Monday, February 28, 2011
Zoe White's got a voice to die for and the full-figured body to match it. Sad that it's taken another officer's near tragedy to spur Detective Frank Ludwig into finally making his move. Now that he has, Frank's determined to be Zoe's hero when her unselfish act skylines her to a killer. It doesn't take him long to realize Zoe doesn't need a hero. She's a survivor, perfectly able to defend herself...and Frank, too, when the chips are down.
What's a guy to do when his woman "man's up" before he does?
Then he learns just how much Zoe has sacrificed to recover from past demons, and how determined those same demons are to destroy her again. He realizes there's more to being a hero than fighting bad guys. A true hero helps the woman he loves retrieve the final fragments of her shattered life. Yes, Zoe can clearly defend herself. Now he's depending on her staying alive long enough so he can be the hero she needs.
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Frank should have released her now and made whatever phone calls were necessary to set this all in motion. But one hand still held her hand to his chest; the other pressed against the center of her back. Nothing separated them now except clothing.
“I’m going to kiss you, Zoe.” His voice whispered over her lips.
Oh, no. No. Blood roared in her ears. Her knees trembled. “I…I wish you wouldn’t.” Liar.
“Why?” Both arms locked around her.
God help her, Zoe melted into the embrace. “You…you don’t understand.”
“I understand plenty.”
His erection pulsed into her belly, stoking the fire building there. She tried to tell herself it was a physical reaction to their nearness, nothing more. Tried to tell herself they needed to appear to be a couple in public and, therefore, this innocuous kiss would ease them into the illusion. Tried to throw out a thousand other excuses that all explained why Frank Ludwig held her so wonderfully tight.
But then his mouth covered hers, his tongue slipped past her parted lips, and that fire turned into an inferno. Her body came alive for the first time in years. A little whimper melted her more into him. His hold tightened, the kiss claiming her soul. She wrapped her arms around his neck. One hand clamped over her ass, anchoring her in place, while he rasped his hard-on over her stomach. The other hand wandered to the knot on her robe belt, loosening it as if it were nothing.
Her body quivered when he parted the folds, then jerked with the first touch of his hand to her waist. He deepened the kiss, squeezed her ass, and tickled his fingers up her ribs.
His cell phone startled them both, breaking the seal of their mouths.
Frank’s muttered, “Fuck,” said it all. He stomped to the counter to answer the call.
Zoe clutched her robe closed and ran to her bedroom. Back braced on the door, she sank to the floor. Fingers dived for her aching pussy. It didn’t take much to make her come.
She jumped at the sound of his voice on the other side of the door.
“Go away.” Her head buzzed from the orgasm. She half-expected him to barge in, or at least try the doorknob. Disappointment weighed down her heart when she heard his footsteps retreat and the bathroom door close.
Where the hell was her head? People were dead, and all she could think about was coming, about Frank’s body pressing her deep into the mattress, about burrowing so far under the covers with him the world would implode and they’d never realize it.
Lovestruck fool. Horny, lovestruck fool.
Tears fell, fast and furious. Knees clutched to her chest, Zoe rested her cheek on top of them, slowly rocking while she cried. There was movement behind her—the door being pushed open.
“Don’t cry. Please don’t cry.” When had he returned, or had he ever left and she only imagined it? “Let me in, Zoe.”
She knew she shouldn’t, not as vulnerable as she felt, not as much as she wanted him. But she did, scooting far enough away to allow Frank to squeeze in. He folded his big body to the floor beside her, arms wrapping so tight around her the world beyond didn’t exist. Zoe curled into his chest, palms pressed to those rock-hard pecs. His heart beat as fast as hers. She liked that. She liked it a lot...too much...
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Saturday, February 26, 2011
By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this site.
An Excerpt From: ROUGH CANVAS
Copyright © JOEY W. HILL, 2007
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
“These hands are the real works of art, pet.”
When his Master said that, they’d been in Thomas’ tiny warehouse room, which also served as his studio. He’d guided his Master’s hands into the paint and they’d stood together at the canvas, hands overlaid. They created something that, while not great art, was as much an expression of life as a child’s handprint in plaster.
His Master’s white silk shirt had been open, the lean muscular slope of the chest down to the sectioned stomach muscles exposed. He’d removed the belt from his slacks so they’d dropped lower, giving Thomas even more of the mouthwatering sculpted abs and diagonal musculature angling toward the groin. The shirt was loose so there was the hint of the points of his broad shoulders, the biceps disappearing into the sleeves.
Thomas had pressed behind his Master, turned him toward the mirror so he could trace his stomach with paint-covered fingers, taking streaks of color up over the pectorals and hard nipples, all the way to the throat. His Master had even allowed Thomas to run his hands over the expensive shirt so he left streaks of color on his clothes as well as his skin. Then his hands had overlapped Thomas’, mixing the colors, making a living tapestry that reflected Thomas’ passion for all that was his life.
All that was his life then. Not now. Not ever again. Cracking open an eye, he found he still had five fingers, though the tip of his forefinger was welling blood. A slice had been taken out of the meat and part of the nail was torn. It was more blood than damage. Cursing regardless, he picked up a rag and wrapped it around his finger, holding it to staunch the bleeding. He squeezed his eyes shut so he wouldn’t scream out his rage.
Earlier this morning his mother had suggested an improvement to the paint color area. “Why don’t you paint a display there, Thomas? Something that will make people see how certain colors work together for their bedrooms and trim. You’re so good at that. You haven’t been painting since you came home, and you used to love to do it so much.”
He thought he might get physically ill if he walked down the paint aisle today.
Fuck it. Whoever the hell it was, he had to see. No way Marcus Aurelius Stanton was wandering around a hardware store in the middle of North Carolina. Surely he wasn’t the only one in the world with a drop-your-pants-because-I’m-going-to-fuck-you-now voice.
Thomas strode out of the back room, maneuvered around the repair counter and nearly trampled Les, coming around the corner from the other side.
“Oof.” She stopped herself with defensive hands against his chest. “Clumsy oaf. What’re you doing, charging out of there like a bat out of hell? I was just coming to find—”
He didn’t hear her. Not after the first sentence, when his eyes found the customer standing in the aisle behind her about fifteen paces away, who turned from his contemplation of fixtures at the sound of her exclamation.
Lucifer would have looked like that, Thomas was sure. Temptation, a hundred percent Grade A, tightly packaged in a hard-muscled six-foot frame. He knew what that frame looked like without a stitch on it. Marcus had a faint birthmark on the inside left thigh, but no tattoos or piercings. His lip had curled with disdain when Thomas teased him about it.
“Art is fixed on a canvas for a reason. If well preserved, it doesn’t distort or fade. I don’t believe time will be as kind to this canvas.”
He wasn’t wrong about much, but Marcus was wrong about that. Thomas knew the man he was looking at would be riveting until the day he died, even with the sculpted lines of old age. But he didn’t need tattoos or piercings. It would be like trying to touch up and improve Michelangelo’s David.
He wore his black hair loose on his shoulders. It was silk, the different lengths that fell over his brow and swept back from his aristocratic cheekbones only emphasizing his bone structure. He was the prince of every fairy tale that had ever been written. Not the prince who led the king’s armies, but the one who handled his negotiations for peace with a rapier intelligence that was twice as deadly a weapon as any general could imagine. A king might gain capitulation through force of arms. Marcus could acquire surrender through nothing more than a look.
Not only had Thomas touched those sensual, firm lips with his own, they had touched every part of his body. He remembered his arms and legs spread and bound as Marcus’ mouth moved over his belly, his chest, nuzzling his throat briefly before he straddled Thomas’ face and fed his thick, long cock between his eagerly waiting lips.
His jaw had rubbed against the rough texture of Marcus’ leg and the smoother skin of his inner thigh as he’d sucked and licked and done everything to drive Marcus mad. When Marcus’ grip on his hair fisted and the thighs hardened to drive himself deeper into his slave’s throat, Thomas had felt triumph.
How many lips had touched that impressive cock since Thomas’? Probably more than he could count. Thomas hadn’t been anything special. Lots of people knew how to give good head.
He told himself cruel things like that and tried to paste them as words in Marcus’ mouth to wean himself from the images that haunted him. He’d been successful enough that they plagued him mostly at night now, or when he’d worked a sixteen-hour day at the store and everyone else had gone home. Then it was just him and the silence of the old building, the sky dark outside and winking with stars that certainly couldn’t be seen in the night sky over New York City.
That long cock was contained in dark slacks probably custom-tailored by some impressive name like Armani. A blue T-shirt was tucked into it and Marcus wore a dark suit jacket over that. The Swiss timepiece on his wrist probably cost as much as their John Deere tractor inventory. Thomas knew Marcus would be wearing snug cotton boxer briefs in his preferred black. Glancing down, he saw Marcus wore Italian loafers. New York Upper East Side casual, which would be the equivalent of church clothes around here.
“Tommy, this man had some questions I didn’t know how to answer.” Les held up a small handful of clips. “How much weight can these hold if you’re using grade-two nylon line? I told him he might prefer the twine stock, but—”
“Too rough,” Marcus said, his green eyes focused on Thomas’ face. “I want something that won’t scratch.”
“Oh, like to protect a boat’s gel coat.” She nodded. “How much weight did you say it needed to handle?”
Marcus’ gaze dropped, passed down Thomas’ torso and back up again. It only took a moment, just long enough that Celeste turned to him as he reached Thomas’ flushed face again.
“About one sixty-two. Not that much, after all.”
Son of a bitch. Thomas had been one-ninety before he’d come back here. How did Marcus do that?
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Friday, February 25, 2011
Book 2 in the Nemesis Series
It's soon evident that her would-be killer and Adam's crusade intersect. The chase takes them from the Yucatan Peninsula to Washington, D.C., to a private island in the Bahamas. And the sex takes them to a new level of physical pleasure. Can they win this chase and escape the danger before the killers strike again? And will the pleasure last Until Midnight and for many midnights after that?
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By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this site.
An Excerpt From: UNTIL MIDNIGHT
Copyright © DESIREE HOLT & CERISE DELAND, 2011
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Nicole Welles drew in a deep breath, inhaling the salt-scented air and listening to the rhythmic lap of ocean waves against the sand. She consciously forced every muscle in her body to relax.
The last two weeks had been a bitch. Financially rewarding but no less than a trip to hell deserved. Nemesis had been contracted by Macmillan Global to retrieve their boss who had been kidnapped by one of the largest drug cartels and held for ransom. Since this particular cartel was known for returning their hostages more dead than alive, Macmillan wanted the boss out right now.
They’d done it. She’d led the team herself. There had been some bloodshed but fortunately not on their side. Now she was trying to decompress in a bungalow at a very private, very exclusive resort on the beach in tiny Costalegre near Puerto Vallarta.
She was thinking about heading back to the villa for a shower and turned over to fish her watch out of her beachbag when a heavy thunk! sounded behind her. Instinctively her brain registered what it was and she rolled off the lounge onto the sand, grabbing for her beachbag where her 9mm was stashed. When she lifted her eyes to see what was happening they were met by a pair of very tanned legs dusted with dark hair.
“I have a gun,” she said, pointing it upward.
“So do I.” The voice was deep and almost gravelly. “Fucking lot of good yours would do you if I planned to kill you. You’d already be toast.”
Keeping a two-handed grip on the gun, she rolled lithely to her knees and then to her feet. Inches away from her stood what she could only think of as a man who was menacingly sexy. And tall. Much taller than she was, which was a trick since she was five ten. Shaggy black hair framed a face defined by deep grooves in the cheeks, a square jaw and startling blue eyes beneath heavy brows and thick lashes.
Dressed in a loose shirt and shorts, every bit of his muscular body she could see was deeply tanned. And the gun he was holding was even bigger than hers. An Israeli Desert Eagle, one she was very familiar with.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“The man who just saved your life.” His voice was deep and hoarse as if he’d been shouting for a long time. “Who are you?”
“What do you mean, saved my life?”
He looked up and down the private stretch of beach, empty except for the two of them. As far as Nicki knew, only three of the resort’s bungalows were occupied at the moment.
“Put away your gun and I’ll show you.”
Put away the gun? She stared at him for a long moment, something weird sizzling between them, then lowered the 9mm to her side.
“That’s as put away as it’s going to get until I know what’s going on around here.”
He, too, lowered his gun and closed steel fingers around her wrist, tugging her toward the thick groves of palm and coconut trees bordering the beach. Carefully pulling back a prickly bougainvillea he pointed at a body shoved against the roots of the shrub.
Nicki stared. “Who’s that?”
“Since it’s you he was trying to kill, I thought perhaps that was a question you could answer.” His voice had a faint accent to it, one that Nicki was having trouble placing.
She crouched down to get a better look at the body. Dressed in faded jeans and a dark t-shirt, he had the definite darker skin and features of a Hispanic.
“I’d say Mexican at first glance.” She noted the bullet hole in the back of his head and looked up at the man standing next to her. “Your work?”
He nodded. “I was walking down to the beach and saw him lining up to blow your brains out.”
“Look at him. What’s he doing here?” Nicki peered through the dense foliage that crowded the crushed shell pathways. “This place only has eight bungalows and the owners are very particular who occupies them.”
The man made a sound suspiciously like a grunt. “Tell me about it. And they’ve got enough guards here to protect a third world country.”
She nodded. “People like him can’t just walk onto the grounds and wander around at will.”
She stood up, still holding her gun by her side. “Yes, so.” Shifting her gun to her left hand she extended her right one. “Since you saved my life I guess I should introduce myself. Nicole Welles.”
His grip was firm and warm, but Nicki wasn’t prepared for the little currents of electricity that raced through her body when their skin made contact. She schooled herself to retrieve her hand smoothly rather than yank it away, her first reaction.
They stared at each other.
“Well, then.” She looked down at the body again. “We need to do something about the trash here.”
“I don’t think we want to take him up to the main building and call the police. Someone sent him. He didn’t conjure this up all by himself. Let’s stash him somewhere and let his bosses wonder what happened to him.”
She looked at him with a speculative gaze. “Interesting solution. Are you someone I should be afraid of?”
He smiled, white even teeth flashing against his dark skin and one dimple winking at the corner of his mouth. “Hey, I’m the guy who saved your life, remember?”
“Yeah, but you could have done that to get close to me.” She took a cautious step backward.
“If I wanted you dead, Miss Welles, you’d already be lying here next to this idiot.”
She realized suddenly that she was wearing the tiniest bikini she’d been able to find and Adam Molloy was letting his eyes take a slow journey over her body. She turned slightly so he couldn’t see the instant puckering of her barely covered nipples. Well, wasn’t this a fine mess. She had no idea who this man really was, who the man was who’d tried to kill her, and her body, all on its own, was thinking about sex.
“Let’s clean the place up.” Molloy’s deep voice cut into her thoughts. He shoved his gun into the waistband of his shorts at the small of his back and lifted the body as if it weighed nothing, hard muscles flexing beneath the tanned skin. “Why don’t you gather your belongings from the beach while I handle this…situation. I’ll be back in a minute.”
He strode away without waiting for an acknowledgment from her.
Nicki stared after his figure as it disappeared onto the trees. What an arrogant ass. And who exactly was Adam Molloy that he was staying in this very private place? Besides a walking sex machine, that is.
Nicole! Snap out of it. Find out what the hell is going on.
She stomped back to where her things still lay next to the lounge she’d been using. Picking up the sarong that matched her bathing suit, she wrapped it around herself and knotted it under one arm. She stowed her gun in her beachbag, drew the drawstring tight and slung it over her shoulder. She was halfway back to her bungalow when tall, dark and mysterious Adam Molloy materialized seemingly out of nowhere.
She stopped in the middle of the path. “Finished already? What did you do, feed him to the fish?”
There was that smile again, making her knees suddenly week and the pulse deep in her womb thump out its rhythm. Holy shit! Nicole Welles never reacted this way. Not to any man. Oh, she was far from a stranger to sex but it was always carefully planned and on her terms. She never allowed herself to react this way.
It must be the situation. It’s not every day someone tries to assassinate me.
“In a matter of speaking. I’ll tell you all the gory details if you buy me a drink.”
“I don’t think I’m much in the mood for the bar. And I’d like to try to find out who that idiot with the gun is. Was.”
He took her arm and urged her along. Her feet moved as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Me, neither. But I’ll bet your bungalow has a fully stocked bar. I know mine does.”
She stopped, pulling against his hold. “We’re not going to your bungalow.”
“No. We’re going to yours.” He tugged her forward again. “Don’t you want to figure out who that guy is and how he got here?”
“I don’t think the answers are at my place.”
“Right. That’s where we’re going to talk about this and dig for answers. Come on.”
She found herself at the door to her bungalow, wondering how he even knew which one was hers. Oh, right. With so few people on the grounds he’d probably scoped out all the guests as soon as he checked in. And when exactly had that been?
“Aren’t you going to open the door?” He had just a touch of amusement in his voice. “It’s not polite to keep people standing outside. Not to mention possibly dangerous.”
Nicki pulled out her key card, shoved it into the slot and pushed the handle down. The artificially cooled air hit her warm skin with a frigid blast. She hurried to adjust the thermostat and threw her bag on a table, then moved behind the built-in bar.
“All right. I suppose I do owe you a drink. And I do want some answers. What’s your pleasure?”
His mouth curved in a wicked smile. “If I said ‘you’, would I be overstepping my bounds?”
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Two men are after the same woman but for very different reasons.
Dark-haired beauty, Jolene Dubois has a serious problem, and it's not just battling alcoholism. Late at night, she receives whispered calls. "Jolene, I want you. I'm coming for you." Shivers climb up her spine and ice flows in her veins. What does he want? Who is it? She must figure it out before she trusts the wrong person.
Jake Farrell, the handsome rogue is an operator with women, but is he hiding something dark and terrible under his cheery facade. The detective, Andy Martin, who investigated her father's murder, continues to ask her out. Les Voodre, an alcoholic she met at AA follows her everywhere, and Ron Keisler, her AA sponsor is always there when she needs him. Could her caller be one of these men?
To further complicate her life, she fights a host of addictions alcoholism, smoking, gambling and sex. Jolene is determined to beat the alcohol and to stay out of the clutches of the fiend who phones her.
Jake pulled into Parma Woods Conservationarea off FF Hightway across the road from the Missouri river. "I'm glad the weather cleared for our target practice.
"Yeah, it's a nice sunny afternoon." Jolene jumped out of his dark blue SUV. Twenty minutes in the vicinity of Jake had put her through pure torture. She wished she could've thought of a way out of the demonstration with a reasonable excuse but none came to her during the day. How did she get herself into these situations? Because the man drew her to him like bees drawn to nectar with his laughing eyes, his daring manner, and that body.
Glad she kept some extra clothes in the office, she'd changed into a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved green t-shirt before meeting Jake. Leaning inside, she pulled her Smith and Wesson out of her purse, and pushed the lock on the door before she closed it.
"Let's go inside and pay for our hour." Jake headed for the office.
Well, so much for courtesy. He just walked off and left her. She surveyed the row of covered booths briefly, and hurried after him.
Coming out the door as she reached it, he asked, "What took you so long? I thought you'd run off."
“I was looking around.” Damn, she would like to slap that impudent grin off his face. “There’s no way I’d miss showing you up.”
“Hmm, we’ll see, won’t we?” Jake arched a black brow with a lopsided smile.
She shrugged. “Yes, we will.” If he kept his distance and didn’t upset her hormones, she’d hit the target.
“I’ve set up a target for you.” He pointed. “I’m going to try you at different distances, and we’ll see if you can really shoot.”
Jolene squinted a bit and saw a human shape of white on black. “I’m not used to this type of target. Where am I supposed to aim?”
“Aim at the heart for the kill.” He placed his hand at her waist, steered her closer to the object and stopped about thirty yards away. “Is this close enough for you?”
“Fine.” Just get away from me, she screamed mentally and shook off his arm.
Jake stepped back.
Jolene raised her gun, clasped in both hands and sighted, then pulled the trigger. Smiling, she set her sights on the heart again and fired until she emptied the clip, released it then put another in.
“Wait a minute, let me go check to see if you hit it.” He jogged toward the target.
Scowling, she resisted the urge to see if she could make him dance. With the gun to her side, she yelled, “Well, how did I do?”
As she watched him shake his head, dismay clawed at her. Could she have missed? Fool! She’d been so sure she could repeat the ten in ten bulls-eyes. Jake would think she was just a big bragger.
“Come and see for yourself,” Jake yelled.
You would think he would just tell me if I missed or not. Jolene walked briskly from the covered shooting range and strode up to him. “Well, did I hit the target?” She’d never live it down if she missed.
Jake glanced at her. “Hey, where’s the confidence you had earlier today?” Taking her arm, he pulled her forward and pointed at the silhouette’s heart area. “This guy’s dead. There are ten shots right here.” He directed his gaze to where the testicles would be on a man. “I only see one miss.”
She looked down at the crotch and laughed. “Oh, I didn’t miss. I meant to hit there.”
“Remind me not to piss you off.”
She heard a discharge, then a whishing sound as a projectile whizzed between them. It sliced through the target removing any evidence of the head. Shocked, she crouched down, staring all around, and then Jake shoved her to the ground and dropped on top of her.
Someone had shot at them. Was it Rutherford’s friends? Trembling, she laid still until slowly realizing her face was in the dirt, and she couldn’t breathe. Panting, she turned her head gulping in air. All quiet. She wiggled. How long did they have to lay here? It had to be safe by now.
In the distance, she heard a motor roar to life, and tires spin on gravel as the vehicle took off. Could it be the person who shot at them making a getaway?
“Don’t you think they’re gone?” She humped her bottom up. Not a good idea, she realized when she felt something hard in the front of his pants. She flattened her body to the ground. “Did you have to jump on top of me?” She struggled against the hand Jake pressed on her head.
“Shh,” he whispered in her ear. “I want to hear if anyone moves, so I’ll know where the shot came from.”
Spitting out dirt, she just wanted to make a run for it. Bushes rustled on the bluff and a deer leaped from them.
Jake waited a moment then removed his palm from her lips.
She listened for more gunshots. Would someone pepper them with bullets? Her heart pumped frantically, and she wanted to run, not lie there like a willing target caught right in a potential killer’s crosshairs. When nothing happened she squirmed under him. “Get off of me.”
He hugged her body a minute longer before he slid to lie at her side. His hand stayed firmly on her back and held her in place.
After a few seconds, she asked, “Don’t you think it’s okay to get up now?”
“He was on the bluff across the road.” He stared at the high steep bank across the road. “I don’t see anyone there, but let’s go in a zigzag to the nearest cover. Do you think you can do that?”
“Yeah.” Anything would be better than waiting for something to happen. Adrenaline pumping, with the gun in her left hand she put her right one in front of her chest ready to push up. Would someone shoot them before they had a chance to run? Her stomach knotted into a thousand little nerves. At the same time Jake grabbed her around the waist and jerked her up. Her feet hit the ground running with Jake’s arm guiding her.
As they neared the Conservation office building, Jake pushed her next to the wall and peered around the corner. “I think it was a warning, or otherwise we would both be dead.”
“Warning of what?”
“I wish I knew.”
Jolene struggled loose of his grasp and peeked around the bend, too. “What are we waiting for? I don’t see anything.”
“We’re staying here until I determine no one’s still there. He could’ve moved to a new place and be waiting for us to come out of hiding to pop us off.” He crouched down. “Just in case, I’m going to make a run for my SUV and bring it around for you.”
“No way, I’m going with you. Besides, you don’t know if that shot was for me or for you.” She bent over and took off. A hand grabbed her around the waist, and Jake forced her to his side away from the road and half-carried her to the SUV.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Trying to get yourself killed?” He pushed her down next to his vehicle, unlocked the door with the clicker and opened it. “Get in and stay down.”
Jolene did as she was told. Crouched on the floor, nerves screaming, she waited for Jake to open his door. What in the heck was taking him so long? He should be on the other side by now. She raised her head to see if she could see him.
Not detecting him, she started to exit the vehicle just as the driver’s door opened.
Jake climbed in. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
She slid back onto her seat and closed the door. “I was coming to look for you.” She stared at his taut jaw as he started the engine. “I was worried because you took so long.”
“When I tell you to do something, do it.” He clenched his fingers around the steering wheel, backing up and driving down the long driveway.
“Well, aren’t you the bossy one.” She’d worried about the stupid man for nothing. “What were you doing?”
“I let the guys inside know about the shots because they might need to call the police.” He turned east on FF highway. “I gave them our names and phone numbers in case they needed to contact us.” He glanced at her. “It could’ve been hunters who strayed off their grounds, but even if it were the next person might not be so lucky.”
Does he expect me to fall for his story about hunters? The tautness of his forearms told her he didn’t buy what he was selling either.
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Starbucks was in its usual rush hour craze when I breezed through the doors. Coffee is my addiction. Looking around, evidently I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t get my ass in gear without a cup of Joe.
After ten minutes in line, I made it to the counter and was greeted by a young woman who looked way too happy for this hour of the morning. Her blue eyes sparkling, white teeth gleaming and spiked artistic black hair, perfectly put together. “Can I get a Venti Skinny Caramel Macchiato.”
“Venti Skinny Caramel Macchiato,” she called out as I handed her a ten.
While I waited for my change, I glanced to my watch. Eight-forty. The time spent in line had cost me. I only had twenty minutes to get to work. Being late just wasn’t an option as the assistant to the Event Manager of Randall Marketing, Dylan Cobb. It didn’t matter if the job had him halfway around the world, he checked in at nine o’clock sharp to make sure I remained at his beck and call. Sadly, I always was.
The job itself was ideal as Mr. Cobb was only in the office one week out of the month due to his promotional work. It meant I was left alone most of the time. Bossless and getting paid good money―I had the life of self-employment, but without the headache. Now, if I actually had to see Dylan on a daily basis, that would be a different story. I wouldn’t have lasted three days with him constantly looking over my shoulder, always in my space.
“One Caramel Macchiato,” another employee called out, drawing me away from my thoughts.
“Than…” I started, but as a cold breeze swept in behind me, my words froze. To anyone else, the sensation would have been passed off as a cold breeze. I knew better than to believe that.
There was a spirit here.
I refused to acknowledge said spirit. “Thank you.” I impressed myself by sounding calm and collect. The server was looking at me as if I’d lost my mind as I took the cup from her hand. Ignoring that too, I spun on my heels, and kept my focus on the ceramic tiled floor to avoid any and all curious glances at my peculiar behaviour.
Just as I reached for the door handle, a voice came from behind me, “Can you hear me?”
The male ghost sounded shocked. Apparently my glow grabbed his attention. As ghosts before this one had told me, I had a light around me―a golden aura. It made me stick out like a sore thumb. Ghosts were harmless―annoying, but harmless. From the surprise in his tone, it was obvious he wasn’t expecting me to hear him. Shit! I’d already given myself away. Well, I could rectify that.
Without hesitation, I grabbed the door handle, pulled it open and forced myself to remain deaf to the voice. If I ignored the ghosts long enough, they moved on and searched out someone else who held this gift, which I had yet to meet. To this day, I still questioned if calling my ailment a gift was appropriate. An ability to see and hear ghosts had become more of a daily irritation than anything else.
Much to my annoyance, I felt the spirit join me outside as I walked down the street. The ghost stayed right on my heels, his presence strong behind me. The cold air at my back was a contrast to the warm air in front of me as every hair on my neck stood, goose bumps pimpled a trail along my skin. If only I could rub them away, but I wouldn’t dare. That would acknowledge I knew he was there.
“Can you hear me?”
His voice was rich and deep enough to send vibrations into my soul. I wasn’t so deaf that I couldn’t tell this was one smooth talking male spirit, even if his voice did come sharp with frustration. I quickened my steps to get away from him hoping he’d catch the drift, weaving in and out of pedestrians as I made my way down Peabody Place.
Something in his insistent tone made me want to be as far away from him as possible. He sounded desperate, which meant a big headache for me. If I hadn’t worn my damn sling-backs, I would have tried to run and hide. But the three-inch Manolos and the tight tailored gray skirt around my knees made it impossible.
Within minutes, I hit the heart of the Memphis City―Beale Street. I let out a breath of relief as warmth surrounded me. It wasn’t just the basking sun, the spirit had left me be. Pleased that my dodge worked, I took a sip of my energy in a cup then smiled. Coffee’s fantastic, the ghost is gone―life’s good.
As I continued to walk down the street, the Hard Rock Cafe came and went. The smell of eggs and bacon filled the air and my stomach growled in response. I wasn’t a morning person by nature. My only thought when I woke this morning had been caffeine. Now, I wished I’d grabbed a muffin. But with ten minutes to get to my desk, I couldn’t worry about such things and would have to wait until lunch.
Another block passed under my heels before I reached the historical red brick building with its stripped green and white awning. To me, this place looked more like a market than an office space but being downtown in the heart of Elvis Land, nothing modern existed here. The City needed a serious makeover.
The moment I opened the door to the office, a bubbly voice greeted me, “Good morning, Ms. Tess.”
“Mornin’,” I responded to Doris, the receptionist at the firm who was in every way a butterscotch sundae. In her mid-forties auburn curls reached down to her ears and big brown eyes that could warm you on the coldest of days.
“A lovely day today, is it not?” Doris asked as she shuffled eons of paperwork around on her desk. The woman was very messy, yet somehow organized. Within her mess, she knew where to find the smallest items. Truly incredible to watch. After a brief moment, she lifted her face with a sweet smile as she held out the messages over the counter.
“Sure is.” So, I just told a little white lie. The ghost hadn’t exactly started my day off right, but I wasn’t about to tell her about it. I grabbed the post-it notes from her hands. “Did you have a nice weekend?”
“Started my gardening. It’s going to be a beauty this year. You’ll have to come out and have a look-see.”
I smiled. “I’d love to.”
Doris created a piece of art with her gardening skills and I would never turn down the invitation to see it. Doris loved flowers. I could at least appear interested, even though my green thumb was black.
Her face lit up, but when the phone rang, she just waved a good-bye and answered it. “It’s another beautiful day here at Randall Marketing, how can I direct your call?”
That was Doris, sunshine on the gloomiest of days. I started to walk toward my office and headed down the hall. Two doors down, I arrived. Once there, I grabbed the door handle, opened it, then closed it behind me.
Just because the building was historic didn’t mean my office had to be. Complete modern chic was what I had created here―glass table, dark charcoal walls with a white upholstered rolling chair.
Placing the coffee on the table, I pulled out the chair and sat down. Cool leather came against my warm skin as I flipped through the messages left for me. None were urgent enough to worry about now.
I powered up the computer. As it booted up, I took a sip of my coffee. The warmth slid down my throat and gave an immediate rush to my energy levels. Before I could place the cup back on the table, a knock sounded at the door and a moment later, it opened.
“And just where were you all weekend?” Caley snapped, shutting the door behind her.
Caley, my best friend since the age of four, was a typical pageant Queen. Bleach blonde, sparkling baby blue eyes, perfect skin and a body men drooled over. But it’s all a front―she’s the devil in disguise.
“I was at home.” I gave her an innocent smile. “Did you try and call me?” Of course, I lied. If I let Caley drag me out every time she had an itch for a party, I’d be considered a sorority girl.
Caley pointed at my face and glared. “Don’t you try that shit on me! I called you all weekend and your damn phone went straight to voicemail.”
“Hmm…” I pretended to ponder for a moment then finally said, “The battery must have died.”
It was the only sure way to get Caley to leave me be. Truth was, she could have just come over, and I wouldn’t put it past her that she would. But the little hint was a subtle way of telling Caley I wanted to be left alone. Normally, she knew enough to stay away.
“Liar.” Caley plopped down in the seat in front of my desk. “Where were you, Tess? I wanted to go out.”
“I wasn’t anywhere.” I placed the coffee cup back on the table. Caley’s brows rose in disbelief as I continued. “Honestly, I vegged on the couch.”
Caley snorted. “Now doesn’t that sound appealing?”
My mouth parted to offer a snappy retort, but a cold wisp of air brushed across my skin and I froze in shock. This ghost was persistent. Normally, they never took this much time to see if I could hear them. His insistence began to intrigue me.
“Hello.” Caley snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Leave the aliens behind and return to mother earth.”
I laughed it away, but felt uncomfortable. The ghost knelt right beside Caley, well not really kneeling but more floating, and made it impossible not to look at him. The thing with ghost was they made it appear as if they were sitting on objects, lying down―things like that. In actuality, they floated very close but were never quite able to obtain any physical contact with the world around them. It was weird at first. Now, after seeing it for so many years, it no longer fazed me.
This ghost though had captured my attention. As much as I wanted to look away, I couldn’t―men like this were meant to be ogled. His eyes were predominantly blue, but each contained a thick chunk of chocolate brown within the blue. The contrast was stunning.
I’d never seen anything like it, but my amazement had only begun. He may be a ghost, but just by looking at him, I knew he either belonged to law enforcement or the military. Only men of this calibre―chiselled bodies, a tough air about them―were created within their ranks. His expression was firm and serious, but personality lived there too. Everything about him was conflicting. His strong jaw, the muscles clenching along his cheeks, all spoke of power. His kind eyes, soft plush lips, and untidy dirty blond hair showed playfulness.
He wore a black tank top which left his arms exposed and muscles upon muscles layered those arms. His body thick, wide with pure tough guy appeal.
“Anyways,” Caley said, drawing my gaze back to her. “I had to go out with Susanne and you know how much I enjoy that.”
I laughed. “Now that sounds appealing.” Caley’s step-sister is a horny twenty year old who had the body to fulfill her needs. Whenever Caley was out with her, she spent most of the time trying to keep her out of trouble. “You could have stayed home, you know.”
“Stayed home?” Caley’s expression showed her disgust. “On a Saturday night?”
“Yeah, you know, get some popcorn, watch movies―relax.”
Caley shook her head and gave a chastising look. “If you don’t stop this grandma behaviour, your va-jay-jay is going to shrivel up and die.”
The ghost let out a low chuckle. The sound hit me like a cup of warm cocoa causing my insides to melt. Annoyed, I forced the reaction away. First off, Caley was so wrong―well, maybe a little right―but I’d never admit it out loud. Second, being swooned by a ghost wasn’t on my to-do-list today.
“Excuse me, my va-jay-jay is just fine,” I retorted, not only to Caley, but I also wanted the irritating ghost to know.
“Well, I’m glad to hear you’ve still got some spunk.” Caley stood, placed her hands on her hips. “Because I have a date for us tonight.”
“A what?” A date? Oh God, no. What had Caley gotten me involved with now and more important who?
Caley’s grin showed pride in herself. “Yes, my dearest Grammy, we have a double date.”
“Two guys I met on Saturday night.” Her hands fell from her waist and she wagged her finger at me in classic Caley fashion. “And you’re going, either willingly or unwillingly, so deal with it.”
“But it’s a Monday night” Not that a date didn’t sound like fun. Hell, it’d been months, actually a year since I’d been on one, but a man Caley chose in a drunken stupor. No thanks. Being a dark brunette with the long shag look, emerald eyes surrounded by dark lashes, body of a twenty year old with boobs which screamed of youth, my looks were never the problem.
It was my random spouts of talking to myself, which was the anchor in my ship. My sex life was as dead as the man in front of me. That particular part of my body was more like a woman married for forty years―bored. But it didn’t mean I wanted to go out with anyone Caley set up for me, so I did my best to get out of this. “I have to work tomorrow.”
Caley pointed her wagging finger directly at my face, as a knowing glance rose to her face. “Grandma.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. There would be no winning here. Caley’s relentless. It was a personality trait I respected most in her. She never backed down, always dreamed big and went for it. But it wasn’t all rays of sunshine. Her determination made her a little rough around the edges. Still, I loved her for it. She may have flaws, but she was loyal and trustworthy. Qualities hard to find nowadays.
If I wanted to keep any pride, I had to give in or it’d look like she won. That I couldn’t have. “Fine. I’ll go.”
Caley grinned, appeased. She spun on heels and headed toward the door. “I’ll pick you up at eight.” Then, she glanced back and winked. “Leave the granny panties at home.”
Ten long, gruelling hours dragged by. Not because my boss was as demanding as any two-year-old, but because the ghost still hadn’t left or shut up. The past hours he tried his best to get my attention. Good thing, I’m great at tuning people out or I would have caved after hour two.
With a long heavy sigh, I turned off the computer, cleaned up the papers, and just as I stood pushing the chair under the desk, the ghost said, “I know you can hear me.”
Apparently this was his favourite line, since he’d said it a thousand times over the past ten hours. A non-stop stream of jibber-jabber which was irritating. If the ghost’s voice wasn’t so damn luscious I wouldn’t be so wound up. Some spirits tried harder than others did but I never reacted to them like this. He had me intrigued. Still, I’d fight against that ridiculous feeling.
Quickly, I made it out of my office and toward the front door. After a wave good-bye to Doris, I stepped outside and breathed in the early evening air. Food mixed with exhaust from the cars on the busy street―everything that meant I was home.
The moment I took a step forward, my happiness faded when the ghost said, “I’m not leaving until you admit you can hear me.”
With a flick of my hair to dismiss him, I started down the street and soon I rounded onto Third Street. The ghost tried again, a little louder and more abrupt this time. “Dammit woman! Will you stop ignoring me? It’s annoying.”
I’m annoying him? I wanted to laugh at the ridiculous notion, but it would only give me away. So instead, I kept my eyes glued to the street in front of me, wanting nothing more than to be home.
A few blocks down, I turned onto G E Patterson Avenue, and my aching feet and head shouted in relief as my building came into view. On the outside, it appeared to be an old textile factory. Inside, it was anything but. The exact reason why I snatched one of the modern condos the day it’d gone on the market.
I made my way up the stairs while I took my keys from my purse. At the thick mahogany wooden door, I raised my key pass to the scanner, grabbed the chrome door handle, and swung it open. After I hurried in, the door closed behind me with the ghost right on my heels.
Just three doors down, I opened the door to my condo before slamming it closed behind me. Of course, it didn’t stop the ghost from melting through the door to invade my personal space.
Tossing the keys on the kitchen table, I dropped my purse on the floor and went straight for the bathroom. If this sneaky spirit followed me, a serious fit would be released.
As the bathroom closed shut behind me, I waited a moment, marvelling at my granite masterpiece. Large shower, corner Jacuzzi tub, modern sink with a glass bowl sitting atop, even the toilet looked sleek.
After a moment, I let out the breath I’d been holding, pleased the ghost was smart enough to stay away from here. At least, he had some morals or maybe just common sense.
What I needed was some space to breathe and the silence was pure bliss. At the shower, I turned on the water as hot as I could stand it, stripped off my clothes and stepped in to enjoy the moment of peace.
It wasn’t until my fingers were wrinkled and the bathroom was full of steam did I dare to get out. I turned the shower off, squeezed the water from my hair, and wrapped the warm towel around my body. With hesitation, knowing what was ahead of me, I opened the door to the bathroom and followed the steam out as I made my way across the dark hardwood floors toward the bedroom.
Halfway there, a sudden gasp―a deep, low gasp that spoke of shock and desire―stopped me.
But it didn’t stop me for long. No, I couldn’t play into this type of nonsense. I scooted into my bedroom then shut the door behind me and leaned against it. What in the hell was that all about? Did he think I was beautiful? The thought did bring a smile to my face. But as fast as it came, I forced it away. What was I thinking? Being flattered by a ghost was about as sick as it came.
Pushing those thoughts aside, I got dressed. Once done, I made my way back to the bathroom to take on the task of becoming a sexy kitten.
A while later, I replaced the cap on my lip gloss, returned it to the make-up bag, and took a step back to examine myself in the mirror. My hair was being kind to me and my makeup was bang on. With my low-riding dark wash jeans and blue plaid three-quarter length sleeve top, tied to leave my midriff exposed, I couldn’t have been more pleased. At least, I would look sexy while I suffered through the embarrassing blind date.
Right then, the familiar cold breeze swept across me again. I raised my gaze back from admiring my clothing to the mirror, I wasn’t alone. The ghost had joined me in the bathroom, and instinctively, I glanced at his face in the mirror.
“You can see me?” he stared at me with intent.
His eyes were so captivating. Everything in me screamed to look away and ignore him. But something in me just couldn’t do it. I wanted to be lost in those eyes. Who knew maybe that was his thing―a powerful presence which demanded he be heard. Whatever it was, it worked on me.
Seconds passed before I snapped back to reality, tore my gaze from the mirror, spun around and walked right through him. My breath hitched as a cold shudder rendered my muscles useless for a moment. It was equivalent to walking into a deep freeze. Luckily, the effects weren’t long lasting.
After my initial stagger, I persisted on and as I walked by the kitchen, the green numbers on my stainless steel stove glowed seven-fifty-eight. With sure steps, I hurried on and made it to the door, just needing to get the hell out of here and away from him. It’s one thing to see ghosts, another thing to help them if they demanded it, but to be attracted to one? This was beginning to linger into the land of the mentally unstable. I grabbed the door handle, tore through the door and didn’t stop for a second even as I heard him speak again.
“By the way, you look sexy as hell.”
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Monday, February 21, 2011
Excerpt for Dark Hearts of Charm City
“Now, is that any way to talk to the man who’s about to make your toes curl? Look at me, hon,” he demanded. He smiled as the girl focused upon his eyes. Hers were filled with sadness, and a small desire not to exist. “Allow me to accompany you home. A beautiful woman should not be allowed to walk these dangerous streets alone,” he said, extending an arm to the unsuspecting victim.
Completely under his power now, the woman nodded.
"What is your name, beautiful?” He smiled as she entwined her arm with his. He tightened his grip when she did not answer.
“Jodi,” she murmured with a half smile.
“Ahh, Jodi.” The name rolled off his lips in sweet abandon. “Such a beautiful name,” he crooned to the beautiful woman with shoulder-length braids. “Tell me, Jodi, will you let me fuck you senseless, once we’re inside?”
“Yes,” the woman answered breathlessly.
“Good girl,” he replied with a smile. His incisors itched to penetrate her skin. He exhaled sharply as Jodi led them to a brick row house at the end of the street. He smiled even more when she retrieved the keys from her purse, letting them both into her home.
As soon as she turned on the lights, Michael closed in on her, ripping the leather coat and clothing from her body until she stood naked before him. He salivated as he pushed his prey to the plush black sofa and spread her legs wide. Jodi whimpered with pleasure as he stroked her engorged nubbin, bringing forth from her willing body a river of cream.
Without warning, he sank between her thighs, lapping at her cunt until her body shuddered in pleasure. He bit down on the swollen button as he slid a finger inside her tight cavern. Slowly, he pulled the cream-coated digit out and sucked on it. In a fit of sexual frenzy, he latched onto Jodi’s inner thigh, allowing the crimson fluid to fill his parched, dead body. Dead cells awakened with every gulp of the woman’s savory liquid. Her moans and squeals of pleasure rang through his head, driving him deeper into madness.
Slowly, he rose and nestled himself between her thighs, enjoying the contrast of her caramel skin and his alabaster flesh as his cock sought refuge deep inside her body. Several hard strokes elicited shrieks from her throat, and she wrapped thick thighs around his muscular body.
“Harder,” she demanded as his cock tunneled deeper inside her.
He growled, his demon pacing back and forth, ready to consume her. He enjoyed the heels digging into his ass cheeks as he pumped his tool in and out of hot, living flesh. Like a madman possessed, he penetrated her carotid artery, making his victim loosen her grip. He wouldn’t kill her, at least not now. She’d be his little plaything for the evening, to use over and over again, as he saw fit, until he grew bored. Maybe he’d keep her around until the next evening, then kill her and dump her body into the harbor.
Michael sucked hard with every beat of her heart, relishing in the swooshing sound of her blood traveling through her veins and arteries. Suddenly, her heartbeat slowed, and he eased up.
With a mighty roar, his seed filled the human woman’s body as her screams of pleasure and pain filled his head. His beast was far from being sated, he decided, and he continued his demanding thrusts into his willing slave.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011
Amira Grayson is a broken angel who lost her wings. She needs the love and strength of Archangel Michael to help her regain the confidence lost one night and forever imprinted in her memory.
Guilt for past mistakes carried since she was eighteen has forced Amira to seek the expertise of the Pleasure Club to embrace the love she desires. Will Michael’s gentle compassion and love be enough to rid her heart of its burden and return her wings so she might fly free to go after the man she loves?
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The Angel by Eve Knight
Welcome to The Pleasure Club
Dear Ms. Grayson,
We’re pleased to welcome you to The Pleasure Club.
As you have already signed and returned the contract and filled out all the necessary forms to ensure you receive your every wish, we will be in touch with you shortly with the details of your first Pleasure Night. Your Wish List and Pleasure Forms have been turned over to our staff of highly trained Pleasure Guardians, and they are hard at work finding your perfect match.
We will endeavor to meet your personal fantasy.
When you are contacted again, you will be given a location where your Pleasure Night will begin, and you will also be given a safe word to use should you at any time become uncomfortable. There is no shame in changing your mind. We’re here for your pleasure, and should your safe word be used, your match for the evening will cease all activity, and the game will be put on hold until a mutual agreement between you and your Pleasure Master can be reached.
Once again, welcome to The Pleasure Club.
Please feel free to contact the office at any time should you have any questions.
The Pleasure Club Management
* * * * *
Your Pleasure Night will begin on Wednesday, the sixth, at 9:00 P.M. at Montebello Castle Wineries at 1800 Mangrove Lane. Take the path east past the chapel to the lone house. You’ll find a key in the mailbox. Let yourself in, and get comfortable to enjoy your first pleasure night. The house will be prepared as you specified in your instructions.
Your safe word is Halo.
The Pleasure Guardians
* * * * *
Cold, clammy sweat coated Amira’s trembling hands as she gripped the steering wheel. The expanse of the vineyard spread out before her, and the only answer to the question echoing in her mind—Could she go through with this?—was the still night and the soft sound of the crickets chirping their song.
Rows and rows of grapevines ripe for the plucking spread as far as she could see in the darkness. A castle-like structure with an attached chapel dominated one end of the clearing, lit by old-fashioned-looking pale yellow streetlamps along the circular drive, while dense woods provided a lush backdrop of greenery on the other side. According to her letter, the house she was supposed to go to was just through those trees, the destination for her Pleasure Night.
A night that could restore her self-confidence and uplift her spirit.
For the past several years, she’d been living a life bent on self-destruction, fueled by self-loathing and ignited by a spark of guilt lit upon her heart that smoldered and grew into anger. An anger she took out on herself.
With her foot planted firmly on the brake, she wiped her palms on her thighs, her heart pounding like a jackhammer gone wild.
The thought of turning around and leaving, ending the evening before it truly began, passed through her mind.
She could let fear for the future override her need of fulfilling the fantasy that she’d lived with for the last fifteen years—a fear that had been controlling her life, strangling the happiness from her heart and soul bit by agonizing bit. Or she could embrace the promise of pleasure, allowing it to free her from the chains of self-hatred that locked her up tight, cloistering and dimming her inner light.
She clung to the steering wheel, her only lifeline in the sea of doubt fiercely determined to drown her in its receding tide.
If she didn’t do this now, she knew she never would.
She flinched when she glimpsed her reflection in the review mirror. Both the sagging bags under her eyes and bitter lines around her mouth aged her, making her appear much older than her thirty-two years.
It was time to move forward.
She wanted to love herself and her life again, so she could grant herself the gift to love another.
It had been three years since her best friend’s wife’s tragic death, and two years that she’d harbored this attraction for him. She had never had the courage to act upon the attraction. She couldn’t. She felt unworthy. But even if Kent didn’t love her, she could move on, live out the rest of her life in happiness. She could live without a man’s love, but not with her own self-discontent.
The seeds of this self-loathing took root when she was eighteen, on the one night she decided to live for the moment, to take her own pleasure. The night when she lost so much more than her virginity.
Guilt for what happened that night brought her to where she was now and to the bitter woman who felt she deserved nothing but pain and the worst of everything—men, friends, self-image.
Being with an angel, more specifically Archangel Michael, would restore her faith in herself. He was the one called upon for protection, strength and truth. The angel who could rescue her from herself, to slay her fears with a single swoop of his fiery sword. He could reveal the true, passionate Amira hidden beneath the shroud of pain that hid her. He was the angel called the Prince of Light and ruler of the sun. The one angel that could make her shine with love for herself so she might accept her past to go after the future she desired.
With a long sigh that unbound some of those chains surrounding her heart, she guided her SUV down the path to where the lone house stood—a welcoming shelter in the dark night.
She put the car in park and got out. A single light burned inside, casting an inviting glow. The quaint house with its brick walkway lined by geraniums on both sides leading up to the porch reminded her of home, the place where she’d lived with her grandmother.
Finding the key, she let herself in.
The warm scents of rosemary and cinnamon slammed into her solar plexus, and she staggered to a stop as she glanced about the entryway. An old black coat lay draped over a coat rack. On an end table in the corner beside an ancient rocking chair sat knitting needles and yarn along with magazines and a newspaper, its pages fanned out along the length of the table. A magnifying glass, a pair of glasses, and an empty cup and saucer sat on the opposite table.
The scene was set just as she’d requested. The only things missing were her grandmother and the blood on Amira’s thighs—the evidence of her lost virginity. Though given freely, she lost more innocence than just what existed on the surface.
The familiar ache at her loss shot through her. She’d tried to prepare herself for this pain, the raw emotion that opening this wound would bring. By not facing it, she wouldn’t be able to begin the healing. So in partly re-creating the night she lost her innocence, she would surrender to Michael and take strength from his protection.
She stood there, drenching herself in the hurt, letting it rest in her bones and over her heart.
“Come in. Come to me.” The man’s rich, firm voice of the softest velvet wrapped itself around her, her one promise of light in the abyss.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011
Celia loves her husband with all her heart. Yet, the thirty something accountant abandons her lover in an impulsive act, changing her life forever. Wandering the streets of London, England, alone, Celia muses on how she foolishly threw real love away.
Will Daniel and Celia, two people bound by love yet separated by the past, be able to overcome their secret fears, satisfy the longings of their hearts and return to everlasting love?
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by Marina Cross
They’d met for lunch for the third time in a week, walking among the newly blooming flowers along the Willamette River. Moist dew glinted, clinging to softly fragrant flower petals glittering diamond bright in the afternoon sun. Celia couldn’t help admiring how the sun fell like a radiant, sunburnt halo around David’s chestnut hair.
She could still hear his voice echo in her mind, “It’s really lovely here, isn’t it?”
She could still feel the tightening of her heart when he graced her with the brightest smile she’d ever seen.
His single-minded admiration surprised her.
“Why do you look at me like that?” she’d asked him nervously.
She’d been scared by the regard in his eyes. She’d never ever seen such a combination of admiration coupled with friendship from someone so different from her. It seemed where she lived her life closed, Daniel remained open to new experiences, making her long to see life from another point of view.
“Celia, don’t look so scared. I know we haven’t known each other long. Yet, I feel like I need to tell you this. I really care about you. Our friendship has been a breath of fresh air in my life.”
She’d wanted to believe in the promise of lasting friendship in his eyes. The most constant companion in her life had always been fear. Fear of change, fear of the past, the future, but most of all, herself.
She’d stilled like a nervous, wild horse when he moved a bit closer to her on the bench they’d been sitting on. Daniel took hold of her hand. She glanced down, unable to help smiling, looking at their fingers entwined. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to kiss you, Celia.” Those words came soft and low before he tilted his face slightly, encasing his features with a halo as their lips met. No words could contain power enough to express just how right it felt. Powerful sexual hungry uncoiled in her belly, which only he’d been able to satisfy.
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Friday, February 18, 2011
The Watchers - Book One
A Deadly Whisper by Stacey Kennedy
There was nothing odd about the woman in her late twenties. Her look was exactly what you’d expect in downtown Cincinnati—chic. She wore clothing that looked more like something off the runways in New York than from around here—her high stilettos were fantastically matched with her cute rose cocktail dress. The black lace shawl wrapped around her shoulders indicated it was chilly, but being that it was June, Paxtyn knew it was more for show than anything else.
And she could appreciate the look. But at the same time, she wished the woman had decided on different footwear. Then, those fantastic heels wouldn’t be about to go to waste.
Paxtyn’s hands closed around the chair as she prepared herself for what she was about to see. Her visions of the past always came the same. She knew what the outcome would be and it wouldn’t be a good one.
Normally, watching the moment a life was lost was hard for her, but tonight, it was more than that, it was gut-wrenching. The woman looked so much like her—athletic. Even her shoulder-length curly hair was the same, except were hers was jet black; Paxtyn’s was strawberry blonde. But the one thing this woman didn’t have was Paxtyn’s turquoise eyes.
How many times had she heard “you have the most beautiful eyes”? The line had run its course and she was sick to death of hearing it. The woman stopped at the curb, digging into her last season’s Gucci handbag and pulled out a cell phone as the street light beamed down. A smile grazed her face as she apparently received a text of interest. She raised her head, looking quickly, waiting for a moment to cross. When the cars cleared, she stepped off the curb, not bothering to look up as she continued to dawdle on her cell phone.
Paxtyn wanted to stand up from her chair, yell to this woman to stop, bang on the window for her to not move, but it was pointless. There was nothing she could do for her.
Within three steps, the life of this woman was forever changed.
A loud screech of the car’s tires, followed by a terrified scream, then the woman was about to discover those Christian Louboutin heels were going to be the only thing left of her.
She really didn’t have a chance. The car was going too fast for her to survive.
The moment the wheels locked, the woman’s ghost stood next to her broken body, shocked, scared and confused. The man who’d hit her jumped out of the car and, when he saw her body, smiled gloriously.
Paxtyn shuddered. Who smiled at such a thing?
Dying wasn’t how everyone thought it was. There wasn’t a flash of golden light with the soul drifting off to heaven. Most times, the spirit stayed, lingered. Couldn’t comprehend what had happened to them. And Paxtyn had witnessed moments of the past just like this a thousand times over.
“Earth to Pax,” Tate said loudly, snapping his fingers, completely unaware of the horror Paxtyn had just seen.
She glanced away from the window, but before she met his gaze, she did what she always did, found the smile to hide it all. “Sorry.” She laughed, but even to her it sounded shaky. The name was Paxtyn really, but Tate opted for the shorter form and she never minded.
“If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were a nut,” Tate said.
She laughed in agreement. He was right, if he did know her better, he’d believe such a thing. But he probably knew her the best out of anyone. Brought together at a welcoming party in their early days at the University of Cincinnati, they’d immediately hit it off.
A guy like Tate wasn’t to be passed over, and she hadn’t hesitated to try to snatch him up. It wasn’t his all-star bod, or his captivating baby blues, even those luscious lips that presently smiled at her that first caught her eye. It was his kind heart and loyalty. He was about as damn solid of a guy as she’d ever met.
They’d gone a round of it once after a blasted drunken night at a sorority shindig, but the next day, they’d woke up in bed, naked, and laughed. That was the end to anything romantic between them.
But what they had was better. Stronger. She could count on Tate for just about anything and there was no one else in the world who loved her more. Now, their relationship had blossomed into something found between a brother and sister. That was Tate, her protector.
Who just so happened to give her ear a flick. “Fuck, girl! Maybe you shouldn’t drink anymore.”
“I’m fine,” she said, grimacing from the throb of her ear lobe and shot him a look. It usually didn’t take this long to snap out of one of her horror moments.
She took a big gulp to drink away the sight of what she’d witnessed and kept drinking till the buzz settled in. Wasn’t ever a gift to see such horrible things, but one she saw often. Mom and Pa, back in Wyoming, had spent thousands on her as a child on testing and treatments to find out what was wrong with her. Why, as a child, she’d say that she was watching people die. She still couldn’t imagine what was going through their heads, knowing their child had this disability.
But by the time she reached twelve, she realized it was best to keep her mouth shut. It ended the doctor appointments and saved her from being medicated or institutionalized.
Now, it was just something she lived with—suffered through. So, she put on her normal face and glanced around the pub. The crowd tonight was loud, as was the band blasting out the soft rock beats.
The O’Bryons Irish Pub had been their life while they’d bunkered down at University, and she guessed it had stuck with them, because they still came here every Friday night. Of course, it had only been two years since they’d completed their degrees so they really hadn’t had much time to grow and move on.
Tate, with his BS in Criminal Justice, had found a job right out of college with the Cincinnati Police Department. Paxtyn had majored in Business. Basically, because she liked the idea of being locked in an office where she could stare at blank walls and not have to look out windows or be anywhere she might have a vision.
When she’d seen the ad for Financial Specialist at the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, she’d jumped on it and, with some luck, she’d actually gotten it. Now, she spent her days glued to a computer, lost in numbers. As much as the job got to her, became a total bore, she couldn’t really complain—it paid well.
Tate worked three times as hard as she did and his pay was nowhere in the numbers as hers.
“Looks like you have an admirer,” Tate said, drawing her back from her thoughts.
Paxtyn followed his gaze to see that she was in fact being watched, and the moment she met the man’s gaze she was locked in. He sat off to the far side of the bar with a glass of brandy in front of him. He was older than the others in the pub, but it didn’t make him look out of place—it made him look distinguished. He wore a black dress shirt rolled up at the sleeves with the front unbuttoned showing a bit of smooth chest. His finger slowly rimmed the edge of the glass as his gaze was glued with hers. And those eyes were mesmerizing. Grey with a dark-steeled edge to them. But that seemed to be his thing. He was all edge—hard and extreme. His features were made up of straight lines, including the squared jaw, high predominant cheek bones, perfectly shaped lips and even his mocha hair was buzzed with a hard look.
Tate knocked Paxtyn’s arm a good one. “Drool much.”
“Over him?” She nodded toward the hunk. “Doubt it.”
“Sure you weren’t.”
Changing the subject she asked, “Where’s Barbie?” Tate’s latest love interest, or fuck interest she should say. One thing Tate wasn’t was monogamous. His view on women was you should have them—lots of them.
Never could she blame him. When men looked like Tate they had the option to be picky and choosy. And he knew better than to be an ass about it, since she’d rip him a new one if he was, but his interests weren’t ever in the soul mate department.
Paxtyn’s love life was null and void. Probably due to the fact that Tate tended to scare them off before anything could even begin. She was usually better off as her choices in men weren’t her strong point.
“Kenzie,” Tate corrected her, “has decided she is looking for more of the Mr. Right type.”
“And you weren’t it?”
“Not for her, I wasn’t.”
She could only shake her head. Poor girl was probably giving him an ultimatum, hoping he’d take the bait. Boy was she wrong. Tate would commit to a relationship as much as he’d commit a crime. It just wasn’t in his nature.
Tate drained his drink and shoved his chair back. “Gotta take a leak.”
“Thanks for the update,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Makes you think of my dick doesn’t it?” he responded with a sly smile.
“Please,” she grumbled. “Had it once before and it didn’t make me want to come back.”
He placed his hand over his heart. “Oh, how you wound me.” Then, he grinned and went off to the can.
Paxtyn leaned back in her chair, giving her legs a good stretch and took another big swig of her beer. A beer on a warm day was about as satisfying as anything she’d ever known. Refreshed the senses, calmed the nerves, and with the little buzz that came with it, it was simply heaven. And lord how she was enjoying it now.
She lowered the bottle, gave her mouth a wipe and when she did her gaze hit the man in the corner. He still stared intently. There was something about him, but what it was, she couldn’t quite place. He seemed familiar in a way, although she was sure she’d never met him before. She would remember a man such as him.
He wasn’t smiling, looking for a way in to come and talk to her, he was just staring. Looking almost through her and she began to feel uncomfortable. So, instead of having some ridiculous staring contest with the man, she glanced back to the bottle and spun it in her hands.
Only a short moment passed when Tate’s chair pulled out. “That was...” Paxtyn started, glancing away from her hands. But quite quickly, her words drifted away as she drank in the deliciousness of the man before her.
He was handsome from a distance. Up close, he was perfection, and he smelled so delicious. A mix of strength combined with a tantalizing cologne she’d never witnessed before this moment.
“Hello,” he said. His voice, deep and smooth, seemed to pool right down to her stomach.
“Hi,” she responded, hoping it came out calmer than the nerves rattling her.
He glanced around the pub, looking slightly appalled. “You like this place?”
Paxtyn was instantly put off. Hot or not, no one insulted her pub. “What, not rich enough for you?” This man came from money, that was apparent immediately.
The side of his mouth lifted as if he held back a grin. “Are you implying I think I am too good to be seen at this club?”
He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “No—I am just ascertaining your character is all.”
“My character?” That wasn’t the answer she was expecting. Why was he interested in her character? Now, she was just flat out confused and that only seemed to spark her interest. Maybe this guy had pick up lines down to an art.
He nodded, leaning back and crossing his arms over his strong chest. “That’s right.”
Paxtyn tried not to notice but couldn’t help herself. Beneath that dress shirt laid one hell of a chest and by the tightness around the arms, some serious muscles rested beneath. An urge to explore those muscles for herself rose, but she quickly ignored it. “That’s a first.”
He arched a brow. “A first?”
“Your pick up line—never heard that one before.”
He leaned in now, very close to her face and her breath froze from the nearness of this man. The smell of him, the penetrating gaze that locked in on hers—oh my.
“I am not like anyone you have ever met,” he said softly.
His gaze was so penetrating, searching, and what she saw in those eyes told her he was right. She’d never met anyone like him before. No one with this sense of the sureness he portrayed—this amount of confidence. He was entirely different than most twenty-four year olds like her, and she could only guess that was because of his age. He appeared to be in his early thirties.
“Seat’s taken,” Tate’s annoyed voice came loud.
Paxtyn glanced toward him and she had to smile. His focus was on the hunky guy sitting in front of her and he looked about as happy as a man told he could never have sex again.
When she glanced back to Mr. Mysterious, he slowly turned toward Tate and cocked his head. “There are three other seats, take one.”
Her eyes went a little wide. Tate wasn’t a wimp. He was a tough nougat and his temper was always his downfall. This wasn’t going to end well.
Tate’s eyes squinted into nothing and he leaned down, placing his hands on the table coming nose to nose with the man. “You are in my seat. I will only ask once for you to get out.”
She rolled her eyes. Now, they were in a full blown testosterone contest and by the challenging look in the guys’ eyes, she was about to witness some fists flying. Did she want to witness such a thing? No. Had she witnessed scenes like this numerous times? Yes. Hence, her lacking a love life. But tonight, she just wasn’t in the mood. She pushed her seat back and stood. “Here, Tate. Take my seat. I’m leaving.”
Both men shot their gazes to hers. Annoyance was so heavy on their faces that she burst out laughing. “You wanna date,” she glanced between them, “there you go. You were made for each other.”
* * * * *
After a long soak in the tub, Paxtyn was snuggled up in her cotton jams and her lap quilt on the couch, reading the latest novel from Katie MacAlister. Books were her saviour. Sometimes drifting into someone else’s life was better than experiencing her own. Allowed her to forget her worries, concerns and live a tantalizing dream for a little while. And it was exactly what she needed at the moment.
“Comfortable?” Tate’s aggravated voice blasted through the living room.
She glanced up from the book to see that she hadn’t mistaken the tone. His expression was equally as pissed. “Very much, thank you,” she responded.
His eyes squinted. “What was that about back there?”
“You annoying me,” she answered simply.
“So, you just up and left me?”
“Looks like that is exactly what I did.”
He huffed then strode toward the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge. They spent so much time together it had actually made sense when he mentioned that she move in with him. Saved them both on rent and downtown Cincinnati rent didn’t come cheap. It also allowed them to move into a sweet condo—new with all the trimmings. A chef’s dream kitchen, a splendid balcony overlooking downtown Cincinnati, two large bedrooms and a wicked bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. Yeah, it was worth the guy garbage she had to put up. Tate’s idea of cleaning meant shoving garbage into a cabinet and wiping dust off with his hand. But overall it worked between them.
She finished the last paragraph of her book, folded the page and placed it on the coffee table. “So, you going to tell me what happened?”
Tate snorted. “Nothing happened. Your playboy picked up and left after you did.”
That surprised her. “He didn’t say anything to you?”
He shook his head. “No, not a damn thing.”
Weird! “What did you do after?” She glanced to the clock. It was one in the morning. “I left an hour ago.”
“Chatted up the ladies.”
“Of course you did,” she replied. “But here you are...alone.”
He shrugged. “Nothing of interest.”
“Oh the poor ladies, all they have missed out on,” she said sarcastically as she stood and headed for the bedroom. Now that the book wasn’t stealing her attention, she realized just how tired she was.
Tate smacked her ass as she walked by. “I seem to remember you screaming out in glory when you went for a test drive.”
“Must you remind me of that constantly?”
He nodded, grinning.
She rolled her eyes at him. So, he was good and she couldn’t deny that night he’d probably given her the best orgasm of her life (a few times over), but now it was just maddening. He was too proud of himself about it and liked to mention it on a weekly—if not, daily basis. “You know, being a pompous ass isn’t becoming.”
“You love it.” He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Sweet dreams, buttercup.”
She smiled as his lips connected with her cheek. “You too, jackass.” He backed away and headed off to his room while she made her way to hers. He was right, she did love it. Tate was just Tate, bad flaws and all, but he was her Tate and she loved him just the way he was.
Her room was in the state it was always in, a complete disaster. The rest of the house always needed to be neat and tidy, but her room was a whole ’nother story. Clothes were scattered everywhere, the bed was ruffled with the duvet half off and the only way to the bed was a path made by kicking stuff out of the way as she walked.
But that was how she liked it.
Life was always organized, set, planned. Her days the same—wake up, work, come home. Her room was the one place that could be a mess and no one could say a damn thing about it. She loved this mess—it gave her that sense of freedom to just not give a shit about.
On her way to the bed, she kicked her earlier clothes from the evening out of way then jumped in. She fluffed the pillow, pulled the blankets up around her and closed her eyes.
Sleep was needed, but apparently sleep she wasn’t going to get, since all she could think of were those damn captivating eyes. Didn’t matter how many times she tossed, turned, within the darkness of her lids was that face, those lips, that strong chest, those forearms that clenched when his finger rimmed his glass.
Finally, she groaned and opened her eyes, glancing to the clock. It read 4:03 a.m. She’d been lying there for three hours. She forced her eyes closed again and began counting sheep. One...twenty...fifty...
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