Monday, February 14, 2011

Alpha Male Incorporated: Under Your Protection by Marie Rochelle

Jax Irizarry leaned back in the leather chair and stared at the mortal in front of him.


“You have to protect her,” Frank demanded as he slammed his hand down on the desk. “You’re the best bodyguard in town. I’ll be willing to pay you extra if I have to, but I won’t accept no as an answer. With all of your powers, you’re the best and most capable person for the job. I don’t want anyone else looking after my goddaughter but you.”

Frank leaned in and pointed his index finger. “You owe me. For years, I’ve kept your secret about being a vampire because we’re friends. I would never betray your trust like that.

“I understand that you don’t advertise your ‘special’ nature and skills. I wonder what your other clients’ reactions would be if the truth got out. I mean, I know not to believe in the Hollywood hype about vampires because you’ve told me numerous times all of those aren’t accurate accounts of real vampires, but do you think your other cliental would so be understanding and not run from you screaming in fear?”

Jax glared at his closest human friend. “Is that a threat?”

Frank flopped into a chair and wiped the perspiration off his brow. “I’m desperate. Come on, Jax. Man, do this for me as a favor? It’s not like I think you’re going to harm Sahara or anything. You’ve told me you don’t feed off of humans for food and I believe you. So, what is it going to be?”

Jax Irizarry had been a vampire for over three hundred years and Frank Chantel had been his friend for the last fifteen plus years. Granted, he hadn’t seen much of his friend while he’d been overseas, and certainly all the time he’d been spending building his business since returning had kept him from being overly social. And Frank was as much to blame with his frequent business trips and his focus on his goddaughter’s budding career. But Jax would do anything for his buddy, just not this. He was retired for a reason and he was going to stay that way. It didn’t matter how much Frank wanted his help. He wasn’t going to do it. There was nothing Frank could tell him that would make him change his mind. The last time he was hired to be a bodyguard someone very close to him got hurt and he wasn’t going to allow his job to put another person he cared about in danger.

“Frank, you know I think of you like a brother, but I haven’t been a personal bodyguard for over five years. I like working behind the desk now. I’d be more than happy to recommend some other excellent bodyguards that could do the job as well as me. Hell, I think they might even be better since I’ve been out of the field so long.”

“I can’t believe you won’t help me after everything we have been through with each other,” Frank snapped as he jumped up from his seat. “Some psycho is threatening to kill my goddaughter, and I thought my best friend wouldn’t think twice about helping me out. But, I can see that I was wrong. Never mind. I’ll take care of it myself.” Storming away from the desk, Frank went out the door slamming it shut behind him.

“Frank. Wait one damn minute. You don’t have a clue how to be a bodyguard!”

Jax jumped up from his chair to go after his friend but ended up sitting back down. He wasn’t going to bother Frank now—not while he was so pissed off at him. Later on he’d stop by Frank’s house on his way home and talk to him about finding another bodyguard for his goddaughter. Hopefully, Frank would have cooled down by then and be more open to taking his advice. He would never recommend anyone that he didn’t think could handle protecting Frank’s family member. He only hired the best at Alpha Male Incorporated.

Honestly, sometimes a part of Jax hated that Frank knew about his secret because he liked it better when his friend had only thought of him as human. Frank found out quite by accident. He had invited Frank over to his house to watch a football game and during half time Frank asked him for something to drink. Before he could give it to him Zander had called him on the phone about a business problem and when he left the room to talk to his brother, Frank wandered into the kitchen to get the drink himself. When he opened the fridge he found human food along with the bags of blood that Jax bought from a vampire owned business that supplied it to vampires who no longer wanted to feed off humans. .

It was Frank’s terrified screams that had alerted Jax to the problem. God, it had taken almost all of his strength to hold Frank down when he tried to leave the house while he explained why he had the bags of blood inside his fridge.

Against all odds, Frank finally accepted the truth about Jax and his strange family, and that acceptance had cemented their friendship.

Jax shook his head. It was hard to say no to Frank, but he had to stay firm.

Was that Frank I saw leaving like he was furious at everyone in the world? What in the hell is wrong with him? He’s usually in such a good mood. The words touched Jax’s mind about two minutes after Frank left his office.

Swinging his eyes over to the open doorway, Jax found his younger brother Zander standing there with his shoulder braced against the door jam. He hated how his brother could ease up on him without making a sound; it was one of Zander’s vampire powers that his sibling was very proud of and constantly did to bother the hell out of him.

“Yeah, we had a disagreement and he’s mad at me. I’ll go to his house later on and apologize,” Jax answered. “Also, can you stop talking to me telepathically when no one else is around? You know that I like having a real conversation whenever possible because it makes me feel a little more human.

“Fine, I hear you about the telepathic thing. I might stop. I might not. You never know with me. Care to tell me what he wanted you to do?” Zander came into the room and took a seat in front of his desk. “Frank isn’t the type of guy to ask for help unless it was something very important.”

Running his fingers through his blond hair; Jax fell back in his chair thinking about what Zander was telling him. He hated to admit it, but his baby brother was right. In all of the years that he’d known Frank, he’d really never asked him for any kind of help. And the one time that Frank had, he blew him off like it wasn’t important enough.

“His goddaughter is getting threatening emails and letters from a crazed fan,” Jax said as he thought back to the conversation with Frank.

“Yeah, she’s a singer or something, right?” Zander said.

“Right. He wanted to hire me as her personal bodyguard, but I told him no, that I was no longer in that line of business. I suggested I would be more than happy to recommend someone else who was as good as me.”

“You have to realize because Frank knows you’re a vampire that he believes you have the ability to protect her better than anyone else. He’s right. You’re the best man for the job and you know it too. You shouldn’t have been so quick to blow him off. I think you should take it him up on his offer. All you do is spend most of the day behind that desk telling other people what to do. Was that really your vision when you started Alpha Male Incorporated ten years ago?

“Didn’t Thorsten and I both sell our own places of businesses and relocate here with you, so we could have a family business under one roof?” Zander questioned. “We wanted you to achieve your dream just like we did ours. At first, it was a huge change for us but we worked it out and everything runs smoothly now.”

Jax frowned at his brother’s jibe. Alpha Male Incorporated was born because he wanted to still stay in the field of personal security even if he wasn’t out there in the field anymore. With his unique abilities, he would be able to train other bodyguards to protect their clients almost as well as him.

Ever since he could remember his true calling was to protect people and he didn’t want to let it go because of one bad experience from his past. In addition, he wanted to have a business that involved his brother’s security firm and cousin’s growing business.

Alpha Male Incorporated was that for him.

“My vision for my business has changed over the years and you know it has. What’s so wrong with that?” he demanded. “I still make a good living behind the scenes instead of being front and center all of the time.”

“Nothing,” Zander sighed getting up from his seat. “I just never thought of my one and only brother as a coward, that’s all. Well, I better go. Thorsten is expecting me for an early dinner and you know how our cousin can get when he doesn’t get enough food to eat.”

His brother gave him a long searching look. “I really do think you should take the job because who knows, you might actually end up liking being back out there in the thick of things.” Zander waved at him and then left the room closing the door behind him.

Damn Zander! He knew how much he hated being called a coward. Now, Jax was actually thinking about taking Frank up on his offer.





****





“I can’t believe you tried to hire me a bodyguard.” Sahara “Coco” Chantel complained as she closed the journal in which she wrote all of her song lyrics. Tossing the thick black book on the mattress, she got off the bed and stood in front of her godfather. She was upset as hell that Frank had gone behind her back and talked to another person about her stalker, especially a bodyguard. Why did he go and do that to her?

“The letters and emails are probably just from an overzealous fan, at the most just a lonely person who wants to get some attention and decided to pick me. I’m not taking any of the threats seriously and neither should you.”

. This wasn’t a crazy person who was going to be hiding in the bushes watching her every move. She was getting more fame with her new song, but she wasn’t anywhere near Alicia Keys fame yet.

“Don’t read more into it than there is, Uncle Frank.”

Frank was her godfather, but she felt more like his daughter than his goddaughter. She’d moved in with Frank when she was thirteen years old because her parents died in a car crash.

Sahara never thought that she would get over the searing pain of losing both of her parents at the same time, but she did with the help of her Uncle Frank. He was the one who introduced her to music and her love for it had grown.

Now, she was on her way to being on the Top 100 Billboard charts. She had already performed on a couple of local televisions. If everything worked out okay she was scheduled to be on Saturday Night Live at the end of the year. So, why couldn’t her Uncle Frank understand that she wasn’t concerned about the threats?

Yeah, she might have an overly attached fan at the moment, but that didn’t mean the person was really going to come after her. Most of the time letters like she had been receiving came from a person with too much time on their hands. Sahara believed that everything would die down in a couple of days and then she could get back to doing what she loved the most...writing and performing music.

“Can you please call and tell this Jax not to come?” Sahara complained. She wasn’t ready to deal with a strange man watching her every single move all of the time. “I really don’t need a babysitter. I’m almost twenty-six years old. I can handle anything that comes my way. Don’t you remember how you raised me to be independent?”

Frank eyed her as he rubbed his hand across his bald head. “Yes. I remember that conversation quite well. But, I didn’t think you would decide to take my advice and use it now. However, you don’t have to worry. Jax turned down my job offer.”

“Thank God!” Sahara mumbled under her breath as she sat back down on her bed and picked up the journal. “I’m glad he did because I might have turned up my bitch meter another notch and scared him off.”

Laughing, Frank shook his head at her as he turned to leave the room. “I don’t think you would have caused Jax to do anything that he didn’t want to do.”

“How can you be sure?” Sahara asked looking up from the newest song she was writing.

“I’ve known Jax a long time and nothing rattles his cage. Sometimes, I think he has ice water running through his veins. I swear I’ve never seen him blink an eye at any sign of danger. And he has special...abilities. That’s why I thought he would be the perfect man to watch over you while you were out on the road performing.”

“If you say so,” Sahara said as she looked away from her uncle and back down at the current lyrics she was having a huge issue with.

“I still think you need to get someone to watch over you, sweetheart. You’re getting more and more famous since doing those two late night talk shows and you know I’m right. This person could be very dangerous. Please let me help you,” Frank pleaded. He paused at the bedroom door. “It would kill me if something happened to you. You’re the only family I have and I want to keep you safe to the best of my ability.”

Sahara heard the fear in her Uncle Frank’s voice and she felt bad. He was only trying to help her and she was fighting him so hard. She should give this more thought because he wouldn’t be this worried about her safety if a real threat wasn’t involved.

“Okay, how about I think about it tonight and give you my answer in the morning?” Sahara suggested, hoping Frank would agree and let it go for the rest of the night.

Frank turned away from the door and looked at her like he didn’t quite believe her. “Are you telling me the truth? Will you really think about getting a bodyguard? If you are, I’ll call Jax and see about talking him into taking the job. I know I can get him to take the position despite the problems he gave me earlier.”

Sahara wasn’t ready to give Frank her answer, but if she didn’t tell him something right now he wasn’t going to leave and she needed time alone to work on her music. He was becoming too much of a distraction to her thought process.

“Okay, call Jax and see if he can come by here tomorrow. After I talk to him, I’ll make a decision but I need to finish working on this new song.” Sahara tapped her pen against the journal hoping her uncle would finally get the hint and leave.

“Alright, good. Have fun working on your song and don’t worry so much over it. I know it will be wonderful just like the rest of them.” Uncle Frank walked out the door shutting it with a click behind him.

Sahara laid her pen down on the bed next to her leg. She wasn’t going to be able to think about a song now, not with her mind on this Jax person her Uncle Frank wanted to hire. She could only imagine what he would look like. He probably looked like he would belong with the secret service—dark suit, military haircut, and shades. Maybe the addition of a bodyguard would piss off her ‘fan’ even more than the person already was. Truly, before now; she wasn’t taking all of the letters, cards and emails seriously, but after hearing the alarm in Frank’s voice she might have to rethink her decision.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Silver Wings edited by Leigh Ellwood

“This is bloody ridiculous,” Sean Carlyle muttered into his glass, glaring darkly across the crowded ballroom.


“Gently,” Professor Emerson, his mentor from the aeronautics department at the University of Oxford, advised as he joined the younger man at the edge of the crowd. “We wouldn’t want any displays of discontent with all our dear friends in the room, would we?”

“Friends!” Sean scoffed, managing to keep his voice soft despite the urge to yell. “France is a two-faced monster biding its time, and the rest are little more than satellites orbiting the sun of our empire.”

“So choleric tonight,” Professor Emerson said with a slight headshake. “Dare I ponder whether your opinion of the American has changed at all over the past few days?”

“That,” Sean said with a grimace as his gaze recaptured the figure that drew so much attention that evening, “is not an American. That is a caricature of an American.” Good God, could no one else see that the insolent newcomer was playing with them? His ridiculous long leather coat, the tall, broad-brimmed hat, those strange boots and the well-cut, tailored-to-look-rugged clothes beneath it all…the entire ensemble screamed “cowboy,” when any rational human being would have made an effort to fit into his surroundings, not stand out. Yet, there the man stood, drawing attention like honey drew flies and keeping it once people were close, with his smoothly good looks, his soft, strange American drawl, and a way of moving that captured you and refused to let go.

He was doing it again. Looking at Sean with that tiny smirk on his face, and Sean had been caught staring. Again. He jerked his gaze away, angry at himself for becoming enthralled by the abrasive foreigner. “Explain once more why I can’t have James as my pilot?”

“Because,” Professor Emerson said with exaggerated calm, “he cannot be spared from his duties at the Academy of Military Science, to which your Department of Technological Innovation is directly answerable. He’s the head flight instructor for our airship pilots, and with the way things are going now it looks like he and his students will be having more than enough to do before the year is out. So we had to look elsewhere, but of course hiring a Frenchman, who are the next most qualified group of individuals, was out of the question. So, the Board of Regents turned to America. ” He shrugged minutely. “Whether you care to acknowledge it or not, Sean, Mr. Winters has an excellent reputation as a pilot, and nothing we’ve seen so far has disabused me of his competency.”

“I could always take her up myself.”

“That,” the professor’s voice turned hard, “is possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say, and I endured some very odd responses during your undergraduate years, Sean. You must have a pilot, someone to free you up to deal with any technical difficulties that may arise during the trial. It is the minimum safety requirement for the ridiculously dangerous endeavors that you manufacture for yourself, and may I say I would be much more comfortable if you went up with a three or four man crew.”

“Impossible, we can’t take the weight,” Sean replied instantly.

“So you’ve told me. Repeatedly. And I listened, my boy, and now I’m asking you to do the same.” He laid one hand on his former student’s shoulder. “You’re an excellent aeronautical engineer, and one of the finest inventors I’ve ever known. Your ideas are brilliant, but your motivation verges on obsession, Sean. You need balance in your work, or someday you’ll push an idea too far and wind up killing yourself, and where would that leave the rest of us? James has never reigned you in as much as I would like, and he’s no better at making a good impression in elevated social circles than you are.”

Sean opened his mouth to object, but Professor Emerson didn’t let him. “No, Sean. You need to give Nicholas Winters a try. Get a feel for his piloting skills, see whether you can work together, and keep in mind that having him around to charm our myriad of investors means that you don’t have to.”

“He seems to be able to do that, at least,” Sean grudgingly agreed, his gaze pulled back to the tall American against his conscious will.

“Give some thought to the source of this odd antipathy, my boy, and try to exorcise it,” his mentor advised. “Right now Mr. Winters is all we have, and the competition against France is in less than three months. It’s very important for the nation’s morale that we win.”

“I know.” Professor Emerson left him alone after that, but he was more distracted by his internal thoughts at this point than the charming, aggravating American on the ballroom floor. After a few more minutes and a few preoccupied interactions, Sean excused himself from the soiree and made his way back to his laboratory. That the American’s presence had given him the liberty to do so this early in the evening was the first thing he felt remotely grateful to the man for.

He loosened his tie and cravat as he walked, calculating the next step in the construction process of his new airship even as he cursed the circumstances that took James’ participation off the table. Yes, he was needed at the Academy. Yes, he hadn’t been able to tell Sean “boo,” much less reign in his sometimes disastrous creativity, but he was an excellent pilot, and that skill more than made up for the occasional error in judgment. At least, nothing fatal had happened so far.

Sean pushed that tremor of doubt to the back of his mind. He didn’t need his own subconscious giving him distractions, not when he had so many other things to worry about. Concrete things, like whether or not his new pilot was worth a damn at anything other than posturing, and whether he had correctly calculated the tensile strength of the armatures for the balloon. He’d gone over the math time and again, and it was rather pointless now to worry about it since there wasn’t time to rebuild them if he’d gotten it wrong, but still…

The laboratory was empty except for himself and the ship. Sean walked to it, freshly captivated by her beauty even though he saw her every day. Polished brass fittings gleamed in the faint lamplight, dark wood and pulleys and wound metal cord working together like an orchestra to create the opus that lay before him. She was coming together, and she would be perfect. She had to be perfect.

Sean closed his eyes and ran a hand over the railing, delighting in the flawlessness of it even as he wondered if he should have made it slimmer. Light, but durable. Tough enough to withstand the elements but simple enough that a two-man crew could operate her. So many equations to balance in his mind, and that didn’t even begin to take into consideration the off-putting factor of a new pilot. A new American pilot, someone who wouldn’t feel the same burning drive to win that an Englishman would. Someone who might not be willing to make the sacrifices it would take to win. Someone who might be afraid of the risks…although from the little he knew of the man, the concept of risk wasn’t frightening to him.

What did he know of Nicholas Winters, anyway? Sean retrieved a spanner from one of his graduate student’s toolkits and began checking the tightness of the bolts. He liked to work as he thought through things, as it seemed to make them clearer somehow. For starters, the man was American…well-established, that fact. He was something of an arrogant bugger as well—although, to be fair, that was par for the course with pilots. The work was difficult, demanding, and exciting. A little arrogance was to be expected, but the easy self-assurance of this man made Sean grit his teeth. Winters had fought for the West during the United States’ few years of internal strife not long ago, and apparently had distinguished himself. He had flown an airship without pause across the whole of the country which, given the size of that country, was saying something. He had excellent recommendations from Oxford’s contacts in New York, which was also saying something if they could be persuaded to praise a Westerner. He was astonishingly attractive when he smiled, and he smiled quite often…

A sudden sound jerked Sean out of his increasingly uncomfortable reverie. He turned his eyes towards the door, but there was no one there. The place was empty but for him and his ship. He was hearing things. He sighed and turned back to where he had been inspecting the hull. Strange, he hadn’t even remembered kneeling down. He trailed his fingers over the dark, polished surface of the wood and smiled. Here was where her name would be carved, eventually. It was bad luck to name a ship before her launch, and while Sean wasn’t really superstitious he also didn’t feel like tempting fate. When she was ready, he would christen her with a name. Then they would fly and they would win, no matter what the French could conjure or how distracting her new pilot turned out to be. Even though, right now it seemed like he was going to be very distracting indeed.

Hunter's Moon by Brenna Lyons

Chapter One

June 25th, 1982

“You smell wonderful,” Antoñio Polero informed her in his heavily-accented English.

Gabby Farris giggled as Antoñio nuzzled her neck. The tall, blond European was incredibly playful. She sighed as his lips caressed the skin of her neck, beyond warm to scorching and insistent. He pulled back for a moment.

“Oh, God. Don’t stop,” she groaned. His mouth felt incredible.

Antoñio wasn’t her usual type, and Gabby still wasn’t convinced that this date would last past a goodbye kiss at her car. In fact, she was fairly certain that it would end there. Playful or not, Antoñio’s eyes lacked some essential warmth that she preferred in men.

“As you wish.”

Antoñio ran his tongue over her throat in a little circle and started to drop his face to her again. Her blood heated at the attention.

“Back off,” a strange voice ordered.

Gabby retreated in shock, her eyes opening wide in the darkness. She tried to turn to the sound of the voice, but stopped in confusion as a warm splash plastered her shirt to her body. Antoñio backed away with his hand over what appeared to be a deep knife wound at his throat. Gabby jerked a step back with a squawk as a giant of a man brushed past her.

“Back off, Polero.”

Antoñio’s eyes widened in fear as a knife blade the length of a ruler flashed up in the moonlight. Gabby pulled her own knife from the sheath behind her back. It was a pitiful little piece of metal that her brother had given her years ago, the blade about the length of her palm, but Jeff believed a woman should never be unarmed.

Without thought of the size of his weapon, Gabby struck the stranger in the ribs, brushing past his heavy leather jacket. He recoiled, dragging her along in her surprise. Gabby gasped as he met her eyes. Fury burned there. For a moment, she was incapable of leaving that locked stare.

She forced her gaze to Antoñio, pleading for an explanation, anything that would help her find the ground beneath her feet. Her blood ran cold at the fangs clearly visible in Antoñio’s grimace, the red eyes glowing in the near-black night. She might have thought she was hallucinating were it not for the fact that one of the fangs was broken. That was too much detail to explain away.

What have I done?

Gabby squawked again as Antoñio disappeared into thin air. He didn’t run or hide. One second, he was there; the next, there was nothing as far as she could see. Gabby jumped back, feeling her knife slide free from the giant’s body.

Her rescuer screamed that time. It was less in pain than in pure frustration.

Her knife clattered to the ground, and the smell of the blood on her shirt struck her, making her retch. Gabby backpedaled, shaking while the man cleaned his knife on the grass and sheathed it. She wasn’t sure exactly what she just did, but it had been the wrong choice.

He turned to her, ran his hand over her throat slowly, and nodded. “I’m sorry for frightening you,” he told her in a gentle voice.

Gabby stared at the growing stain of his blood on his jeans. “Oh...God.” She dragged the denim scarf from her hair and tried to staunch the flow from the wound she’d caused. “What did I do?” She couldn’t keep the tears from falling.

His hand covered hers, the other patting her back in comfort. “It’s okay. You need to calm down and come with me.”

“Yes. We have to get you to a hospital. Right now.” She hadn’t realized how severe the bleeding was.

“I have a doctor waiting for me.” That sounded sincere.

“You do? But—”

He didn’t let her finish. “Do you have a car nearby?”

She nodded. “In the lot.”

“Okay.” He reached down, retrieved her knife, wiped the blood on his jeans, and settled it into her sheath for her. Then he took her by the elbow and guided her back to the lot, while she tried to keep pressure on his wound. He walked quickly, as if he hardly noticed the fact that he was bleeding everywhere.

Gabby steered him toward her car with every intention of taking him to a hospital, but he shook his head.

“You have to go. Go home and wash your clothes immediately. Get a shower. If you don’t wash it off right away, it will burn your skin like harsh chemicals.”

“But—”

“No need to worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re bleeding.”

He ran his fingertips over her tear-stained cheek and smiled at her, a carnal smile that made her heart flutter. “It’s okay,” he assured her. “This is what I do, Gabrielle.”

Gabby felt the air leave her lungs and fought to find the strength to answer. “How do you know my name?”

He shrugged with a sheepish grin and handed her wallet back. His dark eyes glittered in amusement and a black curl fell over his eyes in a boyish look. “How else was I supposed to find you later?” he asked.

She managed a weak smile. “Planning on getting even?” she joked.

He laughed softly. “With a strong, beautiful woman like you? Never. I just wanted to let you know that there was no permanent injury, at a later date.”

Gabby blushed, her eyes scanning down his body to the slight bulge in his jeans. “If you show up with news like that, I may be tempted to make you prove it. After all, a big, strong man like you—”

What am I doing? I was just attacked by some creature. I’m nursing my personal knight in shining armor, who I just stabbed, and all I can think about is getting him into bed.

The man rose to her challenge in more ways than one. “Promise me that, and I will be on your doorstep in one week to collect on it.” He checked his watch as if marking the time for that date.

Gabby licked her lips slowly. “Next week, I will be eagerly waiting for you. But, I warn you, I intend to make sure every inch of you is in full working order.”

“I wouldn’t stand for less.”

His perusal of her made her knees week. “So, do you want me to call you ‘he’ forever, or is there something else I should call you?”

“Stephen.”

“Until next week, Stephen.” She slid into the seat, and he held the door for her. A gentleman to the end.

Stephen closed the door behind her and motioned her away. He stood and watched her leave, not moving from the spot he occupied until she was almost out of view.

Gabby groaned, not at the offer she’d made him but at the fact that she’d stabbed him in the first place.

* * * *

Stephen Hunter pressed his left hand to the stab wound in his ribs while he drove with his right. His black Firebird hummed under him, and he was glad that he went for an automatic. He’d bleed out if he had to shift. His mind was split: one part on ghosting so the beasts wouldn’t converge on him in his weakened state, one part on reaching the manor house, and one part assessing his wound.

The knife had been tiny compared to a sacred weapon, maybe four inches of blade but wickedly sharp, a woman’s blade. He laughed harshly that the damned beast Polero hadn’t laid a claw on him, but a woman had nailed him well. It was an impressive bleeder. He would have left the blade in place to minimize bleeding, but Gabrielle had been so startled when that baby-stealing beast dematerialized that she pulled it out before he could stop her. She shouldn’t have nailed him, but he’d been so intent on getting a deathblow on Polero, he had let his concentration on anything else falter. Worse, the time she’d cost him had allowed Polero to escape again.

Still, Stephen couldn’t blame Gabrielle for her reaction. He had unghosted and landed his bleeder on Polero as he saw the beast go for her throat, but she hadn’t seen his fangs. Gabrielle had believed the man was about to lay a playful kiss on her throat. It was a ploy the turned had learned from Veriel, courting a woman before using her.

Had she waited an instant longer to strike her blow, she might have realized that the blood covering her was the foul, black blood of a beast. She hadn’t, but Stephen was sure that she wished she had.

He replayed the shattered look in her pale blue eyes, the swollen, tear-stained cheeks. She was lovely and strong, and that heartbroken expression had convinced him to show her she had done no real harm.

His body remained in a fierce arousal at her offer. He wasn’t sure if he’d take the young woman up on it. Not that he’d complain about a night of sex with the spirited lass, but it smacked of deceit in getting her to bed. Was it honorable to accept an offer given under such duress? He’d have to consider that carefully.

Stephen pulled up to the gate at the manor house and reached his left hand out to the access panel. He had to reset the machine once when he hit a five instead of a two with his shaking, blood-slicked fingers. Bleary-eyed, he made it through the gate and into the underground garage.

He’d stumbled from the car and was halfway to the stairwell when Corwyn burst out. Stephen had only a moment to consider when he had let his ghosting slip before he lost his balance and landed in a heap on the concrete, cursing under his breath.

Corwyn flipped him to his back and pulled his jacket away to check his wound. His brother swore fluently, then ordered Colin to call Michael, one of their doctors. Stephen cried out as Corwyn applied pressure to the wound.

“It’s all right,” Corwyn assured him. “We’ve seen worse. Why didn’t you let us track you?”

“Had to protect her.”

Corwyn nodded in understanding, but his eyes burned in Blutjagd. “What beast did this to you?” he demanded.

Stephen barked in laughter, then grimaced as it jarred the wound. “No beast. A woman,” he panted out. He smiled at the memory of the petite blonde with the flashing blue eyes and the spray of freckles over her nose and cheeks.

“A woman?” Corwyn asked in disbelief.

Stephen’s smile spread. “What a woman,” he quipped as he slipped into the darkness.

* * * *

June 26th, 1982

Corwyn smiled as Stephen opened his eyes. He could tell immediately that his brother was lucid again. “Good evening. It’s nice to see you looking better.”

Stephen winced as he shifted on the bed. He scowled at the IV line in his arm. “Get this damned thing out of me. You know I hate them.”

“You didn’t give us much choice.” Corwyn started peeling the tape from the shunt, removing the apparatus and leaving Stephen with a gauze pad on his arm while he ditched the IV in the bathroom. He sliced the bag of fluid into the sink before dumping the empty shell into the trash can.

“How long have I been out?”

“About twenty hours. Next time, let us track you. We actually had to transfuse you.”

“I couldn’t,” he decided miserably. “I needed to protect her. By the time I knew she was safe, I was in no shape to take on a beast. I had to keep ghosting until I got home.”

“Gabrielle?”

Stephen looked at him in shock. “Yeah. Gabrielle.”

“You talk in your sleep.”

Stephen darkened.

“She made a real impression on you.”

“Yes, I suppose she did.” He ran his hand over the injured spot on his ribs. “All four steel inches of it.”

“I wasn’t referring to her blade. I was referring to the petite pixie you’ve been talking to for the last day.” Corwyn raised an eyebrow suggestively. “I never realized you were so—inventive with women.”

Stephen smiled weakly. “She has a body made for adventure,” he admitted.

Corwyn nodded. “Would you prefer to eat here or in the kitchen?”

Stephen scowled as he rolled stiffly to his feet. “You know the answer to that.”

“I’ll see you in the kitchen.” Corwyn didn’t wait for Stephen’s nod before heading down the hall. He took the stairs two at a time, considering Stephen’s wild ramblings.

His youngest brother was only twenty-four, far younger than modern-day Warriors typically chose a mate. Still, Hunter needed heirs. With Anna lost to them, it was up to his brothers to provide those heirs as soon as possible.

Corwyn sighed. There would be no heirs from Colin. Had Colin not had his own disastrous brush with printing, he might someday submit. Short of Stephen dying without heirs, there was no chance of that happening. If he did submit, Colin would approach mating as a loathsome duty to be fulfilled. Corwyn shuddered at the thought.

No, the heirs would come from Stephen. If his mad ramblings were the beginnings of printing and Ms. Farris would have him, Corwyn would facilitate the match in any way he could. Gods forbid, if Stephen’s printing turned as sour as Colin’s had, Corwyn would let Stephen have his healing time. Eventually, one of his brothers had to print and produce children, else Hunter would die.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Raised To Be His Own by Brenna Lyons

Ragath strolled out of her rooms and through the nearly-deserted keep. It was early, and she’d risen for the night before most of the household again.


One of her stomachaches had woken her. She’d asked Jonus about them, but he’d assured her many women suffered fleeting aches as they matured. There was no cause for concern...troublesome, but not dangerous.

They seemed to be occuring more often of late. She shivered in nervous energy; Jonus said that meant she would soon be ready to become his bride in more than name.

She nodded to one of the maids diligently performing her duties, either an early riser like herself or one who performed her duties in the day so as to remain unseen and out of the way.

All of the servants were female. Ragath had asked Jonus about it once, and he’d supplied that women weren’t safe with more than one man about. Men were, by nature, destined to prey on unprotected females, to kill to take women from other men.

The only way to safeguard a woman was to send her into her future husband’s keeping as a child, completely isolating her from other men, not even transporting her from household to household as she grew enough to be sexually appealing. What they could not see, the other males would not covet.

According to Jonus, Ragath had been in his care since infancy. Certainly, she had no memories of her mother and father. Jonus’s household encompassed the whole of her memory.

The women in his employ had acted as nannies, wet nurses, and later as maids and confidants. Her every need was met, her every whim catered to. According to the maids, her clothing was the finest they had ever seen.

When she suffered her blood, her clothing was heavy enough and dark enough to hide the unsightly blood rags and any stains that might occur. When she wasn’t, like now, her clothing was sheer, exposing her body to the man who would be her husband.

He hadn’t touched her sexually yet, but that would come soon. She’d suffered her blood for four years, which meant she was of age for him to exercise his rights to her bed.

Ragath didn’t fear the bedding. It was a natural step in a woman’s life, and Jonus was an appealing male. Of course, she’d never seen a male besides him for comparison, but still he appealed to her.

What more could a woman ask for? Since females were not exposed to groups of men and permitted a choice in marriage, being attracted to your mate was all any woman could hope for, and the gods had granted Ragath that boon.

She headed for Jonus’s rooms. There was nowhere in his household she was forbidden to tread, and the same applied to him. Only the servants had boundaries.

A strange sound stopped her short just outside the archway to his rooms. She worked at it. It almost sounded as if Jonus was in pain. Concerned, she hurried inside—and stopped short again.

The servant was one of her confidants, a girl only a year older than Ragath herself. At the moment, she was laid out on Jonus’s weapons table, her legs circling Jonus’s predictably nude body, her back arched to facilitate Jonus’s suckling mouth latched onto her breast.

For a moment, Ragath stood there, hurt, betrayed, her emotions warring. Fury won out, and she launched at them, her fists clenched tight.

I will kill them. How dare they!

Jonus moved so fast, she could hardly track it. In the next moment, Ragath was pressed to the wall, Jonus’s body crowding hers, his hands fisted around her wrists, like the time he—

She forced that thought away. It was one of the few times he’d exercised his rights as lord of the keep and her body over her, and it was an experience she did not want to repeat.

His breath came in hot, little panting breaths that caused a disconcerting reaction in her traitor body.

“Leave us,” Jonus ordered.

The skittering sounds would be the damned servant collecting her clothing and making good her escape. Her footsteps hesitated, and Ragath turned her head, glaring at the other woman. At least the bitch had the good grace to look pained and remorseful.

Jonus motioned his head sharply, and the servant fled, holding her gown to her body.

The moments passed in silence. Finally, Jonus addressed her.

“You wished to see me, Ragath?”

“I most certainly did not want to see you like that,” she snapped back.

He sighed. “I have told you about men,” he reasoned. “Men have hungers.”

“Men are vermin. Men are insects.”

Jonus smiled. He laughed at her insults. “Yes, we most certainly are. You are barely of an age to bed, Ragath. Be reasonable. I must have a way to sate myself until you accept me.”

She wanted to deny it, but he had a point. How many times had she been told that males lacked control when faced with females? How cruel was it to see her daily, from the time she was an infant, and know he had to wait to touch her? How else could a male survive such a thing besides taking other females to his bed until he was free to claim his bride?

“And when I do accept you?” she challenged. “If men are such vermin, with no control when presented with the female body, will you continue to bed the servants, when you have mine?” If he said yes, he would certainly never have her willingly. Why should he?

His smile disappeared, and he shook his head solemnly. “When I have you, I will have no want or need of the others. You have my vow on that.”

“But...” There was something left unsaid, she was sure.

He flattened his body to hers, letting Ragath feel the weight of his erect cock against her belly. “I will need your vow that you will be mine always.”

She shook her head, confused by that pronouncement. “I am yours, Jonus. My parents struck the deal with you long ago.” Even if she refused him, which was simply not done, where would she go? How would she? The bars and gates alone would trap her within the keep.

“No. You must choose. You must give your vow. The day you do, I will stop taking other women.”

Ragath worked at that without return. What difference did her vow make? The deal had been struck without it. There was no way to rescind it. Females weren’t permitted to show their faces outside the keeps, save when one was transported to her husband in infancy. What difference did her vow make?

“Your choice,” Jonus repeated. “Are you prepared to make that choice?”

A sudden and unexpected fear made her lightheaded. Why had no one told her the question would be asked? Even knowing it was a foregone conclusion that she would be Jonus’s, saying the words frightened her.

He nodded, his jaw tight in fury she could see like a dark cloud around him. “Then I will continue to seek out other—”

“No.” The word was out before she could stop herself. She had no right to order Jonus about. He was her future husband, her master. He was lord of the keep and her body.

One brow went up in challenge. “You mean to accept me?” he asked calmly.

Gods, what a choice! “Why do you need that vow to bed me?” Perhaps if she understood his needs, it would come easier.

A smile curved his lips, and his cock jerked against her. “I do not need it to bed you.”

Ragath shook her head. “I do not understand.”

“I can bed you at any time you wish it.”

“But—”

“A man has needs, Ragath. The only way to meet them all is to vow to be mine...and only mine...for all time. Until that time, if needs arise that you cannot or will not fulfill...”

She pulled at his hold, intent on striking him for saying something so hurtful. He held her easily, without exerting effort that she could see. She wasn’t certain why she still tried to strike him. It wasn’t as if she’d ever succeeded before.

“Will you choose to fulfill...some of my needs?” There was something dark and seductive in that.

Ragath considered it. “On one condition.” She nearly winced at what she was saying. There had never been conditions between them before.

He tilted his head, his interest seemingly piqued by her choice of words. “And that is?”

“You will ask me for what it is you...need. If I cannot or will not provide it, you are free to seek it elsewhere, but not without asking me first.” Her heart ached at the idea of refusing him, of sending him to another to sate what she should as bride sate, and it pounded in terror at the idea of making a vow to be his forever, though she had no idea why it would.

“Agreed.” There was no hesitation in his answer. “At the moment, I need to taste. A woman’s mouth, her breasts, her...sweet sheath. Will you offer me that?”

Her body reacted fiercely to the mental image his words created for her. “Yes. Taste.”

His head titled and came down, his mouth playing at hers. He’d kissed her hands, forehead, and cheeks before. He’d brushed his lips against hers before she retired to bed every night since her blood started to flow.

This was different. His lips were soft; they played at hers as if seeking something she couldn’t name.

He pulled back minutely. “Open for me.”

She hesitated, confused by the request. Ragath parted her lips, shivering at his breath warming her mouth.

Jonus did the same, and his tongue emerged, dipping into her mouth, stroking her lips. Ragath captured it between her lips, stealing a kiss.

He moaned at the move, sliding his tongue free as if enjoying the sensation as much as she did. “That is right. Play with my mouth. Explore.”

Encouraged, she repeated the move with his lower lip...then the upper. Ragath dipped her tongue between his lips, and Jonus snaked his own around it, setting off a firestorm of need.

In the next few heartbeats, their mouths meshed, lips wide open. Their tongues dueled and danced.

His hands loosened and left her wrists, caressing down her arms. When he cupped her breasts in his big hands, she took advantage of the freedom to lower her arms around his neck.

Her knees weakened in the passion washing over them. As if he could feel it, Jonus pulled away, guiding her further into the room.

Jonus didn’t take her to his weapons table, as she’d feared he might. She was forbidden to touch the table or anything on it, and his displeasure when balked was a fearsome thing.

He took her to his bed.

His mouth left hers, and he started working the gown up her body. Her nudity wasn’t a shocking thing. She was nude for her physical training, for sleep, and bathing. Jonus was not unwelcome at any of those activities, though he’d never shared her bed, to her knowledge. This was the first time she’d been disrobed with the idea that Jonus would execute his rights as husband.

The material slid over her head and extended arms, leaving her skin to skin with him. Ragath clenched her fists for a moment, reminding herself that he’d seen her nude form for her entire life.

Jonus tossed the gown away, and he lifted her to the bed, following her down. She’d been to his bed from time to time. When she was a child with nameless nightmares, she’d been encouraged to seek out his bed for comfort.

There was nothing comforting in this. It was hot and harsh, exciting and frightening.

Jonus took his time, sampling her lips...then the depths of her mouth. Sometime during the latter, a meal appeared silently on the bedside table. Part of her burned in jealousy that it might have been the same servant he’d been so engaged with; another hoped it was, so the bitch would see that Jonus was hers alone.

Left to her own devices, Ragath would have ignored the food, but Jonus demanded she eat. He watched her, his gaze hot with the promise of more. When she offered him food, he begged off, claiming he’d indulged earlier. All the while, the tension rose between them, the need to have him continued. At last, her stomach protested the idea of more. Not that she was full. Rather a strange ache and tremble made the thought of eating when she might be in Jonus’s arms unpalatable.

As if he read the thought from her mind, Jonus turned her beneath him again. His lips parted hers, his kiss making her lightheaded.

Time lost all meaning. Ragath resorted to ordering what passed between them in rare moments of lucidity.

His mouth on her breasts brought her off the mattress and hard against him. Somewhere between there and the disconcerting play at her naval, the second meal arrived. She managed a few bites and a glass of wine, then she invited his kiss again.

Jonus was unhurried in his tasting, and her body rioted for more. Her breathing caught in her lungs at the first stroke of his tongue between her thighs. It escaped on a rush at the second.

Then he was everywhere, suckling at the forefront, tracing her woman’s seam, licking from front to back. Strange sounds escaped her throat, and Ragath reached for him.

Her heart skittered at Jonus pinning her wrists to the mattress. Fear faded in light of his continued attention to her rising pleasure. Ragath forced her hips up, encouraging him.

His groan vibrated against her; the sensation tightened muscles all over her body and stilled her breath. The next suck on the sensitive bundle released that breath in a shout of surprise. The tension inside her rebounded, tightened, loosened again, more powerfully with each movement. Her head spun, and she moaned out her confusion. What was he doing to her?

His mouth left her, and Jonus snapped an order for someone to leave them. Ragath whimpered, her mind working at the truth that he’d spent the night tasting her, another corner arguing that it couldn’t possibly be the late meal he’d been turning away.

He returned to her body, tasting more avidly, forcing her to a more powerful response than the last time. Her inner muscles clenched on emptiness, and she felt every finger-width of the channel Jonus would soon fill.

As if the thought summoned him, he levered himself over her, holding his weight up so his cock bobbed between them. Ragath stared at it—curious, frightened, ready yet not.

I should. He has given me such pleasure. And her channel was empty and aching for a filling.

No. It is too soon. Wait. The time is coming. Ragath didn’t doubt it. It wasn’t time to take him to her body.

Jonus grumbled a harsh curse. He knew. Would he seek out another female to do what she was uncertain about?

At a loss to stop him, she touched his cock. She’d only done so once before, when she’d been very young. At the time, it had sent Jonus into a rage, and she’d fled to her nurse’s arms in confusion. This time, his hungry expression attested that the tension in his body was sexual in nature.

Encouraged, Ragath stroked him. Jonus shifted his weight, brought one hand to hers, and repositioned her hand. Once her fingers circled his girth, he guided her and squeezed her hand tighter where he needed it to be so, his breathing going ragged and his eyes red in arousal. When she’d learned what he wanted, he released her and left her to bring him pleasure.

His sounds were harsh, and his hips started moving. Ragath stared at him, stunned at his fierce hunger.

“Harder, Ragath. Make your hands tight as your virgin sheath will be.”

She complied, and his eyes slid shut. His hips sped, and her body responded to it. Would he thrust into her as avidly? Cream flowed from her at the thought.

His hair swung wildly around his face, and his expression hardened. Then he roared, his male fluids splashing against her stomach and breasts. Ragath stared at it, shocked at the sight. There was so much, much more than she’d thought there would be.

“We will bed fully soon, Ragath,” Jonus promised.

She nodded, touching the slick of his seed with trembling fingers. This was what would give her a child? What magic was there between a man and a woman?

Jonus used the linens on his bed to wipe the precious fluid away. Then he lifted her and carried her to her room.

The servants scrambled to do his bidding. Jonus passed Ragath into their hands with orders to bathe and feed her. Then he turned to leave.

“Wait,” she called out. She’d refused to take him into her body. Was he off to sate himself in another? Perhaps in that damned servant he’d been playing with earlier?

He turned, offering her a smile. “Be at ease. I simply have business to deal with, Ragath. Sleep well.”

“Will you join me?” It was a question she’d never asked before.

Jonus hesitated, for the first time in her memory seemingly uncertain. “Perhaps... I am weary, Ragath. Perhaps...another day would be better.”

She nodded, feeling dismissed as she rarely had with Jonus.

He paused, shook his head as if to push away an unwelcome thought, then walked away.

“Lady Ragath?” one of the older servants called her.

She turned, noting the water being poured into the tub for her. All things considered, a bath might be the best thing. Ragath always thought best at the restful moments.

It was the perfect temperature, cool but not cold. Everything in her life was perfect.

Not everything.

Again, the servant’s face was in her memories. Jonus often sent servants away to other duties in his holdings. If she asked, would he send that one away? But, he left the keep on business. Even if he sent the girl away, what was to stop him from sating himself in her when he was away?

My vow. He said he would take no others, if I gave the vow.

Not yet. The time is not right.

That meant accepting that he might bed others until she gave it. It was an imperfect solution.

Then again, if life were perfect, how boring would that be?

On that thought, she settled into the tub and closed her eyes. It had been years since she’d bathed herself, most likely since she’d started to bleed. It was Jonus’s opinion that a lady should have to do as little for herself as possible. Hers was a life of leisure—reading, practice, and music, while others did the work. Bathing herself was something of a guilty pleasure.

Her servants had told her males sometimes chose to dismiss servants and bathed their brides themselves. Her heart ached that Jonus hadn’t chosen to do so tonight.

She chided herself. Jonus had business to see to. He’d spent the entire night with her and would likely forego some of his sleep to see to the business he’d neglected.

What business is it? Perhaps he had to order troops or the overseer of his fields. Ragath had seen neither of those things, but she’d heard Jonus speak of them. Like everything else in her life, scores of others toiled while she amused herself...and Jonus.

Soft cloths stroked at her sensitized skin. The scents of herbal soaps and food tantalized her senses.

And it struck. The pain knotted her stomach as it rarely had, an intense, breath-stealing fist. She pitched forward around it, grunting, her teeth and eyes clenched tight.

The movement sent water splashing to the floor, and she shuddered. A wild need to run gripped her, but she couldn’t walk like this, let alone run.

And where would I run? Why would I? There were no answers to those questions.

“Lady Ragath!”

Hands pulled at her, and she shook her head. It had to ease. It always eased.

“To the bed,” one of the older women ordered. “Before she drowns.”

That might have seemed extreme any other time, but this time, Ragath wasn’t certain it was. The pain was worse than usual, and she was lightheaded in response. Hands supported her and stared to lift Ragath out of the water.

The pain intensified, a searing in her gut that doubled her fully. Her tenuous control in the face of pain shattered, and Ragath screamed. Tears pooled in her eyes and ran down her face.

It ended. Her muscles unknotted, and she went boneless in relief. The servants lifted her to the floor and wrapped her in a length of cloth.

Whispered conversations made no sense. The smell of food turned her abused stomach, and Ragath sent it away in a rough voice.

Probably at a loss for something better to do, they dried her and settled Ragath into her bed. Suddenly, Jonus joining her wasn’t so important. She needed the sleep rushing toward her.

Born To Fly Wild As The Wind by Aliyah Burke

Verity Andrews sighed with contentment as she pushed to her feet and wiped her dirty hands on her khaki shorts until they were clean. The warm air from the Mediterranean Sea cooled the sweat from her body. Through her mirrored shades she scanned the coastline of Kríti, or Crete to the rest of the world. She’d come here years ago to complete her thesis in archeology, focusing on Minoan history, and had never left. It was her day off and she was out enjoying her time near Kalives. She was exploring around Kastelli Hill that lay east of the town and housed the remnants of the Castello Apicorono, a fortified settlement identified by some scholars as the location site of ancient Ippokoronion. She stared down at the long sandy beach that ran alongside most of the town. Kalives was a big tourist attraction sitting at the entrance to Souda Bay; it drew many visitors with the sea on one side and low hills on the other.


It was early Saturday morning and she caught movement off to her right and turned her head. Oh my! A lone man jogged along the path heading in her direction. The morning sun glowed off his tanned body and only enhanced her vision of the muscular naked torso. Have I said oh my? She swallowed and did her best not to stare, but tall, muscular and tanned made it very difficult. His strides were smooth and even, suggesting he did this often. As he passed her, she turned her head in time to follow his action and watched him until she could no longer see him.

Black hair, tanned skin, and an angular face were all she saw before he was gone. Well, that and one hell of an ass in those shorts. Well defined arms and legs too. Fanning herself, Verity took a few deep breaths before she headed back down to the town.

She ambled along, staring at the pathways littered with mosaics and the walls in which stones in shapes of different creatures were stuffed. Fresh baked bread and pastries lent their scents to the air and Verity inhaled them greedily. When she reached the small outdoor café she visited every time she came to this town, Verity sat down and waited for service.

Kaliméra, Verity. Wonderful to see you again.”

Looking up, Verity smiled at the older man who stood before her, a white apron wrapped around his middle. She reached for his hand and squeezed it gently after he placed a small blue ceramic mug on the wrought iron table before her. Verity knew it was coffee, served just the way she loved it; gliko. Very sweet. Since being over here she’d come to love her coffee served what many considered to be “Turkish”, where the loose grounds are in the bottom of the small cup, and the coffee is very strong.

Yassou, Apostolos. It’s wonderful to see you again.”

“You stay away for far too long, my dear. We’re not that far from Iraklio.”

She heard the subtle reprimand in his voice. “I know. I’ve just been busy.”

Apostolos looked at her and nodded in understanding. “Your usual this morning? I’m assuming you’ve been out visiting around Kastelli Hill.”

“You know me well, Apostolos. And yes, my usual. Please.” Releasing his hand, she picked up the coffee he’d set before her.

“Be right up.” He walked away calling out her order in Greek.

Swallowing some of the hot brew, Verity sighed and removed her sunglasses. The wind picked up, moving through her hair and she turned her head before tucking some strands behind her ear. Her breakfast arrived and Apostolos joined her. This often happened because she was almost always the only customer at that time, or one of a few. After breakfast, alone with a topped off cup of coffee, Verity glanced behind her and froze.

Oh damn!

Moving down the sidewalk across the narrow street was the man from earlier. The runner. He still jogged and looked just as smoking hot as he had when he’d gone past her the first time. This time, his head turned and he looked at her. Verity couldn’t explain the feelings that rocked her. Her heart pounded and her hands shook. As nonchalantly as she could, she faced forward again and finished her coffee. Setting her cup down, Verity grabbed her glasses and walked inside the café to pay.

Adio, Apostolos. I’ll stop by before I head back to Iraklio.”

He bent over her hand and kissed it. “Until next time, Verity Andrews.”

She left with a wave and a smile. Slipping her sunglasses on, Verity headed down to the beach. She had a few hours to kill before she met up with her friends. Very few people were out on the white sands and she strolled along, hands in her pockets.

Up ahead of her she could make out the figure of a person running. What are the chances? The way her body began to react she knew it had to be the same man. It wasn’t logical, she hadn’t even spoken to him, not even a simple “good morning,” and yet he was making her lightheaded. The closer he came the more parched she began to feel.

Fingers clenched in her pockets when he slowed and veered a bit closer to her. By the time he reached her he was almost walking. Jogging in slow motion. Sweet mother... The man was downright mouthwatering. She ogled him, grateful for the way her glasses hid her searching gaze. Dropping her stare to the sand, she worked her way up.

He wore tennis shoes with no socks. Powerful legs and a lean waist led up to his torso which was well—very well—defined. She made out with ease the six-pack he sported. His arms were strong and made her think things like him holding her in bed with nothing on. When she reached his face it was as if he knew she was checking him out, for there was an arrogant smirk on his lips. He flashed a grin, and straight white teeth shone out against his tanned skin. As he passed her, she saw his eyes, cornflower blue with thick curly lashes.

Verity couldn’t help it; she turned with him as he moved past her. Her own mouth curved up when he jogged backward for a bit, his masculine grin growing wider before he winked and touched his temple with two fingers in silent salute. She chuckled and waved before continuing her walk.

Oh, what a man like that could do to me. Oh, what I would like to do to him. Verity snuck one more glance over her shoulder and bit her lower lip as his tight ass vanished from view. Wow! “Uh, uh, uh. They just don’t make men like that anymore.”

Later on that morning when she met up with some friends and colleagues there lingered a faint satisfied smile on her face as that man’s image hung around in her mind.

“You have a big suspicious grin on your face, Verity. Find something this morning?” Kasey Schmidt asked.

Verity winked and nodded. “Oh boy, did I.”

“I know that sound. You found a man,” Kasey announced. “Give.” She scooted her chair closer.

“Well, I didn’t actually meet him. Just saw him jogging. Three times.”

“Three times, just today?” Kasey whistled low. “It’s fate. Third time’s the charm. He checked you out too, didn’t he?”

“A bit,” Verity admitted with another grin.

“And how did he look?” That warm feeling filled her again as she described her handsome jogger to Kasey who punched her in the shoulder after she finished and said, “Remind me to go with you on your next early outing.”

“You don’t like getting up before the sun, Kasey.”

“For eye candy like that, I can learn.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “The power of persuasion.”

“Hey, it’s called adaptation.”

“Is that what we’re calling it now?” Verity asked, a trace of sarcasm in her voice.

Kasey punched her in the arm again and flipped her, off causing Verity to burst out laughing.

Verity took a drink of her fruit juice and sighed with satisfaction as she was drawn back in to the conversation going on around them. It was late morning when they split to each go their own ways. Getting a bottle of water to carry with her, Verity waved her farewells and walked back up the beach, threading in and out of the numerous people who now lined the waters of Souda Bay.

Wow, I have a half a day to myself. What should I do? At her car, she climbed in and headed for the nearby village of Kalami. It wasn’t long before she had passed behind the fields of bamboo to locate a hidden beach, Kyani Akti, as it was known by the locals. Sitting on a large rock, Verity took a stick, and drew abstract designs in the damp sand as she enjoyed the beautiful weather. A while later her phone rang. She answered to discover her friend Larry inviting her to a party that evening. With the time and location set, Verity pushed to her feet and made her way back to her car. There was a need to shop for something other than shorts and a tank top to wear.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Prisoner of Desire by Yvette Hines

Chapter One

“Ten o’clock,” she’d said.


“Fireworks.” She caressed his arm.


“Take me to the moon.” She strutted past him in butter-tight jeans.

The memory faded as Steve headed toward the moonwalk exhibit with sure strides as the Fourth of July fireworks went off behind him. All of Claremont County had their gazes fixed on the midnight sky. No one paid attention to him as he made his way to Lilly. Lilly Jackson was a hot little spitfire who was well known in town. She wasn’t a whore by any stretch of imagination, but neither was she a choir girl. When she wanted something, there was no shame in her asking for it.

As he moved closer to his amorous rendezvous, his heart began to race. His skin had tingled since Lilly gave him a sly wink, maneuvered her way beside him, and whispered to meet her in the moonwalk exhibit. Thirty minutes had gone by and finally the opportunity to get away had come. Slipping away from a public affair for a lustful assignation was not like him. Correction: it wasn’t like the Steve Ewing that everyone expected. No, Steve Ewing was a banker, a manager, a conservative man to the Claremont County resident.

His father had been the bank manager for years in this town, and he’d taught him young that reputation was everything. More like drilled it into his head. So he’d set his goal to please his father.

Pushing thoughts of his father out of his mind, Steve advanced toward the exhibit. Glancing one more time over his shoulder, he assured himself that the town folks were still head tilting it toward the sky. Deciding not to use the front door, he went over and tried the side employee entrance. He was grateful when it opened.

The lamps around the carnival area broke into the semi dark room, illuminating her form as she lounged on one of the simulated hills facing the wall of stars. He could only see the top of her head. Her hair, normally chestnut brown, appeared like an ink river running down the moon hill.

Pulling the door behind him, the room became a dim blanket around him. It was hard to see anything. He was glad he located her body while the door was open. The rocky foam pillowed under his feet, squishing and rising. When he arrived at her side, her body was obscured by the shadows. He would have enjoyed seeing her face, but he didn’t need to for the reason they were here.

Kneeling beside her, it didn’t take him long to realize that she must have dozed off waiting for him. Smiling, he leaned over her, considering all the delicious ways to awaken her. Leaning into her, he could smell her scent. Weirdly it reminded him of Christmas, ginger and honey. Earlier he’d thought she smelled of wild flowers, but with so many people milling around he must have been mistaken.

Disregarding the sweet aroma, he began to whisper in her ear all the erotic things he wanted to do to her. How he wanted to stroke her pussy and feel it quiver in his hand. That he wanted to lick every drop of cream from her clit. Finally, he whispered how he wanted to bury his cock balls deep inside of her over and over again, until they were both dizzy with pleasure.

She took a deep breath and moaned softly in her sleep, letting him know he was getting through to her.

He smiled and settled himself beside her.

“Are you going to join me, beautiful, or do I have to do this alone?” Kissing the side of her neck, he continued to talk to her, coaxing her out of dreamland.

* * * *

Mandy’s sensual dream was built around a faceless man doing a good job of turning her body inside out. His voice sounded velvety and made her imagine silk sheets and hot bodies.

The little kisses he laid along her jawline caused tingling sensations on her skin, and she couldn’t help shifting toward the tormenting mouth. Her dream lover didn’t hesitate, he took command. Mandy was thrilled to be in his arms, in the embrace of a man who took control without being asked. Outside of her dream, men didn’t respond to her that way.

As the kiss deepened, she relaxed into the wonderland of her nocturnal imagination. Giving over to the fantasy, she was amazed at how real everything felt. The taste of his tongue as it dipped into her mouth, tangling with her own. How her lips tingled as he dragged his tongue under it.

Her nipples were tight and achy, causing her to sigh with relief when his strong, warm hand palmed one. When he pinched her nipple, she nipped his bottom lip, hoping he understood how much she liked it. Her panties were soaked and her jeans would soon find themselves with the same fate.

“Mmm, you are a sex kitten, aren’t you?” He squeezed harder.

There go the jeans, she thought as more wetness pooled between her legs.

“Yes,” she whispered, not wanting to end the dreamscape.

When the weight of his body settled onto her, she spread her legs wide to receive him. She was mad that even in her mind they were both fully clothed. She wanted to feel the intimate touch of his skin pressing into her own.

Her fantasy man must have anticipated her need. Shoving her shirt and bra out of the way, he lowered his head, seizing one needy nipple into his mouth. His suction was firm and steady, giving her an occasional flick of his tongue to soothe her.

It didn’t soothe, but the opposite—it was torture. Thrusting her sex against the thick bulge in his jeans, she began to grind against him, trying to give her throbbing clit satisfaction.

When he released one nipple for the other, she came. Fisting his head to her breast, her body shuddered underneath him as she moaned into the darkness surrounding her.

It was a dream she tried to remind herself even as the orgasm racked her body.

“Hot damn, girl, that was beautiful. I want to feel that.”

Before she could utter a comment, his swift hands unfastened her button and lowered her zipper. Her heart was racing with excitement she wanted his touch as well.

When her dream lover’s hand slipped past her panties and caressed her bare skin, she opened her legs wider. She wanted to be out of her clothing, she wanted him out of his. The desire to feel and see this man of her delusions was strong.

“Oh, sweetheart, you’re soaked.” He fingered her clit and dipped a finger down her slit. “Is all this cream for me?”

Her mind was having a difficult time processing words. Every thought was centered between her thighs, concentrated on the movement of his hand.

“Is all this cream for me?” This time there was a commanding tone in his words as he scissored her pulsating clit between two fingers, demanding a response.

Electricity shot up her spine, and she cried out in a low husky voice she didn’t recognize as her own. “Yes, it’s for you.”

This was a dream, she had to remind herself. Definitely a dream—no man existed in Claremont County with this type of unassailable authority.

“Good.” Those toying two fingers stroked down and pushed inside of her deep and sat still.

She was ready to cry out and beg him to move those thick fingers.

“Ride me,” he demanded.

Ride him? Her hesitation was brief, the strength in his voice left no room for disobedience and she didn’t want to defy him. Not now, not while her body pleaded for satisfaction. If her dream man wanted her to fuck herself with his hand, she would. Spreading her legs as far as they would go, she began thrusting her hips toward him.

Pulling back and lifting, she pushed herself toward ecstasy. Clutching his ass, she found a rhythm.

She was rewarded by him licking her nipple in time with her thrust. The light brush over her sensitive flesh made her body tremble.

“Harder,” he growled against her skin.

Obeying him, she instantly began slamming her sex into his hand with all her might.

In response he bit the tip of her nipple and she came. The explosion consumed her, she sank her teeth hard into her bottom lip as her body quaked and rockets went off in her ears in rapid succession like it was the Fourth of July.

Those words brought clarity and a reality as her body quieted and the external blasting settled down. It was the Fourth and fireworks were going on outside of her head. This was no dream.

Who is this man?

“Mommy, I want to see the moonwalk.”

“No, I want the bumper cars, you promised me, Mommy.”

The voices of bickering children came before Mandy could question the man.

“Shit!” he snarled. Removing his hand, he quickly rolled away from her. “Maybe next time.”

His face was covered in shadows and she was sure hers was also. The lights were still off, only leaving small twinkling stars of light around them.

The people outside seemed to be moving closer to them. Mandy felt his presence move away from her as she scrambled to right her clothing before the intruders invaded their love nest.

Two doors opened simultaneously, the front door bringing in a mother towing three kids and the side door where her starlight Casanova was exiting. She was grateful she was still on her knees when the bright lights outside shone on the face of her lover a second before the door closed.

Steve Ewing.

* * * *

Exiting the moonwalk exhibit, Steve shook. Damn, if the fireworks show had been just ten minutes longer he could have gotten some relief for the erection pressing hard against his zipper.

Who would have ever thought that Lilly responded to forceful commands? The way the orgasm rocked her body when he bit her nipple made him groan in memory. Lilly Jackson, his match—he couldn’t believe it.

“Steve! Steve!”

He halted his strides at the sound of his name. Turning, he saw Lilly lightly jogging toward him. Smiling, he hoped she would ask him to take her to his place and finish what they had started.

“Hey there, sweetheart.” He stepped closer to her.

A little winded, she said, “I’m sorry. I got held up in a conversation with my mother and you know how that woman can talk.”

He frowned. It had only been a few minutes since they were in the exhibit. Maybe she was just excited to continue their escapade. “It’s no problem.”

She flipped her brown hair over her shoulder. Something about her coloring looked odd to him.

“Well, since we didn’t get to meet in the moonwalk, how about we walk into your house and see where it takes us.” Closing the gap, she ran her hand up his chest and her scent met him. Wildflowers.

“You didn’t go to the moonwalk?” he questioned.

Taking it as an accusation, she slapped her hands on her hips and said, “I told you, it was my momma’s fault.” Her thin lips formed a pout. “I’ll make it up to you at your place, Steve.”

If Lilly wasn’t in the moonwalk, then who the hell was?

Glancing over the top of Lilly’s head, which wasn’t hard to do, he tried to see who was milling around the building. But, it was no help—all of Claremont County now shuffled around the carnival area.

Shaking his head, he glanced back at Lilly. “I don’t think so, sweetheart. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”

“Steve?” Disappointment etched into her cream-colored features.

Even if he wanted to take Lilly up on her offer, his erection had subsided with the knowledge she wasn’t the firecracker that had taken him to another world.

“I’m sorry.” Turning, he walked away. His fingers were still tingling, reminded him how it felt to be inside of the nightingale, whoever she was.

“Steve!” Lilly shrieked.

Strutting to his car, he lifted his hand to his face and inhaled the scent still lingering. Ginger and spice and everything nice, that’s what his mystery woman was made of.

He would find her.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Arrested Heart by Yvette Hines

Chapter One

“Ohhh,” Danielle sighed.

She would not have been shocked if her pussy caught fire at that moment. Every ounce of blood in her legs had pooled between her thighs and pulsed in her clit as her loving admirer worshiped her with his mouth. He’d wasted no time in pushing her feet toward the roof of her squad car and spreading her legs. She was his delectable feast and he was thoroughly enjoying the main course with the avid attention of his mouth.

His tongue teased her as it slid along her slit. She would never cease to be impressed by the strength and agility of it. Palming the back of his head, she pushed him closer to the place yearning for him. His mouth drew on the lips of her sex, then circled around her clit and sucked it, making her toes curl.

Biting down on her bottom lip, she attempted to stifle her moans. Soon, recalling that there was no one else around on the south end of the Claremont Wright Country Club golf course at three in the morning, she let her sounds of ecstasy free, coaxing and praising his oral talent.

“Oh, baby, that feels so good,” she cried as he swept his tongue from her ass to the throbbing nub.

His open-mouth kiss on her whole pussy made her grip a fistful of his hair and yell, “Don’t stop!”

She could tell his arousal level had increased along with hers by the intense heat of his tongue. When they’d begun, his tongue had been warm, a small contrast to the night air, but now it was as if she were being licked by a flame and she loved every minute of it.

Strong fingers stroked her juicy center, then one pressed against the puckered skin of her ass, letting her know what was to come. Excited, she pushed against it, encouraging him to proceed. When it entered, her clit felt as if it had swollen ten times its size, almost painful. Her thighs began to shake. Her orgasm was imminent.

Torn between wanting to come and wanting the sensations to last forever, she was losing her mind. Giving in to the pleasure, she let herself go, fucking both his mouth and finger. He was the only one who could do this to her, the only one who had ever done this to her; willingly she fell into an erotic insanity.

Coming hard, she screamed and heard a bird respond somewhere in the distance. As orgasmic spasms still shuddered through her body, her lover moved up her torso.

Feeling drugged, she stared into his hazel eyes. Her gaze traveled the distinct angles of his face, his summer tan barely visible in the low glow of the interior car light.

He brushed the back of his hand along her cheek. “You are beautiful and delicious,” he said, her scent a pungent sweet spice mingling with his breath.

Leaning up, she kissed him, sliding her tongue into his mouth, tasting them and loving the mixture. She broke away. “Said the spider to the fly,” she answered, smiling.

Chuckling, he slipped his thick cock inside of her, making her breath catch. His size may have been impressive, but his use of it always left her begging for more. Stretched and full, she squeezed his ass and urged him on. Being intimate with him consumed her. She felt at peace. Whole.

Rotating his hips, he stroked the sensitive spot inside of her, along her upper wall. Arching her back and undulating her hips against him, she matched his movements. The air caressed her breast as he pushed the sides of her uniform shirt aside and her bra up. He continued to thrust, as he brought his head down and gave each breast his attention. The sucking and caressing of each nipple caused tingling sensations to race along her skin and her clit began to ache.

His thrusts became more insistent as he buried his face in the curve of her neck. Wrapping her arms around his broad shoulder, she enjoyed his weight on her body and felt his trembling echo her own as they both progressed rapidly toward completion.

Muscles bunching and tensing under her hands, he climaxed. His release sparked her own, and she saw stars for the second time that night. “Robert!” she shouted in ecstasy.

“Danielle…you turn me inside…out,” he panted.

Giggling, she danced her fingernails along his bare back. She didn’t know at what point he’d lost his t-shirt before joining her in the car, nor did she care.

After a quick kiss, he pulled away and dragged his body back out of the open door. “So tell, sweetheart.” He adjusted his clothes. “Do all cops get aroused during rescue missions and apprehending bad guys? Or just you?” Reaching up he pulled his shirt from the roof of the car and put it on, giving her a wicked smile that made his eyes dance in the moonlight.

Sitting up, her face became hot. Not because of embarrassment, but because she remembered just how aroused she’d been. Standing, she ran her hands down the buttons of his now fastened shirt. “I don’t know. Neither do I care as long as I’m the only cop you’re satisfying.”

“Only you.” He laughed. “When would I have time for anyone else? You’re insatiable.”

“I like to keep it that way.” Yanking her sports bra back down over her breasts, she began looking around for her panties. She’d hate to lose them on the perfectly manicured golfing green and have them turned in to the authorities and her cream get analyzed for DNA identification. In Claremont County, people weren’t expected to have scandalous sex in public. It was in the unwritten rulebook. It was bad enough her squad car would already leave tire tracks.

“In a few hours this course is going to be crawling with men.” Robert tucked his shirt into his slacks.

“Yeah, old retired men and social climbers.” Spotting her underwear on the other side of the back seat, she turned and bent forward to reach for them. “So, what are your plans for the remainder—”

If the loud smack of hand on flesh wasn’t enough to grab her attention, the stinging warmth radiating from her right ass cheek did. Her spine tightened instantly, and heat danced down from her bottom straight to her pussy and ignited in her clit. She dipped her back lower and offered her plump dark ass to the moon and Robert. “Please,” she panted.

Obliging her, his hand made contact again, this time on the other cheek.

“Morrre,” she planted her feet in a firmer stance and leaned back expectantly. Regardless of the two orgasms he’d just given her, her sex began to pulse again and become drenched with moist excitement. Until this moment, she hadn’t missed their usual play before intercourse. Now she almost regretted her pleas for him to take her when he’d shown up at the twentieth hole.

Dragging her out of the car, he pushed her against the door, her hanging pants cushioning her back.

“You want more?” His body was flushed to hers and his glorious hands stroke her stinging bottom.

As if she were an alley cat in heat, she rubbed her body over his and her sensitive nipples beaded in response. “Robert, you know I do.” He couldn’t miss the trembling of her body, she wanted the erotic play that only Robert could give her.

“Then come home with me,” he demanded.

She buried her face on his chest and mumbled, “You know I can’t.”

“Yes. If you really wanted to, you could.”

The sadness in his voice was almost her undoing, but she knew she had to stand firm. “Like you said, Robert, it will be morning soon. If your neighbors see—”

Stepping back, he lifted her chin, raising her gaze to his as his thumb stroked her bottom lip.

She was lost in his hazel eyes.

“I don’t care about what my neighbors or Claremont County sees--”

Moving away, she kept her back to him as she put her panties on. “I know you don’t, but I do.” Facing him, she snatched her pants off the door. “I’d like to keep my job.” Pulling on her forest green pants, she attacked the button of her tan shirt next as she slid her feet in her shoes.

“Danielle--” Moving toward her, he still towered over her.

She was five-seven in her thick soled patent leather shoes, but she would never measure up to his six-foot frame.

“No, Robert, we’re not going to debate this. As you said, in a couple hours this place is going to be packed. It’s Saturday morning and you should be out here with them. You’re trying to make partner at the law firm--”

He grabbed her hand, bringing it to his mouth. “Being in a relationship with you isn’t going to jeopardize my chances at the firm.”

Smiling at the brush of his lips on skin, she pleaded, “Can we talk about this some other time? I need to get some rest. I have to be back to work in a few hours.”

His sigh was audible. “Fine.” He wrapped his arms around her, and bowing his head, he kissed her.

His tongue mastered her mouth, sliding deep, consuming her. When he pulled away, she was breathless.

“This conversation is suspended, but it’s not over.” His hazel eyes were intense as they stared into hers.

She nodded, too relieved to let the subject of them be put on hold.

Taking her hand again, he led her around to the driver’s side. “Now, it’s time for you to go before the retirees show. My dad included.”

That was all she needed to hear. The last person she wanted to find her and Robert together was Major General Wright, the man whose family had been one of the original founders of the town. She opened the door and slid behind the wheel. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Maybe we can do dinner.”

Starting the car, she rolled the window down and shut the door. “We’ll see. I don’t know how the night is going to pan out, especially after last night’s events with the drug runners.”

“Call me when you get off.”

“Promise.” She pulled away, noting the change of color taking place on the horizon. Morning would be here soon. Driving toward the authorized vehicle exit at the end of the course, she glanced in her rearview mirror and saw Robert’s silhouette become more obscure. There was no mistaking it, Robert knew she was making excuses. However, she would keep making them until he realized their relationship had to remain just how it had been for the last eight months. A secret.