Music Madness: Rose’s Descent Playlist & Giveaway

Music Madness: Rose’s Descent Playlist & Giveaway

Music is food for my soul, and I know there are other’s out there that feel the same way. The music that I listen to is easily displayed in my writing if you look hard enough. Usually something a character says or does. An emotion that is displayed. Its there for all to see. When working on Rose’s Descent (Still plucking the pieces together as I type this), I did come up with what I thought to be a show-stopping playlist. So have a listen, and tell me what you think.

Pay close attention to High, featuring Harrison Lipton. Also, Matter and Stone by Kentaur. Another really good one is Wilkins. Really the entire playlist is legit. But I’ll let you be the judge for yourselves. I’d be interested in hearing from you, and what song (s) you liked most.

Rose’s Descent

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Available August 6th ⭐️⭐️⭐️

?? Rose’s Descent ??


I am the definition of insanity. Doing the same exact effing thing over and over again and expecting S**T to change.

Plagued by visions and voices, Rose knows one thing: she doesn’t want to hurt anyone anymore. So, in a last-ditch effort to hold on to reality, she settles into a psych ward. Unfortunately, those she meets promise her things they don’t exactly deliver, and despite being the girl with the plan, nothing seems to be going her way.

Surrounded by betrayal and lies makes it hard to discern reality from make-believe. With no one to trust but herself, Rose must rely on the one person she’s never been able to … herself.

Immerse yourself into the fragile mind of Rose Hunter, sister to Snow White. An urban fairytale filled with twists and turns, and with a touch of madness.



As a woman in a man’s world, firefighter, Abrihet has always had to push just a little bit harder, prove just a little bit more. But her special gifts don’t make that any easier. Fire isn’t something she fights, it’s something she controls. And that’s a secret that she doesn’t want getting out. However, when a routine rescue goes south quickly, and Abrihet is literally pulled from the flames into hell, she has no choice but to accept the hand she’s been dealt.

As the heir to the throne of Wraith, Fire Demon Bael was raised to hate Nefas—half-demon, half-human hybrids. But when he’s sent to watch and pass judgment on the daughter of one of his Enforcers, he finds something wholly unexpected. She’s not an abomination. Actually, she might just be his salvation. The challenge will be getting her to accept him and his ways, because as the heir, his world is darker than most.

Despite the odds stacked against them and the unusual circumstances of their meeting, Bael and Abrihet must learn to trust each other and work together. If they don’t, it could mean death for one or both of them. Luckily, their connection is strong, and attraction burns bright. But is the light they share something they can use to fight those who oppose them, or will it consume them both?

Paranormal Romance with Fire Demons.

Happy Release Day: Mystic Realms Boxed Set & Giveaway

Happy Release Day: Mystic Realms Boxed Set & Giveaway

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Just Tell Me What You Want by Tina Donahue Blurb: Her wishes will leave him breathless… Things couldn’t be worse for Ranson, an out-of-work genie. Once coveted for his ability to grant wishes, he and his kind are reduced to commodities and subsist on gig jobs through an employment agency catering to elite clients. Ranson’s recent masters and mistresses worked him to the bone before tossing him aside for newer, more advanced genies with specialized knowledge in rigging the stock market, getting candidates elected to office, changing the weather… Damn. He sucks at that stuff. His sole talent is granting wishes for women to retain their youth. Alexandra Prescott, billionaire CEO of a film and TV conglomerate, is only twenty-nine but figures a genie can keep her looking good without surgery, a necessity in beauty-obsessed Los Angeles. Not sure what to expect when he arrives, she’s surprised how tall, virile, and luscious he is. A real hottie and no pushover. Tired of the crap he’s put up with, he insists she treat him with respect, not merely as a service she’s rented. She’s game and wants to get to know this bad boy. Up close and personal, they explore what they both crave: heated days, wicked nights, learning their strengths and weaknesses, touching each other’s souls. Wow. They fall hard and fast, but in order to secure their future, there’s one last, nearly impossible hurdle they have to face… Excerpt (Adult): He strolled to the enormous artwork hanging from her ceiling. Connected gold rings, one larger than the next, dangled free, seemingly suspended in air. Hands on his hips, he regarded the thing then tapped the bottom ring. The sculpture rotated in place, its gold catching the light and winking it back. He grinned. She smiled too, touched by his guileless pleasure. Countless men had come to her outer office. None had noticed the artwork or bothered to touch it. He was different, taken with the world surrounding him. Noticing things those in her social circle missed. They were too busy with deals and into themselves. He was more human than they were. Nice. Time to meet her genie. At her door, she stopped and doubled back to check herself in the mirror. Her black designer suit was flawless, the jacket dipping low in the front for a feminine touch, the slim skirt two inches above her knees. Her spike heels had satin ribbons tied in bows in the back. Deceptively female, like her offices. She spritzed Baccarat Les Larmes Sacrées de Thebes on her throat and neck. At sixty-eight hundred dollars an ounce it was the most expensive perfume in the world and would, hopefully, give her the confidence she needed. For some reason doubt had returned in full force today. Of course, she’d never had total control over any being before. Her employees could always quit. Her genie couldn’t. The prospect should have made her happy as a loon rather than vaguely disturbed. She squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and entered the outer office. His back was to her. He stroked the cream leather chair facing her desk. Heat raced to her pussy. She had an insane urge to ease his hair behind his ear. He traipsed to the left, taking in the glass-topped end tables and lamps, then roamed to the right. Look at me. He halted—much to her surprise—and glanced over. Everything stopped. His eyes looked nearly golden against his bronzed skin, his sooty lashes longer than hers, even with the mascara she’d piled on. His sculpted mouth was made for kissing. An ancient and mysterious scent emanated from him and perfumed the office. His open expression registered surprise and delight at seeing her, then his face became a mask, telling her nothing about what he felt inside. He took her in again, reluctantly, or perhaps dutifully. “Ma’am.” What? She was barely twenty-nine, not middle-aged. No matter their relationship to each other, he’d found her attractive. At least for a second. The pleasure flaring in his eyes proved it. “Don’t call me that.” He raised his eyebrows. “You got it. Mistress?” Now he made her sound like a BDSM participant. Not entirely bad, but hardly appropriate in an office setting. “That either.” His mouth turned down. “Care to tell me what you’d like or am I supposed to guess? By the way, I’m not good at speculating.” She was torn between snickering and frowning. She settled on her usual professional demeanor, revealing zip, especially her yearning and needs. “Ms. Prescott is fine. And you are…?” “Ranson.” She nodded. “Ransom.” “No. Ranson. With an n.” He pointed. “That’s the name I go by. The one I’ve always had and will have. Not Lucian, Xavier, Chad, Zach, Hunter, Rock, Manly, or anything else you come up with, especially goofy names. I’m done with my Mistresses or Masters calling me something they like. I’m a genie. Not a pet.” It seemed he had a backbone to match hers. Early on in her career, her boss had insisted on calling her Ally, which, of course, turned into Ally Cat. What he deemed an affectionate nickname for her. As soon as she was able, she bought his company and fired his misogynistic ass. She liked her genie’s style. “Ranson it is. With an n. But Manly? You can’t be serious. You made that up.” His cheeks darkened. “I wish. Even worse was Tristan. A pirate’s name from this book one of my mistresses read.” He curled his upper lip. “She even had me wearing those filly shirts, boots, and tight pants.” The prize between his legs would be even more obvious in them. Pleasure swirled through Alexandra, quickening her breath, making her crave. “Speaking of clothes…” She gestured to his costume. The only way she could describe it. He smoothed his jacket. “Nice, huh?” Not the word she would have used. “It will have to go.” His smile collapsed, his wariness returned. “Why?” He couldn’t be that dense. “Because it’s dated?” “So?” “And ugly.” “In your opinion.” He crossed his arms and looked down his nose at her. She hadn’t expected defiance. His manner charged the space between them and made her wet. At this point, she had two options: cave and give him whatever he wanted, which wasn’t in the agency contract, or let him know who was boss and find common ground so they could work together…maybe even have some fun. She offered her sweetest, most non-threatening smile. “My opinion’s the only one that matters since I’ve hired you. Now be a good genie and change your suit to something more appropriate.” “Good genie?” He sniffed. “What’s next, you pat my head and put a collar around my neck?” The collar would come if he liked BDSM games. She’d never tried that stuff, but with him bondage and spanking might be fun. “I’m sorry if you think I’ve offended you.” “Which means you’re not sorry in the least for doing so.” She tightened her jaw. “Are you trying to get thrown out of here?” “If you were in my shoes, wouldn’t you want that?” Of course. She’d felt exactly as he did now before she’d gotten rich. However, this was getting them nowhere. “Let’s start over, shall we? I’d like you to change your, uh, what you’re wearing to more closely match the mood I’m trying to strike here. Low keyed and professional.” He glanced at the deep V in her neckline and sexy heels. A slow, appreciative smile spread across his face. “Uh-huh.” She wanted to smack him then wrestle him to the floor. Months had passed since she’d had sex and it had been so-so. She was long overdue for a good time with a hot guy who smelled better than good. His fragrance enveloped her, calling to everything female inside. Nerve endings fired, leaving her breathless and weak. Nude, he’d be amazing. Nothing but hard muscle and hair in the right places. “You do understand that, don’t you?” She hadn’t heard what he’d said before his question. “Understand what?” “No matter what you want, I can’t do wishes on myself. You have to do the deed and say the words.” Right. She’d read as much in the forms she’d signed. “Very well, I want—or rather wish—for you to wear what I’d like.” The air stilled. Sounds faded. His honeyed eyes flashed to gold then back to their natural color. His ugly-ass plaid suit disappeared, leaving him gloriously naked. Exactly as she craved deep inside, wanting him in nothing except skin ================================================================ Dark Heat by Jan Springer Warrior Queen Megan Bloodrayne was betrayed by her two mates. Fleeing them, she hides within Vampira, a secret coven of vampires who live undetected among the humans. Recaptured, Megan learns she’s been framed for crimes she did not commit. Her mates, kings Christian and Zane, believe she may be a traitor and they’ll try anything to get the truth out of her. Megan’s got a secret and she’ll do anything to keep it, including enduring scorching sessions of red-hot sensual torture… “So, you have been returned,” he said gruffly, his lips tightening with anger. Full lips that would make her scream from the arousal they created. “Not of my own free will,” she replied. Hurt flashed through his face at her words and just as quickly, the hurt disappeared. Washed away by the anger and betrayal. “And you know what I must do to get the answers I wish from you.” She stifled a shiver of both dread and excitement. “I know.” She tried to keep her voice strong, steady and defiant but she noted a slight tremor of fear. Or perhaps anticipation at having him any way she could get him, was truly what she wanted? Surely the Vampira would forgive her for being bound and sex forced upon her. “Why did you run, wife? Were the jewels and the gold not enough to keep you satisfied? Were the Master Arousers I gave you to lay with not to your satisfaction?” Oh yes, the Master Arousers. The human males and females the Kings kept in the castle to pleasure her when they were away. She had never wanted them. Not with her heart. She’d simply endured them because that was expected from a Queen of the Warrior Empire. Seer herself had tutored her in the duties expected from her. Christian drew farther away, allowing her to see more of his hard-powerful body, and that was when Megan realized that yes, he truly was naked. She couldn’t help but swear softly at seeing his engorged penis, cradled by a nest of silk curls and the swollen sac beneath. Such a specimen of a vampire male. Such length and width in his cock. She had truly been blessed. “Or was it I and Zane who did not satisfy you enough in bed?” Even in the dim light of the scented candles adorning the ledges of the dungeon, she could easily make out the throb of webbed blue veins pulsing angrily along his flushed purple flesh. Oh! And what a succulent-looking shaft he possessed! She had forgotten how much pleasure he had given in the short time they were together. She tensed as she heard a whirring sound and the table she lay on began to lower. Reaching over, he undid the binding that held her head hostage. His large, hot hand trembled as he cupped her chin. At first tenderly, and then firmly as he turned her head to face him. “Open your mouth, my Queen, for I have waited too long for you,” he growled. “And do not even think to bite or drink from me, as there will be dire consequences for you.” Megan swallowed and tried to ignore the fire of lust leaping through her. “Open your mouth,” he said again. “I am not that loving mate I once was. You will do well to remember it.” ============================================================== Three Days From Hell by Dariel Raye synopsis He’s the most dangerous man she’s ever met, but her wish is his command. Can a punishing angel, a magical matchmaker, and a few moments of passion break the chains of Hell? Kushiel, one of three punishing angels, and warden of a special league of assassins, has many secrets. One of his best kept secrets is an assassin called Hunter. Deemed too dangerous to live among other wards of third Hell, let alone the general population of humans, Hunter resides in an isolated corridor of Hell. Unlike most of his cellmates, Hunter is allowed short periods above-ground, three-days, to be exact, each time to rectify a horrible wrong, meting out Kushiel’s justice. Orphaned in her teens, Anitra just wants a normal life – to feel safe – but when dark secrets rise from her past, she escapes to an exclusive resort to get away from it all. Anitra’s inhibitions take a vacation when she meets Hunter, but can a permanent resident of third Hell be trusted? Excerpt: Just before the door closed, Rumor whimpered and a huge hand slid inside, causing the doors to automatically stop. Heat rushed through Anitra’s body like a furnace. She glanced around to see if anyone else had been affected by the unseen force, but apparently, she was just having a young adult hot flash. At least that was what she thought until the elevator doors opened to reveal the source of titillating heat. She covered her heart with her right hand as she gazed into the smoky gray eyes of very possibly the most gorgeous man she had ever seen in her twenty-nine years. Not a pretty man, but breathtakingly beautiful in his masculinity. Testosterone rolled off him in waves, yet Rumor did not say a word. Testosterone in any amount usually resulted in low-pitched growls and vicious, territorial barking from her four-legged best friend. Anitra glanced down at him to make sure he was still breathing. Over six and a half feet tall, she had to look up at the gorgeous creature joining her on the elevator. At nearly six feet herself, looking up at a man was a welcome rarity. Storm clouds brewed in his eyes, so dark they seemed to swallow the light, and his skin, dark bronze with muscles so massive his black short-sleeve T and sweats could not begin to hide them. Her heart kicked up a few notches and she immediately understood the hot flash, stifling the overwhelming desire to fan herself. Her rational side whispered, dangerous, but the other part of her, the part she had not seen nor heard from since her father and the rest of her family were killed, purred, Yum. Okay, I know what I said about men and their drama, not to mention my own situation being a little out of sorts at the moment, but look at him. Really? Rumor doesn’t have a problem with him, so why should I? Am I really supposed to just…? She realized she was still staring at him when he hesitated, giving her an odd look as he stepped onto the elevator, then clucking at Rumor. A moment of embarrassment came and went when she reminded herself she had just survived a near death experience. Well, sort of, but whether she wanted to get technical or not, she deserved something for herself, and even though he definitely looked dangerous in a delicious kind of way, she felt connected to him somehow too, drawn by more than his sex appeal. The dark-eyed god glanced at the control panel, probably to see if his floor number was selected, then stared at the floor. Anitra glanced at the buttons again. So, he was either on the second, fourth, or blessed be, the third floor with her. She planned to ride past her floor if necessary and find out where he was staying. The whole thought seemed desperate, and nothing like her usual nonchalant attitude where men were concerned, but something about this man struck her like a bolt of electricity. Her stomach clenched and rolled just being near him. Of course, what she would do when she found out his room number was anyone’s guess, but then she had never been much of a planner, even before she started running for her life. She described herself as a “just for today, fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl. One step at a time. She watched him from the corner of her eye, doing a mental happy dance, Ferrell Williams joining her in a vocal duet and swinging her out when they reached the third floor and her gorgeous prey stepped off. She mentally skipped along after him and sauntered down the corridor towards her room, feeling like stalker girl as she stayed a respectable distance behind him. He stopped, swiped his keycard, and opened the door to his room. Anitra nearly passed by him until she noticed the room number – 333. She glanced at her keycard to make sure she had read the number right, then remembered the manager saying the number, too. This was definitely the same room, but the handsome hunk did not have any bags so they must have already been inside. Just as the door began to close, she stepped into the doorway. “Excuse me. I believe this is my room.” He turned, opening the door wider, his eyes narrowed. “And you are?” His deep, rumbling bass zinged straight to her core, resonating there like a slowly erupting volcano. She could not place his accent and her geography pretty much sucked, but his inflections were musical, conjuring visions of foreign lands. She held out her keycard so he would not think she was insane, and he reciprocated by showing her his as he raised a brow. He smiled, transforming the hard edges of his face. “I am Hunter.” “Oh. Um, Hunter, I’m Anitra.” She tried to figure out what could be going on. Mistakes were made every day, but this seemed too favorable to be a coincidence. “May I?” He lifted her hand to his lips and brushed a kiss there, his gaze never leaving her face. =============================================================== LIVING ON THE EDGE- The Clan Book 1 by LaVerne Thompson Chapter One Excerpt Blood! On his hands. On his clothes. Everywhere. “Sharon!” Ethan jerked awake, the sound of his hoarse cry still echoing in his head. “Shit!” If only it had been a dream, a nightmare. Unfortunately, waking up changed nothing. It was all too real. Sharon was dead. Naked, he rolled out of the lumpy bed and made his way to the bathroom. Turning on the shower, he climbed in, allowing the cool water beating against his face and the rest of his heated body to calm his racing heart. He closed his eyes and unfortunately remembered why his life had become so fucked up. He’d been the golden boy, golden by birth, by youth and worth fifty times his weight as a man. While his family didn’t trace their roots back to the Mayflower, they did come to America after the civil war, but they came in style. His great grandfather, three or so greats removed, was the third son of a Duke and with family backing and blessing, came to the new world to further his fortune…and so he had. Every Graves since then only added to the till. Until his own father, long after the death of his mother, almost lost it all by marrying a real bitch. But he, Ethan, ended up saving it all, he only had to marry another bitch. Anything to maintain the family legacy. Which cost him, and cost him dearly. Shit, but even Sharon didn’t deserve what had been done to her. No amount of water could wash the blood off his hands. He glanced down at them under the water, but instead of fingernails, he saw razor sharp black claws, stained with red. No amount of washing seemed capable of getting them clean. * * * * “That’s it. I’m done!” Ethan shouted. His fine nostrils flared and adrenaline filled his system. He curled his fingers back into his palms. Sharon slowly shook her perfectly styled and cut light blonde hair. “You’re done when I say. We are not getting a divorce.” “Watch me,” he growled. His nails dug into his flesh drawing blood so he wouldn’t wrap them around her neck. “It’s going to cost you Ethan, it will cost you everything.” She laughed and took a sip from the Baccarat crystal white wine glass in her hand that had been in his family for three generations. “And Lord knows you’d do anything to preserve the family legacy. So, who are you trying to fool?” “That’s just it,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve only been fooling myself.” “Well, get over it. I love being a Graves. I love this life and I’m not giving it up. Nor you. I told you I’d be more discreet.” He shook his head at her blatant arrogance. “No more. You don’t have a choice.” He turned around and walked away from her. “Ethan,” she shrieked at his retreating back, “If you leave, I’ll make you fucking pay.” He didn’t respond, he was already paying. Ethan continued on until he walked out the connecting door to the garage. He wanted a divorce and no longer cared about the cost. Her reaction to his demand came as no surprise. Sharon wanted to continue the life they led…that of a select few. And almost as important to her, she wanted his social connections. Even though her family had money, tons of it, they never quite fit in certain doors. When she married him, all those doors opened for her, and he’d known it, even the fact she never hid she also wanted other men. At first, he didn’t really care that he’d never been enough, but he couldn’t live like this anymore. He’d gone to see his personal lawyer Harvey Steam to have him start divorce proceedings. The current affair Sharon was having, and he suspected with whom, had been the last straw. Ethan felt sure Harvey could hire someone to find out for sure who the man was. He wanted out of this sham of a marriage. * * * * Ethan blinked but his thoughts remained rooted in the past. Too bad for them both, he’d gone to see Harvey at his house that night. Later, Harvey told the police he had nothing on his calendar about a meeting and couldn’t remember any phone conversation about it. Which Ethan claimed they had the day before. When Ethan returned home that horrendous night, the outside lights were still on, but most of the lights in the house were off and the alarm hadn’t been set. Not an unusual occurrence. He walked through the main room but a light on in the Florida room drew his attention. Instead of heading upstairs to the section of the house he’d moved into months ago, he changed direction and headed for the other room. The door was partially closed. Which was unusual, this door was almost never closed. He pushed it open all the way and caught the strong odor of something his senses registered as one thing but his brain refused to agree with. At first, he thought there was no one in the room, but the light from the lamp on the desk illuminated a shadow on the floor. He entered the room farther and could no longer deny what his extraordinary senses already told him—not when he saw her. On the floor beside the desk, lying on her side with her face turned away from him. He rushed to Sharon’s side, falling on his knees, turning her as he did so, but already knowing she was dead. Blood matted her blonde hair, her throat looked as though it had been clawed open and her yellow shirt pressed against her pale skin drenched in crimson. The sight and smell became too much for him, he scrambled away, his guts churning with bile. He had to take deep breaths to get himself under control but the scent of fresh blood filled his nostrils, making it worse, clogging his senses. By the time he registered the faint noise behind him, intending to turn around, something hit him on the back of his head. Then, he knew nothing at all. That is until the sound of someone screaming and his stepbrother’s voice above him caused him to rouse from his forced slumber. He opened his eyes to see himself covered in his wife’s blood, with Richard, his stepbrother, bending over him. “What happened, Ethan? What did you do?” Richard asked. He had no answer…then or now. His nightmare that turned out to be no nightmare began that night. Or maybe it began from the first time he’d met Sharon. Even before he’d been charged with her murder, the last few months felt like he’d been hiking up a mountain through a blizzard. Something he’d actually done. Only this had been five times worse. The police had been suspicious of him from the first—after all, the husband was always guilty. In this case, he wasn’t and all the cops did was gather circumstantial evidence to prove his guilt, instead of looking for the real killer. It didn’t help that the prosecutor hated his guts because he’d gotten him fired from his old law firm for incompetence…And the ass was. He never bothered to check facts, like if Ethan did kill her, where the fuck was the weapon? He then had to hire his own team of investigators but when the bulk of his assets were frozen, he could no longer afford them. He had no choice in the matter, no choice at all, other than to prove his innocence himself. Like find the damn weapon that mimicked the slice of an animal’s claws. To prove his innocence, he needed to be free to find the evidence himself—and the fact that no way could he remain locked up for long. As his family kept secrets, so did he. At least he already had a hunch who the real killer could be. The same man Sharon had been having an affair with, the father of her baby. The one who told the police Sharon was pregnant, which he hadn’t known, and of course, the DNA test showed her husband was not the father of her baby. Especially since they hadn’t been sleeping together for almost a year. The prosecutor’s case kept piling up against him…Even without the weapon. Only one other person besides himself could have known about Sharon’s pregnancy. The same bastard who, while being so helpful to the police, had Ethan’s assets frozen and maneuvered to take control of the company he’d always coveted. The life he felt should have been his. Richard. The bastard. His stepbrother. He was the only other person Ethan could think of, since he knew he damn sure wasn’t the killer. Impossible as it seemed, Richard might also have been privy to part of his family secrets. If so, he might never find the weapon, but there had to be something else. Now, he only had to find the proof or motive enough to show Richard should also have been investigated. He had motive. It had to be there, either still in his house or at Richard’s place. Ethan started with a search of the house. Sharon kept a journal. There was a panic room in the main house off the master bedroom and it’d been the first place he’d looked but it wasn’t there. He felt pretty sure Richard didn’t have it, and by the time Ethan figured out where else it might be, he’d been thrown in jail and had no time to check. Sharon just recently redecorated the pool house and had a floor safe installed. He planned to restart his search there. He didn’t believe Richard knew about the safe yet. He’d already gone through the safes in the master bedroom and his study and found nothing. He hoped to search the one in the pool house tonight. The only problem with his whole theory was he couldn’t figure out why Richard felt he had to kill Sharon. My God, he suspected she’d been pregnant with Richard’s child and to be murdered in such a horrible way…Richard must be nuts. The coroner’s report claimed the slashes across her throat were caused by some kind of three-pronged steel blade, but death may not have been instantaneous. Ethan thought it almost looked like lion claw marks. The bastard literally sliced her throat open, then stood there and watched her bleed out. The prosecutor theorized Ethan killed her first, left the house to get rid of the weapon, since they couldn’t find it, then came back to conveniently find the body. He stepped out of the shower and stood in front of the mirror. A fugitive stared back at him. Gone was the short cropped hair and designer suits. He barely recognized himself. In the last few weeks, he’d lost weight, not like he had any to really lose before, but he’d packed on muscle because he’d had nothing to do but work out. It kept him sane. His hair was longer and he hadn’t shaved in days. Not many people would recognize him now. Which was the point. Physical exercise always did help him to focus. His company owned several sporting goods stores and he’d made it a habit to try out most sports. He liked the extreme ones best. It satisfied the wild nature he carried inside himself. Which he’d indulged, until a few years ago, when he took over the reins of the company. Still, he always found time to stay active. He sighed. Marrying Sharon a year and a half ago ended those activities. A mistake from start to finish. They’d first met on the ski slopes, where she’d broken her leg the first day there and he kept her company. He hadn’t been on a pair of skis since. After they were married and even before, for some reason if he wanted to plan anything involving physical outdoor activity, she would find a reason to plan something that didn’t. He turned away from the mirror and the memories to finish dressing and grabbed one of the disposable pre-paid phones he bought. Dialing his house number, he knew the housekeeper would answer it. When she did, he disguised his voice and inquired about a delivery he himself had placed months ago. “Hello, this is Roger from Dan’s Trailblazers. The parts are in that a Mr. Grimes ordered. I just need to check that someone will be home to sign for the delivery this evening between six and nine.” “That’s awfully late. I have to leave about 4 and no one will be home after that, so can you come by then?” “Sorry ma’am, but I can reschedule the delivery for Thursday instead between nine and noon.” “Perfect, thank you.” Ethan hung up the phone. His housekeeper hadn’t recognized his voice and he had his answer. He wanted to make sure no one would be around when he searched the house. Still, as a precaution, he would wait until the sun went down before he tried to get inside the property. Hell of a world when a man has to break into his own goddamn house. ================================================================ Silent Storm by Sadie Carter Blurb: In a land where monsters and magic reside, most people have done the sensible thing and left. But no one had ever called Kaley sensible. Trouble always seemed to find her …and somehow, so did Nicolas. Gorgeous, arrogant, and demanding, he kept popping in and out of her life—whether she wanted him to or not. If only she knew the truth about him. Nicolas had known Kaley was his mate for years. He’d been waiting, biding his time until he could join with her. Finally, her reckless ways push him to the brink. He needs to reveal the secret of who he really is and claim her. If only he knew that Kaley held a few secrets of her own. Excerpt: She lay on her back, sweat coating her body as she tried to catch her breath. Fuck. This was humiliating. And to think she’d thought that learning some self-defense moves wouldn’t take more than a few hours. They’d been going at this three hours now, and she still couldn’t put him down. This was hopeless. “That was better,” he commented as he leaned over, blocking out the sun. Which was a blessing since she was already so hot she thought she might self-combust. He held out his hand, and she considered knocking it away. He’d severely knocked her pride. And her confidence. But she didn’t need to act like a churlish brat just because she wasn’t as good as she thought she would be. So Kaley took his hand and felt that familiar thrill race through her. It seemed to happen each time she touched him skin-to-skin. It was disconcerting, to say the least, and the first time it had happened this morning, she’d stumbled back away from him and fallen on her butt. Of course, Cristos happened to be walking past at the time. Smug bastard. But then Nicolas had given him a look that had him nearly running off. Probably to complain to Seb. She didn’t know what Seb saw in that guy. Nicolas helped her up then let her go. She swayed slightly, more at the loss of his touch than anything else. But his gaze narrowed as he studied her. “That’s enough for the morning.” It was on the tip of her tongue to protest, but truthfully, she was done in. If she could still move tonight, it would be a miracle. Muscles she didn’t know she had ached, and she’d thought she was in good physical condition. “We’ll take off where we left off tomorrow. You’re in worse physical shape than I’d hoped, so it will take longer than I thought.” Worse physical shape? Even though she’d just been having similar thoughts, outraged anger filled her. She set her hands on her hips. “Maybe it’s just that my teacher isn’t as good as he thought he was.” He snorted. “Baby, I’m good. Better than good. I’m great. You, on the other hand, need work. I’m going to set up a fitness workout for you. You need stamina and strength. I can see why Seb said he didn’t have the time to train you. I’m not sure that six weeks is going to be long enough.” Asshole. As he turned and walked off, she cautioned herself against anything rash. Patience. Patience. Now! She let just a sliver of her power break free, calling on the ocean’s power. A wave splashed up into Nicolas’s face. Got you. He turned, spluttering and she quickly wiped the smug smile off her face, pretending to be just as surprised. “Wow, that was some freak wave, huh?” “The water is calm!” He gestured out with his hand. It was calm. Sometime in the night they’d broken free of the storm and were now sailing into clear waters with just a light breeze. She shrugged. “Can’t explain it sorry.” He stared at her suspiciously, but there was no way he could know it was her. Very few knew about her powers, her affinity with the ocean. As he turned away with a grumble, she reached out with her power once more. Thank you. ================================================================ Tangled Sin by Georgia Lyn Hunter BLURB: In a world of encroaching darkness and carnal hunger, a deadly sin awakens… Bound to a legacy he cannot escape, Riley is a demon unlike any other. With each passing century, his soul grows darker until the seductive trouble-magnet, Saia Sen-Grayson, stumbles into his path and throws his entire world off kilter. But danger has a way of finding him and destroying anything worthwhile in his life. The biggest challenge in Saia’s life is evading her matchmaking socialite mother. Then she crashes into the sexiest man in her aunt’s building. One look into his striking green eyes and her fleeing days skid to a halt, except she gets more than she bargains in the sexy, tattooed bartender. And neither can deny the burning attraction between them. When his tainted past closes in on him, Riley’s forced to make the toughest decision ever to keep her safe. Then Saia’s hauled by a deadly adversary into his dark and treacherous world of Stygia—a place of old betrayals. Now Riley must face his past and accept his future in order to save the woman who belongs to him. But danger comes in many forms and the one least expected might be the sin that seals their fates once and for all… EXCERPT: Saia pushed back her damp hair and tried to comb through the tangles with her fingers when boot steps sounded in the other room. Her gaze darted to the entrance. With a quick smile, Ikaria hurried off, abandoning her. Of course, she’d see this as exciting. A tall, dark figure filled the doorway of the bathroom. Then he stepped into the light. Christ, she still had to get used to Riley looking this way. Too big, too handsome. Too…dangerous. He didn’t say a word. Or look at her. So he was still mad? That made two of them. Scowling, Saia watched as Riley undressed. He yanked off his boots, and they dropped with a dull thud on the floor, followed by his socks. His hands lowered to his waist. He unzipped and stripped off his pants, tossing them aside. Saia stared, unable to tear her gaze away. Naked, he looked incredible. No longer lean. But more muscular. Bigger. Tougher. Hard ropes of corded muscle delineated his abs and flowed to lean hips…and his semi-erect sex. She swallowed hard. Her gaze rushed to his face, but he didn’t look her way. He stepped into the enormous pool of water she’d just bathed in, sat down, and soaped himself. Hypnotized, she watched his hand slide over his battered skin, across his wide shoulders, thick biceps, down his pecs and below the waterline to his…groin. She dragged in a raspy breath. Hair lathered, he disappeared beneath the undulating surface, reappeared, water sluicing over him. He pressed a black stone near his arm. The low ceiling above the bath opened up, and through the millions of holes, the rustling shower fell over him like rain, while the pool drained. Finally, his gaze shifted to her. The edge of danger she’d always sensed in him was now out in spades. It honed and redefined the angles of his face, his entire bearing. He leaned back in the bath, his arms braced on the ledge as he studied her with an assessing and very, very sensual stare. If he thought she was just going to walk over and let him have his way… His gaze slid from her face to linger on her breasts then moved slowly down her body. She lost her train of thought. How did he do that? With just a look, he left a trail of fire in his perusal. “Come here, Saia.” The quiet demand had her pulse quickening. Her fingers bunched the fabric of her dress, her feet trying to find purchase on the marble floor. When she didn’t move, he rose from the bath, a tower of bronze skin and rippling muscles, water flowing down his mouth-watering body past his erect sex. She stopped breathing. He strode over and swept her into his arms. Her breath escaped in a harsh rush, she clutched him around his neck. He walked down the black steps again and stepped into the inch of water remaining at the bottom of the marble bath. From the massive ceiling, the shower splattered down, drenching her within seconds. She blinked the drops from her eyes and scowled. “I’m wet.” “And I plan to make you even wetter, before I lick every inch off you.” He regarded her with such primal hunger, heat spread through her veins like a runaway fire. He let her slide down his naked body, every hard ridge of him making her senses spin. He ran his knuckles along her jaw. His gaze softened. “I can fuck you ten ways, Saia. But I far prefer to make love to you…” ================================================================Dr. Magic, Vampire Island Series Book #1 – Jo Grafford •Excerpt: “You kept your word, Mr. Livingston. My pilot will return you to the mainland.” Stellan’s baritone voice washed over me, as crisp as the creases ironed into his black trousers. Up close, I deemed them a fine quality of silk, and the white gold watch that flashed at his wrist was no department store bargain. The Stellan I had known before was not so richly dressed. Nor so polished and sure of himself. Or so bleak. Or so cold. But those eyes! The deep blue was startlingly reminiscent of the other Stellan I knew so many years ago. His gaze had held secrets then, mystery and longing. They were aged now, darker, more jaded. I shivered. It was like staring into the eyes of an older, angrier ghost. The tenor and cadence of his voice was familiar, too. Every word he spoke revived the exhilarating happiness and excruciating pain of timeworn memories. Completely unnerved by the encounter, I fought to regain the power of speech. “Is it…really…you?” My hand slid from my throat to cup my mouth. Frantic hope warred with the impossibility of what my eyes beheld. I couldn’t bear the misery of waking from such a desperately real dream. God, help me! I wanted it to be real. I wanted it so bad I could feel old scabs tearing off. Stitches long since hemmed together ripping open anew, fresh blood gushing from what remained of my heart. I was breaking on the inside, shattering… “I thought you were dead.” The last word came out as a hoarse whisper. “How—” “Grace!” He leaped toward me as my legs gave out. My father’s arms tightened around me, but another set of arms wrested me away from him. They lifted me against an impressively ripped chest. Arms that at once felt breathtakingly familiar, ones I never thought to feel around me again. My forehead dropped against a massive shoulder. I felt feverish and strange. “I warned you,” Bax’s voice was fierce. “It’s too much too soon. I swore to you she didn’t know.” What didn’t I know? My first husband is still alive? How long had Bax known? I wanted to scream and weep at the unfairness of it all, but I was too weak to lift my head. “I will ask my own questions now.” “Where are you taking her?” my father demanded. “None of your damn business.” “The hell it isn’t. She’s my daughter.” “She’s my wife.” “You have no right to haul her off like some—” “I have every right. She is mine.” Mine. Amazing how a single word could pack so much meaning, so much finality. Stellan, rising from the dead to claim me. It was preposterous. It was wildly amazing. It was a kaleidoscope of light and color completely consuming me. The voices faded, and my world skidded across memory lane. =============================================================== Ghost Mate by D Anne Paris Excerpt: After having a fairly nice slumber Jessi headed downstairs. To her horror, all the things she’d unpacked were packed into the boxes again! “What the…!” “I did a little cleaning.” Jon said as he came out of the kitchen with a box. “I don’t like the décor, so I decided to pack everything back.” “How dare you!” He dropped the box onto the floor, making the contents clank. He grinned at her. “It’s my house. I’m going to decorate it any way I want.” Jessi’s face turned crimson red. She glared at Jon standing in the kitchen doorway. If she could, she would strangle him. He was so smug, as if he always got his way. The way his lips curled into a grin made her remember the sensation of them on her lips. Damn him! He had her in some sort of spell and she had to break through it. No one would ever control her ever again- not even a ghost! “This is my house, mister, and I will not be told what to do by you or anybody else!” “You’d better get used to it because…” He stretched his arms out and pointed to the packed boxes. “I’m here to stay.” “I wouldn’t bet on it. I’m very persistent.” He stalked her, reminding her of a fearless lion assessing his prey. The muscles under his shirt flexed as he moved and Jessi couldn’t help but stare at them. Would she be able to feel his sculptured body, or would there be no sensation at all? He smiled. “You are more feisty than I thought you would be.” “Did you think I would do whatever you told me? Like a good little girl?” They faced each other but kept at a distance. He crossed his arms across his chest and looked her over. “An interesting thought.” Jon’s gaze undressed her. She shivered as her heart leaped. Why couldn’t she shake off the sultry images she had? He was the first man who’d showed some interest in her since she left Ben. That could be the only logical explanation. Still, she didn’t like being controlled by him subliminally. “I guess it’s true. You men always think with your dicks, even when you don’t have one anymore.” He visibly flinched, but he didn’t back away from her. Jessi stood her ground when he leered down at her. “My personality will more than make up for that, sweetie. And since you don’t seem to want to help me find my killer, I will be a permanent house guest.” “Don’t get too comfortable. I’ll find a way to get rid of you.” After the words left her mouth a ping of disappointment overcame her. Did she want him to stay? Her mind screamed no, but her heart had other plans. Jessi knew she shouldn’t listen to her heart, because falling in love would only cause her heartache again. And how could she fall in love with a ghost? It was unreal and impossible. =============================================================== Cursed – Shadow Souls, Book 1 – Tracy Goodwin ~Young Adult~ My father’s old shotgun is already cocked. I aim and pull the trigger, the force of the kickback sending my slender frame backwards. Even though I never quite mastered the shotgun, it can kill large animals. What better way to kill a creature who is hunting me? The demon’s high-pitched, bloodcurdling scream sets my every nerve on end as I crawl forward, peering over the edge of the roof. Though I hit it in the chest, the beast is unaffected, lunging forward, toward my cabin. What is it? Can it be killed? I toss the shotgun and shimmy from the roof, through the attic window where I’ve already laid out the rest of my father’s hunting equipment. Since a dagger and hunting knife are in each of my boots, I thrust another knife into the back pocket of my jeans before shoving the handgun in my waistband. If the shotgun wasn’t of use, what good is a handgun? Perhaps if I aim at the thing’s head, I contemplate as I sling the carrier filled with broadhead blades over my shoulder and grab the large crossbow fully prepared to aim and shoot. Crossbow raised, I exit the house and am greeted by a ferocious growl to my right. Though shrouded in darkness, the creature is close enough for me to see it more clearly. Tall and muscular with talons, the beast’s horns are sharp, its face reptilian with glowing yellow eyes deep-set in dark hollows. Its growling intensifies until the sound rattles the porch like thunder. Struggling to keep my balance, I stand with my legs apart just like my dad told me. It’s all about balance. Balance, aim, shoot. Balance, aim, shoot. Balance— It hisses and I release my arrow, watching it soar through the air and pierce it in the shoulder. Without blinking, those glowing eyes stare into my soul with a bright orange and red flicker that reminds me of flames. My jaw drops as my enemy pulls the arrow out of its shimmering, rough flesh like it was nothing more than a pinprick and throws it onto the planks below. A slick liquid the color of forged steel pools where the beast was struck then the wound heals, the liquid evaporating in an instant. The beast’s blood isn’t red … The beast’s blood isn’t red! “Oh, hell!” Wait! Seriously? Are my last words going to be ‘Oh, hell?’ “You think you can kill me?” Its murderous baritone echoes through the surrounding forest as the ground begins to tremble. It speaks. The monster can talk! Though the creature’s voice is warped, it sounds somewhat human. With a nails-against-a-chalkboard quality that sends shivers down my spine. “The crossbow worked in the movies.” The words escape my mouth before I can stop them. The demon glares at me then tilts its head to the side. His eyes intensify, the orange and red flames molten like lava. Has no one ever talked back? The beast roars, then lunges at me. I recoil just in time, dropping the crossbow onto the porch as I run as fast as I can into the dense trees, hoping to outrun him, hoping I can hide. My jacket snags on a protruding tree limb and I struggle to break free. When it doesn’t budge, I shrug out of the garment then run deeper into the forest, leaping over fallen branches and thick roots. Where is it? Shouldn’t it have caught up to me by now? I break out in perspiration. It is toying with me. I’m its prey. My body begins to shake. I can feel it hunting me. It knows where I am. It knows where I’ll go. There is no hiding. There is no escape. The thing leaps over me, wrestling me to the cold, hard ground. We both grunt as I land on my back. At least it can feel pain. That must be something I can use to my advantage. I grab the handgun from my waistband then wait, allowing the creature to come closer, to wrap its talons around my neck, its foul breath nauseating me. Since the chest didn’t work, I aim at its temple, turning away as I pull the trigger. From the corner of my eye, I watch the bullet ricochet off its reflective skin, the rough texture resembling an alligator’s. Lifting me by my shoulders, the creature slams me against the ground once more. I bite my tongue and the metallic taste of my own blood almost chokes me. The monster laughs. “You will not kill me. Be a good little girl and die, witch. It is your destiny.” Little does this thing know that I refuse to allow fate to dictate my demise. Though panic and a surge of helplessness wind me, I manage to relax my muscles for a brief moment in an attempt to disarm my predator. It is no simple feat as I am trembling from head to toe. Not certain of the creature’s anatomy, I rationalize that it walks on two legs and speaks in a low voice so perhaps it is a male? I knee the beast between what would be a man’s thighs. It winces in pain. That one moment is all I need to take his reptilian face between my palms, squeezing it with all my might. I now think of this monster as a man. A person. It makes my task seem less daunting as I grab what I think are his ears and I fan my fingers until my thumbs gouge his closed lids. He may kill me but maybe, just maybe, I can wound him. Perhaps I can blind him. “Can a ‘little girl’ do this?” I hiss, thrusting harder until he howls. The wind whips around us, thrashing pine needles and rocks as the burst of spinning air increases speed with each rotation. “I won’t die quietly.” I tighten my grip even more, until the beast wails, a woeful sound that progresses into a high-pitched, earsplitting screech. I think of the sirens I once studied in mythology. That is what his agonizing refrain reminds me of. Though I long to cover my ears, I refuse to release him. The wind is so strong that I shut my eyes. I am pelted by pebbles, pine needles, and dirt while the unearthly wails intensify. The creature struggles to writhe free, and I claw at him, my nails digging into its rough exterior. Losing my grip, I peer through narrowed eyes in time to see him rise and stumble backwards, pressing his hands against his ears before dropping to his knees. “Stop!” he howls as a flying rock chips one of his horns, making a large indentation. I will not die. You will not kill me. The words replay in my mind, becoming a silent chant. The wind churns, its gusts intensifying as the forceful zephyr lashes my hair against my face. I refuse to break eye contact with it. Die, I think. Die so I can live. I want to live. For me to live, you must die. The beast holds his head, shrieking as it falls to the ground in a fetal position. It lays still, mouth agape baring sharp, fang-like teeth. Eyes open, the golden glow slowly extinguishes, leaving nothing but an onyx abyss in its wake. Gasping for breath, my pulse pounds like a jackhammer. Is it still alive? I stare at the demon waiting for it to awaken. It doesn’t. I’ve killed it but I can’t catch my breath. I struggle to inhale. Why can’t I breathe? Because I killed something, someone. Before I can process what I’ve done, the presence of somebody new resounds in my ears with the rustling of brush and leaves beneath the intruder’s feet. Grabbing the dagger from my boot, I stand and round with force on a muscular male holding a broadsword. In the bluish hue of the moonlight, his hair looks dark, his profile angular. He appears to be my age, though it’s hard to tell. “Are you seriously threatening me with that puny thing?” he scoffs while glancing from my dagger to his sword. “I think I have you beat.” I cock my head towards the supernatural being who just tried to murder me. “That’s what this thing thought, too.” The stranger studies the monster then thrusts his free hand through his short hair. “You accomplished that. By yourself?” “Yep,” I arch my brow. “Don’t think I’m opposed to doing the same to you.” His head snaps towards me. As a cloud drifts from the moon, I see him more clearly. The moonlight reflects upon his heavy-lidded eyes. My dad told me to trust my instincts and they were correct. This guy isn’t much older than I am. I grip the dagger, my nails digging into my palm. It gives me something to concentrate on other than the surge of panic that is rising like high tide during a full moon. Who is this guy and what do I do now? I’m so far out of my league right now that all I want to do is cry. But kids cry and I am no longer a child. Instead, I straighten my shoulders, standing upright as I attempt to intimidate someone at least four inches taller than I am. “What do you want? To kill me? Are you another one of the creatures? Who are you? What are you?” Like my tone, my expression is lethal. I make sure of it. My companion stands in silent defiance, his eyes locked with mine. Seconds pass, maybe a minute. He won’t budge. Neither will I. I won’t trust him until I get an answer. Maybe not then, either. Depends on his response. Our staring match is interrupted by low growls and grunts originating from the trees surrounding us. Eyes. I’m surrounded by beasts with eyes that glow like a campfire, illuminating the night. There are too many. All watching me. Why haven’t they attacked? Like a cat with a mouse, these creatures are playing with their prey. “More are advancing,” the stranger mutters. “Stay behind me and don’t—” The deafening roars reach a crescendo as several from the pack lunge at us. My companion wields his sword with strength and grace, slicing one then two beasts before rounding on a third. It was hard enough for me to kill one. More pounce as the stranger tosses me a sword, much smaller than his. I drop my dagger, straining to catch the heavy object. “I don’t know how to use this.” I hold the metal in a defensive posture, as if that alone will fend off the supernatural beings, all clones of the one I killed earlier. Brandishing his sword and thrusting it into the swarm of beasts, the guy yells over his shoulder, “Learn fast.” Okay. Learn fast. I imagine I’m holding a baseball bat and swing. Though clumsy, I slice the scale-like skin on one monster. That beast is followed by another, then another. With each that lunges at me, my adrenaline escalates. With each blow, my strength and aim improve. In the midst of battle, I bump into a solid mass and turn, sword in hand, prepared to strike. “Watch it!” my companion orders, “Them. Not me. I’m trying to get you out of here alive.” Why would he save me? Shouts and snarls echo through the breeze, intermingling with the sounds of metal slicing monsters’ rough skin. My companion and I continue to stab and carve the onslaught of creatures until silence engulfs us, pools of what resemble oil slicks permeate the ground. “Who are you?” I demand of my uninvited companion, noting each of the numerous carcasses strewn about the ground. Their eyes are extinguished, their life forces drained. Just like the first that attacked me. The engraved handle rests in the palm of my hand and I run my thumb across the many symbols embossed in it. It feels old, heavy, and oddly comforting. How can a sword feel comforting? Does anything in my life make sense anymore? Mr. Mysterious scrutinizes me, doubt clouding his eyes. “What happened to your hair?” Reaching for my dagger, I shove it back in my boot, sword in my other hand. No answer, no trust. Just snark. “Is this the right time to point out that I’m having a bad hair day? I dare anyone not to have a bad hair day after—” The side of my face is the first to slam against the hard ground, pain searing my cheek and ear, as the rest of my body follows. The more I strain to stand, the more weighted down my body feels. I’m confused and disoriented until I feel the beasts’ razor sharp talons slicing my flesh, their cold, coarse bodies slithering up my legs, then higher onto my back. Their numbers have grown and they advanced in silence this time, as if they are adapting. The more I struggle against the new swarm, the more the piercing pain intensifies until tears sting my eyes. I moan as I hear the furtive guy’s sword make contact with some of my attackers but, no sooner does one beast fall than another claws at me. I dig my fingernails into the earth, attempting to crawl to safety though the weight of the beasts has me pinned. Unable to move my legs, I grab another fistful of dirt and pine needles in each hand, then drag my heavy body forward, feeling my flesh rip open, feeling my warm blood trickle down my back. I scream because I am trapped. Because I am helpless. Because I don’t want to die. The wind accelerates again, this cycle more intense than the last. I continue to shout as the creatures clutch me tighter, digging their talons deeper into my sensitive flesh. My temples throb and I will my panic to abate, will my rage to replace my fear, will the agony of my wounds to disappear so I can fight for my life. My eyes blur, a heady vapor having formed in my line of vision. I place my head against the ground, still clutching the dirt as rocks pelt my face and pine needles prickle my flesh. I must fight to live. I finally understand. I’m not just fighting for myself. I’m fighting for my parents who prepared me for this, for Mrs. Crowley who needs me, for whoever this guy is who has tried to save me because these monsters will murder him next. A crack of lightning splits the ground near me. The earth begins to quake with the electrifying jolt, followed by a deafening rumble that drowns out the high-pitched ringing in my ears as the earth splits open. The gap is wide and I grab a sturdy root so I don’t tumble into its recesses. With a whoosh, the wind abates and the weight of the beasts on my back ebbs. As the fog lifts, my eyes begin to focus. First on a large pine tree then, as I roll onto my back, to the clear night sky dotted with stars twinkling from above. Pain pierces my flesh as I lean on my elbows. There are at least a dozen monsters, maybe more, lying on the ground. Their glowing eyes extinguished, just like the first, just like the other swarm. “They’re all dead,” the mystery guy with the sword assures me, holding his weapon as if still prepared to strike. “More will come. We have to leave now!” He emphasizes his last word, though there was something about his cadence. It is both forceful, yet spiked with trepidation. I manage to rise to a kneeling position. Struggling to catch my breath, I ask, “You killed them?” The sword-wielding stranger staggers several steps away from me, his chest heaving from exertion while his eyes mirror fear, confusion, mistrust. Warning bells clang in my ears. What am I missing? “I didn’t kill them.” He points his sword at me. “You did.” ================================================================ Angel Vindicated by Viola Estrella I twisted the hefty knob and eased the door open. My eyes found him right away. He was sitting at his desk. A different desk, thank the heavens. And he was staring at his computer screen, ignoring me just as his receptionist had. His ink black hair was longer, reaching his shoulders, I noticed straightaway as I closed the door behind me. The length was incredibly sexy, I thought, and immediately gave myself a mental slap on the forehead. Keep it professional, Abby! I took in the room around me to keep from staring. His office had been remodeled since I’d been here. The bookshelves and desk were a dark mahogany just like the door. The burgundy and gold rug on the floor covered most of the hardwood. Two sleek black leather chairs sat in front of his desk. “Have a seat, Abigail.” His crisp silver eyes flickered over my body briefly as he stood. Suddenly I became acutely aware of what I was wearing as I dropped down into one of the leather chairs. I hadn’t dressed up for the occasion, but my clothes were somewhat nicer than my usual. Instead of a T-shirt or sweatshirt, I wore a forest green fitted V-neck sweater, and replacing my faded jeans was a pair of dark stretch jeans. And naturally, I had on my running shoes. I was going to work soon, after all. Who was I trying to impress anyway? He followed my lead and sat back down. It gave me the chance to assess his duds. Charcoal leather pants and a ribbed white sweater that clung to his lean muscles. Yep, more alluring than any full demon I’d ever laid eyes on. “It’s good to see you again.” His voice was as smooth and pleasing as I remembered. “It’s been too long, but I’m afraid I’m confused by the nature of your visit. I don’t believe I’ve done anything lately to require your presence.” He grinned toward the last part. Red, soft, powerful lips. “Or have I?” “No,” I blurted out. “I mean, that’s not why I’m here.” I leaned toward his desk and noticed his eyes dip to my chest. I should’ve worn a T-shirt. An extra large one. Slowly, deliberately, he met my eyes again. “Why then?” I could feel my entire body heat up. I probably looked like a big red freak of nature. Get a hold of yourself. He was evil. A demon. Not worth the provocative thoughts dancing through my mind. “I’m looking for someone you used to employ. His name is Peter Piper, and last night he escaped a second warning.” “And?” “And I hoped you’d be able to give me some information about him.” He cocked his head, braced his hands on the desk, and bowed toward me to look at my bruised cheek. It couldn’t have been too noticeable. With MOG’s medicine and my healing power, it should be mostly gone. “Did this Peter Piper hit you, Abigail?” He went on to examine the rest of my face and down farther. “No,” I said, thankful there was a large piece of furniture between us. Afraid I’d be in his lap right then if there wasn’t. “No, he didn’t touch me.” His buddy did, but Simeon didn’t need to know that. He sat back down. “What happened to you then?” “I fell.” I was such a bad liar. Judd was right. Simeon smiled, showing me a perfect set of teeth and a dimple on his left cheek. “Aren’t Angels bred to be honest and noble?” “I am those things.” Most of the time. “Really?” He tsked. “That’s disappointing to hear. I thought you were different.” I didn’t ask what gave him that idea. I already knew. I also knew the half-breed sitting before me was the devil in disguise and was being very good at avoiding my purpose for coming here. ================================================================ A Wolf’s Touch by Christine Donovan “So, tell me. What had you so upset you ran from my office?” Ethan cocked one nicely shaped brow. Of course he would start off with that. Subtlety was certainly not one of Dr. Brown’s fortes. “I came to see you because you teach Myth and Culture. I have an unusual question to ask.” He leaned forward, his deep brown eyes riveted on hers. “Well, ask away. How unusual can it be?” “Humph.” She shook her head fast, regretting it as the bones in her neck cracked. “You have no idea.” “Of course I don’t, unless you tell me.” “Okay.” She leaned forward, lowered her voice several octaves. “Do you believe in werewolves?” There, she said it. Then she sat back as all the air expelled from her lungs. If he thought her crazy, so be it. He leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, and stared at her with a blank face. Why didn’t he answer her? Little pinpricks tip-toed up her spine as she waited silently, damning him for keeping her lingering and damning herself for caring. The seconds ticked by like hours, so she cleared her throat and repeated her question. “I heard you the first time,” he replied. “Oh, and you just thought you’d ignore me. Do you enjoy making people feel like fools?” “Sorry.” He shook his head. “Not my intention. You caught me off guard that’s all.” Her temper sizzled. She fought to control it. “I’m still waiting for your answer.” He laughed, a deep chuckle which only angered her more. She got up, almost knocking the chair over in her haste. Frustration gnawed at her. “Sit.” Who did he think he was, ordering her around? ====================================================== Torkel by Mardi Maxwell Blurb: Love unites them in the mists of time. Cursed with immortality for a deed he didn’t do, Torkel MacAsgaill has spent centuries exiled to an abandoned village in the Highlands. His only hope of happiness depends on his one true love finding the glen, falling in love with him, and choosing to stay forever. Ella Ross has a successful acting career, but she needs a place to hide when her life goes wrong. She contacts the Misty Glen Travel Agency and leases a quaint, but isolated, cottage in the Scottish Highlands. It’s the perfect place to avoid the paparazzi while she plans a new future. Ella is lost on a mountain road when her car breaks down. The sun is setting and the temperature is dropping as a storm grows in intensity. She sees a light in the distance and leaves her car, hoping to find help. Torkel is sitting by his fire glad to be warm and dry when his hounds alert him to something going on in the glen. He releases them and they lead him to a beautiful but unconscious woman. Alone at his cottage, love seeks Ella and Torkel in a hidden glen in the Highlands. Excerpt (General): “Nice doggie. Be good.” She edged around it and stood up, leaving the thick wool blanket behind, and tugging the linen sheet from the bed. She wrapped it around herself and tucked the end into the top above her breasts as she hurried toward the fireplace. She was right. The floor was freezing. The entire room was freezing, she thought, as her breath fogged the air until she reached the fireplace. Huddling there as close to the flames as she dared she avoided the biggest clumps of dirt on the floor, then jumped in surprise when the dog sat down and leaned its weight against her. She put her arm around it, and they watched the flames flicker. “So, doggie, what’s your name, huh?” “Maggie,” a deep, masculine voice said from behind her. Screaming, Ella lost her balance, landed on her bottom, and spotted a wild man standing a few feet from her. Jumping to her feet, she searched for a weapon, grabbed a tankard, and threw it. Liquid sloshed out of it and onto the floor as it sailed through the air toward him. It hit the door frame next to him and a large chunk broke off and flipped through the air. He dodged it as the rest shattered on the stone floor. “Stay back,” she said and held her hands up as if that would stop him. “Woman, that was my last tankard.” His voice held a deep snarl as he stalked toward her. Ella took the words and the movement as a threat and searched for another weapon but only saw a leather-bound book lying on the seat of one of the large fireside chairs. She reached for it, but a growl of warning stopped her. Frozen with fear, she looked at Maggie. The large dog lay beside the fire with her head resting on her paws. That left the wild man. Ella looked at him through the locks of hair that had fallen over her face when she’d bent forward. Had he growled at her? “Touch my book and ye’ll be sorry,” he said. Yup, the sound had come from him. She jerked her hand back and put a chair between them while she tightened the sheet around her breasts. “Where am I, and how did I get here? And where are my clothes?” Her voice rose on the last two words. ================================================================ Lynn Crain Title: Avenging Aingeal Series Title: Protectors of the Earth Long Logline: A young woman with elemental powers must learn who she is before she can help save the Earth. Short Logline: Bound by vengeance, she is humanity’s one hope… Blurb: Aingeal Cochran is on a mission to save humanity from itself when suddenly she’s staring head-on at her forgotten past. Lukas Everhard must bring her up to speed regarding the real enemy before allowing himself to love her completely. In learning about her past and mission, Aingeal realizes the best is yet to be and she will do anything to protect those she loves. For Lukas, Aingeal is the mission. Excerpt: Arching an eyebrow, I stared at him. No one in this facility could begin to hold a candle to me and I knew it. Worse, they knew it. “Whatever gave you the idea any one could kick my butt? Cause I know you can’t.” I sat there and listened to his buddies all crack up as Jonathan’s ears turned red. Now this was something I could really get into. “Ever heard of Lukas Everhard?” The flash of puppy-like adoration almost made me lose it right then. “You’re joking right? Everhard?” I couldn’t contain myself any longer and laughed so hard tears flowed from my eyes. That would be the day. “You’re just a bitch who won’t know what hit her.” His face took on a hard edge and if I hadn’t been so bored, I might have backed away. “And you’re just an ass who will.” The orb bobbed in my hand as I stood, dangerously close to being thrown when something huge grabbed my wrist. “You know the rules here. No fighting in the mess hall.” The object didn’t remove itself from my body. I whirled furious, jerking my arm away, energy in both hands now and was stopped short by the man who stood before me. I was not a small woman, yet this man dwarfed me. Slowly, my gaze moved from his chest to his wide shoulders to his face and stopped there. Ice blue eyes stared at me without one bit of emotion attached to the look. He’s one cold cookie. I blinked rapidly almost as if I had been hit in the gut. This man was not going to take my crap in any way, shape or form. While I might be able to fool Darien somewhat as I had learned since I had arrived, I would never be able to fool this one. Then there was the fact I felt more aware of him sexually than I had been with anyone else. Ever. There was a charisma about him which made me want to throw myself into his arms and beg to be taken. And it was more than his physical appearance because if truth be told, this man looked good…the best I had ever seen…again a rarity for me to note. It was as if he were palpable under my hands even though we weren’t touching. My crotch tightened once more and I shook my head to clear my errant thoughts. “Told you.” A snide voice commented somewhere off to my left. I turned to look at my accuser, electricity leaping to my hand yet again. Some days I couldn’t control it at all. This could be a problem. Stepping in front of me, the big man’s forefinger jabbed my chest in a hard push. “You. Me. In the sparring room immediately.” I watched as he walked out the door, all predatory-like and with more purpose than I had seen anyone in this place have since my arrival. I eyed everyone else and realized it wouldn’t matter what I said, they were going to see if their man could best me. Sighing, I also knew I had brought this on myself. Vowing to make his fall gentle, I shook my head and followed him down the main corridor, wondering if I should even bother to introduce myself. I ran up to walk next to him and before I could even start, I was cut off by his raised hand. “Don’t bother. I know who you are.” He kept his eyes straight forward. Frowning, I watched him for a minute. “Yeah, but I don’t know who you are, now do I?” He stopped in front of the sparring room door. “And that should make a difference how?” Shoving it open, he waved a hand. “Ladies first.” “As if I’d fall for that one,” I muttered more to myself than anyone. Scowling at me, he shook his head. “Look one of us has to go in first. The door isn’t big enough for us to go side by side.” “Fine,” I said through clenched teeth. This would end bad, I could feel it in my bones. • Title/Author- Fallen by Tamsin Baker •Excerpt: Darkness had fallen—the worst time of day. I sat on the ledge of an apartment building in a small street near Greenwich village. Only two stories up this time. I wasn’t risking losing her again. Movement to the right caught my eye and I turned to watch the little Witch sneak along the street, a cloak pulled tight over her abundant hair. But I could sense her, like a burning beacon in a dark sea. To me, her hair flamed for all to see. Clever of her to hide it at night when the Demons were out. I jumped off my perch and hit the cement, keeping my invisibility up so she couldn’t see me. The plan didn’t work as I had anticipated. She looked straight at me and bolted for her front door, shoving the key in to the lock and attempting to get inside before I could get to her. Which, if she achieved her aim, wouldn’t be great for me. All paranormals were restricted from crossing the threshold of a human house, unless personally invited in. I flew faster and reached out to her. My hand closed around her shoulder and desire poured through my belly like hot honey. Damn it. How long’s it been since I felt that? She twisted and swung a fist at me. I ducked and weaved, holding tighter to her shoulder. I’m still invisible. How is this possible? She swung again and this time I caught her hand. Tingles pulsed along my palm and I glared at her with all my might. We needed to get inside, and quickly. “Stop. I’m here to help you.” She snarled up at me, her clear blue eyes throwing chips of ice like an Eskimo. “Yeah right. Just like all the others.” She wasn’t physically fighting me anymore, though I could still feel the anger pouring through her veins like fire. “Kadie, I’m a guardian Angel. I’m here to help.” She glared and pulled her shoulder out of my grasp with a sharp twist. Obviously, like all the others, she didn’t believe me. “I’ll prove it to you.” I spread my black wings out to their full breadth and prepared myself to fly up into the air. It was a risk. If she dashed inside I wouldn’t be able to speak to her until she came out again. Before I could launch up, her eyes grew to the size of the full moon. She shouldn’t have been able to see my wings, or me for that matter. Damn. She’d once again broken the rules I believed were finite. Her mouth opened and shut a few times, then she asked. “Why are your wings black?” I cringed, hating the answer that would come through my lips soon enough. If only there was another way, but I had always found that honesty worked best in these situations. I’d learnt that the hard way. “Because I am a Fallen Angel working on Earth to gain passage back into Heaven.” For some reason, her shoulders relaxed at those words and her mouth kinked up at the sides. She looked cute, and impish. “You’re trying to earn your way back into Heaven? Wow. That’s a new one. What’d you do?” ================================================================ •Title/Author: Secrets of the Hollows (Book 2) by Nicole Morgan •Excerpt One of the Great Marquis of Hell, Andras, resided underneath the most powerful of all, Lucifer. His loyalty to the Prince of Darkness and ability to sow discord among all those he encountered, Andras was favored by Lucifer for ages and was given thirty legions under his command by his master. With the body of a winged angel and the head of a raven, Andras rode upon a strong black wolf and wielded a sharp, bright and powerful sword. As one of the seventy-two spirits of Solomon, Andras was considered to be highly dangerous and those who knew him in the underworld approached with caution. Of all his powers, his most diabolical is that of being able to stir up trouble and dissension where there is none, and in many cases convincing his subjects to kill on his behalf. Lucifer once said about Andras, “His power is great, and should be feared.” ================================================================ •Title/Author: Her Fate, His Mate (Wolves of Windsor Woods #1) by Krista Ames •Excerpt: “I can’t take it anymore, I know there’s something out there and I swear who or whatever it is, has been watching me since I got here.” Piper stood in the opened doorway of her mountain hideaway, not able to see a thing through the darkness of night and trees but she knew for certain something was there. During the day, the trees masked most of the area, not letting much of the sunlight in but at night it was downright eerie. Piper had already been there part of the week enjoying the peace and quiet during the day but at night things were different. She’d been leery to go outside the cabin at all, afraid of the howling sounds invading the private cove. Sleep evaded her the last three nights as the echoes from a wolf came closer and closer. It was probable that there were multiple wolves but something deep inside of her kept going back to it just being one. She felt like she was being stalked. At times, the low growling sounded so near it gave her the chills, like it was talking to her. It wasn’t very likely, but Piper swore the wolf had been right below her window more than once. At that very moment however, she’d stepped out further onto the front porch and couldn’t believe her eyes. “Please go away, I promise I’ll never hurt you. I just came here for some peace and quiet.” The wolf she knew had been keeping her awake all hours of the night suddenly appeared in the narrow clearing, standing maybe a hundred feet from the cabin. Closer than she would like. Her body stiffened then began to shake uncontrollably and her heart raced. She had no clue what to do, she’d never been around a wolf or knew what would even scare them away. She started to back closer to the door. The more fear that racked her slender frame, the closer the wolf came until he was at the base of the porch steps. “Shoo now, be a good doggie.” Okay so she knew it wasn’t a dog, only part of the dog family, maybe. And telling it to go away didn’t mean it would. That was a long shot. Shit, I don’t even have a weapon to protect myself. Quickly her thoughts drifted off to the interior of her cabin and what she did have in there that might be useful as a weapon. Knives in the kitchen but no guns to speak of. The poker at the fireplace would be perfect, if only she had it now. She might have to start carrying that to bed with her and leave it by the front door when she was awake. For her current situation though, she would never make it inside quick enough to grab any of those items. Frozen where she stood and too afraid to retreat, Piper watched as the wolf came closer. It slowly ascended the stairs, but not like any other four-legged creature she’d ever seen. This wolf was much bigger than she thought them to be and somehow, he was changing his features with each step he took until right in front of her face stood a gloriously naked man. A faint whisper invaded her mind as strong arms caught her falling body before everything went dark. “You could hurt me more than you know…” ================================================================ •Title/Author: “Three Days From Hell: Kushiel’s Assassin” by Dariel Raye Author •Excerpt: “Your key.” The manager handed Anitra a small envelope with the keycard. “Suite 333.” She accepted it and walked to the elevator. She could not help wondering about the sudden glint in the manager’s eyes when he saw the suite number, but decided not to ask. The night had already been strange enough, and she wasn’t sure she wanted an answer. She gathered Rumor and his things and walked away without a word, the added bonus of Ms. Lillian allowing her to charge whatever she needed to the room rendering her speechless. Anitra smiled as she stepped onto the elevator. Ms. Lillian’s exclusive matchmaking business, “Heaven’s Touch,” was revered and respected by any and everyone with money and power – those who knew about it, that is. No matter how grateful she was, Anitra still hoped to God her benefactor was not trying to hook her up with some clown. She needed a man’s drama like she needed a bullet in her back a few hours ago. Plus, most men seemed intimidated by her…unless they were trying to kill her, that is. She was a big girl, and she had always been a fighter, but she had never been more frightened than she had been when she smelled the sulfur from that bullet aimed at her. Right now, she was just tired and… lonely. The voice in her head that never seemed to keep silent long enough spoke up. Matchmaking is what she does. Getting hooked up with a man is a hell of a lot better than running for your life. She blew an errant strand of hair out of her face. As long as there was no one in her room, suite, whatever, waiting to kill her, it was all good. Just before the door closed, Rumor whimpered and a huge hand slid inside, causing the doors to automatically stop. Heat rushed through Anitra’s body like a furnace. She glanced around to see if anyone else had been affected by the unseen force, but apparently, she was just having a young adult hot flash. At least that was what she thought until the elevator doors opened to reveal the source of titillating heat. She covered her heart with her right hand as she gazed into the smoky gray eyes of very possibly the most gorgeous man she had ever seen in her twenty-nine years. Not a pretty man, but breathtakingly beautiful in his masculinity. Testosterone rolled off him in waves, yet Rumor did not say a word. Testosterone in any amount usually resulted in low-pitched growls and vicious, territorial barking from her four-legged best friend. Anitra glanced down at him to make sure he was still breathing. He was. Next, she looked behind her to find every pair of eyes on the elevator glued to the smokin’ hot new arrival. Of course, they all appeared to be more terrified than excited. As usual, she was the odd one out. =============================================================== Dark Side of the Moon by Laura Baumbach The thrum of the diesel truck wound down to a low hum then sighed into silence. Only the fierce whine of the winds blowing around the high cab filled the night air. It was cold and bitter and the last thing Harley Scott wanted to do was uncurl from his warm leather seat nesting spot against the thick passenger door. He shouldn’t be bothered by the cold, or the long hours riding across the frozen Canadian territories in a loud, vibrating semi, but little things bothered him lately. Lately, as in since he got shot in the head a month ago. What was supposed to be an ordinary one night stand for sex and a snack turned out bad. It was just going to be a few hours with a new john who had bought Harley’s willing body for the night. Unfortunately, the sadistic john enjoyed himself so much, he decided he wanted to act out his own snuff film with Harley as the snuffee. Harley had shrugged it off at first as what you get when you’re into blood sports. What’s a little strangulation to a vampire? He didn’t need to breathe. But he hadn’t expected the gun. He did need all his brain cells intact. Harley had suffered life-altering, lasting effects from the head wound, but at least he still existed. The john had actually suffered a heart attack and died. Must have had something to do with Harley regaining consciousness after the bullet penetrated his brain and sitting up to swear and curse out his shooter. Or it could have been the fact that he had done it in full vampire mode with fangs extended, eyes glowing and the primal animal need for restorative blood taking hold of the moment. Except that the man’s blood, no matter how much Harley had taken, had not restored him. Not by much. Nothing had since then, either, and word of his injury had spread throughout the tightly monitored vampire community he had been taken into at his conversion. The elders now labeled him defective and crippled, unfit for continued existence. They never had been happy that he continued being a hustler and a whore after being made into a vampire. He’d given up on his dream of a regular life and a family when he became a night creature. His decision to stay in his old hustler’s lifestyle was an element that gave him a sense of security and comfort amid the many changes he was forced to endure. He found it an easy way to make money and feed without detection. The elders found it degrading and unnecessary and not to be tolerated, especially from a ‘defective’ vampire. Which was why Harley was on the run, trying oh so hard to elude the two Eliminators on his tail. Which was also why he was sitting in the cab of a semi in a small and garishly lit truck stop on the way to somewhere isolated and unattractive in a dark, frozen wilderness. Somewhere the Eliminators wouldn’t look. Even Harley didn’t have any idea where he was just now. One glance at the overweight, pockmarked trucker beside him and Harley quickly averted his glance to the wide windshield and checked out the sky. It looked like dawn would be approaching in the next hour or so. He couldn’t rely on his senses to tell him when morning was nearing anymore. It was all a crapshoot now. Being in a strange place, traveling nearer and nearer to the territories where three months were in almost total darkness made it even harder to judge sunrise. But Harley knew one blowjob, even with the quick snack from the sweaty man’s femoral artery, was all he was willing to give the man. The trucker smelled of old cigars and cheap whiskey, and his blood was thick with plaque and fat — as unappetizing as the man’s odor. Slipping into his completely inadequate leather biker’s jacket, Harley cracked the heavy door open and slid to the ground before the trucker could comment or protest. He nodded at the guy as he pulled the small duffel bag off the cab floor and out of the truck. It didn’t hold much. “Thanks for the ride, Sam. It’s been a pleasure.” Harley knew his voice sounded sincere. He’d had decades to practice. Whether the john had been any good or not, it paid to make them think they had been. It increased the tip sometimes and made for repeat business. In this case, Harley hoped he never saw the sweaty, bloated man again. He nodded toward the brightly-lit cafe a few hundred feet away. “Any idea where we are?” The harshly blowing wind whipped up and nearly tore the door out of his hands. “Damn it!” Harley tugged the door closer to his body to block the chill and waited for Sam to say something so he could move out of the weather and into the building. He really wanted to be somewhere safer, but right now just dark and warm would do. The vampires following him might be close, but the sun was even closer. In his present physical condition, even the weak rays that cut through this thick, swirling snow would do irreparable harm. “You coming in?” Sam eyed the cheery cafe and then shrugged. “Nah. I usually just sleep at this stop. The regulars here are too talkative for me. I like peace and quiet.” Since all Sam had done since Harley got into the truck cab was talk, the declaration surprised him, but he didn’t waste much time thinking about it. It was too cold and he was too tired to care. “Where did you say we are?” “You’re just outside of Ross River. I’m heading west to hook up with the Interstate 2 then hitting Dawson. Got a load to deliver and one to pick up. You’re welcome to make the trip.” Sam leered in what Harley knew the man thought was a seductive grin. The smile showed every one of the man’s tobacco-stained teeth and twisted his two-day chin stubble into a grizzled, knotted nest. “The toll for riders ain’t that high, if you get my drift.” The trucker winked and Harley felt his stomach roll. He could avoid having sex with the man, but even the taste of Sam’s blood wasn’t something he wanted to repeat. He just wanted to be far away from everyone right now. He gnawed on one of his own knuckles until it bled, then sucked on the torn flesh and thin blood, hoping to make the nausea and faint hunger go away. “Thanks anyway, but I think maybe I’ll hang around here for a bit and see if anyone is headed east. Thanks for the ride this far.” A gust of wind shoved him bodily to one side. Harley used it as an excuse to close the truck door, blocking out the sight of the man’s disappointed face. Bent low to keep the strong gales from lifting his slim frame right off the ice-packed surface under his feet, Harley shivered under the unlined leather of his jacket. He jammed his gloved fists into its pockets and trudged rapidly over the two hundred feet between him and the protection of the little cafe. He didn’t know if Sam was following him and didn’t care. He just wanted out of the cold. He looked forward to the continual darkness the extreme territories had to offer him now, but the bitter cold here affected him more than he thought possible. Two new arrivals to the stop descended from their trucks as he passed by their still running cabs. He nodded and sized each man up to be sure neither of the two vampires on his trail had slipped up on him. He couldn’t sense the presence of his own kind like he should be able to, but he could still pick out a scent close up. Both of these big, brawny men were human. A single sniff told him that once they were beside him. One smelled earthy, faintly like pine and campfire smoke, an undefined but strong scent that teased at the edges of Harley’s memory. In the end it eluded him, and he shook his head to clear it, unconcerned. These were flesh and blood creatures with heartbeats, not vampires in disguise. The unnamed scent didn’t matter. He was safe, for the moment, from his executioners. The other man reeked of Italian seasonings, garlic in particular. Harley smiled when he recognized the once dreaded scent and he inhaled deeply. Before his head wound, the smell would have made him cringe. Now it almost made his mouth water. One more sign his life was going back to hell in a hand basket. After over thirty years as a vampire, it was brutal to have to revert to a partially humanized state, however temporary he hoped it was. He hadn’t realized how good he’d had it as a vampire. He’d never been bothered by extreme temperatures, petty illness or physical defects. Now he was cold, weak and if he was being truthful with himself, terrified. Eliminators weren’t known for the humane way they rid the world of ‘defective’ vampires — what they now considered him to be. Just thinking of the stories he’d heard about the ‘monster killers’ made the nausea boil up in his gut again. He liked the eyes in his head. They were nice, hazel eyes, slightly exotic looking with their almost-almond shape and oddly crystallized threads of green, blue, gray and black. One of his best seductive features, he’d been told. He wanted them left right where they were. His head looked best on his shoulders, too. Decapitation, evisceration, enucleation, and amputation were all such ugly words, words the Eliminators worked hard to create new, more horrendous definitions for. Hurrying, the leather soles of his boots made him lose his footing twice on the slick blacktop. He reached for the door handle just as the earth-tainted trucker let go of it. The man stopped, sniffed, turned back and then held the door open for Harley. “You’re gonna freeze your assets off, boy. That little bitty jacket ain’t made for this neck of the woods.” The man looked to be in his forties, broad shouldered, with a fringe of washed-out honey-blond hair under a fur hat with earflaps. His bulk was wrapped in layers of clothing beneath a heavy brown canvas coat. Despite the suggestiveness of his comment, the look on the man’s reddened face was part disbelief and part amusement, with a touch of fatherly sternness. “I can take it.” Harley smiled back, radiating what he knew was a confident gleam in his eye. The gleam was destroyed when a violent shiver visibly shook his entire body. He had enough grace to look sheepish. “But I don’t have to like it.” “Better get on in here and warm up then. Take a stool at the counter in the middle. That’ll sit you right by one of the heating vents.” The trucker herded Harley through the vestibule into the main diner, a concerned hand on Harley’s hunched shoulder. “Name’s Abe, by the way.” Abe grabbed Harley’s hand and vigorously shook it. “Ah, yeah.” Harley wiped the sweat from the man’s palm onto his jeans, then wrapped his arms around his chest to contain another shiver, this one less violent but still evident. He hoped Abe wouldn’t notice he didn’t return the courtesy of giving his own name. “Nice to meet you.” They walked over a strip of bright yellow symbols on the floor and another shiver shook Harley’s lean frame, making him pause. A sudden stabbing pain in his head made the healing bullet wound burn. The room wavered for a moment, but Harley shook off the accompanying wave of dizziness. Under Abe’s watchful eye, he moved farther into the cafe to sit down.

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