Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NRABT - Gianna Simone

My name is Gianna Simone, and I write mostly paranormal, with BDSM elements, but I also like to write historicals and I have a WIP that's sci-fi themed. I'm hoping that becomes the first of a three part series. I have two beautiful kids, and I work a full-time job that involves some travel, so that makes time a luxury for me. But whatever little bits of it I get, I spend writing. Or playing online. Mostly on Twitter, you can find me there under Gianna_Simone, or at my blog,

My books, In the Devil's Arms and Healing the Mage, are both available through Noble Romance Publishing. I also have a story, Bound for Love, that appears in the Red Roses and Shattered Glass anthology.

So we're talking about archetypes. I'm not very comfortable with them – they always elude me. Maybe because most of my heroes sprung from a villain in some way – whether it's a character in a TV show, a movie, a book, or my own wild musings. I can honestly say that my last several heroes have all come to life in my head because of one line of dialogue, or a phrase in a magazine article, and usually that line is told about a villain or spoken by a villain. And in fleshing them out, my heroes tend to have just as many bad traits as good. And they're not always willing to give up those traits or be redeemed. I always end up calling my heroes "anti-heroes." One of my first heroes, was a vampire bent on world domination. He did give up that goal to keep the woman he loved, but he never stopped being ruthless and vicious if necessary to his plans, even killing his rivals if he had to, just to achieve his goals. She loved him in spite of that, so obviously, he had some good traits as well, but that dark, edgy side of him was very prominent and never went away.

Heroine archetypes give me just as much trouble. My heroines don't always have a kick-ass personality or a steel spine. Sometimes they want to run away or hide from their issues instead of standing up and confronting them head-on. In my current WIP, my heroine wants nothing more than to stay in her quiet little corner of the world where it's safe. And when that world is turned upside down, she doesn't want to stand on the battle lines and fight, she wants to get her ass out of there! But her heart won't let her abandon the hero who terrifies her as much as he excites her. So she cries and screams and fights it every step of the way, but the allure of the bad boy who swears to keep her safe takes over and she finds herself in the middle of a situation she has absolutely no skill set to handle.

Because my heroes tend to lean heavily over the line separating good and evil, my villains have to be that much more over the top. It's hard to flesh out pure evil and not come across as cartoonish, so they can be tricky. There is no heart to them, not even buried deep. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, including turning on those who they supposedly care about. That's basically the difference between my heroes and villains – my heroes, ultimately, DO care, and will go to the same lengths, even using dishonorable means, to protect their loved ones. My villains will sacrifice their loved ones if there is something to be gained in that. So it's a fine line, and a difficult one to balance. My villains are usually irredeemable in just about every way, whereas my heroes have some redeemable qualities, even if they keep their dark side.

Here's the blurb and an excerpt from Healing the Mage:


Lily Prentiss wishes she could ignore her inborn healing magic so she can live life on her terms, not follow the path her Magiste family chose for her. But when she stumbles across Aidan Marchand in the excruciating throes of evolving into a Mage, her touch is all that stops his pain and she can no longer deny her powers. When the sexy Dom seduces her into willing submission, she finds she doesn’t want to resist and actually enjoys giving up control.

Aidan has more to worry about than just his rapidly maturing powers – his business partner is blackmailing him into funding a venture that involves kidnapping young girls both magical and mortal, and selling them as sex slaves. Even as Lily’s touch eases Aidan's pain, he knows staying with her puts her in danger from his enemies. But the gift of her sexual submission helps him even more than her healing how can he let her go?


Lily gaped at her aunt, then turned to Aidan. His lips twitched, as if they verged on a smile, and her fingers twitched as she fought the impulse to give him the same treatment she’d given her brother earlier. Not with any witnesses.

“You have to be kidding me. You said I would only have to stay until the potions start working.”

Helene hesitated, frowning. “Apparently, I was mistaken. You’ll need to stay near Aidan until his powers have stabilized.”

Helene’s calm demeanor spiked Lily’s anger further. Why did she have the sinking feeling from the moment she’d set eyes on Aidan Marchand last night, her life had crashed and burned, and there was no going back?

"I can’t stay here . . . out of the question. I have to work, I have a life. I can’t stay with him all the time."

"It shouldn’t be more than a few days. Aidan has more than enough space to share."

"My suite is quite large, you’ll have plenty of room," Aidan said, making no effort at all to conceal his hopeful smile.

"Very funny. I don’t think so." She eyed him cautiously, but no trace of the vicious anger remained. Relief left her knees trembling. The fury that had taken him over had been terrifying. Why wasn’t the potion enough to keep it at bay?

"You’ll have to stay in the same room with Aidan. He . . . there’s no telling when he might need to . . . touch you."

"What is this, a conspiracy?" Lily yelled. She didn’t care anymore. She would not give up her life, everything she’d worked so hard for, so some spoiled, rich, Zyndevine Mage could manhandle her whenever he wanted. How dare he try to dictate her life? She would not give him the chance to ruin everything. And what if his powers were dark? To be the only one around if his fury unleashed again panicked her. How could Helene put her in potential danger?

"No, it’s not. Lily, you need to calm down," said Helene.

"Calm down? Aunt Helene, didn’t you just say his powers could be dark? How could you put me in that position?"

"Could be. We don’t know for sure they are," Helene replied.

"We don’t know they’re not!" She struggled to steady her breathing. She avoided meeting Aidan’s gaze, stepping back as he reached for her. "Why is everyone trying to force me into this?"

"Lily, please." Helene glanced at Aidan, and the look brought a sudden spurt of wary annoyance to Lily. She backed up another step.

"No, you please! All I did was trip over him in the park. That doesn’t mean I am the only one who can help. He needs someone who is trained. Equipped to deal with this and the potential dark powers. I want no part of that!"

"There’s a reason you felt his pain, Lily," Helene said. "You’re not even trained to recognize it, and yet, your natural talents came into play."

Lily stared. Her worst nightmare came to life. "My father called you." She glanced over at Aidan, who shrugged and shook his head. "No, you will not do this to me. I won’t be forced into what he wants."

"No, I didn’t . . . yes, I did talk to your father. But he said nothing, asked me nothing. All he wanted to know was how you were."

The fist squeezing her heart tightened, and Lily’s breath came in sharp spurts. "I have to get out of here." She turned toward the Portal, her head spinning. This had all been a set-up! Helene and her father had conspired to get her shackled to Aidan, forcing her to use her healing skills, weak as they may be.

Aidan’s arms came around her, and he pulled her against him, preventing her flight. She struggled against his hold, but his grip only tightened. "Wait. Don’t go. Hear me out."

She fell limp, disturbed to find his warmth comforting, and she couldn’t resist the strident need to hear what he had to say. She sensed a desperation in him, a fear he didn't conceal very well, despite his efforts. Why? What frightened him? Her anger deflated a bit. For a moment, she longed to sink back into him, accept his comfort, but she held herself stiff. So much made sense now. She'd been played, and she needed the betrayal to remain the focus of her attention.

She had to get out of here, before she fell right into her father’s trap. The thought Aidan’s magic might be dark interwove everything else. She had heard plenty of stories about dark Magiste, knew they caused horror, violence and death. Her father had been on the front lines of the last Magiste war, and as Head Enforcer, often worked on cases involving dark magic. She'd heard enough growing up to know how terribly dark magic could be used. She recalled the case involving a dark Sorcerer who had used his magic to torture several women to death before he’d been caught and executed.

She wasn't equipped to deal with someone who had those tendencies. She hadn't studied magic, hadn’t prepared to defend herself against dark forces, she'd avoided training in any way at all. She had as much skill as she'd had at eight; how could she possibly withstand someone stronger than her, who could possibly hurt her? In more ways than one. The burst of panic stole her breath, and she struggled against Aidan's now restraining arms.

"Easy, Fleur. I’m not going to hurt you. I just want you to listen, okay?"

His lips at her ear made her shudder. How could such a pleasurable sensation be dark? It couldn’t. Could it? She desperately wanted to feel safe, and oddly, Aidan's embrace did make her feel secure. She nodded. She'd be better off to go along with him, anyway, and not anger him. As soon as the chance presented itself, she would get out of here.

"Lily, no one is forcing you. This is not some plan to trick you. I wouldn’t do that. But I need you." He sighed.

She bit her lip, the lump in her throat threatening to turn to a sob, her determination to get out of this situation fading. His warm breath sent tendrils of heat through her, and despite herself, she shivered. Beneath his hand, her heart raced, fast and uneven, panicked. A slice of fear, sharp as hers, yet separate, sizzled through her.

Aidan’s fear. When his hands stroked along her arms, the surge of wary anticipation grew. Those emotions tearing at her weren’t hers. The knowledge eroded still more of her resolve. What she felt from him didn't threaten her now; in fact, the emotional sensations beckoned a part of her she had buried ago.

The gods seemed to delight in tormenting her. So not fair. Her physical reaction to him practically sent her to her knees. He had to know letting her feel his fear would be the killing blow. At the same time, terror still held her in its tenuous grip, terror at how easily she wanted to give in. She grabbed onto one thought, desperate not to let her life get taken away from her again. "This has my father‘s signature all over it. Set it all up and shove me in. I can’t."

He gently turned her to face him, staring into her eyes. "That’s not what this is. Honestly. Please believe me, Lily."

Another surge of desperate dread speared her. Again, she recognized it as his.

She wanted to believe him, wanted to believe no conspiracy existed. She glanced around. Where had Helene disappeared to? The panic rose again. "I don’t like this. Where’s Aunt Helene?"

"She gave us a few moments of privacy to talk this over."

"We’re alone?" She swallowed the lump lodged in her throat, threatening to choke her.

"She’s right outside. Are you scared, Fleur?"

She shook her head, unable to voice the lie.

"I won’t hurt you."

She nodded, her throat still too thick to talk.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NRABT - Cherie de Sues

Chérie De Sues is a "critically acclaimed" and "award winning" author of thrillers, paranormal and contemporary suspense romances from sensual to sizzling heat levels. When Chérie takes a break from writing novels, you can find her at book signings, online, or traveling to research her next novel. She shares her home in San Diego, California, with her Irish terrier, Reilly.


Hello Romance Readers,

I'm Cherie De Sues, a romance author of suspense in many genres such as paranormal, contemporary and thrillers. When you read one of my novels, you'll feel the building of a character's anxiety and stress from the first page. Frankly, if the novel doesn't contain action, adventure, heated romance and suspense, I'd fall asleep writing the manuscript. So I write to please myself and found that romance readers enjoyed the ride too.

You'll find the characters in my books, complex with good and bad faults, just like people. To me, a novel must have an outstanding character framework to attach a deep plot. To balance the suspense romance, a villain must have a bigger than life focus to attempt to destroy the hero and heroine. A good read needs the comfort of love and the anxiety of someone who wished to spoil that comfort. Good and bad are always gray in my novels, no hero is perfect, no villain is all bad.

I write all my characters with care and passion, often using lesser characters as turning points in my stories. Imitating real life isn't magick in novels, understanding that many people have an effect on my hero or heroine's decisions is paramount. Just as I listen to my best friend or get advice from a parent or teacher, the same is with my characters. Expect a great deal of realism in all my books, I strive to reflect the diversity in life.

One of my latest novels with Noble Romance is, "Dangerous Curves", a contemporary suspense novel. I enjoy taking risks when I write and Dangerous Curves was risky, because the heroine is a full-figured supermodel touring through Europe. Her grit and determination got her to where she is and Serena Russo won't give up her shot as the new spokesmodel for a Parisian designer after death threats. I'll give you an example from the first chapter.

The attractive man sitting across the aisle watched passengers as they boarded the airplane. Selena Russo used his preoccupation to observe him again more fully. She'd been riveted earlier, when he'd walked down the aisle in snug jeans accentuating his strong thighs and long legs.

He'd met her gaze with unusual amber eyes. If she hadn't seen the cameras he carried, she would have mistaken him for a model. His strong jaw and cheekbones gave him a sculptured look, one used by numerous designer houses.

Surreptitiously, she studied his muscular chest, which strained against the white shirt he wore. The casually rolled sleeves exposed honey-colored hair on his forearms that matched the boyish tousled locks across his forehead. She wondered what his hair would feel like if she wove her fingers through the strands.

She sighed, pleased at the thought, then felt her face flush when he looked her way, catching her mid fantasy. Mortified, she turned away and heard him chuckle softly. Selena forced herself to move slowly, gracefully, as she took out a magazine. With gaze lowered, she blindly flipped through pages.

What had she been thinking, staring at him like that? Her pulse raced, and with a fingertip, she dabbed at the perspiration beading above her lip.

She hid a coy smile—all this physical reaction from only the thought of touching him. Her imagination was in high gear today. She flipped another page, stifling a sigh at her response to his masculinity.

Sadly, he had no reason to feel the same carnal thoughts about her.

Selena chewed her lower lip as her self-esteem took a momentary dip. Even after all this time, there were still moments when she let others make her feel like a rube, a fake.

A full-figured model didn't garner the same attraction as the leaner models enjoyed. She had to be content making great money, traveling to exotic locations, and turning a cheek at insensitive jokes. There would always be those who snickered, or worse, but she'd survive.

Thank goodness for her father. As a family practitioner, he'd encouraged her to embrace her healthy Italian curves. While everyone else in her family had long, lean bodies made for running, she'd been voluptuous at thirteen.

Her father insisted she took after his side of the family, where the women were curvaceous. Selena looked forward to meeting the Russo's, when the tour visited Rome. At last, she'd meet her Italian relatives. Her violet eyes were supposed to be a hereditary gift from her Russo ancestors.

The foot traffic died down, and passengers took their seats as the pilot gave preflight instructions to the attendants.

Within minutes, the plane climbed to thirty thousand feet for the long, transatlantic flight. She clandestinely explored her first class passenger seat, puzzled how the cushions turned into a bed for the journey. The European flight and first class accommodation would be a first for her.

She sighed, content within the soft seat, and folded her magazine into her carry-on bag. A clause in her contract guaranteed the elegance of first class for the next three years. Hairdresser, makeup artist, and wardrobe mistress too—she had entered a new chapter as a model.

She would have everything she'd worked so hard to achieve. The start of her new glamorous life waited for her in Paris. She was satisfied she'd left the death threats behind her in New York—she wouldn't give up her dreams.

There were millions of women tired of draping shapeless fabric on their luscious curves. Available clothing in the stores lacked style, or worse, supplied the same style as apparel designed for the slender. The time had come for a designer to dress women across the world, regardless of size, who wanted and needed more glamour.

The charismatic cameraman stood with a rustle of jeans, then walked toward the front of the plane. Selena inhaled a hint of his earthy cologne as the scent filled the air behind him. She leaned into the aisle, checking out his muscular butt before he disappeared into the small kitchenette.

Her body hummed deliciously at the sight. Why deny her eyes the pleasure? The man could be the template for sexy alpha male. When he vanished from her line of sight, she felt free to imagine his lovemaking as he tapped the energy of those glutes.

She took a breath and blew out some of the estrogen building up in her bloodstream. Clearly out of her league, he no doubt had his choice of beautiful, slender, and vampy women.

Kevin, one of the two bodyguards who'd been assigned to her, rose from behind her seat, moving stealthily past to the same little room between aisles. Intrigued, she tapped a polished red nail on her armrest, waiting for the two men to return. The attendants passed out drinks, nuts, and chocolate candies as she bobbed her head to keep a keen eye.

What would draw two large, muscular men to such a small space? She rose and headed toward the restroom that took her past the kitchenette, with Justin hot on her tail. Her jaw tightened. The security was unnecessary. Justin, the other of her new ex-Marine bookends, was crowding her style.

Who needed bodyguards after a couple of threatening letters?

Selena blamed her overly protective agent for her current, smothering situation; Gloria hadn't asked before making sure two bodyguards had appeared in Selena's contract. Any one of a hundred, international, full-figured models could have sent the letters. No doubt some were royally pissed she'd become the new Romantix spokesmodel.

Of course they were angry; Romantix handed her a multimillion-dollar ad campaign for a new clothing line in Paris. She would have been surprised if there were no threatening letters. Models didn't compete for congeniality awards. At twenty-four, she beat out mostly younger models, and that fact hadn't been lost on her.

Justin tailed her too closely. Selena paused to look back, giving him a withering look. He didn't blink.

"I'm on my way to the bathroom. What could happen?"

He smiled patiently and motioned for her to lead. She sighed. Since the moment she'd met her guards, they hadn't allowed her to go anywhere alone.

She purposely slowed, only steps away from the kitchen door, and heard two men talking. She casually glanced inside—the handsome stranger stood speaking with Kevin. She frowned and slid into the restroom, then took some tissues out of the box for her handbag.

What would two strangers have to talk about only thirty minutes into their flight? Did they know one another? Interesting. A photographer or photojournalist, maybe . . . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NRABT - Sarah Ballance

HERO-SCHMERO / Sarah Ballance (April 20)

After almost fourteen years of marriage and six kids, I don't have to look far to find my ideal hero: I married him. But notice I said ideal, and not perfect. No, no, no, please, not perfect! Why? Because if there is anything that will drive me absolutely crazy, it's the "perfect" alpha hero. Frankly, stoic carries zero appeal. Flawless? Nuh uh.

I know for many readers a romance is about the fantasy, but I can't relate to Mr. Perfect, much less fantasize about him. For me, it's about the crooked grin, the worn jeans, and the mud on the tires. Candlelight wouldn't be any fun if it didn't occasionally set off the smoke alarm, and a guy who hasn't once crossed the fine line of the law doesn't have much of a story to tell. Not to say a law-abiding citizen can't be fun, but a man who has never been in trouble or made a mistake in his life? We don't have much in common—that's for sure!

Seriously, flaws make the man. Flaws define character—both the real-life kind and the type you find in a book. My guy needs to put me (or my heroine) first and leave the fate of the world to someone else. He needs the ego that comes with self-confidence, and he needs to take hits—and occasionally deserve them—because that's what life is about. I don't want him to be a jerk, of course, but a real hero should be someone you can get mad at, because with anger comes passion, and with passion comes the absolute best kind of love.

Yep, that's right. The perfect kind.

AUTHOR BIO: Sarah and her husband of almost fourteen years live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they're asleep. She often jokes that she writes to be around people who will listen to her, but her characters aren't much better than her kids. Fortunately, as an author of romantic suspense she's got plenty of plot-time to exact her revenge on the unruly ones.


Mattie James can't pinpoint exactly when she lost control of her life, but the moment she decided to take it back made the front page of the local paper. Desperate to dodge the fallout— and the tabloids—she jumps at the chance to spend an off-season week in a tiny resort community by the sea. Making the trip with her ex-lover is a complication she can live with; coming face to face with a dead woman is not.

The last thing Sheriff Wyatt Reed expected to find on the storm-ravaged beach was a beautiful blonde with a jealous sidekick, but one look at Mattie left him wanting more. Their first date takes an ominous turn when he gets the call that a woman was found murdered. With a killer on the loose and a troubling lack of suspects or motive, Wyatt has to put his feelings aside to focus on the case. But his vow not to become personally involved is shattered when he discovers Mattie's life is on the line, and this time the truth leaves her with a deadly choice . . . and nowhere to run.

BUY LINKS: Kindle | Adobe PDF, EPUB, MobiPocket, Microsoft Reader

AUTHOR LINKS: Website | Blog | Facebook |Twitter | GoodReads | Facebook Fan Page

Next stop on the Noble Authors Blog Tour is Indigo's visit with H. C. Brown.

And guys. Please take the time to check out the NRABT anthology, Red Roses and Shattered Glass!

Monday, April 18, 2011

NRABT - HC Brown

H.C. Brown – 19 April


H.C. Brown is a multi published, award winning, highly credited author of Fantasy, Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Historical and Contemporary Romance. Currently living in Australia, She believes every story should have a happy ending.

Published with Noble romance, Ellora's Cave and Pocket Book Publishing, H.C is an International All Breed Cat Judge in her downtime. H.C writes Young Adult romance under the name Pia Moonglow for Noble Young Adult Romance.

My blog: http://

What do "hero" and "heroine" mean to you? And what about villains? What archetypes frequently appear in your own work, which ones do you like seeing in others' work, and which ones drive you completely up the wall with rage?

My heroes are always alpha males, big strong dependable types but all of them have some sort of vulnerability. My heroines are normal, girl next door types, not ravishingly beautiful or particularly confident in their appearance and absolutely not the top model types. I hope they are gutsy but not pushy or hardnosed.

My villains are usually demons, fantasy people, mad scientists and the like.

I hate seeing butch type females in male/ female romance, they just don't gel for me. A woman tougher than a man does not make me read on. The same goes for those females who constantly whine and complain . . . get a life.

I like villains that creep up on me when I'm reading— those you never expect to be the bad guy.

Hawke's Purr-fect Mate


Deliciously handsome, insatiable alpha male, Hawke of Knight Watch, has a reputation, for a voracious and varied sex life. However, his ability to attract streams of men and women to his bed comes into question when he meets the mysterious, Ice Princess, Lydia.

Lydia born of both Fae and Pride has a secret. Unable to chance the man of her dreams discovering the truth about her, she publically refuses the handsome Prince Hawke.

Disillusioned and heart sore, Hawke must fight the battle of his life against the dogs invading his realm, and for the love of his true mate.

Shifters & Demons

Love Revisited

My links

Also, don't forget to check out the blog tour anthology...

And for the next stop in the tour:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NRABT: Justine Elyot

I'd like to start by saying hello to Mindy and to everyone reading today. My name is Justine Elyot and I write mainly erotica and erotic romance for a variety of different publishers - one of which is, of course, Noble Romance. I've been doing this now for a few years, starting off with writing fanfiction as a hobby before dipping my toes into the darker but more satisfying waters of original fiction on the advice of my fandom community.

Mindy has set a fascinating topic to discuss for her series of guests - archetype. I'm a lover of all kinds of archetypes and tropes, many of which crop up time and time again in my stories. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to relate my discussion to my Noble book, The Choirmaster, because it contains many of my favourites.

My hero, Matthew, is closest to the type of man I would like to know in real life. He isn't ostentatious or macho at all, but a quietly confident, competent individual with an absolute belief in himself and his vocation (he is a musician, as the title suggests). However, there is a side to him that needs a little work - I don't find 'perfect' characters interesting, so I would always include this. He can get carried away by his need for order and perfection, and he prefers to repress areas of his personality and sexuality rather than let anything 'messy' interfere with his life.

My heroine, Loveday, turns all that upside-down and brings the passionate man out of the somewhat cool shell he can present to the world. She is pretty typical of my heroines - scatty, a bit naïve, looking for something without knowing what she is looking for. Not that I don't also write other types of heroine, but I like it when the hero has something to offer her, like a way out of a tricky situation.

There isn't a villain in The Choirmaster, which is unusual for me because I adore a good baddy - the more complex and sinister the better. The Lothario, the Evil Overlord, the Good Man Gone Bad - all lovely. In fact, one of my first childhood crushes was on Darth Vader - analyse that!

Archetypes I'm not keen on - well, I don't have many. Overly perfect characters I've already mentioned, plus I'm not a great fan of the wimpy, weepy heroine. Loveday has her problems, but she isn't a limp lettuce type of girl. In fact, I don't think she even likes lettuce.

Please do come and join the fun at my blog or you can find a full list of my publications, plus plenty of other information at my sparkly new website

The Choirmaster is available from a number of sites, including

If you need extra convincing, here is an excerpt:

Loveday considered it to be the best pitch in London: the broad windswept piazza hemmed in by the concrete slabs of the Barbican Complex. For one thing, the passers-by were often well versed in culture, heading for a concert or a play. For another, the Guildhall School of Music was one of those concrete slabs, and she had clung to her fantasy of ‘discovery’ by one of the professors for the six months she had been busking in this spot. Not as crowded as Covent Garden, not as ugly as the South Bank, not as manic as Oxford Street, it was a comfortable billet, if a little exposed.

Most days, then, the slight, tattered figure of Loveday Morris, in raggedy tutu and several pairs of holey stripy tights, could be seen lugging a gigantic antique cassette deck to the steps, and today was no exception.

Before she could rummage in her canvas bag for the right backing tape, though, charcoal stormclouds ballooned on the horizon, swirling around the peaks and glass towers of the City.

Her face, a picture of dismay, turned itself skywards to receive a fat splash of rain. Bloody weather forecast. Always, always, wrong. Before she had had a chance to clasp the oversized tapedeck to her chest and run, the heavens had opened, spectacularly. The effect was as dramatic as if somebody had thrown a bucket of water over her head.

By the time Loveday skittered into the nearest tube station she was at saturation point, hair squiggling in rats tails down her back, nose dripping, a mascara emergency scrawled all over her face. She was cold, freezing cold, but if she wanted to eat tonight, the supper must be sung for.

At the bottom of the escalator, she found the backing tape and slid it into the cassette player with half-numb fingers. The lucrative concert-goer market could still be caught down here. Perhaps today would be the day. Discovery. A scholarship. A life in music, real music, beautiful music.

She fast-forwarded the tape until it arrived at her feelgood song, her theme tune. Time to shut her eyes, forget the kohl carnage, forget the freezing rain that had soaked into every pore, forget that she was hungry and tired and her knee hurt, and just…sing.

When Loveday sang, you did not see her pallor or her thinness, her torn shirt or her rent fishnets. When Loveday sang you only saw the pictures her voice painted. For three minutes there were Parisian boulevards instead of clinical tiles, the sun warmed the pavements and a bohemian beauty revelled in her charms before your fascinated eyes.

She awoke to the clink of a coin in her beret and leant down to wind the tape on.

“You’re very good,” said somebody. She straightened up to see a man leaning on the bottom of the escalator. “Are you at the Guildhall?”

“Oh, no,” she blushed self-consciously. “I’m on benefits.” Immediately she wanted to kick herself for the stupidly irrelevant response. Way to be discovered, Loveday! Make him think you’re a deadbeat!

“You’re in a choir though?”

“Oh, God, no, I don’t think one would have me,” she flustered, ever more discomposed beneath his cool blue-eyed scrutiny.

“Mine would.” He searched his inner jacket pocket and produced a card, holding it in front of Loveday’s still mascara-clogged eyes. The London Orchestral Singers. She had heard of them; indeed, seen them in concert years before. A proper choir.

“Really? Are you in the L.O.S.?” she asked, impressed.

He laughed. “No, I’m the chorus master. Why don’t you join? I’d have to audition you, of course, but I don’t see that it would be a problem. You can sight-read?”

Loveday nodded. This was mad, though. She couldn’t join a choir. She couldn’t offer a commitment, with her crazy chaotic life the way it was.

“Thanks, but I’m not sure…”

“Oh, I am,” he said. There was something steely about his smile, and Loveday got the impression that he was not a person you would argue with. “You look about to freeze to death. Look, I’m on my way to a rehearsal now. Why don’t you come along? Let me buy you a coffee first and do the proper hard-sell on you.”

He beckoned, turning away before she had a chance to reply, and Loveday felt a piercing shot of resentment at his expectation that she would trot along after him without question. Yet that was exactly what she did. Probably a serial killer, reasoned her not-very-reasonable mind, to which the rather dispiriting reply was, Let’s hope so, eh? Times were hard. Things were bad. Loveday had been on self-destruct for a long time, yet she still seemed to be here. Following him up the escalator, she noted that he was slender – not skinny, in the way a diet of lentils and brainrot cider had made her. Perhaps if he was trying to lure her to her doom, she might be able to put up some kind of fight. He was tall, though – much taller than her, and the leanness was probably all muscle.

He grinned down at her from the step above and said, “So, are you a ballerina too?”

“I’m sorry?”

“The tutu.”

Oh yes. The tutu. Though it was hardly suitable for performance-wear any more, and it would have been difficult to pull off a demi-plié in her clumpy biker boots. A shapeless black hand-knitted jumper and two armfuls of bangles completed the look. Just your average chorister, really.

“Oh, everyone’s wearing them, dahling,” she said vaguely. “Didn’t you know?” And you could be Rudolf Nuryev, with those cheekbones.

He chuckled, but there was an off note in there, carried through to the expression of veiled concern on his face. “You’re shivering,” he said.

“Oh.” She tried to stop, but her bones weren’t co-operating.

“Come on. Coffee,” he said, steering her around the corner as soon as they arrived on the street, straight into the million and first branch of Starbucks to open in that area that week. “We usually warm up before a rehearsal, but not as literally as this. Look, can I get you something to eat?”

“No, no, honestly!” Loveday was starving but she didn’t want to owe this stranger anything. A skinny latte was debt enough to be going on with.

When he brought the coffees over, it was clear that Loveday’s skinny latte was anything but. It was about triple-strength, full-fat, like a milkshake with a hint of coffee. You could have stuck a spoon upright in it. She didn’t complain though. It was very obviously intentional. And he seemed to mean well.

“I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself,” he said, thrusting an arm towards her. “Matthew.”

It only remains for me to thank Mindy again for being such a gracious hostess and to remind you all to hop over and find Indigo Skye at Sarah Ballance's blog.