Thursday, July 31, 2014

STERLING SUNSHINE by Cheryl Dragon

STERLING SUNSHINE by Cheryl Dragon

Men of Alaska Book 2

Gretchen isn’t in Sterling to find men. At least she keeps telling herself that. She has a new job to do promoting local businesses. Still, she can’t resist hoping she’ll find the right group of hot men to really make her dreams come true. She already has her eye on a certain sexy trio, and when they fail to make the first move, she uses work to make a meeting happen. Alaska is definitely bringing out her bolder side.

Tony and Ross are eager to date and seduce the voluptuous beauty but their third lover is a roaming pilot with notoriously bad timing. Do they count him in or out? Should they wait for him to show up or move on her? The attraction proves too hard to resist, but Matt turns up just in time to make it a foursome. It complicates the relationship but adds to the passion. Besides, love and lust aren’t practical.

The deeper Gretchen gets into the lives of her three men, the more she knows they need to be shaken up and she’s just the woman to do it!

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Excerpt:

Early on a Monday morning, the sun was already high and shining. Summer in Alaska meant lots of craziness with only a few hours of darkness. After the long dark winters, people soaked up the sun, and it meant not enough sleep, too much energy, and stupid stuff. Tony Wooden was ready for another day of tourists and locals who needed help. He saw all of it firsthand working as a paramedic with the Sterling Fire Department.

As he sat at the breakfast table across from his steady guy, Ross Isaac, Tony tapped on the side of his coffee mug. The excessive sun affected him too.

“Too much coffee?” Ross teased.

“Too much routine.” Tony glanced over. As usual, Ross was studying his tablet for the latest news. The new mayor of Sterling wanted to boost tourism and make his mark. At only thirty-three, he was young for that sort of job, but everyone liked him. A long-time resident, Ross was one quarter Native and it showed in his dark black hair and brown eyes. He wanted progress but respected tradition, which pleased almost everyone.

“Can I help?” Ross asked.

“I’m just a jealous jerk. My little brother Jason and his guys have the perfect woman for them and I feel like I’ve been off and on with guys all my life. I knew I liked men and women growing up. I found the right men, but Matt always makes it complicated with his job priorities. We’re finally set but we could be missing a chance,” Tony said.

“Gretchen.” Ross sighed. “I agree, she’s the best thing that’s happened to this town in a long time. And us. I’m just as interested as you are. You’re so cute when you’re smitten.”

“You have to like her and...” Tony stopped before he brought up the guy who’d hopped in and out of their lives regularly.

“She’s very attractive. I can’t say I’m in love right now. I more than like her but we haven’t had a lot of time to do any traditional sort of dating. She’s been busy moving up here. Back and forth to Michigan then setting up her advertising work with your brother and his group. It’s hard to seriously date someone who is still moving and settling in. Will she stay in Alaska? Plus I’m still figuring out this mayor job.” Ross grinned. “It’ll happen.”

“With just two of us? Or will Matt show up and ruin it? Throw a wrench in it?” Tony asked. He was used to putting out fires and handling emergencies, so when Matt landed in town, it wasn’t too bad. Ross and Tony dealt with it and enjoyed it. Maybe Tony had been putting off moving seriously on Gretchen because of the Matt question. He and Ross had spent time with her, but it was more friendly time at gatherings.

“He could jumble things if we’re trying to win Gretchen.” Ross nodded.

“No shit! He showed up right after the wedding she was in, but she was busy going back and handling things at her old place. By the time she came back, he was off again. They’ve crossed paths at most. Now she’s staying with her friend Melody and my brother and Ryan and Dale, but Matt’s gone again. I don’t want to screw it up. It’s already complicated,” Tony said.

“Small towns are always complicated. New women don’t move here every day. We shouldn’t keep things on hold. I think she’s settled in now and, with summer here, we have lots of events and options to socialize. But are we ready to shut the door on Matt? Maybe he’d settle in if we had the right woman?” Ross asked.

Tony had been wrestling with that for weeks. Matt had met Gretchen once or twice while he was here, but, like most times, he’d gotten some job and hopped in his plane.

He didn’t want to lose Gretchen over it, but Matt was a complicated guy. His dad was an ice-road trucker who was gone for long stretches. It seemed to be genetic. Matt was a pilot who loved to take high-paying jobs transporting things needed by people living on islands and in remote areas. Not every place had a ferry, and once it warmed up, the ice roads shut down. He made good money, and Tony understood, but it was hard to build a relationship without all the players.

“What do you think?” Tony turned the question back around on Ross.

“We love him. We always will. We know what he is and accept it. He’s not going to change tomorrow because of an ultimatum. We just need to live our lives. If we want Gretchen, we go after her. Date her. Two stable men isn’t bad. Gretchen came up here for Isa’s wedding. Isa only has two men and she’s very happy,” Ross said.

“And if Matt drops in while we’re dating? You know his timing,” Tony replied.

“Then we tell the truth. We tell Gretchen all about him and our history. The ménage tradition in this town is odd enough. She doesn’t seem to mind it for her friends. Guys with jobs that take them away for chunks of time is part of why the ménage structure worked in Sterling. Being on the Kenai Peninsula, some of the men went out in boats to fish while others went north and up the mountains to mine. And everyone hunts. All of it is dangerous. Sharing a woman gives the family protection. Matt says he wants the old-fashioned relationship because he loves the real Alaska.” Ross shrugged.

Tony nodded. “Matt loves the adventure. He could make a living around here giving tours. We just have to be honest with her. Two men are plenty when you have such a safe job. We’re both in town.”

“Isa married two men in the coast guard. There are no guarantees in life. You have to roll the dice and hope for the best,” Ross said.

“I know. I want to make her part of our life and keep her safe. I deal with chaos at work. I don’t like chaos in my personal life.” Tony left the table and put his dishes in the dishwasher.

“Then you should’ve cut Matt out a long time ago. A new player means uncertainty. She might not like it. She might want four men. Who knows? The longer we wait, the better the chance other men will go after her. Right?” Ross asked.

Tony leaned down and kissed Ross slowly. “I know. When you explain it, it makes sense. I want to offer her the world not a hard to explain trio.”

“If we’re that hung up on her, we need to stop stalling and move on this fast.” Ross looked at Tony. “You’re worried I won’t fall for her?”

“Of course I am.” Tony sighed.

“I’m crazy about you, and we both can’t get Matt out of our system. I think the odds are good. Let’s see what we can do to get her attention.” Ross cleared his place.

“I hope I haven’t waited too long.” Tony leaned on the counter. “She was moving and working but I danced with her at the wedding and stuff.”

“Stuff?” Ross asked.

“Nothing like that. Flirted. You’re right. We need to move on it before she thinks we’re not interested. I just don’t want Matt to screw it up.” Tony knew he was overanalyzing and looked at the time. “Work is always a distraction. Have a good one.”

“You too, and stop worrying,” Ross said.

That was easier said than done. Tony wanted a stable family of his own. Tourism did better over in Homer. Sterling was a bit more traditional, but they had their share. New women moving in didn’t happen much. Any woman wouldn’t do. Gretchen caught his attention, and Tony trusted his instincts.

Growing up in Alaska, he was ready for the bear in the backyard or the moose on the road. He trusted his gut on a camping trip or when driving in a blizzard. At work he made split-second decisions about life, death, and the conditions around him. When it came to personal things, he agonized because he had time to think. He couldn’t trust that Gretchen and Matt would work out. He wasn’t that lucky, but he couldn’t pick between the two. He had to trust Ross and explore the options.

* * * *

Gretchen stayed out of the way as the flurry of activity swept through Melody’s home. Technically it was the guys’ home, but she’d relocated and made it hers. Three kisses and the men headed off to their boat repair shop while the women lingered over coffee.

“Well the boat repair business is picking up,” Melody said.

“I wish we could get your dress-making business humming.” Gretchen had been working on advertising but it wasn’t working as well. Alaskans were a fairly practical lot. Fancy dresses were for very special occasions only.

“I’m still getting some work, but the self-sufficient nature of Alaskans means sewing isn’t the most in-demand skill. Weddings are my best business, but people might not have the funds to buy custom gowns.” Mel shrugged.

“But you’re happy?” Gretchen asked. She knew the answer and was doing her best not to be jealous of Mel’s blissful state. Alaska was an adjustment, but Mel had easily transitioned to a complicated relationship.

Mel grinned. “Very.”

“Good. I think if we focus on weddings, we can build a business for you. We’ve got some samples and you’re working on a few more. I’m trying to get a meeting with the mayor. Maybe link up with the tourism push I heard he’s looking to do.” Gretchen’s mind whirled as she nibbled a piece of bacon leftover from her breakfast.

She’d been working hard to prove her new job; helping with the advertising and promotion of the boat repair and dress design business was worth it. After a long stretch of unemployment, she had purpose. There was plenty to do but progress was only showing on the boat side. Gretchen feared that was just the good weather, but she’d gotten the word out farther than the guys.

“You don’t need to push so hard, Gretchen. No one expects magic overnight. We’re doing the bridal show in Anchorage. That’ll help,” Mel said.

“It will and it’ll be even better if we can build up Sterling as a spot for destination weddings. Alaska is a great vacation place, we can make Sterling a great location to get married in and enjoy the scenery, the nature, and all that good stuff. If we can tie our promotion budget in with the town, we’ll more than double the reach.”

“Destination weddings? Here?” Mel asked.

“Sterling has it all. Small, cute feel. Water and gorgeous nature settings. The men can fish, hunt, hike, and all that. Women too. Or the women can do the wine tasting in Homer like we did. We need to build up the draws for women because they really are the ones who make the wedding decisions.” Gretchen nodded.

“That’s true. There’s a beauty salon in town. Not a ton of shopping beyond basics. Photographer.” Mel frowned.

“You’re sure you’re not going to have a wedding? We could make a blitz of promotion about that.” Gretchen grinned.

“No. Marriage is great for some people, but I won’t play favorites.” Mel shook her head.

Mel had overcome a lot of marriage doubts and independence issues to move here. Committing to such a complex relationship was great progress, and Mel didn’t want to be legally married to one man and not the others. Gretchen admired her friend’s perspective, but she couldn’t imagine still not wanting a big wedding. Legal or not...it was a celebration!

“I hope gay marriage is made legal here soon. That’d add to the business. Two brides, double the dresses. Or two custom-designed tuxes works too. Group marriage will take forever, but we don’t need it to be legal to throw the party,” Gretchen said.

“I know you were out of work for a while and it was really depressing, but you don’t have to push so hard. Big things take time. I won’t be a billion-dollar dress designer in a day. Especially not after moving here.” Mel patted her friend’s hand.

Gretchen took a deep breath and sipped her coffee. “I get it. Too much too fast. Too much pressure on myself. It’s just so nice to have something to do. I’m living in your house and eating your food. You know I just want to make myself useful.”

“You are. There’s no rush to move out. Trust me, the guys don’t mind. The deal was room and board while we get things going. Once business picks up, we can start paying you more. You can find a place, if you want to stay,” Mel said.

“I’m not sure I want to live alone here. Definitely not yet. It’s different, but nice. Small town. Things feel a bit simpler, yet other things are a lot more complicated.” Gretchen had been eating more in-season fresh fish and local meats instead of the processed food that were cheaper and easier to come by in the lower forty-eight. That alone helped her take off the weight she’d added while jobless.

“You fit in better than I did at first.” Mel checked her phone.

“It’s summer too. That helps. The darker winter was a rough way to explore a new town with wedding stress on top of it. You were a great maid of honor and made fabulous dresses in the dark. At least now we know what we’re in for. We can soak up the sun and prep for the winter.” Gretchen looked down at her smartphone.

Technology was a big part of what helped Alaska run better these days. Even if they were snowed in, information still came through. “What if we do an app?”

“An app? For dresses?” Mel asked.

“Yeah! What if we had an app designed where women take a selfie and pick a design of yours, and it adjusts to their form? They could virtually try on your whole line. There would be a place to put in for a custom dress, of course. But the idea is they can see what you’ve done and how it’d look on them from anywhere. We could advertise in Canada and all over Alaska. Offer the app for free.” Gretchen started making notes in her phone.

“You’re really good at this. See. I knew I hired the right woman for the job. Maybe Ryan can help?” Mel suggested.

Gretchen nodded. Ryan was the tech expert of Mel’s men. “Make sure we load those prom designs you did too.”

A text popped up on her phone.

From the office of the Mayor: He has an opening at 11 a.m. today. Please reply if you’d like this spot or not.

She replied yes quickly. “I’m seeing Ross today at eleven. Hopefully he’ll be on board.”

“He will and he’s hot.” Mel grinned.

Gretchen’s jaw dropped. “You have three hot guys.”

“I meant for you. Tony was flirting with you at Isa’s reception. He and Ross are an item. They’d been running into you every chance they get. You don’t see it? I don’t know why they haven’t been here trying to get you out on a date all spring,” Mel said.

Copyright © Cheryl Dragon

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

HONEYBUN ON THE RUN by Sam Cheever

HONEYBUN ON THE RUN by Sam Cheever

Book 7 in the Honeybun Heat series

She’s fighting to protect everything she cares about. He can’t resist a damsel in distress. But he has no idea how high the cost will be if they fail.

Clovis Honeybun is working undercover to catch an assassin targeting his uncle, Senator Brick Honeybun. But his search is waylaid when he spots a pretty woman being mistreated by a guy who looks a lot like his target. Going rogue on a dangerous hunch, Clovis plunges down a trail that might be the right direction but the wrong bad guy.

Ultimately, Clovis discovers he could have to choose between saving the woman burrowing her way into his heart, or a man he’s loved and respected since he was old enough to crawl.

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Excerpt:

She was looking out over his wide, badly mown lawn, her hands shoved into the pockets of her jeans. She turned as the door swung open. Her pretty brown eyes filled with uncertainty. “Hello, Clovis.”

“Emma. You look good.”

She grimaced when she saw the discoloration around the bridge of his nose. “I’m really sorry about hitting you. Again.”

His smile was tentative. “You pack a mean punch.”

She shook her head, avoiding his gaze.

Looking at her for the first time since she’d told him she hated him, his pulse sped and his body tightened. She was every bit as gorgeous as he remembered.

He leaned against the door frame, crossing his arms over his chest. “How’s Cilla?”

“She’s good.” Emma’s gaze slipped past him. “Is this a bad time?”

Clovis wasn’t sure how to answer that. “Bad time for what?” If she was going to tell him she hated him again and to keep his damn family away from her and Cilla…well…yeah…it was a very bad time.

Emma frowned slightly, her shoulders squaring with temper. “Can I come in for a minute, Clovis? I promise I won’t be long. I just have something I need to tell you.”

His chest hurt and his stomach roiled with tension, but Clovis inclined his chin and stepped back, letting her pass before closing the door behind her.

Emma looked around the dark hallway and her gaze slid to the empty living and dining rooms. “A little light on furniture.” She turned and smiled at him.

Clovis’s chest loosened a little and he was able to breathe. “Yeah. I haven’t had much time to go shopping…” His voice trailed off as her smile slipped away. He hated to see it go.

“I know, I’m sorry about Brick. Actually, that’s why I’m here.”

He cocked his head as she hesitated. Then he realized how rude he was being. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid I’m functioning at barely above a savage level right now. Can I get you a beer or something?”

To his amazement she nodded. “I’d like that.”

He motioned toward the kitchen. “I’m afraid the only chairs on this level are in here.”

Clovis followed her into the kitchen, his gaze moving unerringly to her fine backside in the tight jeans. Oh how he’d missed those jeans.

He pulled two cold bottles of beer from the ancient, green refrigerator and handed her one.

She grinned at the fridge. “I think my parents had one just like that.”

Clovis patted the scratched and dented monstrosity. “I’ve grown kind of fond of it. Retro is cool, right?”

Emma laughed and the sound sent a wave of warmth skittering through Clovis. He found himself grinning too. “Sit.” He eyed the mess of papers on the table, realizing his mistake when Emma’s gaze fell on the photos Alf had brought. He lunged for them, scooping them up as her expression fell. “Let me just clean this mess up.”

Emma looked down at the table, her beer untouched on the table in front of her. “I’m so sorry, Clovis. I know saving Cilla cost you your uncle.”

He shook his head. “I’d do it all over again, Emma.” As he said the words he realized they were true and it surprised him. But deep down he knew he’d done what Brick expected and wanted him to do.

Emma’s eyes were bright with unshed tears. She sniffled and nodded, her hand wrapping around the bottle of beer. “I wanted to thank you for saving her. And to tell you I…” She took a deep breath, turning the bottle with her fingertips. “I realize you had to do what you did. I was…well…I was out of line. Out of my mind. I might have cost my baby her life.” She averted her gaze, looking everywhere but at him.

Clovis couldn’t stand to see her so upset. He walked over and crouched down beside her chair, lifting a hand to caress her cheek. Emma closed her eyes at his touch and shivered slightly. “You would never have let Cilla get hurt, Emma. I know that. But you were so upset. I didn’t know how to calm you down.” He pulled her closer. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…”

She touched his lips with her finger, stopping him. “I know. You did the right thing, Clovis.”

They stared at each other for a long moment, something electric snapping between them. Clovis looked at her lush mouth, his body tightening with need. Emma started to pull her finger away and he reached up, stopping her. “I’ve missed you so much.” The words emerged husky and soft from between his lips.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NIGHTLORD LOVER by Kathy Kulig

NIGHTLORD LOVER by Kathy Kulig

Warrior vampire Garrick Labar guards the secrets of the Guild. His comrade— vampire and sorcerer Ramon Travere—enforces the uneasy alliance between mortals and immortals. 

When Larissa Devine moves into town, both Garrick and Ramon are mesmerized and enraptured by her. They crave to claim her as their crimson swan and lover. But a new arrival is fair game and if they don’t claim her first, a band of renegades will.

Larissa finds a blistering-hot ménage with her protectors too intoxicating to resist. The immortals can’t deny their sexual attraction for her and sense her blood pulsing hot and furious whenever they are close. Erotic desires thrust her into a world of danger and seduction. 

When the renegade vampires attempt to destroy a hundred years of peace, Larissa is caught in the crossfire. Eternal love and carnal nights can be her future if she survives.

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Excerpt:

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.

An Excerpt From: NIGHTLORD LOVER

Copyright © KATHY KULIG, 2014

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

The silky French lingerie slid over her skin like creamy chocolate sorbet. It was naughty of her but how could she resist? Larissa Devine smoothed her hands over her breasts, waist and hips, feeling turned-on as she admired the new piece from the collection that just arrived from Paris. Even if she had the funds, no way would she ever purchase a three-hundred-dollar nightgown for herself. For such a price, it should hide all her figure flaws—hips a bit too wide and thighs a little too heavy. The markdown she got as owner of the shop still wasn’t tempting enough. The guys she’d dated in the past wouldn’t be caught dead in a lingerie store buying her a gift like this, never mind one so pricy.

Admiring the other items she’d selected from the French designer, she felt that twirl of excitement in her belly. She knew the exquisite collection would tempt wealthier tourists visiting New Hope during the Christmas rush. The bulk of her sales would come from the average person visiting the historic Pennsylvania town. Silk Fantasies also carried lingerie and fragrances for the more budget minded.

One last glance in the full-length mirror, then off with the pricy garment of seduction and back to setting up shop for opening day. Gently, she lifted the gown to her waist and was about to pull it over her head when she heard the bell from the front door.

“I think you should wear that in your shop. Good advertising. Especially the gentlemen customers,” a man’s voice said from the entrance of her store.

Dropping the hem to fall like a chocolate river of silk at her feet, Larissa gasped and spun around, her arms crossed over her breasts. Her shop wasn’t due to open until tomorrow. The blinds in the shop were down. No one should have seen her inside. “We’re not open, sir. How did you get in? The door was locked.” Her face flushed as she stared at the stranger, young and well-dressed. Black pants and a deep-burgundy shirt, perfectly tailored to show off a body that spent hours in the gym lifting weights, heavy ones by the size of him. He didn’t apologize for walking in on her wearing a nightgown but then again, this was a lingerie shop. He was still smiling at her as his gaze raked over every inch, which irritated her. He was probably shopping for his wife or girlfriend. “I’m sorry. I won’t be open to customers until tomorrow at ten. I’m getting everything ready for opening day.” She smiled, hoping she wouldn’t lose a potential customer.

“Do you always try on all the merchandise?” His eyes held a teasing glint.

She stammered for a moment. “No, no, of course not. I was trying on this one for myself. If you like it, I have others in many sizes. I’d be happy to show you tomorrow if you’d like to pick out something for your wife or girlfriend. I’ll have everything on display then.” She tried to emphasize tomorrow . The guy wasn’t getting the hint and her body was heating up from standing in front of him in an outfit that clung to her every curve like liquid silk.

“I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend, Ms. Devine.”

She frowned. Had she told him her name? No, she was sure she hadn’t. Ignoring the ultra-sexy material caressing her body, she straightened and tilted her head at him. “How did you get in? I know I locked that door. And how do you know my name?”

He laughed in a friendly manner. “I’m sorry, Ms. Devine. I’m not a customer, I’m your landlord.”

“Oh. Mr. Labar, I wasn’t expecting you. Nice to meet you.” She walked up and shook his hand then covered her arms over her breasts. She knew her nipples protruded from the sheer fabric.

“My pleasure. Garrick, please. I stopped in to see how you were doing and if you needed anything.” The side of his mouth twitched. At least he was polite enough to keep his gaze above chest level, now, after he already looked his fill.

Heat rushed to her face. When she had heard his voice on the phone, she had no idea he’d be so young or good-looking. He had to be about her age, early thirties with a slight accent she couldn’t place. His long leather coat reached mid-calf. Stylish and casual, expensive and European was her first impression. Maybe he had just gotten out of work. He hadn’t stopped staring at her since she noticed him. Staring wasn’t the word, piercing her soul was more like it. The air in the shop thickened, time ticked slower and her pulse quickened. The temperature was near freezing outside but she wanted to open the door. “I think I have everything I need, thank you. The apartment upstairs is lovely and spacious. I’m almost settled in.”

“I’m surprised you waited to open your store in the middle of the Christmas shopping season.”

Was he worried she wouldn’t make her rent? “I know. I had to help my mother move the rest of her things to Florida. She moved into a retirement home.”

“I see. I hope she’s well.”

“She’s fine.” Larissa hoped he didn’t hear the snippy tone in her voice. Larissa, her mother and her brother didn’t get along very well.

“I have a helper for you,” he said. “I’ll send her by tomorrow. Her name is Jordan Howell.”

Larissa frowned. “Helper? I don’t need a helper and it’s not in my budget right now to employ someone.”

“She’s a college student needing part-time work.”

“What’s she going to school for?” Larissa remembered her days in college, the long hours and struggle to find employment. While her friends partied, she worked at her parents’ pastry shop every weekend and waitressed during the week. Social and love lives didn’t exist.

He shrugged. “Every semester it’s something new.”

Perpetual student. “I’m sure I can find something for her to do. But I can’t give her many hours.”

“Don’t worry about her salary. It’s taken care of.”

She studied him. “I appreciate the offer but—”

“You’ll like Jordan. She’s a hard worker and trustworthy. Her salary is my responsibility.”

That seemed odd but she wasn’t going to argue. Maybe she could give Jordan some big-sister career advice. Not knowing what your dream job was must be stressful. “I’m sure we’ll get along fine.”

Garrick smiled. “She’ll keep you entertained.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing. A colleague of mine, Ramon, will stop in to check on building maintenance. He’s also been instructed to help you if you need any work or repairs done around the shop. He can be trusted as well. I’ll take care of paying him.”

“Very generous of you, Mr. Labar. I love old buildings. How old is it?”

“Garrick. It was built in 1832 and used to be an apothecary.”

She smiled but felt uneasy and restless at the same time. It had nothing to do with standing half naked in front of her landlord. The man had a natural charisma that made her breathy and achy inside. Most women probably succumbed to his good looks and he probably had a harem. She wouldn’t be one of them.

Putting her arms at her sides, she refused to appear uncomfortable in her current state of undress. “I heard you own a number of the buildings in New Hope and lease them out.” She wondered how someone so young got to own so many buildings? Just her luck that this hunky guy happened to be her landlord and off limits. No way she was going to risk her dream on a hot affair. If it went south so would her lease.

“That’s right. And I ensure my tenants will have successful businesses.”

She laughed. “How can you guarantee that? There’s always risk in a new business.”

He frowned at her without answering.

“It’s a nice town,” she added, changing the subject. “A pleasant change from cow country in upstate New York.”

“Didn’t you like New York State?”

She sighed. “It’s a great place to grow up. Beautiful, peaceful, but nothing ever happens. Here I’m a bus ride from New York City, a short drive to Philadelphia and the shore. And now I have my own shop. Owning my own business is my dream. I have everything I could want.”

“Do you, Larissa? Maybe it’s time to look beyond your dreams. Expect the unexpected. You may be pleasantly surprised. Keep an open mind.”

“I like to keep things simple,” she said. “Now if you don’t mind, I need to change back into my regular clothes and close up.”

“Go change, but let me show you a few places you might not find on your own.”



Garrick never expected his new tenant would be such a beauty. His mouth tightened as his gaze dropped to her small breasts and round hips. The garment showed every curve. She fascinated him. The intensity of her life force and sexuality would be hard to resist. She was perfect for their needs. Once the others sensed her presence, they’d all want to claim her. It was the renegades who worried him. They would take her as a slave. Garrick had to move quickly. Jordan and Ramon could help fend off the others for a time. Larissa was in danger unless she became his crimson swan, and later, marked and bound permanently to him. The problem was, unlike many of his kind, he believed mortals shouldn’t be forced into the Guild. The sensual pleasures of a willing crimson swan rivaled any violent or coerced offering.

“I’m ready.” Back in regular clothes, jeans and a sweater, Larissa buttoned into a gray wool coat that reached below her knees. “Where are we going?”

“An outdoor café and bar for something warm to drink.”

“In this weather?” She laughed as she locked her store.

“They have gas heaters. I want to show you places to avoid at night.” He didn’t want to alarm her but he knew where his kind frequented after dark.

Monday, July 28, 2014

RUNAWAY COWGIRL by Cheryl Dragon

RUNAWAY COWGIRL by Cheryl Dragon

Emily isn’t about to marry just any man, but falling in love with two hot ranchers might be more than this respectable young lady can handle.

Emily St. Claire is wealthy, beautiful, young and very eligible to the single men of Manitou Springs, Colorado. The Wild West isn’t safe for a woman alone, but she isn’t about to marry for anything but love. Her charitable efforts put her in touch with all manner of people, and while she’s respectable, she causes gossip around the small town as she tries to help prostitutes and orphans. Still, she does want a family of her own.

Two handsome young men catch Emily’s eye, but Jack and Henry are so close. How can she pick one of them without destroying their friendship and their partnership? When she finds them in a compromising position, she’s shocked and intrigued. Emily never considered herself conventional, but the men open her eyes even more to how inclusive and varied love can be. Society would never approve, yet it doesn’t feel wrong for the trio. Being courted by two men at once is wild, but committing herself to them is pure madness and pure ecstasy as well. They must keep their ménage secret until they’re sure how to plan a future together so no one will suspect or discover the truth. 1878 isn’t ready for what they have to offer.

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Excerpt:

Copyright © Cheryl Dragon 2014. All Rights Reserved, Total-E-Ntwined Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.

Manitou Springs, Colorado, USA—1878



When the Reverend Young finally dismissed the congregation from Sunday service, Emily St. Claire breathed a sigh of relief. She kept her composure and exited the small wooden church painted white. Smiling at the ladies, Emily appreciated the sympathetic nods.

“We’re all so very sorry about your father, Miss St. Claire. But we’re very glad you’re back,” said Mr Young.

“Thank you. Lovely sermon today.” Emily felt the eyes of the town on her as she waited for her companion Alice Lange, to finish a conversation.

The young widow had been selected by Emily’s father as a companion to his single daughter when he fell ill. It worked out perfectly until Mr St. Claire died and Emily was compelled to spend the mourning period with her sister and brother-in-law in Denver.

Sheriff Drake tipped his hat. “I’m sure being back here is dull compared to life in Denver. Do you intend on moving there to be with your sister? I can deputise some men to secure your belongings and escort you and Mrs Lange.”

“Thank you, but I won’t be moving. My father loved Manitou. He struck his silver and copper near here and built that lovely home for me.” She’d been putting out rumors of her leaving since the day she returned.

Alice walked up to Emily, and it was a relief. The pair headed for Emily’s home not far from the church on the same end of town. The lovely spring day made the exercise delightful but as men fell into step behind the pair, she wished they’d brought the wagon.

“What could they want? The men were staring at me all through church,” she whispered to Alice.

Alice glanced back casually and cleared her throat. “The mercantile owner, the sheriff, the reverend plus a few other single, respectable men are all following us.”

“This is ridiculous.” Emily walked faster, but avoided breaking into a run.

“Your new wardrobe is the envy of every woman in town. The trimmer silhouette and subtle bustle is most becoming.” Alice dabbed a handkerchief over her brow.

“Men don’t care about fashion. They’ve not lowered the necklines.” Emily toyed with the slightly belled cuff at her elbow. The lavender gown was new from her Denver days. She owned a great deal of black, but had put a portion of her substantial inheritance into a new wardrobe and some bolts of fabric for future replacement pieces. The newer fashions were more comfortable. More practical jackets complimented the layered skirts with a slight bustle. It was much better than the hoop skirts of her youth.

“You’re a lovely young woman who is staying in Manitou,” Alice said.

The demure choker around Emily’s throat felt a bit tighter. “They can’t be serious.”

“Some of those men aren’t in town except for church and supplies. They won’t have much opportunity but to call today. Not all are objectionable,” Alice said.

The women ascended the porch steps. Her home was the grandest in Manitou with etched glass and no expense spared. The housekeeper opened the door for them.

“Hello, Sarah.” Emily stepped a foot inside and saw the old woman warily eyeing the men out front.

“You’ve got callers, Miss St. Claire.” Sarah nodded.

Emily turned and plastered a ladylike smile on her face. “Gentlemen, what can I do for you?”

“Miss St. Claire, your intention to stay is a blessing to the town,” said Young.

“Thank you.” She knew her charitable efforts could be considered excessive, but it was useful, and she employed some individuals, of course. She also shopped liberally.

“However, you must take certain factors into account. For your reputation,” the sheriff added.

“My reputation? Mrs Lange is my constant companion. You doubt her respectability?” Emily asked curtly.

Young held up a hand. “No one doubts anyone’s honour or respectability. However, a single woman alone is a danger. In a big city where they have women’s boarding houses or in Denver with your sister, that’s a different situation. Out west in a town like this, with so many single men, and helping—”

“Orphans and fallen women need help too. I don’t need your permission to be charitable with my money.” Emily’s headstrong antics often gave her father fits, but staying in a big city like Denver had proven she wasn’t a fool. Growing up with a dreamer for a father, she watched him rise to a man of status because of his mines. The world had changed its view of him. So change was possible and rules were meant to be broken.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

HER CYBORG LOVER by Anne Kane

HER CYBORG LOVER by Anne Kane

Natalie’s loved and lost and she’s not so sure she wants to risk her heart again. She’s willing to settle for a challenging career as a space-pilot instructor and a succession of no-strings attached lovers. But that’s before her boss saddles her with the last thing she wants—a new partner.

Jebediah recognizes his perfect match in Natalie from the moment she seduces him on a dare. Everything that makes her a top-notch pilot, from her fearlessness to her passion, make a night in her bed both challenging and unforgettable. Too bad she cuts Jebediah off the moment they’re assigned to a mission in the outer limits of Alliance space.

A dangerous confrontation with a brutal enemy, an exploding drive engine and a traitor close to home throw everything into perspective. Natalie is going to have to put the past behind her and risk it all, because when your partner is also your lover, failure is not an option.

A Romantica® science fiction erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

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An Excerpt From: HER CYBORG LOVER

Copyright © ANNE KANE, 2014

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

Chapter One

Natalie pulled the cerebral interface down over her forehead, scanning the display with a practiced eye. A blip on the bottom corner of the screen caught her attention.

“Identify ship, lower quadrant.” She rolled her eyes, waiting impatiently for the computer’s reply. She already knew the answer, or as much as she needed to know. One of the hotshot cadets thought they could sneak up behind her and beat her back to the base.

“Ship identified as delta class reconnaissance pod. Single occupant, unidentified male. No flight plan filed.”

No flight plan? That certainly raised questions. Probably a lower class cadet returning from a routine scouting mission. Maybe she was wrong about their motives. After spending the last decade on active duty, she’d come to expect the younger pilots to challenge her. They thought mature meant slower and less alert. So long as he or she didn’t make any surprise moves, she’d ignore them. “Keep track of their progress.”

“Affirmative.” The ship’s deep voice no longer sent pangs of loss through her. After the accident that had taken her life mate, she’d programmed his voice into her ship’s avatar as a way of keeping him close. That had been almost a decade ago, though. Now, the voice belonged to her ship and if she thought of her lost love at all, it was with a fond nostalgia. Life went on.

“Can they see us?”

“Affirmative. Our cloaking shield is not engaged.”

Even as she prepared to give the cadet the benefit of the doubt, the other ship began to pick up speed, darting in front of her in an obvious show of contempt.

So much for playing Mrs. Nice Gal! “Computer, turn off autopilot. We’re going to show that little snot what a real woman can do.”

“Aye captain. Autopilot disengaged. Do you wish to hail the other ship?”

The scout ship slipped between two asteroids, picking up power as the pilot zigzagged his way through the rock-strewn sky with a flagrant disregard for his ship’s safety. Where did the kids learn to fly these days? In a vacuum? If he weren’t careful, he’d end up a red smear on one of those asteroids.

“Why not? Open hailing frequency.”

A few seconds passed as the avatar located the proper frequency. Natalie slipped the steering yoke over her shoulders, adrenaline already spiking through her as she prepared to meet the challenge. Designed for maximum integration of the ship and its pilot, the yoke made it easy for her to control every nuance of the fighter ship’s reactions. She rammed the throttle forward, engaging all four thrusters and leaning left to avoid colliding with a small rock that careened into her path as the ship surged forward.

“Hailing frequency open.”

Natalie took a deep breath. “Delta class scout ship. This is Captain Sparwood, lead instructor on Gamma Base Seven-Two-Seven. Identify yourself immediately.”

She waited impatiently for a reply. Even the greenest of cadets knew better than to openly defy her. Dead air lay between her and the scout ship. Seemed this cadet was stupider than most.

“Delta Class Scout ship. I order you to identify yourself, or be prepared to handle the consequences.”

A deep male chuckle rolled through the comm link. Natalie blinked. Laughter? Was the idiot actually laughing at her? He was so going to eat her dust, and that would be before she grounded his sorry ass for the next decade or two.

Thirty years of practice gave her the edge every single time one of the cadets pulled a stupid stunt like this. Engaging the infrared overlay on the cerebral interface, she mentally plotted the other ship’s most likely course. Only an experienced space jockey understood that the shortest route was rarely the quickest, or the easiest.

Sure enough, the idiot darted between the two large asteroids directly in front of him. A seasoned pilot would know that the combined gravitational fields of the rocks created a braking effect on any smaller object caught between the two of them. Real-life one on one versus theory in the classroom. She could almost feel sorry for the pilot as he struggled to wrest control of his ship from the two inanimate objects.

Almost, but not quite. She circled around the trap, putting herself directly between the rocket jockey and home base. Let him watch her tail for a while before she slapped him into the brig. Waggling her wings in an insulting salute that the unfortunate pilot couldn’t possibly miss, she veered toward home base.

She hadn’t quite finished congratulating herself on such a swift victory when her ship careened sideways, almost colliding with one of the smaller asteroids in the field. What the hell?

She jerked her head up, hardly able to believe the display in front of her eyes. The smaller ship had freed itself of the gravity well and moved to parallel her before turning so that his thrusters aimed directly at her side. When he fired them, the shock hit the pilot ship with all the force of a herd of thundering moon-cats. Crap! This kid had balls. Balls and the makings of a star-class fighter pilot—if she didn’t kill him first.

Getting the ship back under control, she reined in her temper and concentrated on chasing the smaller ship. It had been a long time since anyone had actually given her a run for her money. She wasn’t sure she liked it.

“Pilot, you just bought yourself a serious amount of time dirt-side. Again, I say, identify yourself.”

No answer.

“Who the hell are you?” Her voice harsh with suppressed rage, she gave the pilot one last chance to reply.

“Obviously a better pilot than you.” His voice was smooth and low, with a trace of male humor showing through. Arrogant, definitely arrogant. She felt a grudging respect for his lack of deference. He had her on the run and he knew it.

“I doubt that. I got careless and you got lucky.”

A disbelieving snort echoed through the com link. “I’m an excellent pilot. I don’t need luck.”

“And your name?” She didn’t recall the last time she’d spent this much time trying to extract information from a cadet. Who the hell was this guy?

BARE NAKED by Desiree Holt

BARE NAKED by Desiree Holt

She’s burned out and he’s down and out, but together they might light up the night.

Naked Cowboys, Book 4

Georgie Zielinski’s success in the hospitality industry comes to an abrupt end when her new boss says she needs to put out or get out. So Georgie gets out, investing her savings and 401k in a dilapidated B&B in Saddle Wells, Texas. Hiring help isn’t high on her to-do list, but when a rough-around-the-edges cowboy offers his handyman services, she listens to her gut and takes him on.

Cade Hannigan would eat humble pie all day if he could afford it. The silver spoon he was born with is tarnished and he’s down to the clothes on his back, a beat-up truck and a reputation so bad no one in three counties will hire him. Except a newcomer like Georgie.

As they work to bring the old B&B back to life, Georgie and Cade’s connection explodes into a wild ride of passion. But when Cade’s past comes back to slap him in the face, their chance to be together starts to disappear like smoke.

Warning: Contains a bad boy hammering out a new future, a good girl not afraid to get a little dirty—okay a lot dirty—and and a whole new definition for “sweat equity”.


~Excerpt~

Calm down, Georgie. You’re not eighteen anymore. Get your damn hormones under control.

But it was certainly hard whenever she caught a glimpse of Cade working outside. Despite the spring chill in the air, he certainly worked up a sweat with the hard labor he was doing. And watching him distracted her more than she liked.

The old barn offered up some ancient equipment. He’d spent the first couple of days or so getting what he could in working order. Then he’d tackled the mess that was the yard.

“Too many critters can hide in this,” he’d told her. “It will take a lot more than a few days to get the look you want, but at least I can clear it out and neaten it up. Anyway, I need to have room to hike a ladder up and start scraping the paint,” he’d added. “If I fall off, at least I won’t have a million stickers in my skin.”

In two weeks, he had made a serious dent in the mess, and in fact was almost finished. Or at least as much as he could do for the moment. This morning, when he’d knocked on her back door, he’d told her he expected to start scraping paint in another day or two.

He had kept his distance, she’d give him that. She assumed he’d made the barn apartment as habitable as possible. He didn’t offer details and she didn’t ask. Their contact was mostly limited to filling his thermos in the morning, an amenity she’d offered, and a tap on the door when he was finished for the day.

Georgie had finished working in the dining room and moved on to the living room. The old wallpaper clung tighter than she’d expected, but now she had almost every wall clear. Maybe it wouldn’t take so long if she didn’t keep looking out the window. But the view was too good to pass up.

Cade Hannigan might be a lot of things, but out of shape wasn’t one of them. Beneath the black T-shirt and faded jeans, his muscles flexed and bulged as he worked away. Every so often, he stopped to blot the sweat on his forehead with his arm. When he did, she got a sunlit look at the deep grooves and lines in his face. The square line of his jaw.

The bulge behind his fly.

Stop it, Georgie!

She couldn’t help amusing herself by imagining what he looked like without any of those clothes on. Dark hair on his chest, maybe a little darker than the thick brown that framed his face. Lean hips. Long legs.

Why did I hire him, anyway?

Because now he’s an outsider, just like you.

That’s no excuse.

No, it certainly wasn’t.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

HOPING FOR A GOOD BREAK by BA Tortuga

HOPING FOR A GOOD BREAK by BA Tortuga


Alan and Colby have had an on-again, off-again love affair thanks to the rodeo. Alan hasn’t been able to give it up. When a dear friend of both men has a bad break, literally, during a freak accident, the whole situation makes Alan rethink being on the road, and away from his lover Colby.

Story also appears in the RODE HARD ANTHOLOGY.

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~Excerpt~

"What do you mean broke?" The urge to pull the phone away from his ear and stare at it was strong. Huge, because Colby couldn't stare at Little Mike in person. "Like Shiloh Walker cracked that vertebra last year?"

"Like he cain't breathe on his own no more, Colb. Like he ain't never gonna be whole." Little Mike sounded lower than a worm. "Alan's been wantin' to come on home to you, so I told him to load up all the horses and head out. He had a two hour drive to fetch them back 'fore he could get started."

Jesus. The words hit him, each one a blow to the chest. "What do you need, Mikey? You know I'll help any way I can."

"There's no help now. He's got pneumonia. He can't breathe on his own and he's done give up. You know James -- he don't want to live like this."

"I know. I-- Christ, I'm sorry, Mikey. You let me know what you need with the stuff." He meant bills or funeral arrangements or anything. Mike knew that, too. He'd come to the service, but if Mike needed him before that...

"You got it. Tell Alan to give Elvis some oats for me."

"I will." He went ahead and hung up, knowing Mike didn't need his worry or sorrow. The man had enough of his own. James was the best of all of them, and this broken neck and severed spinal cord was no way for a cowboy to go.

He tried to call Alan again and got nothing. Someone let his minutes run out again, he'd bet. Damn it, where was the damned fool? Even with going back for the horses, Alan should have been here by now. He hoped Alan knew he was still welcome, even though Colby had gotten tired of being second to the rodeo, had maybe had a little snit and not answered the phone for a bit.

This was still Alan's home, right?

God, he hoped so. Hell, he didn't know anything right now, his head reeling from what Mike had told him. He gritted his teeth. He'd need to get some stalls ready for the horses.

He assumed there were three horses coming -- Little Mike's Elvis, Alan's Joanie, and whatever little mare James had been able to afford. Alan pulled a three horse trailer and no one had called for money to rent a bigger one. Hell, Alan's truck didn't have a gooseneck hitch anyway...

Colby pushed his phone into his pocket and headed down to the barn. He'd need to feed and water, check shoes and hooves, and make sure they all got a vet check-up this week.

Dust started billowing near the gate, the big metal thing sliding open. Huge black Ford shining. Alan.

Relief made Colby's knees weak for a moment. He grabbed the top rail of the corral fence, just standing there, watching Alan drive back into his life.

Those blue-sky eyes stared at him, the shock of blond hair sticking out from under the cap and scarred jaw familiar as breathing. When Alan pulled into the turnaround next to the barn and killed the engine, Colby walked over to the driver's side door, needing to see Alan up close. To touch.

"Tell me it's cool to come home, man. I cain't drive no more, and I need you like breathing."

WHERE THE MEN ARE MEN by Julia Talbot

WHERE THE MEN ARE MEN by Julia Talbot


Skeet might not be the brightest lightning bug in the swarm, but he knows enough to know he wants Dan. Dan thinks he’s too old for Skeet, but he’s about to find out different. Will their affair last more than just the summer and survive the llamas?

Story also appears in the RODE HARD ANTHOLOGY.

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~Excerpt~

"Are those sheep? Shit, those are the biggest sheep I ever did see." Tanned and long and lean, Skeet Nasum was the prettiest thing Don Jancey had ever seen, even if those pretty green eyes were staring at a small bunch of alpacas like he'd never seen nor heard of them before.

Beautiful, but maybe damned stupid.

"Alpacas, you idiot." Don whacked Skeet with his hat. "They're cousins to llamas."

"Tell me we ain't riding herd on llamas, buddy."

"Of course not. We're playing cowboy to a herd of Charolais and mixed cattle. The alpacas keep coyotes away."

"No shit?"

This was Don's third summer in Colorado, up from Texas to get where the cool nights and good pay were worth the drive. It was only Skeet's first trip, though, and he had a lot to learn.

"No shit. They're better than a dog."

"Huh. Well, as long as they ain't sheep. I don't figure to go all Brokeback Mountain on this one."

Don gave Skeet a sideways glare. "What are you, a rodeo clown now? That's the oldest joke ever, and still bad at that." Especially since Don knew who Skeet had been sleeping with back down in Chappell Hill, and how it had played out that Skeet was in Colorado for the summer because of it.

Skeet had the grace to flush and duck his head. "Sorry, man. Just an automatic reaction."

"Yeah, well, you know it's bullshit to use it on me." He was out with Skeet, because he felt bad for the kid when he got canned for messing around at the ranch. Wasn't something Don advertised, but he felt like Skeet needed a role model, maybe. Oh, hell, he probably just needed to admit that he liked beautiful and didn't mind a little dumb.

"I'm not stupid."

Donnie's head snapped up, his gaze meeting Skeet's. "I never said you was."

"No, you just roll your eyes at me and mumble under your breath."

"I do not mumble." He did roll his eyes. His momma used to say she would pick them up and roll them back if he wasn't careful.

"Liar." Skeet nodded. "Lacey will like the exercise. Where are we moving the herd?"

"Up, I reckon." They had maps and shit. Directions. This was a new summering place to Don. "Summer pasture."

"'kay. Sounds fun."

"Lord, only you would think so." There he went, lying again. Don loved playing old time cowboy, loved the fresh air and simple food and camaraderie of hard-working men.

"Yeah, well..." Skeet shrugged and pulled the brim of his straw hat down. "I'll get Lacey saddled up and ready."

"Hey." Don grabbed Skeet's arm, feeling hard muscle under his palm and fingers. "This is gonna be fun, okay? I'm not raggin' you. Promise."

"I just appreciate the work, man."

"Me, too." He grinned hugely. "Old man Yothers has been good to me over the years."

"Fucking A." Skeet headed off, giving him a view of that tiny heinie. He stared for a lingering moment, his cock giving a nice, hard twitch in his jeans. Lord, this was gonna be a long summer.

Friday, July 25, 2014

SYN-EN: PLAGUE WORLD by Linda Andrews

SYN-EN: PLAGUE WORLD  by Linda Andrews

The Founders War Begins

Admiral Beijing York and his cyborg soldiers have been busy rescuing refugees since Humanity registered as sentient. Their latest mission takes them deep into hostile territory to Surlat, home of the Plague that nearly wiped out all life in the galaxy.

Their mission of mercy quickly turns into one of survival. For a dark secret will be revealed, igniting a war.

Can Bei save his wife and Syn-En family, or will they become the first casualties?

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Chapter 1

“Do these patches make me look like a Guernsey cow?”

Admiral Beijing York disconnected his fiber optic cable from the communications port by his chair. He didn’t need thousands of years of warfare tactics stored in his cerebral expansion unit to recognize a trap. Swiveling in his chair, he faced his wife across their cabin. His completely naked wife. His gaze roved over the peach-toned skin. Neo-Dynamic armor glistened like a silver Phoenix up her spine. The NDA wings emphasized the curve of her firm buttocks and the damage done to her by the Scraptors.

His circuits tripped and his coding scrambled. He’d almost lost her six months ago, when humanity had visited Erwar to register as sentient. The NDA had saved her life. Bei refused to process what would have happened to him if she had died. He never wanted to eliminate the Nell Stafford glitch from his programming. Never.

Across the square cabin, Nell’s reflection scowled at him from the mirror attached to their wardrobe. “I knew it. I’m a big fat cow.” She plucked at the silvery NDA/skin patch on her left hip. “Do you want to break the terms of our marriage?”

His cardiac sensors malfunctioned. Obviously, something serious was going on in that blond head of hers. He searched his memory files for a clue while closing the distance separating them in two long strides. The starship’s nacelles hummed underfoot but barely penetrated the tension in the cabin. “Our marriage is for life. If you’d wanted a term limit to our union, you should have said so fifteen months, two weeks, three days, five hours and six minutes ago.”

Her eyes widened. “What no seconds? I really am—”

“Fifteen seconds, sixteen seconds.” Stopping behind her, he combed his fingers through her hair and exposed the column of her throat. The silky locks sifted through his hand. “You are mine, Nell. Mine.”

Lowering his head, he kissed the pulse point directly under her jaw. Sensors embedded in the NDA comprising his skin registered her rising body temperature, the stutter of her heartbeat, and her spiking pheromone production. His body responded to her biologic coding. Bei had no doubt his reactions would be the same if he were just a man, instead of a cyborg.

With a sigh, she leaned against him. Her bottom cradled his erection. One hand held his head in place; the other stroked the seam where his prosthetic leg connected to his hip.

He turned off the internal alarms caused by the sensory overload. He really should create a mating failsafe. Even though he shut down his emergency protocols and prevented cascade failures with a thought, it was one less millisecond spent focused on Nell. They had so little time to themselves as it was. He refused to waste any of it.

Her reflection’s eyes grew heavy. “So this,” she gestured to the shiny patch on her hip. “doesn’t bother you?”

Bei raised his head. His blue eyes locked with hers in the mirror. She wouldn’t let it go. Time to bring in the heavy artillery. “Does it bother you that I am more machine than man? That my legs, arms, hands, and feet can snap together or apart like Twentieth Century Legos? That I have circuits implanted in my head, and my chest cavity opens up like some battery compartment in an ancient gaming controller.”

“No, why would you think such things?” She spun about, plastering her body against his.

Tight nipples and soft breasts pressed against his chest. His sensors recorded each point of contact. Every time they touched was the same but different. And down lower… When he sank into her, he would be in heaven. He locked his facial muscles, revealing nothing. “We both have NDA for skin. Why would yours bother me?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Unlock your facial muscles, Beijing York. You are not allowed to use your cyborg mojo against me.”

Damn. How had she known? He unlocked his facial muscles. His lips twitched. “Cyborg mojo? I have basic programming, the same as any Synthetically-Enhanced human.”

“Don’t try to change the subject.” She poked his shoulder.

Tenth generation upgrades contained a lot of inertia. He didn’t move, but she did. Her body wiggled creating friction, heat, and a sensory overload. He set his hands on her hips, stilling the torture. “Changing the subject is a valid military tactic.”

She poked him again. “So is staying on point. Now, do these NDA spots make me look fat?”

That question was pure quicksand. He turned it around. “You are not fat. You are beautiful. Gorgeous.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Come to bed and I’ll show you.”

Without breaking contact between their hips, he walked backward, aiming for their king-sized bed.

She followed, clutching his biceps. “Then why didn’t you just say so?”

“I had just finished reviewing room assignments for our official and unofficial passengers when I looked up and saw you naked.” His heels hit the drawer fronts on the platform bed. “The rapid switch from one program to another created a lag in my physical response.” In all areas but one. That one responded eagerly and demanded action. “I couldn’t have spoken if my life depended upon it.

“As excuses go, that’s a winner.” A smile curved her lips. She set both hands on his chest and pushed.

Releasing her, he allowed himself to fall backward. He bounced twice on the mattress before sinking into the foam. “I’m willing to do anything to make it up to you.”

“Anything?”

“Anything.” He crooked his finger. He would start with kissing her from the crown of her hair to her toes. As for the spaces in between, he’d— He cut his plans short. She hadn’t moved from the foot of the bed. He didn’t like this anomaly in the program. He didn’t like it when she was hurting and he couldn’t fix her malfunctions.

Sucking on her bottom lip, she smoothed the silver patch at her hip.

Bei scooted to the edge of the bed. “We’re isolated from the Wireless Array, Nell.” He could no longer join her in cyberspace and explore her intimate thoughts. “You have to tell me what is bothering you.”

“Does it feel different to you?”

He traced the curve of her ribs, brushing the soft skin under her breast. Her breath quickened. Moisture created a sultry fog over her belly. Closing his eyes, he stroked her hip. Her lower body advanced and withdrew with every touch. He called up the memory file containing frigid details to cool his body. This was about his wife’s needs, not his.

She shifted.

His hand drifted toward the juncture of her thighs. He locked his arm in place. “Aside from the lack of hair, your skin doesn’t feel any different.”

It should but it didn’t. His Chief Medical Officer hadn’t been able to figure out how the armor had merged so seamlessly with her body. She commanded it at will, reshaping it as needed, and her abilities didn’t stop there. She could interact with all NDA materials. He’d had synthetic skin since he was a toddler and could only perform a fraction of what she could.

Cupping his chin, she angled his face toward hers. “You’re not just saying that?”

He kissed the tip of her nose. “I mean it. I’d have to maximize my sensor sensitivity to the femptometer level to detect any change.” His hands glided off her hips to caress her bottom. “Given how attuned I am to you, the sensory overload would put me in an electronic coma.”

She pushed him back on the mattress. “Would there be a bed involved?”

“Yes.” He flopped backward and waited. Nell wanted to be in charge. He’d gladly let her. Even if her imagination threatened to short circuit his implants and upgrades. “But I wouldn’t be conscious.”

“We wouldn’t want that.” Bending forward, she planted her hands beside his thighs.

“No. Definitely not.” Bei curled his fingers into fists to keep from reaching for her. Compression alerts flared in his palms.

She set her knee on the mattress. “You have entirely too many clothes on.”

“What are you going to do about it?” It wasn’t much of a challenge. She’d mastered the task of stripping him fifteen months ago. Although now he didn’t have to move.

She cocked an eyebrow. Lifting one hand, she swirled her finger over his belly.

His clothes melted and drained like warm water over his groin, down his legs and dripped into a puddle under his bare feet where they reformed into tunic, trousers, socks and boots.

“How do you like them apples?” She blew imaginary smoke from her fingertip.

He eyed her breasts. “I know something I like better.”

“I bet I’d like it better, too.” She set her other knee on the bed. The mattress dipped as she crawled up his body

Lacing his fingers behind his head, Bei enjoy the view. The brush of her inner knees and wrists against his skin sowed rogue electrical surges through his system.

She straddled his waist, teasing him. “I saw Doc today.”

“About your NDA?” Perspiration dotted Bei’s upper lip. She was going to make him pay for not answering her question. Using an arctic subroutine wouldn’t work either. The one time he’d tried it, she’d figured it out. He wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

She rolled her hips. A devilish glint blazed in her blue eyes. “He gave me the all clear.”

Bei would have to replace a few cerebral circuits if she didn’t stop teasing him. He unclasped his hands. One more minute. Just one, then he’d be on top. She’d not last thirty seconds before she started begging him. “I could have told you, you’re perfect.”

Snorting, she braced her palms against his chest. “I love that you think so.” She leaned over him and nipped his ear. “But I’m saying no more alien eggs in my Easter basket. We’re a go for a baby.”

Baby? He froze. The word surfed inside his skull. Baby? Baby. The word sank in, made connections. Adrenalin spiked his system. Springing up, he wrapped her in his arms then flipped her on her back. His mouth wouldn’t stop grinning long enough to kiss her. “Our baby.”

She nodded. “Little bits of you and me and…”

“And?” He shored up his smile. What else was there to worry about?

“NDA.” She sucked on her bottom lip. Moisture shimmered in her eyes. “It’s merged with my cells. It will merge with the baby’s.”

“Oh, thank God.” Bei sagged against her. His elbows dimpled the mattress, his forehead rested against hers.

She pushed his shoulder. “What do you mean thank God? Didn’t you want an one-hundred percent biologically human baby? Aren’t you afraid of technology penalties?”

“Technology penalties are a thing of the past.” Raising up a little, he smoothed her blond hair off her face. She’d taken his fears and made them her own. That world was gone. They’d created a new one. A better one. “And the only baby I want is the one that combines a little bit of you and me. As long as the NDA doesn’t harm him or her, our baby can sparkle and glitter all he or she wants.”

She searched his face. After a moment, she sunk into the mattress. “We could name him Disco Ball. He’d be the hit of the party.”

Bei didn’t bother sending a query for the term disco ball. His wife always referenced obscure Twentieth Century culture. Of course, she understood the reference. She’d been born decades before the century ended. Then she’d slept for nearly one and a quarter centuries before waking up naked on his ship. He loved Nell naked or clothed. He kissed her forehead, then her closed eyes. “Why don’t we name our child after your parents?”

She stroked his bare back. “I would like to name our son after you.”

He snorted. “I was named after some ancient city. Two ancient cities, in fact, that identify my Eurasian heritage.” And his designation as a second-class citizen, a Syn-En. Their children would be free and enfranchised. “I want them to have regular names.”

“Stafford was the name of the area my ancestors came from.” She scratched her nails along his ribs. “How is that different?”

In more ways than he could count and in all that mattered. He rolled onto his back. Having children seemed to complicate things, when it should have drawn them together. “Stafford has been in your family for centuries. I was given my designation when my parents gave me to the United Earth government to pay their outstanding debts.”

They had kept their other children; only he had been thrown away.

Rolling to her side, Nell threw her leg over his thighs. Her pale hand settled over his heart. “So that you could meet me.” She kissed his jaw. “So that you could save the Syn-En and her support crew.” She sucked his ear lobe into her mouth and nipped it. “So that you could save two alien races from a megalomaniac, liberate humans everywhere from slavery and medical experimentation, and help other species find freedom.”

She trailed a lazy finger down his abdomen and circled his belly button.

He held his breath as she explored lower. “I’m beginning to see your point.”

“Good.” She shifted on top of him and inched down his body. “Because it’s our pasts that got us here. That made you love me and me love you. That makes us an unbeatable team.”

He clasped her hips. “You can name the children anything you want.”

So long as he could start making them now and for the next nine hours and thirty-five minutes.

“Enough foreplay. Time to—”

The com embedded by the door burped.

“Admiral York.” Captain Cassius Pennig cleared his throat.

God damn it. Ten hours alone with Nell was not too much to ask. Bei held his wife still. “Unless you’re issuing an abandon ship, Captain, I do not want to be disturbed.”

Even then, he would stay in his cabin and finish making love to his wife. They had survived the destruction of a ship before.

Nell buried her face in her hands and chuffed in frustration.

Captain Pennig sighed. “I wouldn’t have disturbed you and Nell Stafford for an abandon ship, Admiral. I simply would have ejected your cabin and had you rendezvous with the rest of us dirtside.”

Damn. Bei released Nell. Warmth lapped at his toes. NDA crawled up his body.

Groaning, she rolled to the side but clasped his hand in both of hers.

He clenched his teeth as her uniform crept up her body, covering some of his favorite bits. “Report.”

“A Founders’ ship shot out of a wormhole not more than five Astronomical Units from our position. They scanned us and are now demanding to speak to you, Admiral.”

Curses in a hundred languages filled Bei’s head. “I’ll be on the bridge in three minutes.”

“Understood.” The com fell silent.

Shoving off the bed, he strode to the nearest computer port and jacked in. A thought released his avatar in cyberspace. The pixelated version of himself unlocked the steel, padlocked door to the wireless array. Lightning bolts interspersed the torrent of data flying back and forth. Images of extinct Dobermans materialized. Black eyes and spiked collars glinted. He patted their cyber heads. “Protect us from attack.”

The dogs multiplied into hundreds and patrolled the perimeter.

Nell rested her head against his shoulder. “Do you think the Founders will attack?”

“We’re stealing their slaves when we pick up the humans from their planets. More than one have mentioned the Founders are grumbling about the effect it’s having on their profits.” Disconnecting from the port, Bei wound the fiberoptic cable around his finger before stowing it under his black hair. Her presence was a caress in his mind.

“And we happen to have a hold full of illegally liberated extraterrestrials.” She kissed his back before hooking her thumb in his waistband.

“There’s no reason to suspect they know.” Bei double-checked the ship’s internal sensors. Nothing indicated the Founders’ probe had penetrated the deepest recesses of his ship. Not that he was willing to bet anyone’s life on it. Crew, escort all guest biologics to their safety stations. This is not a drill.

Acknowledgements flew in cyberspace. Most of the guests were already tucked neatly out of sight. His men worked to remove all trace of them. So long as the Humans they’d picked up didn’t blab about the stowaways, the Founders should find nothing to expose the smuggling ring.

Bei strode out of the cabin, his arm around Nell.

“What do you think the Founders would do if they found out?”

“The Skaperians think they will simply ask for reparations and a return of their property.” Bitterness flooded Bei’s mouth. The Syn-En had been treated better right up until the United Earth Nations ordered him and his cyborg soldiers exterminated.

“Reparations in what? I didn’t think anyone used money anymore.”

In the corridor, crewmen stepped aside to let them pass. Most looked straight ahead, a few glanced at Nell’s flat stomach.

“In planetary resources.” Bei picked up a discordant ripple in the Wireless Array. Smiley face emicons mingled with storm clouds of worry. His crew knew of Nell’s clearance for pregnancy and feared the outcome of this encounter. He sent a salve of determination on the turmoil. Captain Pennig and Chief Medical Officer Los Alamos Cabo added theirs to the mix.

Doc Cabo also sent a red faced emicon. Sorry, Admiral. I thought my files would be safe since you locked the WA.

Locked, but not disabled. After a lifetime of hiding their emotions, the Syn-En still weren’t accustomed to displaying emotions only expressing them in cyberspace.

Nell rolled her eyes and punched the call button for the elevator. “It’s not like they wouldn’t have found out anyway. They are our family.”

“Indeed.” Although, Bei would have liked to keep it to himself for just a bit longer.

The doors opened. A woman looked up. She blinked at the pair of them before stumbling from the elevator. “Excuse me.”

“Not at all.” Nell smiled and sauntered inside.

Bei’s systems flashed a warning. What was his wife up to? Her stream of thought contained more lightning bolts and pitchforks than thoughts. Following her inside the elevator, he leaned against the wall and pulled her flush against him. “What are you thinking?”

An ensign drew up short as the doors started to close.

“Take the next one.” Leaning back, Nell stabbed the close door button. Her blue eyes narrowed. “I’m thinking the next time we have five minutes together, there will be no negotiating, no foreplay, no nothing, but you and me, naked and not talking, got it?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He slanted his mouth across hers. His tongue traced the curved of her lips. She fisted his shirt and climbed up his chest.

The door opened.

He swallowed her groan. Desire steamed around him. He initiated his arctic subroutine.

Her jaw flexed. “Cheater.”

“Sometimes, it’s good to be the Syn-En leader.” He winked before escorting her onto the circular bridge.

“Yeah, well, it sucks to be the piss boy.” Crossing her arms, she grinned.

Referencing one of her favorite movies always calmed her and watching them gave him something to do while she slept in his arms.

She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

Bei smoothed his features. Banding the circular hull, the forward view screens displayed the stars, planets and moons in front of them. Syn-Ens manned the com, navigation and tactical hubs behind him. Each cyborg, hardwired into the ship’s systems through the fiber optic cable embedded in their cerebral interface, controlled their stations with a thought.

Captain Pennig rose from the chair in the center of the room. Gray fringed his round head. Age yellowed patches of his NDA. Despite his years, his movements were fluid thanks to his ninth-generation prostheses. “They’re standing by, Admiral.” Bug-ugly doesn’t like to be kept waiting for a bunch of inferior humans.

The official log recorded only what was spoken. Commentary lived and died in the WA.

Then let’s keep him waiting a minute longer. Clasping his hands behind his back, Bei stood next to the vacant chair. “Which of the species is it?”

“Scraptor.” Pennig resumed his seat and uncoiled the nest of fiber optics at his nape. Blue light pulsed through the line when he jacked into the Combat Information Center.

“The jack-booted thugs of the universe.” Nell activated the medical hub.

Personal comments in the WA only, wife. Bei jerked his head at the recorders, a new requirement of the Erwar Codicils.

Nell stuck out her tongue at him.

He shook his head. Technically, she was duly elected to act as liaison between Humans and their allies. She was supposed to obey his orders. Of course, as his wife, she outranked him. And he wasn’t about to let her out of his sight. Bad things happened when they were separated. And the Founders were responsible for the latest. He stared at the screen. Bug-ugly doesn’t even begin to describe the Scraptors.

Pennig snorted. It’s a start. Besides, there are young ones in the WA. Other words wouldn’t be appropriate.

No, but they would be accurate. Report, all stations.

Nell clamped her lips together. Anxiety reported from our rescued people. Authorized life-signs show readiness for whatever.

Bei sincerely hoped whatever never happened.

Navigation and com reported all in readiness.

The Syn-En ensign at the tactical hub clenched and unclenched his hands. His Adam’s apple protruded from his scrawny neck. Founders weapons are hot. Ours are on standby.The ensign’s lips twitched. I can still beat them to the draw, Admiral.

Obviously, Bei wasn’t the only one to spend his down time watching old Earth video clips.Excellent job. All personnel await further orders. “Hail the Founders’ ship, Captain.”

The com beeped. Pennig’s hands relaxed on the arm rests. “Hailing ship.”

A red Scraptor materialized on the forward view screens. Onyx rounds glittered at the top of his eyestalks. Mandibles peeled away from razor-sharp teeth. “Admiral Beijing. How kind of you to keep me waiting only five Earth minutes.”

Bei shunted the voice print to the CIC for confirmation, but he didn’t need it. He would never forget the gravely inflection or the arrogance. “Groat.”

“I am flattered you remembered me.” Groat raised one mammoth claw to his bullet-shaped head. When he shuffled backward, the com zoomed out. The Scraptors resembled Earth scorpions. Hardened armor gave their eight limbs a segmented appearance. An oversized tail allowed them to walk on two legs and could inject their victims with poison from the stinger. Claws formed the top set of limbs, then human-like hands, and lastly limbs, ending in sword-sharp points.

“You made an impression, Groat.” All of it bad. Bei cracked his knuckles. “Since I don’t think this encounter is an unfortunate accident, why don’t you state your purpose?”

Groat chuckled. His human hand massaged his claw. “Soldiers like us have no time for social niceties.”

The Syn-En have nothing in common with that scum bucket. Period. End of discussion. Nell activated subspace scans. She overlaid them with information from their previous encounters with the Scraptors. Humanoid. Bipedal. Their internal anatomy was hazy, but their vulnerable points had been protected.

The energy weapon at Groat’s hip was an upgrade. Guess the little encounter on Erwar had an effect after all.

The tactical ensign seized the data. Sending information to engineering now.

Not so much as a muscle twitched while Bei waited.

Groat’s mandibles contracted. “I am invoking Section Ten, Article Sixteen beta of the Erwar Consortium policies and procedures.” His hand dropped to his weapon. “Prepare to be boarded.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

GETTING WORKED UP by Erin Nicholas

GETTING WORKED UP by Erin Nicholas

Sapphire Falls, Book 2

Phoebe Sherwood is in love with the perfect man. Well, except for the fact that he’s in love with someone else. But Phoebe isn’t the type to let a little detail like that keep her from getting what she wants. And as she’s plotting how to get him back, she meets the perfect solution—Joe Spencer. The city boy is in town to retrieve his sort-of fiancé—the woman who stole Phoebe’s man— and when he hears Phoebe’s plan to reclaim their respective soul mates, he’s in

Bright and sparkly. That’s Joe’s first impression of Phoebe. He’s always been attracted to sparkly things—like neon casino signs, sequined evening gowns and Porsches. In fact, his affinity for those things, and the trouble they can cause, are exactly why he’s determined to change his habits and settle down.

But if he’s going to win his girl back, he’s going to need to learn a new way of life. Country line dancing, guzzling homemade moonshine and getting rid of his custom-made suits are what it takes to fit into Sapphire Falls… and he’s got some work to do.

But Phoebe is the perfect coach.

And everything will be just fine… as long as they can keep their hands off of each other and remember which hearts they are trying to win over.

BUY THE eBOOK   ***   READ THE EXCERPT

~Excerpt~

© copyright Erin Nicholas, 2014


Phoebe took a seat on the bench across from him and crossed her arms on the table top. “You gonna make it?”

“Yeah.”

“You sure?”

He lifted a shoulder. “I’ve been worse off than this. But it usually involves way more liquor, a couple cigars, staying up until the sun comes up and—” He caught Phoebe’s wide eyes and shifted on his seat. Maybe that was too much sharing too early on.

“And a couple of blonds and brunettes on the side?” Phoebe asked.

He cleared his throat. “Past life. That’s over. I’m turning over a new leaf.”

Phoebe gave him a knowing look. “That’s not a denial on the multiple girls.”

“Past life,” he repeated.

“Ah.” She nodded. And certainly didn’t seem shocked or disgusted. “Well, you’re gonna have to change your ways if you’re gonna live here,” Phoebe said. She was studying the back of the booth beside his shoulder with a frown.

“What do you mean? If that Booze is a regular thing around here, you’re all way wilder and tougher than me,” he said lightly.

Phoebe looked up. “Well, there is that.”

“Then I should be fine.”

“Sure, as long as vanilla is your favorite flavor, you’ll be great.”

He leaned in. “Are we talking about vodka, ice cream or sex?”

She leaned in too. “Do you like vanilla in any of those things?”

“Nope. Vodka isn’t my drink and I like some flavor and even a few add-ins with both ice cream and sex.”

“Add-ins?” Phoebe repeated.

“Like crushed up oreos and colored sprinkles.” Joe made note of Phoebe’s bright-blue sleeveless top. He also knew that her capris were yellow, as were her flip flops, though they had blue rhinestones that glittered from the straps.

He really did like colored sprinkles.

“You use oreos and colored sprinkles during sex?”

He grinned. “Sure. Or chocolate syrup. Or edible body lotion. Or other add-ins. You know…toys, handcuffs, naughty costumes. That kind of stuff.”

Phoebe licked her lips and Joe couldn’t look away from the shine on her bottom lip. “What kind of costumes?” She was practically whispering now.

Phoebe Sherwood never whispered. He’d known her less than twenty-four hours and he knew that.

He liked this. He lowered his voice too. “I’ve always been partial to naughty teachers.”

Phoebe blushed.

He liked that too. It was probably almost as rare as the being-quiet thing. But he didn’t know why she’d be blushing. “Do you have a naughty-teacher costume?” he asked, so hoping the answer was yes.

“I am a teacher.”

He thought about that, his grin growing. “And here I was gonna say that I thought my new favorite might be a naughty farm girl.”

She blushed brighter at that and he laughed.

“You shouldn’t be flirting with me,” she finally said.

He sighed, his smile fading. “Yeah, you’re right.”

“You can’t really help it though, huh?”

“It tends to get the better of me.”

“You’re gonna have to tone it down.”

“Hanging out with you isn’t going to help me there.”

They sat looking at each other. Joe honestly didn’t know how he should feel at that moment. Maybe apologetic, but that didn’t seem to be sinking in.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

DARK SHADOW by LaVerne Thompson

DARK SHADOW by LaVerne Thompson

The Hidden Series

Did you really think you’d live forever?

She never planned on dying at eighteen, much less awakening to live in the world as a creature of the night. Still, Noel doesn’t complain. She embraces who she’s become, even through the dark loneliness she feels at times.

Have you ever had dreams so alluring you couldn’t get them out of your mind?

Jett knows they're only dreams, but they feel real to the point that he closes his eyes during the day just to embrace them again. No matter the danger to his soul if such a beautiful nightmare does exist. It goes by the sweet name Noel.

BUY THE eBOOK   ***   READ THE EXCERPT

~Excerpt~

“Run,” he managed to croak out. “Get out of here before they come back.” God the last thing he wanted for her to be attacked by those vampires or whatever the hell they were.

Jett forced himself off the wall and reached for her hand. “Come on, we have to get out of here.” But with his first step away from the wall his head swam, weakened from blood loss, he fell on his knees to the ground. She still held his hand as she leaned over him. For such a tiny thing, her grip felt incredibly strong or he was just that weak, he suspected the latter.

He sat back on his haunches; his head too heavy to remain upright but through sheer will power he looked up at her. Breathing heavily he whispered, “Run. Leave me. Please.”

She smiled. He felt himself dying in that dark dirty alley yet her smile made it seem as though he’d gotten a glimpse of heaven. She raised her hand and touched his forehead. The burning sensation disappeared but he still had no strength. It seeped out along with his blood, running down the sides of his neck and wrist. Jett couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. But he managed to tell his angel, for with the bright light shining from her beautiful golden eyes, surely that’s what she had to be.

“Run.”

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