Release date: September 29, 2014
Getting a life do-over in the small theater town of Ashland, Oregon, has suited lawyer Julie Payne to a T. After ten years in the Portland prosecutor’s office, she’s enjoying her new, easy lifestyle, and she’s not looking for any complications.
Trace Watkins comes to town seeking the same refuge from life as a big city banker. A new job might make Ashland his permanent address, and he likes what he sees of the place, especially when he meets Julie one hot Halloween night.
The sparks fly instantly between the costumed couple, and Julie and Trace waste no time connecting beneath the sheets while literally hiding behind their masks.
But when the holiday hook-up ends, their real identities present a serious snag: Trace manages the bank Julie happens to be suing. The only way they can turn this trick into a treat is if both of them are willing to face their pasts and finally bury the skeletons in their closets.
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Peggy Bird lives in the Pacific Northwest where she sets most of her novels. To stay out of trouble—and the rain—she writes stories about smart women and sexy men and creates the occasional piece of glass art.
An excerpt from Unmasking Love:
Thanks to the masks and costumes, few people were immediately recognizable. Unless Julie heard a familiar voice or someone gave her a name, she wasn’t sure who she knew and who had come as the guest of a guest. Part of the reason for the party had been for her to meet new people, although she hadn’t yet figured out how she planned to recognize the new people who’d come to the party unless the next time she saw them they were still in dressed in character and wearing masks.
The guy in the Elizabethan costume had arrived with a woman and two men about twenty minutes earlier. Julie thought the woman might be Amber Lake, a member of one of the theater companies she’d given some minor, pro bono legal advice to. Amber had played Helen of Troy in a recent production at the theater, and the woman was dressed in Helen’s costume. Her long hair was in an elaborate up-do woven through with gold ribbon, and she wore a simple gold mask. The man in the Roman centurion costume, who Julie didn’t think she knew, seemed to be her date. At first, Julie thought the other two men might be a couple, but when the guy in the George Washington suit hit on the half-drunk woman in the fortuneteller costume, it became obvious they weren’t.
For some reason, she was happy the Elizabethan hunk wasn’t paired up. She didn’t know why he fascinated her. It was more than his looks—what she could see of them with his mask on—it was something else. She didn’t really believe in auras any more than she believed in magic spirits. But if she did, she’d believe in his. He radiated … something. Something attractive, seductive. Could he be what was tickling the edge of her mind into thinking the night was magic?
Maybe if she watched him for a while she’d figure it out. Luckily he wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on at the party, so she had a chance to inspect him without his knowledge. No question he had a great body. Tall and broad-shouldered, he had the best legs, the nicest ass, and, unless his Elizabethan costume included a codpiece, an impressive … well, if she’d forgotten what a well-equipped man looked like, he sure reminded her. If ever there was a reason to bring back men in tights, he was it.
The mask was a shame. It hid most of his face. More than the Lone Ranger job many of her guests wore, his reached up to his forehead, bridged his nose, and skimmed the top of what might be a pair of attractive cheekbones. What wasn’t covered was a strong jaw and a full-lipped, sensuous mouth, eyes almost as black as the mask was, and, topping it all, hair that definitely was black, if the bits peeking out of a soft velvet cap with a large feather were any indication.
As if he could feel her watching him, he looked up from his scrutiny of his beer bottle label, and their eyes locked. He smiled and lifted the bottle in a salute to her. Dear God, his smile could melt the panties right off a girl. At least, if the way she reacted was any indication. Her mouth dried up. But other parts of her made up for it by getting moist and achy.
She started to take a step across the room to see if the jolt of electricity now circling her breasts and peaking her nipples got stronger when he got closer. But her recently cultivated cautious streak stopped her. No, that’s what Greer would have done, a very stern voice in her head said. You’re not Greer anymore. You’re Julie, and Julie doesn’t do things like that. Ever. Not when you have no idea who he is or what he’s like.
She nodded to the stranger. When a woman dressed as a serving wench asked her where to find another bottle of wine, Julie went to the kitchen to fetch it. And while she was there, to get herself a glass of cold water.