Love For Liberty by Ann Clay (Love Like It’s Hot Boxset)
Mayor Liberty Kennedy is hell-bent on preserving Versa Village’s legacy, but that’s not why she agrees to Rani Brooks’ proposition. Everyone knows that she and the city councilman are feuding rivals. His proposition at first is far-fetched, but it doesn’t take long before his blazing kisses are the only expansion she yearns for.
Councilman Rani Brooks will move mountains to win Liberty’s love, even if it means backing her village development project. He could care less about the public works expansion at first, but if it will get him what he wants, Liberty as his own, he’s all in.
Versa Village is in for an unforgettable Independence Day treat. Kisses by day, and fireworks by night.
Excerpt: Love For Liberty by Ann Clay
“Mayor.” Rani’s eyes lowered to meet hers. She saw the fire in them, and it stirred the part of her she worked hard to ignore whenever he neared. After last night at the Bergman Fundraising Gala, the gentle touching and sweet kisses, the mere remembrance had her longing for more than his scalding glance.
“Councilman,” Liberty responded with a slight raise of her chin. What is he doing here this early in the morning? Man, you’re going to be the end of me. I just know it. He towered above her with broad shoulders, massive chest, and powerful arms bulging against his fitted, heavily starched shirt. His clean-shaven face drew her attention immediately; high cheeks and unforgettable eyes, hidden behind heavy dark lashes, lured Liberty into his hold without effort.
Rani garnered a lot of female attention: Being single with no children, the head of his family-owned business, and extremely handsome made him one of the most desirable men within a hundred miles of Versa.
He’d won the chair of the city council at the same time she was elected mayor. Until then, they’d practically moved in different circles. And like every other member of the council, with the exception of the city manager and herself, he worked for the village part-time. He didn’t normally come to city hall until the day of the monthly council meeting.
She moved past him as quickly as her clicking heels could take her across the marble floor. She would not be tortured by Rani Brooks. She had too much on her plate today. Once she escaped Rani, she sighed, but her relief would be brief. She saw the small crowd gathered at her office door once she turned the corner. She released an audible groan. “Lawd, give me strength.”
She picked up her pace and shifted the folders she carried from one arm to the other, momentarily shoving Rani to the back of her thoughts. She smiled as she neared the cluster. “Good morning. It’s always a pleasure to see you all. What brings you here at such an early hour?”
The lie struck a nerve in her head; she knew full well that she would much rather have arrived at her office without drama. And where was her assistant, Justin? He usually ran interference for her. She groaned. The interruption did not fit into her plan for the day. She’d hoped to jot down some notes before the Economics Development tiger team meeting this morning. The planning team needed her signature before the proposal went to the city council in a couple of days. If all went well and the council and the residents agreed on the proposal, she would plan a ground-breaking celebration in time for the Fourth of July to denote a landmark celebration for Versa.
Justin appeared, out of breath. “Sorry, Mayor Kennedy. I tried to man the front entrance. Apparently…”
So where did all of these people come from? Liberty tried not to frown. Instead she smiled and prayed it looked genuine.
“Not a problem, Justin. I have an open-door policy, and I’m here to serve.”
But she did have a problem, at least this morning. She hoped her displeasure didn’t show on her face. “Please, come in.” She tilted her head toward the closed door and dumped the folders into Justin’s waiting arms. “Just give me a minute to grab a pen and pad.”
The sound of grumbles followed her into the reception area, where cool air greeted them. The late spring weather in the southern region of the country seemed hotter than usual, and wilted everyone bold enough to stay outside for more than an hour.
Liberty reached across Justin’s desk and grabbed a pad and pen before turning to meet the crew now clustered in the room. She put on a smile as she glanced across the faces of each person. “All right! Good morning, again. What can I do for you?”
Mel Worrell spoke first. He moved closer than she liked. She almost stepped back, but stilled.
“We see the need for the development in Versa, but,” he turned and pointed to the people behind him, “we want to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact our community, especially our businesses.” He looked down into her face. “Sure, we can use some of the improvements you’re talking about. We came to make sure you know where we stand.”
Liberty paused before speaking. “Certainly I understand your concerns, and of course you’ll have the opportunity to voice all of them at the next council meeting.”
“That’s just it!” Maxine Oliver moved forward. “Seems to me there’s a whole lot of fussing and not enough discussing at these darn meetings. It’s just plum crazy. Now, here’s what we need you to do, young lady. In this proposal of yours, you need to make sure you’re not putting the burden on us. We pay our share, and we want to be sure this won’t hurt our businesses.”
Liberty raised a brow at the woman’s reference to her, as if she were a wayward child being reprimanded. She had to admit that since Rani Brooks joined the council, things hadn’t progressed as she’d liked. Their behind-the-scenes bickering had been recounted by those who witnessed it and was now public knowledge.
Before Maxine could continue, Connie Jenkins interrupted. “You and Rani need to take your spatting someplace else.”
“Certainly, Councilman Brooks and I have our differences, Mrs. Jenkins, but I assure you we’re on the same page when it comes to this public works project.”
She was lying through her teeth, for the development would undoubtedly meet resistance. She knew in her heart that if Rani Brooks, the councilman who headed the budget committee, had anything to say, he would certainly be opposed.
Then she once again remembered last night. Both of them had seemed to forget, at least temporarily, that they stood on opposite sides of the issues.
She had run for mayor to make a difference in Versa. Willie Martin, the previous mayor, had sat in this office for two decades, collecting the measly pay and attending social events like he’d been crowned king. A forward thinker, she vowed to improve the village. In the past, council members had proposed projects like this one that required the use of city funds, and often met NIMBY (“Not in my backyard”) opposition from residents. Of course, these oppositions were incredibly frustrating for Versa’s officials.
Still, determined to see this project through, she advocated the positives, like restoring their severely dated infrastructure and providing needed jobs for the residents. Liberty visited surrounding villages and saw how they’d made notable progress. She wanted those things for Versa. After all, her late father, the village’s first architect, had loved Versa. Liberty insisted on preserving its rich history and unique structures. Still, upgrades to public works needed much attention: better drainage, upgraded power sources and telecommunications services, and digital public infrastructure. The council had neglected restoration attempts over the last decade…a failure on their part. It was time to make changes, and she saw fit to make them. She had made a promise to her father that she would try, and she had ideas on how to make it work. This year marked the village’s centennial. What better time to keep a promise and simultaneously set plan’s for Versa’s future?
“Well, just so you know, most of our businesses can’t afford more taxes. It’s bad enough we’re scraping by now.” Mel stood his ground, frowning at her.
“Trust me, Mr. Worrell, I’m on your side.” She moved the pen across the pad, jotting down notes to look into later. She’d planned ahead of time to reassure the residents that the land use option would ease their tax burden. This concept had worked in other villages and she was prepared to share her plan on how to get this done.
“Hmph! Where have I heard that before?” Connie muttered.
“Please, bring your concerns to the meeting. We can discuss them then. I will address them as best as I can. I promise.”
Liberty looked up from her scribbling, her eyes straying across the room, and there he stood just outside of her open door, arms folded against his chest. Where did he come from, she wondered. They glared at each other in silent opposition, causing her to miss part of Maxine’s question. She quickly turned her attention to the woman. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Oliver; can you repeat that?”
“When can we get a look at this proposal of yours?”
“The proposal is drafted by the Economics Development tiger team and should be released tomorrow, which will give you plenty of time to prepare your questions,” she answered, then took another glance at the door.
Rani had vanished.
Rani turned to go after Liberty once she turned the corner, but stalled. He originally intended to ask her about the proposal. At least that was the lie he told himself. Liberty’s soft touch had haunted him all night. He decided to use the proposal as a way to engage her again. He’d been waiting for her when she entered the corridor between lobby and parking garage. After she passed him and while contemplating his dilemma, he paced the lobby until he couldn’t stand it any longer. He needed to touch her again, or he’d go crazy. He hurried toward her office before he changed his mind again. When he arrived at her office door, he found her trapped in the reception area. He silently watched for a few moments before she glanced his way, paralyzing him where he stood. He considered helping, but decided to stay out of the debate for now. The moment she looked away, he moved, choosing to approach her later, after the crowd had departed.
Rani walked to the water fountain, dipped his head, and took several gulps of the cool liquid. Satisfied, he headed back to Liberty’s office. He inhaled heavily before releasing the trapped air when he saw the crowd had dispersed. Stepping into the now empty reception area, he caught a glimpse of Liberty as she bent over Justin’s desk. The sight stirred a yearning he’d long fought to control. The dark fitted skirt hugged her rounded hips, and tapered closely around her small waist with a blouse tucked into the folds of it. In that moment, he remembered how Liberty’s hourglass figure pressed against him had made his blood boil. Her eyes widened when she noticed him, then narrowed in a glare. She’d caught him admiring her; even so he hoped she wouldn’t deny him a few minutes to get reacquainted, as they’d done last night.
“Got a minute?” he asked, not recognizing his own voice. Seeing her made him lose control.
“Not really. You might want to make an appointment, Councilman.”
She stood to her full height, the dark skirt with a blue top hiding nothing from his imagination. Liberty’s well-endowed figure made her hard to forget. After their brief encounter last night, he had a hell of time getting her out of his system. In those few hours they spent together, they’d set aside their differences and enjoyed a cozy night; laughing, talking, sipping wine, and yes, touching one another when they slow danced. The music reached the garden terrace away from the main entrance, allowing them some privacy. When he kissed her, she hadn’t resisted.
“Last night.” He folded his arms across his chest.
She sucked in a short breath. “What about last night?”
He watched her trembling hand push stray hair from her face. Her reaction made him drop his arms. He wished he could leap forward and fold her into his embrace. Admittedly, he wanted more of what they shared last night, and he didn’t care if Justin witnessed it or not. But reasoning took over, so instead he tried again to have a conversation without prying eyes and listening ears.
“We need to talk, and it can’t wait.”
Seconds ticked by, filling the silence between them, and just when he thought Liberty wouldn’t give, she turned and headed to her private office. “Let’s talk in my office, please.”
He followed closely and once inside asked, “Open or closed?”
“Closed, please. Thank you.”
Rani closed the door and moved to the side of her desk, not giving her a chance to escape behind her desk. He took her hand and drew her toward him until their bodies stood mere inches apart. He leaned in, his face so close to hers their lips nearly touched. She trembled in his grasp, and the awareness of her response made him eager to taste her lips. Liberty’s lids dropped, elevating the passion between them. He controlled his urge, although he wanted to kiss her more than he wanted to breathe.
“Look at me, Liberty.”
Her eyes fluttered open. They harbored the same passion that was stirring through his blood. Unable to resist any longer, Rani captured her lips and savored their softness. He slid his arms around her waist, bringing her closer. She surrendered willingly as her arms eased around him. He lingered, pressing her gently and possessively against him. Once he lifted his head, she dropped hers against his chest. Their breathing matched and they remained joined until he finally stepped back without releasing her.
“What are we doing, Liberty?”
She stared without answering. Eventually, she stepped away completely, moving around the other side of her desk to escape. Before she could reach the door to see him out of her office, he blocked her path and faced her, silently demanding an answer.
“I don’t know.” She looked away. “I don’t know.”
“Something about last night…I can’t shake it. I don’t think I want to.” They’d been interrupted last night before he got the chance to ask that very question.
“Look, we both have jobs to do, and Versa depends on us to do exactly that, our jobs. Now, if that’s all you wanted to talk to me about, then this meeting is over with, Councilman.”
He stared at her in disbelief. “You’re telling me that what happened between us last night has no relevance today?”
“I think we should keep our distance, Councilman.” She gestured for him to step aside, and he complied.
Liberty moved to the door and pulled it open. He was halfway out before turning. “That’s not as simple as you think, Mayor. Have lunch with me?”
“No, but thank you. Enjoy your day, Councilman Brooks.”
“We’ll talk later,” he said with bold confidence. He left her office without looking back, not giving her a chance to have the last word.
( Continued… )
© 2019 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Ann Clay. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An avid reader and lover of positive, strong men, award-winning author, Ann Clay began her writing venture in 1999. She has been duly recognized for her warm-hearted stories, bursting with memorable characters, places and special moments. Venturing into several genres, Ann still prefers her romantic versions of life and living. She resides in Southern Illinois with family and loves hearing from her readers. Check her out at http://www.annclay.com, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Ann Clay on Facebook, annclaywrites on Twitter, or annclay35 on Instgram.
Other Books by Ann Clay
More Than a Bargain
Waving From the Heart
A Fresh Encounter
A Love for all Times
Blue Autumn in the Bayou
Beyond the Blue Cypress
A Perfect Blend
Worth the Ride
Faith in Ordinary Things
Love on the Run
#LoveLikeItsHotBox, #SeducingThePen, #UnwrappedLit, #Bookish, #BookBoost, #TwitterBookClub, #AfricanAmericanAuthors, #NewBookAlert, #BlackGirlReading, #Bookstagram, #TBR, #TwitterBookClub, #InstaBooks, #InstaReads, #Bookstagram, #BookNerd
Intimate Conversation with Ann Clay
An avid reader and lover of positive, strong men, award-winning author, Ann Clay began her writing venture in 1999. She has been duly recognized for her warm-hearted stories, bursting with memorable characters, places and special moments. Venturing into several genres, Ann still prefers her romantic versions of life and living. She resides in Southern Illinois with family and loves hearing from her readers.
BPM: What inspired you to become a romance writer? How long have you been writing?
I absolutely love reading which led me to writing. I love tender stories about romance and fantasy. I like how they impact not just the hero and heroine, but their family and friends as well. I started writing professionally in 1999.
BPM: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’ve found a voice in my work, no matter what genre I’m writing in. My stories tend to write themselves… and I let the characters have their way. I get my story concepts from places I’ve visited or from simply people watching. I like watching how people interact with one another. I pretend I know what’s going on in their lives and that helps me create storylines or writing projects. I’m always looking for an angle or a secret that connects the reader to the characters. I like relatable characters, but I also like a hero and heroine readers will love from the beginning to the end of the story. The more I do these things, the better I get at telling their truth.
BPM: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Oh boy…let’s see. It’s definitely a craft you have to practice on a regular basis. Sometimes finding time to write is challenging because I still have a full-time job. Some days I just don’t feel like it, but do it anyway. It definitely requires commitment and should become a way of life if you’re serious about the craft.
BPM: How has writing romance novels impacted your life?
Every story written/told has elements of romance in them. Which to me means that romance is a genre that touches every reader of the written word. Life has taught me joy, anger, sadness, and love. Love is what I like best. I enjoy both historical and contemporary romance, although I tend to stick to contemporary when writing romance. Pure romance, to me, appeals to all the five senses. I enjoy escaping into a good love story, even if I have to create one myself.
BPM: What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your body of work?
That I like the characters I write about, and they’re people readers can relate to. And so far, I’ve been true to this format. I still have readers who ask about characters as if they’re members of the ‘family.’ It’s inspiring and what keeps me on the task.
BPM: How do you find or make time to write? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
It’s sometimes hard, especially because I travel extensively. Sometime I just write small notes to add to a project later. I try to be consistent and write something every day. If I’m working on a project, I will make daily goals for myself because I have an end date in mind.
Definitely a pantster. I build my characters, and after that, they’re out of my control! Well, not always. I do build potential encounters and develop potential conflicts and encounters I think will keep the story interesting. However, I do allow my characters to drive the story.
BPM: Have you considered writing in another genre?
I didn’t really read romance at first, but when I stumbled on AA romance, I was hooked. And mostly that’s what I write. I do write some women and inspirational pieces, but romance is my baby. It depends on where I am in life at the moment, which dictates what project I will start. I have several pieces still in draft that I have to go back and finish. I’ve also written a children’s book and a hilarious pet book. The pet book is yet to be published. Oh, I also started a funny christian book entitled, Church in an Uproar.
BPM: What is your story in Love Like It’s Hot about?
Love For Liberty is a political romance that has village resident whispering.
The secret love affair and a much needed city improvement project in Versa Village, sets the tone for a surprise the villagers least expects. The mayor, Liberty Kennedy is a freshmen politician, while her love interest, the city councilman, Rani Brooks, is seasoned; in politics, in business, and in the art of persuasion. Fireworks are igniting from all sides.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters. What makes each one so special?
Liberty Kennedy has her work cut out for her. She’s smart, influential, and has a vision for making improvements. A freshmen politician, she finds herself in a love affair with the chairman of the Village Council. In the public they’re seen as rivals, but given the right circumstances, that rivalry turns into passion and create drama for the village they represent. Yet she is determined to finish the improvement project she started.
The hero is strong, ambitious, but respects family, work, and decency. Rani Brooks does his best to give Liberty space to do her job, but he is intentional in his resolve, making her his main focus. He knows what he wants and will do what it takes to get it (her).
BPM: What was your hardest scene to write, the opening or the close?
The opening is always the hardest scene for me. I’m desperate to catch the reader’s attention at the very opening. I really strive to make the first few pages so engaging that the reader refuses to put the story down. I’m still working on it. One of these days I’m going to master this task. You’ll see!
BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present situation or journey.
Sometimes I’m so focused on the task that I don’t always enjoy the journey of completing the task. There is a point in the book where Liberty has to take several steps back to realize that she doesn’t have to do all the work by herself. Like a lot of us, we work hard, but not always smartly.
BPM: Is there a specific place/space/state that you find inspiration in?
I’m a morning person, so I like quiet time. I listen to music. I like sitting in the park or on patio, watching nature. I also watch people and how they interact with one another. I’m always intrigued by what I hear and see.
BPM: Do you want each book to stand on its own or do you prefer to write series?
I like both. But, I tend to write my series in such a manner that they can stand alone, and the stories are not required to be read in any particular order.
BPM: Does writing energize you?
It does. There are so many stories in my head. They, the characters, talk to me non-stop. So, to quiet the voices, I have to put pen to paper.
BPM: Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe you come to a point in your writing where the plot is not playing out as you would like it to. It is the moment when you are force to step back and re-evaluate where the story is going. For some authors it’s as simple as taking a break or working on something else. For others, it may take discussing the plot with a trusted reader or writing partner.
BPM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I’m not too interested in paranormal, mostly because I’m just not interested. I’m also not too keen on erotica. I have to feel some connection with the characters, and to me these characters are only interested in the sex, and not necessarily the relationship. I could be wrong about that, but that’s how I see it.
BPM: Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others?
Sometimes love scenes are challenging because you want to make them as visual, natural, and often enough as possible to keep the story moving. I try not to be too graphic, but I do understand readers want to feel like those scenes are not robotic or unnatural. Most of my readers want lots of love scenes They want them hot, tender, sensual, and passionate all roll into one.
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
I have couple of series I’ve started…Love’s in the Air, and Durbin Enterprises, both comprise of three books. Durbin Enterprises is all mapped out and I’m about halfway done with the first story, and have a single chapter for the other two stories. It’s a working progress.
I’m also working on a contemporary story entitled, Two Black Cats. It’s about two brothers from New Orleans. I’m actually pretty excited about this project and hope to have it released in late summary, early fall.
BPM: Tell us about your most recent work beyond this collection. Available on Nook and Kindle?
I just tied up the Gumbo Love Series with four books. The last story takes place in Texas, but still have the bayou country feel. Worth The Ride is available both in print and eBook and can be found online. Also, Faith in Ordinary Things was released last year. It’s a little book of inspiration and funnies. It too is available in print and eBook formats.
BPM: What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you?
Readers can email me, follow me on my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at conferences. I’m gamed for it all. My Twitter handle is annclaywrites, and my Facebook is simply my name. My website is http://www.annclay.com and the email is email@example.com. I will be attending a number of book club and writing events this year. Would love to connect with readers there.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Readers can just google me, normally it brings up all of my work. They may also search in Amazon or go to my website. I’m on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. I would love hear from readers; if they’ve read my work I ask that they please leave a review, especially in Good Reads. That would help me out greatly. Thanks so much!
Don’t forget to look for Ann’s upcoming projects, including the Winter Games Series entitled Romance on Ice; and the new series, Love is in the Air and Durbin Enterprises. Happy Reading!
Books featured in the Boxed Set
* Ann Clay – Love for Liberty
* Barbara Keaton – Heat at First Sight
* Deatri King-Bey – Best Laid Plans
* Donna Hill – Summer Sizzle
* Nicki Night – Sweet Heat Rising
* Xyla Turner – The Fourth