Laura Haley-McNeil

9/24/19, When Love Whispers


Hello, Everyone!

At long last, my next book, When Love Whispers, Book 2 of the Beaumont Brides Series, is ready to be released. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book for many reasons. I fell in love with characters, and was sorry when I had to bid them goodbye. The book is set in one of my favorite cities⸻Charleston, South Carolina!

Beaumont Brides Series

I’ve included the blurb, a sample of the 1st chapter, and a link for preorders in this blog. I hope you love this book!


When Love Whispers

Sometimes, love comes in packages.

As the top ranked student at Charleston’s military academy, Preston Lowe excels in class, in sports and with women. Only Willow Dockery, a barmaid at the city’s trendy nightclub, sees the pain in his eyes when he’s out with friends having a good time. But Willow doesn’t know how Preston inwardly struggles to forget a past that could derail the career he’s worked hard to achieve.

Willow wrestles with her own secrets. After a disastrous relationship leaves her broke and disillusioned, she vows never to let anyone rob her of her dreams again. But as she gets to know Preston, it’s as if their tumultuous pasts meld together into something so startling it transforms their relationship and their lives forever.

Chapter One

Preston Lowe sat with his fellow cadets in the one place he didn’t want to be. He had to have been out of his mind to let his friends talk him into spending an evening at The Club—Charleston’s trendy nightspot.

Music blared. Alcohol flowed. Women wore short skirts. Their heavenly scents promised a night to remember. His frustration from ignoring desires he’d squelched for three and a half years rose inside him. He’d entered Hawthorne Point Military Academy determined to focus on his studies, not easy in a town filled with beautiful women.

Graduation was six months away, and the cadets, tired of studying, declared a night to pursue women. Preston hadn’t wanted to go, but his best friend, Ed, begged him.

“Just stay until I meet someone who’ll dance with me.” Ed stood in Preston’s dorm room his face looking pitiful. Girls terrified Ed. Not good for a guy looking for a wife.

Preston felt sorry for him. He’d go to The Club but he wouldn’t forget the reason he attended the academy. The war had taken the lives of his childhood friends. Preston would remember his vow to carry on the mission they’d started―to fight until this war was finally over.

“You boys window shopping or do you want a cold one before your commanding officer drags you back to the barracks?” The waitress’ honeyed voice was low and gentle and just loud enough to be heard over the raucous conversations. The name plate fastened above a beautifully rounded breast said Willow. The name suited her. She was tall, with dark hair that fell over her shoulders like a creek dancing over boulders. Her black t-shirt snugged her slender curves. She moved with grace when she placed cocktail napkins in front of each young man. The cadets stared at her openmouthed like the sex-starved youths they were. Preston was sex-starved, too, and she would’ve done nicely, if he’d wanted some action before heading back to campus.

He looked past her in that way men learn to stare at a woman without anyone noticing. Most men knew this trick. Most women didn’t. He used that trick now to avoid lusting over a woman he would convince himself he didn’t want.

“I’ll have a beer.” Ed didn’t look the waitress in the eye. Instead, his gaze shifted to the floor covered with spillage and scuff marks and shriveled up French fries. Ed wasn’t twenty-one, and he shouldn’t have come with them.

“Honey, you’re not old enough to look at a beer let alone drink one.” Willow tipped her head at Ed and propped her tray against one hip. Amusement flashed in her dark eyes.

Ed’s face turned red like it always did when he lied. “I’m old enough. Tell her, Preston.”

The waitress tilted her chin and swung her gaze to Preston. Something flickered across her lovely face before a closed look fell into place.

Preston leaned his head toward her. She bent to him. Her sweet scent was intoxicating and stimulating, and it was all he could do to keep from pushing his fingers through her hair and tasting her full lips that spread into a conspiratorial smile. Blood rushed through his veins. The shock of attraction caught him off guard. Never had he felt a jolt like that.

“I’ll tell you a secret.” He kept his voice at a fake, low level. “He isn’t old enough.”

“That’s what I thought.” She straightened. “What about the rest of you knobs? You planning to eat something or are you going to salivate all night?”

One by one the cadets dragged their gazes from the women streaming past their table and placed their orders while Willow tapped the screen of her tablet.

“Anything else?” Willow’s smile was bright and warm and shot heat through Preston’s chest.

The cadets shook their heads, their gazes drifting to other women.

“I’ll have your orders for you quicker than the babysitter’s boyfriend can climb out a window.” Willow’s smile was broad when she lifted her tray above her head. Before she could turn away, a tipsy college student wove through the tables and knocked her against Preston. With a mumbled apology, the college student staggered into the throng.

Preston jumped to his feet, his hands wrapped around Willow’s slender arms. The scent he’d caught earlier wafted around him and pulled him in like a siren. Was it perfume or the scent of her skin? Annoyance was a hot stream coursing through him. He didn’t want to be attracted to this woman or any woman. He’d seen what a hookup could do to a lifetime goal, and he fought the urges that were begging for release.

He’d expected Willow to cry out, but she remained calm, though surprise wavered in her dark, glowing eyes. She lifted her gaze to his and it seemed for a moment as if she’d stopped breathing.

“Here she is, folks.” Owen, the joker in the group, cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted to the nightclub crowd. “Preston Lowe has found the woman of his dreams.” He turned to Willow. “Stick around, sweetheart. This is the man who’ll take you away from all this.”

Irritation stormed through Preston. “Put a lid on it.” He growled at his friend. Had he been that transparent?

Owen lifted his hands as if to calm Preston’s rising temper. His mouth opened then closed as if reconsidering a retort.

Willow jerked free from Preston’s grasp, and he suffered the absence of her warmth.

“I don’t need anybody to take me away from anything. I work two jobs and I do just fine.” She fingered her hair away from her face. Her breaths came in short, shallow sips. Maybe she wasn’t as casual about the he thought.

“Two jobs. What else do you do?” Preston asked. Waitressing didn’t look easy. How did she have the energy to work two jobs?

“I’m a tour guide. Y’all come to the plaza. Ask for Charleston Carriage Tours. My faithful steed, General Cobb, and I are the best. When you join my tour, you hear all the stories that never made it into the history books. Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure.” She curtsied and laughed, a bell-like sound, before turning to the customers at the next table. “How’re y’all doing tonight?”

Preston’s body responded to the sweet melodious tone in her clear voice. His reaction to her was swift and urgent and something he’d never experienced before. He was accustomed to beautiful women. She was just another pretty face. Why respond to her like this? He silently cursed the urge that was bucking to break free and curled his fingers into his palm. The sooner he left this place the better.

Ed’s shaved head looked like a red balloon ready to pop. “Why’d you tell her I’m not old enough to order a beer, Preston? You promised you’d back me up.”

Preston snorted. “You’re dreaming, which is what I’m going to do.”

“What do you mean? Are you leaving? You can’t leave.” Ed rocked in his chair. His eyes widened with more fear than if he faced a band of marauding terrorists.

“Sorry, Ed.” Preston straightened his arm and tapped Ed’s shoulder with a closed fist. “Classwork calls.” He pushed away from the table.

“Don’t go.” Ed crooked the corner of his mouth.

“I should’ve left ten minutes ago.” Why had he thought having a beer with his friends would relax him? Since leaving the dorm, he couldn’t stop thinking of the class projects he wanted to finish.

“We hadn’t even left the barracks ten minutes ago.” Ed stared at him like a wounded animal.

“Exactly.” Preston scanned The Club filled with debutantes and the current crop of debs’ delights. Unlike the other cadets, this lifestyle held no allure for him. He’d had enough of it growing up with his mother. She’d dragged him and his brothers to every social event in Denver. He hated the short suits, the bowing and curtsying, and the clumsy dancing where he had to focus on not stepping on his partner’s toes. The girls seemed to hate the stuffy social events even more than the boys. Now he was back in the midst of clumsy guys trying to impress girls. He’d hoped to escape all that when he was accepted to Hawthorne Point.

A sharp whistle pierced through the conversations. Preston glanced at the neighboring table, filled with a group of young men wearing t-shirts from the local private college. A long-haired youth lifted his hand. His hard stare locked onto Willow, he snapped his fingers.

Anger at the man’s arrogance rose inside Preston’s chest. He’d always hated it when men treated women like property.

“I’ll send your waitress over.” Willow tipped her chin at the young man.

“I don’t want my waitress. I want you.” Every inch of the man spoke of privilege and affluence.

His friends laughed. He tipped back his chair as if invigorated by their approval.

“And we don’t always get what we want.” Willow tossed her hair. She held her tray above her head and moved to the next table.

The young man’s face darkened. His friends seemed to enjoy her sassy response and laughed and slapped each other on the back. The man rose and lunged through the crowd. Grabbing Willow’s arm, he swung her around.

“I always get what I want.” The man’s voice was ominous. His eyes glittered. “No one turns their back on me.”

Fear didn’t flicker in Willow’s face. It was anger. She shook off his hold. “Sugar, I just did.”

“I’ll give you another chance.” The young man had the mannerisms of a spoiled upbringing—the bright eyes, the raise of his chin, the drawl that carried a note of amusement. What his drawl didn’t hide was the quiver of rage that rode beneath his words.

Preston breathed deeply before giving in to his rising anger. In two strides, he crossed to the young man and Willow. “I believe the lady made her wishes clear.”

“The lady?” The college student choked a laugh.

Willow exhaled sharply. Propping a hand on one hip, she turned to Preston. “I did make my wishes clear.” Her voice was sweet but didn’t hide her irritation. “Which is why I don’t need you, Mr. Officer-in-Training, to be my interpreter.”

Mr. Private College smirked and glared at Preston. “I do believe you’re making a nuisance of yourself, Cadet. Why don’t you and your little friends toddle on back to the barracks so you can play your war games?”

Preston swallowed the resentment climbing his throat. The male students at the private college never hid their contempt for the Hawthorne Point cadets. The main point of contention being the women from the sororities preferring the cadet balls to the fraternity parties.

Usually, he ignored the jeers and criticism, but tonight an innocent woman was involved. Preston’s breath came hard. His jaw tight, he took a step toward the young man who was almost as tall as he, but whose soft limbs were evidence of his pampered lifestyle.

The pungent smell of fear lifted from the young man. Panic filled his pale eyes. Taking a step backward, he licked his lips and tossed a pleading look at his friends who stared at the brewing conflict with wide eyes and slacked jaws.

“Stop this right now.” Willow left her tray on a table and pushed her slight frame between Preston and the young man. She pressed slender hands against each man’s chest. “I don’t care what you do when you leave this place, but this is an establishment for gentlemen. If you can’t behave like one, the door’s over there.” She jerked her chin toward the entrance.

Even when angry, her voice was alluring and tempting and stirred not a little desire in Preston’s depths.

“You heard her.” The man’s laugh had lost its cocky edge and sounded as if a wet pool threatened to fill his pants.

Preston had heard that tone before from a few plebes, usually those who wouldn’t make it through the four years to graduation.

“This isn’t an establishment for the likes of you.” The man’s voice rose an octave.

Willow turned on him. “That isn’t what I said, and if you can’t behave yourself, then you go someplace where the likes of you wallow in filth.” Her face shone like gold in the subdued nightclub light, her creamy skin stretched tight over high cheekbones. She took a sharp intake of air. Picking up her tray, she whipped around and strode to the next table.

“Hit the road, soldier. Your kind doesn’t belong here.” Mr. Private College had gained confidence.

“Leaving was my plan all along. If I were you, I’d avoid dark alleys.”

“Are you threatening me?” The young man’s deflated pride seemed to struggle for revival.

“I never threaten.” Preston’s voice was low and easy. “I promise.”

The man’s laugh sounded more like a whimper. Lifting his chin, he rejoined his friends.

Preston hesitated. A wave of uneasiness rode through his chest. Mr. Private College dropped into a chair and joked with his friends. An attractive woman sat on his lap and his face brightened. Tossing Preston a triumphant look, he turned his attention to the woman, Willow apparently forgotten.

With a soft snort, Preston shook his head. Apparently, Mr. Private College just wanted a woman. The one sitting in his lap seemed to make him forget Willow’s rejection. Willow, who had moved to another table, tossed her mane of dark hair over her shoulders and cracked a smile at the patrons.

She had made it clear she didn’t want Preston’s help. He strode out of the nightclub. She proved she could take care of herself, he thought, though it would’ve been pure pleasure to take care of her.

Maybe someday he’d have that opportunity, but it would have to be soon. In six months, he’d leave Charleston and never return.

Click the link to preorder today!

When Love Whispers, Book 2 of the Beaumont Brides Series