Thief of Hearts by Caitlyn Willows

ThiefHearts

THIEF OF HEARTS
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Historical Novella
July 2016
Cover Art – Trace Edward Zaber

Rafael Ortega and Pilar Duran have been betrothed since the cradle, a fact that hasn’t exactly pleased them. Little did they realize what a difference a two year separation could make. During the trip from port to the families’ ranchos, they are watchful for the thief who’s been plundering the countryside. But Pilar knows a greater threat–one to her heart. Tell that to her traitorous body. Little does she realize how close she truly is to the thief. And this one is definitely out to steal her heart.

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REVIEWS

FIVE ANGELS! I always like to read a book by Caitlyn Willows. She has a way of weaving robust and vital characters that make the read most enjoyable. Even the well-blended secondary cast added a good addition to the story. Thief of Hearts is not only well-written but flows beautifully, adding such in-depth scenery that just opens up like a lovely garden springing to life. Could Pilar and Raphael get any sexier? I love the way her Aunt Beatriz wishes to protect her young and how Raphael notices how she is quick to safeguard Pilar. The scenes were often mixed with wit and added a great blend to the story. I found this entertaining read filled with romance, passion, a bit of intrigue and wonderful characters that leaped from the pages. ~Linda L., Fallen Angel Reviews

FIVE MAGICAL WANDS! Another sure-fire hit from Ms Willows, I really enjoyed this hot, steamy tale of love and lust set in a time when a woman’s purity and honour were paramount. This short novella was full of sensual detail and exciting characters. Aunt Beatriz, the girls’ chaperone, was especially good. With some sizzling sex scenes and a great deal of tender love, this story comes well recommended. ~Audiotalo, Enchanted Ramblings

FIVE FLAGS! Thief of Hearts is a charming story and poor Aunt Beatriz is hilarious! The sexual tension between Rafael and Pilar sizzles and the love that they have for each other is beautiful. Thief of Hearts has all three H’s – history, humor and heat (not necessarily in that order)! This book was one delightful surprise after another – I really enjoyed it and strongly encourage you to read it. Now…to get to work on perfecting the silent orgasm… ~Kerin, Euro-Reviews

FOUR STARS! I enjoyed reading this delightfully sweet, romantic love story as well as the mystery and intrigue in this action adventure. I was also thrilled by the surprise ending that was especially satisfying. Thief of Hearts by Caitlyn Willows is romantic dynamite. I loved watching Pilar’s love for Rafael grow in stages as he charmed her and sexually devastated her senses. I enjoyed their adventurous spirits in sneaking time and discovering unusual places to make wild passionate illicit love together. I thought the escapades funny and delightfully inventive. I was impressed with Pilar’s resourcefulness in finding ways to pleasure herself, no matter where she was, even in public. If I were to sum up this story in one word, the word would be entertaining. From beginning to end I was pleasantly entertained. I highly recommend this book for everyone who enjoys an entertaining, steamy, passionate read. I know you’ll love it as much as I did. ~Karen H., Just Erotic Romance Reviews

FOUR CUPS! This is the author’s version of the tale of Zorro with an incredibly erotic twist. The sensuality and seduction that rises off each page is as hot as a California summer day. Pilar and Raphael’s attraction to each other sizzles on nearly every page. Adding in Raphael’s secret life only spices things up more. This was a savory, steamy read. ~Charissa, Coffee Time Romance

This is a very short yet satisfying read. Ms. Willows weaves a great deal of sensual detail into the interaction between Pilar and Rafael. The added historical context brought a certain perspective and depth to the story. The character development and pace was wonderful; one could not help but get caught up in the drama. Overall this book was a great read and something I would recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining book. ~Vianna Renaud, TCM Reviews

Caitlyn Willows always manages to capture my attention. Thief of Hearts is an enjoyable read with intense feelings from the characters. Pilar dreaded her reunion with the boy who used to drive her crazy but once she sees him again, she realizes that Rafael still drives her crazy… only in a different way now! Even while they are on constant watch for a local thief on the way to their families’ rancheros, they somehow manage to get to know each other. The sexual tension mounts quickly but it is the development of their feelings for each other that really makes Thief of Hearts interesting. Caitlyn Willows fans will not be disappointed and neither will anyone looking for a quick, hot read. ~Georgia, Joyfully Reviewed.

EXCERPT

California

May 1849

Pilar Duran had always known what her duty was. Every woman in Alta California knew her place. That didn’t mean she had to like it. And it certainly didn’t mean she had to embrace it as her sister did. Oh, she’d do her duty to her family. It was, after all, the only true way to ensure their rancho remained theirs. But she definitely would not submit willingly.

She glanced at Florencia from the corner of her eye. Her older sister leaned so far over the railing of the ship one bump from behind might send her tumbling headfirst into the harbor water below. She’d already lost her lace rebozo. The onshore breeze had caught the scarf and sent it aloft. Florencia had been too absorbed in watching the bustle of men on the docks to catch it in time and merely laughed when it happened. In fact, she hadn’t stopped laughing since they’d left Mexico.

Pilar didn’t fault her for the excitement. Her sister had been in love with Luis Ortega since the cradle. They’d not seen each other for over two years. But the correspondence had flown between them as if delivered on the wind—enough to fill a chest with his letters. A chest Florencia had insisted must come with her on this, their final trip home.

Florencia had been inconsolable when their parents shipped the sisters off to Mexico once war broke out. Luis was just as devastated. But their safety and the perpetuation of the family lines was at stake. The women had to be safe in order to beget the hoards of grandchildren the Durans and Ortegas wanted.

At the time it was all Pilar could do to remain silent. One needed a man to beget those children. How was saving the women of any benefit if the men were to remain behind? She’d somehow managed to keep the retort to herself. After all, the last thing she wanted was to have Rafael Ortega come with her to Mexico. That would have meant marriage immediately. Pilar wanted to avoid it as long as possible.

She closed her eyes and inhaled the ocean air. At least they were finally on land. Pilar didn’t travel so well onboard the ship. The rolling ship made her queasy more times than not, and her aunt’s raucous snores made sleeping at night impossible.

Nothing bothered her sister. Love and anticipation had kept Florencia alert and well, just as dread and doom had conspired with the other maladies to bring Pilar down. She remembered Rafael as the boy who’d pull her hair and tease her. Their marriage had been planned since her birth. He never wasted a moment holding their future status over her head.

“You must do as I say, Pilar. I am to be your husband.” Doing as he said might involve anything from climbing a dangerously high cottonwood tree, to not being allowed to dance with any other boy at festivas.

“I am older than you.” As if two months’ difference gave him special status.

And the equally annoying, “Females cannot do as males can. Return to your woman’s work.” Of course, she always had to prove him wrong by doing exactly as he did, no matter how unladylike.

In hindsight, Pilar often wondered if his taunts weren’t said for that purpose—to get her to do what he really wished. How unfortunate she hadn’t realized it at the time. As things were, she had to grudgingly—and secretly—thank him for her riding skills, not to mention shooting, roping, and fencing skills. Not that those had helped her so far, but a lady never knew what she might need for survival.

He’d attempted to steal a kiss from her only once. Pilar thwarted him with her fist to his chin. She didn’t know who was more shocked—Rafael or herself. He’d merely stared down at her, then smiled and walked away…after he’d said the strangest thing. “Nicely done, querida.”

She wanted to throw back that she was not his querida. But the words wouldn’t move past her suddenly choked throat. The whole episode had rattled Pilar in ways she couldn’t describe. It still gave her odd chills whenever she recalled how the endearment had rolled off his tongue. She and her sister had left for Mexico a week later, and she was glad of it.

Pilar rubbed the bridge of her nose against the sudden rush of tears. What was she to do? He wasn’t even what one called attractive. He towered over her like a menacing giant—a skinny one at that. He’d always been wiry, with a mop of dark brown hair that refused to be tamed. As a child he was always dirty, whether that be from play or work. She’d never seen a more active person. She might have even respected that trait, if he hadn’t been so annoying.

“They are here! They are here!” Florencia sounded like a seagull gone mad.

At least someone was getting a love match out of this. Her gleaming dark hair bounced against her back with each little jump. She hoisted her blue satin skirts in one hand and made ready to dash for the gangplank.

“Hold, mija.” Aunt Beatriz hoisted her bulk from the shaded bench against the ship’s staterooms.

The look Florencia flashed at the woman screamed of betrayal. Still, she remained in place as their aunt waddled over.

“It is not good to let him see you so anxious.” She wagged a scolding finger with her tsk.

Florencia’s laughter drifted over the breeze. “Auntie, after all this time, I do not think my feelings are a mystery to the man.”

Aunt Beatriz’s massive bosom quivered with the breath she exhaled. “Go,” she said, lifting her hand in dismissal.

Pilar’s sister took off like a bullet shot from a rifle.

“And you?” her aunt asked.

Pilar retreated to the shade her aunt had vacated. “The meeting will come soon enough. Rafael knows where to find me should he wish to.”

Again there was that tsk. “I cannot say who is more foolish. Florencia for wearing her heart on her sleeve, or you for denying yours.”

Pilar plucked at her yellow skirt, smoothing the folds until the butternut colored inner panel was perfectly aligned. Then she adjusted the lace cuffs on her matching gloves—gloves she’d tatted herself. Now there was a skill Rafael could not boast of having. “There is nothing to deny. I have never cared for Rafael.”

“And never made the effort to do so.”

She pulled up her chin in a defiant stare. “There is no need to fear, Auntie. I know my place and will do my duty, as would any good daughter.”

“But you are not above creating a little misery for all those in the process either, I suspect. Remember, mija, marriage is forever. Forever is a long time to be in misery.”

Her parents should have thought of that before arranging the unions. All they cared about was—

“Oh my!”

Aunt Beatriz’s gasp pulled Pilar back to the rail. The gangplank rattled with Florencia’s blind run. Sailors and dockhands turned to smile. But no smile was greater than that of the man weaving through the throng to reach her. Impossible as it seemed, Luis Ortega had become more handsome in the last two years. Black hair was the perfect complement to his brown skin. Broad shoulders filled out his short jacket of gray broadcloth. His smile was as bright as his eyes—both were focused on Florencia. He reached her before her toes could officially touch land, swinging her into his arms in a tight hug while they laughed. The affection brought smiles from everyone around, and another tsk from Aunt Beatriz.

“It is good the wedding is so soon. Still, they will bear much watching until that time.”

No one could argue that point. A pity no one had considered the possibility before their departure two years ago. As it was, Aunt Beatriz guarded a treasure long since plundered.

Hiding her smile, Pilar watched Luis set Florencia at arm’s length. One hand remained at her waist. The other pointed in the direction from which he’d run. Pilar glanced that way. Wagons were lined along the cobbled street on which supplies from just-arrived vessels were being loaded. She spied their black leather trunks among them. A man with a sheaf of papers clutched in his hand directed the trunks to two of the wagons, then he moved on to the next stack of goods. He dwarfed the smaller man hurrying to keep up with his strides. His muscled thighs flexed beneath his tan breeches.

By his height alone this could be no one else. But Pilar could hardly call Rafael Ortega wiry any longer. Years of work in the sun had darkened his skin to a rich hue and added muscle to his once scrawny frame. No longer did his clothes hang loosely. Each inch of fabric was filled. Confidence poured from him as he directed the loading of goods. The men deferred to him without hesitation.

Pilar passed a leisurely gaze down his body. His upper torso was a perfect V, punctuated by a round backside she found herself itching to cup. A flush of heat surged over her at the thought, stealing her breath away. Then, as if sensing her gaze upon him, Rafael glanced up. Pilar jolted from the impact.

A semblance of a smile touched his lips. He passed the papers on to the smaller man, then started toward the ship. Not once did he take his gaze from hers, not as he weaved through the crush of dock workers, not as he passed Luis and Florencia, not when his slow, measured step took him up the gangplank.

Pilar felt her body quiver with each shaky breath she drew. She turned as he approached, staring at him as he did her. Then he was before her, making her feel small and vulnerable, and very needy.

“Rafael.” His name came out in breathless wonder.

“Pilar.” Dark brown eyes glistened, eyes that smiled a lot, judging from the crinkles in the corners. He slipped her right hand in his and drew it to his lips. Then he slowly peeled back her glove and planted a lingering kiss to her bared flesh.

Her knees quaked, threatening to topple her to the deck. That troublesome spot between her thighs pulsed and moistened.

“The years have been generous to you. A beautiful woman has replaced the willful child.”

Willful child? How dare he! If only she could think of an appropriate retort. If only her body would stop trying to lean toward him.

“As I recall, Rafael, you were a bit willful yourself,” she somehow managed to say.

His smile washed over her. “Indeed the years have matured me as well. I hope you can forgive the transgressions of a boy.”

She inclined a nod his way and forced herself to take a small step away from his heat. Pulling in a deep breath, Rafael did the same. He turned to Aunt Beatriz.

Doña Beatriz.” As he had done with Pilar, Rafael lifted her aunt’s gloved hand to his lips. This time the glove stayed in place. “You haven’t changed, except perhaps to look younger.” He followed up with a devilish smile that set her aunt to giggling.

“And I see you’ve learned the gentlemanly art of flattery since we last met.” She gave him a playful shove. “Watch this one, Pilar. He might very well manage to steal your heart after all.”

Rafael’s gaze slid over Pilar. She swallowed down a throat gone dry. She’d been counting on hating him, on him being as reprehensible as she recalled. Her aunt could very well be right. This Rafael bore watching, as did her traitorous body.

 

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