Friday, December 31, 2010

HIS RING, HER BABY by Maxine Sullivan

HIS RING, HER BABY by Maxine Sullivan

Wanted: One Wedding Ring...For Now

The job title was housekeeper, not fiancee! But billionaire cattleman Kirk Deverill couldn't throw the lovely single mom off his ranch. Especially when he knew the job would help her keep her son. Of course, the eligible bachelor hadn't expected her to tell everyone she was also Kirk's bride-to-be! He agreed to Vanessa's ruse for her adorable son's sake. And for the opportunity to claim some "husbandly" pleasures. Of course, making their fake engagement a real union was never going to happen. The Outback loner had his reasons...and even the most desirable of women wouldn't get him to change his mind.

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Excerpt:

We've sold the motel.

Vanessa Hamilton was still reeling from her cousin's news when she looked up and saw a luxury Range Rover pull up out front of the Jackaroo Plains Motel.

She groaned, wishing she could go think about her situation without interruption from either telephones or guests. Her son was taking his morning nap right now so the timing would have been perfect. She was pleased for Linda and Hugh, of course. It was what they wanted. But she'd only been here three weeks and had planned on staying at least six months.

And right now she had to put all her worry aside as she watched the man push open the glass door. Lord, he was certainly handsome enough to take any woman's mind off her problems.

Or create one.

No one had taught her about these three Rs in school.

Rich.

Rugged.

Red-blooded.

He epitomized everything she imagined a wealthy outback male to be. From the tips of his brown leather boots, to bone-colored trousers and the light blue polo shirt a woman was tempted to rub against, to his wrist where an expensive Rolex glistened in the light.

He stopped in front of the reception desk, his blue eyes filling with masculine appreciation. "You're new here," he drawled.

She lifted her chin, annoyed with herself for finding him attractive. "Are you looking for a room?" she asked in her best no-nonsense voice, already knowing they had nothing suitable. The Plaza Hotel in New York was more his style.

Those blue eyes narrowed on her. "No."

"If you're looking to eat in the restaurant—"

"I'm not."

"You're not here for the gardener's job, are you?" she said, knowing it sounded ridiculous but one never knew.

His low chuckle resonated with something inside her. Something she didn't want to acknowledge.

"No, I'm not here for that, either."

Suddenly she noticed his gaze dart to her left hand, noting her bare fingers. Uneasiness fluttered inside her stomach that he might think her single and available. It had been weird taking off her rings, but the heat had made her fingers swell a little and the alternative had been to have the rings adjusted. She hadn't wanted to do that, seeing her fingers would return to normal once she returned to Sydney.

Just like she would return to normal, she had promised herself, realizing now it might happen sooner than expected.

Oh, God, she didn't want to go back to the city where her wealthy parents-in-law doted on her one-year-old son, Josh.

More than doted.

Smothered.

"I came to see Linda and Hugh," the man said, drawing her back to the present.

The penny dropped. He was the new owner of the motel. Oh, yes, that explained him. Her cousin said he was rich, predatory, and sucked up failing businesses like a vacuum cleaner, then got rid of half the staff under the guise of modernization.

Well, officially she wasn't on the staff.

She gave him a cool look. "They're not here."

"Where are they?"

"Dubbo."

There was a moment's pause. "When will they be back?"

"No idea."

One brow lifted, a questioning light in his eyes. "Are you always this helpful?"

"Only when it's part of the job," she said with a politeness that was nothing more than lip service.

His jaw set. "Look, I'm a friend of Linda and Hugh's and—"

Her heart thudded. "A… a friend?"

"Yes, Hugh and I went to boarding school together."

"Oh, I thought—" She stopped. Perhaps Linda and Hugh didn't want it known yet that they were selling.

"Yes?"

"It doesn't matter." It all made sense now. She could easily see the two men being friends. Hugh's parents owned a cattle station, but Hugh had been more interested in business than the land and had bought the motel for him and Linda.

Did this man own a cattle station, too? He certainly looked like one of the wealthy landowners.

"The name's Kirk, by the way," he said, snapping her from her thoughts. "Kirk Deverill."

His name flowed over her. Why couldn't he be called Bruce? Or Darryl? Something that didn't sound so masculine or make a woman think about him as a man.

She let out a shaky breath. "I'm Linda's cousin. Vanessa Hamilton."

He paused, as if putting the name to her face and liking what he saw. Then his eyes fell to her lips. "I didn't know Linda had such a beautiful cousin."

She gave a soft gasp. Why did this man's words make her knees weak when almost every available male in town, and some not so available, had said the same thing since her arrival?

The telephone rang and she snatched it up, uncomfortable at the feelings he was raising inside her. She could feel him watching her as she went to a stand to get a brochure on the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo. She answered a couple of questions for the guest then hung up and put the brochure back.

"I'm sorry. I—" She looked up and caught him eyeing the full length of her denim jeans. "Um… just a question about the zoo," she finished on a lame note.

"No need to be sorry," he said smoothly, not looking the slightest bit uncomfortable at having been caught. Then he considered her. "So tell me. Why the attitude?"

She cleared her throat. "Attitude?"

"You obviously thought I was someone else."

"Perhaps." It wasn't up to her to tell him about the sale. Besides, he could say he was a friend of Linda and Hugh's but that didn't mean he actually was.

"Someone you don't like."

"Maybe."

"You realize you owe me an apology," he pointed out.

Yes, and he owed her an apology for the way he'd been looking at her, but did she want to go there? No way.

"Of course, there is a way you could make up for it," he said, a light in his eyes telling her this man was very experienced with women.

She stiffened. Here it comes. One sexist remark and she'd tie him to a tree for the dingoes to eat.

"Have dinner with me tomorrow night."

"Dinner?" Her heart jumped in her chest. "I can't. I mean, I can't desert Linda and Hugh then. It's going to be a big night for them. I'm helping out around the place, you see, and I—"

"You only had to say no." Her reaction seemed to amuse him. "I'm a big boy. I can take it."

Vanessa didn't know whether to be relieved or irritated that he gave in so easily. She'd expected some sort of fight from the guy.

She drew breath. "Fine then. No, I don't want to have dinner with you tomorrow night."

"How about a rain check?"

She gave a startled laugh. "What happened to 'you only had to say no'?"

"I said I could take it. I didn't say I would." An air of indolence exuded from him. "Now, about that rain check…"

All at once she wanted to get the better of him. "Okay," she said, planting a smirk on her lips. "Next time it rains I'll have dinner with you."

His brow rose. "You realize we're in the middle of a severe drought, don't you?"

"Yes, I know."

His firm lips relaxed into a lazy smile and her stomach did a flip-flop. Suddenly she wanted to step around the counter and into his arms. Arms that would snake around her hips and pull her up against his aroused body.

Aroused? Yes, she had the feeling she could excite this man, if she chose to make a move on him.

Not that she would, she told herself as she mentally pulled away in confusion. She'd never felt such an instant reaction before. With Mike the attraction had grown as she'd slowly fallen in love.

Mike.

Oh, God, how could she even think about comparing her late husband to this stranger? What was wrong with her today? Maybe it was just too much stress. In any case, it was definitely too much of—

"Kirk!" Linda exclaimed, coming through a side door with Hugh, sending a sigh of relief through Vanessa, who was more than ready to go clean some of the vacated rooms. "You're back from Sydney at last."

"Yes, just passing through on the way home." He gave Linda a kiss on the cheek and shook Hugh's hand. Then his gaze slid across the reception desk. "Your cousin's been looking after me."

Linda darted a smile at Vanessa. "Good."

"Did she tell you about the sale?" Hugh said.

Kirk brows drew together. "Sale?"

Vanessa gave Hugh a helpless smile. "I wasn't sure if I should say anything."

"That's okay, love," Hugh said warmly. "Kirk, we put the motel on the market a few weeks ago and this morning we received our first reasonable offer. That's why we rushed into Dubbo. To sign the contract."

A frown crossed Kirk's face. "You're selling?"

"It's either sell now or lose everything," Hugh said, then his face brightened. "But I've been offered a job to manage some apartments on the Gold Coast. It's come at the perfect time. Linda and I want to have another baby in the nottoo-distant future." He hugged his wife to his side. "Don't we, darling?"

Linda smiled up at him. "A little brother or sister for Toby would be lovely."

Kirk scowled. "Listen, if you need money to keep the motel afloat—"

Hugh shook his head. "Thanks, mate, but it's been getting too much for us anyway. It'll be nice to have a normal family life again."

Vanessa watched Kirk seriously consider his friends, then give a slow nod. "I'll be sorry to see you both go."

"Hey, we'll only be a few hours away by air," Linda said.

"When does the sale go through?"

"We're handing over in a month's time." Hugh grimaced. "The buyer is Bert Viner and you know what his reputation is like. I don't like selling to him but—" He put up his hand as Kirk went to speak. "No, we're fine, Kirk. It's time for us to move on."

Linda sighed. "Unfortunately he'll cut back on staff and I hate that people will lose their jobs. And Vanessa was going to stay for six months but now…" Linda looked at her cousin and her eyes clouded over. "I just didn't think it would happen this quickly."

Neither had she, Vanessa thought, forcing a smile. "Oh, Linda, it's not like you hadn't told me that you'd put the motel on the market."

"I know but—"

"Don't worry about me. This is your life we're talking about." They'd worked hard to get to this point in their lives.

"I know but—"

"I've had a nice break," Vanessa said firmly.

Linda took a shuddering breath, then her face filled with resolve. "You're my cousin. We'll think of something."

Vanessa's heart softened as she looked at Linda's upset face and Hugh's concerned one. These two people had welcomed her into their home with love and affection and she didn't want them to feel guilty about any of this.

Then she realized Kirk's intense gaze was on her. He couldn't know her circumstances but she suspected he knew she was deeply worried.

So she welcomed Linda's exclamation. "Oh, heavens, Kirk! We're standing here talking to you instead of offering you a drink. Or how about I make you some lunch? The restaurant's closed but I'd be happy to whip something up for you."

Kirk's smile said thanks but he replied, "Sorry, I can't. I need to get home and do some catching up. I've been away too long."

Linda's expression turned sympathetic. "I'd heard your housekeeper had to go interstate to take care of a family member. It won't be easy getting someone to replace her." She pulled a face. "And here, I haven't even asked how your mother is after her surgery. There were some complications, I believe."

"Yes, but she's finally on the mend. Jade's looking after her now, when she's not working all the hours under the sun, that is."

"I wonder who your sister is like?" Linda teased, then her eyes widened. "Oh, I almost forgot. It's Hugh's parents' thirty-fifth wedding anniversary tomorrow and we're giving them a party in the restaurant. You must come, Kirk. They'd be heartbroken if you didn't. Isn't that right, Hugh?"

"You know they always had a soft spot for you," Hugh said, going over to one of their guests who'd come in and made a beeline for the brochure stand.

"I don't see how," Kirk joked after him, and Vanessa had to wonder the same thing, too. The man had a hardness about him that didn't translate into him being more a friend than a foe. Yet watching him here with Linda and Kirk—and he evidently treated his mother and sister well—didn't fit. That hardness was more than skin deep, she was sure.

"I'll see what I can do," he added.

"Good," Linda said, taking that for his word. "And if you don't mind, you can keep an eye on Vanessa. She doesn't know many people in Jackaroo Plains. She's only been here from Sydney three weeks."

Vanessa froze.

"It would be my pleasure," she heard Kirk say.

She recovered quickly. Her cousin was a mother hen at times but she didn't need looking after, and certainly not by a man who dined on women for breakfast.

"I'll be fine, Linda. I don't want to take Kirk away from the other guests."

"You won't," he said, a purposeful gleam in his eyes sending a shock through her, though it shouldn't have. He'd been making a move on her since he'd walked through the door, and mentally she was already his.

"There you are then," Linda said, giving Vanessa an encouraging smile. All at once she tilted her head thoughtfully. "You're looking quite flushed, sweetie. It's this outback heat. You haven't got the air-conditioning turned up high enough. You should go for a quick swim but don't stay in the sun too long."

Vanessa swallowed with difficulty. "What a good idea," she said, not looking at Kirk.

Thankfully another guest came into the reception area just then, and with Hugh still busy with the previous guest, Linda came around the counter. "Here, cuz. Let me take over. You go have that swim."

Vanessa didn't need further prompting. She twirled toward the door marked Private, desperate to grab any excuse to get out of that man's presence. She heard him tell the others he had to get home.

Then, "Vanessa?"

If only she could ignore him, but Linda and Hugh would think her rude.

She stopped and glanced over her shoulder. "Yes?"

"See you at the party," he said, an intensity to his eyes that made her softly gasp.

Somehow she managed a jerky nod before making her escape. It hadn't been an issue before now but tomorrow night she'd tell him he'd got it all wrong. He had to be told she was a widow. There was no way this man would want any involvement with a woman who was still mourning the man she loved.

Kirk Deverill would never accept being second best.

After six weeks away Kirk had looked forward to coming home but now as he drove toward Deverill Downs, he realized the news that his friends were leaving the area shouldn't really have come as a surprise. He'd miss them. There weren't many people he totally trusted like he did Hugh and Linda.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

GETTING PHYSICAL by Tianna Xander

GETTING PHYSICAL Book Three in Tianna Xander's The Endowed Series

Caramia is a vampire slayer, which is all fine and good until she finds out the man she's in love with is a vampire. What's a girl to do when the man she loves runs off to find another man - vampire - whatever? Well...she learns to live with it then trains, trains, trains. Who needs fickle men anyway?

Nicodemo returns to find the woman he loves tougher than he remembers her. Not only is she an experienced slayer, but she's learned to live without him since his departure. When he left to find his best friend and triad mate, he never expected to come back and find that the sweet woman he left behind was such an accomplished killer. However, it doesn't bother him...too much. After all, she told him she loved him. Things couldn't have changed that much, could they?

Leopold knows Cara is for him the moment he sees her. He wants nothing more than to make a life and babies with her. The only question he has is whether or not she can keep from staking him long enough to get to know him.

As the two men set out to convince Cara they don't want to live without her, they woo her in the only way they know how. Can she overcome the fact that the two men she finds herself in such a strange relationship with are the very kind of monsters she's trained to kill...or are they?

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Getting Physical

© Tianna Xander

All Rights Reserved, eXtasy Books


Excerpt:


Turning, she glared at Leo. "And where do you fit in all of this?"

Leo held his hands up, palms out. "Hey, I'm just an innocent bystander here. I didn't do anything." He looked at each of them in turn. "In fact, I think this is something you two need to work out on your own. If you don't mind," he paused and jerked his thumb toward the door. "I'll just go outside and count the clover or something."

"Oh. My. God. Not another one of you idiots with that counting business. I know that's a load of crap." She grinned and shook her head. Turning to Leo, she said, "Look, you don't have to go anywhere. I realize what you two are to each other and I'm happy for you. I really am." Her bottom lip quivered and her eyes glistened with unshed tears. "If you don't mind," she stopped to clear her throat when her voice broke. "I really need to go. I have business to attend to."

"To hell with this," Nico snarled and grabbed her arm, pulling her into his embrace. "I've missed you, Caramia." He took a deep breath, taking in her scent, her very essence. "I've dreamt of you, of this moment every night for the last fifteen months." Fisting his hand in her hair, he drew her head back and stared down into her beautiful eyes.

Thick black lashes drifted down, effectively hiding her emotions from him. He brought his free hand up, his thumb caressing her full, lush lips. He wanted nothing more than to lean down and claim her mouth with his, but he refrained. Instead, he brushed his thumb over her quivering bottom lip and the coffee and cream of her cheek. He loved the contrast between the colors of their skin. He couldn't wait to see her sandwiched between the two of them.

He couldn't wait to sink his cock into her slick channel once again. He barely dared to dream what it would feel like to bury himself deep into her tight sheathe while Leo fucked her ass.

Finally giving into the urge, Nico bent and slanted his lips over hers. Closing his eyes, he groaned. She tasted of Cara, sweet, sweet honey and heaven. Nothing had ever compared to the sensation of her lips pressed against his, her body moving in time with his to the inaudible music of an ancient dance. As always, invisible lightning arced between them. It raced through his blood, heating him from the inside out like a star gone super-nova. When Cara opened her lips, he groaned deep in his throat as he thrust his tongue into the dark recesses of her mouth.

His already hard cock grew impossibly larger as he repeatedly pressed his hips against hers. He dreamt of this every time he lay down to sleep over the past year. Living without her the past months was the hardest thing he had ever had to bear. Just knowing that he left his mate needing him, grieving for him, nearly drove him mad. His need ratcheted higher as he thought about the long, lonely months they spent apart. Even the companionship of his best friend couldn't assuage the guilt of leaving her alone when he knew she would repeatedly stalk danger like a wolf stalks its prey.

Standing here with her in his arms was nothing short of a miracle. He had ached to do this, to feel her soft heat pressed intimately against him, her body quivering with the same need as his. Nico needed this woman by his side, by their sides, just as surely as he needed nourishment to survive.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

MATED by Desiree Holt

MATED - Book Five in Desiree Holt's The Sentinel Series

Cale Martin knew at once Linnea Porter was his mate, but could he convince her in the midst of turmoil?

When The Sentinels agreed to look into the disappearance of Linnea Porter's sister, Cale Martin was tagged as the lead. He didn't know what he expected the first night he showed up at Linnea's, but a surge of lust wasn't on his list. Nor did he expect his inner wolf to reach out to her.

For Linnea, fascinated by shapeshifters, Cale called to something primitive inside her. As they focused on finding her sister, the bond between them continued to grow. Was it possible that this shifter and this human were meant to be...mated?

Reader Advisory: This book is best read in sequence as part of a series, although it can be read as a standalone title.



EXCERPT:
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: Mated


“I want to thank all of you for showing up here for me.”

Regan Matthews Spencer stood at the head of the table in the conference room at The Sentinels. On either side of her were the eight Sentinels, including her husband, Brian, and the newest additions. Ann Marie Knight, Drew Noland’s wife. Sierra Hart, married to Brian’s brother, Luke. And Mack Renfield, recently wed to Sentinel Kelsey Bryant. Like the eight original members of the protection agency, Ann Marie and Mack were also shifters. This meant that when they were needed in their wolf form, the team had additional help.

Now Regan, an assistant prosecuting attorney who had met Brian when she herself hired The Sentinels, was asking their help with a very personal problem.

“No problem, Regan.” Drew Noland smiled at her. “We’re all here for each other.”

“Well, I know you and Ann Marie…” she looked around the table, “and you, Cale, drove in from your ranches because I asked for the full team, and I really appreciate it.”

“You’re one of us,” her sister-in-law, Sierra, Luke’s wife, pointed out. “You ask, we’re here.”

Regan smiled, although it was a strained expression. “Well, thanks, anyway. This is very important to me. I may not need all of you but I wanted everyone’s input.”

“When did your friend disappear?” This from Cale Martin. Lean and dark, with thick black hair, he looked every bit the rancher he was. His ranch in the Hill Country was near Drew and Ann Marie’s and they’d driven in to the meeting caravan fashion.

“It’s actually my friend’s sister. Linnea Porter and I started in the prosecutor’s office together and we’ve always been very close. Some of you met her at our wedding.” She looked around the table again.

“Sorry,” he apologised. “My mistake. But if she’s that close to you then her sister’s disappearance has to have hit you hard, too.”

“Yes, it has. I met Cathy a number of times and I agree with Linnea. This isn’t someone who would just walk away from her friends and family without a word.”

Brian uncurled himself from his relaxed pose. “She’s been a great friend to Regan and me, so I’d really like it if we helped out with this. Linnea’s really distraught over her sister’s disappearance. Cathy Porter isn’t an irresponsible person, so you can bet something’s wrong here.”

“Especially since the police haven’t been able to find any trace of Cathy Porter in almost a month,” Regan added.

“Linnea’s at the end of her rope,” Brian told them. “Like Regan said, the investigation’s going nowhere and I think the cops are getting ready to stick it in the cold case files.”

“When was the last time someone saw her?” Mack Renfrew asked. When he and Kelsey Bryant had gotten married The Sentinels had added him to their group. Now he, Kelsey, and Luke and Sierra Spencer ran a northeast office of the agency in Maine where they all lived.

Regan took a deep breath and looked at her notes, although she knew the story by heart. “According to both Linnea and Cathy’s boyfriend, the last anyone saw her was when she left for work on a Thursday morning. She works for The Gage Foundation, one of the biggest philanthropic foundations in the city. She had some calls to make out of the office, checking on fund recipients. She was getting ready to do the monthly reports to donors and she had some questions she wanted answers to first. No biggie. She did that a lot.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Talking about this always upset her. “Anyway, she never showed up at the office and no one’s seen her since then.”

“I’m sure the cops checked with everyone she saw that day,” Mack commented.

Regan nodded. “Yes. More than once. But it’s like she just disappeared into thin air.”


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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

DEGRANON by Duane Simolke


DEGRANON: A SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURE

Duane Simolke's gay-themed novel involves a family trapped between two oppressive worlds.
On the planet Valchondria, no illness exists, gay marriage is legal, and everyone is a person of color. However, a group called "the Maintainers" carefully monitors everyone's speech, actions, and weight; the Maintainers also force so-called "colorsighted" people to hide their ability to see in color.

The brilliant scientist Taldra loves her twin gay sons and thinks of them as the hope for Valchondria's future, but one of them becomes entangled in the cult of Degranon, while the other becomes stranded on the other side of a doorway through time. Can they find their way home and help Taldra save their world?

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Excerpt:

The planet Valchondria seems advanced and remarkably humane in many ways. But the government regulates people's weight, reproduction, theology, actions, and speech; the government also forbids travel and contact beyond Valchondria's atmosphere. A charismatic leader called "Gazer" leads the cult of Degranon; he promises change, but at a violent and oppressive cost. In between these two dystopias (failed Utopias), we find Taldra and Hachen, striving to make a better world for their twin sons. Obviously, the book raises many social issues, but it often does so in humorous or exciting ways. This scene obviously pokes fun at the ridiculous Earth tradition known as "homophobia," but it still has some scary overtones. (The Valchondrians use "same-gendered" in place of the words “gay” or “homosexual.”)


Her gray eyes sparkled like no eyes Hachen had ever seen. Actually, she had broken the law by secretly telling him that her eyes were light brown, but, unlike his gifted spouse, he couldn’t see in color. He couldn’t even see the redness of her skin, though he knew from history class that most people on Valchondria have red, brown, or black skin, and some of the people who had once lived there had yellow or white skin. To him, everyone simply looked white or black.


During history classes, before the Maintainers expunged certain anti-glory facts from the school curriculum, Hachen had learned about how white-skinned people and yellow-skinned people faded from existence. After the Supreme Science Council realized that those two races contracted certain illnesses that no one else contracted, they worked with the Maintainers to pass a constitutional amendment, banning any two members of those races from marrying. The measure supposedly protected Valchondria’s families and stability. Within three generations, both races ceased to exist; only the red, black, and brown races remained obvious, or some mixture of the three.


That time in Valchondria’s history brought outcries of shame, and the government vowed to never again use the law to promote bigotry. But then, little more than a hundred years later, the SSC found that obesity caused many illnesses, adding to increased national healthcare costs. So another constitutional amendment passed, this one allowing the Maintainers to fine people for not keeping a healthy height-to-weight ratio.


And after the virus came, the Maintainers and the SSC passed yet another constitutional amendment that promoted discrimination. That one made the ridiculous assertion that discussing colorsightedness posed a heavy hazard threat to traditional values, and that claiming to be colorsighted was nothing more than a plea for so-called “special rights.” It amazed Hachen that a civilized culture could keep taking away people’s civil rights. It also hurt him, because the woman he loved was the target of that bigotry.


And the new forms of bigotry kept emerging. Next came legally permitted language, initially called “socially recommended rhetoric,” creeping slowly into schools and the media and then into the law. And then Maintainer cameras came. And freedom left. All in the names of preserving traditional Valchondrian values. All suffocating Valchondrian creativity, thought, and progress.


Hachen clasped the slender hand that reached toward the tiny person in the infant pod that was attached to the bed.


“I’ll get him,” said Hachen. He gently lifted the pale infant, who was wrapped in a white cloth as soft and warm as his skin.


“I was hoping to be able to say ‘them.’” She accepted the crying child into her arms, and he grew quiet as she rocked him back and forth.


“We had to work quickly. It’s bad enough we’re violating the codes. We can’t jeopardize Geln’s career as well as our own.”


“I know, Hachen. I just wanted a chance to see them both. I can’t believe I passed out during the birth.”


“I think those mind relaxants had something to do with it. I’m just glad no other healers came in. No one knows except for you, me, and Geln.”


“Wouldn’t the gossip masters love this story? ‘Leading scientists discover a rift in time and transport illegal twin into the past. Check your collector for details.’” She rubbed the tiny infant’s red face, and he seemed to smile. “Is this Argen, or Telius?”


“Argen,” said Hachen, sitting down on the edge of the bed. They had agreed on given names for the twins long before Taldra even started showing. “They’re identical. I performed a genetic scan; they’re both healthy and of potentially high intellect. Telius will need that to survive in his primitive environment.”


“But you said the village is peaceful. Hachen, where are we sending our baby?”


“Someplace where he at least has a chance.” Hachen had never seen her look so vulnerable before, like anyone could crush her with a touch. Before, she always projected herself as brave and outspoken, sometimes even reckless, but he could tell becoming a mother would change her. Somehow, she seemed less courageous but more protective. He tried to think of words to reassure her. “The village is peaceful. I just meant that he won’t have all the luxuries and protections we have. He’ll be like…well, like a colonist.”


The look of worry gave way to one of wonder. “I like that analogy.” She smiled at the baby who slept in her arms. “Maybe one day, we’ll all be on one colony together, the four of us.”


“That sounds nice. To the side, the genetic scan also showed that they’re both same-gendered.” Hachen used the term with pride, and Taldra smiled with the same pride. At least no one ever came up with the crumbled idea of discriminating against people who identified romantically and emotionally with members of their own gender. No culture could ever be that rusted, he told himself, but then thought again of how utterly ridiculous he saw all other forms of bigotry; none of it made sense. Discrimination and prejudice never made any sense at all to Hachen.

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LUST BY MOONLIGHT by Desiree Holt


LUST BY MOONLIGHT by Desiree Holt

Night Seeker Series - Book Two

As a shifter Mark Guitron is uniquely equipped to search for the devil beast, El Chupacabra, and stop the horrible killings. Hunting one night by moonlight he spots another wolf whose aura tells him she is also a shifter. When he is visited by an erotic vision of her in human form he knows he must find her and make her his own.

Chloe Hansen is searching for her friend who she's convinced is a victim of the devil beast. When she meets Mark she feels a primal tug that tells her they are meant to be together. As they join forces in the hunt, they soon learn that sex between them feeds a need, rather than slaking it. The multiple orgasms barely satisfy their lust for each other, and as they draw closer to their prey they mate in the fiercest coupling yet.



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An Excerpt From: LUST BY MOONLIGHT

Copyright © DESIREE HOLT, 2010

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

Chapter One



“Hey, I’ve only been here for two nights.” Mark chuckled into the sat phone. “Give me a break, okay?”

“Just checking.” Ric Garza’s voice held just a trace of humor. “So how did you find things there? About the same?”

“Nothing ever changes down here,” Mark told him. “Still a lot of ‘coyotes’ bringing illegals across the Rio Grande and the narcotraficantes are still running drugs. Otherwise, what else could be going on in a county that has a total population of less than fourteen thousand?”

“You tell me? You’re the one who lived there all those years.”

Mark sighed. “I know. I just enjoyed the peace and quiet. Don’t get many gangbangers or drive-bys down this way.”

“So, tell me. Any talk in town about the beast? And hint of an appearance?”

“No.” Mark sighed. “But you and I both know that doesn’t mean anything. By the time we hear about it, the first killing has already taken place.”

“You going out again tonight?” Ric wanted to know.

“In just a little while. I’ll let you know if I find anything. Pick up any trace.”

“All right. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

Mark Guitron clicked off and placed the phone on the kitchen counter. Glancing out the window over the sink, he saw that twilight had already morphed into night. Another hour and it would be full dark, time for him to prowl. He busied himself at his laptop while he waited, pulling up again the latest news stories on El Chupacabra and trying to find some hint of the beast’s path of destruction. Finally, by ten o’clock he was ready. Stripping off his clothes and leaving them folded on his bed, he opened the back door, walked onto the tiny porch and willed his body to shift.

As always he felt the bones elongate, the muscles stretch, his nose morph into the classic snout of the wolf. The fine smattering of dark hair on his body thickened and turned into a rich pelt and his canine teeth became biting tools with sharpened points. In seconds he was wolf, lifting his head to scent the air. Quietly he padded down the stairs, inhaled the night air again, and took off across the rocky ground and down into the first of many arroyos.

The moon had just cleared the tops of the trees and hung like a silver ball in the sky. The air was clear tonight, not a hint of a cloud, and stars hung like brilliants around the lunar globe. The loamy soil over its base of natural caliche lay like a carpet on the ground, populated by thorny shrubs that thrived in the arid environment. Zapata County, located in the Balcones Escarpment, was in the area that divided East and West Texas. It nestled along the Mexican border seeking invisibility in the ongoing border drug wars.

Mark had grown up here, in this sparsely populated area, his parents scratching out a living in the natural gas industry, the county’s main economic product. A football scholarship took him through four years at Texas A&M University and a degree in criminal justice. He’d been a decorated deputy in the Zapata County Sheriff’s Office until the call had come from Craig Stafford. He’d been reeling from the death of his closest friend, killed by the Chupacabra, a beast that many refused to acknowledge, that others denigrated, but that all feared.

Now he was back in the area he knew so well, roaming it as the wolf.

The devil beast had gone from Texas to Florida but deep in his belly Mark sensed it was headed back here. To finish things. Finish the cycle.

Its pattern was always three kills before moving on, but in Maverick County it had been held to two because Mark and Jonah had chased it away by zeroing in on another predator. Similar, but not the same. Not only had the autopsy proven that, but there had been more killings.

Mark was the one who had suggested returning to the Texas border area because the devil beast hadn’t completed its pattern there. Three kills, then move on. But it had been interrupted before the third one. Its rage would be great and its bloodlust high. It would want to leave its stamp on that area.

The Night Seekers had all debated whether it would return to Maverick County or move on. Both Mark and Jonah had insisted it wouldn’t go back to the place where it had nearly been killed but would find someplace close by. Zapata County, with its vast stretches of land and sparse population was an ideal spot for the Chupacabra killing ground.

Mark had kept his little house outside the town of Zapata. What the hell, it was all paid for. And so he’d opened it up, laid in some provisions and each night shifted to go hunting. Now in his wolf form he padded along in the moonlight, listening to the calls of the night birds. He used his highly developed sense of smell to search for traces of the Chupacabra, especially any lingering hint of the aroma of turpentine that he and Jonah had found at the killing site in Maverick County, but he only caught the scent of the wild animals.

Still, his plan was to keep searching every night, widening the area each time he went out. In his gut he knew the devil beast would come here to finish his task. Knew it with a certainty. And he would be here, waiting for it.

It was a night just like this one when he’d found the body of his closest friend, Rob Greico. He’d just come off patrol as a Deputy Sheriff and was swinging by Rob’s house for a late beer. Like Mark, Rob lived in a fairly isolated area of the county. He’d driven down the long caliche drive from the two-lane highway, ready to kick back and suck on a brew. All the lights had been on at Rob’s house, but when Mark knocked no one answered. Nor did he find anyone when he walked through the house. The television was blaring but no Rob. Nothing.

Until he reached the barn. What he’d thought was a pile of rags turned out to be Rob’s mutilated body. Mark had walked away from the site and vomited before finally going back to take a closer look. He’d never get the horror of that night out of his mind. Fang marks on his throat. His body drained of blood. His stomach ripped open and his intestines hanging out.

No one should have to die like that. And he’d vowed that moment not to stop until he’d hunted and killed the devil beast.

The problem with hunting El Chupacabra was people were so scared of the legend they wouldn’t acknowledge it. Or else they discounted it as an old wives’ tale. His boss had finally demanded that he take some leave time and right about then Craig Stafford had contacted him about Night Seekers.

He truly hoped this wasn’t going to be a waste of time on his part. The animal—or whatever it was—needed to be caught and killed before it wreaked any more havoc. The most disturbing thought was the indication that someone might be crossbreeding and trying to reproduce this evil hybrid of nature. Whoever that was had to be found and stopped.

Mark paused at the top of a rocky knoll, lifting his snout. A strange scent caught at his nostrils, and he turned his head.

Wolf!

Every muscle in his body went rigid. Wolves were not endemic to Zapata County. Indeed, wolves were all but extinct everywhere in Texas, disappearing slowly over the years. While neighboring states had reintroduced the gray wolf to the wild, Texas still lagged behind. Which was why Mark was always careful when running to do it at night and pick a spot without human habitation.

So where did this other wolf come from? Was it one of the rare red wolves he’d read about inhabiting the area? He didn’t even know if their existence here was a fact, or just a legend like El Chupacabra. And why would it be here, anyway, since its habitat was the marshland between Houston and Beaumont?

Moving rapidly into a small cluster of trees, he shifted and used the thickest tree to conceal himself. Peering around the trunk, he spotted the other wolf still standing in the same place. It turned its head in Mark’s direction and he could have sworn that even at this distance the animal saw him. He held his breath. If it was truly a wolf in the wild, it would smell him and possibly attack.

But the strangest thing happened. The air around the animal shimmered and in seconds where the wolf had stood was a woman whose amazing body was outlined by the moonlight. He could tell she was tall, with long hair of some dark color that streamed down her back, and as she lifted her arms she brought magnificent breasts into relief.

His cock stood immediately at attention, hardening and swelling. He started to move out of his hiding place, then thought better of it. She turned her head in his direction for the briefest of moments, then the air shimmered again and the wolf was back.

He stood unmoving, watching, until the other animal loped of into a stand of trees and disappeared from sight. This was not good. If there was another shifter in the area, Night Seekers really needed to know about it. He’d have to do some real digging to find out about the wolf, and do it without raising any suspicions.

Taking one last look, he turned and trotted off to his house.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

TEXAS LADY by Sandy Sullivan

TEXAS LADY - a historical Western romance from Sandy Sullivan

Elizabeth has loved Jeff since she was 16, but he couldn't see past her pigtails and trousers. Now she's all grown up and hunting for him. Boarding school did wonders for her grace and womanly attributes, even getting her a marriage proposal. Gregory isn't who she wants, Jeff is.
Jeff grew up with Elizabeth tagging along behind her brothers. Pest was her nickname, but now her luscious curves have him stunned. When she returns from back east, dragging along a dandy easterner, he's surprised at the unexpected jealousy surging through him. She's only the next door neighbor's kid sister, right?

Rustlers are invading the Texas countryside and stealing cattle left and right. The Johnson's ranch is in financial peril from the loss. Can Elizabeth tuck away her love for Jeff and marry the wealthy Gregory to save the family farm? Will Elizabeth and Jeff's one night of passion waylay her plans?

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Excerpt

Jeff was completely surprised at the vision standing in front of him. He hadn’t seen Elizabeth since the spring dance four years ago when she had unceremoniously shoved him into the horse trough after she had caught him kissing Aubrey Dillon. She had been so proud of herself that night, but he had spent an uncomfortable ride home in wet clothing.

“Of course, it’s me, you ninny. Who else would be swimming in this pond? After all, it is on Double J property. Now, please turn around like a gentleman so that I can get dressed.”

“Well, you never know. Besides, it’s half on Rocking W property too, you know.” His eyes met hers. Desire raced along his nerves. He’d caught a peek of some luscious curves before she’d grabbed her clothes. After another quick glance, he turned around. “I didn’t know you were home. I’m surprised Ray hadn’t mentioned it since I had just seen him in town last night,” he said over his shoulder.

“I just got home a few days ago,” she replied, her words muffled slightly as she pulled her shirt over her head. “You may turn around now.”

He turned to see she’d mostly returned her clothing to its proper place, but her hair was beginning to dry and wildly tangled about her head. Her blue eyes shot daggers at him when he raked his eyes appreciatively over her, and he began to smile.

Elizabeth had changed dramatically from the last time he had seen her. At the time, she’d been only sixteen and hadn’t completely filled out her womanly form. The woman standing before him was magnificent! Soft rounded bosom and a tiny waist showed off the curves to perfection. Although she didn’t know it, he had seen even more of her beautiful body when she had emerged from the pond. Of course, at the time, he hadn’t known it was Elizabeth. He really hadn’t come here with the intention of spying on whomever was swimming in the pond, but he’d heard a horse nicker softly to his when he rode near the nearby. He hadn’t recognized the horse so he had gotten down to investigate. With so many rustlers in the area, he had to be careful.

“Would you please stop looking at me like that?”

“Like what?” His gaze slid over her again.

“Oh, never mind.” She slipped her boots back on and stomped off to where her horse stood tied.

He followed behind her, watching her backside sway with appreciation. Why hadn’t he noticed how nicely her backside fit in her brother’s trousers before now?

When she approached her horse and attempted to slide her foot into the stirrup, he came up behind her, grasped her small waist, and easily lifted her into the saddle.

Elizabeth landed with an unladylike thump, and she grabbed for the reins quickly.



* * * *



Staring down at him from atop her horse, she realized he was still the most handsome boy she had ever seen. Man, she corrected herself in her mind. After all, he is twenty-four years old now and had easily grown another three inches since she had been gone. Her head barely reached his shoulder, and she was tall for a girl at five feet eight inches herself.

“Are you headed back to the ranch house now that you are well refreshed?”

“Yes,” she said with a sheepish smile. “Mother is going to kill me, I’m sure. She never did understand how I could swim in the pond anyway, much less now.”

“I’m sure all will be forgiven, even if you do look a little disheveled.”

“Do I?”

“It’s not all that bad, Elizabeth. You just look, um, how shall I say this without sounding crude?”

“What?”

“You look like you’ve just had a wild romp with someone in the field.”

She could see the laughter in his eyes. “I do not! Do I? I can’t go home like this!”

“It will be fine. Just run your fingers through your hair. Do you have anything to tie it back with?”

“No. I didn’t bring anything with me. I really hadn’t planned on going for a swim this afternoon when I headed out here.”

Taking the bandana from around his neck, he said, “Here. You can borrow this to tie back your hair until we get back to your parents’ place.”

“Thanks.” She took it from him, ran her fingers through her long hair as she attempted to make it somewhat presentable, and then tied his bandana around it at her nape to secure it in place the best she could.

“Shall we go?”

“Yes, I supposed we should. Why were you out here today anyway?”

“I was riding out to check on some of the cattle in the pasture back to the east, and your horse nickered at mine so I thought I’d check it out.”

“You really don’t have to ride back to the house with me. I know the way.”

“I’m sure you do, but there have been some problems out here lately, so I just think I’ll ride along, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind, I guess.” She really didn’t want him riding home with her. Her parents and her brothers didn’t need to know they had run into each other near the pond. She would have enough explaining to do about her appearance without explaining Jeff’s presence, too.

Glancing at him, she wondered what he was thinking. Several times he looked at her when he thought she didn’t notice. The changes in him weren’t glaring, but apparent to her, none-the-less.

His eyes had gotten a slightly deeper brown, if that was possible. His hair was a bit longer near the collar and had a little bit of a curl at the ends that she could see under his black cowboy hat. His chest was broader, and she could see small springy curls of brown hair from around the opening of his shirt near his neck.

I wonder what it would feel like to run my fingers through those curls. She quickly looked back at the road in front of them. My goodness! Where did that come from? You would think I’m some sort of brazen hussy with all that’s flittering through my mind at the moment.

A talk with her mother might be in order this evening. Then again, maybe not. Mother wouldn’t understand.


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TEMPEST'S GIFT by Robin Leigh Miller

TEMPEST'S GIFT - Book three in The Elemental Challenges Series by Robin Leigh Miller.

Christmas should have been an easy, relaxing holiday for Brian Burk. A time to spend with good friends and put his plan to seduce the hot tempered, sexy Tempest Proctor into action.

Sometimes Mother Nature pokes a sharp stick into plans and deflates them. Brian has had his hands full trying to keep roads clear and repair damaged buildings due to the strange weather pattern that settled itself over the county. Strong winds have been wreaking havoc, and Brian suspects Tempest Proctor knows something about it.

Being the guardian of the winds, she should be able to rescue the town. Except he finds her standing in the middle of a dark road with no coat and half frozen muttering to the blustering skies. Brian plops her into his truck and hauls her sexy ass to his home wanting answers and she isn't going anywhere until he gets what he wants.

Tempest Proctor lost control of her element. Her beloved winds won't respond and they're throwing the mother of all temper tantrums. On top of that strange things are happening to her. Steamy, erotic dreams plague her every night. That alone wouldn't really bother her, but the dreams feature the one and only Brian Burk. The one man she’s ever held any interest in. Add to that the painful tearing sensation inside her body from her elements power, and she can't think straight.

When Brian finds her standing in the middle of the storm and takes her to his home, her strange life spirals out of control. Her element has decided she and Brian shall come together. Tempest on the other hand isn't going to be forced into a relationship. Encasing them in a virtual snow globe and refusing to allow them to leave until they bond, Tempest is forced to face her feelings for Brian and her fear of passing along her gift. She soon discovers some gifts are meant to be shared and the sharing turns out to be the best part.

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Excerpt:

Brian Burk rubbed his bleary eyes as he drove through the near whiteout the county had been mired in for the last two weeks. Blustering winds had plagued the town, encasing it in blizzard-like conditions. The light snow falls called for in weather reports turned into full blown storms that had people holed up in their homes. Meteorologists didn't have any explanations for it.

He and his men had spent the last four days plowing roads, removing fallen trees, and simply trying to keep passages open for emergency vehicles. Having the biggest construction company and the equipment to handle the snow meant they were on call for every disaster that came along. Not that he minded, in fact he loved it most of the time. But four days of freezing his ass off and twelve hours of sleep did not make for a happy Brian. His crew kept tossing out subtle hints for him to take some time off. That alone spoke of his edgy, nasty temperament.

A hard gust of wind slammed his large plow truck, rocking it like a plastic toy. Gripping the wheel he eased off the throttle. It could be him and his sluggish brain, but it sure seemed like every passing day got worse. Prying his hand from the steering wheel he rubbed his jaw. He had a pretty good idea where all this destructive weather originated from. One long-legged sexy as hell woman who kept him awake at night.

Tempest Proctor. The guardian of the winds. She thought he didn't have a clue about who or what she was. Little did she know. Some research in the right area, a little digging into history, and then add it all up and you had the elemental guardians.

Okay, he'd admit he didn't have a clue when his buddy Beach hooked up with Tempest's sister, Flanna, guardian of fire. Only when his friend Chuck latched onto Avani, another Proctor sister, who protected the earth, did he begin to put all the pieces together. They always thought of him as fun loving, good time Brian. No one knew of his love of solving mysteries, and the Proctors were a mystery.

Now, he had a new mystery. If Tempest controlled the wind, why the hell would she allow it to devastate their town, their county, like this? It didn't make sense. Brian ran several scenarios through his mind as he watched the white wall of snow in front of him. He had another eight miles before he reached town and at the slow crawl he had to drive, it would take forever.

Okay, so he didn't completely understand the mechanics of how this guardian business worked; some things couldn't be found on the internet, believe it or not. But, if Tempest was supposed to command the wind why hadn't she commanded it to take a fucking break? Unless, and he really didn't want to believe this, Tempest was causing the storm.

Brian grunted, Tempest may be stubborn and suffer from a quick temper but she would never cause harm to anyone and this hellacious storm had been whipping up harm by the butt load.

Then again? Brian frowned as he thought back to the last few run ins he had with her. She seemed jittery, off kilter, and just plain out of sorts. Her multicolored eyes always seemed distant. She couldn't keep still, always moving even when she sat. Even his witty jabs at her didn't seem to affect her anymore. And that bothered him more than anything because if Tempest Proctor wasn't flinging a witty come back, then something definitely had to be wrong.

Oh, how he loved to torment her with zingers. He learned as a kid it was the only way to get her attention. Granted it wasn't the typical sweet flirting like the rest of the girls her age but, hell, he'd take it. Besides, there always seemed to be a glint in her eye and a genuine smile on her full pink lips for him.

Yeah, he'd wanted her attention. Her long legs, tiny, tight ass and flowing locks of blonde, red, brown, and black hair rioting around her pretty face caught his eye at the age of sixteen. Fourteen years he admired the woman's body but, as time passed, he also began to admire her other qualities. Quick temper aside, she was devoted to her friends and family, loved volunteering in the community, and if she caught the slightest whiff of someone in need, she was there.

He caught her delivering bags of groceries to a local family late one night, setting them on the porch before ringing the doorbell and disappearing. The father had been laid off, the mother was ill, and they were riding out some tough times. Apparently Tempest found out through the grape vine and anonymously supplied them with a month's worth of food. When he questioned her about it she filled him in on their plight and he couldn't help but be moved by her generosity. Naturally, he had to do one better and gave the man a job in his construction company; the guy had turned out to be one of his best employees.

Tempest groused about him having to outdo everyone, but then she smiled and said, "Maybe you aren't the biggest dumbass after all."

He would have jabbed back, should have, but who could think when the most beautiful woman on the planet smiled at you? He was only human after all. Another gust of wind jostled the truck, dragging him back to the here and now.

A movement caught his eye through the thick curtain of snow. He leaned forward, squinted and saw something move again. Before he could process what he'd seen he'd driven up on and damn near hit a person standing in the middle of the fucking road. Brian slammed on the brakes, praying the tires didn't skid. The large truck jolted to a stop, his head bounced off the steering wheel, and his seat belt cut into his shoulder.

Blinking a few times to clear his vision, he saw her. There, in the middle of the road, caught in his headlights wearing nothing but a pair of jeans, thigh high boots and a sweater stood Tempest with her arms outstretched her face pointed to the sky and her hair whipping in the wind. Raw fury and fear flashed through his system. He could have killed her. He could have run her over and never known it.

Bailing from the truck he slammed the door closed and stomped through the wind and snow. That woman needed a good spanking. Where in her mind was it a good idea to be standing in the road in the middle of a blinding fucking storm? She needed some common sense spanked into her and he would be the man to do it.

"Are you trying to kill yourself?" he snapped as he approached.

Tempest didn't move, simply stood there like she'd been stretched out on an invisible cross. The blank look on her pale face made his blood crystallize in his veins. Even her eyes seemed empty.

"Tempest!" he shouted over the howling wind. Still, she didn't move or even blink. Hypothermia. The word rang loud and clear in his head. Grabbing her waist he shook her hard twice. "Tempest!"

"I can't stop it," she shouted over the roaring storm. "I can't stop it."

"Fuck." Ice already coated her face and hung from her eyelashes. Her body felt stiff as a board. Scooping her up in his arms he headed back to the truck. Tempest huddled into him, her arms looping around his neck. He could hear her muttering but couldn't make out the words.

"What's the matter, an icy heart isn't enough for you? You gotta go for the whole package?" he grumbled releasing her upper body and reaching for the door handle. She clung to him like a life line as he lifted her trembling body up onto the seat. "You have to let go," he told her gently trying to scoot her over so he could get behind the wheel. Tugging, he lowered her arms from his neck and pushed her over.

Safely inside the cab of the truck, he removed his coat and laid it over her and then cranked the heat and aimed the vents directly at her frozen body. She continued mumbling incoherent words. Inside the truck he could see an empty, terrified glaze in her eyes.

"What were you doing out there, Tempest," he asked putting the truck in gear and pulling away. "Where's your coat?"

"I don't know."

Her voice sounded so small and weak it made his heart clench. "I'm taking you back to my place." Once he got her warm he'd press for answers.

To his amazement the wind seemed to die down, giving him a clear road ahead. Brian wasted no time speeding into town. As he maneuvered the streets the colored Christmas lights strung on houses reflected on the windshield, glittering as if all was right with the world. Next to him, his world sat shivering so violently he feared she'd shake apart.

He curled his arm around her and she buried her face in his side. "Any more stunts like that and you'll have earned the title Ice Queen," he grumbled still shaking from the thought of nearly hitting her with his truck.

"I can't stop it," she repeated. Her words slurred together as if she'd been drinking. Hell, maybe she had been. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"We'll figure it out, babe." He didn't like seeing or hearing her like this. It wasn't right.

Brian parked the truck in front of his small rented house, ran to the door and unlocked it before returning for Tempest. It seemed the wind had eased to a manageable level since he'd found her. Coincidence? Right now he didn't have time to think about it.

Tucking his large coat around her, he lifted her limp body from the truck and ran for the house. Once inside he carefully set her on his couch, piled several blankets on her and then headed for the bathroom where he ran a warm bath. When he returned to the living room he found her shaking so hard her teeth were clicking together.

"We'll get you warmed up soon," he told her as he tugged her boots from her feet. She didn't have any socks on and her toes felt like perfectly manicured ice cubes. "We need to get your clothes off. Can you do it or do I have to?"

"I don't understand," she muttered. "This has never happened before."

Okay, he'd have to do it. Her jeans were soaked and clung to her skin as he tugged them down her thighs. Her flesh blazed bright red from the freezing temperatures. Opting to leave her panties on, he removed the blankets and began working her soaked sweater up her body.

Tempest sat up, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears in the dim light of the room. "Brian," she spoke with surprise in her voice.

"It's me, babe. I'm right here." Damn he didn't like seeing her this way. It scared the living hell out of him.

"I have to talk to my sisters," she insisted sinking her fingers into his arms. "I have to tell them I tried to stop it."

"We'll call them later. Right now, you need to get warm. Help me out here, Tempest." He lifted her arms and she held them there as he tugged the wet material up over her breasts and head. He had a brief brain lapse as the sight of her perfect round breasts cupped in black lace filled his vision.

Swallowing hard, he reminded himself now wasn't the time to get lost in her beauty. Yeah, it would be good to leave her bra on. The material was soaked anyway. What would it hurt?

Again, he lifted her into his arms and felt a chill run through his veins from her cold flesh. Even as cold as she was, he couldn't stop his body's response to her pressed so tightly against him, just where he'd always wanted her.

"So cold," she whimpered burying her face in his neck.

"I'll warm you up." He lowered her into the tub, soaking his shirt sleeves as he did. Tempest gave a small gasp as the lukewarm water hit her skin. "We'll add more warm water in a few minutes," he told her as she sank down into the tub. "I don't want to burn your skin."

Her jaw clenched, her muscles quivered beneath her flesh, and in the stark bright light of the bathroom he saw her lips were a dark blue. Sinking down onto his knees, he sat beside her and used a wash cloth to dab warm water onto her face. Tempest stared ahead blindly.

"How'd you lose control of the wind?" he asked not really expecting an answer.

"I don't know," she whispered. "It simply won't respond."

"Did you cause this storm, Tempest?" He had to ask. He had to know what they were dealing with.

She bolted upright. Water splashed all over him and the floor. "No!" she shouted shaking her head. "I didn't do it." Turning toward him their eyes met and he could see the fear, the need to be believed staring back at him. "I swear I didn't do it."

His heart fluttered inside his chest and his gut clenched. Cupping her face in his hands he smoothed the pad of his thumb over her blue lips. "I believe you."

"You do?"

The torment in her voice shredded his heart. "Yeah. I'm used to your brutal honesty."

She blinked several times, her multicolored eyes filling with tears. God, he loved her eyes. Flecks of green, brown, blue, gray, every shade imaginable was there. The storm of color reflected her colorful personality. She had to be the most unique woman he'd ever laid eyes on.

"You ask for it," she whispered, slowly sinking back into the water and continuing to stare at the wall.

Minutes passed without a word passing between them. Brian continued to warm the water and Tempest's violent shivering eased. When he felt sure she'd be okay, he decided maybe something warm in her body would help.

"I'm going to make you some soup. I'll see if I can find some dry clothes, too."

"Okay." She didn't look at him as she wrapped her arms around herself and rested her head against the wall.

Before heading to the kitchen, Brian stopped in his room and removed his wet clothing and pulled on a pair of sweat pants. After rummaging through his drawers he found a sweatshirt and an old pair of sweat pants he knew would too big for her, but they'd do. When he stepped back into the bathroom she hadn't moved a muscle.

"Tempest?"

"Something's wrong with me, Brian," she said, the sound of her voice so tortured it made his soul flinch.

She had to be the strongest woman he'd ever met in his life. Tempest Proctor didn't back down in a fight and laughed in the face of danger, and now here she sat balled up in his tub like a frightened child. He didn't like it, not one damn bit.

"Do I need to take you to the hospital?"

She shook her head. "They can't fix this."

So, it had something to do with her gift. Well then, they'd have to figure it out together and fix it.

"We'll figure it out." It's all he could say for the moment. He doubted she'd listen to anything he had to say anyway. "I'll go make you something warm to eat."

Padding to the kitchen in his bare feet, he pulled out a container of homemade chicken noodle soup, dumped it in a pot and turned on the flame. Watching the fire burn he realized he may not be able to help her the way she needed. Her sisters would though.

Grabbing his cell phone he hit speed dial for his friend Beach and then cursed when nothing happened. The screen showed no signal. Tossing it aside he picked up his land line. Nothing. No phones at all. Peering out the window he debated jumping in his truck and driving over there. Beach and Flanna lived the closest, only a few blocks away. The other two sisters lived outside of town in fairly secluded areas on a large piece of property. As he studied the night landscape he saw something odd.

They sat in the middle of a complete and total white out. If he didn't know any better he'd swear someone painted his windows except every once in a while a break opened up and he could see the calmness beyond his yard. Watching carefully, he realized the storm centered directly over his house.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

LOVE ME ONCE, LOVE ME TWICE by Sandy Sullivan

LOVE ME ONCE, LOVE ME TWICE - Book one in Sandy Sullivan's Montana Cowboys Series


Home. They say home is where the heart is, but can coming back to Red Rock, Montana really be home? Natalie Bennington is about to find out.

Finding herself in a blizzard and stuck in a ditch, the last person she expects to rescue her is gorgeous ex-high school jock, Cade Weston. His light brown hair and baby blue eyes had many a teenage girl all a twitter including her, but being the shy band girl didn't garner attention from his type. When Cade's best friend Kale, and ex-football jock shows up, the stakes have just shot through the roof. Both men want her and she can't understand why.

Cowboy and all around good guy, Cade Weston is a born and raised Montana boy. Yes ma'am, no sir, hold the lady's chair, open her door - those things were ingrained in his upbringing, but every man likes a pretty woman. Natalie Bennington has grown up into one gorgeous female and he can't get her out of his mind.

Kale Dunn can't get over the changes in the shy band girl he remembers from high-school. Natalie sure turned into one hot woman. All legs, gorgeous body and breasts big enough to fill a man's hands. Would she be willing to share? He and Cade liked to partake in threesome's on occasion, but from what he remembered of Natalie, he didn't think she'd be the type. Was he wrong?

Wined, dined and loved by two men. Can she make the decision to love only one or will their possessiveness drive her back to Oregon?

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Story Excerpt

Headlights appeared, coming from the direction of town.

"Great! Maybe it's someone who can help me get my damned car out of this hole."

The door handle felt cold under her hand when she tried to pull it and open the heavy panel. Gravity wasn't her friend, even though she pushed with everything she had, it wouldn't budge.

"Hello? Anyone in there?" A deep baritone yelled while he tapped on the window.

"Yes! I can't get the door open."

"Hang on," he said and disappeared for a second.

"Wait! Where are you going? Don't leave me in here. I'll freeze to death."

"I'm not leavin', honey. Hold tight."

The endearment sent a little flutter in her stomach. No one called her honey or darlin'. Then again, this was Montana, home of the gentleman cowboy where every female was honey, darlin', or sweetheart.

Metal squeaked and groaned, but the driver's side finally opened.

"Hey there. In a bit of a pickle, huh?"

"You could say so, yes."

"Can you crawl out while I hold this open?"

"I think so."

The snow crunched under her boots when her feet touched. The man let the door bang shut behind her.

"Thank you," she said, trying not to slide into the hole behind her.

"You're welcome. How'd you end up in there anyway?"

"My car fishtailed in the snow and in the gap I went. What's it look like?"

"Easy. Just askin'," he replied, pushing his black cowboy hat back on his head.

"Can you help me get it out?"

"Sorry, darlin'. I have four-wheel drive, but it doesn’t matter. Your car ain't goin' anywhere. The drive train snapped."

"You're kidding."

"Nope, I saw it in two pieces when I drove up. Are you sure you ain't hurt?"

"I'm fine other than bruised pride."

"Where are you goin' and I'll give you a lift?"

"Into Red Rock. My grandmother's actually."

"You ain't from here are you?"

"Not anymore, why?"

"You used to be?"

"Yes, actually. I was born and raised here until my parents moved us out of town about twelve years ago. My Gram still lives here."

"What's your name?"

She frowned, clamping her lips closed, afraid she already gave out too much information. If the man happened to be a psycho or something, she probably already told him enough to find her.

As if he could read her mind, he said, "I'm not some weirdo, just a good 'ole country boy. Born and raised here and trying to help a lady in distress."

"Are you serious? I don't believe you." She cocked her head to the side, studying his features the best she could in the dim light, "My name is Natalie Bennington."

"Nat? The same Nat in the band?"

"No one calls me Nat."

"I did, or should I say we use to. Me and Kale anyway."

"Cade Weston?"

Adult Excerpt

"Kiss me."

"Oh, I plan to, darlin'." He kissed her eyelids. "Here." He kissed her cheeks. "Here." He kissed her nose. "And especially here." His tongue swept across the seam of her lips, coaxing her to open for him. The moan coming from her mouth didn't sound like anything she ever heard

before—part animalistic and part inhuman, the sound took her by surprise. "You taste good. I could eat you up."

One hand palmed her breast and teased the nipple through her bra. With a quick flick of his fingers, the material parted, and the ache intensified with the look in his eyes. Hunger, raw desire, and need sparkled in the blue depths.

He closed his lips over her nipple, sucking it deep into his mouth.

Her back arched and yearning rushed through her. Red-hot longing spiraled from his suckling straight to her clit. She wanted this man—needed him with everything inside of her.

"Cade, please," she whimpered, threading her fingers in his hair.

"Where's your room?" he asked after lifting his head.

"Up the stairs and to the right. First door."

With a powerful flex of his muscled thighs, he lifted her high in the air and cradled her against chest. Swift steps took them upstairs and to her temporary bedroom. A small lamp on the bedside table gave her just enough light to see the wicked smile on his lips and the shine of desire in his gaze. He dropped her legs, sliding her down his body. Every rock hard inch of his tempting flesh skimmed over hers. Nipples tightened and ached as they scraped over the material of his dress shirt and jacket.

"You're still dressed," she murmured. Her lips met his whiskered jaw and slipped over the surface. Her tongue circled his ear, her teeth nipping at his earlobe.

"Why, yes I am. We'll have to rectify the situation quickly." One hearty moan spilled from his lips. "If you don't knock it off, this is gonna be a short ride, darlin'. It's been a while."

"We don't want that, now do we?"

"Hell no. I want to love you slow."

"Sounds like a plan to me. By the way? You talk too much."

"You won't hear another peep out of me."

A challenge? I like challenges.

"No?"

He shook his head, and she cocked an eyebrow, letting a wicked grin play across her mouth. The slow unbuttoning of his shirt didn't garner a sound—pushing it and his jacket off his shoulders…nothing.

Oh, I don't think so.

Unbuckling his belt while her teeth nipped at his pecs and grazed his nipples, got her no response, and she smiled.

It's on baby!

His pants and boxers fell to the floor with a slight nudge of her hands. The full length of his cock sprang free, standing tall and proud against his stomach, just begging for her touch—her mouth. A quick peek through her lashes revealed his clenched jaw, the firm line of his lips as he fought the sounds in his throat, blue eyes sparkling like sunlight on the open ocean.

"Do you want to say something?"

The jerking shake of his head gave her the answer.

His fists clenched at his sides. Touching her would give him away, she knew.

She flattened her palm on his chest, slowly sliding it over the valleys and planes of his body. Goose bumps followed the path of her hand, while crisp chest hair tickled her skin. Saliva pooled in her mouth with the need to taste him. Every tempting piece of flesh called her name, urging her to bring her mouth closer still. The path of her lips followed the trail of hair from the center of his chest, across his washboard abs, to the tip of his cock. Pre-cum glistened on the slit. His breathing sounded short and raspy. She dropped to her knees, grasped both of his ass cheeks in her hands, pulling him closer. Musky male, mixed with his arousal, met her nose. She licked her lips, opened her mouth, and took the head of his cock between her lips. The swirl of her tongue around him got the desired response. A hearty moan spilled from between his lips, and he threaded his fingers through her hair.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

CHRISTMAS IN HIS ROYAL BED by Heidi Betts

CHRISTMAS IN HIS ROYAL BED by Heidi Betts

OWNED BY THE PRINCE

The moment Prince Nicolas saw sultry Alandra Sanchez, he wanted her for his mistress. Determined to have her in his bed by Christmas, he lured her with a job at his island palace. Nicolas would stop at nothing to satisfy his lust, including seducing her with a little royal treatment. Soon his fiery passion began to awaken Alandra’s own forbidden desires. But would she leave him once she discovered he was about to enter a loveless royal marriage?

She’d become the prince’s paramour…but would she ever be his wife?

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Excerpt:

Alandra was drawn from her thoughts when the limousine slowed and waited for a tall antiqued iron gate to slide open and allow them entrance. They drove up a long, winding drive that ran between two sections of pristine, well-manicured lawn before arriving in front of what could never be mistaken for anything but a palace.

The house—for lack of a better word—was somewhat historical in design, but looked updated and modern. Eggshell white, with pillars and balconies and a myriad of floor-to-ceiling, multi-paned windows everywhere she looked, it stood atop a small rise and overlooked the rushing waves of the Mediterranean.

As the driver opened the door and helped her out of the vehicle, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the breathtaking view. She continued to gawk while he removed her bags from the trunk and escorted her to the front of the palace.

A butler opened the door and invited her inside, where a handful of maids dressed in matching gray uniforms collected her luggage and trotted off with it.

Rather than showing her where she would be staying, the butler said, “The Prince has requested you be brought to him immediately upon your arrival, Miss Sanchez. If you’ll follow me.”

Feeling as though she’d just stepped into a fairy tale, Alandra did just that, taking in every detail of the foyer as they passed.

The floor was expensive, highly polished marble in checked squares of black and a mottled white that looked almost gray. A chandelier the size of a small bus hung overhead, thousands of dangling crystals twinkling in the natural light. Directly across from the front entrance stood a wide staircase leading halfway to the second level before branching off to either side.

The butler led her to the right of the foyer, still on the first floor, and down a carpeted corridor lined with priceless artwork and closed doorways. He paused at one of these doors and knocked. When a low, muffled voice bade him entrance, he stepped inside, announced her presence, and then moved aside for her to pass.

The personal office was decidedly masculine, with a dark area rug, built-in bookshelves lining three of the four walls, and a large cherry wood desk taking up a good portion of the room.

Dragging her gaze from the impressive surroundings, Alandra turned her attention to the man sitting behind that desk . . . only to feel her eyes go wide and her mouth fall open.

Dear God, it was . . . “You,” she breathed.

“Miss Sanchez.” He rose and regally rounded the desk until he stood directly in front of her. “How good of you to accept my offer and come to work for our family.”

“You’re Prince Stephan—”

“Nicolas Braedon of Glendovia, yes. You may call me Nicolas.”

Nicolas. The same Nicolas who had asked her over for a glass of champagne and then invited her to sleep with him.

Her mouth went dry with shock, her stomach clenching and her pulse kicking as hard as though she’d just run a marathon. At the same time, her palms turned damp and she feared her knees might give out on her.

How could this be happening? How could she have missed all the hints and clues?

My God, she felt like an idiot.

She should have recognized the jacket he was wearing the night of the charity dinner, similar to the one he wore now that all but shouted “royalty.”

Or his reluctance to give her a full name when he’d introduced himself.

Or the name on the letterhead, with the one name he had given her right there in dark, raised script. Just because it was a middle name didn’t mean it wasn’t still the same name.

Looking back, there were any number of signs she should have picked up on, more research she should have done before accepting this position. It was enough to make her want to bang her head against the nearest brick wall.

“I don’t understand,” she said, her voice fainter than usual as she struggled to put her thoughts into words. “Why would you invite me to work for you after the way we parted after the hospital fundraiser? All you wanted from me then was . . .”

Realization dawned and her blood turned cold.

“Oh, my God,” she breathed, oxygen rushing from her lungs as shock coursed through her body. “You did this on purpose. You lured me here under false pretenses so that I would sleep with you.”

“Not exactly,” he replied, standing straight as a sword with his hands clasped behind his back. “Glendovia is very much in need of someone to organize its charitable foundations, and after seeing you in action, I decided you would be the perfect person for the job.”

“And you’ve changed your mind about wanting me in your bed?” she challenged.

His lip curled in what could only be described as a dangerous, predatory grin as he replied, “Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

CHRISTMAS GOES CAMO from Total-e-Bound

CHRISTMAS GOES CAMO - A Magical Christmas Anthology


'Melting the Ice' by Desiree holt

When an elf and an alpha male collide at the frozen South Pole, will the heat they generate melt the ice?


Sonia Snowflake, one of Santa's elves and warriors, hates her new assignment - go to the South Pole with a team of three and scout a location for a new toy factory. It's bad enough that it's one week before Christmas, but they also have to dodge an angry Cupid who wants to downgrade Christmas, and three alpha military males who are also there on a mission.


Sonia's grumbling lasts only until the very alpha Jaguar Martin is literally blown into her tent. The explosive chemistry between the two is so intense they can't keep their hands off each other. Their situation is complicated even more by the drug, Thermavan, that Jaguar and his team are testing. Created to maintain body temperature at a steady 98.7, it has a side effect of maintaining constant sexual arousal.


How will this effect their respective missions, and what happens when the interlude comes to an end?

Other stories include 'Trapped by Ice' by Allie Standifer and 'Tempered by Ice' by Brenna Zinn.


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WIN - Leave Desiree a question about her new book today at her Cyber Launch Party and your name goes in the hat to be one of THREE winners to get their choice of download from Desiree's backlist!!! Please leave your email address so we can contact you if you are one of today's winners - Good Luck!

EXCERPT:
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, Allie Standifer, Brenna Zinn 2010
All Rights Reserved, Total-E-Ntwined Limited, T/A Total-E-Bound.

Excerpt From: Christmas Goes Camo

Trapped by Ice by Allie Standifer


White ground beneath his Mickey’s, white flakes in front of his face—white, white, white as far as the eye could see. Teague Jester despised the soft flaky substance. Give him a warm beach and hot sun any day. Too bad his orders demanded he freeze his ass off in the middle of an Antarctic blizzard. Five minutes or five hours ago, time had stopped meaning anything once the winter storm hit. He’d lost communication with his two other team members. All were military trained, shot full of the same experimental drug developed by Doctor Axel Cole. Thermavan maintained the body’s temperature at ninety-eight point seven, or at least that’s what the good doctor hoped. They were all guinea pigs for the drug. According to Axel, the only side affect so far—a heightened sex drive.

While he forced his extreme cold weather white boots, otherwise known as Mickey’s, through the calf-deep snow, Teague could admit, at least to himself, he should have paid more attention to Axel’s warnings. Scoffing at the man’s cautious nature, Teague had ignored the lecture. No man with any sense of self-preservation would get a hard-on in the middle of an ice cube. The tenting of his thermal underwear, and Arctic parka and pants, made a liar out of him. His cock wanted to fuck. Even with the risk of frostbite to his favourite body part, the stupid organ wanted out. He looked down, and frowned. “Not going to happen, buddy. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.” Great, he’d sunk so low he was talking to his penis.

Teague needed to get his bearings, set up a temporary shelter and keep trying to reach his two other team members. How the hell experienced, combat-trained military soldiers managed to get separated, he’d never understand. The parachute drop had been routine, as had the repacking of equipment and communications testing. One minute they walked as a cohesive group in standard formation, and the next Teague stood alone in a nightmare of white. His throat mic had stopped working, the GPS attached to his wrist bouncing the needle so much he couldn’t tell shit. Grateful the medication seemed to work at least half the time, Teague forced himself to stop. Snow blindness meant he could be two steps from the frozen ocean and not know it until the icy water closed over his head. Time to play it smart.


* * * *


The snowball in her hand glowed bright red before Kendil Jolly sent it crashing to the ground.

“I’m a B.E.L.L.,” she cried out to the mass of swirling storm. “I’ve been promoted to head of the South Station toy production. Where does it say I have to spy on soldiers too stupid to get out of the snow?”

Granted, B.E.L.L.S. did stand for Battle Elves trained in Logic warfare and Land defence Scouts. Kendil was trained to fight other magical beings, not human warriors. Those creatures were unpredictable and lacked any magical ability. Give her a good, old-fashioned fight with the Easter Bunny or Cupid, and she’d be there. Fighting mortals…that felt too much like taking candy canes from hairy, overgrown, not-so-smart babies.

“Watch the humans, Kendil. Keep them away from any possible sites, Kendil.” She kicked the snow and stopped to admire her new footwear. Pink, faux-leather boots with their four-inch heels looked sexy against the white background. They matched her pink, fur-trimmed cat suit perfectly. Too bad the only things out here to admire her stunning fashion sense were the penguins and humans. After dropping her perfectly shod foot, Kendil continued her mutterings. “Don’t let them die, Kendil. Don’t lead them onto a loose iceberg, Kendil.” Accidently set a human adrift once in three hundred years and no one lets you forget it.

A snowball formed in front of her face, but Kendil didn’t want to hear any more lectures. She wanted to scout for the new Toyland location, keep the big babies from falling into the chilly water, then get home before the reindeer games started. She had big money riding on Dasher this year.

With a quick swipe of her hand, Kendil dissolved the communication ball. She kicked her way through the soft, fluffy powder and wondered what to do with any humans she found. Since the ice flow idea had been vetoed, maybe she could put them on the cliffside, warn them not to move, finish up her real work then get them back to their base.

Really, what good were humans, anyway? Granted, some of the more creative ones had invented the Wii, which she loved. Currently, she held rock goddess title among all the elves. Except now that she was stuck caring for and babysitting the humans, those tricky flower elves would do anything to take the title away from her.

So humans had their uses, but sticking their fragile, big butts on the South Pole made her temper rise. Only humans could be so asinine and full of themselves to think they’d make it out alive And for a training exercise of all things.

What would the goofy beings think of next?

If Kendil had her way, she’d dump them all back where they came from, terrified of the South Pole and everything related to it.

Tempered by Ice by Brenna Zinn


Could anything else with this mission go wrong?

After delays in having orders signed, bad weather at his home base in Germany, a plane breakdown in Argentina, and now this, the answer had better the hell be no.

Colonel Axel Cole pushed back the heavy pack he’d been trying to open and stood, giving his long legs a much-needed stretch. Though the middle of summer in the South Pole, the temperature still dipped well below zero, and his gloved fingers were too numb and clumsy to be of any use with the pack’s clips. Despite the sub-freezing temperature, he’d have to bare his hands to the cold if he was ever going to get into his pack and find his GPS.

Damned Navy pilots! Because of their miscalculation, he’d missed his jump target by almost a mile. Axel took a step, feeling the crunch of the ice-encrusted landscape then sinking into the softer snow below, making the going frustratingly slow. At forty-three, he could run a mile on uneven terrain with a full pack in less than fourteen minutes without breaking a sweat. But this…this was ridiculous. Luckily, the winds had been mild enough to make the jump, though they were steadily growing stronger. Regardless, to find his supply crate before rendezvousing with the rest of the soldiers here to train, he’d have to get a move on.

He slipped the thermal glove off his right hand and immediately felt the biting sting of freezing winds blowing across the icy tundra. With little hesitation, he bent over his pack, unclipped the clasps, and located the interior pocket with the hand-held GPS device—a quick flick of a switch and the small apparatus’ screen lit up all blues and reds. After a moment, he located his present position and entered the coordinates of the supply box. Only one-point-two miles due west. He was in business.

While the pack was open, he checked the pocket containing the small glass phials of Thermavan and the case of syringes. His sigh of relief came out as a frozen puff. The experimental drug’s containers were undamaged, and hopefully, the rest of the supply in the crate was safe as well. At least the real reason for his being in this God-awful cold place wasn’t giving him any problems. Not yet. Though once he started his first experiment on himself that might not be the case. But repeating the same fiasco from six months ago simply wasn’t an option. His sanity couldn’t take another dose of that kind of weirdness. With only a few weeks until his retirement from the Army, his sanity was something he’d definitely need.

“Colonel Cole, do you copy?”

The transmission crackled over Axel’s hand-held radio. He retrieved the radio from his parka and responded. “Just barely. That you, Jaguar?”

“Ten-four, Colonel. A storm came out of nowhere. Near whiteout conditions. Highly recommend you find shelter immediately, sir.”

Axel steeled himself, his years of training refusing to allow panic to enter his thought process. He was out in the middle of the South Pole with only the parka on his back for warmth and the limited provisions in his pack. Getting caught out in a storm could mean his death, but not if he could help it. “Copy that, Jaguar. Is everyone there safe?”

The radio sputtered. “Uncertain, Colonel.” Static nearly drowned out Jaguar’s words. “The other members of the crew are scattered. I’ve located a tent…” Then the signal was lost.

“Jaguar?” Axel pounded the side of his radio with the palm of his freezing hand. “Jaguar?”

Axel searched the skies. Directly west, a fast-moving wall of grey blotted out the ground and the heavens above. His flesh twitched with an uneasy feeling of déjà vu. This was too much like the North Pole disaster.

With as much speed as he could muster, Axel removed one of the phials of Thermavan, ripped open the hypodermic needle’s protective plastic, and thrust the needle into the small glass container. He was skipping too many protocols to consider this first injection as a part of his experiment, but at the moment, saving his butt was more important than the tests. Just how helpful the drug would be was another matter. If the changes he’d made in the last few months didn’t work, the drug might still be unstable. The heat Thermavan provided may only last for short bursts, coming and going like the hot flashes of a menopausal woman. Then there was the side effect. Walking around the South Pole in a storm with a hard-on and nothing to relieve his condition wouldn’t exactly be pleasant.

The syringe full, Axel tapped the side of the glass to remove any excess air, then jabbed the needle into his leg through his clothing. No time to undress and inject himself in the arm. Not today.

Melting the Ice by Desiree Holt


The huge sleigh swept across the sky, B.E.L.L.S. jingling with the swaying motion as wind currents buffeted it this way and that. The reindeer pranced on the frozen air, their breath making little tiny puffs like cotton clouds. The driver, in his heavy green outfit that covered him from head to toe including a warm cap that came down over his ears, hummed Christmas carols to himself. His passenger huddled into her seat, a green and red plaid blanket wrapped around her as she cursed under her breath.

Why me? Why did I have to get the call? This is just stupid, stupid, stupid.

It’d been bad enough when that fat old man in the red suit had announced he was building a second headquarters and toy factory at the South Pole. The South Pole! Hadn’t anyone told him it was colder down there than at the North Pole? Apparently he didn’t care. Now, he was sending the three of them off one week before Christmas! They should all be busy with the last-minute preparations instead of off on this wild-ass idea.

“Buckle up,” he’d told the three B.E.L.L.S. he’d chosen when he’d called them in for a meeting. “We’ve outgrown our current facilities, as I’m sure you’re all aware. With this new age of electronic toys, we are just flat out of room to work.”

“Why can’t we just build more buildings up here?” someone had whined.

He’d turned his famous glare on the elf who’d dared to speak out. “Because I’ve decided we need two completely separate locations. Did you want to argue with me?” He waited but they were all silent. “All right, then. As I was saying, it’s time to expand our horizons. I trust, as you explore the area, that among the three of you, someone will find the perfect spot to build our new location.”

It was bad enough that they couldn’t search as a group. He’d quite deliberately given each of them a separate section of the South Pole to explore. Alone. He didn’t even let them land together. Oh, not. Not him. The team of reindeer, the fastest in the herd, had dropped them in three different locations with all their gear. The only additional assistance they got was the ‘helpful hint’ that they could use their magic powers when they needed to.

She hadn’t even been scheduled to go on this stupid trip to begin with. She’d had other assignments as the Important Night approached. But then she’d suddenly been appointed head of the new southern toy production factory and put in charge of the trip. As if she didn’t have enough to do already.

“You have to go,” the old man had told her. “You’re one of the B.E.L.L.S.”

“Yeah? So?”

“Aren’t you the Battle Elves trained in Logic warfare and Land defence Scouts?” He rubbed his red nose. “Who else would I send? Word has arrived that Cupid, with his Red Army of Vinions, is on the warpath again.”

“Somehow that deranged archer has learned of our expansion plans,” Mrs. Red Suit had told them. “We understand he’s marshalling his forces and his magic to stop us.”

“That’s right.” The big man sighed. “He’s still doing his damndest to make Valentine’s Day bigger than Christmas. So you see? You’re the logical choice for many reasons.”

The other members of the team had also been replaced by B.E.L.L.S., so they’d be heading down south as a well-armed and well-trained team of elf warriors. And the B.E.L.L.S. had orders to thwart Cupid and get on with business.

Yeah, right.

But that was only part of it. Preparations had barely been underway for the trip when they learned the U.S. military planned to parachute three of its best and brightest trained war machines on some kind of secret, ten-day survival mission right where the B.E.L.L.S would be scouting. Apparently, some dipshit thought the South Pole would be the perfect place to do whatever it was they were supposed to be doing.

So now, in addition to everything else, they had to watch out for these stupid humans and make sure they didn’t cause trouble. The B.E.L.L.S. were told to foil the military any way they could. After all, toy manufacturers and military bases didn’t exactly mix. How can you have a toy factory going full tilt in the middle of dangerous war games?

Why me? What did I ever do to deserve this miserable honour?

The only bright spot, if you could call it that, was the fact that, at the South Pole, they were still in the middle of the six months of sunlight rather than the six months of darkness. Battling winds that could blow an elf straight back to Toyland was bad enough without doing it in the pitch dark.

“Almost there,” the driver called back to her. “Better buckle up for landing.”

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