Wednesday, August 31, 2011



As the Roman Empire crumbles, the Catholic Church fills the power vacuum by launching attacks on classical culture. Books are burned. Women are restricted from traditional occupations. The lives of pagans and Jews are imperiled. The Dark Ages loom.

But two women, Glenys, a Celtic herbalist and healer, and Hypatia, teacher, philosopher, mathematician and the last librarian of the great library at Alexandria, resist. Though one is branded a sorceress and the other an idolator, they refuse to submit to the demands of the state-sanctioned religious leaders. Their struggle culminates in the cataclysmic events of Lenten week in 415 A.D.

Can anything be preserved?


An Excerpt from: The Flight of the Sorceress
Copyright © 2010 Barry S. Willdorf

All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

Aquae Sulis (Bath), Britannia: Spring 410 A.D.

Glenys was roused from sleep by pounding at the door. It was well past midnight. Concerned that the tumult would awaken the old woman in her care, she gathered her bedclothes about her and stumbled barefoot across the drafty hut with only the light of stars and a waning crescent moon through an open window to guide her. Reaching the door, she pushed aside the hide that covered its peephole to spy the face of a man who had always viewed her with contempt. His ruddy nose glowed by the flickering light of the torch he held. Dank hair matted his forehead. Great beads of sweat clung to his eyebrows and moustache, like raindrops on the eaves of a hut.

His sour odor seeped through the cracks in the door, making her gasp. “What do you want?” she hissed. “It’s late and you’re waking the whole town.”

He was panting heavily and obviously had been running. “Are you Glenys? Glenys, who is the healer?”

“What if I am?”

“I hoped to find you at the baths but Ceallaigh told me to try here.”

“You’re breaching the peace, you know. What is it you want?”

“It’s me, the thatcher. My w…wife,” he sputtered. “Come quickly. She cannot…the baby…is stuck… Please, Lady Glenys, come. We need you.”

Glenys cautiously pulled back the bolt.

The thatcher pushed aside the door and clamped a powerful hand around her wrist. Instinctively, Glenys pulled back but was unable to free herself.

“We do not live far from here,” he blurted before she could protest. “We need your help right away.” Without awaiting her reply, he pulled Glenys down the alley and then through a maze of passages until the shrieks of the mother became audible. Women were standing in doorways, their hands over their mouths, shaking their heads and choking back tears. Men, bleary-eyed, peered over their wives’ shoulders looking worried.

“It’s just right over…here,” the thatcher stuttered, pointing with his torch to a cottage that boasted a door of polished planking and matching shutters, in distinction from those around it—signs of his prosperity. He set the torch in an iron cradle, pulled clumsily at the latch and burst in, Glenys still tightly within his grasp.

A circle of flaming torches illuminated a young girl lying naked on a bed of soiled sheepskins. Shading her eyes from the glare with her free hand, Glenys gazed into terrified blue eyes desperately pleading for succor. She gulped a breath, gagging on the acrid black smoke that hung in the low rafters like a prescient storm cloud and sniffed the sobering odors of urine and of broken water.

As her eyes grew accustomed to the light, Glenys observed that the girl’s tongue had become swollen, likely from dehydration, and now drooped to the side of her contorted mouth as if she were a shipwrecked sailor expiring of thirst.

Her thin child’s legs were splayed wide, knees fully bent, soles flat on the sheepskin. She shivered frightfully.

The image of her mother, who had lovingly taught her the contraceptive secrets of Queen Anne’s Lace and pennyroyal danced before Glenys’ eyes. Glenys unconsciously ran a hand over her mature hip. She’s no more than fourteen years of age. Hardly five years separates us, but it is all the difference.

A gray-haired crone with a misshapen skull and a face as deeply crevassed as the bark on an ancient oak ceased daubing the girl with a wet cloth and squinted at the newcomer. Licking her barren gums with a colorless tongue, she cocked her head and with a gnarled finger gestured at the girl’s vulva. “She’s a small one, she is.”

The girl shrieked.

A second woman, younger than the crone, the girl’s mother, Glenys guessed, put her hands to her temples and began to cry out, “Dear God, dear God.”

Glenys bit hard into her lip to keep from chuckling. The woman’s face appeared to her as an exaggerated pair of pendulous cheeks like sacks of the flour hung from the rump of the miller’s ass. Glenys felt a hot blush of guilt. I am a healer, and this is a matter of life and death. She regained her composure and plucked a torch from the circle.

Holding the fire as close as she dared, she knelt down to examine the girl closely, running educated fingers first along the cervix and then probing further inside. To no one in particular, she reported, “She is ready to deliver but the head’s not engaged. I’m feeling the baby’s rear. It’s breached, and the feet are caught. I’ll try to push the baby back and free its feet.”

The girl screamed again and the muscles of her abdomen tensed.

Glenys pushed away from the child and stretched to relieve her own cramping. She accepted a damp cloth from the old woman, wiped her hands and turned to the thatcher. “Your wife is very young and very small,” she explained. “Unless I’m able to relax her sufficiently so I can free the baby’s feet, they both will surely die.” Failing to make eye contact, she shook her head and addressed the mother. “Even then, I can’t promise success. The baby’s head will come out last. It may be too large for her. If that’s the case, the only thing to do is to cut the baby free.” Again she turned to the husband. “Your wife will certainly die if cutting must be done, but I cannot do it. Just three weeks ago, the vortigern prohibited all women from performing surgery. Perhaps you saw the edict nailed to the door of the old temple? You must summon the physician at once.”

The thatcher’s mouth opened and shut like a netted salmon. Balling his fleshy hands into ham hock fists, he pounded his temples. “The physician . . . cannot . . . be found,” he sputtered. “We looked for him before I came to you.” He fell to his knees and, looking up at the woman towering above, clasped his hands at his chest. “She is only fourteen, Lady Glenys. Only fourteen. Please help her, I beg of you.” The mother too was praying now, her hands pressed together, mouthing the words of a psalm.

Glenys had little hope. She wiped the perspiration from her brow with the sleeve of her nightgown and attended once more to the screaming girl, whose feeble attempts to writhe were being foiled by exhaustion. Absent a miracle, the young girl and her baby were both going to die. Taking an iron key that hung from a cord around her neck, she dangled it and addressed the thatcher, hardly sparing him another look. “How well do you know the baths?”

The thatcher glanced briefly at his mother-in-law before averting his gaze toward the rafters. “Not…”

“…well.” Glenys ventured. “But I am certain you will find it without difficulty. Be quick. This key will open the gate. Go to the great pool. At the far end there’s a hall. The first door you come to will be my treatment chamber. Inside you’ll see shelves. Upon the top shelf, in a blue basket, there you’ll find herbs. The one you are looking for has leaves of dark blue-green and the smell will remind you of a skunk. Bring me that basket in all haste!”

The thatcher snatched the key and rushed from the cottage.

“What herb is that?” asked the old crone.

“A rare herb,” said Glenys. “I obtained it from a Jew in Clausentium who trades with Palestinia. It should relax the girl so that I can manipulate her baby.”

The old woman fussed with the wattle beneath her chin. “From Palestinia, you say? I’ve heard of this herb. You will burn it, yes? The girl will breathe the smoke and lose her senses? Is this the herb?”

Glenys scrutinized the woman before responding. “Perhaps, I’ve not used it before. But this is an emergency and I’ve been told that in Egypt they use this herb for difficult childbirths.”

I hope it’s still there, Glenys prayed silently. With luck, Ceallaigh’s not gotten round to dismantling my chamber yet. But he’s become so erratic... Could it have been just three weeks? So much has changed since that night.


Sunday, August 28, 2011


If the pirates don't get you - The insanity will!

Sasha's Tran's horoscope has gone horribly wrong.

Between pirates tossing her off her own ship, being possessed by a three thousand year old spy on a mission, and waking up to a sexy ex from the distant past, she's in for one hell of a ride this Valentine's day. That's if the planet doesn't get blown to the corners of the galaxy first!

Genre Sci Fi Erotic Romance
Length Novella
Heat Level Extreme


Julian Horoscope day forty-two:
Career opportunities sometimes fall out of the sky. Keep your head up so that you do not miss your next big break.  Lucky in love. Valentine’s Day is on course. Look for a new interest on the horizon.
Chapter One

‚Hobbs! Don’t do this!. Sasha Tran fought the slim, steel restraint, damning the creator of the near indestructible programmable rope to hell. The engine exhaust blasted her cropped hair into her face, coloring the world through red ribbons of betrayal. Cliché perhaps, but she’d never suspected her second in command of mutiny.

Hobbs shoved her to the edge of the loading ramp, which had never been intended to be used as an old-fashioned ‘pirate-walk-the-plank’. Her ship, the Fortune, cruised along several kilometers above the surface of a backwater, no-name planet. Hobbs knew better than to break the strict Allied Worlds First Contact regulations. Its new, sleek form would no doubt cause a lot of stir among the primitive locals and bring down fines on the Northern Star Trading Company.

A hulk of a man, Hobbs was bred and born on the farming moon colony of Ludd. She knew he’d been raised to smith metal by hand, so Hobbs could have easily tossed her off the deployed ramp. But no, the traitor was trying to salve the shreds of his conscience. That much was written in the nervous sweat gleaming on the thick folds of his furrowed forehead.

Sasha stupidly glanced down, then dragged her gaze from the forest and tried to quell the stark mental image of being impaled. She tried once more to reach through Hobb’s butt-ugly, dispassionate expression to the decency she’d always credited him for. ‚C’mon. This isn’t you. You’ve been at Northern Star for over twenty years. Selling out to a rogue pirate when you’ve always talked about retirement?. A flicker behind the sickly yellow rings of her second’s irises filled her with hope. His gun wavered a bit as the survival pack slid from his shoulder to his big, meaty hand.

Naïve, stupid, hope.

He shook his head. The thin wisps of hair covering the sloping forehead stood straight up in the furnace-like exhaust. Behind him, the fucking pirates stealing her ship snickered. Hales, the slime she thought she’d kicked off at dock almost three weeks ago, saluted. Fucking snake. Sasha’s eyes narrowed. She’d scream at them, but they wouldn’t hear anyway. She could barely make out what Hobbs was muttering.

‚Sorry, Cap’n. It’s either you or me, an’ I need the money.. He tossed her the pack, barely waiting for her to clutch the bundle with her restrained arms, then gestured to the edge of the open ramp. Below, trees whizzed by in a green blur. ‚You’re too honorable for the likes of their captain. You’ll fuck up the sale..

‚What sale? What are you into, Hobbs?. He didn’t answer her question, but she thought she glimpsed a bit of guilt. Guilt was good. Guilt was real good when asshole in question was about to throw her off the ship.

‚Remember that online course on the classics last year?. Sasha leaned forward, her voice loud and hoarse from the fury burning in her chest. She’d only taken the damn thing because Hobbs wanted a study partner. Who actually studied Dante’s Inferno?

‚I hope in hell, you’re frozen ass-upwards. And I hope that Satan himself takes you up on the offer. Ninth Circle of Hell, traitor.” The stout, brutish man paled. The course had appealed to Hobbs at his foundation. Ludds were inherently superstitious. “Because that’s where you’re headed. Can’t get any lower than that, you bastard..

She glanced at Hales who leaned with loose-limbed negligence against her freight as he exchanged money with the feline that had aroused her suspicions enough to seek out Hobbs. She had no idea what the species or planet the cat-person originated from, but understood the speculative gleam in all the pirates’ stares.

Replacement co-pilot, indeed. The crew replacements while scouting the two habitable planets were hinky enough. But when Soder, her co-pilot, abruptly resigned and skipped ship by stealing a precious lifepod, Sasha wanted answers. The miraculous arrival of the furry co-pilot this far out of civilized space was too coincidental.

The cat-person curled a lip, showing white fangs at Hales. It flattened its ears and commandeered a stack of freight to sit on. Silk and spices she’d worked a deal for in the Abaassanian market. Colonists and citizens alike paid out the ass for the aphrodisiacs and romantic shit from ‘The Planet of Love.’
There were other expensive items on the route she’d cultivated for the Northern Star Trading Company, but the planet Abassan was her prize. It was the jewel that got her the Fortune and bumped her pay grade to a primo level. Sleek and efficient, it was a hard blow to know pirate ilk were now in charge of her ship.

The buck-toothed pirate beside Hales grabbed his crotch, his leering face telling her how he’d help her stay on board. She focused on his short, unmoving dreadlocks instead of the hand working his crotch or the disgusting tongue flicking at her. Bastard. As if, she thought.

Sasha’s arms may have been tied, but her hands were free. She sent him a full-middle-finger salute, barely choking down her anger as the pirates cheered. Buck-tooth flung out his arms, in the universal ‘anytime’ motion while his horny pirate buddies yukked it up with cat-calls and a round of, ‚Oh, you want it baby..

‚Jump and you have a chance, Cap’n,. Hobbs told her. The thick line of his jowl was unyielding. ‚You won’t with the crew..

‚They’re not my crew.. She spat, silently berating herself for not noticing the transition of real crew for Hobbs’ pirate support, for being too caught up in her exploration. Then, with as much dignity left her, Sasha jumped.

The trees rushed toward her.

She was going to die. A scream ripped from her throat, terror and fear foremost, until the rope around her torso loosened and flew up and away. Then, she yelled a triumphant hurrah. She was falling straight down. Terror struck again. Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck! God the ground was coming up fast.

Twisting around mid-air, Sasha dragged the survival pack onto her shoulders. The wind ripped at her hair, her clothes, threatened to steal the pack as she fumbled with the cinch. She wasn’t military. She had no experience jumping from a ship with an emergency pack save the mandatory four-year safety seminar that Northern Star required of its captains. She pulled the cord and prayed for the best.

The parachute exploded behind her. Watching in awe as the chute unfurled into a silvery cloud above her, her descent suddenly stopped, jerked into the drifting pace of the parachute. Sparing only a brief thought for the Fortune as it shrank into a speck as it left the atmosphere; Sasha twisted and tried in vain to direct her descent into a pretty but bare-limbed cove of trees surrounding a small body of water.
She could practically weep at the irony of her mother’s email this morning telling her about the manager opening at the Orion Shipyard back home in the middle-of-nowhere, Earth. Normally, the idea of watching welders piece together ships she’d never fly held all the appeal of jumping out of her ship onto a primitive planet with less than the minimum of survival gear. Watching the sharp spear-like branches get closer and closer made that manager job pretty appealing.

* * * * *

People falling from space. Appears to be the prophecy day after all. Kiev-Dirrel leaned on his spear, watching the figure fall from the spaceship instead of dwelling on the disturbing underground rumblings plaguing his home. The wind whipped the fabric of his knee-length hip-wrap around his lower thighs. But the fabric was belted tight at his waist and wouldn’t impede the sword, which engendered confidence in the citizens, or access to the pouches on his belt, the contents of which made him feel more secure. For a few heartbeats, he’d thought the unfortunate alien would be splattered all over Shepherd Valley, but no—the alien managed to deploy a large section of fabric to slow its descent.

‚Kiev! Kiev!. Radan skidded to a halt, nearly toppling over Kiev’s cliff-side watch station. Arms flailing, the boy wind-milled as his sandals threw gravel every which way. Kiev snatched the shoulder of Radan’s robe. The kid’s wooden play sword waved under Kiev’s nose. A barely felt mini-quake shook more pebbles from the mountainside for a heart-stopping moment.

‚Slow down before you fall off my cliff.. He set his nephew down with a good-natured chuckle to mask the unreasonable paranoia Kiev had developed for the small disturbances. His imagination supplied images of the ground opening up and swallowing the entire city. No one, not even a single flying squirren could escape the type of earthquakes that destroyed Dirrel’s world so long ago. Kiev’s face hurt with the force of his smile. ‚And breathe. A warrior knows to pace himself. Excitement and fear can destroy your focus if you let it.. The reminder was a good one. Randan was an orphan because Kiev had let his guard down

Kiev liked watching the youngsters at this age. They were bright and amusing. Radan was no different. He nodded, sucking in a lungful of air into his small bony chest. The boy was a beautiful blend of both parents. He possessed his mother’s vivid imagination and his father’s sense of adventure. Randan was only six, too young for formal schooling, but innocent enough to find everything new and exciting.
The time for new and exciting had passed Kiev by years ago. Kiev’s heart lurched every time the child escaped his guardians and tutor. So he supposed that was adventure enough. He was old, if not in body, then in soul. For a moment the babble of eons threatened to press down.

‚Did you see the alien?. Radan’s high voice pulled him from his memories. The part of him that was Dirrel snorted. See what? The skewered alien that will soon be polluting the squirren’s watering hole? Niiice. Radan’s finger followed the ill-fated alien’s descent and sure enough, Kiev wanted to wince at the sight of the nettle tree tree’s limbs piercing the body. His nephew turned, excitement lighting his wide, blue eyes. ‚Will you take me with the search party? Do you think it has three heads or scales?. Radan sucked in a breath as another image popped into his head. ‚Maybe it has slimy tentacles and feathers for hair? What do you think, Kiev?.

Easing them both away from the image of the alien, Kiev tried to find the same joy bubbling in his nephew. What joy is there in the death of another? A knife in your gut, searing laser fire cauterizing your heart, poison seizing your veins, best yet—the grinding of the drago-lizard as it eats you alive.
Kiev’s alter ego, Dirrel had been a peace-loving scientist a couple of thousand years ago during the pinnacle of Aros’s age of crystal technology, and all of the wonders thereof. Dirrel, or Dirrellen as he’d been known then, helped develop the consciousness transmogrification process. They’d been so excited to discover how to use the unique crystal’s electromagnetic properties to capture and store a human’s psyche before death swept away the energy.

That breakthrough preserved the intellect of Aros’s brightest and greatest when the tectonic plates suddenly shifted, causing the greatest redistribution of landmass ever experienced. The event destroyed their world, throwing Aros into a primitive state.

When the end of the world killed most of the population, Dirrel’s transmogrification program yanked back the consciousness of those scanned into the system. On the bright side, their people’s knowledge was kept safe inside the crystal computer’s data banks. On the downside, the collected consciousnesses were alive and awake. They remembered as well.

‚Why don’t we go see what Lala, the wise-woman, has to say.. The suggestion sparked a round of giggles from Radan as they made their way down the path to the city. His brief respite from duty was officially at an end.

Smiling faces and respectful bows greeted him at the city gate. ‚Did you see the alien fall from the sky?. Kiev ignored the undue attention. He was a warrior now and had been in many previous lives.

‚Kiev, come by tonight,. breathed an overly endowed woman. She was vaguely familiar, reminding him of the carousing he’d been fond of before acquiring Dirrel’s reserve. She bit her bottom lip in invitation. ‚I remember what you like..

You shouldn’t wait so long between women. Big breasts and probably a willing—he cut off the thought, shoving Radan through Lala’s shaded courtyard and into her receiving room. None of the wild women had interested him in a long time, not since he remembered the difference between love and lust. The latter left him unsatisfied and wanting more, like a no-nonsense woman who laughed at danger and secretly teared up at the beauty in a sunset.

Warm, feminine laughter soothed Kiev. As the one who prophesied the alien’s coming two summers ago, Lala should have the bulk of the fanfare. A swirling flower and spice scented dervish descended on Radan, picking the boy up before dancing away again. ‚And how is my fine grandson today?. Lala pecked a kiss on Radan’s cheek and set him down, sending the boy off to the kitchen in search of a snack.

Lala turned the force of her lovely smile on Kiev. ‚And how is my favorite son this fine day.. He could tell the repressed need to sweep her affection all over him about killed her. His lips twitched at the mental image of her having to bottle up all that motherly love.

‚I am your only son, Lala, and head of your House Guard.. Relieved, but still on edge, he strode to the window. Beyond the house’s wall, people would already be gathering for the wise-woman’s word on their skewered visitor from the stars. ‚The day wasn’t so fine for the alien. It used a sheet to float from the sky and into the nettle tree grove.. Inside he sneered at the alien’s lack of technology. A species with space-faring technology and the alien had to leap with what amounted to bed linins to break its fall? Depsite his people’s lack of faith in machinery, Kiev made sure to outfit his men with useful gadgets pertinent to protecting the city’s most prominent lady.

Lala’s hand crept to her mouth, no doubt remembering Keiv’s similar death. It hadn’t been a bad death in either Kiev’s or Dirrel’s opinion. The assassin never had a chance to touch Lala. Her skin paled. She swallowed, gathering up the long layers of her scarf-dress. ‚Then we must hurry to her. Fate offers a second chance to only a few. .

‚The alien is dead.. Softening his harsh tone, Keiv sighed. Lala took her visions seriously, and so did the people, for good reason. While the scientist in him balked, he’d still done a study and calculated her at ninety-six percent on visions being accurate. The other four could be a margin error for faulty interpretation of the vision. ‚I do not know whether it is even human, much less your woman from the stars. It might even have scales and tentacles instead of arms.. He shook his head, frustrated with his own thoughts. Visions, psychic ability, and conferring with the gods had no real basis in science. The words, now spoken, couldn’t be taken back.

He tensed, waiting for the expressions of old friends and family that said he’d revealed too much of what he had become. The host. Guardian of the Past. The representative of the technology that failed their planet long ago. His people both feared and revered him.

Kiev could have laughed. If only they really knew the truth of it.

‚I would pray for human, my son.. Lala brushed by him, taking a cloak from its hook by the door. She slanted a long glance over her shoulder. Her expression said that she knew who and what he was. And accepted him. ‚Because it would be unfortunate for my future grandchildren to have to slither about like garden snakes..


FULL LOAD by Kate Early

Who knew a trip to the Laundromat could get this...interesting.

James found a little hole in the wall Laundromat to get his clothes clean in peace. That is until Fin walks through the door and the dryers aren't the only things heating up.

Genre Contemporary Romance/Male/Male
Length Super Short
Heat Level Extreme


West Hollywood Ca.

One load down. Two more to go. James reached over the washer to grab the plastic detergent bottle off the folding table. A cap full of soap went in with his dirty towels, another he poured over the load of whites in the next machine then he dropped the lids to trigger the water. There was no glass door to look through on the old metal boxes for entertainment. Without the suds and rolling clothes to watch there was just the rhythmic bump and swish of water from the laundry machines. James might have described it as peaceful, but basically the laundromat was as boring as humanly, globally, and universally possible. The place was perfect.

He wasn't surprised to be alone, just happy. Privacy was a nice change. No women sat in the corner gossiping, knitting, or silently reading a book to fill the time. There were no screaming babies or bored children throwing toys at their siblings, just him and some clunky, old machines. Moldy ceiling tiles and the backs of newspapers covering the window out to the street were about the only visible decorations to the place. There were no soda machines or video arcades here. Hell, he had walked past the place a dozen times before he realized that it wasn't abandoned. The bigger shock would have been walking in to find lines of people with wet clothes waiting for a dryer to be available.

The bell hanging over the door gave a lonely jingle, distracting James from his thoughts and bringing him back to the present. Thirty minutes in the dimly lit room, the door opening let in the bright sunlight and a tall shadow. The outline of the stranger left him blinking. He was about to lose his solitude.

James could clearly make out the shape of a yummy–looking muscular man, but that was all until the door swung shut. Waiting for his eyes to adjust added to the anticipation. What would the tall and mysterious stranger look like? His vision cleared bit by bit, allowing him to take in a few details at a time. The stranger stopped for a moment after coming out of the California sun. Compared to outside this place must look like a dimly lit laundry cave.

An amused smile tugged at the corner of James’s mouth. This laundromat was the best discovery he had made in months, maybe years. Clean clothes and a hot man to watch. This was a hard to beat combination. Speaking of what the man was showing off... James couldn't give the fashion displayed high marks, but the body underneath was a ten. If the man was gay, then this little meeting was a gift from above. He felt the odds were in his favor. They were in West Hollywood after all; forty percent of the population was made up of gay men. Since the other sixty included men, women, and children there was a better than fifty/fifty chance the stranger was gay. Placing a bet on the subject in West Hollywood had better odds than most places worldwide.

A manly grunt ended James's distraction. Tall, Strong, and Sexy held an overflowing laundry basket and another mesh bag of clothes dangling from one hand. James jumped forward reaching out to help when the basket slipped from the other man's arms. Lending a hand before the clothes hit the filthy tile floor was the perfect excuse to move closer. Sliding his hand around the back of the plastic container put them close. James saw every detail of the other man's face clearly. Lady luck was certainly on his side today. The strong nose and wide mouth caught his attention first, then their eyes met, and he couldn’t turn away.

James’s fascination grew with every breath he drew in. The mound of smelly socks in the basket pressed between their bodies mixed with the scent of soap and aftershave. Who knew that the combo could be an unbelievable turn on? The blond’s bemused expression as he eyed James gave him hope. Was that a spark of interest or wishful thinking? Maintaining his hold on the basket, and trapping James close, the stranger's dark eyes lit with interest, and a bit more. Bouncing up and down with excitement was hard to resist.

“Thanks,” the word whispered past the full lips inches away, and James nearly swooned. His cheeks heated, and his breath grew choppy. Oh boy, not only was the guy hot, blond, and built; he had a British accent, too! One word was enough to make a native Californian weak in the knees. His knowing look turned hot. There was no misunderstanding the desire there. If the yummy new comer was free and interested James was having a good day.

“My name is Fin.” He flashed impressively white teeth when he smiled. "It's nice to meet you."


Saturday, August 27, 2011

THE PROMISE by Tory Richards

THE PROMISE by Tory Richards

Shannon Hayes' husband David was killed in Iraq nearly a year ago, and now she must face her first holiday season without him. With a toddler in tow, she travels to the Vermont farm where the rest of the family has gathered for the holidays. There she comes face to face with the man who was with him when he died, and her destiny, his older brother Ryan.

For the first time in years, Ryan returns home to keep a promise he made to David -- to take care of Shannon and their daughter. It's a pledge Ryan is reluctant to keep because he's been secretly in love with Shannon since first setting eyes on her. Their attraction to each other is instant, intense and soon the promise isn't the only thing between them.



The holiday season was Shannon Hayes favorite time of the year, and had been since her fairytale wedding to David six years before. From the moment he brought her home to meet his family, they’d welcomed her into their fold with open arms. Showing her what being part of a real family was all about and erasing years of loneliness for a young girl who’d grown up in an orphanage. But this year would be different. It would be her first Thanksgiving without David, the first Christmas and the first New Years. Shannon knew she would be facing many firsts without David.

Because David had been killed in Iraq.

Shannon picked up the antique gold picture frame that held their wedding picture. Not the traditional pose of a newly married couple standing hand in hand beneath a rose covered trellis, but of one showing a couple playfully feeding each other their first piece of wedding cake. Every time she looked at the picture, a smile spread across her face. Recalling how David had kissed her afterwards, licking the sweet frosting off her lips until they’d collapsed against each other with joyful laughter. Now it made her heart ache with the knowledge of what had been, and what was lost. She carefully set the frame down on the bookshelf and released a small sigh of sadness. God how she missed him.

How was she going to get through the next month and a half without him?

The answer came to Shannon the moment she glanced down at their two-year-old daughter. Alivia had fallen asleep curled up on the sofa, hugging her baby blanket and favorite stuffed teddy bear. Shannon reached down to fluff the soft curls resting against her little forehead, her heart swelling with love to near bursting. She didn’t think it was possible to love someone so much. She thanked God every day for giving her a piece of David.

At least he’d been able to meet his daughter once before his death. Shannon didn’t know how she would have been able to face a future if he hadn’t had that one small gift. Alivia would only know her father through her and his family and Shannon was going to see to it that she did. She thanked God that David’s family was loving and nurturing people.

The phone began to ring and Shannon reached for it quickly, keeping an eye on Alivia, praying the noise didn’t disturb her. “Hello?” she said softly into the receiver, turning her back on the sleeping toddler.

“Hi dear, what are you up to?” A familiar voice asked in a clear-cut voice, causing Shannon’s mouth to curve upward into a welcoming grin.

Marsha was David’s mother. “Hi Mom, I’m okay. What about you?”

She released a heavy sigh. “Thinking it’s time to start making plans for the holidays. How’s that little granddaughter of mine? Still teething?”

“Among other things,” Shannon admitted without hesitation. “She’s trouble with a capital T.”

She made a sound of disbelief. “Oh come on, dear. How much trouble can one little girl get into?”

Shannon could hear the smile in her voice. “You tell me, you’ve had a few of your own.”

Five to be exact. David had been the youngest at twenty-five when he was killed. Next in line came thirty-year-old Sheila, thirty-one-year-old Richard, thirty-three-year-old Ryan and thirty-four-year-old Amber. Since all of them except David were only a year apart Shannon suspected that David might have been a surprise. All but Ryan had spouses and children of their own.

Shannon had only met Ryan twice. Once when he’d come home for his father’s funeral and then again for David’s. He didn’t come home on holidays, didn’t join in on the family reunions or vacations. He’d chosen a life in the Marines, much to Marsha’s dismay. It had taken her ten years to finally accept that she couldn’t change him.

“You know why I’m calling.”

A knowing chuckle escaped Shannon. As Marsha had already said, it was that time of year, when family made plans to get together for the holidays. Marsha had a huge farmhouse in the back woods of Vermont where she’d raised her children. Big enough to accommodate the ever-growing family, which thanks to Alivia, now included ten grandchildren. Two more were on the way.

“I hope you can get away, dear,” she breathed into the receiver when Shannon remained silent. “Thanksgiving and Christmas wouldn’t be the same without you and Alivia. Everyone is expecting to see you.”

“I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be during the holidays, Mom. You know I want Alivia to grow up knowing her aunts, uncles and cousins. To tell you the truth, I’ve been anxiously waiting for your call.”

It was the truth. Shannon loved being around David’s siblings and their families. The walls of her townhouse, where she lived and worked, were beginning to close in around her.

“I wasn’t sure...” Marsha hesitated. “I wasn’t sure you’d feel like celebrating much this year.”

Neither one mentioned what was really on their mind. “I have a rambunctious two-year-old preventing me from getting any work done, Mom, and a publisher yanking her hair out because I’m behind. We’ve been cooped up in this house too long. Time away will do us good.”

“I’m so glad to hear you say that. I’ve called everyone else but was afraid to phone you because I didn’t want to hear you say no. If you’d like I can arrange for you to have the guesthouse in the back.”

“Oh no you don’t! It’s always been a rule whoever has the most kids gets use of the guesthouse. Amber and her bunch would have my head on a platter.” Shannon laughed, before remembering about Alivia. “You want that on your conscience?” she whispered into the phone.

Marsha returned her laughter. “I think Amber had Laura just so she could have the guesthouse every year. I don’t know what we’ll do once Sandi gives birth, they’ll each have four. I guess we’ll have to draw straws.”

Alivia began to stir. Shannon reached down and rubbed her back, hoping that would comfort her into remaining asleep. “Either that or you could have Richard and Tom duke it out,” she joked.

“That’s not funny, dear. Can you see it? Two ministers fighting over who gets the guesthouse?” Marsha chuckled. “We’d have a better chance of seeing some action between Sandi and Amber. Now tell me, when can you get here?”

Thanksgiving was two weeks away. Shannon knew Marsha liked a full house from that holiday until the New Year rolled in. Most years she got what she wanted. She was lucky enough to have successful children who could arrange their time any way they wanted, even if their spouses couldn’t always. Amber owned an antique business in New York. Richard was a minister in Maine, and Sheila didn’t work. She’d married a doctor in California.

“When is everyone else arriving?” Shannon questioned, covering a yawn behind her hand. It wasn’t all that late but she’d gotten up early that morning to get some work done before Alivia rose.

“Sheila and the kids are flying in a few days before Thanksgiving to help me with all the cooking and baking that I need to do. And you know Mark. He’ll fly in for Thanksgiving, fly back to California for a month and then fly in for Christmas. Amber, Richard and their brood won’t arrive until the night before and stay until the New Year.”

“Ryan’s not going to make it again this year?”

“Oh, you know Ryan.” There was a clear tone of sadness in Marsha’s voice. “He just can’t seem to get away for the holidays. He used to make an effort, if only for a few days, but all that seemed to stop about five years ago.”

About the time his father had passed away. Roger Hayes had succumbed to cancer shortly after Shannon and David’s wedding. She’d never forget the first time she saw Ryan. He’d just flown in for the funeral, the flight delayed because of bad weather, and had arrived at the cemetery just as they were laying Roger in the ground. As they were all standing around the gravesite she remembered hearing the squeal of tires and glancing up to see a jeep pulling to the side of the road. Then a mountain of a man, dressed in the full uniform of a Marine, jumped from the vehicle and made his way toward them.

His gaze seemed to zero right in on Shannon as he joined the family. She remembered feeling trapped for a moment, unable to look away from the piercing directness of his electric blue eyes until a small movement from David reminded her where they were. After that, she rarely saw Ryan during the two days he was home.

Their second encounter had been even briefer. Ryan had come home for David’s funeral. But other than his initial greeting and condolences he’d remained in the background. Shannon had been in a daze during the days surrounding David’s death, nothing had seemed to matter. “Shannon?”

She blinked, pulled back to the present. “I’m sorry, Mom. I guess I wandered off. Have you called Ryan?”

“No. I stopped calling him years ago. It hurts too much, always getting the same response. He knows we all gather for the holidays. Maybe one year he’ll surprise us, huh? So, when can you get here?”

It sounded as though Marsha wanted her there yesterday. Shannon smiled. “I’ll fly in on the Tuesday before and help you and Sheila with the cooking and decorating.”

Spending a month or so with Marsha and the rest of the family would be a welcome break from the normal mundane life she lived. Shannon realized she would need to make some changes, and soon. It wasn’t fair to Alivia living in seclusion, like a hermit.

The beginning of the New Year, things were going to be different...

Chapter One

Shannon felt bone tired and grubby by the time she flew into the Mount Snow Airport, two days before Thanksgiving. The small airport was busy, probably more so than usual, and the plane was jam packed without a spare seat anywhere. It seemed everyone on the face of the earth had the same brainy idea she had...trying to reach their holiday destinations in time. Shannon should have remembered the years before when she and David had left earlier to avoid the hassle.

Traveling with a toddler, one who’d clearly reached the terrible two stage was no picnic either. By the time Shannon stepped off the plane, she had a huge grape stain on her white blouse, which she knew wouldn’t come out in a hundred years. She couldn’t blame the stewardess, who had only been trying to help when Alivia had turned her nose up to everything Shannon had brought on board. Clearly, the stewardess didn’t have children if she thought handing a two year old an open cup of juice was the smartest thing to do. Alivia’s little chubby hands had reached for it before Shannon had a chance to blink, much less speak.

On top of the juice stain, Shannon had dried drool on her left shoulder where Alivia had fallen asleep, and now smelled sour from the milk and oatmeal she’d consumed for breakfast. Her red hair, which she’d pulled up in a haphazard bun, was hanging about her face and neck like she’d just finished ten hours of strenuous housework. Every time Alivia got anywhere near it she'd bury her little fingers into the bun, pulling more and more hair loose. Shannon sighed, smiling in spite of everything.

It’s not like she was trying to win a beauty pageant.

She thanked God Sheila had arrived on time to pick them up. The long drive to the farmhouse had been done with them catching up on what they’d been doing most of the year, while Sheila’s kids, Dawn and Kelly, had kept Alivia amused in the back seat. Every once in a while Shannon glanced back to make sure her daughter hadn’t worked her way out of the car seat. She hated being confined. Apparently, the attention of her cousins had kept her from getting bored.

Now, some four hours later, Shannon glanced down at Alivia, and released a deep sigh of tiredness after the long day. Her daughter had eaten, been bathed, powdered down, read a story and was fast asleep in the playpen next to her bed. Hopefully until the next morning. Shannon glanced at the clock, almost nine. Her time now, to eat, bathe, powder down and replace the story for a glass of wine and a little peace and quiet. Marsha left a dinner plate in the oven for her when she was ready for it.

On her way to the door, she caught a glance of herself in the huge mirror over the antique mahogany dresser. Lord, she looked a wreck! Her green eyes looked dull with exhaustion, her mascara smeared beneath them. Her full lips were void of lipstick, and she knew the blush in her cheeks was natural because Alivia’s hands had smoothed away her makeup long ago when they’d been playing. She was still wearing her stained and wrinkled traveling clothes, only now her white blouse was missing two buttons where Alivia had tugged on it.

She glanced at her daughter once more before opening the bedroom door to head for the kitchen downstairs, thankful Marsha had installed a baby monitor in the room. If Alivia woke, they’d be able to hear her. Of course, she’d probably let out a loud squeal when she realized she wasn’t sleeping in her own bed. Leaving the door open, Shannon tiptoed out until she was a safe distance away.

The first thing Shannon noticed as she descended the stairs was how quiet the house seemed, before she remembered Marsha had one of her wicked migraines and had turned in early hoping to fight it off. Sheila would be tied up with her little ones in their rooms, which Shannon knew were at the far back of the house. After the grandchildren started coming along Marsha had sectioned off parts of the huge house into suites so everyone would have the privacy they needed. Adding bathrooms where needed. Shannon was the only one who had a bedroom that shared a connecting bath in the main part of the house, down the hall from Marsha.

Just as she stepped off the bottom step, she heard a noise at the front door. She hesitated, unsure what to do. Who could be visiting at this hour? Just when she expected to hear a knock, she heard something else instead. A key was being inserted into the lock, and right before her startled eyes, she watched the knob turn and the door open. Her gaze landed on a pair of army boots and slowly traveled upward, taking in the muscular body in military fatigues. Her mouth dropped open in shock. Ohmygod!

Ryan had come home!

He appeared just as startled as she was. Halting in the threshold as their eyes meet, his rugged expression carved in granite. Only his eyes, those piercing blue orbs, showed any sign of life, if you could call it that. Shannon had a feeling that Ryan Hayes didn’t reveal any emotions that weren’t hardened by years of combat. For a moment, she thought he wasn’t going to speak and half expected him to back out and leave.

“Do you mind if I come in?” His deep voice was just as Shannon remembered. “It’s damn cold out here.”

For the first time she realized she was blocking his way. Swallowing, she stepped back enough for him to enter and close the door behind him. He dropped a large army bag on the floor by his feet, and shook off the snow onto the floor mat. All the while keeping his eyes trained on Shannon, as though she were the enemy. She took a nervous step further into the foyer, directly into the soft glow of the lamp that had been left on in the living room.

Ryan looked just like he did the last time she saw him. Big and tall, cloaked in that attitude of quiet strength he seemed to possess. His black hair cut in military fashion and suited his strong, square boned face. Though sporting a tiny scar over his left eyebrow and another, bigger one halfway down his left cheek he was still a handsome man. He eluded danger in practically every move he made, every glance.

His eyes dropped, running over Shannon rapidly, making her painfully aware of her disheveled state. She refused to reach up and smooth her hair back, knowing that it would do no good. The tiniest quirk on his full, sensuous mouth revealed he found her condition amusing. Quickly, his lips thinned almost menacingly when his gaze narrowed on her breasts. It was then that Shannon reached up and pulled her ruined blouse together where the buttons had come off.

She finally found her voice. “Welcome home, Ryan.”

“Where is everyone?” His tone seemed hard, gruff, more commanding than inquiring. He slipped off his jacket and hung it on a peg on the back of the door, and then bent to slip off his boots.

“Mom went to bed with a headache. Sheila must be putting the kids to bed. The rest won’t get here until tomorrow night.” Shannon couldn’t help but notice the quick glance he shot her way when she called his mother mom. She watched quietly as he set his boots against the wall and stood, towering over her again.

“It’s just as well. I’m tired as hell and want to turn in early myself. But first, I want to find something to eat. I’m starved.” Closing the distance between them, Ryan halted when he reached Shannon. “Is that okay?”

Shannon felt a telltale heat rush up to her cheeks when she realized she was watching Ryan’s mouth form the words. What the heck was wrong with her? Jet lag, that’s what. She gave her head a little shake. She must be more tired than she thought. As his words became clear, it dawned on her that she was once again blocking his way. “Oh! I’m, ah sorry.” Instead of moving to let him pass, she turned and began to walk in the direction of the kitchen. “I’ll be glad to fix you something to eat.”

“Thanks, but that won’t be necessary.” He was right on her heels.

“That’s okay.” Shannon pushed the kitchen door open and flipped on the light switch on the wall next to it. “Sheila put a plate for me in the oven and if I know her, she left enough for two. I don’t mind sharing.” Not waiting for Ryan to acknowledge her, Shannon took the potholders from the counter by the stove, opened the oven door and retrieved the plate. “Just as I thought.” She turned and showed him the full plate of corn beef hash. But the expression on Ryan’s face almost made her drop it.

Sweat had broken out on his forehead and he’d turned pale, his lips were thin as a muscle twitched in his jaw that had hardened in an effort to hold back that he was in obvious pain. Intense pain. He was clutching the island counter in the middle of the kitchen as if it alone was holding him upright. “Ryan!” Shannon set the plate down and rushed to his side. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

He held a hand up in a silent warning for her to back off. She stopped immediately and waited for another sign from him, afraid he was having some kind of attack. After a few more seconds, he sucked in several deep breaths and released them slowly. It was clear by his expression that he hated showing her even that one small weakness. It was very clear that he didn’t intend talking about it. Shannon knew the moment the pain left his body when his expression relaxed.

“You said something about sharing your dinner?” He pulled out one of the barstools from around the island and sank down onto it.

Shannon hesitated for a moment, fighting the urge to question him. Something was terribly wrong, she just knew it, but she didn’t know Ryan well enough to feel she had the right to ask him anything personal. The look in his cold eyes warned her she’d be shot down before she managed to speak the first word. Forcing a smile she was far from feeling, she turned to get a second plate.

“I’ll thank you not to mention what just occurred to my family,” Ryan surprised her by saying while her back was turned to him.

“If that’s what you want,” Shannon responded, opening a cupboard door.

She glanced with surprise at where the plates were usually stacked. Glasses had replaced them. Marsha had obviously done some rearranging since the last time Shannon had been there. She opened up several other doors before finding the plates, stacked on the second shelf. Standing on tip toe she strained to reach them.

“Here, let me help you.”

“Oh!” Feeling Ryan brush up against her, Shannon spun around before she could think. Suddenly, it wasn’t her backside feeling his hardened muscles. Since he was in the process of reaching over her head for a plate, they were now flush against each other. Her breasts flattened against his hard chest, the lower halves of their bodies were shockingly aligned, and their thighs were touching. Mouths within inches of each other, their breath mingled. It was crazy but Shannon was sure she felt their hearts beating in rhythm. She began to tingle everywhere and held her breath.

Their gazes met and held and Ryan became motionless, his arm still above her head reaching for the plate. It struck Shannon that she was seeing the dangerous side of him, the soldier sizing up the situation and preparing for action. Only in this case, what would that be? She refused to let her mind go there.

When his gaze fell to her mouth she began to tremble, but not from fear. A sliver of excitement shot through her. Then as quick as it happened it was over and he was pulling a plate out and stepping away.

“Thank you,” she whispered, not sure what just happened or what she was feeling. It was insane, finding herself momentarily attracted to Ryan. He was her husband’s brother for crying out loud! A feeling of overwhelming guilt engulfed Shannon and she wondered that it might be best if she skipped dinner and went straight to bed.

“You have nothing to fear from me, Shannon.” Ryan said out of the blue, breaking into her thoughts. She unwillingly met his eyes again, wondering what prompted him to say such a thing. Had he felt something too?

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not afraid of you. Why would I be?” Finally able to move, she went to the island and picked up the plate with the corn beef hash on it. Without looking at Ryan, she scooped more than half onto the extra plate before setting it down before him. He surprised her by reaching out and grabbing her wrist before she could move away. Shannon reluctantly raised her gaze to his and that’s when she knew she had to get out of there. She wasn’t afraid of him, she was afraid of herself! “If you’ll excuse me, I better go check on Alivia.”

So many emotions were running through Shannon at that moment. Feelings she hadn’t felt in a while, and didn’t know how to handle. She was confused and frightened. Where had they come from?

Without waiting for his acknowledgement, she turned and fled the kitchen.


ASSASSIN by Lexxie Couper

ASSASSIN by Lexxie Couper

The Boundaries Book One

Boundary Guardian Zeric Arctos knows trouble when he sees it - and Raavelian sex-slave Jaienna Ti screams all sorts of trouble. Tracking a nefarious Bliss dealer, Zeric must stay focused on the job, something almost impossible to do with Jaienna in his midst. To make matters worse, the seductive Raavelian brings out the 'animal' in him - an ancient blood curse he has struggled to control his whole life. The beast now threatens to consume him and Jaienna's intoxicating kisses makes the primitive call so much harder to resist.

Jaienna Ti is out for revenge. And she'll stop at nothing to achieve it. Posing as a sex-slave isn't the worst thing she's done - she is, after all an Intel-Patrol Corp termination agent, albeit a rogue one - but it's definitely one of the more interesting roles she's assumed. And it gets even more interesting when Zeric Arctos 'rescues' her.

Surely being an intergalactic sexual assassin has to come with some perks, right?

An erotic sci-fi romance.

Warning: Contains wild, explosive sex in space. Lots of wild, explosive sex in space.


Chapter One
The Rim of the Outer Boundaries

Zeric Arctos folded his arms across his broad chest and bit back a low curse, struggling to control his exasperation. His partner hadn’t been able to take his eyes off the beautiful Raavelian slave-girl since she’d entered the Suck and Blow Inn, and now she was walking right past them. Close enough for Jak’s highly attuned sense of smell to pick up the delicate scent of her perfume. He rolled his eyes, shooting his partner a quick look. Oh no, here we go again.

Jak Thorson was a sucker for Raavelian females. It had something to do, Zeric suspected, with the way they looked, like the gods of sexual torture and pleasure decided to create the perfect woman. Hypnotic violet eyes, smooth tight asses, breasts that filled a man’s hands to perfection, thick wavy hair that shined like spun silk and long, shapely legs that just wouldn’t quit. Zeric moved his gaze to the slave girl walking past them, casting her a slow inspection. This one, well, this one was an excellent example of her species.

A hand slapped at Zeric’s shoulder and he flicked Jak another look, dismayed at what he saw on the Yrathian’s face.

Pure, unadulterated rapture.

This is not going to end well.

“I think I’m in love,” Jak murmured, tracking the Raavelian’s slow progress past them both.

Zeric turned back to the Suck and Blow’s filthy bar, waving down the droid serving behind it. “You fall in love every hour.”

“Yeah, but this one’s different.” Jak leaned away from the bar, watching the barely-dressed slave thread her way through the rowdy crowd.

Zeric nodded at the droid as it placed a whiskey shot in front of him. “They’re all different, Thorson.”

Jak stuck his elbows on the bar and grinned at Zeric, pale grey eyes glinting with what Zeric could only describe as lust. “Didn’t you see that mouth of hers? Those lips? And those eyes? Gods, Zeric, a man could drown in those eyes! I’ve never seen a Raavelian with green eyes before.”

Zeric let out a slow breath, fighting the urge to cast the slave girl one last look before she disappeared in the crowd. Jak was right. He’d never seen a Raavelian with green eyes either and he had to admit, they were damn striking. He hadn’t missed their unusual power, nor had he missed the soft fullness of the woman’s lips. They were the kind of lips made for kissing.

Jezu, Arctos, you’re getting as bad as Jak.

The disgusted thought made him scowl. When it came to women, his cock left well enough alone. It was safer that way. Unfortunately, when it came to women his partner was ruled by his cock. Thank Jezu Jak’s instincts ruled when they were on duty. Boundary Guardians couldn’t afford to be anything but switched on. If they weren’t, they were dead.

A sharp bang to Zeric’s left made him jump. He snapped his stare to Jak, his hand automatically blurring to his right hip.

Jak stood beside him, his palm flat on the bar’s surface, his grin replaced by a serious frown, the elaborate scars on his cheeks marking his Master Pleasurer status bone white. “I’m going after her,” he said.

Zeric gave his partner a hard look, returning his hand to his glass. It wouldn’t do any good for someone to see him reaching for his gun. Not yet, at least. “No you’re not.” He lifted his drink to his lips. “We’ve got a Bliss dealer to catch, remember.”

Jak let out a sharp sigh. “Yeah, you’re right.” He gave one more lingering look at the Raavelian, watching as she slipped with nimble grace between a group of drunken Ornithions. He returned his attention to Zeric, reluctance written all over his face. “But after we nail this bastard I’m coming back here and taking her away from all this shit.”

Zeric cocked an eyebrow. “And take her where? To The Reaper? A Boundary ship isn’t exactly the place for domestic bliss.”

Jak pulled a face, taking a quick gulp of his own drink, a vile Irithian concoction Zeric wondered how anyone could stomach. “Just ‘cause you’ve decided to be a lonely, miserable bastard for the rest of your life doesn’t mean I have. I don’t plan on being a Boundary Guardian forever, y’know.”

Zeric swallowed the sudden and far too unexpected lump in his throat. He looked at his reflection in the bar’s mirrored wall before turning away, the shadow in his eyes too tormenting. Being a Boundary Guardian forever hadn’t been on his list of planned situations either.

Neither had killing your—

“Hey!” Jak’s smooth voice cut over the dark thought, killing it immediately. “Looks like our friend’s just arrived.”

Zeric raised his glass to his mouth, checking out the raucous mob behind him in the bar’s filthy wall mirror. A Xolotlan barged through the crowd, mottled blue skin rippling over his enormous gut, his blunt snout and short tail both twitching nervously.

“Ugly bastard, isn’t he?” Jak said into his own glass.

Zeric unclipped his holster on his hip, freeing his gun for immediate use and straightened from the bar. Focused adrenaline filled his veins. Beside him, Jak seemingly adjusted his jacket, hands flicking briefly over his own weapons. He gave Zeric a slight nod—ready—and they moved into the packed bar, pushing through the unruly drunken patrons as they followed the Xolotlan toward the back rooms.

Zeric’s stomach knotted. It seemed their prey had a taste for the sex-dens. Jezu curse it.

He moved through the dank, narrow corridor, his fingers hovering over the hilt of his weapon, Jak close behind. The low moans and grunts wafting from the dark dens lining the passageway told him business was good for the Suck and Blow. His stomach knotted again, sour contempt in the back of his throat. If he didn’t have a Bliss dealer to shut down, he’d gladly spend the rest of the night fucking up the existence of more than one sex slaver operating from the inn.

A low growl rumbled in his chest and Zeric ground his teeth, locking his stare on the closing doorway through which the Xolotlan had disappeared. He had to keep his anger in check. He couldn’t do to let it get the better of him. Not tonight, not ever, no matter how much he wanted to. It wasn’t—

“Fucker’s locked the door.”

Jak’s mutter jerked Zeric’s stare from the closed entryway to the red light glowing above it.

“Do you think we should knock?”

Zeric cast his partner a quick look, knowing his glare told Jak now wasn’t the time for jokes. “Lyso knows we’re coming. He arranged the location, remember?”

Jak cocked an eyebrow. “Kick the door in then?”

The growl rumbled in Zeric’s chest again, far less human than it should be and he sank his nails into the palms of his hands. “Deactivate the lock, Thorson.”

Jak pulled a face, stepping around Zeric to flip open the door’s control mechanism. “You’re no fun anymore, Arctos.”

His fingers moved over the exposed circuitry with fluid ease before, with a clunk and a whirr, the door slid open.


ROTC RON by Drew Hunt

ROTC RON by Drew Hunt

Joe Barnes is infatuated with fellow college freshman Ron Driscoll. Ron is in the ROTC program and Joe starts to dress in military clothing to emulate his idol. But apart from discussions in philosophy class, Joe is too shy to speak to Ron, and Ron doesn’t break away from his circle of admirers long enough to notice that Joe is alive.

Joe all but throws himself at Ron during a discussion of Kant’s views on beauty. But Ron remains unaware of Joe’s feelings.

One Friday after class Joe visits the bathroom and finds himself blindfolded and put in handcuffs. Having a secret kink for bondage Joe is by turns scared and aroused.

Ron has planned a romantic and kinky weekend with Joe in the Allegheny mountains where soft rope will be needed, but clothes will not.


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

Gathering his books, Joe put them in his backpack and left the classroom, his mind still amazed at how he’d managed to daydream through an entire session. He’d have to see if he could get the notes from someone, but that would mean asking, initiating a conversation. Joe quailed at the thought.

As was his usual custom, Joe paid a visit to the bathroom at the end of the hallway. He was nothing if not consistent in his behavior, a fact that he would soon learn someone else had bargained upon.

Closing his eyes as his stream began, Joe felt someone take his hands and pull them behind his back. “What the ...!”

Joe felt cold metal surround his wrists and heard the snap of a lock being closed. This was immediately followed by a hand clamping itself over his mouth, muffling his further protests. Joe began to struggle, but the man’s other hand had a firm grip on him.

“Quiet,” a breathy voice said in his ear. “You won’t come to any harm if you do exactly what I tell you.”

Joe began to turn to see who was ambushing him.

“No, eyes front and center.”

“Hum, um.” Joe mumbled unintelligibly into the man’s palm, and recommenced his struggles.

“Quit wriggling, your piss is going everywhere.” The voice was calm, unhurried, strangely soothing.

But all his senses told Joe to fight, to run away.

“Joe, please don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you.”

Somehow the words penetrated Joe’s feverishly racing brain, and much to his surprise he began to relax. The rest of his stream flowed into the urinal.

“Great, man. I’m gonna take my hand from your mouth now. Will you promise not to yell? I promise you won’t be harmed.”

Joe considered the question. There was a certain element of kinky enjoyment mixed in with his fear. He slowly nodded his assent and the hand was removed.

“What’s going on? Who are you?” Despite everything Joe remembered to talk quietly.

“It’s okay, little one. I know you have questions. All will be revealed soon. All I ask is that you trust me a bit longer. Can you do that?” The voice sounded odd, as if its owner was trying to disguise it by talking gruffly.

“Uh, yeah.” This was seven kinds of weird, but oddly Joe didn’t feel scared. He was miffed the guy called him little one though. Joe may have only been five feet even, but that didn’t give him the right to ...

“Thank you, little one.”

Joe ground his teeth. Where did this dude get off calling him that? He was about to say something when the guy’s next words froze the comment in his throat.

“I’m going to put a blindfold on you.”

Joe tried to turn around, but the hand went back to his mouth and held him still. An arm wrapped around him to prevent the rest of his body from moving.

“Joe, don’t fight me. I repeat what I said earlier. If you cooperate, you won’t be harmed.”

Joe’s struggles slowly began to lessen, and the man loosened his hold.

“You’re being very brave, and trust me, this will be rewarded.”

A strip of cloth fell over Joe’s eyes and was tightened at the back of his head.

“Doing great, bud. Really great.” The voice never lost any of its calm reassurance or its gruff disguise.

Joe’s mind, now it had had time to process things a little, began to wonder as to the identity of his attacker. The guy was certainly strong, but from what he could tell, wasn’t much taller than he was.

Joe felt a warm, dry, gentle hand take hold of his dick. The hand stroked it a few times, then after a couple of quick shakes, Joe felt his equipment being put away. Once his fly was buttoned up, he felt a tender pat on his bulge. All of this diverted Joe’s mind from its previous task of trying to identify his assailant.

“Now the adventure truly begins. I’m gonna lead you out of here and to the parking lot. Then we’re gonna go on a long ride to somewhere real special. Somewhere where we can spend the weekend together.”

Joe tensed.

“I don’t want you to worry about a thing. It’s all been taken care of. I’ve called the restaurant and told them you’ll be, uh, tied up all weekend,” the guy laughed softly at his joke.

Joe shivered; he’d long held secret bondage fantasies, of being bound with rope. Could, would this guy do that to him?

“I ...” How did this man know where he worked, and ...

“I’ve been keeping an eye on you, watching you real close. Oh, almost forgot.” Joe heard a zipper then rustling. He felt something being draped over his shoulders. “It’s to cover the handcuffs, we don’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves.”

Joe nodded uncertainly. And walking around with a strip of cloth over my eyes and being guided like a blind person wouldn’t draw people’s attention?

“Now we’re ready,” the voice said close to Joe’s ear. “Don’t make a fuss, and I promise you’ll have the most wonderful weekend you could ever imagine. Draw attention to us, and I’ll just release you and it’ll be over before it’s really begun. Capiche?”

“I’m scared, this is all --”

The rest of Joe’s words were cut off by a pair of lips closing over his. A hand cupped the back of his head and pulled him in closer, increasing the pressure of the kiss. After a moment the hand and the lips were removed, leaving Joe reeling and breathless.

“That’s just a taste of what’s ahead for you if you’re willing to cooperate.”

“I ... Uh.” Joe couldn’t remember the last time he’d been kissed so completely, so passionately, so ...

“You want this weekend to happen?”

“Uh,” Talk about being in the Twilight Zone. “You promise not to hurt me, or --”

“I promise, babe.”

Did he say ‘babe’?

Joe felt the guy wrap an arm around his shoulders in jock casual fashion.

“Okay, ready to do this?”


Friday, August 26, 2011

NOT IN THE NFL by Terry O'Reilly

NOT IN THE NFL by Terry O'Reilly

Adam Davis isn’t gay! He can’t be -- he’s a super star NFL quarterback and gay men don’t survive in the NFL. But along comes Brendan Fletcher, an outstanding, Super Bowl-winning linebacker who awakens something in Adam, something Adam hadn’t known was there. And now it’s wakened, the quarterback will never be the same.

Despite the threat to their careers and their personal safety, Adam and Brendan find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other, starting something that grows from gratification of mutual needs to something more. Can these men of strength and power on the gridiron overcome the homophobia of their profession? Can they make what they have found stand for something more important than the fame and fortune of playing NFL football or even becoming Super Bowl champions?


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

Adam made his way to the john, went in and took a piss. Standing in front of the mirror, he splashed a little cool water on his face. The door opened behind him and Brendan walked in, locked the door and proceeded to the toilet where he unzipped his pants, took out his dick and began to urinate.

“Thanks for the privacy,” Adam said.

“Hey, you're the one who didn't lock the door,” Brendan chuckled.

Adam glanced down at Brendan's cock as it emitted its golden stream. He felt something akin to a swoop in the pit of his stomach at the sight of the man's impressive equipment. He raised his eyes and saw Brendan had caught him looking. He turned back to the mirror, blushed, and pretended to check his face by rubbing his chin.

Brendan walked up behind him. Adam turned to face him. Brendan was taller than Adam's six foot three by an inch or two and probably outweighed him by twenty pounds. Broad shouldered and deep-chested, Brendan was a beautiful specimen of manhood. Right now his handsome face, with its deep brown eyes and ready smile was inches from Adam's. Adam could smell the alcohol on his breath. He felt the swoop again.

Hang on, why am I thinking this? I’m straight!

“No harm in checking out what the competition’s got,” Brendan said in a low husky voice as he reached out and fondled Adam's hardening cock through his khakis. Putting his other hand behind Adam's head, Brendan pulled the quarterback toward him. Before Adam fully realized what was happening, Brendan was kissing him, Adam was opening his mouth, and allowing Brendan's tongue to caress his. At the same time as the men embraced, Brendan's hands slid down and pressed the flesh of Adam's firm, muscular ass.

“Whoa!” Adam cried out, breaking the connection, pushing Brendan back. “What the fuck are you doin'?”

“What I think you want me to do.” Brendan smiled, putting his hand back on Adam's shoulder.

“What the fuck gives you that idea?” Adam said, pushing the hand off of him.

Brendan merely smiled, turned to the mirror and brushed his thick, dark brown hair into place with his hand. “You'll figure that out one of these days.”

Adam was about to ask him what the hell he meant by that when there was a knock on the door.

“Hey, you gonna be in there all night? I gotta go,” a deep voice said that Adam recognized as coming from Ashanti Peters, one of the offensive tackles.

Adam felt a wave of panic sweep over him. This guy was one of the biggest homophobes on the team: always preaching about how faggots would burn in hell, and making disparaging remarks whenever he saw anyone he thought might be a homosexual.

“Keep your pants zipped!” Brendan called out. “It's gonna take as long as it's gonna take, man. Go use the can in the master bedroom.”

“Randy's in there with a couple a groupies, dude!”

“Then politely say 'excuse me' as you walk by,” Brendan told him.

“Fuck!” the lineman said. Adam could hear him retreating down the hall, cursing loudly.

Adam let out a long breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He was trembling all over, half from the intense sexual arousal that still permeated his body and half from the fear of near exposure.

Brendan, still smiling, kissed him lightly on the cheek and walked to the door.

“Think about it, babe,” he said and left the room.

Adam raised his hand to the place where Brendan's kiss still lingered.

Think about it? What does that mean?

Adam took a steadying breath. After waiting long enough for his hard cock to relax and to make sure no one would see him come out so soon after Brendan, he left the bathroom.

* * * *

Adam lay on his back on the king-sized bed with its satin sheets in the master bedroom of his suite. As an all star QB he was entitled to private quarters. He had left the party shortly after the incident in the john with Brendan. He told everyone to have a good time and thanked them again for their great play. He was in no mood to party anymore after what had happened, and didn’t want to run into Brendan again.

Returning to his own room he had showered and gone to bed, all the while trying not to think about what had transpired in the penthouse bathroom. Was the thing he was trying to avoid thinking about the very thing Brendan had wanted him to think about? And why had he called him ‘babe’? Wasn’t that some sort of term of endearment among gay men?

“Fuck!” he said aloud as he tossed and turned.

He had thought about jacking off. That usually relieved the tension after a game if he didn’t have Brenda with him to get him off. But, as soon as he had started, the only images that came to mind were those of Brendan and what they had done.

Adam couldn’t let himself think of stuff like that. Gay guys didn’t survive -- not in the NFL.




“From within perfect darkness I have learned to shine."

Heartbreak can leave even the strongest of men scarred. Like Icarus, I too flew too high and fell. That downward journey tore the fibre of my being and shredded my soul. The gauntlet of love should never be underestimated.

However, I had to get up again and rise like a phoenix from its proverbial ashes. And like a phoenix, I took to flight!

This is a poetic account of the journey I had to go through and a tribute to becoming a better man regardless.



Dark Skies

I took a walk in the clouds
And all I found was thunder
The promises of perfect beauty
Were lies and twisted truths
Designed to make me wonder
And there was nothing I could do
As the echoes ran right through me
But to follow those distant drums
Bewitched by their fury
I glimpsed the setting of my sun
And I couldn't help but fall apart
As I listened to the beat of my broken heart

All I found was thunder

* * * *


Killed my heart in a glass cage
for all the world to see
And while the blood was dripping
lost the better part of me
So now I'll paint my future
in crimson crusted lines
For this broken boy isn't lost
he's merely redefined




Curt, a college professor, lives with his lover of several years, a pediatrician of Chinese descent named Lee. Eager to write, he receives a grant to take the summer off and work on a novel. Then Lee's mother calls -- she wants to visit. Curt is eager to meet her but Lee isn't so sure ... she's of a different generation, a different culture even, and doesn’t speak much English. Still, Curt insists.

But when Mrs. Gui arrives, Curt finds himself struggling with writer’s block. He feels like an outsider in his own home when Lee and his mother converse in Cantonese, leaving him out of the conversation, and even his sex life suffers with her in the bedroom next to theirs. Can Curt and Mrs. Gui move past their cultural differences to see that they both love Lee and have his best interests at heart?


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

By the time Lee returned I was already relaxing in the hot tub, head back, eyes closed, clothes gone, the water warm and welcome on my bare skin. The plates sat on a towel I had spread within reach, the steaks done to perfection, the shrimp still sizzling on the skewers. Red wine winked in our glasses, the champagne saved for later. I had no intention of leaving the water until absolutely necessary -- I planned on eating right where I was, leaning over the side of the tub if I had to.

When I heard the sliding door squeal faintly over the soothing sounds of Kenny G's soprano sax, I let myself sink a little further into the water, until the bubbles tickled my chin. "Well?" I asked with a slow smile. I heard the solid thud of a belt buckle hitting the floor and opened one eye to see my lover undressing by the side of the tub. "That your mom?"

"Yeah." His pants bunched at his ankles as he unbuttoned his dress shirt. In the last of the sunlight slipping through the blinds around us, his skin took on an olive tone, dark and exotic. His hair stood up in defiant clumps as if he had run his hands through it again and again while on the phone, something he always did when he was nervous or upset.

That bedraggled look told me more about the call than the forced smile on his face or the worried look in his eyes. "Everything alright?" I asked, concerned.

Kicking away his pants, he shrugged off his shirt and dropped it at his feet. The cuff of one sleeve brushed over the wine glasses before falling away. "Fine," he told me, but the way he didn't quite meet my gaze told me he knew I knew better. He hooked his thumbs into his briefs and, with the complete lack of modesty only a seasoned lover could feel, pushed them down his legs. He stepped out of them and into the hot tub, the steam beading on his body like sweat as he sank down until the water covered his slim shoulders. "She's fine," he murmured, gliding towards me.

Beneath the water, I felt his hand on my knee. It slid up my thigh as he closed the distance between us, but I caught it before it could tangle in the kinked hair at my crotch. "That's dessert," I told him. He laughed and let me reel him in, and I kissed his jaw as he sat down beside me. I wanted to take his mind off whatever his mother might have said and get it back where it belonged ... on me. So with a nod at the plates, I said, "Your dinner's getting cold."

"Yours too." He swam around me and pulled the towel with our plates on it a little closer to the tub. I watched his hands as he cut the steaks with sure movements, even and unhurried. In their calm I sensed a guarded wariness as if he had something on his mind and didn't want to ruin my evening with it. "So," he said, the knife working effortlessly. "Now when people ask what you do for a living, you can say you're a full-time writer. No, full-time author. By this time next year, Oprah will be knocking down our door to get a piece of you."

I laughed. Sidling up behind him, I wrapped my arms around his waist and let my fingers play against his inner thighs. An inch or two higher and ... the steak he was so carefully cutting wasn't the only thing I wanted to swallow down. "She can't have me yet," I teased. Like two pieces of a complex puzzle, our bodies locked together perfectly, the cleft of his buttocks fitting nicely against my hardening shaft. I kissed the nape of his neck and tasted sweat and chlorine. "Tonight I'm all yours."

"Didn't you say this was dessert?" Lee asked, wiggling his hips back into me.




Olivia and Aleesha were best friends who fell in love, until discovery of their blossoming relationship by Olivia’s mother tore them apart. Now, almost twenty years later, Olivia and Aleesha accidentally find one another again. The chemistry between them is still there but twenty years is a long time for unrequited love to survive.

The decision they face is a tough one. Will their memories be enough to sustain them or should they risk it all and try again? Second chances are rare, but this story is proof they do happen and love really can get Better With Age.


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

She laughed and I couldn’t help but blush under her heated gaze. “I’ll take that as a yes.” She paused for a moment before continuing, her face growing suddenly serious. “Would it be okay if I called you?”

I felt the grin on my face before I could stop it. “Yes, please.” I took the receipt in my hand and spread it on top of the box, digging frantically through my purse for something to write with, even though I knew the chances of finding anything in it I needed were pitiful, to say the least.

Aleesha came to my rescue, holding out a pen in front of me she’d produced from her pocket. “Here. It looks like you’re still horribly unorganized.”

“What do you mean, still?”

“You could never find anything in any of your bags at school. I was always afraid to look inside your backpack for fear something might spring out and bite me. You need someone to help you put things in order.”

The thought that she might be the one to stick around and help me sent a secret thrill down my spine. I’d missed her presence in my life so much. To hell with what my family thought. After Dillon’s disappearance, they’d cut me out of their lives anyway, citing my lack of commitment and the fact that unwed mothers were frowned on in the church. I did the best I could to raise Felicity on my own. We didn’t have a lot of money but we had love, and that was more than what most people got in a lifetime.

I scribbled my numbers on the scrap of paper. “The top number is my home and the bottom is my cell. You’re more likely to get me on my cell phone. My job keeps me out in the field a lot more now that Felicity is grown.”

She nodded and tucked the piece of paper and pen back in the front pocket of her apron, simultaneously producing the keys to unlock the door for me. She held it open and walked me out to my car, seemingly unwilling to leave my side after we’d gotten back in touch after so long. I felt the same way. “What do you do now?”

“I sell insurance. Life, health, car, dental. You name it and I can write you a policy for it. It pays well and I was able to do a lot of the work from home while Felicity was little, plus I got free insurance on everything as one of the perks. Believe me, single moms with kids need all types of insurance.” I had a sudden thought. “Do you have kids?”

She waited until I dug my cars keys out of my pocket before taking them and opening the driver’s side door for me. I leaned in and put the cake down on the passenger seat, hating the thought of separating now that we’d found each other again.

Aleesha seemed just as reluctant, which made me feel marginally better. “No, I never married or had kids. I never found the right person to settle down with.” She paused and looked directly into my eyes. “Nobody came close to you and what I felt for you. Nobody could.”

I was going to cry, I just knew it. “Oh, God. I was so stupid to leave.”

She patted me on my shoulder and pointed toward the cake resting on the seat. “You’d better get that home to your girl before the frosting starts to melt.” She touched her pocket where my number rested securely inside. “You can be sure you’ll hear from me soon.”

I nodded, unable to speak through the lump in my throat as I got into the van. She shut the door for me and I rolled down the window after I cranked the car. She leaned in, our faces so close our noses almost touched. “Can I ask you one favor before you go?”

I whispered in reply. “Yes.”

She looked down at my mouth and ran her tongue across her lips. I got hot all over. “I want to kiss you. It’s been so long and I’ve dreamt of this day for ages. Can I kiss you? Please?”



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