meeting with Belo Fashions, a small Brazilian retailer that sold everyday fashions for the average woman.
Hearing her cell phone ring, she went back inside. The room had ceiling-to-floor olive-green drapes that hung over the windows. In the sitting area two chairs covered in a gold-leaf pattern and the matching love seat surrounded a glass table with plastic flowers in vibrant hues of magenta, lemon-yellow and lavender.
She picked up the phone. “Hello?” “How’s it going?” The voice of her mother, Agnes Altman, came through the line.
“Mom, you can’t keep calling me every five minutes,” she chided.
“I’m not. I just know how important this deal is to you. You’ve worked so hard to get where you are.”
Her mother was her biggest cheerleader. “Stop worrying or you’ll make me worry.”
Agnes laughed. “I’ll try not to. I don’t want to jinx you.”
Apparently one of Belo Fashion’s assistant buyers had remembered Sidney from Coterie, an international fashion exhibition in New York, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember meeting any of their buyers from that event. Regardless, the company wanted to work with the Haute Moderne fashion house and had specifically requested Sidney as the sales rep to make the presentation.
Belo Fashions had been very accommodating. They had provided a suite, first-class airfare and a driver as part of the deal to entice Haute Moderne to present next season’s evening wear to their buyers. This type of accommodation was highly unusual, but she took it as a sign that they were very interested.
Their interest couldn’t have come at a better time. After losing a major contract last year, this deal was make-or-break for Haute Moderne, and its success or failure rested squarely on her shoulders.
“I probably won’t have much to tell you even after the meeting,” Sidney said. She slipped on her shoes, a pair of coal-black pumps as comfortable as tennis shoes. “This is a totally different culture from ours. They prefer to take their time and establish a rapport with anyone they do business with. I can’t rush them.”
“They’ll fall in love with you. I’m sure of it.” Agnes paused. “Are you okay?” she asked quietly.
Sidney understood her mother’s concern and a rueful smile touched her features. “Mother, the chances of me running into him are almost nonexistent. We already discussed this, remember?”
“I know, but I wanted to know how you felt about being in his country, knowing he’s there somewhere.” Sidney set her coffee mug on the dresser and swallowed the painful constriction in her throat. The “he” her mother mentioned was Rodrigo Serrano, the CEO of Moda. Moda was owned by the Serrano family and as a much larger retailer than Belo, it dominated the country’s competitive clothing market. It had been a year since she and Rodrigo had parted ways, and still just the thought of his name made her heart ache.
They’d met in New York and their affair had been brief and intense. After an argument, Rodrigo had left in anger and she’d never heard from him again.
She unsnapped her briefcase to double-check the contents. “Mom, I’m fine. What happened between me and…him is in the past.”
She couldn’t even bring herself to say his name. It was still too painful. She could still see his dark eyes and hear his husky male laugh every time she closed her eyes for longer than a second. And because he often invaded her thoughts, he was still very much a part of her life.
“You know I had to ask and make sure you’re fine.” Ever since Sidney’s father had passed away when she was in high school, she and her mother had become even closer and were more like sisters than mother and daughter. “Stop worrying. Anything you want me to bring you back?”
“Bring me back one of those hot Brazilian men.” “Mom!” They shared a laugh. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Sweetie, I know things you know nothing about.” Sidney laughed again. “Don’t have too much fun while I’m away. I can’t bail you out of jail from all the way down here.” She snapped the briefcase shut. “All right, I better get out of here. The driver will be waiting for me.”
“Make sure you have a little bit of fun while you’re down there, okay? You work too hard. Knock ’em dead, baby. Love you.”
Sidney checked her appearance in the mirror one last time before she grabbed her briefcase and took the elevator downstairs. Outside, a black sedan with tinted windows waited. While it was wintertime, cold and snowing in New York, it was summer in Brazil. She lifted her face and embraced the warmth of the sun.
It would be nice to live in a place like this, where the weather didn’t have such extremes, she thought.
“Bom dia, Javier.” She greeted the driver, who’d stepped out of the vehicle and opened the door upon seeing her. She chose to say “good morning,” a simple phrase to show that she’d at least made some effort to learn a few words of Portuguese.
“Bom dia, senhora.” A welcoming smile creased his leathery tan face.
Javier didn’t say much on the short ride to Belo headquarters, which gave Sidney a chance to run through the introductory speech in her head. This morning would be a preliminary meeting with the buying assistants and the senior buyer who oversaw all purchases for the women’s department. Tomorrow would be a follow-up to address any concerns and hopefully close the deal. Her main contact was an assistant by the name of Gilberto Ribeiro, whom she’d been in constant communication with from almost the beginning.
Belo headquarters was located in Centro, the city’s historic and financial center. While there were no views of beaches that tourists could flock to, there was still plenty to see and do in that part of town. Centro was an interesting mélange of churches dating back to the eighteenth century and tall, modern buildings housing banks and other businesses. Javier dropped her off in front of the Belo building and she took the elevator to the top floor. When she stepped into the reception area, a dark-skinned older woman wearing glasses greeted her.
“Senhora Altman, bemvinda. Welcome. My name is Nelza Correia. I will take care of you today.”
“Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.” Sidney gave the woman a warm smile and they shook hands.
“Please have a seat.” Nelza motioned to a row of cushioned chairs along the wall.
Nelza spoke to a young woman behind the reception desk and then came back to Sidney. “Senhor Ribeiro is in a very important meeting with one of our business partners, and it went longer than expected. I will take you to the conference room to wait.” Her expression was apologetic. “May I get you anything to drink? A cafezinho, perhaps?”
Brazilians were known for their potent cups of coffee. But she’d already had her morning fix, so she declined.
Nelza led her down a long hallway, past offices on both sides where employees sat hunched over computers. The conference room itself was at the end of the hall and opened up into a large, bright room with an oak table that seated eight. At the end of the table was a projector and a screen pulled down from the ceiling. In front of the windows, a trio of mannequins wore three different designs from the Haute Moderne evening wear collection in red, black and ivory.
“You should have everything you require in here,” Nelza said. “If you happen to need anything else, you can use the phone over there to dial the front desk and someone will assist you.”
“Thank you, Nelza.” Sidney looked around after she left. The tan-and- brown furniture designs had a soothing effect, for which she was grateful. Her stomach was currently tied up in a series of knots. She always had a bit of nerves right before a major presentation, but once she launched into her speech and hit her stride, it was smooth sailing.
She plugged her flash drive into the computer and made sure the video was ready—a two-minute presentation of models walking down the catwalk, wearing their dresses in a display of flashing colored lights. She froze the frame on the first dress, a little black sleeve- less number, the symbol of their Bonne Soirée line.
She placed catalogs, line sheets and color cards in front of each of the chairs. She then set fabric swatches next to the projector within easy reach, so she could pass them down to the attendees when the time came. Now it was a waiting game.
Sidney helped herself to a glass of lukewarm water from the pitcher sitting on the credenza against the wall. She was about to take a sip when she heard two men talking, their voices coming through the slightly open door. She froze with the glass halfway to her mouth and angled her head to hear better. One of the voices was heart-wrenchingly familiar.
She couldn’t understand the words, but there was no mistaking the tone; a sound she’d never be able to forget for as long as she lived.
It can’t be him, she thought even as her heart hammered a rapid beat under her ribs. Surely her ears were playing tricks on her.
The men continued talking but their footsteps came to a halt somewhere down the hall. With ears perked up and heart thumping wildly, Sidney stood frozen, clutching the slender glass. It had to be some cruel trick of the mind. She simply hadn’t expected to see him. Wasn’t at all prepared to see him.
The men started moving again and they came closer, and closer, until they pushed open the door and her stomach bottomed out. Her fondest dream and worst nightmare stood only a few feet away.
Rodrigo stood by the door talking to Gilberto Ribeiro. Both men were so deeply engaged in their conversation that they didn’t notice her standing by the window. Finally, Rodrigo happened to look in her direction, but still she couldn’t move. Dark eyes nailed her in place and she suddenly stopped breathing.
He had the kind of look that made women swoon and men envious. His swarthy skin, naturally tanned, was even and smooth. With a symmetrical face and prominent nose passed down from his Portuguese ancestors, he looked as though he should be on the covers of magazines.
Slowly, Sidney set her glass on the credenza. “Hello, Rodrigo.” Was that her voice, sounding faint and breathless?
“Sidney…?” His voice echoed the same shock that filled her.
Before she could respond, Gilberto rushed forward. “Ah, Senhora Altman. I apologize for keeping you waiting. But it seems you are good, yes?”
Rodrigo came toward her, his steps measured, his eyes never leaving her face. His movement was graceful, fluid. The type of movement that came not only from his affinity for sports, but from the quiet confidence that whispered of growing up with copious amounts of money at his disposal and all the privileges that came along with it.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded. “Senhora Altman is a sales representative from Haute Moderne, a small New York fashion house,” Gilberto answered, looking confused by their reaction to each other. “They have the line I mentioned we were interested in purchasing.”
“You never told me the fashion house was Haute Moderne.” His words were meant for Gilberto, but he continued to stare at her in disbelief.
He spoke with perfect diction, hinting at his affluent background and years in private schools where he’d learned to speak Spanish, English and French in addition to his native Portuguese. The cadence of his cultured voice sent heat feathering across her skin, and it was all Sidney could do not to close her eyes and indulge in the sound.
Her nose caught a waft of his cologne, a very masculine scent that was a mixture of amber, citrus and sandal wood. You couldn’t get it in the States. You couldn’t get it anywhere, in fact, because it had been specially created for him. That was the kind of life he led, where manufacturers of cologne would create a signature scent for him that no one else could have. Her heart constricted painfully at the familiarity of it. She’d done so well since they’d said goodbye to one another, but her hard-won composure threatened to desert her with his unexpected appearance.
He inspected her from head to toe, the leisurely stroll of his gaze generating heat wherever it lingered. On her waist. On her breasts. On her throat where she swallowed nervously to maintain some level of control over the out-of-control response of her body.
Rodrigo was not the kind of man to hide his appreciation for the female form, and he had a habit of doing just that. It was typical of men of his culture, to offer such a frank appreciation of women. It had always made her feel deliciously feminine, and the same tingly sensations resurfaced in the pit of her stomach.
“You look well,” he said, a grudging note to his voice.
“Thank you. You look well, too.” Her voice softened as she tried to maintain her professionalism. “You do business with Belo?”
“You could say that.” His cryptic answer gave her pause.
Gilberto spoke up. “In the past few weeks, Moda and Belo have become partners. We haven’t made a formal announcement to the media yet, but we feel this is a good marriage. Moda bought all our stores and now, with their high-end fashions and our everyday clothing lines, we are most certainly the largest retailer in Brazil.”
Gilberto’s smiling face indicated that he had no idea of the devastating news he’d just delivered. “You… you’ve been bought by Moda?” She squeaked the words out.
“Yes.” Gilberto nodded vigorously. “We were concentrated in a few key cities in the country, but now Haute Moderne’s clothes have the potential to be in stores all over Latin America!”
His excitement was palpable but not contagious. A wave of panic seized Sidney as she realized what was happening. If Moda had taken over Belo Fashions, that spelled trouble for the deal she was trying to strike with them. There was no way Rodrigo would agree to the sale—not when he knew that she was involved. From the smug look on his face, she knew he’d connected the dots.
Still in disbelief, she had to ask to make sure. “You own Belo now?”
“That’s correct,” Rodrigo said. No, no. This can’t be happening. “I will be sitting in on this presentation,” he continued with deliberate slowness, “and we’ll have to make sure the line is a good fit for the stores before any contracts are signed.”
Sidney felt the deal she’d been so confident about only moments before quickly slip through her grasp.
The Temptation of a Good Man is the first book in the Hawthorne Family series. If you haven’t had a chance to sink your teeth into that series yet, now is your chance to get started at $0.00. You can’t beat that price! If you’ve already read it, pass on this info to your book-loving friends.
Below are the links to where you can download the book for free for a limited time. Unfortunately, it’s still not free at Barnes & Noble, and I don’t know if it will be before the free promotion is up. However, if you have a Nook, you can download an epub file from Smashwords or All Romance Ebooks and side load it to your device.
I’m giving away copies of Endless Summer Nights! I know I have a few international readers and you’re often overlooked by us authors because of shipping costs, but I’m including you in this one and have set aside three copies just for you. Here are the details on the contest:
Prizes: Eight lucky winners will receive an autographed copy of the Endless Summer Nights anthology; 5 copies will be awarded to entrants in the U.S. and 3 awarded to international entrants.
Eligibility: You must be a subscriber to my blog.
How to enter: All you have to do is leave a comment. You can tell me who is your favorite hero from any of my books or anything else you like. International entrants, please include your country of residence in your comment.
Deadline: May 25, 2014 at 11:59 PM EST
Winners will be chosen by random.org. Their names will be posted in the comments and an email sent to notify them. Winners will then have 48 hours to respond with a valid mailing address to receive their book.
Good luck! Or as they say in Portuguese, boa sorte!