Sunday, October 31, 2010

LOVE ME FOREVER by Rosemary Laurey

LOVE ME FOREVER by Rosemary Laurey

The second book in Rosemary Laurey's Forever Vampire Series is set in German Village in Columbus Ohio and is the story of physician/vampire Justin Corvus and a blue-collar single mother named Stella. Neither Justin nor Stella expected the attraction between them, nor could they anticipate the act of violence that puts Justin afoul of the vampire code he helped establish.

All single mother Stella Schwartz meant to do was let her son, Sam, browse through books at Dixie's Vampire Emporium. She hadn't counted on the shop assistant, Justin Corvis, being a dark-eyed super-hunk with the kind of charismatic English accent that would make her heart skip a beat. And she couldn't know how close to the truth that was. When Justin smiles at her, it's as if he's known her forever. And when he asks for her phone number - Stella can't help wanting the thrill to last for eternity. For there's something dangerously different about Justin Corvus...different and irresistible.

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Excerpt:

Justin unlocked Dixie’s car, and realized he’d opened the wrong door. Would he ever get used to this? He placed the box on the passenger seat and walked round the bonnet and unlocked the driver’s side. By the time he finished readjusting the seat and fiddling with the rear view mirror, he could have walked there! But Dixie’s caution worried him. She was most definitely not a woman to get overly nervous and if she thought an area risky.

He’d soon find out.

Her directions were easy to follow and precise and her warnings about the area were spot on. As he turned left on to Lubeck, he couldn’t miss the boarded up, dilapidated house on the corner. Now that really did look like a place for Hollywood vampires or ghouls to lurk! The house next to it wasn’t much better but it was inhabited. Two shaven-headed young men lurked on the sagging porch.

Justin checked house numbers. At least Stella’s was a distance down the road. Two blocks down. Heck, he was thinking in the lingo. He pulled the car into the kerb and looked around. Her house was a shabby but tidy-looking house. She had no sagging sofas in the front garden, nor did she have a rusty, disused water heater decorating her front porch like one of her neighbors. Stella’s front steps were flanked with a pair of pumpkins and a cardboard cut out of a green-faced witch hung on the front door. Obviously a witch didn’t mean the same to her that it did to Kit and Dixie. Stella was fortunate.

He took the steps two at a time and rang the bell. And waited. And waited. He sensed a heartbeat behind the locked door. “Who’s there?” Stella asked.

“Justin Corvus, Mrs. Schwartz.” As if she’d remember! “From the Vampire Emporium.” Only Dixie could come up with that name for a shop the size of a shoe box. “Dixie sent something she thought Sam might use.”

He heard a bolt slide back and a lock turn. The door opened a few inches and Stella peered out before releasing the chain lock. “Come in,” she said opening the door wide.

At her invitation, he stepped over the threshold right into a tidy but shabby sitting-room. He held out the box. “Dixie hopes this fits Sam.”

Stella looked doubtful but took the box. “Thanks.”

"Have a look. See what you think.”

She slipped the lid off and reached into tissue, putting the box on a chair as she shook out the cape. Her lips parted as she stared at the velvet hanging in rich folds. She should be wearing velvet like this. Velvet and the finest satin and lace not blue jeans and a worn sweatshirt. “It’s beautiful,” she said, “but...”

Her skin would surely taste like new cream on honey cake. He smiled. “You don’t think Sam will like it?”

She laughed. “He’d love it but I really think...”

He could feel the tug between her longing and her anxiety. “Look, Stella.” She hadn’t balked at his use of her given name, so he went on. “See if it fits him. If so why not keep it?”

She looked up at. “Because it’s more than I can afford!” Her face flushed red with mortification at her admission. He could hear the rush of blood to her face. Abel, help him! He had to will his fangs to stay retracted. He hadn’t realized how much he needed to feed.

“We haven’t even talked price.”

She fixed him with an exasperated look. “I know what things cost and this was custom made.”

Yes, for Sam! She started folding the cape. She really was going to refuse It would be so easy to will her to agree, she was half-way there, all it would take was a little nudge of her mind and she’d agree to what her heart wanted to accept. He resisted the temptation. Somehow it seemed important that she accept freely. “It was a special order.” By him. “But there’s limited market for children’s outfits.” That much was true. “Yesterday evening it was siting up there in Dixie’s workroom, no use to anybody.” Because it was still on the bolt. “If it fits Sam, at least someone is getting use out of it and it won’t go to waste.”

That last line was a touch of genius. He bet thrifty was her middle name. She nodded. “Thanks,” she paused. “I didn’t mean to sound ungracious.”

“You didn’t. Just careful. No one wants to run up obligations they can’t meet. Dixie said to pay her whatever you’d have spent on another costume.”

He should have stopped when he was winning. Stella looked at him. “That would hardly meet the cost of the fabric.”

"No.” She frowned. “But it’s more than she’ll get with it sitting in a box in her storeroom and this way someone gets to use it other than the moths.” Now he was tempted to push her will just a little. “And it you promise to bring Sam by the shop, it will be a great advertisement for us.”

He sensed her acceptance a second before she spoke. “Thanks.” She had a smile that could fell a strong man. How any mortal man had ever resisted her, he’d never know. It made this vampire want to... “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

He wanted her blood, rich and warm and flowing over his tongue. He needed her skin against his lips. “Coffee would be brilliant.”

She brought the box with her as she led the way into the kitchen, a bright room with a tall bay window. Justin sat in the chair she offered, glanced out of the window at a sand pit and swing and a dilapidated garage at the end of the garden and then gave his full attention to the object of his lust. A lust he’d better damn well keep in rein.

Stella filled a kettle and put it to boil. She reached for two mugs from a row on hooks under the cabinets. “Instant okay?” she asked as she measured out spoonfuls from a large jar

“By all means.” Fluids would slow his metabolism down. And about time too. Of course walking out of here would work even better.

She busied herself, bending down to get milk from the fridge, reaching for sugar from a cabinet and finally taking the boiling kettle from the stove. “Here.” She placed the steaming mug in front of him. The aroma rose strong and fresh but masked by the scent of warm-blooded woman. He took a long swig from the mug.

Miscalculation that. She was staring at him. “You must have a throat made of asbestos.”

"Hot drinks don’t bother me.” Anymore than heat or cold or bullets. Fire could be fatal but... “It’s good coffee.” He remembered to drink the rest of it at a more mortal pace. “There’s also a pair of trousers in the box,” he went on when she’d relaxed a little. “Dixie thought they might do.” Stella was giving him her don’t-patronise-me look again. “They’re an odd size she wasn’t able to sell.” Because they’d never been for sale. “They’re bound to be too big but Dixie can take them in if you like.”

“I’ll fix them.” Stella replied. “Or I’ll end up owing for alterations as well as the costume.”

That was her acceptance as well as her bid for independence and Justin acknowledged it with a smile. “Think they’ll fit him?” Dixie had assured him they were far too big, but wearable under the cape and the mismatched sizes would reinforce their fable of stray garments just hanging around the place.

Stella fetched the box. Putting the cape over the back of a spare chair, she pulled out the trousers. “Yes, they are a bit big,” she said holding them up, “but that’s soon taken care off. The waist’s elastic and I can turn them up.” She folded them away and then picked up the cape, her hands stoking the velvet as she folded it carefully. “They really are beautiful,” she said. “Sam will be thrilled. Thanks.” She smiled.

It was the sort of smile to shatter a man’s mind or exalt his soul or send a vampire’s thoughts down forbidden avenues. She was prospective sustenance not solace. “You’ll come by the shop on Beggars’ Night?”

“You bet!” She glanced at his now-empty mug. “Want another coffee?”

"No thank you. I...” A great crash from outside stopped him.

“What’s that?” It sounded like a small explosion but surely not...

Stella had jumped up and now frowned out of the window.“It’s those no-good, Day boys!”

Children were doing this? “What did they do?”

"Throwing bottles and trash at my garage.” She shook her head. “Do it all the time. They...” She was interrupted by a great shout from behind her house and another smash.

“Not any more they won’t!” Justin said, racing out the back door and down the garden. Without pausing to think, he vaulted the sagging chain fence. He landed just feet from one youth and inches from another.

The shorter scowled at Justin, the taller, presumably older one, drew his arm back, a glass jar clutched in his fist. A mass of broken glass and stones decorated the ground. “Stop that!” Justin said.

The younger one laughed and bent to pick up a bottle from the bag at his feet. “You gonna stop me, white man?”

"Yes.” It was ludicrously easy. Their minds had the substance of sawdust. The older one lowered his arm to let the bottle dangle. The younger stood up and blinked. They were children. Wrecking havoc. He relaxed his hold on their minds, just a little. “Why aren’t you at school?”

The older one shrugged. “Sid got suspended. I ain’t gonna go if he in’t there to look out for me.”

Familial solidarity was admirable enough but vandalism didn’t seem quite the way to nurture it. “I see.” It was a lie, he didn’t. Any more than he’d ever understood the innumerable acts of vandalism he’d witnessed over the centuries. He’d never had an answer before and didn’t expect one now. He held both boys in his thrall. “You've a free day. Good. You’ll spend it picking up every shard of glass here, and when you’re finished clear the rest of the rubbish from the alley.”

The both nodded mutely and at his signal, repeated his directions. “When you pick up, Justin went one,” Put everything in that bin over there.” He directed their attention to a weelie bin leaning crookedly against the fence. “And you will never bother this house again. Is that understood?”

They nodded “Yes.” The younger one surprised Justin by adding, “Sir.”

“Good.” He left them bending and retrieving what looked like several months worth of smashed bottles and rusted tin cans and turned back towards the house. Stella was standing halfway down the patch of yellowed grass, staring open-mouthed. He was stuck simultaneously by her beauty and his own stupidity. What was wrong with his reasoning? He’d raced out her house and leapt the fence without thinking. He never flaunted his strength before mortals. Well, he had now! “Mrs. Schwartz,” he called. “Don’t worry! They won’t annoy you any more.”

She looked as if she wanted to believe but hesitated. “Those boys are nothing but trouble!”

“Not any more. Do you have any bin liners? They’ve a lot to pick up.”

That distracted her .. a little. “Bin liners?” Her brows creased. “You mean trash bags?” She went back to the house and returned with a couple of heavy green plastic bags. “Think this will do?”

They did beautifully and with Justin giving their sullen brains a nudge the two miscreants accepted then with thanks and offered abject apologies and assurances they’d never offend again. The youngest even added a hesitant “M’am”. Perhaps there was hope for him after all.

Back in the house that Stella turned to Justin. “Who are you? Superman or an Olympic athlete, the way you jumped over that fence?”

Better make her forget. “Stella,” he whispered and pulled her will to his. This was one strong-minded woman! It took power to enter her thoughts. He glimpsed more anxieties and worries more than a woman should bear. He needed to do something about them. Later. He skimmed off the memory of his race down the garden and leap over the gate. “Not to worry,” he said as he released her mind and she blinked up at him. The unexpected vulnerability in her eyes undid him. That and the heady scent of her lifeblood racing thorough her veins. Lust rose like a wild force and without thinking, he threw a full power glamor over her.

She was soft, warm and alive and he pulled her compliant body into his arms. He resisted the urge to caress her breasts and the lush warmth of her woman’s curves. Not now! Not ever! He’d taste her blood and thus slake his need and the raging desire he barely kept in reign. Taste her! No more. He brushed her honey-colored hair off her face and lifted her shoulders so her head hung back, offering her soft white throat. He pulled down the neck of her sweat shirt and gently her lapped her skin, savoring her living taste. When she was utterly relaxed and let out a little whimper of pleasure, he nipped.

Never in all his born or dead days had he tasted such richness. Her sweet thick blood flowed through his lips, warming his mouth and a heart long hurt. He sucked, knowing he should stop soon but needing the solace and comfort of her warmth and life.

He forced his lips off her and slowly licked the wound to seal it. The mark was hidden by her sweatshirt and in a few hours would fade completely. He smoothed her hair forward and sat her in a chair. Only then did he remove the glamor.

“Whee!” Stella shook her head and ran her hands through her hair. She looked around, frowning as it registered she was sitting down. “What...?” she began.

“You got a bit woozy,” Justin lied, despising himself but knowing the truth was impossible. And she probably was woozy after all he’d taken. “The last few minutes were a bit stressful.”

© 2004 Rosemary Laurey - all rights reserved

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KISS ME FOREVER by Rosemary Laurey

KISS ME FOREVER - The first book in Rosemary Laurey's Forever Vampire series.


If there is one thing Dixie LePage does not need in her life, it's complications. And the man sitting across the table from her in a crowded English pub is a major complication. For starters, there's the broad shoulders. The slightly amused smirk. That smoldering look that makes it impossible to concentrate. No doubt about it, the guy is hot and sexy. Of course, there is one wee little problem: He claims to be a vampire named Christopher Marlowe, as in The Christopher Marlowe, famous playwright, contemporary of Will Shakespeare. Amend that to hot, sexy, and totally insane.

So why can't Dixie seem to resist the warmth of Christopher's charm, the protective feel of his strong hands, or the tempting pull of his full mouth when the sun goes down...?

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The lights from the Barley Mow and the moon shimmering on the pond gave Dixie a clear view. It would be an easy walk to cross the Green and circle back to Miss Reade’s. The dry, well-trodden path skirted around the water’s edge and joined the lane near three tile-hung cottages with neat hedges and lighted front doors. Turning right, Dixie followed the curve of the lane.

Five, modern brightly lit houses, caught her attention with glimpses of flickering TV screens and a woman filling a kettle at a sink. The path ended and the road narrowed past a clump of trees that cast ragged shadows over the lane. Something fast and warm scuttled inches from Dixie’s feet. Tempted to abandon what now seemed like a crazy moonlight hike, Dixie glanced back across the Green and realized the Barley Mow was a good hundred yards away. She had to be near Orchard House. She’d tramped this far. She wasn’t going back. If she walked in the middle of the lane, she’d avoid four-footed nocturnals and tree roots.

Then she heard the owls. Two of them, calling back and forth like a pair of feathered Harpies. Nothing like it to add a bit atmosphere. She was alone, in the dark, on a deserted country lane, in a foreign country, looking for a house she’d never seen.

Dixie willed courage, marched round the next curve, and stopped. This was her house. She knew it.

She peered through high wrought-iron gates. A gravel path led past shadows of overgrown shrubs to a square, brick house where moonlight flickered on long sash windows. Paint and rust flaked in her hands as she shook the gate. The chain clanked like Marley’s ghost, rattled and fell to the ground. Budging the gate took more effort. Either the gate had sunk or the drive risen in the past months. The hinges complained but a few hard shoves opened the gate enough to slip in sideways. Dixie stood on the gravel driveway and surveyed her property. Even in the dark, she could see she owned an elegant house. Eight, double hung windows were set in a beautifully proportioned facade and four dormers rose from the roof. A dark shadow of a front door stood at the end of the uneven path ahead and the gravel drive circled behind the house. It could have been the set for Sense and Sensibility. And it was hers. Complete with moonlight.

In an upstairs window, on the far right a light flickered. It wasn’t moonlight.

A burglar. In her house.

Fired by righteous indignation, Dixie raced up the steps to the front door and tugged the iron loop of the bell pull. Loud chimes echoed through the silent house. Standing on the step, Dixie watched the light disappear and then...nothing. What did she expect? Someone to answer the door bell?

Even the owls had gone quiet. Nothing moved in the night. Dixie half-convinced herself she’d imagined the light when a door banged. Twice. A loud cuss word echoed through the night quiet.

Cautious now, keeping to the overgrown grass, Dixie crept round the side of the house. It was a whole lot bigger than it looked from the front. Odd corners and shapes jutted out behind. A cluster of out-buildings huddled over by a high brick wall. Deep shadows hid everything except rough outlines and shapes and patches of moonlight made an eerie checkerboard of the backyard. Dixie waited by the corner, watched and listened. A dark shape slunk across the yard.

The intruder continued his path between a clump of overgrown bushes. Fury burned away all her caution. “What are you doing in my house?” she called. The intruder didn’t stop to answer. One look behind and he fled across the grass and out through a side gate.

Dixie chased, racing through the gate, out into the lane and caromed into a dark figure.

“What are you doing?” she demanded, too angry to consider fear.

“Dixie?” She knew that voice.

“Christopher? Christopher Marlowe? What you doing here?” This was a bit much, first intruding on her dinner, then her property.

“Walking home. Are you alright? You’re shaking.” Strong hands gripped her shoulders. That last bit was true. She shook from her knees to the shoulders he held. Dixie stepped back from his hands and looked sideways. They stood in a narrow, unpaved lane. Behind her loomed the high brick wall and ahead, distant lights from the new houses glimmered through the trees. He stepped closer. “Something scared you. What are you doing here at this time of night?”

“Looking at my house.” Had he been the intruder? He’d been suspiciously close but he wasn’t breathing heavily. After that sprint across the garden, a marathoner would be wheezing. “You really live out this way? You said you lived by the station.”

“It’s a short cut.” One hand went back to her shoulders. “You shouldn’t be wandering around her after dark. It’s not safe for a woman.”

She’d ignore that. “Someone was there. In the house. I saw a light. They ran out this way.”

“And you thought it was me?”

How did she answer that one? She still did ...halfway. “There’s no one else.”

“I promise it wasn’t me. I don’t wander round empty houses by torchlight.”

“You think I imagined it?” Let him dare answer ‘yes’.

“No. It’s probably some teenager braving out a dare. The house is supposed to be haunted. You interrupted some likely lad’s attempt at macho. This time I am walking you home. You’re scared and it’s not wise to wander around after dark.”

She let him walk her back to Emily’s. Familiar with the path, he warned about roots and hazards hidden by the shadows. Crossing the edge of the Green, he took her elbow, “There’s a dip here, watch out,” he said. She stopped and explore with her foot. There was a hollow, deep enough to trip on but hidden by the grass. “How did you know?” she asked, looking up at his pale face in the moonlight.

“I walk here all the time.”

Ten minutes later they stood by Emily Reade’s front gate. He waited. Surely he didn’t expect her to invite him in? He was going to be disappointed. “Thanks for the escort. I think I can find the way next time.” She held out her hand.

A strong, cold hand grasped hers. “Take care, Dixie. I’ll be seeing you around.”

He waited at the gate as she walked up the path. Dixie turned and waved as she reached into her jeans pocket for the key. It felt warm after his fingers.

Without turning on her light, Dixie watched from her bedroom window as Christopher retraced his steps across the Green. Had he spoken the truth? Was that path by her house a short cut to his? A few questions or a check on a map could answer that. She watched him halfway across the Green until his silhouette faded in the dark.

Christopher Marlowe paused in front of Orchard House and willed himself to think about the library inside. He wouldn’t think about its new guardian, her copper curls, her skin smooth as clotted cream, or the warm green eyes that glittered with intelligence. Most of all he’d ignore the warm rich blood that coursed though her veins. Temptations like that could ruin everything. With her ancestry she was more likely adversary than ally. He'd learned that much in four hundred years.

© 2004 Rosemary Laurey - all rights reserved

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PILLAR'S FALL by Ben Larken

PILLAR'S FALL - The Legend of Pillar: Book One by Ben Larken

Detective Thomas Pillar had no premonitions of the day ahead. He didn’t know he was about to clash with a sadistic lunatic on Railston's only suspension bridge. In one gut-wrenching moment, Pillar was forced to make a life-or-death choice that left the entire city shaken and set a madman's plan into motion.

Now, months later, it's starting again . . .

This time, Pillar's investigating a string of rage-filled murders, and all the clues point to the most unlikely of suspects - a twelve-year-old named Seth Morrissey. The child seems nice, if a bit lonely, but something malevolent and demonic hides beneath his surface. While Pillar searches for answers, the thing inside Seth prepares for a showdown that will rip Pillar's life to shreds and pave the way the hell on earth.

As the body count rises and Pillar's marriage begins to unravel, he races against time to stop the force that's pulling all the strings. But how do you destroy the demon without killing the innocent child? This is Pillar's dilemma. This is Pillar's story. This is Pillar's Fall.

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Excerpt:

“What happened?” the lady asked, her hands shaking worse than Tom’s. “I watched you guys veer off the road.”

Tom stood up straight, his spine cracking. “There was a man,” he mumbled. His eyes widened. “That man.”

In the midst of the lines of cars stood the man in the heavy coat—no, not just a heavy coat, a trench coat. His frame shifted back and forth like a pendulum, though his eyes were fixed squarely on Tom. Wispy black hair fluttered around his shoulders. His face was long, and his complexion—dear God, his skin looked gray.

“Don’t worry,” the lady said. “I called the police already. They’ll be here soon. Why don’t you sit down and take it easy until they get here?”

The man’s eyes—bloodshot with clammy white pupils. They drilled deeper into Tom with every passing second, and he had the immediate sense that he wasn’t looking at something human. Those slimy white pupils belonged to a sea monster pulled from the darkest crevices of the ocean.

“Just a second,” Tom said, ignoring the fading dizziness. He stepped into the throng of cars, wishing Ross had shown him the photo the boy emailed to him. He had a terrifying suspicion that the image would match the man in the street. His .38 was still in its holster, but his fingers were around the grip, ready to draw. In all his years on the force, he had never gone for his gun. Yet something about this man’s crazed stare told him he was going to need it this time. The certainty of it chilled his insides.

He got in line with the man and stopped twenty feet away. For a moment, his gaze was pulled from the man’s face to his trench coat. The coat was too long on him, stretching to the ground and hiding the man’s feet. Every button was buttoned, and it looked thick on him, as if the man had several layers of clothes on underneath. Tom thought about pulling his badge, and then decided not to. He had the man’s attention already, so Tom spoke.

“Why did you step into the street?”

The man smiled, revealing a set of half-decayed yellow teeth. “Do you know how long I spent preparing the sacrifice?” he said in a gravelly voice. “Three years I prepared the sacrifice! Three years I used the serum. Three years I performed the ceremonies. Yet the Master had no use of my sacrifice. The Master had already chosen another.”

Tom pulled his badge and held it up. “I said why did you walk into the street?”

The man clicked his teeth, baring purple gums. “So what good am I now? If I cannot provide the vessel of the Master, how can I serve him?”

He’s a nut wandering the street. Tom couldn’t buy it no matter how much he wanted to. This man was calculating. Tom’s fingers tensed around his weapon, but he resisted the impulse. They weren’t alone here. People watched through their car windows. A young family with a baby in a stroller had stopped on the walking path to stare in curiosity. A man driving a fuel truck spoke into his CB, probably giving a scoop to other truckers stuck on the Flux. They were all here, all trapped for the moment on this gleaming steel bridge, and Tom didn’t want to set off a panic. But as he looked into those predatory white pupils, he realized he might not have a say in the matter. This man wanted something, and whatever he did to get it might inevitably lead to panic.

Or he might want nothing, Tom told himself. Because he’s just a wanderer. Just a mental-case wanderer.

“Who is the master?” Tom tried, hoping to take over the conversation.

The man’s eyes blazed. “The Master! The eye of the storm. The center around which all darkness orbits. The Master is almost here, and when he arrives, he’s going to kick the shit out of this world.” The man cackled. “He’s going to kick the shit out of you too, Officer Pillar.”

The gun came out of its holster and was pointed at Mr. Trench Coat in less than a second. In his periphery he noticed people ducking inside their vehicles, but he couldn’t focus on that yet. “Who are you?” Tom yelled. “How do you know my name? Were you waiting for us to drive by? Who are you?”

The man’s eyes turned skyward. His hands rose in the air, palms up. Tom noticed the inside of his wrists. Black syringe holes dotted pale skin like swarms of gnats. “How can I serve the Master now? How can I make my sacrifice worthwhile?”

“Damn it! Who are you?”

“I know!” the man cried. “I can give the sacrifice to my master’s enemy. I can give my sacrifice to the legendary Pillar. My lamb will not be wasted.”

The man’s hands dipped to his chest. “Hold it!” Tom yelled, but the man began unbuttoning his trench coat. Tom stepped forward. He was going to take this bastard down. Sirens clanged in the distance. They would be here in minutes, and they could cuff the madman and take him downtown. Tom only had to hold him until then. Keep him from doing something cra—

The man flipped open the trench coat.

Tom froze. Huddled against the man was a small boy, no more than seven. His back was to Pillar, his arms clinging to the man’s legs like a lifesaver. Large blue eyes squinted at him. Tom wasn’t focused on the boy’s face. His gaze was stuck on the row of sticks duct-taped around the boy’s midsection.

Dynamite.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

CATCALLING CATHERINE by Cheryl Dragon

CATCALLING CATHERINE by Cheryl Dragon

Call it a compliment. Call it offensive. The whistles and shouts of hot, young construction workers have become Catherine's latest sexual obsession. To protect her professional reputation, Catherine uses a service to fulfill her blue-collar fantasy and the two men hired for the job, complete with hard hats and hard-ons, do it just right. Problem solved - or so she thought.

One fantasy isn't enough for Tony. Catherine failed to recognize him as part of the crew who remodeled her office. After the best sex of his life, he wants more - their combined fantasies with no services, no secrets. Anywhere, anytime and anything she wants, if she can handle a little reality in her fantasy life.

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An Excerpt From: CATCALLING CATHERINE

Copyright © CHERYL DRAGON, 2010

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

Chapter One



Walking back to her office building with her lunch, Catherine enjoyed the warm summer sun. New York had fabulous weather today and she ignored the noisy traffic and construction. Luckily she wasn’t walking with a judge or legal colleague. It was inevitable.

The hooting and whistling from the construction workers began as soon as she was in sight and continued after she’d passed by. Catherine had worked hard to make partner at the prestigious old law firm Archibald and Whitney. At forty-four she’d achieved her career goals and wasn’t about to let harassing men keep her from a nice day. Still, she’d learned not to conduct any work walking by construction workers.

She simply pressed her lips together and looked away. Ice queen, an unoriginal nickname around the firm, but she took pride in it. The only female partner, she hadn’t slept her way to the top. She’d won her cases and worked hard. Professional was professional and anything personal remained completely separate. When in doubt, she did what a man would do and beat them at their own game.

When she entered the building, Catherine relaxed a bit. Once in her thirtieth floor office, she felt in charge again. The dark wood and marble desk, the huge windows and the legal admins who feared her…this was her element.

Still the dirty comments of sweaty and muscled men hung in her mind. Her body reacted completely opposite to her mind. The tingling of arousal had to be ignored in favor of work.

Unwrapping her sandwich, Catherine spotted her admin peeking in the slightly open door. Catherine waved Sara in. “It’s beautiful outside. Go get some air.” The only downside of her office was the huge windows didn’t open.

“I need to study. Maybe I should try it outside?” The pretty young woman smiled. “Here are your messages.”

“Thanks. I’m not sure you’d get any actual studying down with those construction workers. I don’t know what they think will happen, making all that noise.”

“You let them get to you. Just smile, put your ear buds in and act like you can’t hear them. They do it for the reaction.” Sara shrugged.

“They’re not children.” Catherine wanted to be outraged but the image of many of them, shirtless but for the bright safety vests, wet her sexual appetite. The hard hats. The sunglasses. The muscles.

“Catherine? Hello?” Sara snapped her fingers. “You okay? Maybe you got too much sun. You work too hard. Take half a day off.”

Shaking off the fantasy, Catherine bit into her sandwich. “I’m fine. It’s humid out there.”

“Okay, I’m going to the coffee shop downstairs. Want anything?”

“Caramel coffee. Iced. Thanks.” Catherine handed over some cash and tried to focus on the messages Sara left.

As soon as the door closed, Catherine pulled out her private cell phone. All summer with these construction workers would make her crazy. She needed to get rid of the fantasy or she’d do something stupid.

She logged in to her private account at Elite Fantasy Match and reviewed the fantasy she’d input last week. It wasn’t posted, only in review for her eyes. The service matched people discreetly to fulfill fantasies. No real names, never at home, they used an upscale hotel and false names plus a safe word to break the fantasy roll play scenario.

The service had saved her several times over the years. Always safe and discreet, that was exactly what she needed. A judge she’d dated as a young lawyer introduced her to it. No wild clubs or key parties permitted if you wanted to make partner or be a judge someday. That guy turned out to be too kinky for Catherine’s tastes but she used the service still.

The fantasy was basic, uptight executive woman needs to be roughly satisfied by two hot construction workers. They catcalled her and she had them written up. It was silly back story but it added a layer for her. In the notes, it spelled out what was acceptable and her limits. Her pussy throbbed just reading it over. Her trembling thumb activated the fantasy request.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

DANGEROUS HAVEN by Barbara Clark

DANGEROUS HAVEN was first available in download and print. Now it’s available as an audio book from Audio Lark with a new cover and a button on the publisher’s website that you can click to listen to a short audio sample.

DANGEROUS HAVEN by Barbara Clark

Sharon Smith thinks Walkersville is a safe haven. Still bruised by the loss of her husband, a man she thought she knew until his death exposed his secrets, all she wants is the peace and quiet of small town life.

Brand Templeton thinks Walkersville is a crime scene. He’s returned to Hawk Haven to lay claim to his father’s empire and revenge the cruelty that led to his mother’s death.

Now they must help each other to face the ghosts of their past if either is to have a chance at a future.

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Excerpt:


In the mansion, Brand opened his bedroom window to let the winter-chilled breeze cool his nude body. Hands on the snowy windowsill, he leaned out into the night.

Beyond the dark pines and firs of Hawk Mountain, Walkersville nestled in the valley carved by the Walker and Little Deer rivers. The town's single traffic light blinked stop, go, stop, go. Like him and Sharon. He grimaced. Why did everything remind him of her?

Was she asleep? Did she dream of those moments in his bedroom, held in his embrace? He smiled grimly at his body's heavy salute to the memory. Damn, cold showers were hell and grossly overrated.

He flung himself into bed and draped the goose down comforter up around his waist, but sleep eluded him. He opened his eyes to the glow of moonlight reflected from the snow. Stacking his hands behind his head, he studied the diamond shapes carved in the ceiling and embellished with fleurs-de-lis.

A tapestry hung on the wall where it caught the light. In rich detail it showed a maiden and a unicorn. In the first panel she coaxed the mythical beast to come to her. In the second, it knelt at her side. In the third, the obviously masculine unicorn had settled on the ground with its head in the young woman's lap. Her hand gently stroked it while in the background hunters moved closer.

Why did he read a warning in that story of a unicorn trapped by the fragile bonds of love?

Love? Not for him, if there was such a thing.

He rolled onto his stomach and thumped the pillow with one fist. In the morning, he'd see Sharon again.

“Tomorrow.” His harsh tones filled the room. “Tomorrow, I'll seduce her.”

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THE ACORN GATHERING Edited by Duane Simolke

The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.

Author and editor Duane Simolke presents an unusual fiction collection. From a scandal-rocked town in West Texas to the Blackfeet Indian reservation in Montana, these short stories take readers to surprising places in America and the human heart!

Join the fight against cancer by purchasing this fundraiser by authors Jan Chandler, Huda Orfali, Duane Simolke, Timothy Morris Taylor, Shawna R. Van Arum, and Bill Wetzel. All author and editor royalties go to the American Cancer Society! These stories range from gritty and controversial to gentle and touching.





Starting with the West Texas setting from Duane Simolke's collection The Acorn Stories, this new anthology takes readers across several landscapes, during times of trouble, change, hope, and triumph. Edited by Duane Simolke.


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The Acorn Gathering Excerpt: From “Fat Diary,” by Duane Simolke

January 20, 2001
Dear Fat Diary,
My nutritionist told me to write in you every day, until I can come to terms about why I’m not happy with my weight, and why I want to change. I’m supposed to call you my “love diary,” but I’m not trying to get rid of love; I’m trying to get rid of fat. We’ll talk about love later.

No, on second thought, we’ll talk about love now. I don’t have love because I have fat. If I didn’t weigh 260 pounds, I might be writing a love diary, and teenage girls would read it and swoon, while listening to the latest boybands and dreaming of that guy who sits in the second row of their American history class. Wait, that’s what I did at the University of Texas in Austin.


My name is Pamela Mae Willard, named after my Aunt Mae and my father, Samuel Carsons (yes, as in “Carsons Furniture, Acorn’s best-kept secret”). He wanted a Samuel Carsons, Jr. He had to settle with a Pamuel, which became Pamela, due to the mercy of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, and my passive-aggressive mom. She kept “accidentally” referring to my father as “Samueluel,” and when that bothered him, she said she “didn’t give a damnuel,” and when he wanted supper, she said he could fry some “Spamuel,” and if he wanted someone to keep him warm, he could “buy a cocker spaniel.” Even though she never actually said how much she hated the name “Pamuel,” the message came through clearly enough, and he eventually asked if Pamela Mae would be all right.


Pamela Mae sounded sufficiently dignified and Southern for a member of Acorn’s beloved Carsons family, so she consented, and soon began cooking meals that weren’t primarily composed of meat byproducts. Harmony soon returned to our home, and my parents adopted an unwanted newborn baby just over a year later, naming him Samuel, of course, but calling him “Sam.” If they were going to go through all of that just to call someone “Sam,” they probably could have named me Samantha! Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite in a position to impart my keen sense of logic at the time.


My parents were very happy with Sam, who would eventually join the Air Force. I taught Sunday school for a time and, after returning from college in Austin, managed the library.


Our childhood went by with very little trauma or disaster. Meteorites, tornadoes, and general flying debris never hit our house, unless you count acorns, pecans, and the occasional dust storm. Daddy wasn’t a drunk, though he always liked touring the wineries that keep popping up around West Texas. Mom didn’t have a secret past, unless it’s still Acorn’s best-kept secret, to use that tired catch phrase I mentioned before, the one Daddy’s store shares with most of Acorn’s local advertisers. And my adopted brother didn’t turn out to be a space alien, despite my early suspicions; in fact, he and I remain the best of friends. Regardless of how some people around here make it sound, the sky isn’t always falling in Acorn, at least not for our family. I had loving parents and a happy, well-rounded childhood.


“Well-rounded.” Bad word choice.


I grew taller fast during my early teens, so much so that my mom worried I might have some sort of thyroid disorder, and it seemed like I needed to eat a lot for my body to keep up with its own growth. But then I stopped growing. Upward, that is. Then I got fat, and I stayed fat. So here I am, writing in my fat diary. Worst of all, I’ll probably wind up writing about my joke of a short-lived marriage.


I’m supposed to examine key moments from any of my amazing thirty-something years, and find reasons to love myself, all the while congratulating myself for the conclusions I reach.


Do I get a lollipop for that?

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW by Sam Cheever

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW Book 5 in Sam Cheever's Dancin' With the Devil series

Astra Q. Phelps is turning twenty-five in a few months and she's starting to feel the effects of her Settling, the time when a half angel, half devil Tweener decides whether to embrace her dark nature or her light.

The delectable Dialle, king of the Royal devils, really needs Astra's help in Hell to deal with an insurrection. But Astra's Settling pretty much has her thinking of only one thing - S.E.X.!

Sex with Dialle, sex with her yummy partner Emo, sex with a molten-hot dragon slayer she meets along the way, and sex with assorted other randy Royals cavorting among the fires of Hell. It's a constant struggle just to keep her mind and body pure so she can concentrate on the business at hand, but Astra Q. Phelps is definitely up for the challenge. And Good versus Evil has never been this much fun!

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An Excerpt From: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

Copyright © SAM CHEEVER, 2010

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

Prologue

Milestones and Millstones



The Devil you know will comfort bring, though chaos be your friend,

The Devil you wish mayn’t solve a thing, and slay you in the end.



Sometime around 2060, the world went to war again and opened up a whole new can of worms. Up until then humans thought they had it pretty rough on this Earth, with poverty, crime, disease, your everyday evil forces and the general disintegration of morality.

However, when the laser guns and plasma bombs finished smashing a geographic area comprising about seventy percent of the surface of the Earth into smithereens, something eminently evil used the resulting chaos to slither its way into the world. This evil something hadn’t been seen before by human eyes, but had always been there, in a parallel dimension, watching the show and waiting for its turn to join in the fun. And every once in a while, when Earth’s defenses were particularly low, this something would reach across that barrier and tweak us a little. Which explains things like mosquitoes, liver and onions and reality shows.

Devils and demons were never meant to walk among us. But once they’d found a way to get through, God had no choice but to send his angels in to keep an eye on them. Several minor skirmishes have already been fought between the forces of good and evil, since that time thirty years ago when the first devil snuck through Earth’s defenses. The angels, with the Big Guy at their backs, are winning the battles so far, but the outcome of the war is still uncertain.

About ten years ago God started using Tweeners to help the good side out. The only problem with Tweeners is that, by our very makeup, we are some portion devil. That’s why we understand and know how to defeat the forces of evil. But it is also what has made us a little bit unpredictable to the good guys.

What exactly is a Tweener, you ask? A Tweener is a non-human. We have neither wings nor horns, but generally have both angel and devil in our family forests. Which is probably why we enjoy a higher sensitivity to spectral influence than regular human people.

My name is Astra Q. Phelps. Don’t ask me what the Q stands for because that little piece of info will go with me to the crematorium. I’ve had all printed documentation of the name destroyed and, though a lot of my enemies have tried to dig it out, no one will ever know what it stands for. A girl has to have some secrets. Especially when the truth would cause her some serious embarrassment.

I run a business called the Angel Network, which is the only devil-and-demon locating-and-destroying business in the universe. In other words, I kick serious evil butt for a living. I am a Tweener.

Recently the Celestial Army has been keeping me pretty busy saving the world. Over and over and over and… Well, you get what I’m saying. The human world just has trouble staying saved.

I’ve also been dealing with some pretty intense feelings for a certain gorgeous Royal Devil, who may or may not be the great unifier of prophecy. It’s been a busy and confusing time. But it’s about to get much worse.

My twenty-fifth birthday is just a few months away.

The thing about that twenty-fifth birthday is…well…for Tweeners it’s kind of make or break time. It’s called our Settling and it’s the culmination of our growth period. The time when we become what we will be in life. It’s also the time when the dark side of our nature has the greatest pull.

It is on our twenty-fifth birthday that we decide which way we’re gonna go. Good or bad. Black or white. Gray usually isn’t an option. And outside influences have a lot to do with the outcome. In my case, my influence pool is decidedly murky, given the fact that I hang out a lot with devils.

Really hot devils.

Extremely sexy devils.

Truly, stupendously, ripped, horny, sensual devils.

Incredibly…um… Okay, you get it.

Right.

Anyway, as the fateful date approaches, I can feel the changes boiling just under the surface of my mind.

My skin quivers with it.

My body heats.

And my libido… Well…let’s just say my boyfriend’s threatening to go off planet just to get some much-needed rest.

Of course he doesn’t mean it.

At least I don’t think he does…

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WILD WYOMING NIGHTS by Sandy Sullivan

WILD WYOMING NIGHTS - Book one in Sandy Sullivan's Wilder Series

Abigail Carter lost her firefighter husband on September 11th. On a mission to heal her heart, she starts a new life in the prairies of Wyoming. Her neighbor, hunky rancher and quarter horse expert Chase Wilder, makes her heart race for the first time in years, but will she let him get close enough to warm the cold winter nights?

Chase rescues Abby from her overturned car in an accident similar to the one that took his wife. His dormant libido goes into overdrive when he looks into Abby's beautiful green eyes. Unfortunately, she's still struggling with her grief, and Chase doesn't want to push her. Can the two find a way to overcome the past and have a future together?

"If you love sexy cowboys as much as I do, you'll fall in love with the story of Chase and Abby. This story came to mind from a scene that popped into my head of a young woman sitting on a window seat, crying. I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed writing it." ~ Sandy~

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EXCERPT:

Chase buried his hands in his pockets as he slowly approached. Heat swept up his neck when their eyes met. What the hell am I doing here? It’s not like I know her or anything.

For some reason, he felt compelled to make sure she was all right.

After following the ambulance to the hospital, he had parked his truck and moved inside the waiting room until he saw her come out.

Damn, she’s got pretty eyes. “Hi.”

“Hi.” She cocked her head to the side and a smile lifted the corners of her mouth.

Pulling one hand out, he ran his fingers through his hair for a moment before he stuttered slightly, “I’m sorry. I guess I should tell you who I am so you don’t think I’m some kind of weirdo.”

Her green eyes sparkling in the dim light of the waiting room and one shoulder lifted in a shrug. “I’m from New York. I know all about weird people.”

He dropped his gaze to the floor for a moment, and then smiled in return. “I’m Chase Wilder.”

She stuck out her hand and answered, “I know. Abigail Carter, but my friends call me Abby. Nice to meet you, Mr. Wilder.”

Startled, he took her hand in his for a moment, impressed with the firmness of her grasp. “You know?”

“Yeah, I remember you telling me outside the ambulance, but the paramedic in the back told me again.”

She slipped her hand out of his and he had the insane urge wipe his now sweaty palm on the thigh of his jeans.

“Thank you again for helping me.”

“My pleasure.”

“Are you always so helpful and handy to have around as you were today, Mr. Wilder?”

“Chase—please.”

“All right, Chase. You can call me Abby.”

He let a small smile twitch at his lips. Abby. Nice name.“Can I give you a lift home? They towed your Jeep to the wrecking yard.”

She grimaced. “Was it bad?”

“Afraid so.”

“I would appreciate the ride, then. I’m sure the cabs aren’t running tonight with all this snow.”

He swept his arm to the left and settled the black Stetson back on his head. “Right this way. I’m parked out front.”

They walked together through the sliding glass doors and out into the snow. The biting, frigid wind hit him in the face, and he noticed her shivering next to him. Her coat and sweater had disappeared, and even though they had managed to save her long johns, she was probably freezing. He slipped his heavy coat off his shoulders and wrapped it around her.

She shrugged out of his coat and held it out to him. “I can’t take your jacket. You’ll freeze.”

He shook his head and helped her settle it back around her. “I’m used to these winters. I was born and raised here. I’ll be fine until we get the truck warmed up.”

Chase ushered her to his truck and pulled open the door. She slid inside, and he shut it behind her. Hurrying around to the driver’s side, he slipped in and pulled his door shut against the howling wind and blowing snow. The diesel engine growled like a cougar on the prowl when he started it and let it idle for a bit, cranking up the heat inside. “It should warm up in a minute. The truck hasn’t been off very long.”

She rubbed her hands together before she put them between her legs. “It’s not really that cold in here, anyway.”

After a few moments, he pulled slowly through the parking lot, plowing through the snow with the front of his vehicle until they made it out onto the street.

“So where are we headed?”

“I bought the ranch house about three miles up the road from where the accident happened.”

His startled gaze swung to her across the cab before returning to the road in front of them. “You bought the Miller place?”

Her shoulder lifted in a shrug. “I guess so, if that’s what you call it.”

“Big stone fireplace in the living room?”

“Yeah.”

“I love that house.”

“You’ve been inside?”

He shook his head and laughed. “Yeah, plenty of times. I grew up with their boys.”

“You must not live far from there, then.”

He chuckled. “You could say that. My land actually is adjacent to yours. The fence along the south end borders both properties.”

“My neighbor?”

He flashed a smile as he looked across the cab. “Yep.”

“Mmm…interesting.”

“So how did you end up in Wyoming, Mrs. Carter?” She scowled and shot him a glance. “Sorry—Abby.”

Abby’s eyes went misty as she turned them out the window. He didn’t think she would answer until she whispered, “I wanted to get away from New York.”

“I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories. I’m just curious how a beautiful woman like you ended up in this backwater town.”

She snorted at his off-handed compliment as her gaze rested on him a moment, then back out the windshield. The rest of the ride was made in silence.

As they pulled up to her house, a light burned in the window. She must have left one on when she headed to town earlier.

Abby shrugged the coat off her shoulders, but he stopped her. “Keep it until you get your own again. I’d feel terrible if you froze to death walking to the door.”

ADULT EXCERPT:

Air whooshed from his lungs in a rasping sound when her breasts were revealed to his gaze. He sat forward in his chair as her pink areolas beckoned for his touch. Reaching toward her, he cupped her breast in his palm, as she moaned low in her throat. Her head tipped back, exposing her neck to his hungry eyes. Struggling to his feet, he stepped closer, and his lips found the rapidly beating pulse at the base of her throat. His tongue lapped at the soft skin beneath his mouth, until he found a path to her ear.

“God, Abby,” he whispered. “I want you so bad.” He rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger until she gasped and pushed against his palm.

With one arm around her waist, he pulled her tight to his chest before his mouth swooped down, capturing her lips in a desperate kiss. His tongue dove inside the warm cavern of her mouth, dueling with her own, and she moaned softly.

His free hand slipped slowly down her flat stomach and then dove beneath the waistband of her panties to find her wet and swollen, waiting for his touch. Her pelvis rocked toward him, and he let his finger slide past her tightly filled pussy lips to rasp against her clit. He swallowed her moan as he continued the assault on her mouth with his. His fingers slipped inside her hot pussy, and her vagina clamped down, sucking his fingers as he slid them in and out.

He lifted his head and whispered, “You are so hot—so wet.”

She whimpered and rocked her hips toward his hand.

“Let me love you, Abby.”

“Oh. God. Yes.”

She groaned when he removed his fingers from inside her.

He pushed her back onto the dining room table, while his mouth captured her lips in a mind-altering kiss as she reclined on the hard surface. One hand found her breast, molding the soft mound to his touch. His fingers pinch the hardened nipple slightly, and she arched toward him with a tortured groan.

“Chase, please.”

His mouth worked its way from her throat to her breast, taking the pebble hardened nipple in his mouth. He sucked and licked as she wiggled beneath him, moaning her needs in soft sighs and whimpered words. His hand skimmed down her belly to slip beneath the silk of her panties and worked them off her hips. Once they were free, he let them drop to the floor under their feet. His hand skimmed softly up her leg before he drove two fingers knuckle deep inside her waiting pussy.

“Oh, God,” she whimpered when he slid his fingers in and out, finger fucking her until her pussy wept with need.

Removing his hand, he stepped between her spread thighs. He kissed down her chest and across her flat stomach until his lips found the inside of her legs, nipping at the soft skin before soothing it with his tongue.

Her hands grasped his head as she lifted her hips, silently begging for his mouth. With one long stroke, his tongue licked from vagina to clit, and her head whipped back and forth on the table top. After several sweeps with the pad of his tongue, she whimpered and moaned as sweet, hot cum slipped from her inside her. He didn’t stop, couldn’t stop until he had tasted every last drop.

He kissed his way back up her stomach as his fingers worked at the belt buckle and button at his waist. Reaching into his back pocket and grabbing his wallet, he pulled out a condom and stuck the foil package between his teeth. He dropped his pants to his ankles, and then slid the latex over his hard cock.

Abby’s heavy eyes peered at him from under her lashes when he moved between her thighs.

“Are you sure? If you don’t want this, tell me now and I’ll stop. Once I’m inside you, there is no turning back,” he whispered as he pressed his cock against her opening with a slow rock of his hips.

“Don’t stop, please don’t stop.”

With a hefty groan, he slipped inside her. His eyes met hers and the astonishment in her gaze reflected exactly what he held in his heart.

How could she feel so perfect, so right?

After a moment, he let his hips rock while her pelvis cradled his. He pulled back until the head of his penis barely stayed within her warmth. Chase clenched his jaw tight while he fought for control. He hadn’t made love to a woman in a very long time, and he didn’t know if he could forestall the inevitable. His thumb found her clit, toggling against the hard bud of her sex, wanting, demanding, she submit to the pleasure he knew crawled up her body.

“Move—now. God, Chase, fuck me, please!”

As her desperate plea met his ears, he released the strangle hold he held on his desire. He drove his cock into her as deep as he could while she whimpered beneath him, and begged him with her eyes. Her fingernails raked along his back, urging him on as her heels dug into his buttocks, forcing his hips harder against her own.


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

DRINK OF ME by Jacquelyn Frank

DRINK OF ME by Jacquelyn Frank

In a world where emotion can be a deadly weapon, one slight, battered runaway holds the key to a dark and twisted enigma...

Drink of me, she whispers, her silver eyes trusting, pleading. What female dares speak such words to one of the Sange? His people are scorned by every race for their fierce sensuality, their fearful rituals. And as Prime, Reule is the most telepathically gifted of them all.

But nothing has prepared him for the intensity of emotion radiating from the outlander rescued by his Pack. Terrified, tormented, but beautiful beyond measure, Mystique shatters his legendary control. As she reaches for him in the steamy heat of the healing baths, he knows this blind need can have but one end...In blood, in knowledge, in ecstasy.

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Excerpt:


Sorrow.
It beat at him like a relentless drum, throbbing through his mind and vibrating into his soul until he felt it burning in his body as though it were his own. Stunned by the intensity of the intrusion, Reule actually hesitated several moments, distracting himself at the worst possible time. He felt the purity of the devastating emotion shuddering through him. Too pure, and too disturbing, Reule realized very quickly as he flung up well-practiced and powerful mental barricades, the imposing walls blotting out most of the wild despair that had stained his concentration.

Careless of him to let something like that intrude on such a crucial moment. Lines of disconcertion etched themselves into his forehead and around his mouth. The source of that unsettling intrusion was a mystery. It tempted him. But that, he realized, might very well be the point. It could be intentional bait.

Reule dismissed the idea straight away, confident he could tell the difference between deception and honesty, and while he’d never felt such a scope of sadness before in his life, it had been brutally honest. Pushing it all away to focus back on his goal of the moment, he lifted his head and sought the scents of the others, marking their positions in silence as they kept their mental communication minimalized. Their prey would sense their approach if they picked up on the power of their pursuers’ thoughts flinging back and forth along telepathic channels between them.
Reule marked the identifications and locations of the other males of the Pack. Rye, to the north along the stone wall in the underbrush. Darcio, to his rear by several yards, low against the trunk of a thick and ancient oak. Delano, of course, on point ahead of them and moving slowly along the perimeter of the hostile territory they sought to enter. Reule focused next on the house settled deep in the darkness, concentrating until his vision altered to pierce the veil of the brick walls, outlining the greenish-white blobs of movement that indicated life in one form or another. It was easy to differentiate their target; seated centrally and surrounded by others like bees buzzing over their precious queen. All of this activity took place on the second floor.

Reule turned his attention to Delano, watching the sleek speed the male used to breech the property line. In concert, the rest of the Pack moved forward, their senses sharply attuned to the rhythm it would take to succeed at their task. He could have closed his eyes and still known that Rye leapt the stone wall with ease, and that Darcio kept every step timed to match perfectly with his own as Reule advanced.

Each member of the Pack neared the structure with caution. Reule crouched low on the balls of his feet, sharply alert, and he became as still and invisible as shadows. His stillness was timed perfectly. His target came through the near door, so close he nearly tripped over Reule. When the unfortunate crossed in front of him, Reule struck with the speed of a cobra. His fangs exploded into full, glorious length as he attacked, but they wouldn’t taste of this repugnant creature. He could control the impulse, sparing himself the disgust of such an experience.

Instead, it was his extending claws that struck, and even that was conservative. Reule grabbed his victim over his mouth, jerking his head back and puncturing his shoulder with needle sharp nails right through his shirt, the cotton fabric no protection from the invasion. Reule’s muscles flexed as his prey struggled and fought, but they both knew it was a fruitless effort. Once the paralytic tipping his nails broke beyond the skin, it was only a matter of time. Still, Reule held him to keep him quiet until the drug took effect, using his mental power to stifle his victim’s so he could raise no alarms. When the male finally became deadweight in his hold, he released him. The body of his enemy dropped to the ground like a sack of rocks, thudding sickly as bone impacted earth. Reule kicked him away in contempt. The toxin wouldn’t kill him, but if Reule didn’t like what he found when he entered the house, he’d be back to finish the job.

Reule straightened and eased towards the door. He was vigilant for other stragglers as he sought for the heat and motion of others. They were all upstairs in that central room, and now Reule understood why. He heard shouts of laughter and cajoling, cheering and jeering, and he suddenly realized why there were insufficient guards staged to protect the place. He snarled low in loathing and the sound was echoed by his Shadow, Darcio. The others didn’t respond, but they felt Reule’s rage and he felt their agreeing emotion.

And that opened him up to the sorrow once more.

It slammed into him, stronger than before; a devastating sadness that stole his breath away and nearly stopped his heart. Chills rushed up under his flesh until it crawled with agonizing emotional response. Never, in all his many years, had he felt anything like it. He’d shared thoughts and emotions with his Pack for all of his existence, and never had they, his family, been able to project such powerful emotion into him. If he couldn’t feel such things from his family, who could force it upon him? More, what caused such agony? He was the most powerful, the most sensitive when it came to sensing these things, but surely one of his caste had felt deep, abiding pain before! What made this so incredibly intense to him? How did it invade him so easily in spite of his skill and power to resist such things?

Reule tried to shake off the sensations even as he fell back unsteadily against a near wall. Darcio leapt forward, instantly at his side when he sensed his distress. Reule quickly fended off his friend’s concern, recovering and pushing the alien anguish hard away from himself so he could project confidence and strength to the Pack. They were being distracted in dangerous territory and he’d be responsible if any of them were injured because of it. Reule silently realigned their attention with a powerful emanation and he felt them draw back to target swiftly. Only Darcio, who had seen him falter physically, hesitated. Reule ignored his concern and reached for the door.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

BLACK CAT FEVER by Desiree Holt

BLACK CAT FEVER by Desiree Holt

It's Halloween, and for two special black cats the night when they must find their mates...or else.

Panther shifter Dea Russo waits each year for Halloween, the only night to search for her mate. As the daughter of the late pack alpha she has the power to pass along to the male she chooses.

But each Halloween passes without success until the night she meets Kyle Donovan, a man who pleasures her senses in every way possible - until mixed breed outcast Dane Maguire tries to stake a claim.

Will Kyle arise from the bed of erotic pleasure to defend the woman who holds his future in her hands?

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By reading any further, you are stating that you are 18 years of age, or over.
If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this site.
Copyright © Desiree Holt, 2010
All Rights Reserved, Total-E-Ntwined Limited, T/A Total-E-Bound.

Excerpt From: Black Cat Fever


Darkness had settled over the city like a thick cloak, scudding clouds hiding all but the hazy image of the full moon. It was hot for October in Texas, but the fall weather was always unpredictable. And anything could happen on Halloween, weather-wise or otherwise.

Dea Russo leaned closer to the mirror in her bathroom, applying an extra layer of eye liner to her lids. She had to look her very best tonight. More than her best. Once again, it was the night for her to find her mate, and once again, she prayed for the success that had eluded her so far. At thirty-two, she was beginning to despair of ever making the connection.

“The time has not been right before,” Zia Stella had said just that morning when Dea had been complaining that she’d end up being an old maid. An old cat. Maybe someone’s familiar.

“Maybe he’s just not out there,” she protested.

“Dea. Bambina. It must be the right one.”

And that had been the problem. Year after year. For her kind, her breed of shifter, there was only one night to find one’s mate. Halloween. And the mate must also be a shifter of the same kind. No crossbreeding, she’d been warned. Others had tried it with disastrous results. The pack wouldn’t stand for it, anyway. Especially not with her. The daughter of the alpha.

“You know the story,” Zia Stella had told her over and over again. Since the death of her parents, her Zia and Zio were her closest family. “We came here from the Old Country in a small boat more than three hundred years ago, on the special night. There were not that many of us. Maybe two dozen. That was all that was left of a once-large pack. The moon was full when we landed and lit the way for us as we found places to hide before dawn. We had barely escaped massacre by other breeds and swore a solemn oath to keep the race pure.”

“You are the one to carry on,” Zio Rigo always reminded her. “The power passed from your father to you. The future of the pack depends on the proper selection of your mate.”

Yes, yes, yes. She could recite it by heart now. The problem was, she hadn’t been tempted by anyone at all, panther or mixed. So they were still without a permanent leader.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

DEAD OF KNIGHT by William R. Potter

Your next birthday could be murder.

DEAD OF NIGHT - A Jack Staal Mystery by William R. Potter

Believing he is a soldier of justice, a young man begins a callous campaign of terror, murdering women on their birthdays. Convinced of his righteousness, he continues his brutal crusade forcing the citizens of Hanson, B.C. to acknowledge a serial killer is active in their rural community. Detective Constable Jack Staal is anxious to work the biggest case of his career. Staal is forced to the outside when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Integrated Homicide Teams are assigned to the case. Not one to sit on the sidelines, Staal convinces his colleagues to follow his lead and pursue a serial killer who the media has dubbed “Birthday Boy.”

Told from the perspective of both killer and cop, DEAD of KNIGHT is a cat and mouse thriller sure to delight fans of Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta or Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch.

Available in print, e-book, and Kindle.

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Excerpt:

The transit rider was outfitted entirely in black, from his snakeskin boots to the bandanna that held back his hair. In his regular clothes, he felt vulnerable and inept, but when he pulled on his dusky 501 jeans, t-shirt and leather jacket he was unbeatable. The big city gang-bangers had their purple or red, the cops had their blue; his signature was the color of the night.

He sat in the rear seat of the First Avenue South bus as the sluggish vehicle plodded along spewing sooty diesel exhaust skyward. The stench of vomit and body-odor was too familiar to disturb him as he thumbed through the stapled and taped pages of a tattered, coverless book. He knew its contents by heart. He was ready. Ready to pass judgment on the guilty.

His first two judgments had been utterly successful and he was confident this mission would be no different. Still, he was only an apprentice, unworthy as yet to cast off his beginner’s code name, Tyro. In time, however, he would replace his teacher and become the greatest soldier of justice in history.

Blue-haired old ladies, street bums, and teenagers boarded and exited the bus. He ignored them. When his stop approached, Tyro tugged on the bell rope and rose to his feet. Could the plebeians around him sense that justice was about to be served? No, he thought with a sneer. They were too caught up in their own little lives.

The bus hit a pothole and lurched as it approached the curb. Tyro staggered, swore, recovered his footing, and glanced left and right to see if anyone had noticed.

He pulled his jacket tight around his shoulders and hurried down the steps, pausing on the street to reach into his jacket pocket and pull out a pack of cigarettes. He fumbled to get a butt into his lips, flicked open his Zippo, and lit it. He inhaled and coughed, his face flushing as he fought to control his breathing. With an angry twitch of his lips, he inhaled again and headed north up First Avenue.

The street was quiet, but he knew it would soon be crowded with moviegoers exiting the late show at a nearby Cineplex. Tyro avoided eye contact with any of the other pedestrians. A soldier of justice should never be noticeable, he told himself. Besides, he hated how vulnerable it made him feel, like anyone looking at him could tell he had never kissed a girl in his thirty-four years. That he still lived at home with his mom, barely holding on to his brainless, loser job.

Stop it. You are a soldier of justice. No self-loathing tonight.

Tonight he was Tyro, a man of action and purpose. He had a duty to uphold.

He made a right on Jackson Street and a left on Second Avenue. He dropped his cigarette, ground it out against the sidewalk, then strode straight through the front door of Jim’s Diner. A quick glance revealed only two customers, both seated at the counter; an old geezer in an ancient tan suit and a guy in his fifties wearing faded torn jeans and a green t-shirt. They rambled on about Tiger Woods and why he had missed the cut at the British Open.

Tyro knew this type of place all too well. Sixteen tables filled the dining area and a dozen stools lined the counter. He scowled at the stink of stale deep-fryer grease and slid into a booth that could easily hold six people.

The waitress’s tag read Kim.

“Coffee?”

“Yeah.” He picked up the menu and scanned it. “I’ll have a Jim’s cheeseburger and fries.”

“It’ll be ready in two shakes,” she said. Her uniform exposed half of her breasts when she bent to fill his cup, and as she walked away her ass wiggled in that sleazy way some waitresses used to entice tips from their male customers. Barely five feet tall with bottle blonde hair, Kim’s tired eyes and deeply lined face made her look much older than her thirty-two years.

Tyro lit another cigarette and coughed when the harsh smoke flooded his lungs. At the cash register, Kim bit her lip and looked away. He felt anger build in him, not just at her amusement, but at himself for thinking anyone would be fooled by his act. Stop it. You are a soldier of justice. The old man left cash at the counter and limped to the door, a clubbed right foot scraping against the linoleum floor. The geezer’s friend went to the washroom and then left through the rear exit out to the back lane.

“Good riddance,” Tyro whispered. His task had just gotten easier.

The kitchen door swung open and a man in a filthy white apron emerged carrying a tray of food. The cook slapped the burger and fries on the table in front of him and turned to go. The patty was undercooked and the fries too greasy, but it had been six hours since Tyro’s last meal and he wasn’t one to complain. He shook his head when Kim appeared and asked if he needed anything else, irritated at the interruption.

She sauntered away and yelled toward the kitchen, “I’m taking a break before the rush, Jim!”

Tyro nibbled his food and watched her silently. She poured herself a coffee, grabbed her purse from behind the counter, and headed for the washrooms. Instead of turning left for the ladies, however, she continued straight on and out the rear door. He stared at the hall where a fluorescent light flickered as if it was about to expire.

Now was his chance.

Tyro had known Kimberly Angela Walker since he was a teenager. She might not have recognized him, but he definitely remembered her.

For an instant he hesitated, his mind racing. He could bolt from the booth—sprint to the entrance—flee into the street....

No.

His master would never flee. He would stand firm.

I’m strong. I am law and order’s only hope. Judgment will be swift. Tyro rose from the booth, pulled on his leather gloves, and followed his mark from the restaurant out into the lane. He had waited fourteen years to build up the courage to face her, to confront her with the sins of her past.

Kim leaned against the red brick wall of the restaurant, sipping coffee and smoking. She was probably thinking of her kids, he thought. Bryan and Bradley must be the only bright spots in her pathetic life.

She glanced up at him with a flicker of interest. He knew she was looking him over, trying to figure out why he looked familiar. She gave a little shrug, tossed her smoldering butt, and fumbled in her purse for another one.

The lane was barely wide enough to allow the passage of service vehicles. Despite two dumpsters placed near the door, the alley was littered with trash, old clothes, newspaper, and bottles. He could see the blue flash of televisions screens in most of the apartment windows that lined the alley and he doubted anyone would be peering out to witness his actions.

He smiled at Kim, stopped a few feet from her, and lit up, managing not to gag as he inhaled.

“Jim doesn’t enforce the smoking ban.” Kim flipped her hair. “I just come out to get some fresh air.” She grinned and looked away.

Her grin angered him. His heartbeat began to increase until it thumped in his chest and pounded in his ears. He took a deep calming breath, held it, and then exhaled.

“Yeah, me too,” he said. He offered her one of his cigarettes. She accepted. He placed it on her lips and flipped his Zippo. Her cheeks furrowed when she inhaled. She grinned at the Bud Light beer label on the lighter and sipped her coffee.

“It’s a good day to die,” he said quietly.

"Pardon?”

“Happy birthday, Kim.”

“What?” She retreated a step. “How did you know it’s my birthday?” Tyro clenched the lighter in his fist, pulled back and struck a quick blow to her throat. The porcelain cup of steaming coffee burst from her grip and smashed to the ground. Her eyes widened in shock as she clutched at her neck and sunk to her knees. He grabbed her hair in both hands and slammed her face down against his rising knee once, twice, releasing her so that she cracked her head against the wall. He stepped aside to survey the results of his attack.

“You have accomplished a great deal in your thirty-two years, haven’t you, Miss Walker?” he said as he dragged her into the hidden space between the two dumpsters. “Two illegitimate children, a deadbeat boyfriend, and a minimum wage job slinging burgers to the scum of the earth.” He undid his leather belt and pulled it from his waist.

Tyro looped it around her neck and pulled it tight. The pressure on her windpipe woke Kim up, and she fought to get it off, gasping for breath. Tyro straddled her, using his weight to hold her body in place. She bucked like a bull against him, but the more she struggled, the tighter he drew the noose. She gasped and wheezed a shuddering breath, then finally fell still. Tyro waited until he was sure she was really dead.

“How’s that feel? Huh?” He spoke into her ear. “How does it feel, you stupid bitch?”

He finished the rest of his sentence quickly. The entire process took less than a minute. His training left no room for mistakes, and when he was done he paused for one last look.

“I know how it feels. You and your friends made sure of that,” he whispered.

Releasing the belt from around her neck, he stood up and threaded it back through his jeans.

“Kim!” An annoyed voice called from the doorway. “Shit, woman, the movie is over. The rush is on!”

Tyro crouched between the dumpsters and held his breath. He did not desire a confrontation with the cook, but he would deal with the man if he had to. When the door slammed shut again, he escaped along the alley and into the street.

The evening breeze chilled Tyro’s sweat-drenched body. Now that the judgment was over, he felt at a loss. It was always that way; the adrenaline, the feeling of absolute control as he took a life, and then the seeping return of normalcy with its agonizing uncertainties. The sidewalk was jammed with movie fans and he pushed his way through them, panicking until he remembered he still wore the outfit; he was still strong. He hailed a cab and left the scene of the crime.

Tyro paid the cab driver and then walked the half block to his car. He hated to remove the outfit, however the mission was over. He did a quick change and then drove his old Nova from the street into the parking lot of the Thirsty Gull. He wasn’t a drinker; Tyro visited the pub only to play the old quarter-gobbling arcade games. They were dinosaurs by twenty-first century standards, but they were still his favorites.

Back in civilian gear, his confidence waned, and he felt ordinary. He sat on a stool in front of a Pacman machine, allowing the game to consume his focus. After two hours, he pushed his glasses to his forehead and rubbed at his strained eyes.

He had a code name here, too, but he hadn’t chosen it; the waitresses had. They called him Retro for his love of the outdated video games.

The Corona beer clock on the wall showed the time was 1:18 AM when he looked up next. Retro shook his head and stretched his back, peering through the dim light at the bar. This place would make him nervous if it wasn’t for the owner’s hulking presence. The pub was empty except for three men talking loudly near the pool tables, and a woman dancing alone to the music from a juke-box that was as outdated as the arcade box over which Retro leaned. He recognized the tune. The Doors; Light My Fire. His stomach tightened as he recognized one of the men, as well. The blue haze of cigarette smoke made it difficult to see, but if he wasn’t mistaken, it was his high school nemesis, Sean Moore.

A wash of ice water ran through his veins, and the years slipped away. He could still feel the humiliation; still hear the taunts.

“Loser. Loser!”

Sean tripped him in the schoolyard after the dismissal bell rang. His friends joined in, howling with laughter.

“Loser. Loser. Loser!”

He got to his feet, but Sean pushed him to the ground again. The circle closed in on him and one of the bigger kids yanked him to his feet, holding his arms behind his back while Sean punched him in the stomach.

“LOSER. LOSER!”

“Hey, Retro—you all right?” Sheila asked him. “Can I get you another root beer or something?”

Her smiling face brought him back. “No, thanks. I think I’ll get going,” he said shakily.

As he stood up, Sean looked straight at him from his table across the pub. Surely Moore couldn’t remember him; Kim hadn’t, after all. He’d gained thirty pounds since he graduated at a scrawny 122 pounds, and he’d cut short his long, greasy hair. Hell, he was going bald. These changes had to be throwing Sean off.

Nope.

Sean walked toward him with a beaming smile. Retro felt a trickle of sweat run down his back.

“You’re Kelly—right?” Sean squinted at him. “Kelly Morgan…Myers. Kelly Myers. Am I right?”

Not even close. “Yeah. That’s right.”

“Shit, it is you. How the hell are you, buddy?” Sean asked.

Sean was six-three, but his athletic build had given way to a beer belly and a double chin. He still had the inch-long scar on his right cheek from a fight with Tommy Hawking in junior year. His light brown hair had blond highlights and a goatee covered his square jaw line.

“Hi, Sean. I’m good.”

“Jesus, Myers. What's it been twelve, thirteen years? Me, Randy, and Byron are having us a little class reunion and we thought you might want to join us.”

“No, thanks. I’m...I’m just leaving.” He tried to edge past Sean, but Moore kept up with him as he hurried toward the front door.

“You’re not still sore about all that shit from school are you? Come on back, Myers, I’ll buy you a beer.”

Retro nodded to Jed Wilkinson the owner and bartender. Jed was taller even than Sean, with thinning hair and a shaggy salt-and-pepper beard. Ten years earlier, he had lost his left eye in a mill accident and the resulting workman’s compensation settlement made a healthy down payment on the Thirsty Gull. Now the eye patch added to his ominous look.

“More quarters, man?” Wilkinson asked him.

“Nah, gotta go,” Retro called over his shoulder.

He paused in the gravel parking lot for a second, trying to remember where he left his Nova. It was in the back of the lot, he remembered, blocked now by an eighteen-wheeler.

“Christ, Sean, he’s still a loser—just like he was in high school.”

Retro recognized that voice and he knew without turning around that Randy and Byron had joined Sean at the door. They must be watching him. Laughing at him.

“Yeah, Moore. Look at him. Running like a baby,” Byron said.

“Grow up you guys. He probably has kids and a wife,” Sean said.

Retro jogged across the Gull’s parking lot toward his car behind the semi. A quick glance over his shoulder revealed Moore and the others were following him. He wasn’t buying Sean’s offer of friendship for a minute, so he quickened his pace, vaulting the connection between the trailer and tractor and hurrying to the passenger side door. He opened a small compartment he knew would be located on the side of the rig, reached inside, and pulled out a fire extinguisher, then moved to the front of the truck and knelt down next to the right front wheel. He didn’t have the outfit on but he could still be strong. He had to be.

“Myers! What’s wrong with you man?” Sean called after him.

He didn’t answer.

When Sean rounded the front of the rig, Retro was waiting for him and he brought the cylinder down on Sean’s head with a resounding CRACK! Moore dropped to the ground.

Startled by the success of his maneuver, Retro was still standing there when Byron and Randy turned the corner and found their friend lying on his back, out cold. Retro dropped the extinguisher and dashed for the Nova, fishing desperately in his pocket for his car keys. With a horrible lurch of his stomach, he realized he’d left them on the Pacman game back in the Thirsty Gull.

Randy Oake had been a star on the high school track team and he hadn’t lost much of his speed over the years. “Come here, you little shit!” he yelled. He caught up to Retro six feet from the door of the Gull, jumped on top of him and rained punches into his face. Byron Becker jogged up and kicked him in the stomach. Retro rolled up into the fetal position, but still the punches and kicks pummeled his body.

“Stop it!” a female voice yelled. Retro recognized Sheila and pulled himself into a tighter ball.

A few seconds later, Jed emerged from the Gull and tossed Becker aside easily. He peeled Oake off of Retro and bellowed at both of them to get the hell of his property. The two of them grabbed Sean Moore, and together they limped away to their vehicle.

Jed helped Retro to his feet. “How do ya feel, man?”

Blood trickled from his nose and his eyes were swelling shut. “I’m okay,” he mumbled, although his ribs ached and his head throbbed.

“I’ll help him to his car,” Sheila said.

“Maybe we should put some ice on that?” Wilkinson asked.

At the bar, Sheila wrapped a handful of ice in a bar-rag and held it to his face. Jed poured him a root beer. “You’ll be fine, kid. Just rest awhile.”

Retro pulled away from them and shot an uneasy glance at the front door.

“It’s okay; they’re gone,” Sheila reassured him.

“Why were those dudes after you, man?” Wilkinson asked.

“I knew them in high school.” Retro shrugged. “They were jerks back then. I guess they still are.” He rose from his chair. “I need to get going.”

Sheila led him to the front door. She unlocked it for him, and before he could help himself Retro put his hand out and gripped hers tightly. Sheila looked back at Jed, shrugged her shoulders, and walked out into the cool night air with him. They were silent until he opened the door to his Chevy and swung himself inside.

“Um, thanks.” He felt his face heat, so he kept it turned aside as he turned the ignition on and drove slowly through the lot, but as he reached the street he saw Sheila waving. He smiled, before a vision of Sean Moore flashed through his mind. His hands trembled on the steering wheel and his right foot slammed to the floor.

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