Tuesday, November 30, 2010

OLD GOOSEBERRY'S DILEMMA by Patricia Perry

OLD GOOSEBERRY'S DILEMMA - A new comedy from fantasy author Patricia Perry

The Devil strikes a bargain with God to keep two misfit brothers out of Hell; unfortunately the arduous task is more than even the Prince of Darkness can handle.

Unwilling to allow two rowdy brothers and their crazy acquaintances into Hell where he fears they may take over, the Devil strikes a bargain with God - keep the brothers out of trouble for three days and He'll consider letting them into Heaven.

The Prince of Darkness quickly realizes that trying to protect the raucous Dean Brothers is an arduous task as the brothers unwittingly lead Lucifer into their world where bar fights, free money and casual relationships are the norm.

Assigned by God to keep an eye on the goings-on, the Archangel Michael cannot help but be amused at Old Gooseberry's dogged determination to keep the Dean's out of his realm.

Autographed copies are available on Patricia Perry's Website.

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Excerpt:

The Meeting

God and Lucifer had a serious discussion concerning Harry and Rex Dean, when the Devil no longer thought the brothers were special and asked God to put them on His list. You could well imagine Old Gooseberry stroking his cleanly shaven chin while smirking at some of the brothers' mean but not evil antics. Lucifer thought he had a couple of good prospects and kept an eye out for them, waiting for the brothers to cross over the line but they didn't-well, not really anyway. You see the Deans got involved in some shady stuff but they wouldn't participate in any serious crimes. Harry was impishly irresistible, street smart but had little in the way of book learning under his belt. Deep down inside he wanted to get an education but was too lazy and preoccupied to bother. Rex, on the other hand, was as smooth as a bottle of aged whiskey and always looked out for anything that was free for the taking.

God felt sorry for them and wanted to keep them out of the salivating jaws of Hell. The more chances He gave the brothers, however, the more charmed they felt as they crept closer to the precipice. Lucifer would rub his hands together with delight as the little bits of rock and dirt, dislodged by the brothers' toes, began to fall into that great chasm. The accidents, run-ins with the law and a host of other bad turn of events somehow morphed into good luck for the brothers. Harry and Rex rode the tide of good fortune like surfers catching those perfect waves.

Anyway, back to the meeting between God and Lucifer. It took place in a dilapidated warehouse along the New Bedford waterfront where birds flew unobstructed through broken windows. Gangly weeds poked up through a parking lot composed of little islands of asphalt floating on a sea of gray sand. A rusting chain link fence surrounded most of the abandoned property, which was littered with old tires, heaps of corroding scrap and other junk. Most of the debris had long ago lost its identity and had reverted to indistinguishable blobs. Derelict trucks, their company logos faded by the elements, slouched on deteriorated tires, their broken headlights pointing at the vacant buildings in front of them. The only creatures peering back at the crumbling hulks were rats, cockroaches and pigeons, none of which could insert a key and send some life through their long unused engines. A place once flourishing with the activity encompassing the unloading of fishing boats was now a haven for vermin.

God brought Michael with him, the Archangel picking up the hem of his frock to keep it from getting dirty as they walked over to the building. Lucifer tap-danced around the broken bits of glass, barrels of old oil and dead animals.

They entered the structure from opposite ends, meeting in the middle of the storehouse like a pair of gunslinger waiting for a scheduled shoot-out. Pigeons flew overhead dropping poop upon the dried out wooden planks while rodents scurried into the dark corners. God and Lucifer stopped several paces away from each other, the latter folding his skinny arms across his chest while the former calmly waited for the Devil to speak. The Archangel Michael, his sun streaked shoulder length hair framing his tanned and chiseled face, crossed his brawny arms over his torso. The rivals studied each other for several long moments before Lucifer broke the silence.

"Whatever possessed you to create pigeons?" Lucifer dodged a dropping. "The vermin I can understand...but those things?"

"I had better plans for them but was distracted just prior to imparting any intelligence into them."

"You should have made up your mind: dirty or stupid- not both," muttered the Devil as an errant feather fell into the mini inferno upon his head. It immediately turned to ash.

"What do you want, Lucifer?" asked the Lord adjusting his white robes. Michael shifted his weight to his right leg then cocked his head and raised a brow at Satan.

"You can have the Deans." Cheeky bastard, thought the Devil as he scowled at the angel.

"Why would I want them?"

"I'm going to be very busy in the not too distant future with some unexpected arrivals, leaving me very little time to deal with them."

"I saw the list, Lucifer."

The Devil took a deep breath, the piercing glint in the Lord's eyes freezing him for a split second. Lucifer had greedily helped himself to generous portions of the Deans before finding out they gave him indigestion. He wanted to slip this plate of half-eaten food back onto the banquet table without anyone being the wiser. Satan narrowed his eyes as the Lord waited for him to reply.

Lucifer cleared his throat. "If you saw the files then you know I will be unable to accommodate them."

"My roster is also full," replied the Lord.

"I'll give you ten souls of your choosing."

"Sorry."

"One hundred?"

"I don't think so."

"Paper, rocks and scissors?"

"No."

"I have a quarter."

"No."

"It really does have a head and a tail on it!"

"I think not."

"C'mon, G!"

Old Gooseberry closed his eyes and sighed. He squatted on his hindquarters, his wiry frame still except for his forked tail, which flicked back and forth like that of an annoyed cat. Harry and Rex had been so promising. Like every human, they had knapsacks full of sins but not the big ones-ones that would firmly plant them in Hell. As of right now, they were up for grabs with a slight edge to head south: Lucifer needed a trump card but all he had left were jokers.

"Why are you willing to give me the Deans?" inquired God.

Satan used charm, promises and lies to ensnare the unwilling: the Deans, whether they realized it or not, utilized those same methods. Street smarts outfoxed book smarts, for Harry, anyway. That and a healthy dose of providence allowed the brothers to move comfortably on in life despite the occasional hiccup they encountered along the way.

Harry had stolen a few things over his life and beaten up on more than one fool who thought himself more macho. Rex had a unique ability to make people like him, even without resorting to beating the crap out of them.

Lucifer had heard the whispers in Hell, undertones that some of his tormented souls would welcome the Deans to break the monotony of their eternal suffering. The Prince of Darkness, even with all of his powers, would meet his match if Harry and Rex went to Hell. Satan owned the souls of a multitude of wicked people but none with the easy charisma of the brothers. Old Gooseberry glanced over at Michael, his vertical pupils no wider than a strand of hair. The Angels' buff form seemed to dwarf even the massive wings hanging casually from his back as he stared with open amusement at the gaunt devil with the puny leathery wings.

Mine are bigger.

Up yours.

You wish.

Two rats began to fight in a dark corner; their squeals of pain elicited a contented smile on Satan's face. Michael frowned with disgust at the unseen confrontation. It was the one bright moment so far during the meeting and gave Lucifer an idea. Contrary to everything he stood for, Old Gooseberry decided that if he could somehow keep the Dean brothers out of trouble then God would be obligated to accept him into Heaven. As nauseating as dabbling in good was at least he wouldn't have to contend with the Dean brothers in his house. He mulled over this daunting assignment for a few more moments then glanced over at the waiting pair.

"I'll get back to you." Lucifer rose to his feet and walked out of the warehouse.

God and Michael watched him leave.

"What do you think he is up to, Boss?"

"I don't know but you had better keep a sharp watch over Harry and Rex."

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Monday, November 29, 2010

EVEN THE DEVIL NEEDS LOVE by Nadia Aidan

EVEN THE DEVIL NEEDS LOVE by Nadia Aidan

A god, a demon queen, and the devil - Hell just got hotter!

Lilith walked out on her husband, Lucifer, one year ago presumably to shack up with Lucifer's nemesis, Odin, and do good works as a wannabe Valkyrie.

But now she's back - because Lucifer has taken something that doesn't belong to him, something Lilith wants - an honorable soul. So clad in her skintight leathers, Lilith takes a little trip back to Hell to retrieve it.

But she knows by doing this she is playing right into Lucifer's hands, because he never wanted that soul in the first place, he only took it to bring her back. And now that she's back she can finally give him the one thing he wants more than anything else - an heir.

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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 © Nadia Aidan, 2010
All Rights Reserved, Total-E-Ntwined Limited, T/A Total-E-Bound.

Excerpt From: Even the Devil Needs Love


Lucifer’s cock was hard and heavy; the hot little demon beneath him, open and ready for his penetration, her body as sweet and juicy as a ripe peach. He closed his eyes, the fat purple head of his dick pushing inside her warm cunt. He was almost to paradise, seated fully inside her tight sheath, when another hot little demon—no, make that the hottest demon he’d ever known—burst into his bed chambers and ruined what would have been a great night.

“I want that soul back, Lucifer! That was not your soul to take.” She slammed the door behind her, the walls rattling in the wake of her fury.

His cock deflated instantly and he rolled off the cute blonde. With a curt nod he dismissed her, his eyes tinged with longing as he stared after her curvaceous backside. That longing soon gave way to irritation when his intruder planted herself smack dab in front of his face, blocking his view of the perfect apple bottom scurrying out of his chambers.

“Lilith, couldn’t this have waited?” He stood, towering over her, his eyes glowing a scarlet red. “I was just a little busy.”

She stood before him, unimpressed by his mounting fury. Instead, of backing down, as most would have, she closed the distance between them. And he forced himself to bite back a groan when her leather corset, binding what he knew were gorgeous full breasts, brushed the hair-roughened skin of his chest, awakening his arousal. His body always reacted this way when she was near, whenever she touched him. It was as if his cock needed to remind him he’d been a fool to let her get away in the first place.

“That soul you took? The young soldier? That’s my soul, you dumbass. She belongs to Odin, not you.”

“She was an assassin—a killer.”

“She was a soldier—a warrior. She belongs in Valhalla, not in Hell.”

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

THE ACORN STORIES by Duane Simolke

THE ACORN STORIES

Duane Simolke's award-winning tales transform a fictional West Texas town into a tapestry of human experiences.

Visit the historical West Texas town of Acorn! Enjoy the German festival, a high school football game, homemade apple pie from the Turner Street Cafe, and the cool shade of a hundred-year-old oak tree. Just be careful, because in Acorn the sky is always falling.

"A lush tangle of small-town life branches out in this engrossing collection of short stories." - Kirkus

"The ability to depict such a wide cross section of humanity, including details of each character's breadth of knowledge and experience, takes a talented, insightful author, and Duane Simolke is such a writer." - E. Conley, Betty's Books


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The following excerpts are from stories appearing in The Acorn Stories, copyright 1998, 2003.

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From the story “Paying the Rent.”

I couldn’t help but notice how fat Lisa had become. She looked like one of those women who see themselves as big-boned, full-figured, girthful, well-rounded, plump—the kind who get blind dates as someone with “a nice personality.” She barely resembled her former self. Sure, she had always carried a wide load in the back, and her face retained baby fat all the way through twelfth grade, but I expected more—or rather, less—when, after a seven-year disappearance, she called to say “Guess who?” I still loved her bright blue eyes and bouncy blonde curls, but the rest of her looked like something created in a misshapen Jell-O mold.


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From the story “Timothy Fast.”

“Very well,” said Memphis Lee. “But first, I have a gift for you.” He reached behind his back and retrieved something furry.

“A stuffed tarantula!” Ruth Feinstein grabbed the oversized toy from him and cradled it against her neck. “You’re so sweet. I’m sorry I called your place a dump and everything.”

Rubbing his temples, Timothy Fast said, “About those ties. . .”

“Look by the cash register,” said Memphis Lee. “We have the new graphics line. Senator Briggs was complaining about their violent imagery leading to street gangs and the disintegration of the American family, but the company made a contribution to his party, and now he calls them ‘the family values ties.’ I just love politics!”



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From the story “Mae.”

As the afternoon train rushed by the graveyard, shaking the ground, an oak tree dropped an acorn near Cleburne’s grave. Mae wondered why nature made itself that way of acorn and oak remaking and dying and becoming something big to make something small to become something big, that way of making, that way of becoming, that way of everything becoming itself only to look for something else, and everyone else looking for everyone else looking to become, becoming in the process of looking.

Mae thought these things at her husband’s grave because she thought she and Cleburne would continue always in their becoming and remaking until the dying happened, but that somehow the dying would happen to both of them together, just as everything else happened to them both together. She always thought the becoming married made them become one, because she thought two people who existed as one for fifty-eight years could not become only one person who existed as one alone for even one minute, because this becoming . . . it could not lead to this point.



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From the story “Oak.”


“Mom, there’s some things I’ve always wanted to say, if you would only listen. You have to forgive me, like I’ve forgiven you. I know it was wrong of me to get pregnant by some guy who isn’t worth marrying, but you know it was wrong of you to ask me to sneak off and get an abortion, so no one would find out—all to protect the Briggs family businesses.” Her voice grows louder as she begins to finally say what she feels inside.

“You and Daddy are the ones who closed down the only abortion clinic in Acorn. He’d roll over in his grave if he knew what you planned. Maybe you’ve gotten too caught up in high society. Maybe—” The machine beeps off. Shocked by her own words, Julie starts to call back and apologize, but she sets the phone down when she hears the trailer’s bedroom door slide open.




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From the story “Mirrors: A Blackmail Letter.”


“You’re from Acorn, aren’t you?” Not a very good line, I suppose, but we really had seen each other before, made eye contact at the bank, the grocery, and the steak house. When male glances lock for a moment before diverting, eyes become mirrors.

You followed me back to Acorn that night, your headlights constantly reflected in my rearview mirror, the deep cadence of your voice constantly replaying in my mind. Separate cars—what better way to avoid conversation? And when you walked inside, you only talked about me, asked about me. I honestly knew nothing about you, except that you had just moved from Dallas, which you still visited constantly, and that you drove a nice car. Well, I learned about the Christian tattoo you got during a drinking binge, and I learned that you could talk like some kind of phone sex line. You should have mentioned your teenage son and your pregnant wife before that long talk in my kitchen, the long talk that happened after the time in each other’s arms.



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From the story “Flip, Turn.”


I pulled myself up enough to see the alarm clock just across my room. 10:15! It had happened again: after dreaming during the night that my alarm clock was buzzing, I had gotten up and turned it off, realized I was dreaming, stayed in bed wondering whether I had also dreamed turning it off, then fallen asleep without turning it back on.

“Swimming,” I mumbled into my pillow. I was supposed to have met Jimmy Jacobs at Acorn College’s indoor pool around ten. Since I hadn’t gone swimming in weeks, I had no idea where my alumni I.D. was. I searched my disintegrating wallet, pulling out shreds of napkins, envelopes, and newspaper with scribbled numbers. Some of the numbers looked like combinations for P.O. boxes or lockers, while others looked like phone numbers, but none of them had words on them. My wallet housed numbers detached from their purpose. I thought I should keep them in case I needed them one day. But how would I know if I needed them, or which ones to use? Then I found a phone number with a familiar handwriting.

I could have called all the phone numbers to see if I recognized the voices of the people who answered. Then I could just hang up. Maybe that’s what people are doing—the people who call me then hang up. Maybe they sorted through old wallets and purses, found my number on a scrap of paper. After finding my I.D. in the dark recesses of my wallet, I stuffed all the numbers back in to recreate whatever equation they had formed, knowing I would probably not see them again until my wallet fell apart.

After pulling on swim trunks, T-shirt, and tennis shoes, I walked outside into Mom and Dad’s yard sale and suddenly remembered that I really need to get my own place.

Jimmy Jacobs wasn’t even at the pool when I got there. I decided not to mention it to my mother—never mind that I’m twenty-eight—because she would just say, “I’ve told you about that Jacobs boy.” From junior high ‘till well past high school graduation, no teenagers within a forty-mile radius of Acorn could get drunk, stoned, beat up, arrested, or pregnant without their parents asking, “You’ve been hanging around with that Jacobs boy, haven’t you?” By the time I graduated from college—a lot of good that did me, the new assistant manager at Ice Cream Dream—he was a husband, a father, and the pastor of Zionosphere Baptist Church.



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From the story “Acorn Pie.”


People tell me a little more than they should. Well, a lot more than they should. Actually, people tell me way too much. Or they say too many things where I can hear them, which is just the same as telling me, as far as I’m concerned. Do they really think I won’t share what I heard with anybody? I mean, stories like these can’t just sit on a shelf in somebody’s brain. The more I think about it, the more sure I am that my neighbors want someone to tell their Acorn stories, that they don’t want to be just a small part of a small town in a big state in a big country. People aspire to leave something behind other than babies, a mortgage, and a nasty rumor or two. And they certainly want someone reliable telling it, like what my grandmother did when she chronicled the early folks of Acorn.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

WILD RODEO NIGHTS by Sandy Sullivan

WILD RODEO NIGHTS Book 2 in Sandy Sullivan's Wilder Series

Carrie's bitter. Losing her parents and finding out her teenage sister is pregnant with no father in sight, has just about left her without direction. Running her parent's store dominates her days, until one hunky rodeo cowboy decides to help out. Will she let Cole become a permanent fixture in her life or will his temporary lifestyle become a wall she isn't willing to climb? Can she convince him to stay?

Cole rides bulls. A temporary woman is right up his alley until he runs smack into one protective Carrie Marsh. When she sticks her claws into him at the bar, accusing him of getting her sister pregnant, he's fascinated. Her hazel eyes snap fire as she pins him to his seat. Can he tame the hellcat with the tongue sharper than cheap tequila? Does he want to or will the call of the rodeo pull him away?


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Excerpt

“You son of a bitch!” The words were hissed so low next to his ear, Cole Wilder almost miss it against the thrum of the music.

Beer half way to his lips, he turned around slowly to meet the hazel eyes of the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. Her brown hair hung to the middle of her back, curling slightly at the ends where it brushed at her shoulders. Cole propped his elbow on the bar and cocked his head to the side. “Pardon?”

“Bastard,” she growled. “She’s not even eighteen!”

Cole’s eyes widened, and his thoughts raced backward to the last several weeks. He and Jimmy only arrived in this small town the night before, ready to ride at the rodeo this weekend. He didn’t have a clue what this hellcat was talking about. Silver Ridge, South Dakota wasn't a regular stop for him.

“Ma’am, I really have no…”

“Don’t you ma’am me.” Her eyes sparkled like diamonds even in the muted light of the smoky bar when they raked him from head to toe, branding him with her stare. “She’s knocked up, and you’re responsible.”

“Whoa! Wait just a damned minute here.” All six feet towered over her smaller frame now, but that didn’t stop her as she pressed one finger into the middle of his chest.

“Couldn’t keep your dick in your pants long enough to find out how old she was?”

He backed up, putting a little distance between them, but she stepped closer, her heaving chest almost touching his. “Exactly who are you and who in hell are you talking about?”

A protective snarl left her lips and she growled, “Didn’t even catch her name while you fucked her brains out?”

“I’ll have you know, I’ve never went to bed with a woman whose name I didn’t know first.”

The sneer tugging at her mouth had him cocking his eyebrow when she obviously ignored his statement. “What she ever saw in you, I have no idea. If your dick is as short as your memory, it’s a wonder you figured out how it worked and got her pregnant.”

“Listen, lady. I haven’t gotten anyone pregnant.” He stepped back, but she continued to follow, until he bumped into the man behind him. “Are you always this sweet or is that tongue of yours normally as sharp as cheap tequila?”

“Only when it comes to defending my little sister and making sure the man who got her knocked up owns up to his responsibility.”

“And her name?” Cole knew there was no way in hell he had gotten anyone pregnant. He was way too careful when he bedded a woman, but this little firebrand had him curious. She was fighting mad, hissing and scratching like a lioness defending her cub and from the moment she’d stuck her claws in him, he had been fascinated.

“Jessica Marsh ring any bells in that empty space between your ears?”

A sharp inhalation of breath echoed in the air behind him, and when Cole turned around to look at his friend, the white sheen of Jimmy's skin told him all he needed to know.

“Jim. Care to explain?”

“I—uh…”

“You?” Her eyes swung from him to Jimmy, who sat next to him and then back to meet his gaze. “You aren’t Jimmy?”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but no.”

She stepped back, embarrassment flushing her cheeks while her mouth worked and her jaw clamped so tight he was sure it probably ached.

“Oh, my God. I’m sorry. I thought…shit.” She spun on her heels and disappeared through the crowd. The last sight he had of her, she turned around and shot him a heated glance across the room. When she disappeared into the night, he wasn't sure why, but he felt like his life had just taken an unexplainable turn he wasn't prepared for.

ADULT EXCERPT

He bent down and scooped her up in his arms, taking the stairs two at the time in his haste as she felt a giggle rise in her chest. Pushing the door shut with his foot, he moved toward the bed but stopped at the side before he lowered her to her feet.

She peeked at him through her lashes before she reached her shaking hands toward his chest. Unbuttoning his shirt, she slowly revealed his sculpted muscles, and her mouth water to taste him. The spatter of chest hair sent heat straight to her center when her lips found his skin, and he groaned at her touch. His hands moved softly up and down her arms while she continued to play across the expanse of his chest with her lips. When she found the flat disk of his male nipple, she caressed it with her tongue, then nibbled with her teeth. His hiss, followed by the quiver of his skin, made her smile. Slipping the shirt from his shoulders and letting it fall to the floor at their feet, she reached for the belt buckle at his waist, but he stopped her. Her eyes swept up to meet his heated gaze.

“My turn.”

His kiss started at her forehead before it moved along her cheek, across her nose, and back to her mouth. He pulled her tight to his chest, and she could feel the hard muscles pressed intimately against her breasts. Running his tongue along the crease of her lips, she opened them for him, letting him stroke the inside of her mouth. His hand slipped up her side to underneath her breast, his thumb caressing the nipple through her shirt. His mouth moved across her cheek to her ear, tugging and nipping at her soft earlobe before sliding down her neck.

“Your skin is so soft,” he whispered, trailing his tongue and lips to her shoulder as his fingers worked the tank top up her chest. He released her long enough to pull the shirt and her bra over her head and drop them to the floor.

She let her hands wander down his back, scratching slightly, smoothing the muscles that bunched and rolled beneath her fingers. Coming back to his chest, she stroked the fine hair beneath her touch and she smiled when she heard a growl.

Trailing a hot, wet kiss down her chest, he found the taut nipple with his mouth, sucking until it hardened to an aching point. She shivered when goose bumps rose across her skin, and a soft moan escaped her lips. His hands worked the button loose at her waist, sliding inside the waistband and working the jeans down her thighs. Finding her ass cheeks with both hands, he kneaded her soft flesh, molding it to his touch. He pulled her so her hips were flush against him before his lips found hers again in a desperate kiss.

She worked her jeans off, stepping out of them, before she went for the buckle at his waist. Undoing it and the button quickly, she slipped her hands inside his boxers, stroking his hard length as he growled into her mouth.

Stepping back with a saucy smile, she dropped to her knees. One hand cupped his balls while her tongue darted out, licking the pre-cum from the tip. His hands twisted in her hair, holding her head in place. She flicked her tongue over the tip and smiled when she heard a hiss above her. Stroking his cock from base to tip, she moved down and took his entire length inside her mouth until the tip bumped the back of her throat. His thighs quivered when she slowly moved back to the tip, and he groaned above her. Her fingers caressed the sack at the base, moving between his balls to the small area of soft skin that joined them with his ass.

He let her play for several minutes before a tortured growl ripped from his lips and he pulled her back up in front of him. His mouth dove for hers, taking her lips in a frantic kiss as he pushed her back toward the bed. She felt the mattress on the back of her knees before he laid her down and moved over her.

The coarse hair rubbing along hers sent her nerve endings on high alert. His mouth left hers to nibble at the corners of her lips before moving to her ear and tracing the outline. He continued his journey to the soft spot below her ear, stopping to bite lightly before soothing the sting with his tongue.

She arched her back as his hand found her breast, kneading the soft flesh. Her nipple hardened beneath his palm while he molded it to his touch. His thumb flicked the nipple before rolling it softly between his forefinger and thumb while she gasped and pressed deeper in his touch. His mouth moved down her chest and took the hard bud between his lips, sucking hard, sending electricity straight to her wet pussy.

His callused palm slipped across her stomach and toward the spot between her legs aching for his touch. When he reached for her, she shifted and opened for him, but he avoided touching where she ached to have him the most. Instead, his hand moved down her thigh and back up the inside. She held her breath, waiting, throbbing. As she felt his fingers whisper against her labia, she groaned low in her throat, and he smiled against her skin.

“God—Cole, please. Touch me.”

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ADDING HEAT by Cris Anson

ADDING HEAT - A story by Cris Anson in Ellora's Cave's Cougar Challenge Series

Encouraged by friends she met at RomantiCon, widowed landscape contractor Giselle Sheridan decides she's finally ready to take the cougar challenge and explore sex with a younger man. Except she's too busy during planting season to go on the prowl.

CPA Conlan Trowbridge is battling the IRS deadline for his clients, but when Giselle saunters into his office with a tax question, all he can think of is sex. She's all luscious curves and smoldering brown eyes, and he doesn't care if she's a dozen years older, she's a wet dream come true.

Oh yeah, they're both ready for some hot and heavy sex - in the tub, parking lots, their offices - anywhere and everywhere. But Giselle is afraid her age will eventually bother Con, and her longtime foreman also has designs on her, in more ways than one. When Giselle faces some hard decisions, will she ultimately be able to keep the heat?

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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.

An Excerpt From: ADDING HEAT

Copyright © CRIS ANSON, 2010

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

Could he be any more goody-goody than thinking a bicycle ride was an appropriate first date?

The dimple in his smile as he waved hello didn’t catch her interest this time. She was angry that she’d been hoodwinked. No, that wasn’t fair. It was her own fault she’d misunderstood.

But oh lord, when he walked to the back of the truck, her eyes popped at the finest, tightest, roundest ass she’d ever seen. Come to think of it, his thighs were more muscular than she’d imagined when she’d seen him in loose-fitting dress pants at the Senior Center.

And his belly. It was concave under the spandex. His clothes looked painted on, and every step showed the flex and flow of his muscles. Not an ounce of fat. Anywhere. She could just imagine the type of woman he probably dated. No way was she in anywhere near the shape of those twenty- and thirty-somethings with hard bodies and unlined skin who rode in biking marathons.

He looked like one of her employees, young and buff and…

She gulped. Was he actually being a tease? Or was she just acting like the dirty old lady Larry had accused her of being?

Larry. Good grief. She’d consciously avoided him, avoided the upcoming confrontation, since the other morning when they’d shared that unexpected kiss. She’d always considered Larry in the context of an employee, not a man, although he was tall and burly and masculine down to his big workboots. But his kiss was as manly as any she’d ever experienced. She’d probably be smart to consider dating Larry and leaving Con to the younglings.

“You might get a little warm and sweaty in those jeans,” Con said as he rolled out one of the bikes and leaned it against the porch railing. “And you might want to wear sneakers.”

Was this guy really a nerd? Or was this his way of trying to impress her?

Okay, she’d show him. Without a word she marched back upstairs and a few minutes later walked back out wearing a brand-new outfit she’d bought for wintertime exercise at a health club she never got around to joining—tight, mid-thigh, spandex workout shorts and sports bra that lifted her ample breasts and maximized her cleavage. The get-up showed a fair amount of skin between garments and she was gratified that his mouth actually dropped open as he rolled the second bike to a stop.

“Is this better?” she cooed. And smiled at the instant bulge his molded shorts couldn’t hide.

Instead of turning to hide his erection, as she’d expected a goody-goody to do, his eyes shot lightning bolts and he strode purposefully toward her.

“I‘ve wanted to do this since the moment I laid eyes on you,” he murmured as he cradled her head between his palms. His mouth touched hers and all hell broke loose inside her.

He shifted his stance, bringing her in closer contact with all his bumps and ridges. She found herself responding, not just to the feel of his lips, firm yet featherlight as they teased her mouth, but to the heady sense of being enveloped in a cocoon of testosterone as he wrapped his arms around her shoulders. Then he spun them around so her back was against the driver’s-side door and he sandwiched her between it and that hard, wiry body whose firm texture took her by surprise.

Oh God, it had been so long since a man had rubbed against her in such a sexual way. Her pussy tightened. Her nipples jumped to attention. Of their own volition, her arms encircled his waist and her hands began stroking that muscled back.

Suddenly it wasn’t enough. Something inside her reared up, something frustrated and hungry and ignored too long. Grabbing the stretchy fabric, she yanked his shirt from his waistband to feel smooth, warm skin, like silicone over iron. She wanted to lick him all over, wanted her naked body rubbing against his. She wanted to see, to taste the cock that was poking into her belly like a shovel handle.

Her mouth captured his tongue, sucked it in like a Popsicle. Her hands moved to map the curvature of his waist then delved upward to follow the ridges of his abs to search for those flat nipples she loved to scratch, like pushing buttons, to make a man jump to her beat.

“Giselle,” he murmured, wrenching his head back. “Stop.”

Somewhere amid all the jumbled emotions, her brain began functioning, then tossed out a bitter thought. He was calling a halt because he was embarrassed. She had to be a dozen years older than him. And yeah, he’d reacted to her blatant display of curves and skin, and she’d been thrilled that he seemed attracted to her, but now he’d come to his senses with a vengeance.

She went rigid against the truck, let her hands drop. Felt him step back and watched as he tucked in his shirt.

“I’m sorry,” she said through clenched teeth. “I didn’t mean to make you—”

“We have company.”

“Uncomfortable— What?”

“Someone’s coming down your driveway. See that plume of dust?”

“Dust?”

“Yeah. I wouldn’t want anyone to see you in a compromising position.”

With difficulty, Giselle focused on the approaching vehicle. A truck. A very familiar truck.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ECHOES by Judith Rochelle

ECHOES - Book three in Judith Rochelle's The Protectors Series

Just when Alexis Craig thought she'd finally gotten her life on a somewhat even keel, the terrible nightmares returned and then, out of nowhere, a stalker threatened her. First it was notes left at her office, then photos, then faxes and emails. Nick Vanetta, sinfully sexy partner in Guardian Security, thinks there's more behind this than just a simple fixation, and when someone takes a shot at Alexis, he wonders if the answer is buried somewhere in her past. As the two dig deeper into her family history, the chemistry between them heats to boiling. Can they find the stalker before it's too late?

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Excerpt:

Nick was through the apartment and into the office in seconds.

Alexis stood at her desk, ghost white and shaking uncontrollably. Behind her and to her left cracks spread out from a hole in the glass like a large spider web.

“Down!” he shouted at her. “Now.”

He grabbed her and threw her to the floor, not stopping to be gentle. Yanking his phone from his pocket, he speed-dialed a number.

“Tony? Someone just shot at Alexis from outside. Check with everyone out there, then get your ass over to the hotel next door and see if you can spot anyone carrying something that would conceal a rifle. See if they’ll let you look at their security tapes, too. I’m calling the police. This will definitely get their attention.”

Alexis trembled so badly she could hardly breathe. “Rifle? Did you say rifle? What’s happening?”

“Someone’s using this office for target practice. Stay down.”

“He’s trying to kill me now? My God, Nick! He tried to shoot me.”

Nick lifted his head slightly and peered over the desk. “No, I don’t think so. He carefully aimed wide of where you were standing. He wanted to frighten you and let you know he was still watching. I’d say he accomplished his objective.”

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Monday, November 22, 2010

BOOMERANG by Judith Rochelle

BOOMERANG - Book two in Judith Rochelle's The Protectors Series

When Katya "Kat" Lombardo wakes up in the den of her partner's palatial home with a gun in her hand and his dead body on the floor beside her, she knows she's in big trouble. She has no recollection of the events leading up to this, or how or why she has this gun. She calls on the only person she feels she can trust, Zak Delaney, her former lover who she broke with after a bitter argument. But can Zak put aside his bitterness to help her? As she runs from the people trying to kill her, people who destroy her home, and her business and definitely want to destroy her, will the chemistry still there between them sizzle to the surface or will it explode and demolish them both?

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Excerpt:

"Afraid you'd really killed him?" He shook his head. “Kat, I don’t think you have it in you to just murder someone. Okay, let’s have the rest of it.”

That didn’t take long, because there wasn’t much she knew or remembered. Except for the image of Nate’s blood-drenched body stretched out on the floor.

Zak rubbed his neck again. “Let me see if I understand. You woke up in his den, holding the gun, his body just lying there? Dead?”

Kat nodded, then wished she hadn’t as the movement made her stomach flop. “I’m guessing there was a party and I must have been talking to Nate in his den for some reason. Otherwise why would I have been in there?”

“It’s possible someone put you there to be found with the body,” Zak pointed out. “Anything else?”

“A pounding headache, which still hasn’t gone away, and incredible nausea.” She tried a weak grin. “I hope I don’t throw up in your kitchen.”

“Let’s check something out.” He moved to stand behind her, his fingers gently sliding through her hair as he probed her skull. “No bumps, so nobody hit you. Okay. What did you drink?”

Kat tried to think, but her mind seemed to have taken a vacation. “Just wine, I’m sure. It’s usually the only thing I drink. If you recall.” She rubbed her forehead. “God, Zak, I don’t remember anything. Not anything at all.” She squeezed her eyes hard against the tears starting to leak down her cheeks and raked her hands through her hair, dismantling what was left of her fancy hairdo. She turned her head and looked back at him, the panic rising again. “My brain is like oatmeal. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I remember?”


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LIGHTING THE DARK SIDE by William R. Potter

LIGHTING THE DARK SIDE by William R. Potter

Lighting The Dark Side is an award winning anthology of short fiction including three novellas and three shorter works covering a wide range of fiction genres including, Action/thriller, Mystery/ Suspense, Sci-fi, Romance and even Hard-boiled detective. Regular people find themselves caught up in extraordinary situations; and all are locked into circumstances rendered more complex by their own weaknesses. Only when the shortcomings are recognized can they overcome these limitations and succeed. This collection of Six Modern Tales is designed to exercise your emotions, capture your imagination, and challenge you to think in new directions.

The Stories

Bent, Not Broken - An obsessive compulsive man falls in love; however, his disorder puts a severe strain on the relationship. Jealousy, low self-esteem, anxiety, and an increasing sense of violence engulf him until he pushes his new love away and falls into old habits of avoidance.

In the Gray - A seemingly mundane phone call between a grown son and his mother uncovers the reality of one man-s life. Tragedy interrupts the call seconds before the man can speak his truth and free his mind of decades of bitter animosity.

Prominent Couple Slain - Detective Jack Staal is disillusioned about his career after he takes a nosedive from big city homicide investigator to small town detective. Desperate to prove himself, he ignores protocol to work a case that is not his to solve.

May 18th - Growing pandemonium over the approach of an earth-grazing comet called Ivan is the backdrop for a man who is given numerous chances to make amends with his loved ones.

Blessing or Curse? - Brad Stewart's bloated ego strains lifelong friendships after an enormous lottery win. His millionaire lifestyle suddenly becomes a nightmare when his son is kidnapped for ransom.

Surviving the Fall - James Goodal has spent his entire life avoiding uncomfortable situations. This safe and easy existence has left James lonely and facing divorce. Everything changes when he takes in a young street girl named Ashley. The pair finds comfort in their unorthodox friendship until her violent world returns forcing James to fight for Ashley and for his very survival.

Available in soft cover, hard cover and e-book Kindle

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Excerpt from BENT, NOT BROKEN

Chapter I

Dwayne Johnson recognized early in life that he was different. Over his thirty-five years, individuals had gone to great lengths to make sure he knew he was weird, creepy, queer, and not right in the head. As a child, the kids called him retard, and at work he was Duh-Wayne. High school was no different as his senior class voted him most likely to lapse into madness and murder his parents.

He stood in the kitchen of his apartment, sipping tea, staring at the calendar that hung on the same nail as the clock on the wall. He knew that the clock was in the absolute center of the wall panel. It was three feet from the front door and also three feet from the bathroom door; furthermore, it was four feet from the floor and four feet from the ceiling. He was certain of these dimensions; however, he wouldn’t hesitate to measure again and again.

On the calendar was a glossy black star on the eighteenth of November. It wasn’t to remind him of his father’s birthday; his dad had long ago estranged himself from his only son. The day was the second anniversary of the day that Leah Flanagan broke up with him. Throughout the calendar were thirty-seven such stickers; most were black and a few were gold and each indicated some event either pleasant or not.

He set his mug on the kitchen counter; and he knew that the mug was nineteen inches from the refrigerator, nineteen from the sink, eleven from the backsplash, and eleven more from falling to the floor. He washed his hands for exactly one hundred and nineteen seconds and ran a hand through his hair for the third time.

His wallet was in his right front pocket; garage door clicker in the front left, car keys in one hand, and lunch box in the other. He made a quick turn to survey his apartment and opened the door to the hall. The clock told him it was 8:01 AM. He was running on schedule. He made sure that the stove elements were off, the kettle was unplugged, and checked all these items three times before he felt confident enough to leave his home.

From his apartment to the elevator were thirty-three steps. Over the same distance seven light fixtures and only five electrical outlets were on the walls. He saw a dark trail of liquid coffee leading from suite 309 that had most likely leaked from a garbage bag when somebody dragged it to the lift. The line was new and Dwayne took a moment to assess it and decided that it was longer than a meter and not quite five feet. “Fifty-five and a half inches,” he whispered and nodded.

Dwayne couldn’t ride any elevator without imagining it breaking loose and achieving terminal velocity before crashing to the basement. This horrendous plunge would not occur as long as he was on the lift for no more than one minute and fifty-nine seconds. Any longer was insanely dangerous.

He sat at the wheel of his Toyota Corolla and made sure the seat was properly adjusted and both side mirrors were also set. After overcoming the urge to check the fluid levels for the fifth time that week, he started the engine. He reached into his blazer and pulled out a flask, uncapped, and took a long swallow. The clear odorless liquid warmed his mouth and all the way down his throat. Two more long gulps would calm his nerves enough to have him on his way.

Dwayne talked his way through the morning commute. “Drive and drive—thirty-one MPH. Turn right at the lights, signal, break, and turn and turn. Now accelerate to the speed limit. Drive and drive.”

This went on for the entire twenty-nine minutes of the journey. “At the next stop light,” he whispered, “look left for the girl in the dark raincoat.”

Sitting at the bus stop was a woman reading a tattered paperback. She was in her late twenties, and Dwayne had first noticed her several weeks earlier. He glanced at her, looked away, and then looked again. He began to feel nervous, and he felt his face flush.

Ten seconds to green.

Then the woman looked up and grinned. She gave him the I-see-you-looking-at-me smile, proving to Dwayne that she recognized him from previous days. He believed that she thought of him as White-Car Boy. She, of course, was Black-Coat Girl.

The light turned green, and the moment ended.

At the next light, he reached and opened a small notebook. Black-Coat Girl was at the stop four times a week now, up from the previous three. Of those four sightings, she had looked up from her book only twice that week, down from the four of the previous week.

Despite the gold hoop ring in her lip and the twin spikes through her left eyebrow, he had feelings for Black-Coat Girl. She was one of the few things on which Dwayne could depend. Even though he did not know her, not even her real name, he felt like he could love her. He daydreamed about a life with her. She would accept his stuff and teach him all kinds of things about piercings and tattoos. The harshness of her appearance hid the kind gentleness inside. She was a good person who wouldn’t harm him emotionally or otherwise. He decided that most people she knew misunderstood her.

Dwayne made sure that he did not enter the main entrance of his work office until exactly eight thirty-three each morning. He didn’t begin work until nine and couldn’t punch in until then. He arrived early to check that his coworkers hadn’t completely destroyed his cubicle. Rodger Babcock, Mike Shannon, and Danny Wallace, “the Gang of Three” as Dwayne called them, took great pride in screwing with his head.

Dwayne knew that his personal belongings had suffered yet another ambush. It could be a subtle rearrangement of something on his desk or the entire room could be messed with. At first glance, nothing seemed out of place, so he began to count the pens in the glass jar that sat nine inches to the left of the computer monitor.

Six! He counted six pens. To the right of the monitor was an identical jar with pencils—also six. There should be five or even seven pens, and as many pencils. There should never be six! He counted each jar for the second time and then a third, and the count remained six. He took a long breath and glanced back and forth between the jars. He remembered the bottom drawer of his desk had boxes of writing instruments, and he quickly yanked the drawer open.

None! The boxes were gone. Dwayne’s heart began to pound. He looked at the jars, still twelve writing implements in total. He heard giggling from across the office floor.

“Don’t panic,” he whispered.

Dwayne took one of the pens and dropped it in the wastebasket next to his desk. Then he removed a pencil. He hesitated to add the pencil to the trash, as two together would not do. He stood and walked to the cubicle on the far wall, looked over, and noticed that Gabrielle Martinez was not yet at her desk. Dwayne tossed the pencil and smiled when it landed on the floor near Gabrielle’s chair. Crisis averted, he sighed and sat at his desk.

Just to make sure, he counted the jars’ contents and was pleased to count five of each. He turned on the monitor and tried to move the mouse to jolt the PC from sleep mode. The mouse would not move without considerable force. He pulled and then turned the mouse over and noticed that the bottom of the mouse was coated with peanut butter.

“Damn it!” He was deathly allergic to the beige goop.

Dwayne then pulled out the tray from just below his desktop and stared at the keyboard. All the odd number keys were missing. He struggled each time he used a computer, bothered to no end by those even-numbered keys. The equal balance of even to odd keys was the only thing that allowed him to function and do his job. He was extremely perturbed by the empty square slots where 1, 3, 5, etc., should sit.

“Oh, Dwayne! Not again?” Leah Flanagan said when she arrived at his cubicle with the day’s floppy disk. It was Leah Masterson now as she had married the office owner only six months after breaking up with Dwayne.

“I—uh, um . . .”

“I’ll be back in a minute,” she said, as she turned and walked away. He heard her shoes clop-clop on the floor. Those long legs and wonderful feet were once his and his alone—well, for three months at least.

Minutes later, Leah’s heels could be heard signalling her return to his desk. Dwayne heard laughter first as Leah passed Rodger’s desk and even louder from the direction of Mike and Daniel’s. Dwayne was the joke of the office, just as he was in college, and everywhere else for that matter.

He took a long swallow from the flask in his pocket and smiled as the liquid warmed his body. After another sip, he hid his medicine, as he called it.

Leah appeared with a new keyboard and mouse and a roll of paper towels. Dwayne took the computer hardware and began to unplug the damaged equipment, as Leah wiped the peanut butter mess from the desk. After Leah finished, Dwayne hosed everything down with cleaner and then wiped and rubbed until he was satisfied that his work area was unsoiled. In the bathroom, he turned his efforts to making sure that his hands had no signs of filth, and he wouldn’t return to his desk until he was thoroughly sanitized.

At his desk, Dwayne slipped the 3.5-inch floppy disk into the drive and punched up the day’s files. It contained the phone numbers of ninety-one potential customers. His job was to call each person on the list, the mark, and ask five questions. Today, the topic was about coffee and what chain the person preferred, if Tim Horton’s or Starbucks. At the end of the survey, the mark is offered a package of coupons. All the marks had to do was give their home address or e-mail. The name and addresses were sold to companies that then sent dozens of coupon packages for different products.

The other phone marketing staff received disks with eighty numbers. Leah always made sure that he had a disk with ninety-one because if he was given a batch of eighty he would only do seventy-nine.

Eighty calls was considered a good day’s work; however, Dwayne was the only caller who had beaten the ninety-call plateau, and he did that routinely. His one-day best was also the office record and still stood at one hundred and eleven calls. Even the afternoon shift callers couldn’t match his scores.

He still remembered the day he set the record. Bill Masterson, the boss, stopped everyone and announced the accomplishment. Bill took Dwayne’s photo and made an employee-of-the-month diploma that still hung on a wall of the call floor. Dwayne received a certificate for a free meal at a nice steak house. He of course took Leah, back at a time when she was open to such things.
He realized that he was getting a late start on his list and quickly dialled the first number and began the survey. He successfully got the required information and entered the digits on the phone pad to begin his next call.

Staff members stopped for a ten o’clock break. Dwayne made calls. Smokers stepped out to light up. He queried old men and housewives about whether they preferred lattés to cappuccinos. He was mediocre at best at most of life’s pursuits; however, at work on the phones he was unmatched.

Soon it was lunch break, and he only stopped for a minute to open his lunch box and take three bites of his jam sandwich. When he decided no one was looking, he took a swig from his flask.
“Hey, no slacking off in there, OC,” Danny Wallace said, as he passed Dwayne’s cubicle.

Dwayne was startled at Wallace’s voice and spilled a few drops of vodka on his slacks. He used a liberal amount of jelled hand sanitizer on his hands and then made another call.

Danny wouldn’t finish his list and around four o’clock would be bugging Dwayne to take some of his work. Dwayne told himself that he would not help complete Wallace’s list although he knew that he couldn’t resist a chance to break a hundred.

It was one thirty-one; he stood and stepped back from his desk, crossed his cube, entered the hall, and counted the one hundred thirty-seven steps to the lunchroom.

At the door, he paused to appraise the room for coworkers. He saw only one and he smiled. Leah was bent over washing the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Dwayne wondered why women didn’t just kneel instead of leaning over with their butts sticking out. He enjoyed the view for a few seconds and tried to figure out how to announce his presence without startling her.

She continued to clean, and then she knelt as she turned to face him. “Hello, Dwayne.” She stood and closed her sweater as if she was worried that he might take a peek at her cleavage. He remembered a time when she allowed him to see and touch anything he wanted. While glancing at the wedding ring on her finger he wondered what Bill thought of his new wife remaining friends with her ex at work.

“Hi.”

“That time again?”

“Uh-huh.” He nodded. “Is everyone doing okay?”

“Yes, I don’t think you’ll have any extra today.”

“Oh?”

“Almost eighty percent of the calls are getting results today,” she said, as she filled with water and then plugged in the kettle.

“Wow, Bill must be happy.”

“I doubt that,” she said at a barely audible level.

“Pardon?”

“Oh, nothing.” She set three mugs on the counter, added teabags to two, and then hot water when the kettle whistled. The third cup was for him because she knew him so well.

He wondered if Black-Coat Girl would ever know him in that way.

Dwayne remembered all those conversations where Leah had told him over and over to get help with his—problem. He never did, and her concern for him caused her to leave him. He washed his hands—this time with extra soap.

Now their only time together was the one-thirty tea. And that was becoming a rare occurrence of late. He carried his cup to a table and wiped the chair and counter with a wet paper towel.

Leah sat across from him with a worried look on her face. He knew that look. Something was very wrong. Dwayne thought that he should ask her if something was troubling her. Instead he studied the number of chairs and remained silent.

He sipped his tea and then he removed the bag from his mug, stood, and tossed the bag in the nearest trashcan. Leah joined him in standing, forced a smile, and then said something about some unfinished work that needed her attention. She left him there with the two tables and eight chairs.

Dwayne glanced at the wall clock and smiled when he saw that it was one thirty-nine. He reached one hundred and thirty-eight steps at his cubicle and took one more to feel comfortable.

At his desk, he took a deep breath to cope with the thought of what he might find. Rodger and the others hardly ever did anything to his office during the day, especially if they were falling behind with their lists. Everything appeared to be in order when he made a quick check.

The third drawer of his desk contained a notebook, and he opened it on his desk. He flipped to a fresh page and jotted down a few lines describing the mess he found that morning. On the previous page was a note about the saliva that was deposited with mucus on his keyboard the day before. Spitting on his things was a favorite prank of the three of them. They kept themselves amused at his expense, and Leah had the chore of cleaning up and keeping the boss from learning of the pranks. Not that her husband would do anything about the problem. Terminating three of his staff would cripple the operation.

Dwayne shivered when he remembered some of the disgusting things that the Gang of Three had inflicted. He shook his head and squeezed out a palm full of hand cleaner and rubbed his hands together until all the liquid was used. By three fifteen, his list was completed and he checked over his results on the screen and saw that he had achieved the 75-percent-success quota. It had been a good day after all, just as he had suspected. He smiled.

He burned all the info to CD, removed the disk, and with the floppy, made his way to Bill Masterson’s office. He paused outside the door when he heard Bill and a female voice laughing. As he raised his hand to knock on the door, it opened and he retreated to allow Rachael Creed to exit Masterson’s office.

Rachael was twenty-one and extremely attractive. Leah was not happy when Bill hired Rachael as his new secretary. Dwayne watched Creed walk away, and as she did so, she stopped to fasten a button on her blouse.

“Come on in, Johnson.” Masterson had a deep low voice that demanded and received respect.
Dwayne slowly entered the office. He didn’t like being in the room at all. Not because Masterson made him nervous—he did. It was the layout. Everything was cluttered to the north side of the office where the south side was nearly empty.

The room was a minefield for Dwayne with four chairs and two clocks and two stuffed fish on the walls with those four glassy eyes starring at him. Six bookshelves, each with four shelves, and Bill’s desk was messy and jammed with papers; and Dwayne almost gagged—dirty dishes left over from lunch.

“Problem, Dwayne?”

“All good, sir.”

“Leah. Something is bothering her. Any ideas there, chief?”

“Ah . . . um—” Dwayne noticed that a pair of Bill’s pants were piled on the floor near the corner of the room. One shoe was upside down on the pile of slacks. The other loafer was out of view. Dwayne couldn’t be sure if his boss was wearing trousers as he was still seated.

“Leah is on me about going to the opera again. Johnson—Dwayne buddy, do me a solid and take her for me.”

“Pardon?” As if the room wasn’t bad enough. Now this. He was beginning to lose his breath.

“Rachael got me a pair of tickets for tomorrow night. Some Christmas thing. You game?”

“Ah, sure . . . why not?” He had no interest in going to the opera; however, another minute in that room and he would vomit for sure.

“Great. Always good to know I can count on you, Dwayne.” Masterson opened a drawer in his desk, removed an envelope, and then handed it to Dwayne. “Take her for dinner as well, okay?”
He nodded and noticed that Masterson was wearing short pants.

“Great work today, Johnson, as always.”

Dwayne couldn’t breathe, let alone answer. He nodded, turned, and exited the room. Moving so quickly and without thought, he almost knocked Rachael Creed over and spilled the dual cups of coffee she was carrying.

“Damn it, Dwayne, be careful!” She made eye contact with him. There was purpose in those blue eyes; he was certain that she was trying to tell him something with her glare.

“I . . . um . . . am sorry.”

Dwayne walked by the cubicles of the other call staff; he noticed that Mike and Rodger were still working their call lists. Rodger glared at Dwayne and Mike made a rude hand gesture. Daniel sounded like he was rushing through the questions, in a hurry to finish the allocation that Bill expected from each team member. Haste never helped make the quota nor did it do anything for achieving a successful contact.

He smiled and whispered good-bye.

After powering down his PC, counting everything on his desk, dropping the floppy in a bin outside Leah’s office, and washing his hands, he left the building.

Three hundred and twenty-seven was the number of days in a row that he had made seventy-seventy-five. Seventy calls with 75 percent of the marks giving up the goods.

Walking to his car, he knew that there were twenty-one parking spots before he reached his Corolla. He made three circles around the car to make sure it had not received any tampering.
Once inside, he fiddled with the seat and mirror adjustments, inhaled a long breath and began his drive for home. “Turn left at the lights, signal, break, and turn—and turn. Now accelerate to speed. Drive and drive.”

He drove by the bus stop and as always, looked for Black-Coat Girl. Dwayne wondered about her day and if she ever thought about him. He decided that she did and this made him happy.
After waiting his turn behind two of his neighbor’s cars at the automatic gate at the parking level of his building, he maneuvered the Toyota to his designated stall.

Dwayne put a hand inside his jacket and touched the envelope with the opera tickets. Black-Coat Girl wouldn’t take pleasure in the show; however, if invited, she would be a good sport and play along. She would enjoy the dinner before, engaging him in intelligent conversation about her European backpacking trip from her high school grad year. Her face would light up as she speaks of London, Paris, and of course, Venice.

“You’ll come with me, Dwayne, to Venice, won’t you?”

“Well yes, of course.” Dwayne saw his neighbor Mrs. Feldspar looking at him as he conversed with himself. The woman stared like it was the craziest thing she had ever witnessed.
He walked around the Toyota for a second time, knowing that he could not leave the bird dropping on the roof of the vehicle overnight. He popped the trunk and removed a bottle of spray cleaner and a rag and went to work on the mess. He dared not look at the gunk, as he knew it would turn his stomach.

Satisfied that his paintwork was no longer fouled, he made his way to the elevator and rode to his floor, holding his breath the entire way. Outside the lift door, he noticed that the maintenance people had attempted to clean the coffee stain from the morning. He could still see the blemish in a few areas and that bothered him. There was no possibility that he would be able to last the evening without working the carpet until it was immaculate.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

ON A WHIM by Nadia Aidan

ON A WHIM by Nadia Aidan

Chad Buchanan has been in love with Maia Lee, almost from the day he met her fifteen years ago - and it has taken just that long to realise Maia will never love him back. Chad is finally ready to settle down and have a family, but he knows Maia will never be able to give him what he wants, what he needs. So he calls an end to their on again - off again affair and walks away from the woman he knows he will love forever.

But maybe he was just a little too hasty. Because when he overhears Maia, and discovers her secret longing, he sees a way to finally have everything he's ever wanted.

Maia wants a baby, she'd considered having one with Chad, but she never asked, and now he wonders just what will she do if he comes to her with an offer she just can't refuse.

Can friends with benefits ever be anything more? Chad and Maia are about to find out.

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If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this site.
Copyright © Nadia Aidan, 2010
All Rights Reserved, Total-E-Ntwined Limited, T/A Total-E-Bound.

Excerpt From: On a Whim


Maia Lee hated weddings. Absolutely could not stand them. But you cannot tell your best friend how much you hate weddings, not when she is about to marry the love of her life. You certainly can’t admit your utter loathing for the event when she gushes over how wonderful you will look in your maid of honour dress. No, unless you want to wake up one day sans a best friend, you keep it to yourself that you despise weddings and you become a super-duper maid of honour—the best maid of honour this world has ever seen—and do everything you’re asked to do, and even some stuff you aren’t.

But Maia was reaching the end of her rope. The happy couple had said “I do,” the reception was in full swing, and she’d already given her toast. So was it really necessary for her to be thrust in the front of the crush of vapid groupies all straining to catch the bride’s bouquet?

“You ready?” Lena called, holding the spray of roses so high and so proudly, she could put the Statue of Liberty out of business by midnight.

Maia groaned. She wanted a drink. Something stronger than the flutes of champagne going around. Maybe she would steal a bottle of Jack when the bartender wasn’t looking. Or maybe she should grab some vodka instead—wouldn’t want to mix her colours. Of course, there was alw…

Maia glared at the blonde Amazon beside her, who was seriously asking for it when she jostled her and nearly planted her size ten stilettos in Maia’s big toe. What was her problem?—Maia glanced up, following the blonde Amazon’s dreamy gaze.

The bouquet had launched.

Good. Now she could get out of there. Hey, she’d done her duty. She’d waited until Lena threw the bouquet. No one said she had to stick around to catch it.

But shit—she was boxed in by Miss Amazon herself and a brunette sprite of a woman who was stronger than she looked. Maia glanced between the two of them, deciding which one she wanted to take. The Amazon was clearly bigger, but the half pint on her left looked obsessed with catching that damned bouquet, if her intense rheumy gaze fixated on a bunch of flowers was any indication. The sprite would probably launch a vicious attack if Maia pushed that psycho out the way.

Later, Maia would tell all the witnesses that she only planned to delicately move the Amazon who was blocking her path with just a teeny, tiny little push, then, through no fault of her own, all hell broke loose! Somehow the woman went teeter tottering, forcing Maia to grab her arm to steady her. But she missed. Thank God the woman on the Amazon’s other side caught her, or Maia would have had a lawsuit on her hands. But speaking of on her hands. That damned bouquet. Yeah, you guessed it.

When she went to grab for the Amazon’s arm, instead of grasping dead air, all those frilly pink roses wrapped in frilly white ribbons fell neatly into her palm just as she was closing her fist.

Damn it. She really hated weddings.

Chad Buchanan grinned down into Maia’s café au lait face, loving how her eyes flashed with annoyance, and her cheeks blushed a pretty shade somewhere between a dusky rose and a deep crimson.

“Nice catch, Randy Moss.”

He laughed when she violently beat the bouquet against his chest, sending dozens of pink petals flying.

“Don’t start with me, Chad. This isn’t funny. You know how much I hate weddings.”

Did he ever. He quirked a brow. Maia was like some kind of new feminist he’d never met before. One day he planned to ask her, when had weddings become public enemy number one?

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Friday, November 19, 2010

AFTERLIFE by Joey W. Hill

AFTERLIFE - Book IV in Joey W. Hill's Knights of the Board Room Series.

Rachel gave up seeking a Master years ago. After a failed marriage and terrible tragedy, she's walled her soul against going down that dangerous path again. Then Jon joins her yoga class. He's thirteen years younger than she, but his Dominant nature threatens her shields from the moment she recognizes it. Not only does he understand what her body wants - he knows what her soul craves.

Part of the five-man executive team of Kensington & Associates, Jon uses his calm, philosophical nature to defuse volatile acquisition negotiations. He can compel opponents to willingly surrender when he draws the sword that closes the deal. As a sexual Dominant, he employs that same expertise. A spiritually-driven Master who enjoys connecting with a woman's soul, he wins her utter submission with his skills. But with Rachel, it goes beyond that. She's the submissive his own soul has always hungered to have, and he won't hesitate to use his talents, as well as that of the other four K&A men, to claim her.

This is a Knights of the Board Room book, but like all the books in this series, it can stand alone. Every book does involve the full cast of "Knights", though, so you might get a few minor (and very tempting) spoilers about previous stories (wink).

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An Excerpt From: AFTERLIFE

Copyright © JOEY W. HILL, 2010

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

Chapter One



“I better get a good report on you today, Sergeant. Any whining and you’ll get your ass blistered soon as we get out of here. Maybe sooner.”

Rachel sucked in a surprised breath as Dana’s white cane shot out toward Peter’s unprotected shin with impressive accuracy. Despite his formidable size, Peter sidestepped it with practiced grace, tossing Rachel a grin as he slid an arm around Dana’s waist, drawing her to his side. Closing his hand over her slim fingers, he plucked the cane from her. “And I’d best hold onto this for you.”

“Chicken,” Dana retorted. She turned her face up to him. “Afraid a little blind girl’s going to take you down with a plastic stick.”

Rachel pressed her lips together against a smile as Peter used one arm and a quick move to hoist his petite fiancée over his shoulder. Though Dana threatened to dismember him in creative ways, he simply steadied her with one hand spread across her attractive bottom. When he hooked his thumb in one of the pockets of her snug jeans, that intimacy alone was enough to make Rachel ache. “Where do you want her?” he asked. His storm gray eyes lingered on Rachel’s face, his brow creasing thoughtfully as if he saw something there he shouldn’t.

Snapping her gaze away from the placement of that large hand, she nodded toward the usual cot for Dana’s physical therapy. Since she was standing at her corner desk in the therapy room, Rachel shuffled through her calendar, pretending to finish up some things before they got started.

In reality, she was breathing through that sharp twist in her lower belly, the one she recognized as yearning. It was a far-too-frequent feeling since Peter had started bringing Dana to her PT sessions. It wasn’t their teasing loveplay. They were being a little more blatant than usual today, but since they were engaged, it wasn’t unexpected. Their romantic vibes fairly oozed out over everyone around them. The only reaction it should have triggered from her was indulgent amusement, maybe a touch of motherly exasperation. But there was an additional component between them.

Most people would miss it, though they might pick up on something about Peter and Dana’s interactions that mesmerized or made them feel inexplicably uncomfortable. Unable to place what it was, they’d call it something else, or shrug it off as those engagement vibes. She’d done the same thing, but she’d known from the first she was fooling herself. Even after all these years of trying to mute her desire, she seemed to have a radar for it.

It was in the way Peter followed Dana’s movements, tracking her facial expressions, picking up everything she was feeling and anticipating it so well. He was as aware of Dana’s physical and emotional state as the woman herself. Probably more. Each word she spoke, every syllable of her body language, elicited some type of response from him. Pure, monitored attention.

Rachel had convinced herself men like that didn’t exist. Another of the many lies she’d told herself for way too long. When Peter made that sensual threat to blister his fiancee’s ass, the faint tinge under Dana’s mocha skin said she knew he’d live up to that promise. And she’d welcome it—as a reward, not punishment.

Their weekly visit was both the highlight and curse of Rachel’s week.

He was carting Dana back to the cot as if he was carrying a grain sack. “Got to get you back in shape, soldier. I expect you to wait on me hand and foot like a proper wife should. I’m running out of patience with this coddling.”

“I’ll be happy to put my fist or foot right where it’ll do you the most good,” Dana returned sweetly. She had her right elbow propped on Peter’s wide shoulder, holding herself up. Rachel noted she was guarding the left arm. They’d need to do extra work on that today. However, the stomach muscles were admirably strong.

Peter slid Dana off his shoulder and onto her feet, as smooth and gentle as if she were a porcelain doll, belying his words. It was in his face, every time he looked at the black woman who barely came up to his chin and yet had the force of personality to match his larger-than-life presence. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for her. Except let her give up on herself, which Rachel knew was why he came to every session with her.

Dana wasn’t a complainer. She was always stoic and cheerful, such that Rachel was sure she and Peter were the only people who knew how hard these sessions were. Before the end of it, Dana would have her teeth gritted against pain, tears running down her face as she pushed it a little further. Like so many patients, she also waged a mental battle against despair, confronted with a body that would never be the same again.

Dana had been injured in Iraq, losing her sight, most of her hearing and some mobility and strength in her left side. Not only had she required multiple surgeries, she’d needed physical therapy to regain flexibility. PT was never easy, but Dana’s had been rougher than most because she’d battled post-traumatic stress disorder and its attendant deep depression for over a year, letting the already damaged muscles atrophy. That said, over the past three months, Dana had made tremendous progress. She was a strong, brave woman, but Rachel also knew a great deal of it had to do with the man who encouraged, bullied and stood by her, no matter what.

He’d bring her to the therapy area, but typically he’d return to the waiting room during the first part of the session, when Dana would insist she didn’t need babying. However, with uncanny timing, whenever the session reached its worst point, Peter was likely to wander back to see if Rachel wanted a soda from the vending machine. When she’d decline, he’d take a seat nearby with a magazine he wasn’t reading. Even without sight, Dana’s other senses would align on him like a rifle scope, and things would get better.

Like most healthcare professionals, Rachel knew family support for meaningful recovery was immeasurable. Fortunately for Dana, her fiancé was also very affluent, and he didn’t let her pride stand in the way of using his resources. He’d already facilitated a cochlear implant surgery that used enhanced hearing technology. It had reduced Dana’s hearing loss to a mild hardship, mostly exacerbated by her inability to see people’s faces as they spoke. The cosmetic surgery that had been done since they were engaged was handled by the best plastic surgeon in the country.

Peter Winston was part of top management at Kensington & Associates, one of Baton Rouge’s most prestigious corporations, a manufacturing and acquisitions concern. Since Rachel was sure Peter’s role as operations manager for all their domestic and overseas plants had to be a busy and difficult job, the fact he didn’t miss a single PT appointment spoke volumes to her. Despite Dana’s insistence that he didn’t need to be such a mother hen, there’d been days he’d flown back in from a job only for this, having to leave again that evening. It not only told Rachel how devoted he was to Dana, but that he knew, despite her spirited banter, how hard this was for the determined young woman.

“Why don’t you go away and flex your muscles for the nurses up front? Show them your tattoo. They can coo over you while Rachel and I get some real work done.”

“What if one of them wants to stroke my impressively large ego?”

“Give me back my cane.”

Chuckling, he bent and caught her mouth, which softened under his. Though Rachel stayed ostensibly occupied with her calendar, her ears caught his quiet admonition to behave and work hard, that he’d be close by. Dana’s serious response was a bare whisper Rachel nevertheless managed to hear.

“Yes, Master.”

She gripped the edge of her desk, hard enough that the rough underside cut her hand, but she bit her lip to keep from making a noise of distress. The cut was the least of it. Yes, she’d been sure for a while, but it was the first time she’d heard it confirmed so baldly. The painful vindication had her floundering in an appalling swamp of self-pity, envy and an old fury that welled up to choke her.

Damn it, Rachel, stop it.

To hear it, to know it existed in such a desirable form, didn’t just double her over in pain. It thrilled her with a charge of sensual lightning through her extremities. She’d have to ground the energy into the solid earth beneath her feet—or in this case, the beige tile floor—because it had nowhere else to go.

That had always worked in the past, but maybe it was how much she genuinely liked these two that made it more difficult to ignore the effect they had on her. From the moment they arrived for each appointment, she strained for every word between them, absorbed every touch and gesture, as if she was living vicariously through them, and maybe she was. Recently, she’d been waking from dreams that left her thighs damp with perspiration, her gown knotted up around her waist as if a man had pushed it there.

While Peter and Dana might keep those old demons awake and tormenting her, they hadn’t resurrected them. It wasn’t Peter who’d invaded her dreams. It was the man who’d referred Dana to Rachel’s PT practice.

Jon Forte.

* * * * *

When not doing physical therapy for the hospital, Rachel ran a small yoga studio. Jon had started attending her classes once a week almost a year ago. Because of his work schedule, he came to different classes, varying his attendance, but she suspected that was a good thing. If he was a dependable regular in any of them, that class probably would have had a mile-long waiting list for female attendees.

There was a different kind of beauty to him. Unlike Peter, who was a broad mountain of muscle, Jon had the build of a Baryshnikov, all compact strength. Though not overly tall at around five-ten, it made him quite a bit taller than Rachel’s five-three. His eyes reminded her of striated sodalite, the vivid blues infused with the fire of the earth that had created it. His hair was thick, black silk that feathered temptingly over his forehead.

Like everyone else in her class, she’d done a double-take the first time he spoke. Not only did he possess the velvet tones of a late night DJ, spinning languorous R&B tunes in the loneliest hours of night, but it was impossible to imagine arguing with him, doing anything to interrupt those fluid, resolute syllables from flowing over the skin like the reassuring brush of angel feathers.

He was always courteous, talking to each woman in a way that suggested he took a personal interest in her life and how her day was going. He had that still, attentive way about him as Peter did. If another male attended, he handled that interaction in a relaxed, friendly way, seamless male bonding amid a sea of estrogen.

He was a K&A management scion as well. Following impulse rather than good sense, she’d looked up articles on the company. Like Peter, he was one of the brilliant five-man team that ran K&A. They’d been given various nicknames in both the business and society pages, including the wunderkind, because of what they’d accomplished at a relatively young age in the manufacturing world.

However, one gossip columnist gave them a different name. Knights of the Boardroom. With the calculated indiscretion that a gossip columnist could dare, the reporter had noted they had a closely bonded intuition usually shared by fetuses in the womb. Another reason for the nickname was that they were well known for their support of charitable efforts, both with money and hands-on time. They’d been deeply involved in relief efforts for Katrina and supposedly always had personal bets running between them where the winnings went to the charity of the winner’s choice. In the pictures taken of them at different functions, she knew they were all handsome as sin, though her gaze always strayed to Jon’s face, and sometimes her fingers, slipping over the image with guilty shame at the girlish act.

With his mechanical aptitude and inventor’s spirit, Jon was called the “boy genius” of the group. He held dual financial and engineering degrees and already had multiple patents for innovative manufacturing processes and gadgets. He also had impressive diplomacy and negotiating skills, and was considered the calming yet irresistible influence of the group. Business rivals had dubbed him Kensington’s Archangel with grudging admiration.

Knowing he was an engineer and inventor explained why the knuckles of his long-fingered hands were often scraped, his palms calloused. She’d not only had the shameful, secret pleasure of touching them, but some of the rest of him as well. Enough to know firsthand his trim frame truly was solid muscle. Because his upper body strength made the more extreme positions easier for him to execute, she’d fallen into the despicable habit of using him to demonstrate those. Despicable because she used those innocuous visual cues as an excuse to make contact.

Note how Jon has his weight balanced. A quick touch of his thigh, braced and holding in Warrior One. Pay particularly attention to the position of the neck here, the angle of the hips…. She’d almost gone too far that day, because when she’d stepped up behind him to lay her hands on his hips, she’d accidentally brushed the upper rise of his taut buttocks with her thumbs. She’d blushed like a girl. Thank heavens for the dim lighting, the flickering candles that created a tranquil environment and hid such reactions. His skin was fueled by a heat that warmed her whole body at the casual touch.

She assumed he came to the class for the camaraderie of others, because he was more proficient in the ancient practice than Rachel was. Some days she wished he would stop coming; other days she could hardly wait to see which day he turned up. In less rational moments she blamed him for reviving all these feelings.

He’d given her direct permission to touch him, after all.

* * * * *

It was a ritual she performed with all her new students. At the beginning of a class, she would take a seat on her mat and ask the first-timer the same question. “May I touch you?”

The reason for the question was innocent enough. At the end of each session, they would perform the yoga nidra, the students lying on their mats, entering a state of deep relaxation. She would visit each one, kneel at the crown of his or her head and massage the temples with herbal-coated hands, her thumbs slowly rotating over the third eye, spiritually located above and centered between the eyebrows.

When she’d met his gaze that first day, at the beginning of class, those blue eyes had been deep and mysterious in the candlelight, almost causing her to lose her train of thought.

“May I touch you? Jon.” She added the name as an afterthought, but it felt wrong, as if an honorific was needed instead. Particularly when something indefinable entered his gaze as if he heard the pause and—unlike her—had no doubt about what should go in that empty space.

“Yes, Rachel. You may.”

No nervous half smile and quick one-word assent, as often happened with a new student, surprised by the question. Those four words, uttered in that velvet tone, had brought back to life dangerous fantasies she’d kept quelled for so long. She had the crazy thought that it wouldn’t matter when or how she wanted to touch him. He would always require that she wait for his permission. It made her palms dampen and her pulse flutter.

Maintaining her focus that day, staying centered in her practice, had been all but impossible, because all she could think about was touching him at the end of it. She’d lectured herself, messed up right and left cues about twelve times, until her students were teasing her good-naturedly. However, when she finally knelt at his head, her hands scented with lavender and eucalyptus oils, she’d tried to keep her eyes on the gold band of her wedding ring, the protection that illusion gave her. Instead, her gaze strayed to his closed eyes, the set of his firm mouth, the slope of his jaw. The way his hair brushed her skin as she laid her fingers on his temples.

She imagined what would happen if he lifted his hands, closed them over her wrists, holding her manacled there as he opened his eyes, looked up at her and made entirely different demands. Just the vision made her wet, a shocking development. It had been quite a while since anything had caused her to have that response.

As if some kind of devil on her shoulder was determined to make things worse, Jon had lifted his chin as she settled her fingers on his brow. Though he kept his eyes closed, his nostrils flared. “I like this scent, Rachel,” he said, his voice low.

Of course he meant the eucalyptus and lavender. Right?

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