New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

of Contemporary Women's Fiction, Romantic Comedies, and Historical Romances

 

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(Book One of the Heaven Can Wait series)

 

THE TASK...

Tristan Barrington, Earl of Ryland, has been stuck for nearly two centuries in a prison-like limbo between Heaven and Hell, ever since his death in 1820. The only way out is to perform the good deeds assigned to him by his nemesis, the mysterious angel Task Director, Alessandra Foscari.

THE CHALLENGE...

Unfortunately for him, she always assigns him tasks that involve helping human couples find True Love, and cynical Tristan is not a romantic guy.  

THE JOURNEY...

After a bunch of failures, he now has one final chance to earn his angel wingsĖ or itís off to Hell for him. Not good. And even worse? He only has a few weeks to make this latest couple fall in love. And worst of all? His couple is not cooperating.

                    

 

 

 

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

Itís hell being an angel.

Yeah, yeah, I know what youíre thinking-- being an angel is great, all floating around on fluffy clouds, eating anything you want without worrying about weight gain or cholesterol, a euphoric stress-free existence in a place where the weatherís always perfect and everybodyís friendly.

Well, it is-- if youíre a Full-Fledged Angel. But if youíre like me-- not quite an angel (or my official title, Angel in Waiting), it ainít no picnic in the park.

And who am I? Allow me to introduce myself. I am Tristan  Barrington, 4th Earl of Ryland. I died nearly two hundred years ago, on a frigid January morning in 1820. If Iíd been given a preference, I would not have chosen to die at the age of thirty-four. And I certainly wouldnít have picked to do so on a non-descript patch of brown, ice-encrusted dirt on a field just west of London. Most undignified, really. And truly, I shouldnít have died-- I was a far superior shot to the dolt who stood across from me on the dueling field. 

As our seconds-- my childhood friend Albert and the doltís bug-eyed solicitor-- counted off the paces, I marched ahead, my pistol gripped in my chilled fingers, resigned to get this over with. Then suddenly something happened to meÖ an unprecedented, overwhelming weariness at the reality of my situation-- that I was about to turn around and kill a man two decades my senior whoíd challenged me on the field of honor for tupping his young wife. A nuisance really, having to do this, especially as I was still hung over from the previous eveningís frivolities. He wouldnít be the first man Iíd killed, nor was his bored wife the first married woman Iíd entertained. Yet it occurred to me that at least the dolt had a modicum of honor. And something he believed was worth fighting for. Whereas I hadÖ

And thatís where my mind went blank. What did I have? What was all this for?

I had no answer.

I didnít love his wife. Indeed, I didnít even particularly like her. A selfish, shallow shell wrapped in a beautiful package. Being selfish and shallow myself, I would have forgotten her name in a fortnightís time. She was but a momentary diversion in a privileged, dissolute life filled with self-indulgent debauchery.

As I continued crossing the field, my future suddenly flashed before my eyes with crystal clear clarity: years of drifting from one empty, meaningless depravity to another, my fortune wasted, my health destroyed, abandoned by fair-weathered friends. Alone. Utterly, completely alone. My conscience, an inner voice Iíd believed long dead, coughed to life, and in that instant self-disgust and something that felt exactly like terror nearly choked me. And with that, an insight struck me with the power of a lightning bolt: I didnít want that existence. I didnít want to die alone, my insides rotted by drink, with nothing to show for my immoral life but a string of paramours, broken friendships, and cuckolded husbands challenging me to duels. In fact, I didnít want this duel. I didnít want to take this manís life.

In the space of a single heartbeat I felt as if my life changed. That Iíd changed. And I was going to implement that change immediately.

I decided to delope.

Of course dueling tradition dictated Iíd still have to allow my opponent to fire, but given his advanced age, poor eyesight, and reputation as a dreadful shot, I didnít consider heíd even come close to hitting me.

Boy, was I wrong. 

Albert and the bug-eyed solicitor reached the end of the count and shouted, ďpresent!Ē With my weapon aimed toward the sky, I prepared to turn, but before I could so much as blink, a pistol shot rent the air. Searing pain exploded in my head. My last thought was bloody hell, that doddering old blind dolt shot me.

I was dead before I hit the ground.

As I said, most undignified.

Iíd been taught that after death there were three options: good people went to Heaven, bad people went to Hell, and then there was Purgatory for those who fell in the middle.  Iíd never given much thought to what would happen to me after I died-- if I had, I might have behaved better while living (although probably not), but the instant I was shot I knew I was headed straight to Hell. Indeed, I was halfway there, plummeting downward through the darkness toward the eternal fire pit when I suddenly jerked to halt.

And thatís when I discovered several things: first, that contrary to any doubts I may have harbored on the subject, there is indeed a Most Powerful One, who is privy to all oneís thoughts and actions. Second, the Most Powerful One has a Council, a group of six angels in charge of making certain that deceased humans go where theyíre supposed to. And third, that based on my thoughts of changing my immoral ways in those last seconds of my life, it was decided that I deserved a chance to prove myself.

And thatís when I discovered that in addition to Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, thereís a fourth place where the dead like me, those with last minute epiphanies, are sent-- Pre-Pearly Gate Limbo. Spin doctors call it a not-quite-an-angel holding pattern, but the truth is itís nothing more than a prison, a void where the occupants wait for do-good assignments that will, if completed successfully, push their Goodness Quotient high enough to earn a Review from the Council. Those who make the grade become Full-Fledged angels and are allowed to pass through the Gates and enjoy the full benefits of angelic existence, including the spa (which I hear is to die for. Ha! A little angel humor there).  If, however, the do-good assignment isnít completed successfully, itís back to the end of the line-- the very loooooong line-- to wait for another turn.  Which means, if youíre a perpetual screw-up, you can find yourself in Pre-Pearly Gate Limbo for a very loooooong time.

Welcome to my world.

 

 

I hope that whets your appetite!

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging with the Whine Sisters -- stop by and say hi!

         

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