Saturday, April 30, 2011

CRYSTAL BIRCH by Jessie A. McPeeke

An Excerpt from: Crystal Birch
Copyright © 2011 Jessie A. McPeeke

All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

The four pilots strode across the rolling deck of the aircraft carrier. Their postures matched—tall, confident, and filled with subdued excitement. They walked together, and then split, each heading toward an A-7 Skyhawk. Below each plane stood a team of men standing at attention. Each crew saluted its pilot and the pilot responded briskly.

The tallest of the four, a broad-shouldered man with a haze of red framing his head, handed his helmet to the seaman standing at the ladder to the cockpit. He climbed to the cockpit. The seaman followed, waiting until the pilot strapped into his seat to hand the man his helmet. The pilot put the helmet on, checking his oxygen and radio connections. The seaman made a double check of the pilot’s safety harness and jumped to the flight deck.

“It’s a hell of a day at sea, sir!” The comment sounded loud and clear through the intercom.

Marty glanced over the edge of the cockpit and grinned as he pulled his face mask up and spoke.

“By the numbers please, gentlemen.”

“Pixie two.”

“Pixie three.”

“Pixie four.”

“Let’s do it.” Lieutenant Martin McPherson grabbed his checklist off the instrument panel. The ground crew worked in precision with his barked words over the intercom connecting the cockpit with the crew below.

The roar of four engines split the evening air. Intercoms were disconnected, chocks moved from the wheels. The planes, positioned on deck earlier for easy access to the catapult, taxied into place. One at a time, the pilots pushed throttles to the wall and were thrown back in their seats as the aircraft raced down the flight deck, gaining lift under their wings.

The flight deck ended. The plane dipped. The big engine roared. Forward momentum increased and the plane lifted and climbed toward the setting sun.

Thirty quiet minutes later, the Lieutenant flashed his wing lights and they went dark. Three other sets of wing lights disappeared into the moonless night. Each pilot counting, separately, yet in unison, moved into formation.

The wing leader knew the radar at Nam Dinh would pick up their signatures shortly. What the radar would see, however, would only indicate one aircraft. That wouldn’t stop the anti-aircraft fire when they reached land. All four pilots knew that.

The quiet in the cockpit of Marty McPherson’s A7 didn’t surprise him or cause him concern. The sound of the huge engine pushing him through the air at 400 knots soothed him, a low, smooth roar that told him everything was well with his aircraft. His entire flight echoed his thoughts at that moment.

He looked to the left and could see the light of coastal villages flickering dimly 100 miles to the west. No lights sailed the sea below him, but he knew boats sailed the Gulf with crews looking up trying to see the jets producing the sounds over their heads.

His instruments indicated they had passed the radar station at Nam Dihn. A touch to the stick, a press on the rudder pedal, and the planes turned from their track of three-eight-zero to two-seven-zero.

A light changed from red to green on his instrument panel. He made the last course correction, easing right in unspoken unison with the rest of his flight.

This is it, Marty thought. And it began.

Tracers flew up from the ground. The anti-aircraft fire had begun. Lights on the outskirts of Hai Phong drew patterns in the partly cloudy sky in search of the aircraft flying overhead. Anti-aircraft units on the ground raced for their guns and aimed at the sound from above. The sound of the aircraft spread wide behind them. The rounds flew upward into the air after the sound. But the four A7’s flew past without harm.

All four men checked their harnesses, scanned their instruments, and said prayers. The dangerous part of their mission was about to begin. Two of them reached up in the dark of the cockpit and touched photos taped somewhere near them.

Lieutenant McPherson saw the small green light indicating contact with a navigational aid near Hanoi. He flipped a switch on the panel; radio silence meant nothing now.

“Let’s hit the deck, gentlemen. Descend to 500 feet on my tail. My favorite formation, on my mark.” His voice had dropped nearly an octave in tone. It sounded like rolling gravel.

“Now, gentlemen!”

He eased the stick forward. The nose dipped and the big hand on the altimeter circled its face frantically, counterclockwise. The stick moved back toward its centerline, and the plane leveled out. The hand on the face of the altimeter slowed and came to rest half way between 0 and 1.

“The target is 12 o’clock, six miles. Do not, I repeat, do not drop over the city. Drop on my mark. Good luck to us all, gentlemen.”

The last line was whispered. They had been chosen for this mission because they were the best, but their chances of success were still slim. It was possible that they'd all be returning to the ship together, but not probable.

* * * *

She saw the cockpit of a fast moving aircraft with only instrument lights showing. A gloved hand wrapped around the stick. Bright light streaked upward around the aircraft. Momentarily, she caught sight of another aircraft, its wing almost touching the wing of hers. She heard herself say, “Target ahead, gentlemen. As close to the center as you can get. Single file, Indian style.”

There seemed to be a pause in the action, everything slowing to half speed. The eyes she looked from focused on the fast approaching brilliant lights ahead. Fear coursed through her, yet she also felt calm and focused.

“Pixie One. One away!”

She felt a hand pull back on the stick and afterburner ignition push her back into the seat. Her mind yelled, Climb! Climb! Climb!

Slowly the big hand on the altimeter moved clockwise around its face. One thousand. Two thousand. Three thousand. She felt some fear break through the controlled mind behind the eyes.

She looked at the left wing. Fire erupted at that moment. Don’t look at it! her mind screamed. The eyes moved to the altimeter. The left hand automatically found a handle on the left side of the cockpit. The right hand grabbed another on the right. It pulled. She felt the thrust and heard the low sound of an explosion. The eyes closed. Blackness. Crushing weight. Breathlessness.

The eyes opened into the dark, starry night. Another small explosion and she felt herself falling, faster and faster. Then, with a sharp jerk, she came to a sudden stop, the harness tightening against her chest. She looked up. In the darkness her body hung, swinging slightly, under a huge grey outline. Relief washed over her.

Then she heard the sound of tearing fabric, followed by the sensation of falling again. As she plummeted to the hard ground below, she heard herself scream...

Katy sat up suddenly in the bed. Her whole body shook as she fought against the blackness attempting to fill her mind. The last sounds she heard as she pulled herself out of the dark void were voices shouting in a language she did not understand. She took a deep breath to calm her shaking, her mind racing between the reality of her bedroom and the dream. Or was it a dream? Only a few months before, she and Marty had talked about the link between their minds, laughing about it.

Katy put her hands over her eyes trying to keep from shaking again. Oh my God! Is this real? Was it a dream? It seemed so real! She threw the covers back and got out of bed. As she paced the floor of the bedroom, her body coming fully awake, her mind began to go over what she had witnessed.

It’s not going away. I actually felt pain. I don’t normally feel pain in dreams. I can still see the stars and smell the explosion from the seat ejection.

She drifted into the living room. Katy took another deep breath, and looked around her. Yes, she was home, but the memory of the hot night air, the sudden stop in mid-air, and the pain of hitting something and stopping suddenly was real.

This can’t be real, she thought as she sat down on the couch and laid her head against the back of it. No! It’s a dream! I have to pull myself out of this. It’s not real!


DECEPTIONS OF NIGHT by Virginia Cavanaugh

DECEPTIONS OF NIGHT - Order of Night Book Two by Virginia Cavanaugh

Tempers run hot through the members of the Order of Night as Lex tries to settle in as the new Triad vampire. But when a jaguar attacks him in his bed, his life gets turned upside down, and he discovers a new meaning to keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

Kill the triad vampire or your brother dies. Shayla grudgingly accepts the assignment. But she soon realizes that success is easier said than done as she lies prone, trapped against the floor and secured by the body of one pissed off sexy leech.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Lex wants answers and Shayla wants her brother returned alive. They form a shaky truce as they seek out the man who has both. Fierce attraction pushes them closer as mistrust tears them apart.

Deception lays in wait around every corner as they struggle to find the master mind behind the traitors to the Order of Night. As the tension rises, desire begins to burn with an intensity that threatens to consume, leaving them to question whether they can find what they seek with their lives and hearts intact.


Chapter One

What a clusterfuck this turned out to be. Lex sat up a little straighter in the high backed chair and looked around the room from his place on the raised platform, his patience thin. The Order of Night for Area Four had been called into session to swear in the new shape-shifting senators, and Lex’s newly appointed place with the Triad dictated his presence here. The room offered quite a bit of space under normal circumstances, but with the raised awareness and irritation simmering just under the surface of everyone in the room, he felt confined.

Lex turned his gaze to his brother Kale, who sat at the vampires’ table. Kale should be the one sitting up here in this chair, but he’d been removed from the Triad as punishment for the senate shifters he’d killed. Lex had also taken one out, but no one would ever know about his presence with his brother that night. They also held his brother responsible for the death of a sorceress named Kierra, but she was still very much alive.

Down below him and his two counterparts were three tables arranged to form a triangle. Five senators from each race sat on their appointed side. The shape-shifters sat huddled together, their displeasure evident. Lex had to suppress the need to roll his eyes. The furballs could stay pissed for all he cared.

Lex didn’t want this appointment to the Triad. He only took it to please his father after Kale had been forced to step down. Lex had been content to handle family business and be a leader to his people. Everyone knew his social skills where the other races were concerned lacked at best.

Senator Colin stood up, puffing out his solid chest to make up for his lack in stature. “We are outraged to have to sit in the same room with the filth that took the lives of our people.”

Travis, one of the vampire senators, tipped his Stetson hat back marginally. “I would watch who you’re calling filth, fur ball, unless you want to be on the receiving end of a good ole’ fashioned ass kicking.”

Lex watched as Kale placed his hand on Travis’s shoulder. They didn’t need a brawl in the middle of the meeting room. Then again, it would provide some entertainment to an otherwise boring bitch session. Who knew, maybe someone would even be willing to place bets and he could carry away a little pocket change at that. A voice sounded to Lex’s left, and he turned his attention to the shape-shifter Triad member, Roland, who tilted his head slightly to look down his hawk-like nose at everyone in the room.

“The Triad is displeased with Kale’s continued presence...”

“Hold up, Wild Kingdom.” Lex rose to his feet. “You are displeased with Kale’s presence, but the Triad is not. So you need to think before you speak for all of us.”

“Who are you to speak to me in such a manner? You’re nothing but your father’s lackey, undeserving of the position you now hold,” Roland replied, with a curl of his lip.

Lex started toward Roland, ready to show him what kind of ass whooping a lackey could dish out, but Kale’s booming voice stopped him.

“Enough. I think this meeting should be adjourned. We’re clearly not going to get anywhere while everyone’s temper is unleashed.”

Lex found himself smiling at Kale’s pun. “I second that motion, unless...” Lex turned his head and stared at Roland, casting him a look full of intent if they stayed here any longer.

“I’m also in favor of this,” Roxanne, the Triad sorceress, stated as she flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder.

“Meeting adjourned,” Roland sneered. “We will reconvene in two weeks.”

Lex cast a sardonic smile in Roland’s direction, before hopping off the platform to join his brother and Travis, who were exchanging parting words with the other three vampire senators. “You know, I believe I hate this more than I thought I would. I have no tolerance for ass wipes.”

“Well, brother, you are going to have to grow some, because it only gets worse from here.” Kale cast a half smile.

Lex turned his gaze to Travis. “And what is it with this hick getup? I haven’t seen you in a century and you have gone and went country on me.” Travis had spent so many years as one of the vampire guardians that Lex had come to think of him as family. But his father had made a wise choice in appointing Travis to the Order. He made one hell of a leader.

Travis laughed. “What can I say? Once a farm boy always a farm boy.”

Lex winced. “When things settle down, I’ll have to kidnap you and help you before the fashion police descend.”

“I reckon you will. Well, I’m outta here. Maybe I can make it back home to Texas by tomorrow night. Have a good one.”

“You too, Travis. It’s nice seeing you.” Lex waved to Travis and then turned toward Kale. “Shall we?” He motioned toward the door with his outstretched hand.

Kale preceded him as they walked out into the fresh night air. The humidity caused Lex’s shirt to stick to his body. He would have to take yet another shower when they arrived back at Kale’s house in Erie. He still needed to find a place of his own, but it’s not as if Kale was using it. He made the pretence of staying there, but it didn’t take him long to sneak away in Lex’s new Hummer to stay at the undisclosed place they were hiding Kierra.

Kale reached the Hummer. “Come on and stop lollygagging.”

“I know you didn’t just say lollygagging.” Lex laughed. “Where in the hell did you pick up that word? Lollygagging? Really?”

“Stop dicking around,” Kale half growled.

“Now that sounds more like the man I know.” Lex laughed at the frown of frustration crossing his brother’s brow.

“Lex, I’m not in the mood.”

“Alright, keep your panties on.” He jogged the rest of the way to the Hummer. “But seriously. Where did you get that word?”

Kale rolled his eyes. “Cassie and Ramie arrived back from London and have been staying at Dad’s. Tristan sent Cassie to gather some things to take back. So I’ve been trying to watch the language if you will. I sure don’t want to receive an ass chewing from Cassie like the one you got about a year back.”

Lex sucked in a breath between clenched teeth. “Point taken.” His sister-in-law had torn him a new one after his sweet little niece had, by chance, picked up a few choice words from him.

As they made their way through the light early morning traffic, they talked about the lack of progress made during the meeting. More than likely the decision to leave Kale on as a senator would be taken to the High Court, which meant he would have to go to England. Something Lex didn’t relish the thought of doing. One trip this month had been enough.

Lex spared a glance in Kale’s direction before facing the road again. “So how is Kierra adjusting?” The surge in her power and the gaining of new abilities had been a lot to deal with.

“She’s doing as well as can be expected. She gains more and more control of her new abilities every day. Learning her new limits and weaknesses has been tough though. Not being able to leave the house is the worst. She’s going stir crazy. The first few days she rearranged the furniture and reorganized the dresser drawers to keep busy. I still can’t find half of my shit in that house. I think she hid it on purpose so I would argue with her.” His lips tipped up in a knowing smile.

“I’m glad to see you happy. And I like Kierra. She suits you well. I mean, someone has to keep you in line.” Lex hit the button on the automatic garage door opener and then pulled the Hummer into the garage next to Kale’s Lotus. The garage door slid back into place behind them.

Kale opened his door and made his way around to the driver’s side of the Hummer. “You won’t mind if I don’t stay, will you? I need to get home. There is something I need to check on.”

Lex backed away from the Hummer. “No, go ahead. I’m going to take a shower and relax.” Lex watched from the door leading into the house as Kale slid behind the wheel. He had to change cars with Kale to keep the cover of Kale staying in this house by himself. He had no idea where Kale and his father had chosen to hide Kierra, only that it was close enough for Kale to get to without having to worry about the sun. Lex entered the house and closed the door behind him. It didn’t take long to hear the Hummer backing out of the garage and out of the driveway.

* * * *

Every shifter had a purpose in their pride, and hers was death dealer. Shayla sucked in a deep breath as she mentally prepared herself for her latest mission. A string of curse words bubbled up inside her, but she stayed silent. Not only did her life depend on her success, but so did her brother’s. She crept along the side of the house, careful not to make any noise that would alert the vampire to her presence. A faint pink touched the horizon signaling the approaching dawn. The heat and humidity , caused her light brown hair to become more frizzy than curly and no doubt it would only become worse. She smoothed it back with an angry swipe, becoming more and more pissed about being here.

When Gabe, the head of her pride, had approached her, she figured it would be for business as usual. She’d taken on assignments for hits ordered by him in the past, but they’d been hits on low-life thugs who thought to run away without paying their debts to Gabe. As much as she hated killing, she knew that if they didn’t make an example out of those punks then it would be someone in her own pride that went without. The whole pride depended on the money made by Gabe’s bar. Only a select few outside of the pride knew of all the other entertainments Gabe offered to earn the extra that was needed. However, this time she hadn’t been asked to chase some loser across state lines. Instead, Gabe had asked her to kill the vampire member of the Triad.

Yeah, she could hold her own in most fights, but to take on a leech, of no doubt advanced age, would be a likely death sentence. So she’d balked when Gabe gave her the assignment. Besides, in no way did she want anything to do with the politics or potential ramifications of assassinating a vampire of high standing in the Order. That’s when Gabe dropped the bomb and pissed her off to no end. He threatened to take her younger brother’s life if she failed to do as he asked. Her lips pursed at the memory, and her temper spiked a little hotter. Not having much choice, she’d accepted the mission.

Gabe didn’t tell her a whole hell of a lot about the whys. Just that he had killed the shifter senators for Area Four and messed up some big plan Gabe was a part of. Truthfully she didn’t even care about the whys. As soon as she could get back and save Ethan, she planned on leaving the pride.

A deep breath filled her lungs as she refocused on the task at hand. She’d been given a key to the sliding glass door at the back of the house, but didn’t bother asking how Gabe had come across it; she just hoped that it worked. Her hand lifted and slid the key into the hole with as much finesse as possible and then turned it in the lock silently. The door glided with a soft whisper of air. For a few seconds she stood silently, listening for any noise that would suggest her entry had been detected. Gracefully she stepped over the threshold. She toed off her sandals with care and then slipped the spaghetti straps of her sundress off her shoulders. Her panties hit the floor right before she started to shift. Her body shimmered slightly as her bones rearranged themselves and her skin became fur. Finally, in her jaguar form, she hunted for a vampire.


Friday, April 29, 2011



High school quarterback Zack Pierce’s life is spiralling out of control.

To hide from his growing attraction to Sam, his best friend and team mate, Zack drinks, smokes dope, and has sex with any girl who will have him.

Things reach a crisis point when Zack’s girlfriend dumps him after she finds out he’s got another girl pregnant. Not knowing what else to do, Zack breaks out his father’s bourbon and calls Sam for help.

The call in the middle of the night scares Sam, who rushes to his friend’s side. Dare he risk everything by confessing what he feels for Zack? The next twelve hours will either make or break them.


Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.

Zack paced the floor of the den. It was all such a fucking mess. For years, he’d tried to ignore his problems, drinking, smoking or fucking them out of his mind. But in recent weeks, no matter what he did, the scary thoughts kept creeping in. He couldn’t stop them.

Zack reached up and tugged at his hair. It was all over the place, but he didn’t give a shit. He would normally spend ages on his hair, combing, gelling, and styling it just right. Jill would joke he spent longer on his hair than she did on hers. When she’d found out Janet was pregnant, and that he was probably the father, she’d dumped his ass.

He’d been at her house. She’d screamed and stamped her feet. She’d picked up everything from a hairbrush to CD’s, to a little statue of a pony he’d bought her, and had thrown them at him. He’d tried to talk her down, but when he’d gotten close, she’d slashed his cheek with her nails.

Zack reached up to his face. At least it had stopped bleeding.

He’d gotten the hell out of there. Her high-pitched screams had still been audible from the sidewalk. Once home, he’d lost no time in getting wasted on a bottle of his dad’s bourbon. Then not really knowing why, he’d called Sam. He hadn’t known what to say, and, fuck, he hadn’t meant to start crying. What a fuckin’ pussy. But he couldn’t hold it in any more. He needed another drink.

Stumbling in the direction of his parents’ bar in the corner of the den, Zack tripped over the coffee table.

“Who the fuck put that there!”

As he tripped, the glass in his hand knocked against the table and broke, shards scattering over the carpet.

Recovering, he stepped around the broken glass, made it to the bar, splashed a healthy slug of bourbon into another tumbler, added some ice, and threw back the glass’s contents.


Sam’s voice startled Zack. He jerked his arm, and some of the liquor splashed onto his cheek, stinging like a motherfucker.


“Zack?” The voice was closer. “What the fuck you been doin’, man?”

Sam’s fingers touched the edge of his cheek.

Zack found himself leaning into the touch. Suddenly realizing what he was doing, he jerked backward and swung at Sam. “What the fuck! You a fag or something?”

Sam stepped back, his hands held up in a gesture of peace.

The momentum of Zack’s punch caused him to overbalance. He landed face first on the carpet, the glass landing next to him, its contents forming a puddle near his right ear. He could smell the alcohol as it soaked into the carpet. His mom would go ape shit! Suddenly, it all became too much. For close on six years, he had guarded the secret he’d held inside. But now, the break up with Jill, his shitty parents, the pain in his cheek, and now in his chest, were too big a burden for him to cope with any more. He curled into a ball and started to sob.


DREAMING SPARTA by Richard Fazio

DREAMING SPARTA by Richard Fazio 

In ancient Greece, Demetrios trains to become a Spartan soldier but grows depressed over the loss of his mentor, Andreas. His desire for them to retain their monogamous relationship is overcome by Lysandra's devious attempts to have Andreas fulfill his duty as her betrothed.

In present day New York, Andrew's life is in shambles when his father threatens to evict him for being gay. When, Andrew stumbles into Demetrios' world through a dream portal, their encounters provide each with the incentive to confront their demons ... together.

Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.

When he rose from his nest, Andrew found himself in an alien but bucolic landscape. He took no more than a step or two when the uneven rustling of dry grass betrayed someone else’s presence. He turned in time to see a guy of his own age and height scurry behind a chiseled stone stele like a frightened rabbit. Andrew froze so as not to upset him further. He could make out the top of a head of curly black hair. Within seconds, the rest of the face appeared. His proximity enabled Andrew to perceive hazel-colored eyes.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you,” Andrew blurted out. Upon the realization his words may be incomprehensible, he beckoned with his hands. Since Greek was the only other language with which he had any familiarity, he said, “Addio.” He chanced another step or two but didn’t dare to get any closer. Instead, he held out his right arm with his hand palm up. In his mind, it was a sign of universal acceptance.

The ‘rabbit’ emerged from his cover with an awestruck look on his face. Andrew knew the only chance to win his confidence was to be gracious. So he pulled back his extended hand, put it over his heart, and bowed slightly in a classic gesture of subordination.

As Andrew raised his eyes and emerged from his bow, the stranger edged closer like a curious child. Sunlight danced over this boy’s darkly toned body. His devastating beauty rendered Andrew speechless. Moreover, a physical similarity to his friend Demetri was uncanny. The stranger’s juvenile reaction described a youthfulness he did not actually possess. Subtly roughened facial features, a thick neck and a hirsute body directly contradicted that behavior. A tunic of white fabric like finely woven burlap wrapped around his taut torso; a delicate rope cinched it at the waist. That a well-developed body was concealed beneath it was obvious. Laced leather sandals revealed enough of his legs to indicate a predilection for climbing. Under his breath Andrew whispered, “I am definitely not in Kansas anymore.”

His brief reverie melted as soon as the stranger spoke.

“You don’t appear to be a Macedonian soldier. Have you been sent by the gods?”

“No, actually, I’m not from around here,” Andrew replied. But where in the hell was he? And how is it they could understand each other when they were obviously from different cultures? Quite possibly even diverse time periods!

“From where then?” queried the stranger.

“From Astoria. It’s a place in New York. So is this ...”

“Then, what are you doing at the Temple of Artemis Orthia?” he persisted.

At a loss to reply, Andrew thought for a moment. As he did, he took the opportunity to dwell on the stranger’s inquisitive eyes. It was near impossible to look away from them.

“I ... I came to ... inspect buildings. That’s it. I’m here to study the structural integrity of the temple’s foundation. You see I’m a student of ... of architecture.” Not very sure of the credibility of his explanation, Andrew felt it was still worth the attempt.

“You speak in an odd way but I believe you. If you were a god, I don’t think you would waste time with a mere mortal.”

“Oh, yes I would,” Andrew replied with a bit too much enthusiasm. He knew by the stranger’s speech and references this was another era of history. It was like a dream but one steeped in a sensuous and realistic environment. He decided circumstance necessitated a polite distraction at this point. “Maybe you would like to show a newcomer around the area,” Andrew ventured.

“Do you mean the place where I live and train to be a warrior? If so, I’d rather stay up here while it is daylight. There are some beautiful spots here in the hills I could show to you.” Subsequently, he followed a narrow path the long grasses tried to hide. Crawling along at first, he picked up his pace when he saw Andrew shadow him step for step.

His interest piqued, the explorer within Andrew emerged. “How come you’re here on your own? Don’t you have any friends you could be with?”

“Only Andreas, my inspirer. But he is otherwise involved this day and I have no one else. And you?”

“Oh, I always travel alone but I have many friends back home. Besides, I like to make new friends as often as possible,” said Andrew in an attempt to perk up his new buddy.

They sauntered along for only a short time before yet another panoramic view forced them to yield to its beauty. This one dropped even steeper than that of the inland valley to include the rugged Tainaro cape of the Maniot peninsula, the southernmost point of Greece.

“That is the port of Gytheion,” his guide offered with a nod towards the distant shoreline.

Indeed, Andrew discerned tiny fishing boats and inhaled a hint of sea air. The combination of an agreeable climate, a peaceful locale and exotic herbal scents intoxicated Andrew. He thought there should be some cultural or temporal shock but he felt just too good. “May we sit somewhere for a moment?” Andrew inquired.

“That is in my mind also. I love to meditate on the vastness of the ocean. Were it not a sacrilege to say so, I would tell you it makes me feel like a god myself.”

“You are ... uh.” Andrew faltered as he sat down and almost lost his balance. “I know exactly what you mean.” He wasn’t aware of anything wrong in the physical sense but felt bewitched. Then again, he reasoned to himself, maybe the altitude was to blame.

His new friend remained quiet. Then, to Andrew’s surprise, the silent stranger sat down next to him. He wondered if this were his normal behavior: stoic, but with unspoken warmth.

“By what name are you called? I am Demetrios of Pitana, soldier of Sparta.”

Speechless he had not thought to ask first what he knew to be a rule of common courtesy in any culture, Andrew was doubly shocked by a name similar to his closest friend. The very same one, in fact, to whom this Demetrios of Pitana bore such a great resemblance! Was there a connection? And ancient Greece of all places! He did not even fantasize about stuff like this. Before his mind could wander further he answered: “My name is Andrew.”

“Today I feel blessed by the gods in making your acquaintance,” Demetrios said with sincerity.

History books be damned, Andrew thought. If this were truly ancient Greece then it was one hell of a misrepresented culture. However warrior-like, it was obvious these people were not at all uncivilized. He could tell by Demetrios’ entire demeanor, by his longing glance, by his ... Andrew did not know what distracted him so but he began to think things he had never thought of before. Not with another man anyway. The response inside his pants told him so. Could it be he harbored this same inclination towards Demetri and had not acknowledged it? Or, at least, never wanted to?

In lieu of an involved response, Andrew simply said, “I suppose I am also blessed.”


Thursday, April 28, 2011

STEAMROLLED by Pauline Baird Jones

STEAMROLLED by Pauline Baird Jones

With all of time at risk, it's a bad time to fall in love...unless it's the only time...

Robert Clementyne is going on a transmogrification machine hunt. He fears finding the machine will be as difficult as pronouncing the name. How can the steam-powered device perform as advertised, and how useful can any information be, coming from a steampunk themed bowling alley/museum?

It's pretty crazy, but he's been there, done that, and thinks he can handle it. And then he meets the proprietor/curator...Emily Babcock.

Emily grew up in crazy, still lives in it - hey, it's her freaking zip code. So no worries when Robert and his team walk into her bowling alley. The first visitors ever to her museum.

But neither of them is prepared for what happens when they open the door to the past...and the future. With a side trip through Roswell...and a face-to-face meeting with an evil genius/wannabe - who is on his way to becoming evil overlord-of-everything...



Time is persistent.

And often cranky.

Ashe had learned these immutable truths during her relatively short stint in the Time Service—okay so almost everything was relative in the Service—but inside the stream, with sparks striking off her protective gear, cranky felt like an understatement. Lurch kept her stomach in place through the turbulent spots—one of the benefits of hosting a nanite—but she was glad they were closing on the base. She slowed, preparing for reintegration into base time, then gave a kick that would land her just off square.

Didn’t like arriving where expected.

She sensed Lurch’s mental sigh over her sideslip. He preferred precision to surprise, though he wouldn’t admit it—or concede the wisdom in retaining a small measure of paranoia.

She softened her knees for the coming jolt against terra firma, but nothing prepared her for a landing on terra that wasn’t firma. She skidded a few feet, even managed to stay upright for several of those feet, before tumbling to a stop against a large tree.

While she deployed a random selection of the billion or so swear words she’d learned from Lurch, he sent repair nanites into areas of her body impacted by the messy landing. When she’d caught her breath, she crawled out from under the tree—not easy with multiple tremors wrenching the terra in several directions at once—and stared up at the multiple, explosive impacts slamming into the protective shields. That explained the tremors, but not the reason for the impacts.

The outpost is under attack.

Really? I hadn’t noticed. When he failed to respond to her completely justified sarcasm, she started to clear her mental throat for round two—outpost? The island on the Kikk Ocean hadn’t been called “outpost” in two, maybe three hundred years. Are you having a senior moment? He was passing his five hundredth Earth year. He didn’t like it when she started adding his age up in Garradian seasons, so she only added those up when he’d seriously annoyed her. And she felt like doing the math, which wasn’t that often, since he declined to assist in that particular process.

We aren’t on the base.

Guess he didn’t like the “senior moment” dig. Well, she didn’t like the implication she’d landed in the wrong time, though she had to concede it was the wrong place. This wasn’t the landing square, or even its close cousin. But, other than the under-attack part, this looked like the base and smelled like the base. I did not miss the mark by several hundred years.

I suspect the mark missed you.

Not helping. No matter what one called it, this island was a fixed point on the planet of Kikk. It’s not like the base had changed that much since its rediscovery—or the many seasons of Garradian time that had passed. It had been timeless before it became the Time Service base. It had even recovered from the battle damage incurred during the conflict with the Dusan five hundred Earth years ago.

Take a closer look.

Overhead, red and gold highlighted the area the shields protected—she frowned, as her brain processed the visual recording. Only the center section of the island appeared to be under attack, which should not be possible.

Ashe started—and quickly stalled—on what to ask. Lurch’s pause was both over long and unusual. In her experience he tended to provide answers before she could think the questions. It wasn’t easy sharing her brain with the venerable nanite and she had to assume it wasn’t easy being in her less-than-venerable head, though he’d never thought it where she could hear it. He’d acquired a lot of tact in the years since he’d achieved sentience. While she didn’t know exactly when it was, she did know it was a tiny fraction of the time behind her, and that she had a ways to go with tact development—and some other stuff.

He tapped into the base’s resources. She felt the connection through him and saw what he saw as he spiked into the tracking screens in the command center—in what had been the command center long before her time. It was a bit like watching a very old news vid, seeing the old style uniforms—the Earth uniforms. Neither the arrangement of ships, nor did their appearance, matched her data-memory of any battle from that time.

They are from Keltinar.

There weren’t any battles with Keltinar. Keltinar was an ally, well sort of, had been for the passing of many seasons. They’d threatened and postured a few times—a stereotypical patriarchal society back then—but in the end made peace. They’d come to this galaxy to solve a resource problem, she recalled, pulling the specifics out of her data memory bank, a female shortage issue because all the guys wanted boy babies. They’d almost taken too long to figure out they required girls to get guys. Time and a trading agreement with an Earth entity called, created just to fill the need, had improved the ratio, then tipped it the other way. Now their world was heavily matriarchal.

They’d found out what the Garradians knew all too well: Earth girls weren’t that easy. She paused, surprised when Lurch failed to follow up on the opening.

The battle is bleeding through a tear in time.

Again, did not know what to ask. It should be impossible, shouldn’t it? Staring at it didn’t help it feel possible when it looked so wrong, but since she was staring at it, it must be possible. She felt Lurch wince. Kind of echoed that wince.

This battle took place a long time ago. In an alternate time line.

He tacked this last on with such obvious reluctance, it suggested he thought she needed to know about a battle that hadn’t happened, but wasn’t happy telling her about it. She could ask him what else he knew, but he already hadn’t told her, so he probably wouldn’t share any more.

You need to move ten meters up island to clear the breach.

No, did not plan to share more. Easy to say she should move, not that easy to do. She longed to jump back into the stream, but what if she got stuck in the alternate time line? Was that possible? No surprise time felt off, the stream out of synch once she got the shock and awe under control enough to notice.

I’m going to have to run for it.

First she’d have to get up off her knees, also easier thought than done. Lurch flowed drones into her muscles and boosted her adrenal function. He also heightened visual acuity, helping her map the best route. She managed upright, found her balance and darted forward.

Are you sure we can pass through the edge of the breach? It was something she should have asked before committing to the run. Lurch’s lack of answer was an answer of sorts. Great.
The edge of the breach shimmered a bit, as if lit by flares of the weapons from the bombardment. Lurch sent another surge through her muscles—trying to increase her physical capabilities as a warning blasted through her mind. She raced toward what could be a wall, while the display inside her head showed a section of the upper shields giving way—the part just above her.

It’s going to be close.

A whistle of something incoming lent wings to her final effort. They were both fully committed as she launched herself at the edge of the breach…and passed through it. Felt the explosion hit against it, but for whatever reason, the wall contained the blast, even though it failed to contain her.

Possibly because the battle belongs in that reality and we don’t.

Ashe rolled several times, bumping against a pair of legs.

Not that much better than a tree.

“Cadet.” The word sounded more sigh than anything.

Council Head Carig had resisted letting her into the service, despite indications women had been wardens at some point ¬either in the past or the future—another one of those relative effects one had to wrap one’s brain around in the Time Service. Not that she wanted to wrap her brain around him. He was a fossil in looks and attitude. And he had a serious hate for her family, even though he was supposed to have left it behind when he became a member of the governing Council.

Of course, she shouldn’t know his name—no one wanted those traversing time to know who they were or when they were—but Lurch never forgot a face or a name.

She scrambled up, grateful to Lurch for erasing the aches and pains yet again. Her protective headgear retracted automatically as she came to attention. A pity he couldn’t remove the signs of the various impacts from her outer person. Carig’s gaze found and paused to note each violation of the uniform code. It didn’t help to know her uniform was silver, shiny, fitted—like some perverse, centuries old Earth science fiction movie creature. It would have horrified the Council had any of them bothered to watch one of those old vids though possibly not enough to alter the uniform design. No surprise that change was slower than time in the Time Service.

“Do I want to know the reason for that rookie arrival?” He sneered down his nose at her, even though they were almost the same height. If he was looking at her chest, he had to be disappointed. Her uniform flattened her chest to just shy of concave.

She opened her mouth, a tart response about the breach making it to the tip of her tongue, before Lurch yanked it back. A good move, since tart could get her kicked out. She might not like the cut of her uniform, but she was proud to have earned the right to wear it. She tried to frame a less tart response about the tear. Lurch yanked that back, too.

He doesn’t know about the tear. He can’t see it.

Actually, she couldn’t see it anymore either. That left her nothing but a pseudo-respectful silence.

“You’re late.”

She wasn’t—and how could she be late when they were out of time’s flow—but one didn’t argue with the Head of the Time Council. Besides, they had worse problems than a tardy cadet. Now that she was back in base time tremors—not weapon’s fire—slammed into the time shields that hid them from the larger universe and protected them from changes. In theory, the shields also enabled them to ensure time’s continued integrity. Ashe hoped they held better than the shields in the time tear.

Do you know what’s happening?

Rather than answer the question, Lurch began to feed her data he could access now that they were free of the breach. She didn’t know everything Lurch could do—a successful hosting was only possible if both sides respected the other’s privacy—but she knew that if he wanted to know something, there was no one within the Council hierarchy who could stop him from finding it out. The data was interesting and disturbing, and it boiled down to one simple conclusion: time was seriously out of whack.

Just in case she hadn’t noticed.

Look at this. Lurch brought the tracker log to her attention.

That can’t be right. No way that many trackers would be overdue all at the same time.
It sounds less threatening than “missing.” Lurch sounded as if he were still searching through data streams. The missing are all top-tier trackers. Some mid-level, too. There are some not yet overdue but if they show, I’ll be surprised.

Lurch, as she well knew, was rarely surprised.

Ashe had only recently left rookie status, so no one knew how good she was at tracking—in large part thanks to Lurch—so it wasn’t a shock she hadn’t been targeted. It’s always better to be underestimated was another family axiom.

It’s not all me, he told her, a touch dryly. You’re a natural.

The rare compliment left her mentally speechless.

Could you try to focus?

Lurch felt about as not happy as Ashe had ever felt him feel before. It was a lot of unhappy. She felt another shock wave hit the perimeter, harder than the last one, but Carig seemed unaware of it. Unclear if he was oblivious or bluffing.

He can’t see or feel time. In all my existence, I’ve never been hosted by someone who processes time the way you do. Who sees time the way you do. Still the base sensors should be detecting something.

She didn’t ask the obvious question, because if he knew he’d tell her unless he didn’t want to tell her, which he wasn’t or couldn’t.

Sometimes you make my circuits hurt.


“Report to the Chamber immediately.” Carig barked the command. Since barking was his usual tone, it was hard to tell if he was worried.

She left Carig, with a half-hearted attempt to hide her relief, turning toward the main building. It was inside what had been the breach, but whatever had caused the problem seemed resolved. She crossed the boundary with no problems. The sky above stayed clear and calm. No more shooting-at-them-ships.

Any ideas? Theories? Wild guesses?

That Lurch hesitated yet again was troubling. Based on known theory, this level of turbulence can have two causes. Someone is messing with time.

The missing trackers appeared to support that thesis. And the other?

Time could be repairing itself. It is…persistent.

I had heard that. Only three million or so times since she entered the Service, but who was counting.

I have experienced time repairing itself. It was…challenging.


And nearly life extinguishing.

Which could also explain the missing trackers, she realized. Ashe knew a lot of ways to express worry verbally, thanks to Lurch, but only one Earth word seemed right for the moment.



Wednesday, April 27, 2011


An Excerpt from: Against Nature
Copyright © 2011 John Nelson

All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

Adam Spinoza’s head pounded. Large does of aspirin and Tylenol did nothing to relieve the pain. He’d been in Washington three weeks when the flu hit. Spinoza, an American ex-patriot, worked as an envoy for the nationalized Ecuadorian plastics cooperative and had been in Washington lobbying U.S. retailers.

St. Francis Community Hospital looked like a military compound. Large orange barricades blocked the entrance and several respirator-clad cops directed the human flow toward a tent set up on the hospital grounds. An old woman struggled with her walker and oxygen canister and eked toward the triage area.

“Do you need any help ma’am?” Adam asked the old woman.

“Get away from me,” she demanded. Adam stepped back and proceeded along the roped path toward a nurse covered from head to toe in light blue scrubs, surgical cap, gloves and boots.

“What’s your problem?” the nurse barked. From behind her mask and plastic face shield, Adam noticed her tired brown eyes.

“I’ve had an intense headache for the past three days,” Adam said.

“Do you have a history of migraines, tension or cluster headaches?” The nurse showed little compassion.

“No, I have no history of headaches.”

“What’s your full name and social security number,” the nurse asked. A younger woman in green scrubs jotted down Adam’s personal details on a clip board.

“Let me see your hand, we need to do a screening finger stick,” the nurse said.

“A what?” The nurse grabbed his wrist and rubbed an alcohol pad on his index finger and pricked it. She squeezed out a drop of blood and dabbed it onto a test strip. It turned blue.

“We’ve got another positive,” she yelled.

“Positive what?” Adam grabbed the test strip from the nurse. “What is this, I came here for something for a headache.”

“You have Suspicious Flu; you’ll have to leave immediately. There is nothing we can do for you,” the nurse said. Adam saw the fear in her eyes. Two large men in olive drab “space-suits” approached him.

“Sir, you need to leave the premises,” one of the burly men said. The other positioned himself behind Adam.

“You need to stay at home. Do not leave. You are highly contagious,” the man said. The other man pushed Adam forward.

“And don’t come back,” he pushed a little harder.

Adam walked across the hospital’s front lawn and onto the city sidewalk. A few hundred feet down the street he stopped at the public bus stop. Sitting on the bench, he looked at the chemical-blue dotted test strip and his hands shook and a wave of hysteria consumed him. He cried uncontrollably for half an hour. The bus, which normally ran every twelve minutes, never came.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WHEN YOU DARE by Lori Foster

WHEN YOU DARE - Book of one The Men Who Walk The Edge Of Honor by Lori Foster

The tougher they are, the harder they fall...

Professional mercenary Dare Macintosh lives by one hard and fast rule: business should never be personal. If a cause appeals to him and the price is right, he'll take the mission he's offered. But then the lovely Molly Alexander asks him to help her track down the men who'd had her kidnapped - and for the first time, Dare's tempted to combine work with pleasure.

Fiercely independent, Molly vows to trust no one until she's uncovered the truth. Could the enemy be her powerful, estranged father? The ex-fiancé who still holds a grudge? Or the not-so-shy fan of her bestselling novels? As the danger heats up around them, the only anchor Molly has is Dare himself. But what she feels for him just might be the most frightening thing of all...



Dare came into the hotel room quietly, saw Molly curled on the bed, and frowned. The towel barely covered her, and with her knees pulled up, he would get one hell of a peep-show if he moved to the foot of the bed.

Not that he would. In many cases he lacked scruples; it was a hazard of the job. But with women, with this woman, he wasn’t about to take advantage. Despite her bravado and commonsense reaction to her nightmare, he’d never seen anyone more emotionally fragile.

Besides, the less involvement he had with her, unscrupulous or otherwise, the better. He needed to figure out what had happened to her, and the quickest way to safely remove her from his care.

He’d known she was spent, on the ragged edge, but the fact that she hadn’t even pulled the covers over herself proved her level of exhaustion.

More than anything, she probably needed to eat. But should he wake her for that when she also needed sleep?

He wasn’t a damn babysitter, but since he’d personally gotten her out of Mexico, he couldn’t very well just dump her somewhere. By rescuing her, he had accepted an implied responsibility.

Trying not to rattle the bags and juggling the food with his other purchases, Dare closed the door and locked it. A glance at the bedside clock showed the time at one-thirty A.M. He’d only been gone a half hour, tops.

Luckily the WalMart across the street stayed open twenty-four hours. He’d found not only clothes for her, but food, too. Dressing and feeding her would go a long way toward resolving her most pressing issues.

With barely a sound, he stowed the drinks in the tiny fridge and put her share of the food into the microwave to keep.

Removing his wallet, change and cell phone from his jeans, he placed them neatly on the desk. Next he took out his knife and the Glock 9mm he carried, and set them beside his other belongings. He stretched out his knotted muscles. Too many hours crawling over rough ground, ducking for cover and demolishing men without enough sleep or food had left him tense and weary.

After pulling a chair out from the round table, he opened the covering on his pancakes and coffee.

He’d taken only one bite when she stirred, sniffed the air, and drowsily opened her eyes. Dare turned toward her.

She gave him a “deer caught in the headlights” look.

He studied her, a small bundle huddled tight on the bed, face still ravaged and eyes wounded. Never had he seen a woman look so vulnerable.

He swallowed his bite and, sounding as casual as he could under the circumstances, asked, “Hungry?”

She stared back, then struggled up to one elbow. Her expression changed, the wariness hidden beneath that intrepid bravado. “Starved. Literally.”

With all the dirt removed, her big eyes dominated her small features. More marks showed on her fair skin, one on her cheekbone and under her left eye, one on her throat, and a darker, angrier bruise on her right shoulder.

She breathed deeply, her eyes closing and her nostrils flaring. “That smells so good.”

Out of his seat already, Dare fetched her food. “Do you want to sit here, or eat in the bed?”

She hesitated, looking down for a moment as if uncertain of her welcome, not wanting to inconvenience him. “Table please, but... I should dress first.”

“All right.” He set the food on the table and opened the bag of clothes, pulling out a few T-shirts, panties and a pair of pull-on cotton shorts. “You can get more stuff tomorrow if you feel up to it. Something warmer, maybe, and nicer for the plane ride. But for now, I figured this would fit.”

She didn’t look at the clothes. The arm she leaned on barely supported her, and her breath went choppy with effort.

Voice weak, strained, she said, “I’m sorry, but... I haven’t eaten in too long and I’m feeling kind of... faint.”

Dare straightened, going on alert. Would she pass out on him?

“If...if you could help me into the bathroom, I’ll dress in there.”

Shit. He did not want her passing out alone, maybe hitting her head. “Yeah, no problem.”

Dare moved to the bed and slipped an arm behind her, then drew her to her feet. She swayed into him, one hand clutching at his shirt and holding on for dear life.

She made no attempt to step away. He didn’t ask her to. “What would you like to do?”

“I can’t...” She choked, cleared her throat, and her voice was so low he barely heard her when she said, “This is embarrassing, but the shower...” She swallowed. “I think I’m depleted.”

Easing her back onto the bed, Dare knew he’d have to be firm to get her agreement. “Okay, Molly, listen up.” He kept his tone as impersonal as possible. “This isn’t a big deal. I can dress you. I can even feed you.”

She rolled in her lips with embarrassment, a habit he’d already noticed.

“It’s nothing I haven’t done before,” he lied.

That brought her dark eyes up to his.

Damn, but her eyes could melt a man’s soul. “I’m in the personal protection business. You’re not the first woman I’ve rescued. You’re not even in the worst shape.” Another lie. Most women he retrieved were found in the first forty-eight hours before too much damage had been done—or they weren’t found at all. “Okay?”

Still with her gaze locked on his, she nodded.

“Good girl.” He grabbed the clothes from the bag, not really discomfited with the task, but he’d just as soon get past it.

Taking clothes off a woman, yeah, he had plenty of practice with that.

Dressing the near-dead... not so much.


Monday, April 25, 2011

DAMAGED COWBOYS by Stacey Espino

DAMAGED COWBOYS by Stacey Espino

Emily returns to the country after a ten year absence. She's almost twenty-two and very much a woman.

Her first priority is getting into the pants of the three Macintosh brothers that she's never stopped thinking about over the years. They've sure grown up and have to be the hottest cowboys she's every known.

All three men easily fall in love with her, but aren't willing to share. With such strong feelings for each of the Macintosh brothers, she could never choose between them.

Her mission is to change their minds and convince them that sharing isn't so bad after all. In fact, it could be down right amazing!



“You two are driving me crazy,” said Aaron. He rose to his feet and fiddled in his night side table drawer, pullingout a tube of lube. He licked his lips in anticipation of whatever he was thinking. Next he snared one of his toys, this one a butt plug. Brad shook his head as Emily continued to suck him off. Aaron nodded in rebuttal and sat on the edge of the bed.

He didn’t want his brother to hurt Emily or go too far with the kink. She wasn’t one of his sluts and might not be into his sex games, though the thought of Aaron pressing the bulbous tip of the toy into Emily’s tight ass made his dick harder than steel. She responded by deep-throating his cock. He grasped a handful of her hair and tossed his head back with a growl.

“Damn, Emily. You’re killing me.”

Aaron squeezed some lube on the plug and then shifted her legs open with his free hand. With a thumb and fingers, he spread her cheeks, revealing the tight pink rosette. The pleasure of Emily’s hot mouth and silky tongue on his dick, plus the anticipation of Aaron hitting home with the toy, had him skittering dangerously close to orgasm. He wanted release, but he also wanted the night to last forever.

Aaron pressed the rubber toy against her anus and twisted and turned while pushing forward. Emily pulled off Brad’s dick and clenched the comforter in both fists.

“Shhh. Relax, darlin.’” Brad took up massaging her neck to relax her, his dick swinging free and fully aroused in the air.

He nodded to Aaron once the muscles in her shoulders eased, and he continued to work the plug past her tight anal ring. Brad remembered the day he’d stolen the virginity from that tight ass. He wanted to fuck her every way and over again. She was the Macintosh brothers’ little toy, their Barbie doll, to play with and keep.

Emily called out when the butt plug jolted inside her, secured by her unforgiving sphincter muscles. By the time Aaron moved his hand, she was moaning with desire. She ground her clit into the mattress, writhing and panting.

They both rolled her over. Aaron parted her legs at the knees. Brad had to take a look as well. Her pussy glistened with an overflow of moisture, and the plug protruding from her nether hole looked erotic as hell. He traced her slit with his finger and dipped deep into her moist heat. Her walls contracted around his digit. He slid out and was brushed aside by Aaron.

Aaron climbed up on the bed and dropped flat on his stomach, burying his face in her pussy, tasting, lapping and sucking with vigor.

Emily watched him watching Aaron. Everything felt so right. He had no animosity for his brother and no ill feelings for their woman. Emily had been right, though. The party wasn’t complete without Carter. Brad hated that his brother was denying himself when he loved Emily as much as he did.

Brad maintained eye contact with the stunning blonde as she writhed and bucked against Aaron’s mouth. Her full breasts jiggled with her movements, and the firm pink pearls begged for his attention. He sat beside her prone body and bent over to capture the sensitive flesh in his mouth. She reached for him, holding his head against her tits, demanding that he suck her harder. He lavished one breast with his tongue and kneaded the other until he had a chance to attend it.

When his hand was brushed away, he opened his eyes and released the suction he had on Emily’s nipple. Carter knelt on the other side of the bed, gazing into Emily’s bright blue eyes.

“Thank you, Carter. I need you,” she said. Carter kissed her passionately. Brad returned to her breast, suckling like an infant. A minute later, he glanced up to see Carter engorging himself on the sweet young flesh of her other breast.

“I’m almost there, Aaron,” she muttered. “Just a little…more.” Her orgasm ripped through her. Brad and Carter both had to hold her down as Aaron ate her pussy clean. When her body went limp, Brad kicked off his pants and climbed over her body.

“I’ve gotta have you, Emily. You ready for more?” asked Brad.

“Oh, yeah. I’m ready for all you.” She closed her eyes and ran her hands over the broadness of his shoulders as he hovered over her.

She opened her legs and pulled her knees up high. His dick was rock hard and easily penetrated her slick sheath in a single powerful thrust. He didn’t hold back or start slow and work his way up but forcibly pumped his cock in and out of her without mercy. Her pussy gripped him tightly and each thrust had him losing his senses. He nuzzled her neck, absorbing her unique scent as he lost himself completely. Emily screamed with erotic need with every brutal pump of his hips, encouraging him to ride her faster and harder.

“Oh, yes! Fuck me, Brad. More!”




Cara is fighting her destiny. What would you expect from a woman whose genetic code requires she eventually become a love slave? For years she's avoided the inevitable everything has changed.

When Cara realizes she's close to becoming Alexander's mate, only one more kiss stands between a fling and forever.

Alexander will stop at nothing to find his fleeing mate. She is his, perfect for him in every fashion. He only wants to know why she has run from him.

When Alexander finds Cara in danger and exhausted, he is determined to take her home and make her his.


Chapter One

Cara Simmons ran as far and as fast as she could. Low branches slapped her face as she ran through the thick underbrush. Her car had broken down, which left her on foot. She'd grabbed her wallet and ran. He would have started to follow her as soon as he woke up and got dressed. There was no doubt of that. Cara knew she had an hour on him at the most. Add in time to gas-up and sleep, he could be right on her tail for all she knew. She had to keep moving.

If he caught up with her, he would take over her life. She knew he would, because she would allow it. Her people did their best to hide in plain sight. Hardly anyone knew her kind still existed. Their best chance for a long, fulfilling, and, most importantly, free life was keeping their existence a secret.

She couldn’t allow him to catch her. Every time she looked into his mesmerizing green eyes, she capitulated. She'd done anything he wanted. It wasn’t because he forced her compliance. If he tried to force her, she would have found the strength to resist. She would allow him to take over because she loved him.

Love. It seemed like such an innocuous thing. It brought people together, even brought out the best in most people, but not her. For Cara and her kind, love was like a drug. It was a dangerous obsession for another that robbed them of their will. It stole their individuality and made them little more than puppets.

If she stayed with him, he would become her master, plain and simple. Her only choice was to run, to hide. To leave before their bond was complete. One more kiss, one more night in his arms, would cement their bond. The invisible threads would chain her to him just as irrevocably as if someone handcuffed her to his wrist.

She stopped at a riverbank drew in great gulps of air as she clutched her side. Though her lungs ached from her mad dash through the woods, she knew she must keep moving. There was most likely nothing wrong with his car, and he would catch her easily if she couldn’t maintain her distance.

Cara glanced around, hoping to find a boat, but knew it was wishful thinking. She fell to her knees and lowered her face to the cool stream. The quality of the water didn’t matter. Her kind never got ill despite how they lived. Sometimes she thought of it as a curse. Longevity and health was a gift to most people. It was just too bad that she was so different.

Raising her head, she listened, intent. The sound of him calling her name carried on the breeze, his voice filled with worry and anguish over her disappearance. Pressing her lips together to keep from returning his call, she stood, staggering slightly on the edge of the soft wet bank. She was tired, so tired. She needed rest. After casting one last glance behind her, Cara stumbled into the rushing water.

How did he know which way she went after her car died? Maybe he had dogs. Perhaps he had found out about her and wanted the unique bond she could offer. God, she hoped not.

Desperate, Cara waded deeper into the stream, intending to follow the water. Hurrying over to the other side of the narrow river, she made sure to leave wet footprints on the edge before leaping back into the frigid water. With luck, the footprints would mislead him at least for a little while. Perhaps it would give her a chance to escape. The last thing she wanted was to live her life as nothing better than a mindless slave.

The stream grew wider and deeper. Cara chose to stay on the far side as she made her way down the wide ribbon of water.

Her feet grew cold and numb in the rushing water. There was naught she would like more than to lie down on her back in the strong current and let it do all the work as it carried her away. She couldn’t submerse herself. As exhausted as she was, she knew that way led to hypothermia and death. There must be somewhere nearby she could rest undetected. Perhaps she could climb a tree and hide in the upper branches, the leaves blocking the vision of anyone below. It would work if he didn’t have a dog. It had to work.

She’s close. I can smell her. Alexander Ivanovich took a deep breath. Every step, every breath, brought him closer to her. He tried not to think of what her scent did to him. How his stomach clenched with need and his cock literally stood up and took notice. He glanced at his constant companion. Have you nothing to say?

Nicco, the ferret that had accompanied him in one shape or another for the last fifteen years, remained conspicuously silent. Alexander snorted. Now I know something is wrong. He glanced around, his senses on alert. I see nothing, and I smell nothing, but my gut tells me there is danger.

Specifically, danger to his mate—and Cara Simmons was his mate. Of that there was no doubt.

Danger approaches.

Finally, you speak, Alexander said with no little hint of disgust in his voice. Sometimes he hated the smug holier-than-thou attitude Nicco had. A shapeshifter of a different breed, Alexander kept him around for their friendship more than any other reason, but the creature could be dense with a capital D.

You would do well to remember that not all communication is necessary.

And you don’t have to sound so damned superior all of the time either. Alexander watched with a scowl as Nicco scurried up a tree for a better look at the surrounding forest. Remember to keep yourself hidden. You may frighten her.

She is here. Two trees to your left. The large oak. She sits perched in the upper branches, wedged in a tight crotch.

I wouldn’t mind being in her position right now. Alexander couldn’t help the wayward thought as he grinned and fought the urge to look up and search the high branches. His cock pulsed against the button fly of his jeans. Damn, he’d only been without for a few days, and he could think of little else. What was wrong with him?

Nicco shook his head and bared his teeth, showing his displeasure. Why must your species always think of sex? You’re almost as bad as a human.

You’re wrong there. We don’t always think of sex. Some of us don’t think of anything for several months out of every year.

If Nicco could have snorted, Alexander was sure he would have. That’s only because they are sleeping. It’s not a conscious choice.

I beg to differ. Just the act of going to ground is a choice. Alexander scented the danger once again. It was closer now. Very close. Enough of the bickering. He shot Nicco a dirty look. Where is the danger, and why can I sense it but cannot feel from which direction it comes?

Nicco fell silent for a moment. He rose up onto his hind legs, his body gently swaying back and forth as he listened and reached out with whatever other senses he had. Another stalks her from above.

Alexander fought the urge to look up. If he did and Cara saw him, she would know he had found her and try to run again. Still, his mind urged him to look. To be sure she was safe. He needed to see her. To look into her soft brown eyes, caress her lovely skin, cup her cheek, and tell her everything would be all right. Whatever caused her to run from him was a minor thing they could work out. Something they must work out. She was his mate. There was no other way.

Though the urge to look was strong, he chose not to. Let her think she was safe and alone for the time being. She would know something or someone other than him stalked her soon enough unless they could deter whatever creature planned to make her his next meal.

His friend scrambled up a few more branches and scurried from tree to tree. Alexander, reached out with his senses and connected with Nicco. With their minds linked, he could see through Nicco's eyes. The foliage was thick. Ivy grew on the trees. Their ropelike vines were everywhere, growing dense and almost strangling the majestic oaks. The vines were an effective trap for the unsuspecting. The last thing Alexander wanted was for Cara to fall and strangle herself in the clinging vines.

He almost sighed with relief when he saw her. She sat on a high branch, her arms and legs wrapped around the trunk of the tree. Her cheek rested against the rough bark. Her dark hair spilled out behind her, leaves and other debris clinging to it. He willed her to open her eyes so he could see how she fared. Instead, the beautiful mahogany orbs stayed closed, avoiding his inspection.

It was no wonder it took him so long to see her sitting there. Her tanned skin and dark clothing helped her blend into her surroundings. He never would have seen her from below without knowing exactly where to look.

Alexander’s slow smile didn’t reach his eyes as the scent of another predator finally reached his nose. He would not lose her to a hungry beast. Not today. Cara may think to run from what they had, but he couldn’t allow it. Without her, he had no life. She was his mate, and as such, she must remain with him for he would never find another. Cara may hide from him, but she could never escape him. It was inevitable that they come together. If she didn’t already realize it, she soon would.

He heard the danger before he saw it. His enhanced hearing picked up the slight rustle of leaves brushing silky fur. A mountain lion crouched above her, hungry and needing sustenance. It thought to make Cara its next meal. Alexander didn’t wish to kill the majestic beast. It was emaciated, nearly starved, its ribs sticking out through the thick fur. Humans encroaching on its habitat caused its troubles. It was natural for it to hunt the easiest most likely form of nourishment.

Still, he would never allow it to attack her as it planned. Instead of attacking the poor hungry beast, Alexander growled, pulling the noise from deep within his chest. The low sound drew the attention of the animal for a moment, then its hunger returned foremost in its thoughts.

When he growled again, the sound more insistent, the big cat looked up and sniffed the air, searching for its new enemy. It crouched lower in the tree, its stance aggressive. Apparently, it thought to fight for what it believed was its dinner. Alexander leaped into the tree and growled again, the sound growing more agitated, more aggressive. Still the beast looked toward Cara, its gaze filled with feral need. Nicco moved toward the large cat.

Do not get too close. The beast is starved and unpredictable.

I can outrun it, though perhaps it would be better to feed it. The offer was there. As always, Nicco put Alexander’s life, his wants, his needs, before his own.

No! Just lead him away. I will arrange to feed him, but you are not to become his next meal.

Nicco stopped for a moment, turned to look into Alexander’s eyes, the offer still there. When Alexander shook his head, Nicco moved slowly, coming out of the cover of trees to the cat’s left. He was limping, acting wounded. The mountain lion turned his attention toward the injured ferret. With Alexander willing to protect Cara, the mountain lion obviously decided the ferret made an easier target. Nicco met the cat’s gaze for a moment, then took off through the trees at a much slower rate than normal. The hungry beast, taking the bait, gave chase.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

FOREVER BOUND by Stacey Kennedy

FOREVER BOUND by Stacey Kennedy

A 1 Night Stand Story

Josie Harper had boyfriends, lovers, and even friends with benefits. None of them could satisfy her. Something had always been missing—something she was now desperate to find.

Gavin Scott longed for the perfect submissive. A woman worthy of the gift he could give to her as a Dom. Most failed to meet his expectations and he’d all but given up hope.

A high class match-maker in Las Vegas brings Josie and Gavin together. Tonight, Gavin will introduce Josie to the world of BDSM. As he skillfully guides her through the experience, Josie isn’t the only one captivated. Gavin is in awe of her control, someone this new to the lifestyle shouldn’t possess this great of a talent.

During their journey, Josie will find the missing piece of her soul and Gavin will meet the woman who was born to submit to him.



Josie Harper’s nerves were rattled. She’d never expected to have to hire someone to see her fantasies met. Sometimes, though, life doesn’t turn out how one expects it.

There had been plenty of boyfriends, lovers, and even friends with benefits in her life. None, though, could satisfy her. Not only in life, but sexually. Something had always been missing, something she needed to find. Those were the reasons she flew from Dallas to Las Vegas and why she stood in the elevator at the Castillo Resort and Hotel. The night may drain her savings account, one she’d added to over the twenty-five years of her life, but it didn’t matter. Not anymore. Sick of feeling unhappy, tired of not experiencing fulfillment, she’d been left with no other choice.

The question needed to be answered, Is BDSM meant for me?

She’d looked into her options for her self-discovery experiment, and had come across all sorts of avenues. Should she join a club with others who lived the BDSM lifestyle? She’d run across personal ads in the local newspaper and even classes offering to teach novices. But Madame Eve’s 1NightStand solution offered the most privacy.

Josie’s interests…well, she hadn’t quite figured them out yet. The idea of being dominated appealed to her. Images of being bound to a table while being spanked created heat between her thighs. But were these just fantasies or did she want to live the lifestyle?

Josie’d spent a good part of a day filling out a questionnaire given to her by 1NightStand detailing what she wanted, and even needed, from the experience. Had informed the woman of things she’d do and not do so the Dom would understand her limits.

Days after she’d faxed the questionnaire back, Josie received an email from Madame Eve confirming she’d made a match for her. The illusive Madame Eve found her a man to lead her into undiscovered territory?

It appeared she had. Was she ready to do this now? Push all her reservations aside and have the naughty sex which only lived in her dreams? Doubt nagged her. What else could be expected? The situation was new to her and not what anyone would call normal. She’d come for a reason though. She couldn’t let unease make her act stupidly.

She pushed away the fear and straightened her shoulders. The email stated for her to go to the fourth floor, room 412. They’d have complete privacy since the floor would be free of guests, and the room soundproofed, but a telephone would be available in case she became uneasy and needed a safety net.

As the elevator came to a stop, she stood for so long she wondered if she’d lost her nerve. None of that.


WHATNOTS & DOODADS by Stacey Kennedy

A Strange Hollow Book From Liquid Silver Books

Bryanna, a Witch from the Asheville coven magic is on the fritz. Shunned by her coven and her boyfriend, Layton for her unruly magic, she seeks a new life for herself. Just so happens, fate steps in and brings her to Strange Hollow–a place where being different is not only acceptable, but encouraged.

When Bryanna arrives in Strange Hollow, Zeke, a demon gone good, is burning with Hell’s fire over her. Not only has she set his world ablaze, but he’s found one soul he can save. He’s determined to free her from the insecurities that have damaged her soul.

Together, they experience lava hot passion as they weave their way through a tornado of emotions. But when Layton returns for her, will Zeke’s attempts to break the unworthy cage woven around her be enough to keep her in Strange Hollow forever?


Chapter One

A thump, followed by a ga-jug sounded loud within the car, after which, silence filled the air. Bryanna reached down and turned the ignition key of the metallic silver Volvo. It clicked. She tried again. Nothing. “Oh Blessed Be, this cannot be happening.” She tried again. Nada. No spark of the engine igniting, no purr from the muffler, only silence. The car’s nine lives had been used up and then some.

Bryanna nearly wept as she dropped her head against her hands that rested on the steering wheel. Just as tears rimmed her eyes, she straightened up. No, she wouldn’t cry. She opened the car door, got out and cursed the now dead car, and grabbed her handbag from the passenger seat before she slammed the door and walked away.

The GPS indicated her journey led her to the base of Mount Mitchell--well, it did, before it crapped out on her when the car died. The highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains was covered by thick, rich forests and rocky peaks with blue sky and white clouds floating above. It might have been a beautiful sight if it weren’t for her wretched mood. She might even enjoy the rich earthy scents around her, feel rejuvenated by leaving the busy city behind her and bask in the gloriousness of Earth. That is, if she felt connected to the elements.

Being a witch, this atmosphere should overwhelm her as Earth was her element. But her connection to Earth had been lost long ago. In truth, she’d never really found it. Her abilities as a witch were embarrassing at best. But those kinds of thoughts weren’t important anymore. Nothing mattered. Least of all, what she could or couldn’t do with her powers.

Her black satin, ankle-length skirt dragged along the ground. It appeared to have recently rained, which only added to the strength of the scents around her. Rich moss thrived on the forest floors. Birds chirped in welcome, but she didn’t know to where.

None of it really mattered. The only thing that did was the fact she could never turn back. This day had been drawn years ago. However, days ago, it got written in permanent marker. Her life needed to change. One reason brought her to this conclusion, and his name was Layton Brimley. A man built of romantic dreams--beautiful on the outside, blue-eyed, blond-haired, and sexy as sin. But the pretty packaging was deceptive as the inside was as ugly as an ogre. He was the reason she’d been on the road for two days now. And the reason she’d never go back.

A hawk squawked high above. She raised her hand to her eyes to provide a shield against the sun. The hawk soared on a thermal as it searched for its next meal. She sighed. If only she was that hawk and Layton was a little mouse she could rip to pieces. Oh, what revenge that would be.

Suddenly her knee gave out as she missed a step and fell forward. “Oh, for the love of magic.” Her hands scraped against the pavement as she fell into a puddle, the dirty water plastering her skirt to her skin. She pushed herself up, stood, and wiped her injured hands on her skirt. She took a cautious step, but wobbled. When she glanced down, she saw the heel had broken off her leather boot. She drew in a deep breath willing herself not to lose it as she removed her boots and threw them in the ditch.

Things were bad and only getting worse on her travels. She’d need four sets of hands to count all the mishaps she’d encountered along the way. Limping forward, she continued on, determined to get to ... well, she hadn’t quite figured that out yet. But she knew she had to go somewhere. Anywhere but the direction she came from.

As she continued to limp down the road, a car approached from behind and drew closer with each ridiculous limp. A moment later, a loud bang grabbed her attention when the car hit a pothole. She turned around just as the car’s tire hit a puddle and sent a large wave of water toward her. Now, if she were a normal witch, she could use her abilities to stop the water. Sadly, she was anything but normal. So instead, she braced herself, shut her eyes, and waited for the deluge.

The frigid water hit her dead center, as expected. “That’s it! Really? Seriously? Don’t you think I’ve had enough?” She ran her hands over her face to remove the water. Her long, black hair streaked with violet highlights dripped around her. She looked down at her black corset laced with red ribbon to find it completely soaked and dirt particles marring her creamy skin.

A quiet laugh interrupted her examination. She raised her head to find a woman exiting a black limo. A pretty woman, about a foot shorter than Bryanna’s five-five feet frame. Not skinny, but not chubby either--healthy. Her hair, long and brown, reached down to the small of her back; her violet eyes were friendly, but wounded. Clearly, she had a history, one that Bryanna suspected didn’t have a happily ever after.

“I must apologize for the little splash,” the woman said in a soft voice that held reservation.

A small splash? Bryanna snorted. “It’s all right. Trust me, it’s only been the umpteenth disaster that’s happened in the last two days.”

The woman gave a small smile, reaching her hand out in greeting. “I’m Jacinda Fergus, and you are?”

Bryanna extended her hand and shook Jacinda’s, receiving the lightest of handshakes. “Bryanna Wiggins.”

Jacinda, removing her hand almost immediately as if touching others displeased her, raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “Wiggins, the Asheville Coven?”

Bryanna rolled her eyes and sighed at the connection. “Yes, that would be my coven.”

“You’re a bit far from home, are you not?”

Water continued to drip off Bryanna’s face. She blew out a deep breath of air to send away the drips that hung on the tip of her nose. “It’s not my home anymore.”

“Oh?” Jacinda examined Bryanna from head to toe, and raised her gaze again with a grin. “Why don’t I take you to my home, and we can at least get you a change of clothes.”

Bryanna pondered the thought. Being a supernatural herself, a little radar had been built into her soul. It could be the smell of a shifter that made it obvious as to what they were, the overall strength of them, but with Jacinda it was the subtle power that lived in her eyes that declared this woman wasn’t a human, and was, in fact, Fae.

Should she get in the car with a powerful Fae that she knew nothing about? Or stay in these soaked clothes, with a broken heel on her boot, and no way to get anywhere? The decision wasn’t a hard one. “Lead the way.” Jacinda smiled, turned on her heel and strode back to the car. She entered first and Bryanna followed without hesitation. The backseat was not typical of a stretch limo. Simply two seats that appeared expensive--too expensive to drip water on. “I’m really sorry. I hope I don’t ruin your seats.”

Jacinda dismissed the concern with a wave of her hand. “It’s only a car.” She smiled at the driver. “Off we go, Zeke.”

Bryanna examined the driver herself, and immediately her breath sucked back into her lungs. It wasn’t his short, dark brown hair, the broad set of his shoulders. Nor was it his arms that filled up his pale blue long-sleeved cotton T-shirt, which showed defined muscles lying beneath that had her flustered. It wasn’t even his coal-black eyes that stared at her in the rear-view mirror that caused this reaction. It’s what lay in those eyes that startled her. A demon.

Zeke winked before starting off down the road, and flashed a grin that, if she hadn’t been frightened, might have been sexy. “Surprised to see a demon driving a car?”

“Um...” She stumbled over the words, unable to form a single coherent thought. “Um.”

Zeke and Jacinda laughed. Bryanna couldn’t find it in herself to do the same. Demons are underworld creatures, not meant for this realm. Stealers of souls, spawns of Satan--the very worst type of beings. What kind of trouble had she landed herself in? “Stop the car!” she shouted, blindly grasping for the door handle as she was too afraid to look away from his dark eyes. “Let me out of here. Oh my elements, you’re going to eat me.”

Zeke laughed louder. “I’m nothing to fear. I might be a demon by right, but I have chosen a different life for myself.”

His reply knocked her off her axis, forcing the fear within her to be replaced by shock. Was what he suggested even possible?

“Bryanna,” Jacinda said in a calm voice. “The only things we eat are elitists.”

Now, her laugh couldn’t be withheld. “You eat elitists?” Not that she wouldn’t agree. Elitists were arrogant folk. With her being a bit different she wasn’t opposed to the notion of seeing a couple of them taken out of the population.

Jacinda nodded. “One of the rules within Strange Hollow.”

“Strange Hollow?” Bryanna repeated.

Intrigue flashed across Jacinda’s face. “You’ve never heard of it?”

“No, never.” Not that it really surprised her. She’d lived a sheltered life. The farthest she’d ever gone was to the corner store. But what stuck with her was the contentment that settled over Jacinda. She didn’t mind hearing this place was unknown to someone. “Where is this Strange Hollow?”

Jacinda pointed out toward the front window. “There.” She sighed with a sense of pride. “There is Strange Hollow.”

Bryanna followed Jacinda’s pointed finger to see an old wooden sign, painted in colors that had faded with time, hung on a wrought iron stand. Strange Hollow was carved within the wood. As they followed the narrow stone road they passed a large gate and a wooden street sign that read, Main Street. To the east was 6th Avenue.

As the car travelled down the old road, shops of all kinds appeared. Duncan’s Dungeons, Scaredy Cat Cafe, Little Shop of Potions. It didn’t seem like a town she’d been to before, but something about it felt right. Like it was so memorable, if she left, she’d definitely want to visit again.

The car slowed before it stopped completely. Bryanna dragged her gaze from the shops and the few shifters who walked the street, and glanced out the front window. An old stone building sat in front of her and resembled a medieval court house. Stone met ivy in places so it appeared leaves grew from within.

Jacinda opened the door and smiled. “This is the Town Hall here in Strange Hollow, and it’s also my home.”

She heard that message loud and clear as she followed Jacinda. “So, this is your town?”

Jacinda nodded as sadness filled her eyes. “My family cast me out of the Fae court long before your life began. This is where I settled, and have welcomed outcasts such as myself. We have created a home here.” The words were said simply enough, but the pain in those eyes only grew. “Zeke will get you what you need.”

Bryanna marvelled for a moment. The town felt old. Shops were huddled together with no sense of organization that she’d seen--little houses, all with a different appearance, full of character and charm. “It’s really quite neat here.” She looked back toward Jacinda, only to find the older woman had vanished. She turned in a circle, stopping when a figure appeared in front of her.

Dark, dangerous, but gorgeous. Now, seeing Zeke in front of her, she got a full view of him. He was well over six-four and towered over her. His dark eyes peered down at her in a way that should send her running, but instead she found herself captivated. The small smile on his face was as dangerous as his evil roots. She blinked a couple times to gather herself, focusing back on the matter at hand. “Where’d she go?”

“Jacinda is private, no one sees much of her,” Zeke replied. “Even I, who helps her when she needs it, only see her for short periods.” He gave her the once-over before curiosity filled those dark eyes. “May I ask, if you’re a witch, why you haven’t just,” he waved his hand over her, “changed your clothing?”

A blush rose to her cheeks. Yes, it’s simple magic. She could have told a lie here to hide her flaws, but Zeke was a demon. She had no reason to feel ashamed. How could a demon judge her? “Well, that would be because I’m terrible at being a witch.”

He arched an equivocal brow. “How so?”

“My powers are on the fritz. They don’t work how they’re supposed to. I can command the elements, but when I do, something happens that I don’t want.”

He grinned and waved her on with enthusiasm. “Show me.”

“I’m not so sure I should do that,” she answered honestly. “I was sworn to stop using my powers a few years ago by my ex-boyfriend Layton.”

“But you are a witch,” he retorted.

To say she was a witch was akin to calling a black cat white. “Yeah, that’s the problem. I’m only a half-witch.”

He snorted, his expression shifting to an unhappy one. “There’s no such thing as a half-witch.”

She snorted back at him. “Wanna bet?”

“Go on.” He waved her on before he crossed his arms over his strong chest. She couldn’t deny that seeing his muscles clench and bulge didn’t send a little tingle in her belly. “I’m not worried, show me.”

Resolved that he wouldn’t let it go until he witnessed it for himself, she focused inward. It’d been so long since she called to the elements, she wasn’t quite sure they would even listen to her now. Guilt hit her in spades. Abandoning her gifts was like losing a limb. But at the time, Layton had been right. She was dangerous and her magic was worthless and only caused trouble.

The warmth in her belly began to grow as the elements acknowledged their presence. Happiness spread through her as she felt the tender touch of her magic return. Air began to whip around her as the powers grew. She focused on what she wanted--new dry clothes. With the heat in her blood, she released the magic and called it forward to work its charm.

Instantly, Zeke laughed. It was loud enough to startle her and she opened her eyes to find a tiny container on the ground in front of her. Shame stole her breath as embarrassment made her feel sick. Well, she’d proved her point. “You see.”

“I do see.” He stepped forward to pick up the container. After he snatched it up, he opened it, raised it to his nose and sniffed. “It’s a skin cream of sorts.”

She nodded. “Yes, I know. My magic always comes out in whatnots and doodads.”

He chuckled, arching an eyebrow. “Whatnots and doodads?”

“Mm-hm. All sorts of thingamajigs.”

He continued to chuckle, sealing up the container before handing it to her. “Well, it appears that the cream has done wonders for your skin. It’s beautiful.”

She blushed and dropped her gaze to the ground, unsure if she should thank him or ignore him. She chose the latter. He was a demon, after all. Sure, a sexy demon, but a demon nonetheless. Surprised, she had a moment to wonder what it’d be like to make love to a demon. Would he be gentle? Or would he be a devil between the sheets? It stunned her to realize she was interested to find out.

Zeke’s chuckle came around her just as smooth as the cream in her hand. “Come on, I’ll take you to a store near here and we can get you new clothes. I’ll buy you whatever you need.”

Still red-faced, she gave her head a shake to chastise herself for thinking such things. “No, I don’t need your money, I’ve got it.” Money wasn’t the problem. She had oodles of it. She’d worked hard, saved every penny, and besides, her family was well-off. To them, she was damaged goods. Once they had disowned her, her only family had rested in Layton. She’d agreed to stop using her magic, even agreed to stay out of coven meetings, but when Layton suggested she no longer show her face around Asheville because he was afraid of what the other witches would say to her, she’d had enough.

And now, she was here, in Strange Hollow.



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