Friday, May 31, 2013

LAKOTA HONOR by Kat Flannery

Fate has brought them together…but will a promise tear them a part?
Otakatay is hired to kill the witkowin-crazy women. A deadly bounty hunter, he has found his last victim in timid healer Nora Rushton. Marked as a witch, Nora uses her gift to heal those in need, and the bounty hunter is one of them. Will the desire to complete his promise drive him to kill her, or will the kindness he sees in her blue eyes push him to be the man he once was?
Nora and Otakatay must fight for their freedom in a time when race and discrimination are a threat and innocence holds no ground.


Colorado Mountains, 1880

The blade slicing his throat made no sound, but the dead body hitting the ground did. With no time to stop, he hurried through the dark tunnel until he reached the ladder leading out of the shaft.

 He’d been two hundred feet below ground for ten days, with no food and little water. Weak and woozy, he stared up the ladder. He’d have to climb it and it wasn’t going to be easy. He wiped the bloody blade on his torn pants and placed it between his teeth. Scraped knuckles and unwashed hands gripped the wooden rung.

The earth swayed. He closed his eyes and forced the spinning in his head to cease. One thin bronzed leg lifted and came down wobbly. He waited until his leg stopped shaking before he climbed another rung. Each step caused pain, but was paired with determination. He made it to the top faster than he’d thought he would. The sky was black and the air was cool, but fresh. Thank goodness it was fresh.

 He took two long breaths before he emerged from the hole. The smell from below ground still lingered in his nostrils; unwashed bodies, feces and mangy rats. His stomach pitched. He tugged at the rope around his hands. There had been no time to chew the thick bands around his wrists when he’d planned his escape. It was better to run than crawl, and he chewed through the strips that bound his feet instead. There would be time to free his wrists later.

He pressed his body against the mountain and inched toward the shack. He frowned. A guard stood at the entrance to where they were. The blade from the knife pinched his lip, cutting the thin skin and he tasted blood. He needed to get in there. He needed to say goodbye. He needed to make a promise.

 The tower bell rang mercilessly. There was no time left. He pushed away from the rocky wall, dropped the knife from his mouth into his bound hands, aimed and threw it. The dagger dug into the man’s chest. He ran over, pulled the blade from the guard and quickly slid it across his throat. The guard bled out in seconds.

He tapped the barred window on the north side of the dilapidated shack. The time seemed to stretch. He glanced at the large house not fifty yards from where he stood. He would come back, and he would kill the bastard inside.

He tapped again, harder this time, and heard the weak steps of those like him shuffling from inside. The window slid open, and a small hand slipped out.

“Toksha ake—I shall see you again,” he whispered in Lakota.

The hand squeezed his once, twice and on the third time held tight before it let go and disappeared inside the room.

A tear slipped from his dark eyes, and his hand, still on the window sill, balled into a fist. He swallowed past the sob and felt the burn in his throat. His chest ached for what he was leaving behind. He would survive, and he would return.

Men shouted to his right, and he crouched down low. He took one last look around and fled into the cover of the forest.


1888, Willow Creek, Colorado

Nora Rushton scanned the hillside before glancing back at the woman on the ground. She could be dead, or worse yet, someone from town. She flexed her hands. The woman’s blue skirt ruffled in the wind, and a tattered brown Stetson sat beside her head. Nora assessed the rest of her attire. A faded yellow blouse stained from the grass and dirt, leather gloves and a red bandana tied loosely around her neck. She resembled a ranch hand in a skirt.

There was no one else around, and the woman needed her help. She chewed on her lip, and her fingers twitched. I have to help her. She sucked in a deep breath, held it, and walked the remaining few feet that stood between her and the injured woman.

The woman’s horse picked up Nora’s scent, trotted over and pushed his nose into her chest.

“It’s okay, boy,” she said, smoothing back the red-brown mane. “Why don’t you let me have a look at your owner?”

She knelt down beside the woman and realized she was old enough to be her grandmother. Gray hair with subtle blonde streaks lay messed and pulled from the bun she was wearing. Why was she on a horse in the middle of the valley without a chaperone?

  She licked her finger and placed it under the woman’s nose. A cool sensation skittered across her wet finger, and she sighed.

The woman’s left leg bent inward and laid uncomfortably to the side. She lifted the skirt for a closer look. Her stomach rolled, and bile crawled up the back of her throat. The thigh bone protruded, stretching the skin bright white, but didn’t break through. Nora’s hands grew warm, the sensation she felt so many times before.

The woman moaned and reached for her leg.

“No, please don’t touch your leg. It’s broken.” She held the woman’s hand.

 Ice blue eyes stared back at her, showing pain mingled with relief.

 “My name is Nora,” she said with a smile. “I am going to get help.”

The wrinkled hand squeezed hers, and the woman shook her head. “No, child, my heart can’t take the pain much longer.” Creased lips pressed together as she closed her eyes and took two deep breaths. “Please, just sit here with me.” Her voice was husky and weak.

She scanned the rolling hills for any sign of help, but there was no one. She studied the woman again. Her skin had a blue tinge to it, and her breathing became forced. I promised Pa. But how was she supposed to walk away from this woman who so desperately needed her help? She took another look around. Green grass waved in the wind. Please, someone, anyone come over the hill.

White daisies mingled within the grass, and had the woman not been injured, she would’ve plucked a few for her hair. She waited a few minutes longer. No one came. Her hands started their restless shaking. She clasped them together, trying to stop the tremors. It would only take a few minutes. I can help her. No one would see. She stared at the old woman, except her. If she helped her, would she tell everyone about Nora’s secret? Would she ask any questions?  There were always questions.

Nora’s resolve was weakening. She ran her hot hands along the woman’s body to see if anything else was broken. Only the leg, thank goodness. Lifting the skirt once again, she laid her warm palms gently on the broken thigh bone. Her hands, bright red, itched with anticipation. The leg seemed worse without the cover of the skirt. One move and the bone would surely break through the skin. She inhaled groaning at the same time as she placed her hands on either side of the limb. In one swift movement, she squeezed the bone together.

The woman shot up from the grass yelling out in agony.

Nora squeezed harder until she felt the bone shift back into place. Jolts of pain raced up and down her arms as the woman’s leg began to heal. Nora’s own thigh burned and ached, as her bones and flesh cried out in distress. She held on until the pain seeped from her own body into nothingness, vanishing as if it were never there.

She removed her hands, now shaking and cold from the woman’s healed limb, unaware of the blue eyes staring up at her. Her stomach lurched, like she knew it would—like it always did afterward. She rose on trembling legs and walked as far away as she could before vomiting onto the bright green grass. Not once, but twice. She waited until her strength returned before she stood and let the wind cool her heated cheeks. The bitter taste stayed in her mouth. If the woman hadn’t been there she’d have spit the lingering bile onto the grass. She needed water and searched the area for a stream.

Her mouth felt full of cotton, and she smacked her tongue off of her dry lips. She was desperate for some water. Had she not wandered so far from the forest to set the baby hawk free, she’d know where she was now and which direction would take her home. She gasped. She’d lost track of time and needed to get home before Pa did. Jack Rushton had a temper and she didn’t want to witness it tonight.

“Are you an angel?”

She turned to face the woman and grinned. “No, Ma’am. I am not an angel, although I like to think God gave me this gift.”

The woman pulled her skirt down, recovered from her shock and said in a rough voice, “Well if you ain’t no angel, than what in hell are ya?”

Taken aback at the woman’s gruffness, she knelt down beside her. Here we go, either she understands or she runs away delusional and screaming. “I...I am a healer.” She waited.

The woman said nothing instead she narrowed her eyes and stared. “A witch?”

Nora winced.

“No, not a witch. I need you to promise you won’t tell anyone what happened here today.” Her stomach in knots, she waited for the old woman’s reply.

“You think I’m some kind of fool?” She stood and stretched her leg. She stared at the healed limb before she hopped on it a few times. “People already think I’m crazy. Why would I add more crap to their already heaping pile of shit?”

Oh my. The woman’s vocabulary was nothing short of colorful, and she liked it.

She smiled and stuck out her hand. “I’m Nora Rushton. It’s nice to meet you.”

The woman stared at her for a few seconds before her thin mouth turned up and she smiled. “Jess Chandler.” She gripped Nora’s hand with such force she had to refrain from yelling out in pain. “Thanks for your help, girly.”

“I don’t think we’ve ever met. Do you live in Willow Creek?”

“I own a farm west of here.”

“How come I’ve never seen you?” I never see anyone, Pa’s rules.

The wind picked up whipping Jess’s hat through the air. “Max,” she called over her shoulder, “fetch my hat.”

The horse’s ears spiked and he trotted off toward the hat. She watched in awe as the animal retrieved the Stetson with his mouth and brought it back to his master.

“I’ve never seen such a thing,” Nora giggled and patted Max’s rump.

Jess took the hat and slapped it on top of her head.

“Yup, ol’Max here, he’s pretty damn smart.”

“I’d say he is.” She remembered the companionship she’d enjoyed with the baby hawk she’d rescued a few weeks ago. She’d miss the little guy. His feedings had kept her busy during the long boring days at home. “Miss Jess, I’m sorry to be short, but I have to head on home.”

“Hell, girly, I can take you.” She climbed up onto Max and wound the reins around her gloved hands. “Hop on. He’s strong enough for two.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s the least I can do.”

She clasped Jess’s hand and pulled herself up behind her. “Thank you, Jess, for keeping my secret.” Placing her arms around the woman’s waist, she gave her a light squeeze.

“Darlin,” Jess patted Nora’s hand, “you can rest assured I will take this secret to my grave.” She whistled, and Max started toward town.

Otakatay sat tall on his horse as he gazed at the lush green valley below. The town of Willow Creek was nestled at the edge of the green hills. He’d been gone four round moons, traveling to Wyoming and back. The rough terrain of the Rocky Mountains had almost killed him and his horse. The steep cliffs and forests were untouched by man.

On the first day in the Rockies, he’d come up against a mountain lion, a grizzly and bush thick enough to strangle him. He used his knife to carve into the dense brush, and his shotgun to defend himself. When he could, he stuck to the deer trails, and in the evening built large fires to keep the animals at bay.

He glanced behind him at the brown sack tied to his saddle. Inside, there were three. This time he’d ask for more money. His bronzed jaw flexed. He would demand it.

The sky was bright blue with smudges of gray smoke wafting upward from the homes and businesses. The weather would warm as the day progressed and the sun rose higher into the sky. His eyes wandered past the hills to the mountains behind them, and his insides burned.

He clicked his tongue, and his mustang sauntered down the hill. Wakina was agile and strong. Otakatay knew he could count on him always. Over the years Wakina had kept pace with his schedule and relentless hunting. The emerald stocks swayed and danced before him as he rode through. The grass brushed the bottoms of his moccasins, and he dunked his hand into the velvety green weed. He’d make camp in the forest outside of the mining town.

Wakina shook his head and whinnied. Otakatay brushed his hand along the length of his silver mane.

“Soon my friend, soon,” he whispered.

The animal wanted to run down into the valley, but resigned himself to the lethargic pace his master ordered. Wakina tossed his head. Otakatay slapped Wakina’s sides with the loose ends of the reins, and the horse took off down the hill clearing a path through the grass.

The rolling blanket of emerald parted as Wakina’s long legs cantered toward the forest. Otakatay’s shoulder-length black hair whipped his face and tickled his neck as his heart pounded lively inside his chest. It was rare that he felt so alive. His days consisted of planning and plotting until he knew every detail by heart. The eagle feather tied to his hair lifted in the wind and soared high above his head. For a moment he allowed himself to close his eyes and enjoy the smells of wildflowers and wood smoke. The sun kissed his cheeks and he tried to hold onto the moment, savoring the last bit of calm before rotten flesh and wet fur filled his nostrils.

His eyes sprung open. He pulled on the reins, and rubbed his nose to rid the smell, to push out the visions that saturated his mind. The scent clung to him burrowing deep into his soul and he mentally fought to purge it from his consciousness. He shook his head and concentrated on the fields, trying to push the memories away. He didn’t want to do this, not now. He didn’t want to see, feel, smell, or taste the memory again.

The rhythmic clanking echoed inside his head, and he squeezed his eyes closed. Sweat trickled down his temples. He clenched every muscle in his body. His hands skimmed the jagged walls of the damp tunnel. He stumbled and fell onto the rough walls, burning his torn flesh. He moaned. Every bit of him ached with such pain, he was sure he’d die. His thin body shook with fever. He reeked of blood, sweat and fear.

With each step he took, he struggled to stay upright and almost collapsed onto the ground. The agony of his wounds blinded him, and he didn’t know if it was a combination of the sweat dripping into his eyes, or if he was crying from the intense pain. His back burned and pulsed with powerful beats, the skin became tight around his ribs as the flesh swelled.

He tripped on a large rock and fell to the ground. The skin on his knees tore open, but he didn’t care. Nothing could ease the screaming in his back. Nothing could take away the hell he lived every day. He laid his head against the dirt covered floor. Dust stuck to his cheeks and lips while he prayed for Wakan Tanka to end his life.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

OVERBOARD by Gilbert M. Stack

OVERBOARD by Gilbert  M.Stack

Pembroke Steel Book Six

Wealthy playboy and confirmed bachelor, Mitch Pembroke, has finally run out room to run.

His parents have maneuvered him onto a transatlantic cruise with Jenny Lee Danforth, the lovely heiress of a rival business tycoon.

While the enchanting Jenny Lee is making Mitch reconsider being single, someone is going to great lengths to keep him that way, even if it kills him.



    A little after midnight Mitch caught Kit’s attention and slipped away from the party. They walked together to the edge of the deck and leaned on the railing looking out over the dark rolling water.”

     "What's on your mind?” Kit asked.

     “Nothing, I just wanted a bit of fresh air and a break from all of the dancing.”

     Kit raised an eyebrow making Mitch suppress a laugh.  His situation really wasn't funny.

     He took a swig of his bourbon and leaned out over the rail. “Damn it, Kit, what am I going to do? She keeps dancing with Beckworth and I'm feeling jealous.”

     Kit spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. “What do you want me to say?”

     “I want you to tell me what to do,” Mitch repeated.

     “I can't do that,” Kit said.

     “Why not?”

     “Because I really am your friend.”

     Mitch thought about that for a few moments. “Yes, you are, but that doesn't help me figure out how to handle this.”

     Kit didn't answer and the silence stretched out between them while the band continued to play in the lounge behind them.

     “She’s sweet, she’s attractive, she’s got great taste in music, and she dances divinely,” Mitch complained.

     Kit maintained his silence.

     Mitch straightened up.

     “Are we going back inside?” Kit asked.

     “No,” Mitch answered. “I need to think and I'm pretty sure I heard someone say there's a piano lounge two decks down.”

     He stepped away from the railing just as a heavy deck chair came crashing down into the place he had just been standing.

     Both Mitch and Kit whirled about in time to see the chair ricochet off the railing and out over the ocean.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013



Book 6 in the Dancin' With the Devil series

Astra Q. Phelps was stripped of her magic and the experience has understandably changed her life. While she’s no longer a slave to the constant sexual demands of her Settling, she’s now powerless and emotionally bereft.

The uber-sexy Dialle, king of the Royal Devils, is also in trouble. He’s lost his anchor to the light and dark forces are threatening to pull him under.

Through it all, deadly forces battle to keep the two lovers apart, plaguing them with doubts of their future. Is Dialle really the devil she needs? Is Astra the devilish miss he wants? They’ll have to decide if their love is worth the risks…or if they’d be better off letting it slip away.


By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, please exit this site.


Copyright © SAM CHEEVER, 2013

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

Sound returned as my feet touched the hard stone of the floor in Dialle’s throne room. The room appeared empty. I shivered, rubbing my arms against an unaccustomed cold. I also noticed the small cracks in the walls and floor. Brina caught my eye and jerked her head toward the far wall.

A sense of déjà vu struck me as I followed her glance to where Dialle stood with his back to me, facing the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked over the distant skyline of Angel City. He had his hands clasped behind him, his long, muscular legs spread wide. In that moment he reminded me so much of his father King Dialle the First who was currently warming his sexy heels in the fiery environs of Hell. First had been standing just that way the day I’d been introduced to him.

But there was a marked difference. Dialle’s father had stood with cocky assurance, broad shoulders squared, chin high. Dialle the son looked, in that moment, like a defeated man.

Brina disappeared with a wisp of sound that I barely noticed.

Debris crunched under my boots as I crossed the enormous room. Dust and chunks of rock from the decaying court lay in a ragged blanket over the once-pristine stone of Dialle’s throne room. It was a disparaging portent of what was to come if the court didn’t regain its strength. That vigor was tied to the health and happiness of its leaders.

That would be Dialle and me. ‘Nuff said?

He didn’t even turn as I approached, though he couldn’t have failed to hear me coming. When I reached him, I touched his back, softly saying his name. His head turned slowly. A gentle smile curved his lips when he saw me. “Hello, my love.”

I looked beyond Dialle’s smile, to the dark pain in his black eyes. His eyes were his most changeable feature. When filled with vigor they swirled with gold and silver. When working for the celestial army they often changed to a clear, ocean blue. It was the feature prophesied for the great unifier. The royal who would eventually merge the dark and the light worlds to create a safe environment on Earth for non-magic humans and magic users alike. He’d realized that prophecy several times over, fighting at my side to beat back the forces of evil that would have destroyed us all. But looking at his handsome face in that moment, his black eyes swirling with a color that looked like blood, I wondered if the man I loved wasn’t facing the greatest evil of all.

An evil that came from within.

“How are you?”

He nodded and turned back to the window. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

Angel City spread across the horizon, glowing as if on fire under the burning sun that dipped below its ragged silhouette. Dusk hovered in the foreground, ready to mute the details of the skyline and embrace the lights that would paint its form once darkness fell. “Yes. I love this view. I always have.”

“Me too.” He shuddered slightly and turned away, pulling me into his arms. For the first time since I’d entered the throne room, he really looked at me. I knew the moment he turned away from his painful thoughts and embraced more pleasant things. His eyes swirled with the purple of passion rather than pain and his sad smile turned heated. “I’m glad you’re here. I’ve missed you.”

He said the words as if he hadn’t seen me in weeks. My heart took a painful twist and I gave in to the impulse to wrap him close in a hug. “I’ve missed you too, bud.”

The air shimmered and I was suddenly falling backward onto his soft, soft bed, a hot-eyed devil falling over me. I laughed. “You weren’t kidding.”

Since his smile had turned playful, the pain pushed away for the moment, I shoved my worry back and allowed myself to get lost in the pleasure of his touch, his taste and the exquisite feel of his long, hard body against mine.

Dialle’s leather-clad leg skimmed up mine, gently nudging my knees apart as his long-fingered hand covered the vee between my thighs. Heat and lust rolled together in a spiral that suffused me, turning my skin to fire and lifting my pulse until it beat a delighted staccato in my clit.

His beautiful lips found my throat and branded me with possessive heat. He lingered briefly over the place where his mark used to create a powerful link between us and I held my breath as his kisses stuttered…almost as if he’d just remembered it was gone.

But Dialle didn’t delay long, his sharp, white teeth nipped the spot and his tongue came out to lave it in a soothing swirl. I moaned at the jolt of awareness his playful caresses caused in my lower belly, where lust tightened almost painfully. I reached up and tugged his white shirt over one golden shoulder and, opening my lips, layered them over his fragrant skin and tasted him. My eyes dropped closed in ecstasy as his warm, masculine scent rolled through me, bringing my senses to life and infusing me with his powerful essence. I gave in to the urge to suck the delicious skin of his muscular shoulder and he moaned, nipping my throat in response.

“Too many clothes,” I murmured.

In a blink we were skin to skin, writhing against the bed. I might have lost my powers but Dialle still had his, and his ability to remove clothing with just a thought was one of his finer skills, in my humble opinion.

Dialle’s long, thick cock nudged my belly, and I opened for him, anxious to feel the wonderful pressure of his hard flesh inside me, stretching me wide and stroking delicious caresses over the pleasure center of my body.

Dialle dropped his head and placed a tender kiss on my breastbone, sliding a trail of heat over the mound of my breast and encompassing a perky nipple in moist heat. He sucked hard and the pleasure of it speared through me, taking my breath away.

I reached between us and wrapped his cock in my hand, stroking it in a firm grip and sliding my palm over the sensitive head with each caress. Dialle showed me his enjoyment by biting my breast before soothing it with his tongue and then moving to the other nipple.

Moisture touched my palm as I fondled him. The drop of pre-come lubricated my gliding strokes, allowing me to increase the pressure of my hand around his rigid shaft. Dialle groaned against my nipple and I arched into his mouth, desperate for the feel of his lips and teeth on my hungry skin.

My legs wrapped around him and I lifted my hips, pressing against his hard cock. “Make love to me, Dialle. Now. Please?”


Monday, May 27, 2013

BLOOD DESCENT by Marie Treanor

BLOOD DESCENT by Marie Treanor

Blood Hunters Book Three

A child is born...into the final showdown of Vampire and Hunter

The face of a killer, the heart of a lost child… Konrad once led the legendary first team of Hungarian vampire hunters. Now, refusing to ally with the undead, he goes his own way, slaughtering vampires across the length and breadth of Europe.

The dying thoughts of one such vampire send Konrad to Britain in search of a dangerous instrument that might be just what he needs in his obsessive war with undead overlord Saloman – a war he’s determined to win at any cost. The only being who can lead him to the instrument and its current, evil possessor, is sexy, mysterious, young Glaswegian vampire Maggie, who holds herself aloof from her own kind.

Maggie sees much more than Konrad’s anger and cruelty. She makes it her mission to reach beyond the horrors of his past and find the man he should have been. Difficult, when he threatens her heart as well as everything she believes in; and when her whole being clamors for his body and his blood.

While journalists circle, about to break the news of vampire existence on mainstream television, Elizabeth Silk labors to give birth to Saloman’s daughter, and Maggie plays a dangerous game that risks everyone for her belief in one troubled man.



“Torture?” Maggie stared at him. “Why do you imagine Dmitriu would torture her? It’s hardly his style.”

“He’s a vampire,” Konrad retorted, glaring at her with something very like defiance. “However civilized the veneer, brutality’s never far from the surface. Now stay out of my fucking mind.”

He turned away from her, and she gazed at his rigid back. None of the vampires in his vision resembled Dmitriu. In fact, the victim wasn’t even Janine.

“Oh, Konrad,” she whispered. “That’s what happened to you…”

“Crap,” he said shortly, throwing himself onto the bed. “And if it was, I bloody wouldn’t want another vampire’s pity!”

But she wouldn’t have that. She flew at him before he was prepared, and managed to hold him only because he’d grown too used to her and too dismissive. She knocked him backward, straddling him, holding his straining wrists on either side of his head.

“No vampire’s pity,” she agreed. “And no human’s either. You can’t go on like that.”

Pure hatred, fury, spat from his eyes. It wasn’t really for her. He wasn’t even seeing her, not as she was.

“Konrad. There’s nothing wrong with pity. Here’s mine.”

He was strong. She couldn’t hold him for long. So she leaned down to him, put her lips to his forehead, and kissed him. Warm, male human skin. With delicious hunter blood flowing beneath. He stared up at her as she raised her head.

“Just that?” he said and lunged upward, crashing his mouth into hers, seizing her lips.

Surprise loosened her fingers on his wrists, and abruptly he pushed her off him, flipping so that he now lay over her. His mouth bore down harder, opening hers for the invasion of his tongue, devouring her.

And, God, it felt good. Pity and compassion drowned in need of his hard, muscular body, in wanting the rich, powerful blood now rushing through his veins. She met his tongue with hers, caressed it, moved her lips with his, struggling for a dominance she didn’t really want. She was enjoying the fight too much. And it did feel like a fight, a hot, sexy battle. She undulated beneath him, loving the feel of his warm, strong body pressing her down into the bed. Between her legs, lust raged as she rubbed her tenderness against his erection.

This was what she’d wanted in London, when they’d fallen together over the wall above the canal—this wild, rising passion, his erection grinding into her, reaching between her thighs, his mouth hot, commanding, his hands all over her body like this, one closing on her breast, his thumb grazing over her aching nipple again and again.

But he hadn’t done it earlier, because he’d almost liked her then. He hadn’t wanted to punish her.

God help him, he imagined this was punishment.

She tore her mouth free, glaring at him. “Why are you such an arse?” she raged.

Just for a moment, he looked blank. His blue eyes, no longer hard or icy, were clouded with lust, his lips softened from kissing her. Slowly, the mists cleared, and yet something fierce remained, overlaid with the faintest hint of humor, which was, surely, his saving grace.

“Well, at least we know where we stand,” he observed. “I want to fuck you. You want me to fuck you. But we’ll never do it, because you’re a vampire and I’m an arse.”

Hurt and fury melted under the hunter’s mouth. She’d never imagined he could or would kiss like that, tenderness mixed with the ferocity sizzling just below the surface. Need blazed under the weight of his hard body, weakening and arousing. When she heard the soft thud of the stake hitting the floor, she let out a sound like a sob, muffled by his mouth, and her fist tightened in his soft hair.

His tongue found her fangs, and he growled, licking them and sucking them, and triumph soared because he wanted all of her. Releasing his hair, she swept her hand down his back to the hem of his T-shirt and plucked.

He released her mouth, sat up, and tore the T-shirt off. His chest was beautiful, smooth under her caressing hand except for the ridge of old scars and the scattering of fine hair at the center. Deliberately, he tugged at her already rucked-up dress. With both hands, he pushed the fabric up over her waist and breasts, where he lingered. His breath caught, perhaps because she was naked beneath.

A smile played around his lips. She’d never seen them so softened by sensuality. He pushed the dress up over her head and her free arm, and threw it to one side over the cuffed arm.

“Fuck,” he whispered, staring at her, devouring her with his eyes. “Just fuck.”

“That,” she said unsteadily, “would be acceptable.”

He cupped one breast in his palm, moving his palm across the nipple, then slowly lowered his head and kissed the other. His lips, his tongue caressed, and she closed her eyes in bliss, arching up into him. With her free hand, she held his head to her breast, then slid it down over his naked back in a sweeping caress that ended at his jeans. She pushed inside the waistband, feeling the hot curve of his buttock, and pulled him closer.

His lower body shifted, as he shoved his hand between them to unfasten his jeans, which he all but kicked off in his urgency. Then, at last, he was naked between her legs, kissing her breast once more while his hand caressed the length of her leg and swept inward, bathing in the wetness of her need. He muttered something under his breath, adjusted himself, and pushed inside her with a groan.

“Oh yes,” Maggie whispered as anticipation drowned in excitement and intense, rising pleasure. She pushed up onto him and twisted her hips, moaning as the hot thickness slid farther inside her.

He began to move with a fierce urgency that delighted her. She squeezed him, writhed and pushed under him, egging him on until he slammed into her over and over. Excruciating bliss built and soared. When his mouth crushed hers, she nibbled his lips, tasted the tiniest droplet of his gorgeous blood and bucked as she scrabbled against his undulating back. He arched once more to reach her breast with his mouth, sucked strongly on her nipple, and orgasm exploded...


Friday, May 24, 2013

BLACK WATER by Rosemary McCracken

BLACK WATER by Rosemary McCracken

A Pat Tierney Mystery

When Pat Tierney's daughter, Tracy, asks her to help find Tracy's partner, Jamie Collins, their mother-daughter relationship is stretched to the limits. Pat heads out to cottage country where an elderly man, who killed Jamie’s sister in an impaired driving accident years ago, has perished in a suspicious fire. Unfortunately, Jamie is the prime suspect.  

Pat takes charge at the new branch her investment firm has opened in the seemingly idyllic community where Jamie grew up, and her search for Tracy's missing sweetheart takes her through a maze of fraud, drugs, bikers and murder.  

Once again, Pat proves that her family can always count on her.


I killed her sister. Can she forgive me?
Lyle gripped the wheel of the black minivan. Beside him, Ross was yakking about the AA meeting they'd just attended.
Will she help me?
A thaw earlier that week had left the highway clear, but the temperature had plummeted the night before. The minivan's heater was cranked up full blast.
"Crazy weather," Ross said. "One day, you figure it's time to dig out the summer clothes, next day it's colder than a witch's tit. Must be all that global warming crap."
Lyle sneezed and reached for a tissue in the box on his lap.
"Bless you," Ross said.
"Fine thing to come down with a cold today," Lyle grumbled.
"Yeah, like the missus was sayin'..."
Lyle tuned out Ross as they approached Braeloch. Told the Collins girl I was sorry. But that weren't enough for her. Wouldn't let it be. Told her I'd sic the law on her. She backed off then.
Lyle pulled up in front of Ross's bungalow. "Here you go."
"Thanks. Be seein' you next week, then." Ross stepped out the van and gave a wave. "Take care of that cold."
Lyle gave him a curt nod and drove back to the highway. He glanced at the dashboard clock. Almost nine. He'd made it back in good time from the six o'clock meeting.
Wish Ross wouldn't talk so much, but he's all right. Thank God for the AA fellas. Got me through the worst of it. Confession with Father Brisebois set me square with the Lord, but it wasn't the same as goin' over it with the guys. Father, he's a good man but he don't understand how the devil can live in a bottle. Pull you in and suck out your soul. The boys do, though. They been there.
Lyle slowed down as his headlights picked out the edge of his driveway.
She should've got the letter by now. She's gotta understand. She's gotta help me stop this thief from taking from good folks like Pearl. She's a big-shot lawyer now, so to catch a thief, that's her job.
He braked suddenly as he pulled into the driveway. He blinked and stared through the windshield.
The garage door was open.
No way. That sucker was down when I left. Gettin' old but I ain't senile.
He rolled down his window and stuck his head out. He squinted as he tried to see into the depths of the garage where the headlight beams didn't reach. Tools on the tool rack, snow blower, lawnmower. All in their proper places as far as he could tell.
"Anyone in there? Show yourself if you know what's good fer ya!"
He sneezed and reached for another tissue. Just what I need. Damn punks! He rolled up the window and pulled into the garage.
He heard a metallic clatter behind him as he got out of the minivan. He gasped as the wooden garage door slammed down with a thud. He made his way cautiously toward it in the pitch-black garage.
"Hey!" He pounded on the garage door. "Hey!"
He groped to find the chain for the overhead ceiling light and yanked it. In the bulb's dim glow, he saw a large stain on the floor.
What the…
He touched the walls. Damp.
He held his fingertips against his nose. Gasoline. With my cold, I couldn't smell it. The place is soaked in it.
He staggered as pain shot through him. He clutched his chest and bent over. Then he straightened, breathing deeply.
He heard a whoosh as he lurched toward the garage door. Flames licked its bottom and side edges. He fumbled for the metal handle then jerked his hand away when he found it. It was hot.
He groped in his jacket pockets, pulled out a pair of gloves and groaned. Wool. No insulation. No leather palms.
He slipped them on but he needed something more for protection. A rag. If I get it around the glove, maybe I can grab the handle.
He stumbled and reached out to the wall on his right. Gotta be one around here. If I could just…
He spilled the contents of a plastic storage box on the floor. Half-full paint and varnish cans clanked as they hit the concrete. No rags.
Flames danced on the door and surged up the walls. He groped for the van's door handle and pulled himself inside. Get her started. Maybe I can crash through.
He fumbled for his key and stuck it into the ignition. He was about to start the engine when he gagged, clutched his chest and gasped in pain.
He slumped against the steering wheel, unable to lift his hand to the ignition. He knew that when the flames hit the gas tank, the minivan would become a fireball.
Lord, please make it quick.

I was chilled to the bone when I got home that evening. An Arctic air mass from Nunavut had moved into central Ontario and held the city of Toronto in a deep freeze. Cars refused to start. Streetcars broke down all over the city. Pedestrians hurried along in down-filled coats with scarves over their faces.

If spring was on its way, there was no sign of it that Friday in March.

Maxie, our golden retriever, greeted me at the door with a rapturous dance. She wanted to play, but I was in no mood for games. A note on the kitchen counter told me Laura had taken her for a walk before she headed out to a party to celebrate the beginning of winter break.

I crumpled up the note. Thank goodness for that! The last thing I wanted to do was walk a dog in sub-zero weather. Or make dinner. Tommy, my youngest, was with his grandmother that night so I had the evening to myself.

On the way to the phone to check voicemail, the hall mirror told me I looked as bedraggled as I felt. Shoulders slumped, mouth a thin slash across my tense face, short blonde hair stuck out like a scarecrow's. I looked every one of my forty-seven years. Maybe even a few more.

I pressed the button on the phone to activate unheard voicemail.

"Good afternoon. This is Detective Inspector Stewart Foster of the Ontario Provincial Police. I'm trying to reach Tracy Tierney."

I swallowed back the panic that was rising inside me. What did the police want with my daughter?

"Ms. Tierney, we need to speak with you as soon as possible," the message continued. "I'm in Toronto today. Please give me a call at…"

I jotted down the phone number on a notepad, pressed a button to save the message and hung up.

Is Tracy in trouble? I took a deep breath and tried to stay calm. The police wanted to speak to her, so she was alive and well. Nothing had happened to her. The call had something to do with her work. The year before, Tracy had finished law school and she was articling at a Bay Street firm. She must have asked the police for information. I needed to give her the message.

Tracy had moved out four weeks before, which was why I was feeling down. She was twenty-four years old, and I was all for her setting up a home of her own. It was how she'd left that bothered me.

The front door opened and a familiar voice called out, "Mom! You home?"

My heart did a flip-flop and I hurried into the hall.

Tracy had on her good black coat and a red cloche hat, and her cheeks were rosy from the cold. She held a casserole dish in her hands. She gave me a tentative smile.

I blinked back tears and studied my firstborn. Pretty, heart-shaped face. Serious brown eyes—my late husband Michael’s eyes. I moved toward her, my arms outstretched. "Tracy, honey…"

She set down the dish on the deacon's bench and gave me a hug. "I missed you, Mom."

I wrapped my arms around her. Tracy is a petite girl. My younger daughter, Laura, towers over her.

I didn't want to let her go, but she pulled back. She took off her hat and shook her head. Wavy brown hair fell around her face. She picked up the dish on the bench. "Cassoulet. Jamie made it the other night. Have you eaten dinner?"

I moved away at the mention of Jamie—Jamie Collins, a lawyer at the firm where Tracy was spending her articling year. The woman my daughter had moved in with.

"Mom, we need to talk." She led the way into the kitchen.

I remembered the phone message from the police. "What's wrong?" I asked as I followed her.

"It's Jamie. Something's happened to her."

I was relieved that Tracy was all right. But as I looked at her troubled face, it hit me that this wasn't just a friend who was in trouble. Jamie was the special person in my daughter's life. Her partner. "What's happened?"

She sat down at the table and fixed her eyes on me. "On Wednesday, Jamie got a letter from a guy called Lyle Critchley. Made her really upset."

"Something to do with her work?"

"No. Jamie knew Critchley up north, where she grew up. Near Braeloch, one of those towns in cottage country."

"I didn't know she's from up there."

"How would you?" Her voice rose in irritation. "You haven't spent any time with her."


I looked up from my computer and saw Tracy and a striking woman with burgundy hair in the doorway to my office

"Mom, can we come in?"

"Of course." I got out of my chair as they came into the room.

Tracy took the woman's hand. "Mom, I want you to meet Jamie. Jamie Collins."

I took a step back. My daughter had been talking about Jamie for weeks. I'd assumed Jamie was a man.

Jamie held out a hand to me. "Tracy thought it was time we met."

I took her hand and looked at Tracy. She had a smile on her face.

My head was reeling. "Yes, well, I…" I struggled to find the right words.

Just then, Rose, my administrative assistant, came to the door. "Keith Kulas on the line, Pat."

My CEO. I dropped Jamie's hand and reached for the phone. Keith's call would give me time to adjust to this bombshell. "I have to take this."

The smile left Tracy's face and she stiffened. "We'll leave you to it, then." She took Jamie's arm. They walked out of the office without turning back.

My heart sank as I watched them leave.

I tried to make amends. Later that afternoon, I phoned Tracy, hoping to get a second chance. "Honey, please don't be mad. I had to take the call. It was important."

"More important than your daughter and her future?" she asked.

"Of course not. It's just…"

"Just what?"

Just too much to take in at the moment. I didn't say anything.

"Mom?" Tracy's voice rose in a mixture of anger and sorrow. "Say something."

The call had been a mistake. I should have waited, tried to get my mind―my emotions―around Tracy and Jamie.

"Mom? Are you still there?"

"Goodbye," I whispered.

"Wait! Mom―"

I placed the receiver in the cradle and began to cry.

I had no inkling of Tracy's orientation. I'd always considered myself a champion of diversity—religious, racial and sexual. My business partner and friend, Stéphane Pratt, is openly gay. I have gay and lesbian clients. But it's easy to be open-minded until your kid comes out.

Three days after their visit to my office, Tracy moved into Jamie's condo. I threw myself into my work. I didn't tell my friends about Tracy. I didn't tell Devon, the man in my life. I hoped my daughter would get over her infatuation. At night, I tossed and turned in bed, sometimes crying into my pillow.

What had I done wrong?


"Listen to me, Mom," Tracy said. "I'm talking to you."

I looked at her. She was right. I hadn't given Jamie a chance. Sure, I phoned my daughter every couple of days to see how she was, but I called her at the office. I either got her voicemail―my messages went unanswered―or a curt response that she had to run off to an "important meeting."

"Ten years ago, Lyle Critchley killed Jamie's younger sister."

That got my attention.

"Drunk driving. Her family never forgave him."

I stared at her. I'd have trouble forgiving someone who'd mowed down one of my girls.

"And then, out of nowhere, he writes Jamie this letter. He wanted her help."

"Legal help?"

"I'm not sure. She'd run the letter through the shredder by the time I got home. She was that mad at him."

"I don't blame her."

Tracy looked surprised, then pleased. She seemed to relax a little. "She spent the rest of the evening on the computer. Yesterday morning, she called me at work and asked to borrow my car."

"She was going to see Lyle?"

"I don't know. She said she'd tell me all about it that evening, but she never came home and she hasn't called. She doesn't answer her cell. She didn't take her laptop with her, but I've sent her emails because she's probably hit an Internet café. She hasn't answered them. And I found a voicemail at home tonight from someone at her office who wanted to know if she was feeling better. She must've called in sick."

Her eyes grew large. "Mom, I watched the news when I got home today. There was a fire near Braeloch last night. Lyle Critchley was killed in it. The police found traces of an accelerant. They're calling it a murder."

I gripped Tracy's hand—hard. That was why the police had called her. Jamie had taken the Honda Civic that was registered in Tracy's name.

"She has your car," I said.

She pulled her hand away. "So? She doesn't have a car. Jamie's a greenie. Walks and bikes wherever she can."

"There's a voicemail for you from the OPP. Maybe they found your car and traced it to this address and phone number."

She went over to the phone and listened to the message. "They want to talk to me."

She turned to face me. "What if they've arrested Jamie? She and her family hated Lyle. But, Mom, she didn't…Jamie wouldn't hurt a fly."

"You'd better call them."

Tracy went to the phone, and I let Maxie out on the back deck. When I returned to the kitchen, she was leaving a voicemail message giving the number at the condo and her cell phone number.

"I'll heat up Jamie's cassoulet," I said when she got off the phone. "Vegetarian?" I assumed the environmentally conscious Jamie wouldn't eat meat.

Tracy gave me a little smile. "Of course. Beans, carrots, tomatoes. It's good."

First I'd heard that she liked vegetarian fare. But then I hadn't done a very good job of keeping up with her life, had I?

She sat down at the kitchen table. "Look, I handled it badly. I shouldn't have sprung Jamie on you at your office. I should have sat down with you and told you about us."

I turned on the microwave and sat down across from her.

She reached over and took my hand. "For a long time, I was pretty confused. I didn't even come out to myself until my first year at law school. But I've come to terms with who I am." She smiled. "And now it's wonderful to have Jamie in my life."

She squeezed my hand. "The old Tracy was unhappy because she was keeping a secret from you."

And I'd thought we had no secrets. I love my girls and I don't want them to keep things from me.

Something inside me shifted. I had to show Tracy that I was worthy of her trust. I decided that I'd get to know Jamie. If she was the one for Tracy, I'd stand by her choice.

"You've talked to Laura?" I asked.

"She's cool. Thinks I'm crazy not to be hot for guys, but it's my life, she says."

I had to smile at that. Laura had been boy-crazy since she was twelve.

Tracy touched my cheek. "Mom, I'm out. It's official. Do you good to talk to a friend―or two."

My eyes started to tear up. Then the doorbell rang.

Through the front window I saw two men in overcoats on the porch. Both were tall and poised with apparent military bearing. A cold blast of air hit me when I opened the door. I pulled up the collar of my suit jacket. "Yes?"

"Ontario Provincial Police," the older of the two men said with a pronounced Scottish burr. He was in his late fifties, with a gray moustache and gray eyes sinking into the folds of skin around them. He showed me his badge. "I'm Detective Inspector Stewart Foster and this is Detective Lew Anders. We're looking for Tracy Tierney."

"I'm Tracy Tierney," my daughter said behind me.

"We have some questions to ask you. May we come in?"


Tracy was the first to speak when we were seated in the family room. "What's this about?" she asked.

Foster fixed his eyes on her. "Your car was found in Braeloch this morning."

I studied his face for a sign of what was coming, but he kept it neutral.

"Can you account for your whereabouts around nine last night?" he asked.

Tracy paused. "I got home at seven-thirty. I ate dinner then I watched some television."

Anders, a big, fair-haired man with a ruddy complexion, wrote this down in his notebook.

"You were home, too?" Foster asked me.

"Yes," I replied.

"I wasn't here," Tracy said. "This is my mother's home. I was at my place downtown."

"Tracy moved in with a friend a few weeks ago," I said. "They have a condo on The Esplanade."

He frowned. "The address on your car registration is here."

Tracy made a face. "I haven't got around to changing it," she mumbled.

I flashed her my no-nonsense look. Tracy is a lawyer. She should have done the paperwork.

"Was anyone with you last night?" he asked her.

"No. I was alone all evening."

"A man died in a fire in his garage last night," he said. "Outside the town of Braeloch in Glencoe Highlands Township. A car similar to yours was seen on his property earlier in the day. Can someone confirm that you were in Toronto last night?"

Tracy was thinking hard. "I was at the office till seven with a couple of lawyers. How long would it take me to get to Braeloch? Three hours? And I'd be caught in traffic leaving the city. I couldn't be there by nine."

"Then how did your car get to the parking lot in Braeloch?" he asked.

She just looked at him. The foolish girl was trying to cover up for Jamie.

"You have no idea how your car found its way to Braeloch?" he asked.

She looked down at her hands.

I'd had enough. My daughter was being treated as a suspect in a murder investigation. "Tracy lent her car to a friend yesterday."

She shot daggers at me with her glare. Foster sat up straighter on the sofa.

"Who is this friend?" he wanted to know.

She didn't reply.

"Ms. Tierney, we can charge you with obstructing a murder investigation. I will repeat my question. Who did you lend your car to yesterday?"

"Jamie Collins," she said.

"And where can we reach Mr. Collins?"

"Ms. Collins." She looked at him defiantly. "Jamie's the woman I live with. My partner."

"Is Ms. Collins at home right now?" he asked without missing a beat.

"I haven't seen her since yesterday morning." Her voice broke in mid-sentence.

Foster paused for a few moments. "Describe Ms. Collins."

"Jamie has red hair," she said. "Burgundy, I guess you'd call it."

Foster nodded at Anders who scribbled in his notebook.

"Tell them about the letter," I said.

If Tracy's look could have killed, I would have been six feet under. Foster nodded at Anders again.

"What about this letter, Ms. Tierney?"

She didn't answer for a few moments. "Jamie got a letter from Lyle Critchley," she said slowly. "He wanted her help."

"What kind of help?"

"I don't know. She'd put the letter through the shredder before I got in, and she spent the rest of the night on her computer."

"What day did this letter arrive?" Foster asked.


"And she drove up north in your car on Thursday?"

"Jamie called me at work yesterday and asked if she could use my car. She didn't say where she was going."

"You don't know where she is?"

"I told you I haven't spoken to her since yesterday morning. But I'll try the condo now."

She picked up the cordless phone on the end table and hit some buttons. "No one's answering."

Anders took down the address of the condo, Tracy's phone numbers and the names of the colleagues she was with on Thursday afternoon. He told her that forensics would check out her car, and she could pick it up at police headquarters in Orillia in a few days.

"And we'll need to take a look at Ms. Collins's home computers," Foster said.

"Right now?" Tracy asked. "I was about to have dinner with my mother."

"The sooner the better," Anders said. "This is a murder investigation."

Foster looked at his watch. "We'll meet you in your condo lobby at nine."

At the door, he handed Tracy his card. "Don't leave Toronto without letting us know."

When the door closed behind them, Tracy turned to me. Anger flashed in her eyes. "Now you've done it!"

I opened my mouth to protest when she spat out, "You've had it in for Jamie since you met her. So you told them she took my car and you told them about Lyle's letter."


"They'll charge her with killing him."

She held her hands over her face. I tried to put my arms around her, but she pushed me away. "We should have gotten married, then I wouldn't have to testify against her. We've been talking about it. We thought maybe this summer."

Marriage? That was news to me, but I'd been completely out of the loop. I gripped her elbow and led her back to the kitchen where I sat her down at the table. I pulled up a chair beside her.

"We had to tell the officers who drove your car up there," I said. "You know that. And it will all work out. I'm sure it was a coincidence that Jamie went up there on the day Lyle was killed. She'll turn up, and she'll tell them where she was and who she was with."

But my brave words belied my thoughts. Anger and other strong emotions can provoke anyone into a violent act. Even someone who wouldn't hurt a fly.

"I'm going to Braeloch," Tracy said through her tears.

"Tracy, the officers told you not to leave city without telling them."

"I don't care."

"And even if they gave you the go-ahead, they'd follow every move you made. They'd think you'd lead them to Jamie."

She brushed away her tears with the back of her hand. "But they wouldn't follow you. Mom, will you go up there and look for her? Tomorrow's Saturday. You'd have the weekend to find out what's going on. I'll come over tomorrow morning and stay here with Tommy."

I was about to say that if I found Jamie, I had no idea what I could do to help her. But Tracy's pleading eyes were cutting me to my very soul. I had to let her know that she could count on me. Any time. Like right now. It was important that I restore my daughter’s faith in me.

I nodded. "I'll see what I can do."


I gave Jamie's cassoulet a few more minutes in the microwave. While the dish was spinning, Tracy phoned Jamie's mother in Braeloch and told her that I'd come by her home late the next morning. Veronica Collins said she hadn't heard from her daughter in more than a week.

When we sat down at the table, neither of us felt like eating. "Jamie went to see Lyle about something he told her in that letter," Tracy said, her eyes wide with concern. "So whoever killed him would want her out of the way, too."

I'd been thinking along those lines, but I didn't want to add to her worries. I told her the killer probably didn't know about the letter. "And whatever Lyle told Jamie might have nothing to do with why he was killed."

She didn't buy that. "She knows way too much."

"She's dropped out of sight to check up on what Lyle told her."

"Maybe. And thanks to you, the police are looking for her." She gave me a sidelong glance. "And when they find out about the feud between the Collins family and Lyle—"


"There were a lot of bad feelings."

Of course there were. He killed the Collins girl.

"When they do, they won't look any farther for Lyle's killer."

We were going around in circles. "We don't know that," I said. "They may have several irons in the fire by now."

I pushed my chair back from the table. "I'll drive you over to the condo."


"What's Veronica like?" I asked Tracy when we were in the car.

"I've never met her. Tonight was the first time I spoke to her."

I couldn't believe my ears. Tracy had talked about marriage, but she'd never met her intended's family.

"Jamie doesn't go back to Braeloch much. Says it brings back memories of her sister…and Lyle. She took Veronica to New York this Christmas."

"At some point, you'll have to meet her."

"I guess. We'll probably drive up there this summer."

On your honeymoon?


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