Monday, August 30, 2010

THE RETURN OF INNOCENCE by Duane Simolke

THE RETURN OF INNOCENCE: A FANTASY ADVENTURE

Duane Simolke blends humor and romance with exciting fantasy action.

Visit Theln, a planet of magic, dragons, nobility, and heroes. Sasha Varov was born into a noble home in the Thelni kingdom of Jaan, but Sasha's father dared to oppose the king's sorcerer, Wuhrlock. Sasha and her family became exiles on a desolate island. At sixteen, Sasha left her island home to buy seeds in Jaan. She stumbled into a series of misadventures that ended with the death of Wuhrlock and made Sasha a legend, known as "Innocence." Never mind that the legend barely resembled the truth, or that Sasha caught Wuhrlock in an unguarded moment.

When Sasha returned for more seeds, the people of Jaan expected her to defeat a much more ruthless and powerful sorcerer. Duane Simolke wrote the short story "The Return of Innocence" in 1983. With contributions by Toni Davis, he later developed it into a novel.

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Excerpt:



The relentless wind whipped the sails as the shroud of darkness that sometimes entombed them began to return. Darkness had descended and slowly disappeared in the same fashion, and at the same time, on each of their previous three days at sea, always around noon. As she gazed at the warship anchored beside theirs, Sasha absently toyed with one of the long, meticulously plaited braids of deep chestnut-colored hair that usually flowed down her back. She often pulled a braid over her shoulder when lost in thought.


Her attention became riveted on the massive claw marks on the ship’s hull. Deep gouges ran at some points from stem to stern, indicating that the ship and her undoubtedly unlucky crew had come across a dragon or sea serpent. By the looks of the nearly shredded topsail and hole-riddled mainsail, the crew barely survived; the tales they shared quickly spread unease among the men who rode with Sasha toward the kingdom of Jaan.


Usually, she didn’t pay much attention to the random vessels that came and went during her journey away from the islands. However, her curiosity rose after she heard some of the sailors talking about it with hushed voices in the galley during breakfast. Now she idly fingered the ornate dirk that was belted at her side along with the scarred broadsword that her father presented to her after she managed to best one of Jaan’s better, younger apprentice swordsmen in a practice session at her father’s small, makeshift soldiers-at-arms school.


Dressed in stout brown leather breeches, cropped black leather traveling boots, a tight-fitting cloth vest, and a short traveling cloak to ward off the sudden, chill sea breezes, Sasha decided she looked rather boyish this morning. Normally, she would prefer the free-flowing clothing she wore on her family’s homestead. However, this mode of dress allowed her more freedom for defending herself, if needed.


Her eyes narrowed as she surveyed the ailing vessel more carefully, and as the sky grew darker. Thoughts of what awaited her in Jaan flitted through her mind. Only yesterday, she had reached seventeen, but she had already experienced more adventure than most noble-born women could ever hope to see. Not that she had wanted any more high drama or swashbuckling mayhem. Truthfully, she really just wanted the peace and contentment that her family once knew in Jaan, the kingdom of her birth. Sasha sighed as a pang of loneliness and not a little bit of resentment at her circumstances stabbed at her insides. She shook her head, as if to dispel the cobwebs of longing that clung to her mind, and her braids fell back into place.


She looked up from her musings at the sound of the light, rolling gait that marks a man who has spent most of his life at sea. She smiled slyly as the young captain approached her and bowed. He was fairly good looking, with light tan-colored skin and almond-shaped, brown eyes that looked rather worldly for his apparent age. He smiled back at her, briefly revealing a perfect set of almost impossibly white teeth. His face was thankfully bereft of the coarse, bristly hair that attached to the faces of the other sailors like an affliction.


Now he’d be an interesting candidate for a spouse, if I were looking for one, thought Sasha, though she’d never heard of a Westerner marrying an Easterner. But she then told herself it must violate one of the cosmic laws, like the one that magic users can’t occupy the same territory as each other, or the one that no one should ever eat meat in a horse’s presence. She asked herself, Who could keep up with all those rules, and what bothersome idiot made them all up in the first place?


“Falon Shin, Captain Ferik,” she said, greeting him in the local Kael dialect. She knew very little Old Thelni, but people of all dialects knew the basic greetings and courtesies from the ancient tongue. Though they all shared the same written version of Thelni, their dialects often made it difficult for them to understand each other. Still, starting with Old Thelni, in a person’s dialect, showed respect for that person’s heritage, and a noble-born like Sasha paid attention to such matters. “Are you feeling as restless as everyone else?” She gestured about herself in reference to the swift yet silent motion of people going about their tasks around her.


Captain Ferik raised an eyebrow in silent observation. “Perhaps it would be better if you were below decks,” he said. “It’s getting too dark to see, and we don’t know what attacked that ship.” His eyes scanned the horizon and the ship sailing away from them.


Sasha chuckled lightly. “Are you worried about me? How touching! However, there’s nothing out here but them.” She pointed to the battle-scarred ship that disappeared into the approaching darkness.


“There’s more than wind at work here,” the captain remarked. “One eclipse is a bad omen, but four within a month can only mean one thing…sorcery.”

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

PROFESSIONAL LIAISON by Sandy Sullivan

PROFESSIONAL LIAISON by Sandy Sullivan

Melissa Gordon, CEO. Her dream job. No man can compete. Until one hunky construction worker shows her what a real man can do, with a voice that can melt butter and hands that drive her crazy. When he opens her eyes to the world of BDSM and takes control, she can't help but want to see what else he knows how to do.

Andrew Novak's on a mission. Help his sister at any cost, even his heart. Someone else is controlling his movements. He doesn't want to use the beautiful woman and head of Marshall Enterprises, but he doesn't have a choice. She stands in his way.

Lissa. Just her name drives him to distraction and past reason. One night in her arms isn’t enough - will never be enough - but when she finds out what he's done, she'll never forgive him.

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Excerpt
STORY EXCERPT



“Who sent you?”

“I can’t say.”

She exhaled with a rush of air and tipped her head back on her shoulders, looking at the ceiling before she met his gaze. “Damn it! Do you expect me to let you walk into my life and turn it upside down without any explanations as to how this all happened? I want answers, Drew and I want them now.”

“Listen. What happened between us at your place wasn’t planned. It just happened. I wanted you and you wanted me. There isn’t anything more to it than that.”

“Bullshit! I sure as hell wasn’t looking for a fuck-buddy that night although you fit the bill pretty well. That is definitely not the way I had planned to spend my evening.”

“I can’t tell you anything more than to say, I did what I had to do. Someone I love is in trouble and what I did, I did for her.”

Melissa felt her heart clench at his words. He loves someone. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. “Her?”

“Yes, her.”

“Do you really expect me to leave it at that? Things aren’t adding up here.”

“You don’t have a choice here, Liss. Neither of us do.”

“How do you fit into all this? Why did you show up at my office to take me home? What about the flowers?”

“Flowers?”

“You sent a huge bouquet to my office the next day. Something about ‘I enjoyed last night more than you’ll ever know.’”

“I didn’t send you flowers.”

“Then who did?”

“Damn it! This is getting nuts. Now they’re dragging my fucking personal life into this.”

“What is going on? Obviously there is more to this and I can’t help if I don’t know.” She touched his arm and he flinched slightly.

“I’ll tell you what I can.” He took her hand and tugged her down onto the leather couch with him. “I found out Mandy had set up your little bath party because I was in the office with Brad when he was talking to her on speaker phone. I heard her plans so I used it to get to you.”

“Why?”

“I needed something from you.”

“Sex?”

“Sex with you wasn’t in the plans.” He chuckled and shook his head. “Not that I’m complaining.” Running his fingers across her arm, he smiled when goose bumps rose in the wake of his hand. “We were pretty hot together and you slipped into the roll of sub pretty easily.”

“Sub?” Her heart tripped over itself.

“Submissive.”

Standing quickly, she moved to the other side of the room as a snort left her mouth. “I’m not submissive, Drew.”

He shifted on the couch and threw his arm over the back. “No?”

“Not even close. I’m always in control.”

Within a heartbeat, he stood in front of her and pulled her tight against him. His full lips hovered over hers and she felt her pussy clench.

His eyes darkened while his pupils dilated. “Shall we test that theory?”

She swallowed hard. “I don’t know what you mean.”

The tip of his tongue ran across her lips and she fought the moan rising in her throat.

“I think you want someone to take control, Liss. That someone is me, babe.”

“I don’t.”

“Yes, you do. You’re hot just thinking about my hand on your ass, spanking you until your cheeks are red and stinging.”

“Sp-spanking?”

One palm found her breast before his fingers pinched her nipple through her tank top.

“Bent over my lap, your bare ass high in the air as my hand comes down firmly on your rounded butt cheeks.” She sucked in a ragged breath. “You’re so hot.” His hand slipped down between them and cupped her mound. “You’re burning my hand through your clothes.”

With a soft moan, she opened her thighs and tipped her head back. He nipped at the soft skin of her neck then licked where her heart beat rapidly. The warm tongue ran up her neck to her ear. “Oh yes, you are submissive, Liss, to the right Dom. I can’t wait to get you under me again.”

His words were like a cold shower, tamping down her sexual excitement in a matter of seconds. She pushed against his chest until he stepped back.

“Keep your hands off me,” she hissed and stepped around him to quickly whip open the door.

He chuckled softly behind her and leaned against the desk when she peeked back over her shoulder. “Not a chance, baby.” The confidence he exhibited with his arms crossed over his broad chest and the smirk on his lips, sent her anger souring almost out of control.

How dare he!

“I’m going to love taming you, teaching you and curtailing your controlling personality with a firm hand.”





ADULT EXCERPT



"How about we find that bubble bath?"

"Down the hall and to the left is my bedroom and bathroom," she murmured and smiled when she heard his deep groan as she ran her tongue across the skin of his neck.

The candles were lit in here too, bouncing radiant light off the mirrors on the walls. Mandy had scattered them around Lissa's huge tub and the scent of lavender filled the room. Drew dropped her legs and she slid down the length of his body. Her breasts brushed against the hair-roughened chest of her lover until her heels clicked against the tile floor. Fingers unfastened the garter belt at her waist before he rolled the sexy nylons down, following their path with his mouth.

Threading her hands through his hair, she held his head against her stomach when he laved at her belly button with his tongue. He slipped the lacy underwear down over her hips and let them fall at her feet. One hand skimmed up her leg and she whimpered when his thumb glanced against her swollen clit before wandering back down the other thigh.

The diamond stud in his earlobe winked in the light when he tipped his head up to meet her gaze. Warm palms on her ankle had her shivering again until he slid off her shoes. When he stood, she grabbed the button at his waist and slipped it free. Her hands found his ass and she pulled him so his cock was cradled to her stomach.

"Mmm…someone's up for a little fun."

"Oh yeah." He rubbed his impressive length against her. "Think you can handle it?"

"I'm looking forward to it."

"Me too, babe. I have a feeling you're all woman."

She trailed a fingernail down his chest and said, "How about you get the wine in the other room and I'll warm up the water?"

"My pleasure." He turned when he reached the door and shot her one of the hottest grins she'd ever received.

"Why don’t you leave those sexy leather boots in the other room, handsome?"

"I'll be right back."

His ass leaving looked mighty tempting. Even loose at the waist, his jeans molded to his tight butt cheeks. With a small sigh, she turned on the water in the tub full hot to warm it up. Her fingers trailed through the bubbles a moment as she bent over the rim to test the temperature. The next thing she knew, his naked pelvis and rock hard cock fit perfectly between her cheeks. Lips trailed down her spine and she shivered.

"I could take you just like this with your pretty little ass stuck in the air." Palms and lips cut a path down her back, shooting desire straight to her center.

God, the man's good.

Her pussy clenched and cream slid down the inside of her thigh. Slowly, she stood and turned to face him. Catching her bottom lip between her teeth, she chewed lightly while she surveyed his body clear to his feet. Without taking her eyes off him, she sat on the edge of the tub and swung her legs around before she slid beneath the bubbles.

Palm up, she challenged him with her gaze and said, "Join me?"

With a wicked gleam in his eyes and a tempting bob of his cock against his stomach, he slid into the water and stopped in front of her, nose to nose. She grasped his proud shaft in her hand and stroked up and down. Eyes rolled back in his head and his jaw ticked with the need to fight for control. He let her play for several moments before he grabbed her hand to forestall her movements.

"This will be over way too soon for both of us if you keep that up."

"Don't want that now, do we?"

"No way. I want to feel that sweet pussy of yours gripping me tight."

Her breathing sped up and her heart slammed against her ribs. His lips slanted across her mouth, sucking her bottom lip between his teeth and nibbling softly. Tongues entwined. He set her on his thighs, his cock nestled between them. Calluses rasped over her nipple almost sending her into orgasm at the sensations he caused. Worker’s hands. No sitting behind a desk here. She arched toward his touch, wanting more, needing more. Her fingers gripped the solid muscle of his biceps when his mouth left hers and skimmed across her cheek then down her neck, replacing his palm with his warm mouth.

"Ah. God."

His moan hummed against her skin, sending vibrations straight to her pussy. One hand found the curls at the juncture of her thighs, sliding through them and diving between her pussy lips straight into her vagina.

"Please…"

"Drew. Say it. Say my name, Lissa. I want you to know who's fucking you."

"Drew." The words came out in a breathless whisper.

"Good girl."

Powerful thighs flexed sending the water sloshing around them when he lifted them both out of the tub and her butt hit cold tile.

"Lie back."

Anticipation and need zinged through her at his commanding tone. No one had ever talked to her like that and she found it thrilling and exciting.

"Open your legs. I'm going to eat you up."

A soft whimper left her mouth. With legs spread wide, she fought the immediate orgasm that whipped through her at the first brush of his amazing tongue against her engorged clit. She threaded her fingers through the hair and gripped his scalp as he pleasured her beyond anything she'd ever experienced. The first rush of her orgasm built from her toes and started to wash over her in a raging wave. He stopped sucking on her clit and raised his head. The tortured sound that came from her lips didn't sound like her own.

"Patience, love."

"I'm not a patient person, Drew. I need you to fuck me—right now!"

The tone of his voice dropped and reverberated along her nerve endings. "Oh no, baby. We do this on my terms. You come when I say you do."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

HIEROGLYPHS by Kit Wylde

HIEROGLYPHS by Kit Wylde

When a new hieroglyphic alphabet is discovered on an ancient Egyptian scroll, expert archaeologist Joslyn Wetherly is called in to decipher it. Joslyn is obsessed with the scroll, and that obsession threatens her marriage.

But soon her life is threatened as the secrets of the scroll prove dangerous. Before Joslyn realizes what is happening, she is embroiled in a rivalry between two long-dead pharaohs, their Egyptian gods, and past life karmas.

Will Joslyn survive the secrets revealed in the scroll? Or will she be the next victim of the ancient feud?

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An Excerpt from: Hieroglyphs
Copyright © 2001 Kit Wylde

All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

Joslyn shivered in the oppressive, summer heat. The taxi, an old Mercedes, conveyed Sam and her to the university. It darted in and out of traffic, narrowly missing pedestrians and other vehicles on the packed roads. Her stomach churned as she clutched the safety strap.

When she’d come to Egypt for her thesis, its exotic culture, people and energy had enthralled her. The massive entrance building to Cairo University, with its white marble dome and beautiful Arabic architecture, never failed to humble her. It bespoke a veneration of learning seldom seen in the West. But the looming university’s white marble fa├žade looked soiled from smog at a distance, and a mantle of foreboding settled over her.

Sam leaned forward, pointing to the entrance steps. “Right here.”

The taxi bumped up the curb and stopped partly in the walkway. Mistrusting, black eyes flicked over Joslyn’s blond hair before focusing on Sam. In heavily accented English, the driver demanded, “Forty pounds.”

“But you said thirty at the hotel,” Joslyn protested.

The man shrugged and smiled. “Forty pounds.”

“But....”

Sam cut her off. “Here.”

They climbed out of the taxi and started up the steps with Joslyn still objecting, “Sam, he said thirty.”

“So he did, but ten pounds is less than three dollars. Besides, I’d rather not waste time in an argument that wouldn’t have changed his mind.”

In companionable silence, Sam and Joslyn entered the university. The huge, marble columns beckoned. She wanted to lean against one and absorb its soothing coolness. Instead, she turned to Sam.

“Why meet here? I thought you and Dr. Yousef were friends.”

“We are, but Ali thought you might feel more comfortable in a more formal setting than his house...at least for the first meeting.”

“I don’t foresee us needing a second, Sam.”

“You never know.”

She studied him, not trusting his enigmatic reply. “Sam....”

“Ah, there you are, Sam.” A beautifully modulated voice broke in using perfect English. “And you must be the Miss Wetherly that Sam talks so much about.” Keen, dark eyes swept over her in an appraising manner. “It is a pleasure to meet such a lovely colleague.”

He said the words with such honesty she couldn’t take offense. “Thank you, Dr. Yousef.”

“Please call me Ali, and I will call you Joslyn. We do not stand on ceremony here, do we, Sam?”

“No, we don’t.”

“Now that we have that out of the way, why don’t we adjourn to my office so we can begin. Do you have the scroll?”

“Yes, of course,” Joslyn replied. She had to lengthen her stride to keep up with his quick pace.

“Have you been to Cairo before?”

“Yes. I came here for six months while I finished my Master’s thesis.”

“I don’t remember you.”

“You were on sabbatical that semester.”

“Ah.” Ali turned to Sam. “How long will you be staying?”

Sam glanced surreptitiously at Joslyn before answering. “A few days.”

“A few days?” Ali looked at Sam.

“Unless we have to stay a little longer.”

Joslyn eyed the two men. An undercurrent ran between them. Sam wasn’t telling her everything, but she couldn’t decipher his reasons for withholding any information. Any questions would have to wait until they returned to the hotel, if she read Sam right. “Well, I am expected back on Friday, but I will do everything I can to see that this is completed by then.”

“Here we are.” Ali held the door open for them to enter.

Bookcases covered nearly every inch of wall space. Books and journals filled approximately half of the shelves. She recognized most of the titles. Many were Ali’s, but there were a few by other noted Egyptologists. A large number of the archeological journals had reputations for publishing his work. The other half of the bookcase held translations of ancient scrolls. Having spent hours of research pouring over such documents, Joslyn knew with a glance which translation belonged to which Egyptologist. Again, he had a mixture of his and other experts’, including herself. He had placed a few artifacts in precise positions that displayed them to their best advantage. And the replica of.... A replica? She moved closer to get a better look.

“Ah, I see you have caught me.” A smile warmed his voice. His proximity unnerved her. Reaching around her, he gently picked up the miniature, gold Tutankhamen mask. “Yes, it is an original. It was a ‘gift’ from the government. I only hold it in stewardship.” Abruptly, he replaced it and moved away, taking a seat behind his desk. “Come. Sit. Show me the scroll.”

Reverently, Joslyn removed the scroll from its protective waterproof container and laid it out on Ali’s massive, mahogany desk. They leaned closer to examine the ancient papyrus. The sunlight pouring in from the tall window behind them cast an ethereal glow on the scroll. Before her stunned gaze, the scroll gathered the sunlight into the hieroglyphs. The faded ink lines emitted the luminous, golden radiance of the sun. With each passing second, the light grew brighter. A whirring sound, like the flapping wings of thousands of ibises rising from the Nile, crescendoed to a deafening roar. With a loud clap, the roar softened to a hum that faded away to absolute silence. Golden points of light danced around Joslyn like a halo in a mystical painting, as if she was touched by the gods.

Everything melded into one, then split into tiny molecules that bounced and cavorted in the sparkling light. It seemed to have a will of its own, swirling as if in a kaleidoscope. Joslyn tottered and struggled to remain erect. Gripping the table, she blinked several times, futilely trying to clear her vision. The light coalesced into recognizable objects, and her legs collapsed. She clawed at the table as she slipped to the floor under the weight of nearly 4,000 years of waiting. Unable to move and terrified, she watched in fascinated horror while a gold mask materialized above her and floated down to lightly rest upon her face. The mask seeped into her pores, and a surge of energy jolted through her. Her body convulsed with the impact. It was then that she knew Hatchepsut had joined them.

“Joslyn?”

Sam’s voice barely penetrated the haze surrounding Joslyn’s consciousness. His face swam in front of her. She attempted to respond, but her lips wouldn’t move. Again, she tried. Nothing happened. She felt pasted to the floor for a split second, and then her soul slipped free to hover just below the ceiling. The silver strand of energy seemed far too fragile to keep her displaced soul attached to her possessed body. In disbelief, she watched the scene unfold.

“Joslyn?” Sam crouched down next to her.

“I am Maatkare.” The thready whisper of ancient Egyptian slithered past Joslyn’s lips.

“But there was only one Maatkare...Hatchepsut.” Ali’s eyebrows rose. “Sam, what is this—hocus pocus?”

With a jerk, her body stood and faced Ali. A fiery, angry, orange circle formed around her, pulsing. Heavily accented English grated out. “You doubt me?”

Both men physically flinched. The voice sounded like sandpaper on metal.

“I....” Ali scrambled in retreat.

“So, you are an unbeliever.” Scornful eyes raked Ali’s slim frame. “Perhaps the gods were mistaken.”

Ali visibly trembled under Hatchepsut’s menacing glare. “N-no. I am the one you seek.”

“Then prostrate yourself before your pharaoh.” Hatchepsut turned chilly eyes to Sam. One eyebrow raised in question.

“I am American. We don’t have a pharaoh.”

Her nostrils twitched in irritation.

He quickly added, “But I didn’t say that I didn’t believe you.”

Her gaze flicked back to Ali. “Up. Show me the scroll.”

Ali pointed to the desk.

Hatchepsut caressed the papyrus. A small smile flickered on her face, lighting it with affection before she returned her gaze to the quaking Ali. “Merit will translate this for you tomorrow. Listen carefully.” With a sigh, Hatchepsut left Joslyn’s body.

Joslyn’s soul snapped back into her body, and she slumped over the desk, exhausted. Painfully lifting herself from the table, she said, “Sam…can we return to the hotel now, please?”

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

VAMPIRE QUEEN'S SERVANT by Joey W Hill


Book I in Joey W. Hill's Vampire Queen Series with Berkley Heat


His blood. His soul. His body. Hers for the asking…


Lady Elyssa Yamato Amaterasu Wentworth is a centuries-old vampire who's been given a new servant – Jacob, a total alpha male unaccustomed to submitting to any woman’s wishes. What really binds Jacob to her are not her sensual midnight hungers, but something far more provocative. It stirs her blood, renews her life and awakens her soul like only true love can. The passion between Lyssa and Jacob yields something else unexpected – a shared history that reaches back through the centuries and is fated to challenge their destiny like nothing ever will again.

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By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this site.

Vampire Queen's Servant
Erotic/BDSM Paranormal Romance
© Copyright 2007 - All Rights Reserved

"Why do you want to become a human servant? Are you running from death? Or are you one of those idealistic idiots who believe vampires are misunderstood creatures, issuing pretentious threats while we cling to the shadows and whine out our angst over our lost mortality?”

The description made Jacob smile. Too late, he realized he should have curbed the urge. He’d been warned her moods changed as quickly as the snap of a whip.

In a blink, the room closed in on him with a suffocating energy. Making the chamber much warmer than the gas log fire, the power raised the hairs on his neck in warning.

“Do you realize, mortal, I could rip you apart limb by limb? Tear out your entrails and take your blood while you watch, choking on your last breath? Don’t play games with me, and do not speak false, or those words will be your last.”

When Jacob raised his gaze, he saw her eyes had taken on a reddish cast as she spoke, a hint of fang pushing over the right side of her full lip. The humanity had disappeared from her expression.

A wise man would have taken his hands off her foot. Put about a hundred feet between him and the threat he knew she was capable of executing. But Jacob knew that would be it. Game over. The last nine months of his life a waste. Most importantly, he would fail her, something he’d sworn to a dying man he would not do.

“I know you can destroy me,” he said quietly, staring back down at that shapely foot. “My reasons for wanting to be your servant are complicated and personal, my lady. My tongue isn’t clever enough to explain them as you wish me to do. But I can prove myself to you, if you’ll give me the opportunity.”

It took Herculean effort to manage the words in an even tone, to raise his attention back to her face and hold that preternatural gaze without flinching, though his muscles tensed in an involuntary readiness he knew would be futile if she chose to strike. “I suspect if you truly intended to tear my limbs off, you wouldn’t take the time to threaten me.”

“Perhaps I feed on fear.”

“There are other, more satisfying meals I can offer you.” Daring or just plain stupid he didn’t know, but going with his gut, Jacob bent and placed his lips against the top of her foot.

* * * * *

Small, fine-boned, cold. Like his mother’s china. When he was little he’d been forbidden to touch it. As a man, he’d learned how to handle delicate things, enjoying the sensation while taking the proper care to keep them from harm.

Despite her strength, which could tear out the concrete foundation of the Eldar if she chose to exercise it, he thought of her as delicate. There were many formidable women, with or without vampire strength. But it was his experience that all of them had a need for love, unless damage to their heart had caused them to wall it off. They all desired to be cherished emotionally, and the art of conveying that through physical touch was one of the most potent ways to do it.

His lady appeared to have some sizeable fortifications around her heart for reasons he knew too well. Even so, he thought he could see a light guiding him through the crevices that still remained in those walls, toward the dark center of her soul.

Perhaps that intuition came from Thomas’s many insights into her. Or maybe it wasn’t intuition at all, merely the rationalizing stupidity that came with a man’s lust. But though Jacob had woken countless times in the middle of the night bathed in sweat, his cock spent like a teenager’s over the dreams he’d had about her, as many or more times the dreams had been about other things. Things that created a deeper-than-physical yearning unable to be assuaged with the touch of his hand on his cock. Only the feel of her in his arms would be enough. He let that guide him now.

Thomas, her former servant, had exaggerated nothing, even the way she made this abrupt transition from haughty goddess to merciless sorceress. As overwhelming as she was, he wanted to please her, to give her the gift of losing herself in her own desire. She was so lonely. He felt it from her like a labored heartbeat that made his own chest ache.

So he shifted his lips to her instep, tasted her there, his tongue flicking along the curve as he nuzzled the sole of her foot. When she placed her other foot against his shoulder, he figured she was about to shove him back on his ass. Or through a wall. But when he lifted his lashes, he found she’d gone motionless and was watching him. Turning his head, he brushed his hair along her ankle before he put his mouth against her calf. Slowly, so he conveyed his respect and his intention, he gripped her ankle and lifted her foot from his shoulder, supporting her calf in his other palm as he tasted her, all along the length of that fine limb.

The gauzy points of the skirt brushed his forehead. His nostrils flared when he smelled her response, which spurred his cock like a shot of adrenaline. Steady, mate. Make it about her.

He didn’t suppress the male passion that made him nip at her as he reached her knee, her thigh. She arched, a gasp leaving her at the rougher contact, and he did it again, marking her lightly with his teeth. Her other foot moved, rested on his thigh as he squatted before her. Then, not content with that, she slid it under his arm, bent her knee so her leg curved around his bare back, drawing him in. He made himself take his time though, nuzzling the thigh of the leg he still held, working his way up in millimeters. A tiny caress of his tongue, a quick suckle from his lips, then that scoring again, tasting her flesh in his mouth, feminine, silky skin.

Always ask permission.

The recollection of Thomas’s instruction was an irritating intrusion. Jacob didn’t ask women’s permission to drive them to pleasure. He took his cues from their bodies, their gasps, the grasp of their fingers. With her response, he felt an aggressive need to prove he could take over her senses. Perhaps it was because she was challenging him in an aggressive way no woman ever had. Or perhaps it was because he sensed against all logic and Thomas’s teachings she needed him to try to take her over. But for the moment, he chose to obey Thomas’s directive. In his own way.

He made himself look up at her. “My lady, you don’t need to tear me limb from limb to destroy me. Just deny me the taste of you now. May I give you pleasure?”

He was already giving her pleasure, on so many levels all Lyssa could think was she wanted his lips to be doing far less talking. But the part of her that still hung grimly to a shred of rationality was reassured by such hardcore evidence of Thomas’s tutelage. She suspected her answer was obvious to him, since her eyes could not help but drift down his bare upper body to the hard and impressive evidence of his own desire, revealed by his spread thighs. His cock was a long hard ridge against the hose, held against him only by the tight constraint of the fabric. There was a small wet area marking the tip as she’d suspected.

“Put your mouth on me, Jacob,” she said softly. “Prove to me you want to be my slave.”

Most human servants were not fond of the term, but that was what they were. Bound to her service forever, compelled by an oath to serve whatever need his Mistress demanded of him, a servant could not deny the true nature of the role. So she used it deliberately, watched his gaze flicker, a flare of resistance. But as she moved, intending to push him back from her, he took the challenge.

Wrapping his arm over her bent knee, his palm hot on the inside of her thigh, he levered it outward. Followed the line of her flesh beneath her skirt with his mouth, the gossamer fabric drifting over him as he worked his way ever closer…

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

UNDER FIRE by Samantha Sommersby

Samantha Sommersby's historical romance UNDER FIRE is now available in ebook and print from Red Rose Publishing.

It's 1917 and Lieutenant Jackson Crawford is in Arabia on an important mission. A seasoned soldier sent to ensure a victory that will secure British interests in the Suez Canal, Crawford was prepared for resistance from the prince; he was prepared for the crude weapons, the hellish sun, and the never-ending sand. What he wasn't prepared for was Harvard bred archeologist turned spy Lillian Barton Drake.

Weeks after Lilly's arrival in the desert she found herself in the center of a bloody massacre. Rescued by the prince she travels as part of his entourage, doing her utmost to gain his trust while avoiding becoming a part of his harem. Then into the camp rides an exhausted Jackson.

In a twist of fate Jack fights for Lilly's honor risking life and limb to claim her as his own. Casting aside common sense the couple begin a passionate affair that sets the desert on fire and is guaranteed to melt your heart. Will their love be strong enough to survive the ravages of war, the duty they've sworn to their country, and the secrets of Jackson’s past?

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Excerpt:

The interior of the tent was illuminated by dozens of small oil lamps. On the floor were layers of lush carpets woven in bright jeweled tones. The interior walls had been covered over in silk fabrics that matched the numerous throw pillows strewn carelessly around the floor for the guests to lean on. There were bowls and platters aplenty scattered about and the few guests present were eating while they watched one of the prince's many concubines dance for his pleasure.

She was not dressed in the traditional dress. Her costume was revealing. The red veiled material was of the sheerest silk and it was lushly beaded. The beads clacked against one another as she moved her body in time to the sensual music. The prince openly admired her curves and it was clear to everyone in the room that the erotic display was meant for him alone. As she neared him he stood up and possessively reached out grabbing her around her waist. He pulled her roughly against his body and crushed his lips to hers taking what was his. As the prince broke off the kiss he noticed, for the first time, that Crawford had entered the room. Without a second glance he pushed the woman away carelessly so that she fell at his feet onto the floor.

"Lieutenant Crawford, come and join us!" he called out, waving Crawford into the room. "Sit! Enjoy a delicious meal with me!"

"It would be my honor, my lord," responded Crawford, bowing with deference. "I have been anxious to discuss business with you. The British—"

"Enough!" shouted the prince. "Tonight is not about business, Lieutenant, it is a night for celebration. You have traveled far. Enjoy yourself."

"Thank you, my lord," responded Crawford as he accepted food and drink from one of the prince's concubines.

"She is lovely, yes?"

"Quite, lovely," responded Crawford politely.

"I enjoy beautiful things," said the prince as he ran a finger down the side of the woman's face. "How long since you have been with a beautiful woman, Lieutenant?"

Crawford choked slightly on the mouth of food that he had begun to swallow.

The prince laughed, "That long? We will rectify that tonight. You may have your pick. I am feeling generous."

"Your kindness overwhelms me, my lord, but—"

"Where is Hessa? Jemal!" bellowed the prince.

"Yes, my lord. I regret to say that Hessa seems unwell. Perhaps it is the fever the Lieutenant had earlier. She helped me ready his tent when he arrived. She is still frail, you know," Jemal started to explain.

"Nonsense! Bring her to me. I wish it so. And have her wear the garments I sent over this afternoon," demanded the prince.

"Of course, my lord," said Jemal, a combination of panic and fear briefly flitting across his face as he bowed to the prince.

"Would you excuse me for a brief moment, my lord," asked Crawford. He stood up. "I have a gift for you that I seem to have left in my tent. I will return directly."

"By all means, Lieutenant. And don't forget my offer. I assure you, I have spent considerable time ensuring that they each have a wide range of skills. You will undoubtedly be pleased."

"I am confident that you are right, my lord, but—"

"And I am quite certain that you do not wish to insult me by refusing," interrupted the prince.

"I was going to say. But the choice will be difficult. I will have to give it careful consideration, so many beauties. With your permission I will take my leave and return momentarily," concluded Crawford.

"Yes! Yes! Go!" said the prince, waving him off.

Crawford quickly slipped out of the prince's tent. He saw the tent flap of the servant's tent flutter close. He swiftly followed Jemal through the entrance.

"Jemal!" he called as he walked into the tent. "What is going o—"

Crawford stopped mid-sentence. He had obviously walked in on an argument.

Both Jemal and Fatima were begging - no pleading - the woman he knew as Hessa to reconsider and join the prince.

"You cannot insult him, Hessa. He will have you executed without a moment's thought!" warned Fatima.

Hessa was sitting on a small stool, her arms stubbornly folded over her bare stomach. She wore white beaded undergarments that were covered by a sheer cerulean blue silk fabric. A matching veil covered her dark blonde hair and part of her face. She was a portrait of perfection, the personification of every man's fantasy. Except for the positively enraged look on her face and the waves of intense fury that seemed to emanate from her, that is. The forcefulness of her anger engulfed him—anger and humiliation.

"She won't come," said Jemal, hopelessly.

"Let me try," said Crawford, gently. "Leave us for a moment."

Jemal and Fatima shared a worried glance, then nodded and left the tent.

"Hessa," he began kneeling before her. "Do you remember me?"

She responded by slightly nodding.

"Of course you do. So, you're not daft. You realize the prince is very powerful, yeah? The good news is that I don't think he's very bright. I can only imagine how humiliating this must be. Well, honestly, I probably can't. But you must push that aside. You must come Hessa. Chin up and all that," he said attempting an encouraging smile.

She turned and looked at him. Not a sideways glance. Not a fleeting look. Not a shy glimpse stolen through her dark charcoal lashes. Her eyes, moist with stubborn tears that she refused to let fall searched out his. His eyes, his heart, his soul, and as they silently pleaded, they stole them all.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

LOVE BEYOND SANITY by Rebecca Royce


What do you do when your destiny is not at all what you believed it to be?

Eighteen years earlier, Charma lost her destined soul mate. Convinced he must be dead, she kept her fears to herself so as not to destroy the morale of the Outsiders who live already with a shaky prophecy as their only guide. She spends her days in silent misery, helping others with their problems, while wallowing in hers.

Dr. Jason Randall is a man used to getting what he wants. There has never been a problem he can’t out think or a situation he wasn’t capable of handling. Until he finds himself trapped in a prison of his own mind, captured by a demon so powerful she can make his worst fears become reality.

Now they are both being hunted by not one but two demons as they lead the slowly forming group of Outsiders out of the darkness and back into the light. The two strong souls will have to decide if prophecy alone is enough reason to stay together through insane odds, or if love is their true fate.
Excerpt:

She had to protect her daughter. Larissa Monroe knew her life was coming to an end. Truthfully, she and her husband had signed their own death warrants the day they’d silently watched, and not objected to, the summoning ceremony that had brought this demon into their midst.

Rounding the corner in the cave Morgan and the others had created as a hiding place for them, she heard Charma’s cries in the distance. Morgan was not as good at comforting their daughter as she was. This wasn’t surprising, Larissa was more than just a healer; she was a telepath. Charma was not yet able to speak-being only months old-but Larissa was still able to know exactly what she needed and what to do to comfort her most precious gift. It was good for Morgan to bond with Charma—even if the child ended up screaming twice as long when she was with him. Their time was short, whatever happened to Charma now, the most likely scenarios were that Larissa and Morgan would not be with her.

They had been hiding in this forsaken place for months. It was damp, mold ridden, filled with vermin, and all around horribly uncomfortable. However, since they’d had to run from the hills that housed them safely and kept them hidden for millennium, this place had seemed like blessed haven. All in all, she’d never been so

grateful to live in what basically amounted to a cave in the whole of her two-hundred-year existence.

Balling her hands into fists at her side, she narrowed her gaze. Her husband would be useless; he’d all but frozen up under the strain of these last few months. If she was a mindmelder, he was a true healer of the soul. The very idea of the amount of death and destruction had all but rendered him useless. Men, who had run the Outsider society for generations and all but destroyed it with ego and competition, were decidedly lacking in ideas for getting them out of this mess. It was going to be the women who helped it survive. Let’s face it, she mused, sometimes you just couldn’t beat a prophesized destiny, no matter how hard you try.

The Great One, the unofficial leader of the Outsiders, had prophesized eighteen children would be born together—they had, all of the children born on that fateful night were proof of that—and one born far away. The lone child would destroy the Outsiders and after that the entire world, if the eighteen could not be brought up to stop him.

Somehow, these children had to grow up. It was imperative. Even more importantly, it seemed, the eighteen born to the Outsiders each came with a soul mate within the group. Someone else they were connected to, whose power would enhance their own.

Larissa wasn’t a prophet—she left that to the Great One and his ilk—but she’d be hugely surprised if Charma and Melster were not meant to be together. Beyond the fact that they were so strikingly similar physically, Larissa had seen in each of their minds. She’d taken a peek, and somehow they were the same. The energy that was generated from their brains that resonated into their souls was strikingly similar. Both of them would be healers, although if Melster took after his family it would be of the physical nature rather than emotional or mental healing. It was likely they would also share a tendency toward self-evaluation that both families possessed. Even more so, however, she’d seen a ‘sameness’ about their auras. Something that told her they were meant to be together.

She suspected that Melster’s mother thought the same thing, which was why the other woman had suggested they journey together. Larissa was going to need Tatiana now. They’d have to be strong together, especially since she was going to suggest to one of her oldest friends that it was time to send their children away. As full-blown ‘healers’ and with Larissa’s telepathic abilities, they fell under this Outsider heading, she and her husband Morgan had no offensive powers to speak

of. If it came to violence, she could use her hands and feet to fight but had no magical abilities that could cause another pain. Because of this, she was used to having to flee.

She tapped lightly on the makeshift door that had been made in the cave to give the illusion of privacy. Illusion was really what it was. If anyone sneezed, you heard it.

‚Come in.‛ Tatiana answered; her voice strained in a manner that told Larissa her friend was stressed but trying to appear calm.

Larissa pushed forward and although the door was light, it felt like she had the weight of the world in her hands, making the simple task next to impossible. Finally moving into the room, she immediately recognized the comfy surroundings Tatiana had created for her small family.

A full size bed sat in the corner, not as luxurious as the one her friend had left back home, but functional and, Larissa imagined never having sat on it, comfortable. Next to it, a few feet away, was the wooden crib Troy, Tatiana’s husband, had constructed for the baby when he’d found out she was pregnant. He’d had to use it much sooner than he’d thought as the baby had come a full two months early. They’d been terrified that the child would be ill and not live long in the world and yet he’d been born full sized and perfectly healthy. Just another oddity that had occurred to make the prophecy had come true.

Tatiana stood up from the wooden chair she’d been sitting on while holding the baby. She held up a hand that indicated she wanted quiet and crossed with her sleeping son to the crib. Placing him down gently, she took a few seconds to adjust the blankets over the cherub-looking baby before moving to where Larissa waited.

‚I know what you’re going to say, and I just can’t face it.‛

Larissa shook her head. ‚I doubt very much you know what I’m going to say unless you’ve suddenly developed a prophetic power I know nothing about.‛

Tatiana laughed, which had been the purpose of the wild statement Larissa had made. ‚No, of course not. Tell me then, did you not come to suggest that we need to run again. They might have just been wolves last night, not necessarily carriers of His message.‛ The other woman sighed. ‚I can’t face running again.‛

Nodding, Larissa sat down in the chair Tatiana had vacated. She fiddled with her skirt to give herself a moment to ground herself. What she was going to suggest was the hardest thing she’d ever said aloud.

‚I can’t run anymore either. It goes against every Outsider instinct I have. We may look human, but we are not. Even humans get tired of running after a while, we lose patience with it much faster.‛

‚So what do you suggest?‛

Larissa almost laughed. Tatiana had always had a way of cutting through hidden agendas and messages to get to the truth within. She wasn’t going to give Larissa a break, even now.

‚I think we need to send the children away from us.‛

There, she’d said it. She’d put that thought out to the universe. Now they would have to see what would happen.

Tatiana scoffed, her eyes narrowing. Larissa could see her friend’s objections all over her face and in her brown eyes. ‚That’s ridiculous. Where would we put them? Who could protect them if not us? Well, in your case…‛ Her friend trailed off, realizing what she was about to say. Larissa didn’t need her to finish her thought; she knew exactly what she would have said a moment later.

‚Well in our case we can’t save our daughter even if we wanted to. Was that what you would have said?‛ Even though she knew it to be true, she wanted Tatiana to admit to it. Larissa rose from her seat to be the same height as Tatiana, eye contact was important.

Tatiana sighed, her shoulders slumping, and Larissa lost some of her anger. They were all under an enormous amount of stress. Tatiana finally spoke. ‚You don’t have any offensive powers. You know that’s true. We all dance around the subject, but let’s just face facts. Neither you nor Morgan can wield magic that can even wound, let alone kill.‛

‚That’s true.‛ Larissa nodded. ‚Remember, Tatiana, even the most gentle creatures can kill when provoked to save their young.‛ Clasping her hands in front of her, she tried to move on from this subject. ‚I would beat someone who came at Charma with a bat until they were broken and bloody like the most meager human

if I had to. Besides, Morgan and I have always thought it was just as important to out-think our enemies as to win in a physical battle.‛

Larissa had seen enough of what stupid brawn and pride could do. It was what had gotten them into this mess to begin with.

The Great One had prophesized that eighteen children would be born together and one apart. The eighteen were the world’s saviors. Each having a soul mate, they would battle the child born apart. He was, this lonely baby, evil personified. It was also said he was a demon, from another dimension. Larissa sighed. They’d seen so much death, so much destruction. They didn’t want to see it happen to their children—even if it seemed ridiculous to think that eighteen children could be born together. There weren’t that many women pregnant. So they had tried to thwart destiny and in the end they had made it come true. Without the knowledge of the Great One or Abraxas, their elected leader kept separate from the religious overtones of the Great One, they’d called forth earth magic. The idea had been to bring the evil to earth and trap it within magical means that would prevent it from ever being born.

Things had gone terribly wrong. She gulped at the memory. Before they’d even known how terrible the future had become the pregnancies had started. Then they’d understood. Now they were running for their lives and the lives of their babies who hadn’t asked for this existence even if they’d been foretold to live it.

Larissa needed to make her point. ‚Brawn and unrestrained offensive powers didn’t stop this from happening. It’s time for us to use our brains and not just our instincts.‛ The prophecy had only come to fruition because of the absolute conviction the others had that they could not lose. The other Outsiders seemed to forget the universe required balance from them as much as the maintenance of good over evil. It was their credo, always maintain balance.

‚I agree with you there.‛ Tatiana touched Larissa’s arm in a gesture Larissa knew was meant to soothe their ill feelings. For her part, she didn’t have any bad thoughts harboring inside of her. She knew who she was, she knew who Morgan was, and that was good enough for her.

The others would never understand. Usually, in the past, if you had no offensive power, you married someone who had one. He or she could then defend your family. But when Morgan and Larissa had felt their connection, no amount of sound

reasoning about what should or should not be would dissuade them from being together.

The Outsiders had always treated Healers with kid gloves, especially those whose abilities let them focus on emotions and mind alterations. Frequently, those select few who could do what she and her husband could went a little bit crazy. It could be overwhelming to be constantly inundated with the needs of others. To actually take and absorb the bad feelings and mental illnesses of another person as your own was emotionally—and physically—draining. Someone who could not do what she did would never understand that strength it took to endure it. Tatiana who could heal physical wounds with a touch did not have to take on the wound as her own.

The others, when they looked at Healers, they saw fragility. They didn’t see the sheer force of will it took to get through every day doing what they did. As far as Larissa was concerned, they were amongst the strongest members of Outsider society. Everyone had their role, everyone was pivotal, but the Healers were the unsung heroes.

She put her hands on her hips. ‚Listen, Tatiana, I can only focus on today. Our children are at risk. We are responsible for that. The Evil One grows stronger every day, even now as a baby. Yet still he could not track the children if they were on their own. We, just by existing, are drawing his attention to them. He can feel us. The children have to be taken away from us if they are going to survive.‛

Tatiana’s eyes filled with tears as she looked at her own son. ‚I can’t separate from him. I’m his mother.‛

She could feel Tatiana’s pain as readily as if it were her own. The idea of not being with Charma, not watching her grow up, not teaching her to be the woman she was meant to be, felt like something akin to losing a limb.

Who would teach her daughter what she knew about the strength of the Healers? Who would help her find the well of strength, the women in her family always possessed inside? She shook her head. Charma would grow up to be strong and brave; she would just have to do it without Larissa.

‚Their destinies, something I might add that we hoisted upon them with that little summoning spell we tried and failed at, are bigger than you and me. They have

to win. There is no other choice.‛ She was being polite. Technically Larissa hadn’t had anything to do with the spell gone awry.

Tatiana’s silence spoke volumes. Unlike Tatiana and Troy, Morgan and Larissa had not participated in the actual event. In fact, Larissa wasn’t sure, but she thought Troy might have been involved in the planning of the catastrophe.

It had seemed simple to the others; if you want to thwart destiny, you have to be aggressive. The Great One had told them the prophecy ‘eighteen children will be born together, one apart.’ It had made them all physically ill, to think about. What a huge responsibility to place on their future babies. It was too big.

Why not stop the Evil One from being born? Why not summon him ahead of time and bind him so he couldn’t do what he was prophesized to do?

They hadn’t told Abraxas, their leader, or the Great One what they’d planned. The old prophet was ill anyway. It had seemed cruel to burden him and they’d been right, the Great One had died less than a week later, and Abraxas had never forgiven them. Larissa had always wondered what the Great One had known and what he hadn’t.

The summoning had gone fine. It was keeping the demon contained that had thwarted them. The creature had gotten out of its magical restraints and had taken hold inside the womb of a human woman and only the Gods knew where.

Veli’s wife had died around the same time as the Great One, and he’d taken himself off in seclusion to mourn privately. No one, save Abraxas, knew where he was, and, as far as Larissa knew, he’d never even seen the prophesized children. Perhaps he didn’t care to.

Tatiana finally spoke. ‚Where would we send them? To the humans? Who would teach them to be Outsiders?‛

‚Maybe they don’t need to be taught.‛ Larissa shrugged. ‚Do birds need to be taught to be birds? At some point, wouldn’t they just fly with or without the mother bird shoving them from the nest? These are not questions we can answer. It might be that they would just learn to do it on their own. Powers are funny like that. They come whether we want them or not.‛

Sitting down on the side of the bed, Tatiana stared at her infant son, her eyes threatening to spill over with tears. ‚I can see that you make a good point. Morgan will object, as I imagine you know which is why you came to me before speaking to your husband. Troy will go nuts. There’s only one flaw with your plan that I can see.‛

‚What’s that?‛

‚It can’t just be us. What good does it do to hide our two if all eighteen don’t follow suit?‛

Larissa had thought of that. Opening her mouth, she was quickly interrupted by a telepathic link booming through her mind. It was an open channel, not a private one. All Outsiders would be able to hear it.

//Much as I have tried, I cannot stop what is coming for you.// Abraxas’s voice sounded tired. None of them had heard from him in months. Larissa wondered what lengths their leader had gone to in order to try to stop the destruction of their race. //I know you can feel them moving to where you have chosen to hide.//

Ah…so their small group of Outsiders weren’t the only ones. In a weird, twisted way, that was a relief. At least they weren’t the only ones so easily found.

//You are right to suspect the howl of the wolves and buzzing of the crickets tonight. It is evil watching you.//

Abraxas could be frighteningly accurate in what he just ‘knew’. He wasn’t a seer…and yet, he was. Looking over at Tatiana she saw that her friend was as engrossed in the message as she was.

//There are too many of them and you are spread out. We are too weak while they grow too strong. I cannot save you, but I can save your children.//

Larissa’s heart beat fast. That was wonderful news. Could it be true? She wanted to be with Morgan, holding his hand, feeling the same hope she did spread through his aura.

//I will hide and protect them. I ask that you give them to me now in the hope that all will not be forever lost.//

Ah…so this was it.

Abraxas continued to say that that they were coming for them and that he couldn’t stop it. They couldn’t lose Abraxas. His death would be the first signal of the end. It meant time was up. There would be no more discussions. No more options left. It was now or never.

//I will send out children where they cannot touch them, and I will keep them safe, hidden until they are strong enough to fight Him and win. But I will not take them without your consent. They are your children to protect, yours to cherish, and if you wish them to die with you then it is not my place to prevent this.//

Larissa could feel Abraxas opening up a psychic link. She understood immediately what he wanted. They needed to place the children on the wave he’d opened, and they would be transported to where they needed to go.

Hoisting up her skirt so she could run, she sprinted from Tatiana’s room nearly slamming into Troy in the hall. She had one focus, getting Charma on the link, which meant Morgan had to agree, and he had to agree fast.

She moved through the cave, finally running into their room. Morgan held Charma close. Larissa noticed her daughter was dressed in her traveling clothes.

Larissa raised an eyebrow, and Morgan smiled sadly. ‚I know you want her to go. I’ve been feeling you think about it for weeks. This just confirms that you are once again, always right.‛

She smiled. This had been the joke between them for more years than she could remember. He claimed she was always right, and she said the same about him.

‚Give her to me.‛

Morgan handed his sleeping daughter over to her. For the briefest of seconds, Larissa tried to memorize Charma’s features. The vision of her sleeping infant would have to sustain her for eternity, as she knew in her heart of hearts that she would not see her again in this lifetime.

Charma had the blondest hair she’d ever seen. Blue eyes that were completely her father’s, she had Larissa’s small, pert nose.

‚Listen to me daughter, as I have much to tell you.‛ Did babies remember? Probably not. Still, she had moments left to speak to her of this. Tatiana’s worry loomed heavily on Larissa. ‚You are an Outsider. You are a creature unlike any other. Although you look like a human, you are not. For eternity, we have worked to keep balance in the universe. Where we felt things go askew, we fixed them. That usually meant fighting evil but sometimes it meant the zealots who push their agenda of ‘good’ had to be stopped as well. There must always be order. There must always be both.‛

She took a deep breath and hoped she had time to continue. ‚You are a Healer, although we didn’t know it at the time. When you were conceived, we made the greatest emotional healer this world or any other has ever seen. You are strong, although others will not know it. Go forth and win. Find your soul mate. Be happy. Be true.‛ Her voice shook as she spoke her last words to Charma. ‚We love you more than you will ever know.‛ She bit her lip. ‚Well, until you have children of your own. And we are sorry we leave the burden that should have been our own in your small hands. May you be more worthy to be an Outsider than we were.‛

‚Larissa…‛

‚I know, time’s up.‛ Moving forward, deliberately, and not giving in to her need to back out of this, to search for another option when she knew there was none left, she opened herself up to Abraxas’ magic. Placing Charma on the link she watched her daughter float for a second in the air before she disappeared.

Larissa gasped, her legs buckled beneath her. Morgan’s strong arms caught her before she hit the ground. ‚You were right, don’t doubt it now. She will be safe. They will all succeed. They’re all together.‛

Seconds passed, and a voice she’d not expected to hear again filled the room. It was Veli Destrand, Abraxas’s right hand man. Evidently, Abraxas had tried to send him the children. Larissa clasped her hands together and shifted on her feet. That made sense. He was so disconnected from the group, he’d be harder to find. Only there was a huge problem. Only three had made it through.

The magnitude of this nearly overwhelmed Larissa. All she could focus on was Charma. Was she one of the three?

Veli requested a description of each of their children.

Speaking aloud, although she could have done it telepathically, she described her baby to Veli, giving herself one more chance to remember her daughter’s features.

When she was finished, she added one more request. ‚I am Larissa Monroe and her father is Morgan. You know us quite well, Veli. Please be kind to her.‛

From the other room, Larissa heard Tatiana shriek. Her son was not amongst the children who had made it. He had just disappeared. Gods, was he dead?

‚Morgan?‛

‚She made it.‛ Her husband stood straight and tall, where Larissa felt herself shaking like a leaf on water. ‚Fate will do the rest.‛

Over their shared link, they felt Abraxas fall to darkness. Closing her eyes, she hardly heard the men who stormed the cave with torches and guns meant to kill them.

She’d succeeded. Morgan was right.

Her life was over. Charma’s was just beginning.

The war had begun.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

BENEATH TRABER SKIES by April Reid

BENEATH TRABER SKIES
A Collection of Erotic Romances by April Reid

Come to the planet Traber where The Sultan’s Revenge turns hate to love, The Dragon’s Choice affects two lovers and the destiny of their nations, and shapeshifter mates in Deadly Desires must overcome an evil curse or die.

The Sultan’s Revenge:
The princess of a captive nation is determined to destroy the conqueror of her land, but hate turns to love—a love threatened by betrayal and deceit.

The Dragon’s Choice:
Shimmara, chosen as the sacrificial bride of the dragon king secretly desires Rion, her bodyguard. Tonight she will be chained to the sacred Bride's Pillar and wait for the dragon king to claim his bride. Tonight, she will die. Rion is determined to fight to his death for Shimmara, even though doing so will reveal a secret that can tear them apart.

Deadly Desires:
When Kayla is chosen by the sultan to be his life-mate, she willingly bonds with him, but conceals her ability to shapeshift. Will she help Tariq break his family curse or become the first victim of the sultan’s Deadly Desires?

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Excerpt from The Sultan's Revenge:

“You have made your choice.” Abruptly, he strode to the door, shot home the bolt, then returned to her. “Let the lessons begin.”

He swept her into his arms, his battle-hardened muscles holding her easily. His mouth captured hers as he strode to the divan. She yielded to him. Her blood raced through her veins, heating her breasts and making them more sensitive to his touch. He brushed away the pile of loose pillows on the brocade cover, and placed her on the padded surface.

Every inch of her body responded to his nearness, drowning out the small voice reminding her she was in the arms of her enemy.

He stretched out on the divan, half over her, his mouth on hers, greedy and demanding. She opened her lips to his—to accept the thrust of his tongue. He kissed her with a blazing male hunger, as if he wanted to draw her very essence into his—as if he couldn’t get close enough.

She couldn’t help responding to his need—to the wild rawness that called to everything in her that was primitive and female. Her own passion ignited. She kissed him back, clinging to him, her fingers gripping the muscles in his bare shoulders.

His lips left hers to press against her throat, while his one hand stroked her skin from under the curve of her breasts down to the thin fabric covering her yoni. With each sweep, his fingers moved closer to her tight, sensitive nipples, then on the down sweep, dove under her waistband and fingered the curls just above her throbbing slit.

She moved her hips restlessly. A great aching need built between her legs, deep in her womb. Visions of cool fire danced in her mind. Dimly, she heard the soft, gong of the metal bowl on the table near the bench. Her captive’s chain bracelet stung her with a flash of heat. Hastily, she strengthened her mental walls against her sensitivity to metals.

In that brief moment, Khalid’s lips left her mouth. He kissed the tip of one nipple. The exquisite sensation flew through her blood like lightning across the mountain skies. He kissed the tight tip again, then raised his face and looked down into her eyes. “You like that,” he stated in a low, thick tone. “Your eyes are dark with pleasure.”

“Yesss…” she could only murmur, caught in the magic of his touch.

His hard, strong fingers circled her nipple, barely brushing the beaded tip. “Your breasts are high and firm; your nipples tight and surrounded by the sacred ring of life the warm, rich color of ripe apricots.” Lowering his mouth, he muttered, “A feast to feed a man’s soul.” His tongue swept around and over first one, then the other needy tip. He gently blew across her breasts, and she made a humming sound low in her throat. Oh, Goddess, she wanted him to do more—to fill the empty place deep inside...

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Friday, August 20, 2010

DYAD QUEST by Ann Hinnenkamp

DYAD QUEST - Book two in Ann Hinnenkamp's Dyad Series.

Aiden Rawlings has had centuries to perfect the art of staying unconnected. For over four hundred years, he's served as human partner to one of the immortal Dyads, protecting mankind from their worst enemy - themselves. But all his carefully built emotional walls start to crumble when he finds Jude Kapfer dying from gunshot wounds and asks the Dyads to heal her. They agree on one condition, Aiden must protect Jude and discover who is behind the attempt on her life. He's only got one problem with that - how can he protect her if he can't take his eyes off her?

Jude is having a bad week. First, a masked madman shoots her, then, two insanely sexy men show up and heal her and she discovers humans are not alone on the planet. Now, in order to save her life, she must team up with Aiden and allow herself to be drawn deeper in to the mysterious, hidden world of the Dyads. Maybe she should take her chances with the masked gunman. At least he's human.

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An Excerpt From: DYAD QUEST

Copyright © ANN HINNENKAMP, 2009

All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

Chapter One



So, this is what it feels like to die.

Funny, Jude thought. She’d expected it to hurt. She watched as a circle of dark crimson spread out from her body over the pavement. It traveled in small channels through the bumpy, imbedded gravel, creating miniature blood rivers. An ant was swept away by the flood. Poor little thing.

Jude tried to move her hand to help the struggling ant, but her body didn’t respond. All she could manage to move was her head. “Sorry, little ant,” she whispered. “You’re on your own. Head for high ground.”

With a great effort, she rolled her head right to check the other side of her body and found it a mirror image of the left. She was on her back, her arms thrown out from her body, her legs spread wide. The force of the gunshots hitting her body had propelled her backward off her feet to land spread-eagled. By some miracle her glasses had stayed on, but she wished she could raise her hand to push them up her nose. Her left shoe had gone flying off somewhere and she’d watched it spin away with a feeling of detachment.

Shouldn’t she be reacting to this? Twenty-eight years old and her life was over. Ten feet from the back door of her apartment building, in the upper peninsula of Michigan, on a beautiful June evening, all alone. It’s wasn’t fair, was it? She searched inside for some emotion—even panic would have been welcome—but found nothing, just the calm acceptance that had defined most of her life. Her ability to take whatever life threw her way with stoic passivity had always been her greatest strength, and at the same time, her worst flaw.

Never get too excited, never draw attention to yourself, never let anyone know what you’re feeling. If they don’t know you, they can’t hurt you, not really. Stay under the radar. This philosophy had worked just fine for her. Until today.

Today, a man in a mask, standing in the shadows of her apartment building had called out her name. When she’d turned to answer, he’d raised a gun and shot her twice in the chest. He’d stood over her for a moment surveying his work with cold gray eyes, the gun pointing at her head. Without a word, he’d tucked his gun in his shirt, took a quick look around, and left.

Why? He hadn’t even taken her purse. No one knew her well enough to want her dead. She didn’t matter that much to anyone, not even herself.

From a block away, she heard children playing on the baseball diamond. Other sounds of dogs barking, a car horn blaring, and from high above her, an airplane gunning its engine, all served to heighten her sense of isolation. Alone. She’d always known when her end came, she’d face it alone.

Moving her head again, she looked at the sky. The sun was setting, and warm oranges and reds trailed up from the west to fade into darkness as they headed east. She had a fleeting moment of regret, a flicker of what might have been, but she quickly pushed it aside. I’m ready, God, she thought to the sky. You can take me now.

A man’s head came into view above her and she let out a bubbly gasp. His chestnut hair fell around his face and neck to form a halo. The fading light spread intriguing shadows across chiseled cheek bones and a strong chin, with a hint of a cleft. But it was his eyes that drew her in. The light from the sunset reflected out from creamy butterscotch, infusing his eyes with a warm glow. They looked down at her kindly.

“I bet that smarts, doesn’t it?” he said.

Jude tried to answer but she didn’t have enough strength left to speak. She wanted to thank him for being there, for not letting her die alone, for finally showing up in her life. Even if he was too late.

Another head came into view. This time Jude managed a croak of amazement. Could God have sent her an angel? The second man had blue-black hair that fell in soft waves to his shoulders. Full red lips contrasted with his flawless pale skin. His eyes were dark blue, almost black, with hardly any white around them. There was something not right about his eyes, but they were so beautiful. A woman could lose herself in those eyes.

As he held his right hand over her injured chest, his eyes lost their focus. Jude felt a tingle in her chest, a slight burning sensation that caused pain. The first pain she’d felt since she’d been shot.

He drew his hand away, blinking his eyes back into focus. The burning stopped. The man stared down at her, a puzzled look on his face.

“Well?” the first man asked.

The dark one sighed and shook his head. “I do not know. I do not think she knows. I sense no evil in her, no guilt from wrongdoing. She had no part in this, or if she did, she does not comprehend what she has done.”

The first man took her chin in his hand and gently moved her head to face him. “Do you know who shot you, or why?”

Jude looked up at him, struggling for enough air to form an answer. When that didn’t work, she settled for shaking her head. For some reason she’d started crying. She never cried. Not since she was little and had cried for days waiting for her parents to come back for her. That’s when she’d learned crying did no good. All it did was draw attention. The bad kind of attention that landed you in the crazy ward of an orphanage.

Why cry now? It came to her in a flash of pitiful insight—just when her life was getting interesting, she was going to leave it. How typical. How sad.

“She cannot speak. The damage is too severe,” the second man said.

The first man searched her face again. “Can you help her, David?”

David’s eyebrows shot up. He examined the other man’s anxious face. “Two bullets entered her body. One went straight through, missing all her vital organs. The other pierced her left lung, ricocheted off her rib cage and continued on to sever her spinal column just beneath her neck. She is dying, Aiden.”

At his words, all the haziness fled from Jude’s mind as fear took its place. Had he said she was dying? It was one thing to think you’re dying, it was quite another to have it confirmed out loud. And how did the dark one know the exact path of the bullets? Even she didn’t know, and it was her body. Who were these guys?

More frightened than she’d ever been in her life, she looked back at the first man, Aiden, and saw he was studying her. The look in his eyes—was it pity or regret?—made something deep inside her break. Some inner wall she’d built between herself and the rest of the world. Even between herself and her heart. Emotion swept over her. After all the years of keeping them in check, it was as if a tidal wave of feelings flooded through her. Longing for a life she so desperately wanted, envy of those around her who seemed so happy, hate for a system too busy to help a strange little girl, and lust, yes, lust she’d never felt until she’d looked up into this man’s face.

All the feelings and emotions poured out of her eyes and shot up at Aiden. He looked down at her for a long moment, his face unreadable. Finally, he turned to David. “Can you save her?”

Jude turned her head to David and watched him sit back on his heels. She allowed herself a glimmer of hope.

“It is not our way, Aiden. You know that. Her time has come. It has been cruelly cut short, I agree, but she has reached her ending. We do not upset the Balance in these matters. We stand apart.”

“That’s not what I asked you,” Aiden shot back. “I asked if you could save her.”

“You surprise me. I thought you of all the partners understood us by now.”

Aiden’s hand shot out to clutch David’s wrist. He drew him back over her body. “Look at her, David. She’s innocent in this you said.”

Jude looked up into David’s eyes and tried to form one word—please.

He stroked her cheek. “The innocent die along with the guilty. It is the way of this world. I do not like it any more than you, but we must not interfere. There is no end if we start down that path.”

Aiden jerked at David’s wrist, drawing his attention from her back to him. “In all the long years we’ve been together, I’ve never asked you for anything. I’ve followed you into countless dangers without a second thought. I’ve done everything you’ve ever asked of me. So now I am asking you, David, can you save her?”

“Why?”

Aiden looked down at her.

Still unable to speak, Jude used her eyes to send her plea for help to Aiden.

“I don’t know why. I just know I can’t walk away from her. Not her.” He let go of David’s wrist and pushed Jude’s glasses up her nose. “Please, David.”

Jude couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This man actually cared about her, was willing to plead for her life. Even if she ended up dead, at least she had this. This one time she’d been championed.

But what could the other man do? She could feel herself slipping away. Besides, she wasn’t sure she wanted to live with a severed spinal column. It was severed right below the neck, he’d said. She knew what that meant.

Above her, the two men stared at each other. Jude got the impression something was happening between them, but she couldn’t tell what. Finally, David looked away and sighed. “I will do what I can here, but I need Damien to finish the process.”

“Thank you.” Aiden looked down at her and smiled reassuringly.

David shook his head. “Let us hope what we start here tonight does not unbalance us in the future. Prepare yourself, Aiden. I need to draw power from you for this.”

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

DO WAH DIDDY DIE by Pauline Baird Jones

DO WAH DIDDY DIE (aka I LOVE LUCI – WHEN I DON'T WANT TO KILL HER)
A romantic suspense by Pauline Baird Jones

Luci Seymour - sexy & free spirited - returns to steamy New Orleans in search of the father she's never met. She finds murder, mayhem, love and adventure when her timing puts her directly in the sights of an elderly hit couple and a con man's last scam.

Available in multiformat including kindle/nook/sony etc. from Fictionwise and in print.

What others have to say about Do Wah Diddy Die:

"When it comes to creating stories with offbeat humor and outrageous situations, Pauline Baird Jones is in a class by herself. A most excellent experience!" Jill Smith, Romantic Times; 4 Stars.

"Once again, Pauline Jones has managed to write a book that rivals anything other comedy writers have put out there for the discerning reader. Ms. Jones' tongue-in-cheek writing style will appeal to anybody, with or without a sense of humor. I spent half my time roaring with laughter and the other half enthralled with the mystery of 'whodunit'. This book is a must read of the highest caliber for anyone who just loves a great book, a good laugh and a fantastic story." Ariana Overton for Midnight Scribe, Murder List, WordWeaving, Tracy's Book Reviews, ebookconnections.com and Sharpwriter

"I could hardly bear to put this book down for anything. I kept wading through dead bodies to discover the tie in and get this mystery all figured out. I look forward to more hilarious reading from Pauline Baird Jones." Five thumbs up from Kathy Boswell, Kathy's Faves and Raves
Pauline Baird Jones has definitely carved a niche for herself in the category of romantic comedy, with talent that rivals the best and a sense of humor that is sure to leave readers breathless with laughter. If you love romantic comedy and haven't had a chance to read DO WAH DIDDY . . . DIE, you don't know what you're missing. This one is a must read! —Reviewer's Choice Award from Scribes World

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Excerpt:

An ancient radio was scratching out a Sousa march when Fern Smith unlocked the door of the seedy hotel room and found Donald posing in front of the cracked mirror with an AK-47 held at a military angle across his chest and a bandana knotted around his mostly bald head. His long, thin neck merged into plump jowls, making his head an uncertain rectangle, with the wispy remains of his hair trailing around three sides. A hang-dog expression adorned the fourth side. His puny shoulders were jaunty and self-satisfaction gleamed from close-set eyes as he regarded the speckled image in the substandard mirror. Donald was neither tall nor short--though he could appear either, depending on where he belted his pants across his beer belly--so his attempt at Rambo fell sadly short of the mark.

Fern pushed the door closed with her shoulder and dumped the sacks she carried onto the lumpy surface of the less-than-double bed. When she snapped off the radio, her voice broke flatly into the sudden silence. "I still think we should have bought the Uzi."

Donald froze like a deer in headlights, then spun to face her. He grabbed the bandana and stuffed it in his back pocket, then produced a wide, hopeful smile as he peered up at her, exposing the gap where his plates didn't meet his gums.

Fern was a tall woman, narrow everywhere but the hips, with stooped shoulders and long arms that made her look like a caricatured bird of prey. Her muddy gray hair, as wispy as Donald's, was drawn up in an off-center bun. Her narrow mouth, having long ago given in to the force of gravity, sagged on either side of her pointed chin.

"Teddy said--"

"I'm sure what Teddy said had nothing to do with the price." Fern's expression gave no quarter. "If you hadn't let Artie lay out the hit--"

Donald tenderly deposited the AK-47 on the dresser top, retrieved the bandana from his pocket and rubbed his fingerprints off the AK's. "His tab, his call."

Fern's sigh was silent, but it ruffled the back of what was left of Donald's hair as she reached around him to pick up the photograph of the target. She studied the face. There was something about her eyes, something deep in the mysterious green slits barely visible beneath drooping lids, that made Fern nervous. She tossed the picture down beside the gun.

"His way overdue tab, don't you mean?"

With a triumphant look, Donald pointed at something behind her. She turned and examined the beat up shoebox sitting on the table, its mailing label directing it to Reggie Seymour at a New Orleans address. With some reluctance she lifted the lid and found neat rows of envelopes also addressed to this Reggie. Inside one envelope was...

"A dollar bill?" She picked up the box, checked out other envelopes and found each contained a single dollar bill. "This is his down payment? A shoebox full of ones?"

Donald shifted his feet. "Ones or twenties, what does it matter as long as it's real?"

"No way there's half here--"

"He's good for it," Donald cut in, adding, "He's lucked into the perfect scam this time, Fernie. You should see him. Dressed to the nines, even has a Rolex watch. Said he'd cut us in on it. We pull this off and we can go to Disneyland in Japan if we want to! And that's just for starters."

"I thought marriage was his scam?" Fern tossed down the box with a snort of disgust. She'd never been able to see what all those women saw in Artie. "If he's willing to cut us in, there's more at stake than his new wife finding out about his other wives."

She wasn't surprised when Donald's gaze slid away from hers, though he tried to cover it by using his bandana to rub the stock of the AK-47.

"He's just had a spot of bad luck, that's all. He needs to move something before the wedding, but won't be able to if she comes--I don't know. It's complicated."

"With Artie it always is." Fern frowned. "Let's just forget the cut and take our fee--"

Donald twitched. Only once, but it told the rest of the story.

"He doesn't have it, does he?"

"He will. If we do the job." She raised a skeptical brow. He tried to trump her raise with a whine. "He's good for it," but his voice lacked the conviction. They'd both known Arthur Maxwell for too long. Of course, only an idiot stiffed a bopper. The fact that Artie was the biggest idiot she'd ever known, she tried to suppress.

A stray bit of sun found its way through a spot on the dirty window and fell across the polished AK-47. Fern gave another soundless sigh. A pity Donald had fallen so hard for it. There was no persuading him to take the cute little Uzi once he'd made up his mind. He was the hit man, so he got to choose the gun. It was even possible he knew what he was doing. It hadn't been that long since their retirement. She watched him hitch his pants up over his sagging belly, then swagger to the bruised cooler stashed in the corner of the room, his knee joints popping with each step.

Then again...

"And when we're doing time--" she began.

"We done time before." He extracted a cold one, popped the top and took a noisy swig. At least he hadn't used his teeth. With their financial hopes riding on an AK-47, they couldn't afford to replace his plates.

Fern crossed her arms. "Not in this state."

He had to think about that for a moment as he ran down the list of places where they had done time. "Do you good to make new friends."

He sank into a sagging armchair and gave her a hopeful look.

"We got enough trouble with your old friends."

Donald scowled. "Don't start on Artie again--"

"I ain't stopped--" She shook her head. "You shoulda popped him the first time he poked his face in the door."

Why did Donald put up with him? What was the deal with men and their crib mates? Just because they pissed in the same pot, they had to be friends for life? Only bright spot, Artie didn't pop up that often because he was usually in stir making new friends. She'd feel more comfortable about the whole hit if she could just figure out why Artie wanted the Seymour woman out of the way so bad that he was willing to pay them to do it--if he paid them.

"I don't like it. Too much that can go wrong."

"It's not what I'd choose," Donald admitted. "But there's logic to it. Really," he insisted when she arched her brows again. "Drive-by isn't what I'd choose myself. But then, I've always liked the high ground." He took another noisy drink before adding, "I've had time to think and it's not as bad as it seems. First place, there's your element of surprise. Look how good the St. Valentine's Day massacre worked." He directed a triumphant look at Fern. "Taking someone out with a bang is a fine, old tradition."

He had to be joking, but a cursory examination proved her wrong.

"Come on, Fern. We can do this. You drive the car. I'll point the gun. It's what we do--"

"It's what we did--"

"When it's over, we're rolling in scratch."

She was familiar with the look in his eyes. A mixture of calculated entreaty and seedy charm, mixed with greed. She was too old to stop giving in to him--or to stop trusting his well-honed survival instinct. She sighed, trailing her finger the length of the AK-47. It was cool and smooth--like she used to be.

Hadn't she always done everything she could to avoid the dreary anonymity of her parents' lives? Their walk-up apartment in Dayton wasn't a mirror of her parents' suburban hell in Jersey, but there were similarities when she let herself see them. Bingo at McDonald's instead of bridge at the country club. The occasional bus tour with other down-and-out senior citizens instead of summers at the seaside. Her parents had never lived wild or gone somewhere exotic. They had always been content with the mainland U.S.

"Enough to go to Disneyland."

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