Friday, July 31, 2009

Holding Her Own by Marie-Nicole Ryan



An excerpt from
Holding Her Own
Copyright 2008 Marie-Nicole Ryan http://marienicoleryan.com
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication


“Now I know you’re going to think I’m silly to be concerned, but someone left a voodoo doll in my chair at work.”
And who the hell would leave a voodoo doll for Kate at work? One possibility came to mind. Like a lot of the working girls, Angie had been fond of voodoo spells and candles. Her room had been awash with candles and beads and gris-gris bags.
“You sure it wasn’t your co-worker Lisette who left it?”
Kate shook her head vigorously. “No, she turned six shades of white when I asked her about it. She said I needed to take it to someone and get the curse reversed.”
He took a deep breath. “I’m listening.”
“First I went to the voodoo shop Lisette recommended. The proprietor told me someone very powerful made it, and only she or someone more powerful could undo the spell.”
A chill spread up his neck like an ice pick popsicle. Was the doll meant to unnerve Caitlin or was it meant to cause harm?
“Where’s the doll now?”
“In the glove compartment of my rental car.” She shrugged. “I know it’s silly, but I just didn’t want the thing in the condo.”
“Good. Describe it.”
“Black cloth in the shape of a human, stuffed with feathers, wrapped in black thread, except for the head. That thread was red.” She reached up and wound a curl around her finger. “Like my hair.”
“Lisette was right. We need to get the curse reversed.”
“Before the wreck, I might’ve said you were nuts, but now…maybe we should.” She smiled at him. Here he was sitting on the side of Caitlin’s bed. Close enough to touch her soft skin. The tropical fruit scent of her shampoo reached his nostrils. His dick grew hard. God, he wanted her.
But keeping her safe was more important than letting the boys out to play.
To stall for time and to regain his composure, he walked over to the fridge and pulled out two bottled waters, then carried them back. “Here.” He opened both and handed one of them to Kate.
“The real problem, as I see it, is who is trying to put a curse on me? Is it personal or has our operation been compromised?” She took a long swallow then licked the moisture from her lips.
Damn. Did she have to do that? He gulped down half a bottle before he could trust himself to speak. “There are a lot of ways we could look at it First, it’s a serious threat. Exactly who told you it was created by a powerful priestess?”
“A woman at the shop, named Lyontine.”
“I remember her. She’s been in business for a long time, but it used to be more service oriented—if you know what I mean.”
“Really? A prostitute?”
“She was a madam. Guess she parlayed her savings and bought the shop. We have to find this priestess first—no, correction, I have to find her. I want you to stay as far away from the voodoo scene as you can. I’m a native, and I’ll be less conspicuous investigating her whereabouts.”
“No. We do this together. I don’t need to be protected like I’m a damned civilian.” She shivered and set the bottle water on the floor. “I feel like someone just walked over my grave.”
“For once, will you listen to me? Keep your nose in the spreadsheets and follow the money trail. I’ll check out the ceremony and the voodoo priestess. Did Lyontine happen to mention her name?”
“Marie-Ange, I think. She’s supposed to be a direct descendent of Marie Laveau.”
“Aw hell, chèr. They all claim that.” Marie-Ange? Too close to be mere coincidence. Still he needed to see for himself. If it was Angie, he’d put a stop to her shenanigans pretty damn quick.
“Maybe it’s related to the money laundering? Perhaps the one responsible wants to scare me away from the casino so someone else more amenable can take my place?”
“Can’t rule it out. Not until we know for sure who ordered the curse.”
“I still think this is something I need to handle myself.”
He shook his head, stood and walked over to a window. The woman was reckless, stubborn and so damn sexy he could barely keep his head on straight. “You’ll be the death of me yet, chèr.”
“Is it my imagination,” Caitlin said with a giggle, “or is your accent getting thicker the longer we stay here?”
“See here, darlin’, this is my hometown. The smells, the sights, the sounds of jazz floating in the air at night…” He let out a long sigh. “I love this place with ever’ bone in my body, all the way down to my little toe.”
Kate’s eyebrows rose at least an inch, “Left or right?” Her tone was deadpan and left him confused.
“Say what?”
“Which toe? Left or right? You didn’t specify. Just for the record.” A half grin quirked the corner of her pouty lips.
He let out a bark of laughter. “Your sense of humor is improving. Keep working at it. It’s like a muscle, needs a lot of practice.”
Her green eyes gazed across the room at him through a fan of dark red lashes. Her smile widened to include both sides of her lush mouth.
No doubt about it. She was flirting with him. He grinned back…and reined in the urge to kiss her into next Monday. No point in spoiling the hint of promise in the air.
He shifted his stance. His woody had all but cut off the circulation to his crotch. “Don’t make me come over there and kiss you.”
“Wh-what?” A dimple appeared in the corner of her mouth.
“Don’t make me come over there and kiss you.”
She stood and scowled. “You can put any thought of kissing me right out of your mind.”
“Well, that settles it.” With two long strides, he closed the distance between them. He cradled her face in his hands. “See what you’ve done. Now I have to kiss you. I have to taste those lips.”
Caitlin put out a hand and stepped back. “No, you don’t.” The nerve of the man.
And then his mouth was on hers. Fierce, demanding and hot.
She weakened, along with her knees, and her body molded to his. His heat infused every cell of her body in waves setting off sparks of electricity that ignited and flashed.
Staggered by the ferocity of her body’s response and the sheer need to touch him, to feel his bare skin against hers, she backed away.
“No.”
The single word was uttered as a hoarse rasp. His hands dropped from her face, skimming slowly down her body.
“No. We can’t,” she said, shaking her head. “This is crazy. You’re crazy. I’m crazy.”
Pulling away from him hurt. A pain so real and full of loss so deep it shook her soul.
Jaw clenched, Jake stood his ground but didn’t come after her.
The silence grew longer, finally he spoke. “Tomorrow, we go to Lyontine’s together. Otherwise you’ll just go on your own and get that cute ass of yours caught in a nest of alligators…or worse.”
“Agreed. Together.” Back in bed, she pulled the sheet up around her neck and pretended to sleep. But how could she? His kiss had shaken her to the core. Never had she wanted to give herself to anyone like she did Jake.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Second Chances by Nika Dixon

SECOND CHANCES by Nika Dixon





Mainstream Romance: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure

ISBN: 978-1-60435-346-4

Publisher: Red Rose Publishing

Available now from:


Red Rose Publishing (www.redrosepublishing.com)

All Romance eBooks (www.allromanceebooks.com)

Barnes and Noble (coming soon)


 


Excerpt:


Casey struggled out of a strange dream. Pictures of rain and bricks. Darkness and flashing lights. She grasped for the pieces, but they slipped away and disappeared.



She rolled over, pulling the warm blankets around her shoulders, drifting in the strange state of half-awake. Rain ticked in with an offbeat rhythm on the window, distracting her from the task of returning to sleep. She opened her eyes, the fuzzy edges falling away as she stared at the dark green comforter.


Her bedding was blue.


She blinked, confused.


That wasn’t her nightstand. And why was it on the wrong side of the bed? And didn’t her clock have red digits, not neon green ones?


The realization this wasn’t her house, her room, her bed, shocked her body upright. With a gasp she launched herself into a seated position, confusion and panic of where she was slamming her heart into high gear. Sharp pain split her forehead. Everything tilted with carnival speed, and she pitched forward, desperate to get off the ride. Her body tangled in the bedding, trapping her limbs. She would have dropped face first onto the floor if her forward motion wasn’t halted by a pair of very solid hands.



“Easy,” a male voice growled.



Recognition shot down Casey’s spine with a shiver, and she squeezed her eyes shut. Only one man had the power to break her body into goose bumps with something as simple as the sound of his voice.


She raised her head and looked up into the hazel eyes of the last person she’d ever expected to see again.


Jackson Hale.


Her arms fought free of the encumbering blanket as she struggled to put space between them, but his fingers continued to burn the flesh of her upper arms. He eased her back down onto the pillows and lowered himself onto the edge of the bed.


She knew she stared, but she couldn’t stop. If Jackson was here…then the here was Jackson’s.


“Painkillers,” he supplied, releasing her arms to hand her a couple of small white pills followed by a glass of water.


She threw her concentration at getting the tablets onto her dry tongue, but had to use both hands to steady the glass while she gulped the water. After wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she held out the empty glass.


He took it from her shaking fingers and set it on the nightstand without taking his gaze off her.


Trapped like the proverbial deer, Casey couldn’t look away. Six months of faked ignorance and pretend normalcy fell away in a glance, leaving her feeling just as alone and lost as she was that night all those months ago.


His entire body was tense, a coiled spring ready to snap if the pressure wasn’t soon released.


She wished he would talk, yell, shout. Anything but the silent stare he gave her right now. Casey read his face, the anger, the unasked questions reflected deep in his eyes. He may be able to still his mind and body, but those stormy hazel eyes betrayed everything.


He was still angry.


And he still blamed her.


She’d made a mistake in coming.


He wouldn’t help.



Desperation welled up into her throat, and she dropped her gaze.


And realized she wasn’t wearing her clothes.


With a shriek, she yanked the covers up to her chin. “Where are my clothes?” Her cheeks heated under his unconcerned expression.


“Laundry.”


“Did you…?” She paused. “Did you take them off?” She was mortified to think he’d undressed her while she was unconscious. The burn spread to her ears.


“You weren’t exactly in any condition to do it yourself,” he pointed out. “What with you passing out and all.”


Casey tried to portray casual, as though waking up in a strange bed, wearing nothing but her underwear, was a common occurrence. But the feeling of embarrassed fire across her cheeks and neck was not helping.


Jackson stood and crossed to the tall oak dresser standing against the far wall. Casey breathed a sigh of relief at the added space and squeezed her eyes shut, wishing she was still asleep. At the sound of a dresser drawer opening, she snapped her eyes open just in time to catch the wadded up t-shirt he flung at her.


She clutched the material over her breasts, her knuckles bunched around the cotton so tightly they turned white.


He crooked an eyebrow.


“Turn around?” she squeaked.



With an exasperated sigh, he turned his back.


Casey tugged the shirt down over her head and pulled the bottom hem over her thighs. Then she tugged the blankets back up to her chin.


“Okay,” she muttered.


He faced her again but remained in the middle of the room, his arms crossed over his chest, watching with intensity.


Casey took a deep breath and held it.


Jackson Hale was one tall, dark, and sexy man.


Especially when he looked ready to strangle someone.


In this case—her.


His stance was wide, his legs braced. The well-worn jeans hugged his muscular thighs, and the light gray t-shirt stretched across his upper arms, accenting the raw strength and muscle of his torso. For years he’d kept his hair cropped short, military style, but now it was thick and wavy, the length almost touching his collar. His features were dangerous, rugged, and he needed a shave.



An avenging angel.


Just not hers.


Not anymore.


Dropping her gaze to the bedding, she ran a shaky hand through her tangled hair. Her fingers brushed against a piece of gauze taped behind her ear, and she winced. She pulled at it, frowning.


“Don’t pick at it,” he snapped.



Her eyes jumped to his, her mouth open in reply, but her mind couldn’t complete the order to speak, so she let it close.


Her stomach jumped at the silence and gave a long, slow burble.



Jackson’s eyes narrowed.


Cssey watched as his shoulders lowered and his arms dropped loosely along his sides. “I’ll make you something to eat. Shower’s through there. Towels are on the back of the door. Come downstairs when you’re done,” he ordered, then turned and walked towards the hallway. “And then I expect the details. All of them.”


He left without looking back.


Just like he had half a year ago.


Covering her eyes with her hand, she flopped back down onto the pillows, unable to come up with a coherent answer to the question now what?


Her stomach growled again, and she sighed, arguing the pros and cons of leaving now versus later. He didn’t want her here any more than she wanted to be here. But she couldn’t go without her clothes, and what harm could a shower cause? Clean up first, and then she would collect her things and leave with at least part of her dignity intact.



So what if she drained his water tank in the process?


Sure it was petty.


But somehow the thought of leaving him with an icy cold shower gave her the drive to push off the covers and head to the bathroom.


Best Book - Long and Short Reviews
http://longandshortreviews.blogspot.com/2009/06/second-chances-by-nika-dixon.html


SECOND CHANCES Book Trailer on YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k324mgMggw


For more information on the author, please check out Nika's website, www.nikadixon.com .

No Fear by Allie Harrison



NO FEAR
by Allie Harrison

ImaJinn Books www.imajinnbooks.com

ISBN: 978-1-933417-48-6

Paranormal Romance $14.00

Release date: May 9, 2009



Setting:



Medusa’s Island, off the Carolina coast, isolated by an

approaching storm fall storm. Present day. When two

young women are found dead from no apparent

causes despite their expressions of terror, Chief of

Police James Winchester and Emma Gray fear a

monster from the past has returned to the island. Emma

narrowly escaped this killer five years before. James

had come to the island to stop this monster then, but

saving Emma had been his priority. Now they once

again have no choice but to face this killer, as well as

the terror he brings. They hope the love they share is

strong enough to save them…



Excerpt:



“I can’t be out in the dark,” Emma admitted.

James watched her closely, taking in the way she

hugged her arms together despite the calm expression she

worked to maintain on her face. The way she held her arms

drew his attention to the soft pink of her sweater and her

creamy flesh above the scooped neck. James swallowed

hard and did his best to keep his gaze on her face.

“Why not? Do you turn into a werewolf?” he asked. He

knew her fear of the dark and her reason for it. Just as he knew he

shouldn’t bring up something as legendary as a werewolf, but he

had to know where he stood with her when it came to her trusting

him with her past. He couldn’t very well come out and say he knew

she’d been tied up in the dark with a vampire, or could he?

She looked at him, completely serious. “No, but there might

be one waiting out there for me just the same,” she replied. It was so

easy to look into his eyes. She found it nearly impossible to look

away from them. “Doc said I could trust you.”

“And do you agree with him?” James asked.

“I think so,” she admitted. “That’s why I came, to find out

for certain.”

“I have ice cream for dessert,” he told her. “Chocolate.”

She met his gaze as if she contemplated the fact he would

know chocolate was her favorite. Then she looked out the back door,

taking notice of the quickly sinking orange ball in the western sky.

“Perhaps I’ll have ice cream another time. Can you take me home

now please?” She fought to maintain her composure. How could

she convince him of her fear of the dark without sounding like a

two-year old afraid of the monster hiding in the closet?

She stared at him as he absently swirled the last bit of

wine in his glass. He watched her carefully with those strange

eyes of his, and yet his scrutinizing stare didn’t make her the

least bit uncomfortable. He had kissed her before. It had been

nothing more that a sweep of his lips, and yet Emma admitted

to herself as she now absently licked her lips that she wanted

more. The chance of a kiss from him didn’t shock her. She’d

felt a strange pull from him for a very long time. In fact, being

with him, being close to him, as well as being at his house and

eating dinner with him, felt more natural to her than working to

keep her distance from him.

It was the falling darkness that bothered her.

What did surprise her was his answer, however.

“No,” he said simply.

“No?” She looked again out the back door. She could

run the two miles home, but she’d never make it before dark.

She’d be out there, vulnerable, as the darkness swallowed her

like a monster with big teeth.

His next words surprised her even further. “I want you

to stay with me. We can look at the stars together.” His gaze

trapped in hers never faltered.

A shiver ran up her spine. Emma concentrated on her

next several breaths. Breathe in, let it out. Breathe in, let it out.

“I can’t be out in the dark,” she said simply. It probably wasn’t

much different from telling him she couldn’t walk a tight wire

stretched between two skyscrapers, either.

“I know,” James said simply.

She might have just told him the sky was blue and the

grass was green with the way he’d answered her.

“I know of your fear. I want to help you face it,” he said.

Slowly she shook her head. “There is no way I can be out

in the dark looking at stars,” she said.

“Yes, there is,” he said. “I’ll be with you.”

“No.”

“You’ll be safe with me, I promise.”

“No,” she said again. The hair on the back of her neck was

standing up. Pain suddenly bit in her palms. And Emma realized

that despite the fact she held her arms across on her lap, she was

clenching her fists and her nails dug into her palms.

“I thought you said you trusted me.”

Emma noticed the way his gaze never left hers, never

wavered. He still swirled the wine in his glass. Then still looking

at her, he finished it off.

“It isn’t that I don’t trust you. And it isn’t you that scares

me about the dark,” she let out without thinking. Her own words

made her blink. Why the hell did she admit that to him? Now he’d

be asking what it was that scared her in the dark.

Much to her surprise, he didn’t ask. And from the casual

way he watched her, she thought he already knew what scared her

in the dark. “I’ll hold your hand,” he said.

Suddenly she was bothered by the fact that he didn’t ask

what frightened her. “You don’t understand,” she said. “There was a—”

A what? A vampire? Emma couldn’t bring herself to say the word, even

after all this time. That single word, despite how ridiculous it sounded,

how utterly childish and stupid, still sent her heart racing, her stomach

clenching painfully, and caused her legs to feel weak. “There was a man

in the dark,” she said instead. “He—”

“I won’t let him hurt you, Emma,” James said simply. “But you

have to stop him from hurting you again, too.”

“What?” His words made no sense. “He doesn’t.”

James took her in still, his eyes like thunderclouds. “He keeps

you from living your life to the fullest. Do you trust me?” he asked.

She very much wanted to trust him. For that moment, she

was glad the table separated him from her. If it hadn’t she thought

she’d be the one to now touch him. The need to be close to him

frightened her as much as the dark. She’d never before felt it.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Then stay and take in the stars with me. We’ll have ice

cream and wait for the dark together.”

Again, she shook her head. “No ice cream,” she said. “I’m

already feeling like I might lose the supper you cooked for us.” She

took a long swallow of her wine. It burned going down, but didn’t

totally relieve her of the lump in her throat.

It was merely minutes later when he looked into her eyes.

His eyes were so smoky, they looked nearly silver.

Emma’s mouth was suddenly dry, her heart racing and

feeling as if it jumped in her chest. She didn’t feel herself move,

but she was suddenly holding his hand. He laced his fingers

through hers and held her tightly, letting her know he would

never let her go.

“How do you do that?” she asked.

“Do what?”

“Touch me without me knowing?”

His brows drew together in question. “I don’t understand.”

He still held her hand. He understood completely. He had watched

her for a long time and knew she didn’t allow anyone to touch her.

He knew she even jumped if Doc bumped against her unexpectedly.

“Never mind,” she said, not explaining it to him.

“Is it all right if I touch you, if I take your hand?” he had to ask.

The smile she offered him was small, hesitant, and uncertain.

Then she said, “Yes, yes, it is. I like the way your hand feels.” Then

she looked away from him, out the back door.

Her fear touched his hand and moved right up his arm to

his heart like a hot spark. Her fear, any pain, any negative

feeling at all, she felt was physical pain to him, and he wished

he could just kiss her and wipe away all her fear and all the

pain of her past. At least she was willing to let some of it go.

“All you have to do is step out on to the deck with me,” he said.

She tried to look brave, tried to not let him see the terror

that coursed through her like a burning river. “It’s so dark.

There’s no moon.”

“I know.”

She didn’t remember taking any steps, but they were

suddenly at the back door.

James pulled the door open. The cool air of the quickly

approaching night touched her like sharp claws raking across her

skin. Emma fought the urge to scream and jump away. She

couldn’t manage to keep out her sudden intake of breath.

James tightened his hold on her hand, yet still his grip

was gentle. “You can do this, Emma. You can do this with me.

Just hold on to my hand. I’m right here beside you. I won’t let

you go.”

His hand was so warm, so strong. She was probably

squeezing it hard enough to break his fingers, she thought.

But even the thought wasn’t enough to force her to loosen

her grip. Now, she felt every step. As if her feet were

suddenly each twenty pounds heavier, she had to concentrate

to move. Then they were out on the deck in the cool October night.

“Oh, I can’t breathe,” she said. “I can’t.” She really had

believed she was safe with James. She really thought that with

James holding her hand, she could become a part of the night, see

the stars and breathe in the night air. She couldn’t. He held her

hand tightly as she tried to pull away, tried to slide back into the

house. The coldness of the dark was like being under water and

knowing she couldn’t come up for air. Her chest was tight as if

something indefinable gripped her middle and wouldn’t allow her

chest to expand for a much-needed breath. Her mouth was dry, her

chest so tight, she couldn’t swallow.

James took her other hand, and held it just as tightly, forcing

her to face him. “Look at me. I’m right here with you. I won’t let

anything hurt you ever, I promise.”

She stopped pulling against him and looked up at him. His

eyes appeared to glow and sparkle in the shadows. Emma couldn’t

look away. She didn’t even want to look away. She wanted to

move closer to him. Her desire to touch him, to touch every inch

of him, was back, stronger than ever. And she wanted nothing

more than to touch him and let him touch her right out on the deck,

making them both part of the night.

“Take a deep breath.”

She did, following his lead. Her breasts touched his

chest with the movement. His closeness sent a shiver through

her and at the same time compelled her to be even closer to him.

She fought against the urge to lean into him.

“Now I want you to look around. Let yourself see that

there’s nothing out here,” he said. “Nothing but you and me

and things that belong out here.” He leaned close and whispered

in her ear. “Don’t be afraid.”

Emma concentrated on the sound of his voice, so sure,

so certain. It was so easy to listen to him.

“Listen to the night sounds,” he went on softly.

The night was filled with sounds, a distant owl and

leaves rustling in the breeze that gently blew Emma’s hair. The

chilly air became easier to work through her lungs.

“Now look up at the stars,” James said. He stepped

closer to her. Her warmth nearly burned him. He took a deep

breath, taking in the familiarity of her sweet scent. She smelled

like soft flowers in the woods, earthy, inviting and alluring. She

had no idea how intoxicating her smell was mixed with the night air.

And she looked up at the stars, exposing her throat to him…





The following review is by Barbara Scott of MoRWA for MoRWA’s

Newsletter Rumpled Sheets:



You know what it's like when you finish a good book and you immediately want to

call your best friend and tell her all about it? But you can't because you know she'll

like it too and you don't want to give away the best parts. That's the feeling I had

while reading No Fear by Allie Harrison.

Adept at creating a mood, Harrison gets the hair raising on the back of your neck

as she spins her tail of the creepy things happening on Medusa's Island. After the

mysterious deaths of two young women, Chief of Police James Winchester begins

to fear that the monster, possibly a vampire, that stalked the Island 5 years ago

has returned. This stirs his protective nature for the woman who had survived an

attack back then.

Emma Gray has never been the same since her brush with death. She lives a

sheltered life, afraid of the night, avoiding all but the closest of friends, haunted

by the voice of her attacker. Though she's knows James and should trust him,

she is wary of even him if it means venturing out after dark.

Can she trust James to protect her? Should she?

Like a trusted friend leading you into a dark place you're not sure you want to go,

Harrison takes you down unexpected pathways in this clever vampire tale. She

knows how to bring the goosebumps and when to make you squirm. Just like

Emma, you'll want to trust James when maybe you shouldn't.

No Fear is a chilling mix of mood and mystery. I'd tell you more but I don't want

to spoil it. You have to read it for yourself.



Barbara Scott

Books from the heart, from my heart to yours

HAUNTS OF THE HEART, now!

LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART, now!

CAST A PALE SHADOW, now!



From Coffee Time Romance & More

4 Coffee Cups

Emma Gray swears she will never be a victim again.

She came face to face with death and survived. Done hiding

from life; she decides to give her savior a chance.

James Winchester will never forget the night he saved Emma.

He has waited for 5 years to tell her how he feels and now he

may never get a chance.

Emma and James may never explore their blossoming feelings

because once again the monster of death has returned. This time

the vampire is determined that Emma will be his for all eternity.

No Fear is a wonderful book that is full of suspense, horror, and

romance. The ability of Emma to survive the first encounter is

amazing, but the author’s description of subsequent victims is

detailed and scary. Allie Harrison used an eloquent writing style

to throw the reader into the fight for life against corpses from a

cemetery. This is a thrilling read that provides a little bit of

everything to keep any reader turning the page.

Delane
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More





Coming soon by Allie Harrison

Also ImaJinn Books: HIDE & SEEK
OF A DIFFERENT BREED

Facing Forward by Robyn Sheridan






The holidays were usually my favorite time of year, but this year I was dreading them. I had only spoken to Grace on the phone in the weeks since our dinner, and our conversations were short and strained. We were both hurting and instead of being able to comfort one another, there was a wall between us. I also missed having a man around and desperately wanted someone to share my life with. I needed a shoulder to lean on, and I was feeling very much alone.

School was my refuge. I loved being with the children each day. They were so smart and full of life. They made me laugh, and I was grateful for each one of them. I had been conducting parent-teacher conferences, and it was intriguing to find out more about the parents of my kids.

On the last day of school before the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the last of my parent meetings with Emma’s dad, Ted. When he arrived, I shook his hand and said, “It’s nice to see you again, Dr. Manning.”

“Please call me Ted,” he replied.

“Then you must call me Jane. Have a seat. Let me first say that Emma is a pleasure. She is so well behaved. She is still very quiet, though, and I’d like us to work on that.”

“Does she interact with the other kids?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, but she is reluctant to join in the group on her own. She has to be coaxed a bit,” I answered.

“Is this something I should be worried about? I hate to sound ignorant, but this is my first child, and I’m at a loss with certain things. These are the things a mom is supposed to know how to deal with,” he said wistfully.

“No, no. I didn’t mean to worry you. She’s a lovely child. I just know that she’s been through a lot, and I want to help her.”

“Thanks—it’s been quite the challenge. When Annie died, I was caught completely off guard. Not only did I lose a wife, but I had to be both mother and father to Emma. Annie was a stay-at-home mom, and she knew everything about taking care of Emma. In an instant she was gone, and here I was left with a toddler who was missing her mother as much as I was.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat. “How did you get through it?” I asked softly.

“My mom came and stayed with us for three months, and eventually I got a routine together. But there’s always something to worry about.”

My heart was breaking for him. I wanted to reach out but reminded myself that he was the parent of one of my students. “Please don’t worry about Emma at school. She’s very close to Mattie, and I’ll make sure that she’s all right here.”

“Mattie and Jim have been so good to us. I was extremely grateful that Emma was in her class.”

“And just so you know, she is really bright. Look at this,” I said, pulling out an evaluation I had done on Emma. “I tested her, and she is already reading at a first grade level.”

He smiled, and said, “Annie was adamant about reading to Emma from the time she was born, and that was the one tradition that I made sure I kept up with.”

“It’s paid off because she is extremely capable of expressing herself. We’ll just work on getting her to be a little more outgoing.”

He looked relieved and said, “Jane, thank you for everything. This is new territory for me, and I appreciate all the help I can get.”

“Feel free to call me at any time if you’re worried or have questions.”

“I will.” He stood and looked at his watch. “I’m sorry I kept you so long. You must have some place to go.”

“Actually, I’m just headed home.”

He paused a moment. “Emma is with my in-laws, and I don’t have any plans. Would you like to have dinner? Or is that against the rules?” he asked awkwardly.

“I would love the company, but it probably wouldn’t be a good idea,” I said feeling somewhat disappointed.

“I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. It’s very quiet without Emma around. I need to go running anyway,” he said quickly.

“I’m a runner, too. Do you ever race?” I asked hopefully.

“I’m going to run the 10K on New Year’s Day. Are you interested?”

That was a loaded question. “Sure, can you send me the information?” I asked hoping I didn’t seem overly enthusiastic.

“I’ll email it to you. It starts and ends in the town square, and there are booths and games for the kids. It’s a fun time and even better in the snow.”

“I’m looking forward to it. Have a nice Thanksgiving.”

“You, too, Jane. And thanks again.”

When Ted left, I was full of mixed emotions—annoyed at myself for not being more professional, yet excited by the attraction. He had such a warm demeanor, and I wanted to get to know him better, but knew it was dangerous territory. I had made so many bad choices. I didn’t need to make another.



Robyn Sheridan
www.RobynSheridanBooks.com


Purchase Information:

Facing Forward
Contemporary Romance
ISBN 978-1-59705-969-5

www.wings-press.com

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Slave Girl by Sheniqua Waters



Impulsively, Kudar slid his arm around Laila and pulled her to him. He bent his head and kissed her gently on the mouth. When his mouth touched hers, an explosion of heat oozed through him, and an uncontrollable moan escaped from his throat. He had been dreaming about kissing Laila since the day she had been brought back to the palace. Now that his lips were on hers, his body reacted strongly to the touch of her soft yielding lips.

“Don’t be afraid,” he chided when he felt a shutter go through her. “It will be nice for the both of us,” he whispered then kissed her again expectantly.

In Kudar’s imagination, she had always been very willing. In his imagination, she had responded with a moan and eagerly wrapped her arms around his neck. Now, however, she lay completely still in his embrace. Lifting his head, he asked, “Why won’t you kiss me back?”

Laila didn’t answer. Instead, she pushed away from him. Quickly, tying her vest together, she rose and walked to the balcony wall. She turned her back to him and looked out toward the city. Pink and purple light canvassed the sky in wake of the setting sun.

“Answer me,” Kudar demanded.

At the sound of his impertinent tone, Laila found her voice. “Why are you pretending this is about me?” she asked.

“What?”

“Let’s face it. None of this is about me. It’s about you and what you want. I don’t have a say. You wanted to kiss me. So, I let you kiss me.”

“You let me kiss you?…”

“What more do you want from me?”

“I want you to kiss me back. I want you to enjoy it as much as I do.”

“Enjoy it? I don’t know you. Why would I want to kiss you and make love to you?…If you want someone who feels privileged to be in your bed, you want one of the other women in your harem. You don’t want me.”

For a moment, Kudar was taken back by Laila’s frankness. But, he decided he wanted to hear what she had to say even if he may not like it. After all, she was now talking which was more than she had done during dinner.

“I’ve been told I’m a very giving lover,” Kudar admitted. “I’m sure you will like it.”

“But, if I don’t have a choice, does it matter? How is being here in your palace any different than being a slave to Zora? I didn’t have a choice then, and I don’t have a choice now. You want me to be like one of your many love slaves who give you their bodies when you want it. But, that’s not what I want. When I make love, I want to be in love first.”

Kudar chuckled. “That’s nonsense. What does love have to do with anything? I see to it that you have a place to live and nice things to keep you comfortable. In return, we give each other pleasure. That makes the most sense.”

“If I wanted that kind of relationship, I would have married the boy my parents picked out for me back home,” Laila protested.

“You compare me to a boy?” Kudar scoffed as he stood to his feet. “You compare this to what you have back home!” He swept his arms about. “You had nothing this nice at home and no boy can treat you as good as I can!”

“I want to choose who I love! I want to choose who I kiss!”

In a few strides, Kudar was at her side. He turned her to face him. “You should want to kiss me,” he explained.

“Well, I don’t!” Laila snapped. Why did he think she would be so eager to jump in to his bed? His arrogance was beyond belief! “Why should I want to kiss a man who’s kissed a million girls before me?” she countered in a steely voice.

“This is why…” Kudar grumbled as he drew her hard against his chest and lowered his head to her.

This time, when his lips met hers, an unexpected bolt of heat seared Laila’s lips. Her legs suddenly felt weak. She couldn’t help but lean into Kudar for support as a wave of untamed attraction coursed through her being. As her body melted into his, she felt the evidence of his desire.

“You can’t tell me that kiss did not affect you. I know you felt what I did,” Kudar panted when their lips parted.

Laila shook her head breathing deeply. “No…It didn’t affect me…” she managed to say.

“You’re lying,” Kudar countered, now that his prowess had been challenged.

“I’m not lying!”

“Okay….just lusting for me..?” he questioned.

Laila blushed and pulled away from him. She had to step away from Kudar. Being so close to him was clouding her thoughts. Not only was she having trouble thinking, she was having trouble taking her eyes off of his electric lips. She stepped sideways in an attempt to move past him. But, Kudar stepped to block her path.

“I can see it in your eyes,” he noted. “The truth is, you want me just as much as I want you.”

Laila shook her head in repudiation. “Why should I want you? You don’t even know my real name,” she bristled.

“Well, what’s your real name?”

“Laila,” she replied and tried to move past him again.

“Lay-la, huh?”

She nodded.

Without warning, Kudar scooped her into his arms. Laila gasped in astonishment as her slippers fell silently from her feet and her arms settled around his neck. With long strides, he made it to his enormous bed in the middle of the room then dropped her on it. A moment later, he stretched out over her.



Sheniqua Waters
TheWorldsBestBook.com

The Cowboy Way by Tory Richards



The Cowboy Way
Available now at
Whiskey Creek Press Torrid

Torrid Romance Suspense
EBook formats ISBN: 978-1-60313-530-6
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-60313-531-3
Rating: Sensual Romance - Sensual


Excerpt:

"I want to talk to you."

"Really? And here I thought you stopped to kiss me." What was she saying? Baiting a man like Chase was dangerous.

There was a long pause. Something flickered in Chase’s eyes. His expression gave nothing away, though. Lacey began to feel nervous again, though for a different reason than the one back at the house.

"The cowboy way, ma’am?" His tone was soft, dangerous, carrying the subtle threat of an unspoken promise.

Lacey swallowed nervously. The cowboy way? That was twice he’d used that expression. She wondered what it meant. An explosion of heat uncurled inside her belly, as her imagination ran rampant. Of the two of them locked in a hot, passionate embrace. No longer was Chase’s mouth firm and unyielding, but soft and sensuous. His eyes darkened with smoldering intent. Yet instincts warned Lacey that Chase was just as dangerous now as he had been a moment ago, in anger. She tried to jerk the reins from his hands, suddenly afraid she was about to find out what the cowboy way was.

"Let go." Misty moved nervously beneath her, obviously sensing her growing panic.

In the blink of an eye his expression changed. "Not until you listen to what I have to say."

"You can’t bully me, Chase." The wind blew at her loose hair, and she reached up impatiently to wipe it out of her eyes. "I won’t let you."

He reared back his head and laughed at her comment. "And how do you propose to stop me? I could do anything I want to you right now and you wouldn’t be able to stop me."

Lacey tightened her lips in frustration, even while the thought of what that something could be caused a tingle of excitement to zing through her.. As his hard mouth curved upwards in a crooked smile that was sexy as sin, she wished she could wipe that arrogant expression off his rugged face. He was so sure of himself. The look in his eyes told her to go ahead and try. Well, she’d taken self defense lessons a few years back and wasn’t as helpless as he thought.

"Then maybe you should have warned me about you, this morning!" She jerked on the reins again, harder this time. When he wouldn’t release them Lacey reached out and slapped him across the cheek. She caught her breath, realizing a man like Chase might strike back. He didn’t look the type to turn the other cheek, or ignore a challenge. Their eyes clashed in silent battle.

Then without warning he reached forward and pulled her from her horse and into his arms. His gaze dropped to her mouth before returning to her eyes. "I think you need to be taught a lesson."


Reviews-

Whipped Cream Reviews gives "THE COWBOY WAY" their Best Book rating!
"I bow down in awe at Ms Richards's ability to craft, spin and captivate with the written word. This was without a doubt one of the best books I have read in a LONG time!"
"There is no doubt that I will be searching out much more of Ms Richards work to read and no doubt enjoy as much as I did this story. It is such a treat to find an author who can make you feel so strongly toward the story they have written. Ms Richards... you are my hero!"

Blue Ribbon Rating Five from Romance Junkies!
"THE COWBOY WAY was excellent! Chase is the ultimate alpha, reluctant to express his feelings, controlling at times, but all in the best interests of Lacey. Lacey is an excellent match for him. She is independent enough that he can't walk all over her, without making the mistake of being stupid about it. All in all, THE COWBOY WAY was an entertaining romp in the hay, complete with chaps, skinny-dipping, al fresco nookie, and all the things that are guaranteed to make you wish for a glass of ice water. Excellent job!"

Contests -
Leave a comment on any post on my blog during the month for a chance to win a surprise the last Saturday of every month. Winners randomly chosen.
Romance with an Attitude Blog

Tory Richards
http://www.toryrichards.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber


The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker

By Leanna Renee Hieber www.leannareneehieber.com
Leisure Books / Dorchester Publishing
www.dorchesterpub.com
Historical Fantasy (Gothic Paranormal Romance) - $6.99
ISBN: 978-08439-6296-3
Release: 8/25/09

Setting:
The year is 1888. London is ghostly and gaslit.
What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death….

EXCERPT

Percy’s latest recurrent vision was a hazy one where she was standing in the middle of a circle, surrounded by shafts of light. Music—inhuman, beautiful, incomprehensible—was everywhere, playing inside of her and out. This music, which she had no words to describe, lingered on in faint strains throughout the day.

It was while Professor Rychman was in the midst of a tutorial lecture of particular eloquence that Percy roused from the vision to find him snapping his fingers in front of her face. She started, fumbled an apology, wrung her hands. “Oh, Professor! I’ve no d-doubt that your patience for me is at an end,” she stammered. “But I swear on my life that I listen to your every word and—”

The professor sighed. “Miss Parker, I wish you felt more at ease here. If you did, you might take to things with more surety.”

"I am, sir. At ease, I mean. Well, I … Oh, dear.” Feeling a fool, she looked away.

“At ease. Indeed?”

Percy folded her hands upon the desk. “I suppose not. Forgive my timidity. It undermines any hope I have for collected composure.”

“Your composure, Miss Parker, is nearly regal,” he replied. “That is, it would be if you stopped hiding.”

Percy blinked through her glasses at him. “Hiding?”

“With your shrouds and your shields I cannot tell when you are comprehending what I say. It is common knowledge that the eyes are the window to the soul, but your windows are shuttered. What they have to say has been muted.”

“But sir, the sun, the light—”

“Does the sun shine here, Miss Parker? You told me you were comfortable.”

“Well, I am, sir. Here the room is perfect but, outside, people stare and—”

The professor interrupted without pity or pause. “Do you include me in that number, Miss Parker? I would hope you realize that I have more important things to do than gawk as if you were a museum piece.” He leveled his gaze at her before returning to transcribing notes from a text.

“Of course, sir,” Percy replied. “Of course I realize that.”

“I call it hiding,” the professor repeated.

Percy let out a brief sigh, knowing she had no choice but to muster a bit of courage. She feared his reaction more than she could say, but he left no other option. “Very well, sir,” she remarked with quiet resolution. She rose from her chair, turned her back to him and began to remove her barriers.

She had not realized the entirety of the feeling of security they gave until she was confronted with her protections’ removal. After her careful hands removed glasses, gloves and long scarf, Percy felt naked. Vulnerable. Indecent. Yet, she reminded herself, it had not been her idea to lower her defenses. If the professor was to be disgusted—which was her greatest fear—it was through no fault of her own. The thought brought no comfort.
---
Tresses of lustrous, snow-white hair tumbled from their clothbound imprisonment, streaming like snowfall down the girl’s back. In an effort to make his student more at ease, Alexi did his best to appear wholly disinterested as she carefully removed her protections with delicate, private ceremony. But then she turned to face him, clutching those items that had held her unusual features in mystery. He forced his eyes to his book.

“As you would have it so, Professor, here is your pupil in all her ghastliness.”

Alexi looked up. Though Miss Parker’s hands clearly trembled, her voice did not.
His furrowed, generally disapproving brow rose slightly, and he leaned back in his chair and took her in. Luminous crystal eyes held streaks of pale blue shooting from tiny black pupils. A face youthful but devoid of colour, smooth and unblemished like porcelain, had graceful lines as well defined and proportioned as a marble statue. Her long, blanched locks shimmered in the candlelight like spider silk. Upon high cheekbones lay hints of rouge—any more would have appeared garish against her blindingly white skin, but she had been artful in her application. Her rosebud lips were tinted in the same manner.

She was attuned to even the most minuscule response. Her merciless, hypnotic gaze found his and she frowned. “You see, Professor, even you, so stern and stoic, cannot hide your shock, surprise, distaste—”

“Distaste?” he interrupted quietly. “Is that what you see?”
---
If Percy had taken the time to truly consider his response, she would have noticed that his tone was far from distasteful; it was, in fact, flattering. But she plowed on, choosing hurt. “What else can one feel when they behold living flesh that looks dead?”

"You assume ghost and not angel?”

Those words in regard to herself made Percy’s heart convulse. Surely he could not have intended a compliment. “I … I would never presume to liken myself to anything heavenly, Professor.”

“Indeed? Then it would seem that you, Miss Parker, are more modest than I.” If there had been an admiring look in his eye, it was quickly gone. The professor blandly donned his glasses. “Now, come take your seat. No more hiding, not in this office. Never again.”

“That is still your wish?” Percy asked.

“It is.”

Percy put down her things with a sigh. But as the lesson continued, she began to relax, seeing that he looked at her with no other quality but the expectation of fastidious attention. Once his lecture was complete, she was excused with an assignment and a curt nod. Percy donned her scarf, her gloves and her glasses with delicate deliberation, preparing to walk out again into the world. But halfway to the door after bidding the professor a quiet farewell, books in hand, she stopped and turned around.

The professor, busying himself at his desk, could evidently feel the weight of her stare; he looked up after a moment. “Yes, Miss Parker?”

“Thank you, Professor.”

“For what?”

“You are … the only man who has not made me feel as if I were on display.”

The professor blinked, his face expressionless. “You are a student and not an exhibit, Miss Parker. Good day.”

Percy curtseyed in response. Exiting the office, she felt heartened and keenly alive. Her blood murmured strangely in her veins. She wasn’t sure she’d ever been so happy.
--
As soon as the door closed behind Miss Parker, Alexi opened a drawer, withdrew his notebook and hurled it onto his desk. His pen flew. He did not allow himself to think of the implications of this previously unknown anxiety that was building inside.

“Miss Parker,” he said aloud as he wrote. “A ghost? Not my goddess in colours, but in fact the mirror opposite. Colourless. And yet, uniquely beautiful. Could her ghostly yet angelic appearance actually be a warning? Is she to be trusted or avoided? Why am I not dismissing her entirely, as I ought? She is a student! Why dare I even consider her? More the goddess is that ineffable Miss Linden, with her own clues, all those familiar words … And yet I sense in Miss Parker a gentleness similar to my goddess of two decades past. Which of them is the true seventh—if indeed either? Neither gentleness nor beauty, no matter how unusual, make Prophecy!” He slammed the book closed, knowing the fate of the world rested on his shoulders.


Releases 8/25/09, first in the Strangely Beautiful series
Pre-order The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker from
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/strangelybeautifulbn
Borders: http://tinyurl.com/strangelybeautifulbd
Dorchester: http://tinyurl.com/sbdorch
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/strangelybeautifulaz
Watch the Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFclwoZGhtY

I hope you've enjoyed the excerpt and will become a part of the Strangely Beautiful family!

Contest / Giveaways:
Be sure to drop by the Strangely Beautiful Haunted London Blog Tour launching 8/22 through September for a new ghost story every Tour Stop and a chance to win a signed copy of the book! Schedule posted here: http://www.leannareneehieber.com/haunted-london-blog-tour-book-giveaway/ Then on 8/25, stop by my contest page and find out how you can win one of two lovely prizes just by brushing up on your Shakespeare! Details here: http://www.leannareneehieber.com/contest/


Leanna Renee Hieber
www.leannareneehieber.com
2009 Prism Award Winner: DARK NEST
Upcoming from Leisure Books / Dorchester Publishing:
THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER - the ghostly, Gothic, Victorian fantasy begins 8/25/09!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Serenity by D. Renee Bagby



Fantasy Romance

Samhain Publishing
eBook ISBN - 978-1-59998-898-6
Price - $5.50


Print ISBN - 978-1-60504-093-6
Price - $13.00



Melchior rose slowly from his seat, searching Serenity’s eyes. She looked serious. He asked in a low voice, “I thought your Hell Hounds were the only bhresyas to attack you, Serenity?”

“No. My Hell Hounds were the only bhresyas I kept. Queen Rhiannon indulged my whim only so far. All those after Mael died.”

“How many?”

“You know already, Your Majesty. I’m sure you’ve seen the collection of horns that grace the wall around my mirror. All belonged to those who came to Cheslav to kill me, except the white horn of the male who attacked me on my first day in Nexeu. Twenty-six in all and their owners are all deceased, except Guthr. The last nine came in rapid succession in the last few months before our wedding day.”

Melchior looked at her with unveiled horror. He hadn’t realized the extent of her danger.

Serenity gave him a curious look then frowned at the Hell Hounds. “I thought you explained all of this to him the day of our wedding.”

“Not every detail, Serenity,” Nym said. She bowed her head when Serenity glared at her.

Serenity turned back to Melchior. “I’m sorry, King Melchior. I was given to understand my Hell Hounds imparted this information to you already. I would not have treated the topic so indelicately if I had known you were ignorant of my many attacks at bhresya hands.”

Melchior shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. He schooled his features into his normal mask of calm then said, “I am surprised, but that is no reason for you to apologize, Serenity. Your attacks weren’t your fault.”

“Twenty-six,” whispered one advisor. The other advisors were equally shocked.

Serenity’s smile returned. “If it makes you feel better, my lords, the humans wanted me dead much more than the bhresyas did. Nearly seven times that number attacked me over my eighteen years. My mother and I thought the news of my Hell Hounds would deter them, but it didn’t. However, human assassins never worried me. If they got past Queen Rhiannon’s guards, then they didn’t make it past Lorcan.”

“Leave us,” Melchior said. He tried to remain calm but the more Serenity said, the angrier he became. It was an emotion he had become intimately acquainted with over the last few weeks.

The advisors and the Hell Hounds exited. Once the door was closed, Melchior came around his desk and stood in front of Serenity. She smiled up at him. He couldn’t understand how she could smile after what she had said, what she had experienced.

Melchior wanted to lash out at those who had attacked Serenity. She and Rhiannon had robbed him of that right when they refused to contact him.

He asked, “How can you speak of your assassination attempts with such ease and disregard?”

“I am alive and they aren’t. It was my duty to stay alive so I could become your bride. If the assassins had succeeded, then the fighting between humans and bhresyas would have continued.”

She stepped closer to him. He smelled lust on her skin. The familiar scent had haunted him these many nights. Smelling it again was a blessing and torture all at once.

Serenity took another step forward. Melchior turned from her and walked away. Being close to her when he could smell her arousal tempted his control. She wouldn’t deny him, but he’d promised himself he wouldn’t touch her again.

He said, “We are married, but your duty has not changed, Serenity. You need to stay alive. The treaty only exists because we are married. Though no others have tried to hurt you since your arrival in Nexeu, you need to have more guards.”

D. Reneé Bagby
Building New Realms of Passion...
http://dreneebagby.com

Zenobia Renquist
Discover Different and Unique Romance
http://zenobiarenquist.com

-----Links-----
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Painted Lady by Maggi Anderson



Painted Lady by Maggi Anderson
A Victorian/contemporary romance
http://www.newconceptspublishing/paintedlady/htm
Available now at New Concepts Publishing

Were Astrid and Dylan merely caught up in their roles as they performed the screenplay based on the life of painter Milo Russo and his daughter, Gina? Or was the magic that seemed to explode between them with each on-screen kiss real?

EXCERPT

By the time the group turned from tea to wine and spirits and there was still no sign of Astrid, Dylan went back to his room, put on his board shorts and grabbed a towel. Flicking an inquisitive wasp away, he walked towards the band of trees, the sun warm on his bare skin. He followed the rambling path through the woods.

Emerging from the trees, he spied a towel on the far side of the lake, and made his way around the edge of the clear, gently rippling water. A pair of sunglasses and a book sat on the towel, but there was no sign of Astrid. He laid his towel alongside hers and sat on it, picking up her book, The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant.

He looked up. Astrid stood above him. “You read Guy?” she asked, pronouncing the name Gee. The sun was in his eyes and he could only see her in shadow. “When I’m feeling strong enough.”

Astrid laughed. “I’ve been for a walk. It’s lovely here.” As she walked over to her towel, he held his breath. She wore a one-piece, red bathing suit, her full breasts decorously hidden behind a modest swag of material. He admitted to himself that he’d hoped she’d wear a bikini, but there was no missing the perfect symmetry of her body, the long, shapely length of thigh and slender ankles. She had plaited her blonde hair and tied it with a pink scarf. It fell like a thick rope down her bare, brown back.

She really was a goddess.

She sat down on her towel, wrapping her arms around her knees. “I saw the rushes. You and Maureen work well together.”

He tore his gaze from her to a watch a pair of waterfowl swimming among the reeds. Had he been staring? She must be used to it. “We do.”

“She is how you say, a trouper isn’t she?”

He nodded. “I’m jealous of her years spent in rep.”

“I’d delay doing Shakespeare,” she said a tiny smile flitting across her mouth.

“Like Pierce Brosnan, your looks would distract the audience from your soliloquy.”

“A compliment?”

She put on her sunglasses hiding the expression he longed to see. “In a way.”
“You French are known to be economical,” he said grinning.

She pushed out her full bottom lip, frowning slightly. “When you are older, perhaps. For men the roles only get better. Not so much for the women.”

“Perhaps you mean that good looking blokes don’t make good actors.”

“I admire your work,” she said seriously. “I saw the war movie, Fight for Glory.
You were formidable. And you are up for the role of the next 007, no?”

“It’s only a possibility at this stage.”

Dylan found himself enjoying the ease they had with one another. “Is Philippe returning from Paris?” he asked. “I didn’t get to talk to him at the BAFTA’s. How long have you been together?”

“He has business interests that keep him in Paris. In answer to your last question, we have been together for five years.”

“You live in Paris?”

“Oui.”

It would be some house or apartment he felt sure, the guy had squillions. He picked up the pink scarf that had fallen from her hair onto the ground. It felt silky to the touch. He handed it back, resisting the urge to breathe in her fragrant scent. “Tell me about your childhood. Where were you born? Where did you grow up, go to school?”
“All that?” She laughed and began to talk about her childhood spent in a comfortable house in an outer suburb of Paris, as a middle child with an older brother and younger sister. Moments later, she said, “And now you.”

He told her more about his home south of Dublin and his five siblings. “Middle child too, sort of. Two older sisters and three younger brothers. My father is an English professor and with all those mouths to feed we were always short of money.”

“Do you want a big family like that?”

“Not that big, but yes. One day.”

“Philippe is urging me to have a bebe,” she said, looking down at her hands.

Dylan caught his breath. “Is that what you want too?”

“Not so soon.”

He wanted to ask if she still loved Philippe, but he resisted. They began to discuss the picture, like Astrid, he felt in tune with his character. When last in Ireland, he’d researched it with his father who found the era interesting.

As he and Astrid talked, he felt again that spark of strong attraction beneath their words. It was as if it came from something deep within them, a strong connection. It was not just he that felt it, of that he was sure.

“I think I’ll go in,” she said rising. She waded into the water up to her thighs and squealed. “Antony lied, very cold.”

“Nonsense,” he said, coming to stand beside her. “Warm as a bath.”

“You should have your bath heater inspected,” she said. “It’s freezing, see?”
She scooped up some water and splashed him. He yelped as the icy water hit his chest. She tried to wade out of reach as he followed her.
“The look on your face!” She giggled nervously.

“I seek revenge.”

“Please, don’t,” she begged as he reached her. “It was just a tiny joke.”
He put his hand on her arm. “One push and you’ll be wet all over,” he teased.

“It’s the best way to get in. Shall I?”

She gasped. “Non.”

They gazed deep into each other eyes as if some secret lay there they each had to know. His hand moved from her arm to her waist. He drew her slowly toward him. “Oh, don’t,” she said softly, but she didn’t resist.

His mouth came down on hers, gently exploring. Her lips were incredibly soft. When her mouth opened, his tongue began to explore. Their kisses became more urgent and he picked her up in his arms and waded ashore. He dropped her to her feet and kissed her again. She slipped her arms around his neck. “Je vous veux.”

Her desire for him sent his senses reeling. Her breasts pressed against his chest as he sought her mouth again.

A cry came from somewhere in the trees. “Barb-b-que.”

They broke apart. “Damn,” Dylan muttered then met her eyes and laughed.

“Tonight?”

She shook her head. “I’m sharing with Jenny ….”

The evidence of his desire from their kiss on display, he turned away from her and leapt into the water, swimming strongly out to the middle of the lake then back again. Astrid gathered up their towels from the ground as Antony appeared from the trees.

“My, you are fond of the water, Dylan,” he yelled from across the lake. He laughed as Dylan waded ashore, adding, “For an Irishman.”

Antony made his way back to the house, discreetly leaving them alone. As theytrailed along the path through the wood, Astrid paused and turned to him. “I don’t think we should continue with this. It would be a mistake. You know how everyone gossips.”

“Does it matter?”

She looked away from his intense gaze and bit her lip. “We are just missing our partners, that’s all.”

He took her by the shoulders, frowning. “You mean we’re just missing sex?”
“Oui,” she whispered.

He shook his head. “And the French have a reputation for being romantic. You think that’s all it is?”

“Yes, that’s just what it is, Dylan.”

“From the moment I saw you,” he said softly, “I felt drawn to you, Astrid. You felt it too.” She put her hands to her cheeks. “I don’t know, Dylan,” she said. “I need time to think.” Dylan dropped his hands to his sides. “Well, when you decide if want me, you can let me know.”

He turned and left her. Crashing through the bushes, he emerged onto the lawn.
Thankfully, everyone was in the rear courtyard and he was able to climb to his room without having to hide his swirling emotions. The break up with Jessica had left him bruised, but already, this seemed much more than that. He showered and changed and joined the others around

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Den of Desire by Shauna Hart



Den of Desire by Shauna Hart
Available at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid


What was she doing here?

She still couldn’t believe that she’d let Lexi talk her into this. She knew that time was running out. After all, the deadline for her next erotic romance novel was only a month away, and she hadn’t written a single word. Readers expecting the next Mara Templeton novel were definitely going to be disappointed if she didn’t find some way to spark the muse. The two words that every writer dreads couldn’t have struck at a worse time.

Writer’s block.

Like the nemesis in the Harry Potter series, it was something that every writer feared but didn’t dare speak of aloud. But after a messy breakup two months ago, it had become her constant companion. She couldn’t deny that her breakup with Dan had been a shock. It wasn’t every day she found her boyfriend in bed with another woman. Still, it wasn’t like their relationship was a hot one. It wasn’t even lukewarm. After living together for four months, anything hot about their relationship had died a lonely death within the first few weeks.

So, why was she having this problem?

It was a good question.

One that she didn’t have an answer for.

Now, as she stood outside the club, she wondered if her problem wasn’t a bout of insanity. She looked up at the large X that hung over the door. At night, it would light up half of the block. But now, in the light of day, it was little more than an outline. She willed herself to knock, willed herself to be bold and brave like the characters in her books, but a part of her wavered.

When Lexi’d offered to take her to the club, she’d refused. As much as she wanted to be as wild and free as Lexi was, the truth was that they were complete opposites. She had never done anything like the things Lexi did. Until recently, it had seemed like her life was right on course. She had a successful career and a solid relationship. Now, she was beginning to see how naïve she had been.
Sensing that she was nervous about visiting the club, Lexi had set up a private walk-through with the owner during the day. She could still remember her friend’s good-natured prodding.

“What have you got to lose? Maybe if you walk around the place, you will get a few ideas. I know that I always do,” she said with a wink.

She knew Lexi was right.

What could touring the club when it was closed hurt?

She raised her hand to knock mere seconds before it was pulled open. Her gaze rose to meet an arresting pair of green eyes. One eyebrow arched.

“Miss Templeton?”

She offered him a timid smile. “Yes, I’m here to meet…”

“Joe Gates,” he replied, holding out his hand.

She wasn’t sure what she had pictured when she thought of the man who owned the hottest sex club in town. Maybe bald, with the look of a pervert? But she definitely hadn’t expected him to be so…sexy.

Why would a guy like him be working in a place like this?

She placed her hand in his, noting how large it felt as it closed around her own. Instead of shaking it, he pulled her inside, closing the door behind them.

“Lexi said you wanted a private tour,” he said.

Despite the darkness, she could feel his eyes traveling the length of her body.

“Yes,” she managed.

He pulled a remote out of his pocket to press a button. Instantly, the room was flooded with light. Mara looked down the long narrow hall, her surprise evident. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting.

But this wasn’t it.

The place looked like little more than a glorified basement with track lighting. After everything she had heard from Lexi about how wonderful the place was, this was definitely not what she had envisioned.

He walked ahead of her, and she followed behind him.

“Normally, I wouldn’t grant a request like this, but Lexi’s a friend,” he observed.

Mara’s eyebrows arched. She couldn’t help but wonder what his definition of a friend was. Had they slept together? Her gaze fell to the way his ass filled out the pair of dress slacks he wore. The man definitely wore pants well. His black hair curled over the collar of his royal blue dress shirt, which was stretched over wide shoulders.

She could see why the place stayed in business. The man was a walking advertisement for sex, even if he did seem to have a slight attitude problem. He turned the corner, and her eyes widened. Rooms lined either side of the walls, their interior lights blinking on in chorus as she walked past. Her attention was immediately drawn to a room on the left. A circular bed rotated in the center. The interior of the room was draped in purple satin.

A glance to the right revealed a stark contrast. Chains were suspended from the ceiling and the floor. A variety of toys hung from the pegs at the back of the room. She turned to look at him only to find him watching her intently.

“I’m sorry if it’s an inconvenience,” she muttered, her brain still a little scrambled from the view. She felt his gaze on her body, and her nipples tightened against the thin material of her dress.

“I didn’t say that. I just think it’s a waste of time,” he explained casually.

Her eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

He walked over to her slowly, coming to stand before her. Reaching over, he twirled one of her blonde curls around his finger. “I don’t think you can understand what the club has to offer until you experience it firsthand.”

His words robbed the air from her lungs. She could feel the heat of his body against hers. And it felt good. Too good. Her eyes met his, and his full lips slid into a smile. Her mind went to forbidden places.

Places where naked bodies met.

She had to get a hold of herself before she did something stupid.

“Look, Mr. Gates…”

“Joe,” he corrected.

“Joe. This isn’t exactly my first book,” she reminded him curtly.

His gaze lifted to the ceiling for a moment as he replied. “Yes, I know. I’ve read them.”

Her eyebrows furrowed together. “You’ve read my books?” she asked, her surprise evident.

He stared at her but didn’t elaborate.

“And?” she prodded.

His eyebrows rose, his lips curling on a smirk. “They were…okay.”

Her eyes widened. “Okay?”

He tilted his head to the side at her reaction. “Yes.”

She drew in a deep breath in an attempt to reign in her temper. “So, you didn’t like them?”

“I didn’t say that. I just mean that it was obvious that you haven’t experimented much.”

She let out a huff of aggravation. “I’m not exactly a virgin, Mr. Gates,” she replied, her lips pursed.

His eyes traveled over her body in blatant interest. “Not exactly,” he agreed.

“Has anyone ever told you that you have a lot of nerve?” she asked, her voice laced with sarcasm.

His mischievous grin made her want to slap him. “I got the memo.”

“For your information, I’ve been with a lot of guys,” she offered.

In reality, all of three, but he didn’t have to know that.

“Really? Then I am sorry.”

She nodded. The man’s arrogance was astounding.

“I’m sorry that none of them could take you the way you want to be taken.”

“They took me just fine,” she countered defensively.

One eyebrow arched. “Not enough. And not the way you wanted them to,” he explained.

“Why do you think you’ve suddenly become such an expert on me and what I want?” she challenged.

His smug grin nearly did her in. “I read your books.”

She sighed heavily. He took a step closer, his hand coming up to curl around her nape. His thumb trailed along the line of her jaw. Her mouth parted of its own volition as he leaned in.

“You want to be taken, Mara,” he said, his breath wafting over her lips. “You want to be taken so deeply that you only exist for pleasure.”

All rational thought seemed to disappear with his nearness. As much as he irritated her, she couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to have his lips against hers, his tongue seeking out every hidden part of her mouth.

“I…” she stuttered.

“I could show you. But not while the club is closed.”

She told herself to back away, to tell him to go to hell, but her feet stayed rooted to the floor. She couldn’t deny that she was intrigued. The smoky depth of his voice teased her with something she had fantasized about for years but never admitted out loud. True, she had been with other lovers, but none of them had been able to take her to the heights she had heard Lexi muse about. Maybe deep down she had begun to believe that she would never reach them.

But as Joe’s body pressed into hers, she wondered…

“I don’t…” she began.

His finger came up to cover her lips, effectively silencing her. “Don’t you want to know? Don’t you want to feel what your characters feel?” he taunted.

Oh, God.

She did.

More than she could ever admit.

To herself. And to a stranger.

“Because until you do, you’re cheating yourself and you’re cheating them.”

She forced herself to look away from the smoldering heat in his gaze, and he dropped his hand.

“I appreciate the offer, Mr. Gates. But I’m just not into…” She trailed off, unable to describe the events that took place here.

His answering smile mocked her cowardice. “Yes, you are. You wouldn’t write about it if you weren’t curious.”

He took her hand, leading her over to a large picture window. Inside, a rectangular table covered in black leather was the only furniture. Straps lined the sides.

“Imagine what it would be like. Blindfolded. Strapped down. Completely bare. All you can do is feel.”

His words made her body cry out to be filled. She could feel his erection against her buttocks, and despite the warning in her head, she wanted more.

“Have you ever been taken like that? Given your body so completely to another?”

No.

She hadn’t.

She had never thought she could or wanted to. But standing before him, feeling him against her as she listened to the husky sound of his voice, she realized that she did.

“Come to the club tonight.”

His breath teased the sensitive skin of her ear. It made her want to agree to anything he asked.

“I…”

He turned her to face him. “I’m not asking you to participate, Mara. Not yet, anyway. I just want you to see it. I want you to see what people experience when they come here.”

She bit the inside of her lip. “Just to watch?”

He smiled, his gaze feeling as intimate as any touch she had ever experienced. “Nothing will happen that you don’t want to happen,” he assured her.

That, she was afraid, was the problem.


* * *
Shauna Hart
www.shaunahart.com
Den of Desire Available Now
The Pleasure of Sin Available Now
from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid

Den of Desire

Sunday, July 19, 2009

No One But You by KC Kendricks


July 19, 2009

No One But You
contemporary gay romance
available at Amber Allure


The asked for sequel to Shining Victory


Lovers Stacy James and Levi Wright keep their relationship hot and spicy by enjoying the little things in life. Levi welcomes Stacy home from a business trip by delighting his partner with a quick trick in the men’s room of a local pool hall. An offhand comment by a stranger cools Stacy’s ardor, and sets in motion a chain reaction that rocks the very foundation of Levi’s world. He’s never cheated on Stacy, but Stacy has sudden doubts.

On his own, Levi is tested in his discoveries – about Stacy, their relationship, and about the kind of man he wants to be. One thing he knows for certain. He’s not losing Stacy over a careless whisper that isn’t true, but will the only man he’ll ever love forgive his angry words?

Stacy made the worst mistake of his life telling his lover to find another place to sleep. Levi might be younger, but he’s a man, with a man’s pride. Stacy draws on all his experience to walk a road full of detours and pitfalls to meet Levi halfway, and bring him home. Because for Stacy, there’s no one but Levi.

- - - -
Join KC's mailing list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/betweenthekeys
- - - -

EXCERPT

“Can you just let go of your notion that I’m missing out on life? I don’t feel like I am.”

“Okay. But here’s the thing, Levi. I want…”

“Just stop. I love you.”

To my utter shock, Stacy grabbed both my wrists, his powerful grip tight enough to bruise. His gaze bored into mine, freezing me cold.

“You stop, Levi. You listen, just this once. You’re so afraid I’ll be pissed if I see you get a hard-on for some other guy, you run from me when I want to talk about it. Do you think that in five years I’ve never seen another man that gave me a little tingle? It happens to everyone, lover. It’s not something to be ashamed of.”

My voice didn’t want to work. “I’m not you.”

“No, you’re not. I’ve never cheated on you, Levi.” He looked at me for the longest moments of my life, his eyes gone black with some emotion I had no name for.

I knew. I knew.

"I heard what the bartender said the other night. You need to know that if it ever happens, and you trick some guy, you don’t need to keep it from me. I
expect you to first, be safe, and second, to tell me so we can be more careful.”

Ice water tossed in my face would not have chilled me more than his words.
"What the fuck is going on here, Stacy? I've never cheated on you. Never. And
I'm not starting now."

“Levi, we've been together a long time, and as a couple, we've enjoyed unprotected sex for quite a while now. Do I need to be concerned?"

A fine trembling seized my body. This conversation was out of control, the potential for disaster increasing by the second. My stomach clenched in on itself until I fought back the dry heaves. The world spiraled around me, going black at the edges. I broke free of his hands.

"I love you. I never cheat on you. And yet you sit there and ask me if it's possible I could have given you the clap - or something worse? Maybe I should be the one worrying! And you have to do it here? You motherfucker! I have to go in there and work!" I choked, unable to breathe. "I never…"

Stacy's arms came around me. I shoved him away, holding him at bay. The words came as I managed a deep breath. Horrible words that I couldn’t stop from pouring out of me in my anger and pain that he didn’t know me well enough to believe how much I loved him.

“Why don’t you go get a fucking blood test since you can’t trust me! Now you listen to me. You decide whether or not you love me enough to have me hang around, because if I’ve gotten a little old for you, you should tell me. I’ll step aside so you can go find yourself another sixteen year old!”

He drew back like I’d struck him, which I had. I’d lashed out, hitting him with the most damaging words I owned. He’d been falsely accused of having sex with a sixteen-year-old boy when he was twenty. The boy had lied – Stacy hadn’t touched him – but the accusation had almost ruined Stacy’s life. The pain lingered, and I, who loved him so much, knew the wound lingered in him, unhealed at its deepest point.

And I used it against him.


I reached for him and this time he batted my hands away.

“I’m sorry, Stace. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

“You said it, so you did mean it. Now get out of the car. I can’t be with you right now.”

My stomach roiled. “Stacy, please. We need to go back home and talk this out.”
He refused to look at me. The cold rage in his voice didn’t completely disguise the hurt.

“No, we don’t. Going home won’t fix this, Levi. I need some time alone. Do us both a favor and find someplace else to sleep.”

NO ONE BUT YOU
ISBN 978-1-60272-545-4

http://www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/NoOneButYou.html

Also available:
SEDUCING LIGHT
#3 Best seller at Amber Allure, June 2009
ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-1-60272-530-0

http://www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/SeducingLight.html

GIVE ME ONE NIGHT
ISBN-13: 978-1-60272-490-7

http://amberquill.com/AmberAllure/GiveMeOneNight.html

SURRENDERED VICTORY
2008 Amber Heat Wave Winner
ISBN 978-1-60272-283-5

http://amberquill.com/AmberAllure/SurrenderedVictory.html

PASSION'S VICTORY
2008 CAPA Nominee
ISBN-13: 978-1-60272-330-6

http://amberquill.com/AmberAllure/PassionsVictory.html

SHINING VICTORY
One of the Top Ten Bestsellers at
Amber Allure November and December 2008
ISBN 978-1-60272-422-8

http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/1174-Shining-Victory.aspx

A TASTE OF VICTORY (PAPERBACK)
http://amberquill.com/AmberAllure/TasteVictory.html

Coming soon - NETTING NEPTUNE
Coming soon - TANGO IN THE NIGHT


KC Kendricks
http://www.kckendricks.com

http://www.kckendricks.blogspot.com
http://www.myspace.com/kckendricks
http://www.twitter.com/kckendricks
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/betweenthekeys

Friday, July 10, 2009

Truest Treasure by Rayne Forrest




TRUEST TREASURE
Sci-fi romance available now at Aspen Mountain Press
http://www.aspenmountainpress.com/new-releases/truest-treasure/prod_46.html



Zebadiah LaCroy's alien wife is from a planet so far away he doesn’t know how she got to this galaxy. Now he has to get her home to the Bayou without any mishaps.

Easier said than done when your bride is a shapeshifting, telepathic sorceress with a bag full of strange little crystals and a mind of her own.


Excerpt – Truest Treasure

It was no surprise she started babbling telepathically at him the minute the door closed behind them.

*Is it wrong to speak like this? This is more normal for me than speech. Your language is awkward. That man is very annoyed with us. We have done nothing to him.*


*No, not wrong. Just very unusual. So unusual it would be of great interest to the scientists. They’d want to test you and do all sorts of things to you. You wouldn’t like it much, and neither would I. So we need to be careful.*

He could sense her thinking about that and temptation got the best of him. He thought about the mad scientist laboratories in the old horror movies he’d so avidly watched as a boy, making sure she could see the images in his mind. She slammed the door on their mental connection so fast he swore it created a breeze. He laughed out loud.

“Zebadiah!”

Her surprised disbelief that he’d tease her like that made him roar with laughter. She planted her feet stubbornly. He picked her up, slinging her over his shoulder and ignoring her cries of outrage as he carried her back to his cabin. He dropped her on the bunk. She started to sit up.

“Ah, my sweet, if you get up we can’t play. Don’t you want to start our honeymoon?”

He swore he heard her purr. Her long, graceful fingers began slowly releasing the fasteners on her robe. He smiled down at her. “Are you in a hurry?” He sent the image of how she looked to him, naked and sprawled beneath him in the glow of candlelight. Christ, she was purring. His balls drew up and he started to swell.

She looked around his cabin then rearranged her robe to a chorus of tiny bells to sit cross-legged on the bed. He saw the image of candlelight in her mind. “Please give me my bag.”

“We can’t have candles on the ship. An open flame is against safety regulations. Would you like something to drink?” He handed her the iridescent bag. It had been a dull black before, confirming a few more of his suspicions about it. Maybe now he’d get a glimpse of what its mysterious depths held.

“Yes. Something to drink would be appreciated.” She pulled a strange metallic blue box from the bag. She opened it and pulled out a rough cut milky-white crystal that began to glow as she held it in her palm. She placed it on the narrow shelf above the bunk.

Damned if it didn’t look like a small flame.

He handed her a glass of water. “So we’ll have candlelight, after all. What else is in the box?”

“That which belongs to me. You should not investigate these things.” She lifted her nose haughtily. “I understand their use. You do not.”

“Okay. I won’t snoop in your stuff and you won’t snoop in mine.”

“Snoop? What is snoop?”

“Covertly investigate. Spy. That goes for reading my mind, too.”

She blinked coyly. “I cannot avoid seeing what is in your mind. It is open.” Her emerald gaze fell to his zipper.

**
Truest Treasure
ISBN 978-1-60168-029-7

Rayne Forrest
website: http://www.rayneforrest.com