Title: Heart of Stone
Author: S.I. Hayes
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hosted by: Lady Amber's Tours
Donnella Stone is as her name describes, cold, powerful and rich. She is a true Manhattan Blue Blood. This has left her with a problem, the men in her life have often only come for what they can take from her, and it has never been her heart.
To protect herself she has rules and a non-disclosure agreement for all of her relationships with men, she gets what she needs, and promises opportunity, means and her silence once the length of the arrangement ends. It has worked for a decade.
Until she meets Matthew Mayfield, an adorable, awkward artist from Connecticut whose work and passionate attitude instantly intrigue her. The problem? He takes more of an interest in her, than any man she has met before.
Can he get past the dragon and heal her heart of stone or will her past be too much for him to handle, leaving them both on the wayside?
Shannon (S. I.) Hayes has been telling tales for so long as she has been able to talk, and began writing them down shortly thereafter. She is the singular author of the In Dreams... Series, and a Paranormal Historical Romance called Centuries Of Blood: Becoming. Shannon is the Co-Author to Awakenings: The Wrath Saga, a Paranormal Drama likened to Big Brother meets The Real World of the Preternatural, as well as several blogs and host to her own website. S.I.Hayes.com.
In her own words... I have a mind that is easily distracted and prone to wandering. Tangents are my forte, and if you think my characters are going to fit a cookie cutter shape of any kind, think again. They live, they love, they eat, sleep and f***. I believe that people are inherently sexual creatures and my characters be they human or something altogether else are no exception.
I don't adhere to a single genera, I toe the line on several and wouldn't presume to be a master of any. So I suppose you could call me jack-of-all-trade-paperbacks.
I am a truth seeker, in my life, in my work. I’d apologize for it, but I kinda cannot help m’self. It is my best and worst personality trait, well mostly, being Bi-Polar I guess you could say that is the worse. But I believe that the disorder has made me, well... Me.
I have taken this life and twisted, carved, shaped and molded it in to the worlds of my characters. Albeit with a chainsaw, and it has made all the difference
A Writer’s Mind, More or Less
The 131 Preview Review
Her opalescent green eyes locked on him, surveying him as he pushed his glasses up and back on to his face. “Would you mind pouring me a Brandy?” She watched as he looked at the crystal bottles lifting one then another. Her smiled broadened. “It’s the darkest one…Turns reddish purple in the light. Three fingers deep.” Adorable. She thought to herself suddenly, as she held her fingers sideway to show him how much to fill the glass.
He poured the brandy, and brought it to her, she took it with and arch of her brow up at him. He stood a good seven inches taller than her even in her four and a half inch heels. He couldn’t help from his angle but notice that the top three buttons of her crisp white blouse were undone and he could just make out the outline of a white camisole beneath before she turned from him toward her desk, hips swaying in the tight skirt he had spied her in earlier. It hugged her back end perfectly and from the look of it she didn’t appear to be wearing any panties underneath. He clicked his jaw at the thought. Trying to change the subject in his mind as his heart beat increased.
“So…” She looked down at the portfolio, seeing his name typed neatly upon it. “Matthew? Is it?”
He nodded still standing with the bottle of water in his hands.
She gestured for him to have a seat. He sat down the depth of the chair overwhelming him at first as his legs had not realized the lowness of it. He pulled up before she had time to take notice, bringing himself to the edge of the seat. Trepidation filled him as she flipped through the photos without sitting down, sipping the brandy. She let out a deep sigh and suddenly her height changed by several inches, he looked to the floor realizing she had slipped off what he now deemed to be her ridiculously high heels. His attention was now off of her flippant turning and on her perfect little toes, as she rubbed the instep of one foot gently up her own ankle to relieve what must have been all of her daily tension. Matthew found himself imagining having her in the bath, rubbing those insteps, helping her get rid of all of her stress. Then moving up her toned calves, to her knees. He wondered if she were ticklish there.
“Did you find something of interest under my desk Mr. Mayfield?” Donnella asked abruptly, bringing him back from his sudden daydream.
“I’m sorry, Miss Stone. But have you perchance ever wanted to be in front of the lens?”
“Well there’s one I haven’t heard before.” She mocked, putting her shoes back on to come back around the desk.
“I mean it. I was distracted by you, by the curves of your foot, the length of your leg. I wanted to photograph you before I knew you were who you are. The moment you stepped on the photograph, it was like a bell went Ding!” Matthew couldn’t believe what he was saying. Sure he meant it. He just wasn’t the type to come out and say such things. That was Janet’s job. She procured his models for him. He was the one behind the lens, behind the scenes. He could make the art, he could see the beauty. Speaking to a woman as sexy as the one in front of him, typically left him in knots with a wet dream for later. Now here he was standing in this woman’s office demanding that she let him photograph her.
“Easy, there. I don’t like photographs of me. So you can slow your roll on that. But I do like that you’re passionate about it.” She pushed him back down into the chair once more. “I like these wounded soldier photos, especially the women. There’s something about the vulnerability and the bravery intermingled…”
“Yes, That’s where I was going, I-”
“Shh…” She put her finger to his lips and he could smell the lotion she used on her skin. It reminded him of lilies after a rainstorm, when their scent would waft through his mother’s garden back home, how he loved that smell. He took a steady breath, as she looked at him, pulling her finger away, abruptly.
“Sorry, just when I get on a tangent I don’t like to be interrupted.”
He nodded. She leaned up against the desk in front of him. “I also noticed that you then paint them as well… Why?”
“It’s what I want to do. I take the photos because they sell, and frankly I need the money. But the painting is what I want to do. I use my photos as my guides, rather than having to continuously pay the models. But when I sell the photos, I hope to make donations to the funds they are a part of, they need the help, especially now that we’re not really over anywhere, but everywhere you know?”
“Mmm… I think I could get behind something like that.” She strummed her fingers on the table. “But you’re not there yet, and I’m not really taking on photographers right now.”
Matthew blinked at her, the stunned look on his face apparent. “You kept me out there for three hours to tell me, no.” The words dripped from his lips with a tremble of anger he could not hold back. “You could have let me leave with my pride intact.” He stood his fist balled, hands shaking. “Instead you give me hope, you ply me with complements. What kind of heartless bitch does something like that to another human being?”
“Easy there, I’m the kind that can make or break you, everywhere. One call form me and no one will touch you. Like I said, I like your passion.” She scrawled something on a post- it note, tacking it to one of the photographs. “Be at this address, tomorrow night, after having seen a razor and a clean shirt for Christ’s sake. We’ll see just what you’re made of, shall we?”
“Well that was an experience.” Sitting in the back of her Stretch Lincoln Towncar, Donnella kicked off her shoes, rubbing the back of her heel a moment. Matthew sat across from her staring at her with a look of utter confusion and brimming anger.
“What? Was meeting the Mayor of New York not an experience for you? Did you not get a chance to schmooze properly?” She laughed. “Do you know how many people would have killed to be on that guest list tonight and get in for even half the time you got?”
“Yeah? Well I don’t like being used. And what was all that I found him, bull shit. I recall I walked into your gallery with an earned appointment from my University’s allotment. I’m not just some rat off the street like you were making it sound.”
“Semantics, my way sounds better.”
“Your way sounds like we have an agreement, which as you so poignantly put it last night, you’re not taking on photographers, or are you too smashed to remember?”
“You’ve got some balls on you, boy. That’s twice you’ve insulted me to my face, in as many days…” Her eyes darkened as she crossed her legs tapping the glass. The car stopped. The door opened, and to Matthew’s surprise it had begun to rain. “Now you have a choice. Mister Mayfield. You can apologize for your rudeness to me, and hear what I propose to be a very good thing for us both, or you can get the fuck out of my car and take your chances in the cold.”
He stared at her wide eyed a moment looking outside at the two men in suits waiting for his decision, he looked back at her, she did not look at him, merely picked at her manicure with a shake of her foot.
“Time is money, Mister Mayfield and you are costing me both. In or out, final offer.”
I’m going to regret this. He thought to himself as he reached out grabbed the car door pulled it closed and locked himself inside with the dragon.
She was late, or maybe it was just that he had come early, but Matthew couldn’t help but feel as though he were being stood up. It was already ten to eight and no word had come from Donnella as to her whereabouts. Harold had made a point of making sure he was at Jacoby’s for a seven-thirty reservation, and yet here he was still holding up the bar, on his third beer waiting for a woman with apparently no concept of time. Was she playing with him yet again? Watching to see just how long he’d hold out before leaving, once more? Harold had let that cat out of the bag while they were having him measured for several pairs of new slacks at one of the shops. The night in the gallery had been a test of his resolve, if he had left he’d have lost his shot. His desperation had paid off, or at least it was beginning to if Donnella would just show up.
“Hi.” Her voice caught in his ear as her hand wrapped around his shoulder delicately. He turned and looked into her eyes. She looked beautiful, but tired. Her usually light make up was patted on just a little heavier to cover the darkened circles around her just puffy eyes. Most men wouldn’t have noticed, but Matthew wasn’t most men. He had an eye for these things.
“Are you alright?” Concern filled him where annoyance had only moments ago begun to creep.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” She pushed a stray hair back from her face, and handed her coat to the doorman. “Let’s get some food, I’m starving.” The maître d' met them at a flick of her wrist and they were seated. “He’ll take another of whatever he’s been drinking, and I’ll take a Bourbon, rocks, make sure it’s Jefferson’s.” She went to pull out her chair to find Matthew already at its place. She hesitated a moment, as though it broke her concentration, then nodded sitting down.
Matthew wondered if it had been so long that a man had done anything for her, rather than her constantly doing for them. What kind of assholes has she been dealing with? He sat across from her with an easy smile. He had something of a buzz already and was certainly looking forward to some food to calm it down. They had a full menu, but the prices made his eyes bulge. $95.00 for a 12 oz. steak, potato and a small house salad. He shifted uncomfortably, it was her dime, but still, for that kind of money he could stuff her full of good foods and they wouldn’t have had to put on all the airs, or leave a tip for lousy service.
“What looks good?” His silence drew her attention. “Something wrong?” She asked looking over the top of the menu.
“Nothing’s wrong, I just don’t usually do these kinds of places, the overpriced…” He trailed off, looking back down as she raised an eyebrow at him with a smirk.
“You really are adorable. What would you rather do? It’s after eight, most places are crammed full of people and I already have the reservation. I went through a lot of trouble to get it too. It’s not easy to get in here on short notice.” Her tone was shortened, and he could see the temper beginning to rise up in her. The last thing he wanted to do was have a fight with her, especially in public.
He looked down at the table then stood up pulling out his wallet. He tossed two crisp hundreds onto the table. And put out his hand. “C’mon. Let’s get out of here.”
She stood up, glancing about, a few people looked up, but most seemed to be minding their own business. Letting his large hand eclipse her own she let him lead her back through the restaurant and to the front doors. They retrieved their coats and stepped out into the street. The weather reports talked of possible snow and you could almost taste it in the air. He pulled her in close as they waited for her car, she nuzzled into him as his strong arms held her tightly.
“Where are we going?” She asked almost drowsily as the car pulled up and the driver opened the door.
“Just get in. I got this.” He sided the driver whispering something and he nodded as Matthew climbed in to the car as well.
She cozied up against him, putting a leg over his knee, and he put an arm around her. With a smile she stretched up to him. “I forgot to kiss you hello.” She licked her lips slightly palming his smooth chin to bring his mouth down to meet her own. He kissed her lightly, then pulled back.
“Are you cross with me?” She asked trying to sit up, but he held her against him firmly.
“Not at all, you just look tired. Rest a bit. It’s a little while to our destination, and I’d like you alert by then.” He smirked running a finger along her ribcage.