Saturday, December 1, 2007

39 and Holding...Him by Robin Slick, ed.

39 and Holding...Him by Robin Slick, ed.
December, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-596-9
$6 eBook (five formats), $13 trade paper - Buy Now!
Editor's Backlist: Robin Slick

from "The Lady-killer" by Belinda Franklin

It was so easy. Almost too easy, really. Part of me sat back and chuckled as the little worm dangled on the end of my hook.

Carefully, I began to reel him in, giving all the required answers and ticking all the right boxes. Yes, I was single, and no, I wasn't looking for a relationship. I was far too busy, didn't have time, all the usual clichés. It's funny how much you can get away with when the man opposite is trying to peer down your top. His eyes were almost popping out as he craned his neck for a better view.

Admittedly, I hadn't made it hard for him. The deep V of my cleavage was clearly visible, plump mounds spilling enticingly from the low-cut neckline, with only a hint of lace showing I was actually wearing a bra. To be sure, it was top of the fuck-me range, but going without would have been too déclassé. I wasn't portraying a whore, just a woman. An older woman who was a little bored, a little jaded, and just ripe for the plucking. Alan considered himself irresistible and, with his money, he practically was--to a certain type, anyway.

The type I was pretending to be tonight.

Not that he was unattractive; I've seduced much worse. His face was mature enough to pass for the thirty years he'd claimed, rather than the twenty-five I knew he really was. His best features were those deep blue eyes that seemed to look right through you, but he also had a lovely full mouth and trim figure, from what his tailored black suit revealed. Officially, he was still in mourning for his parents, who'd died a month ago in a car crash, but he was hiding it well. Very well. His father's multi-million pound corporation was now in his hands, and he was loving it. He had a good head for business, and a first-class team of advisers, though the fast cars, all-night parties and lunch breaks that took all afternoon probably weren't doing much good there. They also weren't helping his marriage, as his thirty-five year-old wife was not impressed with the parade of blonde bimbos who graced his arm at every public function. Some people argued it was his way of dealing with grief. Sure, and if you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

We were at a very swish restaurant in Piccadilly, the kind where the waiters' suits must have cost more than the patrons'. No expense was spared, and discretion was assured, making it ideal for our secret tête-à-tête. A candle lit the space around us, giving everything an intimate glow and scenting each breath with jasmine. The soft light enhanced the blue of his shirt and showed how perfectly it matched his eyes. Alan knew how to dress--or, more likely, someone had told him. It was nice to know I rated the full seduction treatment, even if it wasn't needed, and I let myself be seduced. Being the complete focus of someone's attention this way was deliciously erotic, as he no doubt intended, and so was the furtive stroking of my knee under the table.

He really was good at this, and by the time dessert came, I was genuinely aroused. We fed each other strawberries, and his tongue gently licked my fingers before the sweet juice dripped onto the pristine tablecloth. I returned the favour, lapping shyly at his fingertips, maintaining the pretence of a woman charmed against her better judgment. Then it was Alan's turn again. He was bolder now, his whole tongue caressing the length of my fingers and finding the tender skin where forefinger and thumb met. It felt like he was exploring much more private areas, and moisture began to gather between my thighs.

By unspoken agreement, we skipped coffee. He paid the bill, thanked the waiters as they helped us into our coats, and held my hand as we approached the door. A typical upper-class gentleman, except that I knew he was born in London's East End. A voice coach had worked hard to eliminate the grating twang, but a trace was still there if you listened carefully. I've never understood why people are ashamed of their origins.

Just before we reached the door, he checked no one was looking, and guided me into a secluded alcove that was almost hidden by a huge pot plant. The curtain of leaves gave the illusion of privacy, and I put up no resistance as his warm lips closed over mine. He was an excellent kisser, easily coaxing my lips apart and slipping his tongue inside. I thoroughly enjoyed the feel of large, strong hands at my waist as he pulled me closer. My arms went round his neck and I kissed him eagerly, rubbing my body against the erection I could feel straining in his trousers. One hand was combing through my hair, and I knew he enjoyed the silky feel of the long strands, while the other moved to my side. Two fingers started caressing the side of my breast, just those two fingers moving in maddeningly light repetition, and my nipples became tighter and tighter. Still kissing me, he opened a small gap between our bodies, and that hand suddenly darted between us, squeezing the nearest nipple, before returning to continue its gentle torment.

I knew he owned a flat nearby, and had prepared a great excuse not to go, so I was ready when his mouth left mine and kissed a path to my ear.

"Sweetheart, I'm sorry, I have to catch a flight in an hour. There's an important business deal I need to finalize in Miami, and I don't trust anyone else to do it properly."

"How long will you be gone?" I asked, making sure only disappointment showed in my voice.

"Ten days. I would ring but my wife insists on checking all my phone bills, and to use a mobile would be so expensive. I'll ring when I get back, I promise."

Two-timing skinflint, I thought, but aloud I said, "Of course, I understand. But I want you now..."

His eyes gleamed with victory. "I know. I want you, too. Have you ever had sex in a public place?"

"Not yet," I purred.

"Would you like to?"

"Yes, please. No one can see us here, can they?"

"Of course not," he assured me, lust completely overriding common sense. His mouth returned to mine for a passionate moment, nibbling on my bottom lip, then he abruptly pulled back. Firm hands turned me to face the wall, and I instinctively braced myself against it as I heard the soft rasp of a zipper.

"It'll be easier to give you pleasure this way," he murmured in my ear, and lifted the back of my skirt. I heard a condom packet being ripped open, and moaned as expected when his sheathed prick settled between my quivering ass cheeks. He chuckled softly. "What a naughty wench I've found, not wearing any knickers on a first date."

"I never wear them. They're too restricting." Then, mischievously, I added, "I love the naughty thrill of the wind whipping up my skirt, invisible fingers teasing me to wetness, imagining the shock and helpless arousal on everyone's faces if they knew."

His breathing quickened as I spoke, and by the end, his swollen penis was grinding rhythmically against my bottom. "Oh, yes," he growled. "And I bet you're wet now, aren't you?"

"Why don't you find out for yourself? Since you don't trust anyone else..."

"Cheeky minx." But his fingers were already probing my slick folds, delving inside my pussy to find the sweet moisture gathered there. "Fuck, you're dripping," he whispered, and would have said a lot more had footsteps not shattered our private world.

"Alfred, did you hear something?" A cut-glass female voice shrilled.

"No, darling."

"I'm sure I heard a noise ... well, hurry up and get the door then--Mr. Manners never goes on holiday, you know. And find a taxi before I freeze to death, it's far too cold to hang about."

"Yes, darling," came the placid reply. A soft chime rang as the door opened, and Darling's complaints faded into the frosty night air. There was a quiet click as the door closed, and then we were alone once more, but who knew for how long?

Long enough. While the woman was giving her orders, those skillful fingers had found my aching nub, and were deliberately circling it. I couldn't make a sound for fear of discovery, and it was incredibly exciting.

As soon as the door shut, his cock plunged inside me and he started rubbing my clit in earnest. The tension had been building for hours, and we were both so close already that it only took a few slow thrusts to bring us to the edge. The first spasms echoed through me and he grunted as I clenched round him. One more frantic push and he too came, muffling his cry of release against my shoulder. I bit down hard on my bottom lip, but even so, it was hard not to shout my orgasm to the world. For an evil snake, he had some angelic moves.

Baby, It's Cold Outside - Ellen Addie

Baby, It's Cold Outside - Ellen Addie
December, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-842-7
$2 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
New Phaze Author!

"Snowfall amounts of up to one foot are expected overnight. Stay tuned to this station for further details throughout the afternoon."

Miranda Todd pursed her lips and exhaled. Am I ready for this? she asked herself. She had moved out to the country in July, when it was warm and sultry, and here it was early December. No leaves on the trees anymore, and a decent winter—heck, it wasn't even technically winter yet!—storm on its way. The prospect scared her a little; she was from Los Angeles, not the East Coast, and didn't know squat about wintertime. But she would learn, just as she'd learned, at least a little so far, about life in a small town: people were nice, people were nosy, and folks cared whether you lived or died.

That last part she particularly liked. The anonymity of life in Los Angeles had long ago lost its appeal for her. When she was informed that her Uncle Pat in Maine had died and left his house to her she saw it as a chance for a change. Maybe she was a little impulsive but she gave up her job in television promotion to move here and open up a little coffee shop. She discovered she liked cooking for people and the town had needed a new gathering spot since her Uncle had closed his bakery five years ago. Now, with a few of his prized recipes and a little big city flair, she was settling in. Except for this winter thing.

"Hey, Miranda, could I have a quick fill-up?" Jessie Chisholm, the bald owner of the local hardware store asked, holding up his cup. "People are going to be looking for batteries and candles today, for sure. I need to get back to the store."

"I'm sorry," Miranda smiled as she scooted over to pour hot coffee into his porcelain mug. "I think I'm freaking out a little over this storm," she fretted. "I just don't know what to expect."

"Well, you've got your firewood, right?" he asked her, ticking it off on the fingers of one hand. "And you've got plenty of water? Lots of food? And something to read in case the power goes out? Won't be any TV, girl!" he laughed.

"That's probably the scariest prospect for me, you're right!" she grinned. "Yeah, I think I'm set, theoretically. I just...well, it's my first winter," Miranda shrugged. "I'm a winter virgin," she joked.

On those last words the door from the outside opened, and Caden Doyle strode in, whipping off his gloves "Gee, I sure wish I'd heard the front end of that conversation," he said loudly, eliciting a laugh from the other customers at their tables. Miranda's eyes widened in surprise, she couldn't believe what she heard him say. He was normally reserved, or at least quiet.

Maybe he was loosening up. Or maybe business was good. Caden was a horticulturist who owned the local nursery, and during the winter he kept people in firewood, did woodworking and maintained cottages for the summer residents. Miranda didn't know too much about him personally other than that he was single, always seemed to have a good tan and had a strapping build that reflected his outdoor lifestyle. He was good-looking, handsome in a natural unpretentious way, not the L.A. girly-boy model type she was used to. A good way, she had to admit. They'd had pleasant joshing conversations when he'd come in, but she hadn't been able to get much more out of him. She didn't want to push the flirting; no sense in getting a reputation as a big city, big mouth hussy, not when she thought he was, well, pretty appealing. She hoped good things would come to those who wait.

"Go ahead and sit anywhere," Miranda called out to him, watching as he circled the room and greeted friends, finally taking a seat at a booth across the room. He picked up a menu and began perusing it as Miranda turned her attention back to Jesse. "So I shouldn't worry too much?" she inquired hopefully.

"The town hasn't lost anybody yet!" Jesse assured her as he rose from the bench and plopped down a bill on the table. "Keep the change, kiddo," he instructed, smiling, as he put his coat back on and walked out.

"Thanks!" she called after him, then did a quick sweep around the room checking on her customers, ending up in front of Caden's booth. "Made up your mind yet?" she asked, looking down at his tousled dark brown hair.

He looked up at her, his puzzled expression incredibly appealing. "What time is it, anyway?"

Miranda checked the clock on the wall. "A little after eleven."

"See, now I don't know whether to have breakfast or lunch," he chuckled. "I left the house early this morning without anything to eat, but the idea of a hamburger now seems weird, except so does pancakes."

"You've got a problem, buddy," she commiserated with a smile. "Why don't you just have some coffee until you can figure which way to go," Miranda suggested, pouring him a cup. "And hey, thanks for delivering that load of firewood the other day."

"You got it just in time, didn't you?" Caden said. "That's what I've been doing all morning. You going to be okay with this storm?" he asked, with some concern in his voice. "Being a winter virgin, and all..." Caden added, slyly.

"Oh, sure, thanks for asking," she smiled. "I guess for you, a big approaching storm is sort of like...whoopee!" She made an exuberant gesture with the coffee pot that sent the liquid sloshing around and nearly over the side. "Oops! I mean, good for business," she explained quickly.

He nodded and laughed with her. "That it is," he admitted, then went back to studying the menu. One of the other customers waved her over and she left Caden to make his decision.

"I'm still completely stumped about lunch or breakfast," he said when she came back to his table.

"Can I make a suggestion? How about a Monte Cristo sandwich? It's sort of breakfast, and sort of lunch, and completely delicious," Miranda explained. He looked up at her with his dark green eyes. "We do a ham and cheese sandwich then dip it in egg batter, lightly fry it, and sprinkle powdered sugar on top. You can use jam on it if you want, too." She tried to read interest in his handsome face. "I think you'd love it."

Caden smiled. "I think I would, too. Make it a Monte Cristo."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Warrior's Hope by Sabrina Luna

A Warrior's Hope by Sabrina Luna
November, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-789-5
$2 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!

Author's backlist: Sabrina Luna

Giant bonfires lit the city as if it was daylight. Beyond the far horizon, the sky was dark except for a handful of stars. They appeared cool and serene against the velvety backdrop of the evening sky. Thabit leaned back against a carved pillar in the courtyard. He gazed beyond the crowd of celebrators to the outlying magnificence of the twinkling stars.

He and his fellow warriors would be leaving Thebes at dawn. But, tonight, he pondered over their impending mission as ordered by the young pharaoh's advisor, Ay. Thabit recalled the fateful meeting in the palace with a smirk, the day's events unrolling like a papyrus scroll in his mind.

"Our pharaoh, Tutankhamun, has chosen you, Commander Thabit, to lead an army of your best men to secure the borders of Thebes. As Warriors of Amun-Ra, your mission will be to take over, either by force or intimidation, a tribal band of renegades scattered along the border."

"Are these renegades Hittites or Nubian, sir?"

"Hittites, Nubian, or another race entirely," Ay shrugged. "I am not certain, Commander. I do know our scouts have been keeping a watchful eye on them over the past few months. They seem to be a strange tribe of nomads ... perhaps even dangerous."

"In other words, we don't know if the tribes are allies or foe, correct?" Thabit raised an eyebrow and studied the stern expression on Ay's face.

Tension crackled in the air between them. It was another clash of wills with Tutankhamun's 'uncle', the real power behind the throne of Egypt. The men of the court, the priests and scribes in the throne room felt it ... everyone except young Tut.

Bedecked in royal attire, the young boy's sandaled feet dangled over the edge of a gold-glided chair, his legs swinging restlessly. The warrior could sense the boy was, as always, bored with the formalities of royal business.

Thabit's gaze flickered back to Ay. The thin man garbed in fine robes accented by golden jewels locked eyes with him. He squared his jaw, feeling the heat of frustration pumping through his veins and patiently awaited the vizier's answer.

"Are you questioning our pharaoh's orders, Commander?" Ay's voice rumbled through the room, breaking the uneasy silence.

Thabit turned to the impassive boy on the throne before them. "No, I would never question my pharaoh's orders," the warrior bowed low from the waist to the young boy. "And my men and I will do our best to protect our beloved Thebes."

It was a promise he intended to keep, to protect Thebes and to watch over the young king. He was biding his time, secretly waiting for Tutankhamun to reach a ripe age to usurp Ay's rock-solid influence over the royal court. But, until then, Thabit could do nothing but patiently wait ... and follow orders.

The royal vizier's plan seemed simple enough. However, anxiety still swirled in his gut like an unpredictable sandstorm. Thabit was a well-seasoned warrior and respected leader. He knew, with a sense of pride, his men would follow him anywhere. They were so loyal; they would descend into the darkness of Anubis' realm if he commanded it.

Drawing an earthenware jug of finely brewed beer to his lips, Thabit took a hardy swig and then surveyed the crowd. His men were already celebrating their impending victories over the tribes along the border. After religious offerings in the temple of Amun-Ra, his men were treated to the best the city of Thebes had to offer ... pomegranate wine, wheat-brewed beer and exotic meals. And, by royal command, a host of willing lovers to provide an evening filled with decadent entertainment.

"If we die on our mission, at least we will die with a smile upon our lips and satisfaction in our loins!" Thabit had overheard a warrior's remark to a fellow companion as the festivities began. The commander gave an amused chuckle, lifting the jug to his lips once more.

"The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer." A lyrical, yet powerful voice came from behind him, dissipating his thoughts. He knew that voice. It was one that affected him like no other.

Thabit turned to the shadowy form and grinned. "Are you quoting fanciful poetry again?"

Akil stepped out of the shadows and into the light. His bronzed cheeks flushed with a rich hue of embarrassment. However, despite his taunting, Thabit was truly proud of his dearest friend. Akil was a scribe and studying under Thebes' most prolific scholars. Sensing Akil's uneasiness, Thabit continued. "Yes, the beer is good and stout tonight, but I'd rather content myself with something else."

"Is that so, Commander?" Akil's eyes were encircled with kohl, accenting the deep, rich intensity of his gaze. Thabit saw a twinkle of mischief in their reflection. A wave of desire coursed through his body.

Akil's white linen robe gave a gentle, graceful sway as he stepped close. The warrior silently marveled at the handsome man with an affectionate smile. Unlike his own thick, muscular-build, Akil was lean with slender arms and long, tapered fingers. A shiver ran through Thabit as he recalled just how well they knew each other. Often he'd marveled at the scribe's keen ability to look past his toughened exterior ... and into the depths of his soul.

"The royal court has spared no expense for you and your men tonight. So, tell me, what does the pharaoh's most skillful and brightest warrior really want?" A sly smile spread over Akil's lips.

"I am honored by all the gifts the royal court has provided tonight. The wine, women and songs are bringing great pleasure to my men." Thabit gently inhaled the sensual scent of his lover. The heady aroma of myrrh and musk surrounded Akil like a soft cloud, tempting Thabit. He cleared his throat, adding in a low whisper, "But that is not what I want. I want you, my beloved."

"By Amun-Ra, you flatter me, Thabit." Akil cheeks flushed again with color, but, with unwavering bravado, he curled his long fingers around Thabit's thick wrist. With gentle persuasion Akil coaxed Thabit, drawing him to the darkened side of the pillar.

In the shadows of the large, engraved column, Thabit took his lover's less-than-subtle hint. He wrapped an arm around Akil's slender hips and drew him close. Thabit's body hummed with arousal. His cock, partially erect, swelled beneath the simple linen wrap knotted around his waist.

"Ah, but I assume you want more than flattery, don't you?" Thabit inquired with an amused smirk. His question was answered by a flicker of mutual lust in Akil's eyes.

Desire coursed through his veins, desperate, hot and needy, as he smoothly captured Akil's mouth with his own. He felt Akil's warm sigh of approval, the firmness of the scribe's body beneath the light-weight robes. Akil wrapped his slender arms around Thabit's shoulders in a tight embrace. Thabit's lips hungrily explored the lush curves of Akil's mouth as their kiss lengthened, deepened until the passion was too unbearable to withstand.

Akil surrendered first, pulling free with a soft gasp. "It is dangerous for us to do this here, within sight of the whole courtyard," he expelled in a lust-heated whisper.

"I agree," Thabit nodded. Reluctantly, he loosened his hold on Akil, releasing him, but his body reverberated with bittersweet longing. "However, in the morning my men and I will be leaving on our mission. I wish to spend this last night alone ... with you."

"It would be my pleasure, dear brother." A soft smile curled over Akil's lips, and he inclined his head. He gestured to a distant limestone building just beyond the crowded courtyard. Akil leaned close, whispering into Thabit's ear. "Come, follow me and your wish will be fulfilled."

The lusty promise made Thabit's heart flutter beneath his tough, warrior demeanor. The warrior was cautious, but placed the empty jug aside. Akil rounded the pillar, causally strolling in the direction of the building. Thabit surveyed the crowd. No one had seen the embrace. He exhaled a deep breath, then stepped out, a few paces behind and followed Akil into the crowd.

At Akil's back, the scribe's braid swung to and fro in time with his light steps. A sign of his status among the court, Akil's head was shaved expect for the single, jet-black braid. However, the warrior noted, the shape of Akil's head was smooth and god-like, unlike Thabit's own shaved scalp, which seemed to him, imperfect by comparison.

Thabit kept a watchful eye on Akil, eager for a precious, stolen moment with his lover. However, there was also a deep sadness that threatened to consume his heart. Leading his men to the border to face unfamiliar circumstances and a tribe of wild renegades, Thabit wasn't sure when he would return home to Thebes or to his beloved again.

As he drew closer to the large building, someone tugged on his sarong from behind. Thabit spun around, sharply glancing down. An oddly familiar face grinned up at him from the crowd that surrounded them.

Alertness shot through his veins as Thabit quickly reached out and gripped the boy by the simple, homespun cape that was tied around his thin shoulders. Thabit muttered a harsh curse beneath his breath as he drew the reluctant boy away from the crowd.

"Tut! Just what do you think you're doing, young man?" Thabit chided the wide-eyed youth.

"I-I just wanted to come see the celebrations, that's all," the young king, dressed in common garb explained, a quiver in his voice.

"It's dangerous for you to leave the palace unescorted, Your Majesty. You know the rules. And if your Uncle Ay or one of his men catches you? You'd be in big trouble," Thabit warned in a heated whisper.

"I know, I know," the boy sighed, rolling his big, brown eyes. "But, you know, he's not really my uncle. I think he's a stupid old man! One day I'll--

"Yes, one day you'll rule Egypt on your own. However, until that day comes, Tut, you must listen to your elders," Thabit replied with a firm nod. His impatience for the boy's foolhardiness quickly dissipated as he released his hold on the boy's cape.

Tut gazed up at him with a thoughtful expression on his young face. "I wish you were my uncle instead of Ay. You'd train me to be a warrior, wouldn't you, Thabit?"

"Yes, if you were my nephew, I would. But, I am not. However, you are meant for great glory as a Pharaoh of Egypt. It's a far better life than that of a warrior." Thabit glanced down at the boy with a bittersweet smile. "Now, off with you! Sneak back to your bed and I'll see you at dawn." The warrior dismissed the young boy with a wave of his hand.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Bitter Harvest - Aurora Black

Bitter Harvest - Aurora Black
October, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-931-8
$3 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's Backlist: Aurora Black

The tiny chapel stood on the hill, the surrounding oak trees almost completely shielding it from outside view. The woman in white paced beside their majestic trunks while taking the sweet country air into her lungs, her expression wistful as she remembered the first time she'd visited this tranquil spot. She was no more than six or seven years old at the time, and she'd claimed it as her special place where she could play and dream about the future. Now, she was getting married there to the love of her life, and she couldn't have been happier.

The bride could hear the soft crunch of grass behind her. She turned around and came face to face with Jack's breathtaking eyes. They glittered in the morning sun as their owner smiled at her, and her breath caught.

"Hey, I thought I'd find you out here. Everyone's waiting inside."

Claire's own smile dissolved. Her groom cupped her flawlessly made-up face in his hand, and she wanted to weep at his tender touch. Jack's concerned voice broke through. "What's wrong, babe? It's not too late to call things off if you're having second thoughts about marrying me."

She shook her head emphatically, her elegant and complicated wedding hairstyle threatening to unravel. "NO! I mean, no. Jack, I'm not backing down. Shortly after we met, I knew you were the one for me. Please, never doubt that. I just needed a moment alone for some fresh air, and…"

Jack stepped closer, the front of his tuxedo lightly brushing against her bridal gown's bodice.

"What, Claire? You know you can tell me anything."

"Promise you won't laugh?"

He raised his hand in the air, performing a three-finger salute. "Scout's honor."

A laugh escaped her lips. "Were you seriously ever in the Boy Scouts, Jack?"

His grin was pure mischief as he looked down at her. "No, can't say that I was." Their laughter quickly died off, and the mood was serious again. Jack bent to place a gentle kiss on her parted lips, careful not to smudge her lipstick. "But you can still tell me."

Claire took a deep breath before replying. "I had a nightmare last night, about you and me. Something terrible happened. I don't know what, exactly, but I recall a tremendous sense of loss and despair. We were walking together along some road, and then we were separated by a thick fog. That's the only way I can describe it. I kept calling out to you, reaching for you, but you were no longer with me. I never want to go through that again, dream or not."

A tear escaped her eye, and Jack lovingly wiped it away with his thumb. "You never will, not if I can help it. Now let's go inside before our guests form a search party, and after all is said and done, we can begin our lives together as man and wife. Are you with me, love?"

He held out his hand for her to take, and Claire laced her fingers with his. "Let's do it."

Beast Magic - Sapphire Phelan

Beast Magic - Sapphire Phelan
October, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-786-4
$3 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's backlist: Sapphire Phelan

The lion crept through the tall grass. He never let his gaze waver from what he saw in front of him, keeping focused on the trap.

He bared what he thought was a parody of a human smile, showing his glistening fangs as the odor of five hunters wafted to him. They hid behind some heavy brush only fifteen paw lengths away. The stench was repugnant to his nose combined with the hot, humid air.

He knew what they were thinking. That they were being smarter than the dumb beast, when in reality he wanted to be caught. It was his destiny to spring the trap. Then he could be taken across the Great Water to meet his fate in a human female, the one from the dreaming that he would take as his mate. The magic within him wanted to be called forth and show this puny prey what he could really do, to surprise and frighten them. But he forced it down back into himself. Now was not the time to let it free. They were not his real enemies, just pathetic humans who didn't know any better, as his father would say. He could have used his beast magic to whisk himself away to where he wanted to go. But he felt this plan was better. Much better.

Ramses, the werelion, stepped forward. Dried grass and large palm leaves crunched noisily under his massive paws. He discovered the edge of the pit the humans had dug, covered with brush to hide it. His superior hearing picked up the echo of a human catching their breath, as he toed some ground by the trap. Stepping onto the leaves, he crashed through and, along with the earthly covering, fell into the hole.

He landed on all four paws. With a low roar rumbling in his chest, he paced the length of the hole. Pausing, he glared up into the excited eyes of the hunters as they surrounded the hole and stared down at him. Listening to them chatter among themselves about how easy it had been to capture the lion, he let them believe it for a brief moment.

Then the low rumble in his chest morphed into laughter. The lion watched as uneasiness replace the excitement in their dark eyes, as if they heard and understood his inner thoughts.

Soon he would find his mate and claim her. The Dreaming never lied.

* * * *

Shana Tory began dreaming again. It was the same scene, since she was five: she stood alone at the zoo. Her mother had just let go of her hand and vanished into the crowd of people. Suddenly, the crowd dispersed, and she found herself standing in front of the lion exhibit, staring into the golden brown eyes of a large male with a heavy black mane.

The big cat lay still like the Sphinx, his gaze intent on her. Though frightened, Shana drew closer as if she couldn't help herself. Her nipples hardened under her blouse and she felt heat pooling between her thighs. Unexpectedly, the lion rose to his feet and padded nearer to the boundary that separated them. He halted, and then roared. She screamed and ran away.

Shana awoke, frantic, her limbs tangled in both the sheet and blanket. Her hands fisted the material as sweat dripped down her face, staining it.

Damn, this was the fifth time this week she had that nightmare from her childhood. This time, though, the lion had reached the boundary that kept him from her. In the next one, she feared he might leap over it and get to her. She hated nights like this, for they gave her an unreasoning fear of lions, especially the male ones.

Shana stumbled out of bed and headed to the bathroom. She saw her pale reflection in the mirror above the sink. It bothered her. Dark half-circles under her eyes made her appear bruised and tired. She turned on the faucets and hot and cold water gushed into her hands. Splashing her face, she hoped that its refreshing feeling would take away some of the dream leftovers. Quickly finishing up, she applied moisturizer and powder to her face to cover up the lingering effects. It was getting harder to look good for work these days. Maybe she needed to see a therapist or something so she could start getting some real sleep.

Once dressed, Shana breakfasted on oatmeal and drank a cup of coffee. She put the bowl and cup in the sink, then rushed off to work. Parking her car in front of the boutique where she worked, she climbed out and paused to stare at the vast parking lot of the zoo across the road.

Empty right now, in a couple hours the parking lot would be jam-packed with all sorts of vehicles. Families would be entering through the zoo's entrance to visit the animals and birds that populated the attraction.

The same zoo that figured in her dreams.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. That's all it was, she reminded herself, a dream, and nothing more. Okay, maybe she had some issues with lions. But she would fix that problem today, right after she got off work. She would go over to the zoo and pay her admission, enter and make her way to the African lion exhibit. It was the only way to prove to herself that there wasn't a lion in there waiting for her. Wanting her.

Shana spent the next eight hours working. Though she tried hard to keep her mind on her work and the customers that came in, she still would stop at the big window. Her gaze would stray across the road to the zoo. When four o'clock rolled around and her relief walked through the door, she grabbed her purse. Muttering a quick good-bye, Shana ran out the door and jumped into her car. Watching for traffic both ways, she pulled out of the parking lot and drove across the road. She pulled into a parking space not far from the entrance, got out and ambled up to one of the booths. An old lady sat inside, munching on an apple and reading a book. Putting both the half-eaten apple and the book down, she looked up with a smile.

"A ticket?" the old lady asked.

"Yes, just one, please."

Digging through her purse, Shana found a ten-dollar bill and handed it over.

The lady smiled. "It's only half price, dearie, as we close in a couple hours. That's five dollars. Though if you don't have anything less than that ten, I can give you back change."

Shana thrust the ten back into her purse and rummaged until she found a five. She slid it toward the lady, who handed her back a ticket. Then she hurried through the turnstile, tossing her ticket to a bored, young man and entered the zoo grounds. She ignored the flamingos flapping their pink wings, streaked past the bear exhibit, circled around the giraffes, and made her way to the exhibit that held the big cats.

A leopard screamed while a black panther paced its cage, its yellow eyes zeroing on her as she passed. Shana found the lion enclosure and stopped at exactly where she always stood in her nightmare. Three lionesses lay on fake rock ledges, one's maw opened wide as it yawned. A male stood not far from them, young, and with not much of a mane. What there was of it was only brown with black ends. Not the unrelenting black of her dreams. She didn't see the dream male among them and breathed a sigh of relief. Her sigh broke in mid-breath though, when a shadow exited from the entrance to the quarters where the lions slept at night. The shadow lengthened, reaching toward her with grasping fingers. She backed away from the fence, frightened and knowing with certainty what was approaching.

A magnificent male emerged from the darkness, his coat a shiny golden color. A mane of midnight covered his head and reached down to his chest between the two front legs. With eyes of golden brown, he stared directly at her, as if he knew she had come only to view him.

Hands over her mouth, she watched as he moved like a regal king. The other male backed out of his direct path, a long, keening sound issuing from young one's jaws. He fell to his belly, as if acknowledging his superior. The older lion turned his head, growled, and continued his way to the boundary.

He halted, coming to his goal, and his gaze met hers once more. Shana couldn't tear her eyes away as her fear left her. Something sparked between them and it kept growing, an electrical charge with an odor of burning ozone. Erotic, it made a flush of heat fill her. Finally, she broke free of the lion's spell and, with a cry, bolted.

Like a frightened gazelle she ran, shoving pass crowds of people massing at the front entrance. She hurtled along with the others, pushing through the turnstile and out into the parking lot, not stopping until she stumbled into her car. Starting it, she roared out of the parking lot and down the road. She finally quit running when she pulled into her driveway and shut off the engine.

Her forehead pressed to the steering wheel, she tried to bring her shaking under control. She called herself a stupid fool for even going to the zoo. The lion was real. Uncanny as it seemed, the dream lion had just been made flesh for her this afternoon. What further creeped her out was the fact she had sensed that it knew she was there.

Like he had called her to come. With the dreams. Waited for her. And like the dreams lately, she had begun to be turned on.

What was wrong with her? He was only an animal.

Purse in hand, she climbed out of the car and locked it. She went into the house. Tossing her purse onto the coffee table, she slumped into an armchair to the left of the couch and kicked off her high heels.

With a headache coming on and her appetite lacking, Shana decided to retire early. Thank goodness, tomorrow was Saturday and she didn't have to go back to work—she had weekends off due to seniority. She took off her clothes and dropped them all in a pile in the middle of the bedroom floor. Crawling into bed stark naked, she drew the covers up to her chin and fell quickly asleep.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Beneath the Surface - Jennah Sharpe

Beneath the Surface - Jennah Sharpe
September, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-755-0
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Ella focused her flashlight well up the tunnel. It was then she noticed she no longer heard the chatter of her companions on her radio.

"Armand?" she sent out into the darkness, feeling a sudden onset of claustrophobia.

"Vanessa? Can you hear me?" No response.

Ella floated for a moment. She knew she should turn and follow the cable back to the cavern. Just a little further, she thought. Armand's up there anyway. You're not going anywhere he hasn't been already, she told herself.

She steadied her breathing and pressed on, making sure she was still tethered to the retractable line by giving it a gentle tug. Huh. It seemed loose. She pulled in the other direction to where she should have been attached to the original cavern. Nothing. It gave in her hand. She pulled desperately until she held a frayed end of cable in her hands.

How the hell did this happen, she wondered, fighting the blossoming panic in her stomach. These things don't just break. She swam forward, thinking she'd run into Armand who was ahead of her in the tunnel. Checking her wrist, she was relieved to find she still had more than enough air left. They'd only been in the tunnels for an hour.

She started. There it was again. That foot. She pushed forward quickly, forgetting her sidekick and opting for the faster and more instinctive up and down motion. The foot was decidedly male and very quickly she began to make out strong legs kicking in front of her. Wait! she wanted to call out. Who was this guy?

Within moments, she saw the grey light of the sun carving down through the silt. Had she made it back to the cavern? Oh, thank God. How in the bloody hell had she got herself so turned around?

Ella surfaced. She pulled her breathing apparatus from her mouth and lifted her mask up and over her helmet.

"Hello?" she called. "Rico? Where is everyone?"

A commotion on to her right demanded her attention. She gasped. A man was crawling from the shallows of this sinkhole to a ledge, which fronted a hole between the rocks. It was obvious from the sunlight filtering through that the hole led outside, to the surface. It didn't immediately occur to Ella that this wasn't the cavern she'd first descended into, or that her diving buddies were nowhere to be found.

The man was abnormally muscular, as if he spent his days swimming. He was deeply tanned and very tall. Ella guessed she would only measure up to his breastbone but from where she stood, chest deep in water, she could only admire his graceful form as he hauled himself from the water onto a ledge of rock. The glistening drops of water, sluiced over his taut, dark skin. Oh ... and down over his behind, a tight one at that. Intricate, black designs swirled around his bicep in the sexiest tattoo she ever seen. Her gaze traced the outlines as she moved slowly toward him.

Hearing a faint voice inside her head, that didn't sound at all like her, Ella edged closer. He's yours. Take him. Claim him, Ella.

Barely a Secret - Will Belegon

Barely a Secret - Will Belegon
September, 2007 - ISBN 1-59426-761-8
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I made the preparations in my mind and in my medicine cabinet, and then started waiting for the right day to bring the subject up again, in a very different manner. I wanted a time during the day, when the light would be bright. I wanted a day that was empty of work and family obligations, so we wouldn't be rushed or have anything we had to hurry away and do. And most importantly, I had to wait for a day when she was in exactly the right mood.

Julie and I had been living together for almost two years. In that time, I had gotten to know many things about her. One thing I had learned would play right into my hands for this adventure.

Julie was a very complicated and eclectic lover. She liked a lot of variety in our sex life. Sometime she was all sweetness and light, looking for candlelight and roses trailed across her breasts, Champagne and strawberries. Other times she wanted it hard and fast, heavy metal music screaming in the background and her nails buried in my back. Then there was her streak of daring, when she wanted to play games in the park or give head on the freeway ... on those occasions she was often the aggressor, pushing my boundaries and unwilling to take no for an answer.

None of those facets of my love were the one I was waiting for, the one that was an absolute necessity for my plan, outweighing any other factor. Everything else was optional ... this wasn't. I needed one particular mood from her to make this work.

Finally came an appropriate day when I started receiving the right signals. It was a bright spring Wednesday. We were both off work, although we did have class. Since Julie's last period was going to be her midday dance class, it was almost perfect. The physical exertion and driving beats never failed to make her mind run in certain directions.

As we started our day, I started recognizing the hints that would make things workable. Julie was awake before I was, as usual, but she seemed unusually passive as we had to perform our normal morning struggle around the single sink in our bathroom. As I lathered up with shaving gel and grabbed a new blade for my razor, I bumped her. It wasn't deliberate, just the kind of thing that happens in tight spaces.

Instead of bumping back, Julie moved quietly to her right despite being smack in the middle of her make-up routine. Most days she would have at least given me a good-natured tease about hogging the space. Today she just slid aside. When I made eye contact with her in the mirror, she gave a little blush and a hesitant smile. Emboldened I ran my tongue across my upper lip and smiled smugly as she demurely looked down and hid her eyes. That was what I had been watching for these last few weeks.

The day couldn't go fast enough for me after that. I hurried over to meet her outside her dance class after getting out of Art History, deliberately avoiding conversations I would normally seek out.

I arrived at her dance class as they were still doing their cool down. I watched as the music slowed. She had the flush of exertion, but I could tell from looking at her and some of the other advanced dancers that they had barely cracked a sweat. That wasn't unusual this early in a quarter. It always took a couple of weeks before teachers got comfortable pushing the pace.

As the music stopped I moved away from the door and stood back on the grass, across the sidewalk. I wanted one more confirmation that today was the right day for my plans.

Julie emerged from class, the sun catching highlights in her blond hair and sparkling in her blue eyes. The light sweat that clung to her gave her skin a glow. She saw me and crossed over, stopping by my side and looking up--waiting for me to speak. All the confirmation I needed. My pulse began to race.

"You ready to go home, Julie?"

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Amber's Toy by Jude Mason

Amber's Toy by Jude Mason
August, 2007 - ISBN 1-59426-740-5
$3.50 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!

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Come on, ya sissy, down it," slurred Amber. She sprawled across the bar, one arm extended along it to keep her from falling face first onto the lap of the drunk in front of her. Her skirt was too tight, her blouse too revealing, but success was more important than decency at that moment. She knew he didn't recognize her. Over the past few months, she'd lost a good deal of weight, and her hair was now its natural black where it had been nearly blonde. Her nose was smaller, her eyes were now blue where they had been brown. No, he'd never recognize her. Besides, he never really looked at his conquests; he just used them before moving on to the next.

She eyed the man, silently urging him to down the amber drink in his highball glass. The dull gray parasite curled around the single ice cube, waiting to warm up and do its job. Tony Jeffers peered at her, his handsome face flushed, his deep, brown eyes unfocused. He smiled a lopsided grin that brought back memories of that night, making her stomach lurch.

He'd spilled half of his last bourbon down the front of his shirt. It pooled in the crotch of his jeans. In the dim lighting of the bar, she could barely see the dark patch. A liquored stick, she giggled and raised her own half-empty glass before downing it.

Come on, you bastard, she thought and slumped toward him, her hand inadvertently landing on his wet crotch. She wanted to tighten her fingers, to see if she could make him scream, but she held off. He'd pay soon enough.

Tony groaned and lifted his glass. Peering into it, he slurred, "Just a lil aphrodike, right?"

"Yeah, a little something I brought back from South America." She watched closely, her drunken act forgotten for the moment. The glass rose to his lips and, as only an inebriated man can, he carefully downed the drink. He belched loudly and slammed the empty glass on the bar upside down. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he mumbled, "'Scuse me."

Amber was elated. Soon the tiny beast would warm up and Tony, the self proclaimed God's gift to women, Jeffers, would be hers. He didn't suspect a thing, and she doubted he had the brains to figure it out, until she told him. And telling him was a big part of her plans. She wanted to see the look on his face when he realized who she was and why she was with him.

"I gotta go to the john." He slid off his stool, nearly falling in the process. Leaning forward, he ran his wet lips across her cheek in a sloppy attempt at a kiss then straightened up, all six-feet-four of him. He turned, stumbling as he headed for the men's room. He swayed, bumped into a table, which thankfully was empty, then lunged through the bright red door.

Amber sighed and turned, facing away from the bar. Leaning back, she felt the edge dig into her spine, just below her shoulder blades. The room was nearly empty—Thursday night and almost closing time, it should be quiet. Most of the chairs had already been piled onto the tables. One other table was occupied, two couples obviously celebrating something. The fireplace had been left to die down, the curtains closed against the chill night air, and the wait staff was mostly gone. Even the music was off. Just the muscle-bound, thirty-something bartender, manning his post behind the long expanse of well-polished wood, ready to offer yet one more round to whoever asked. Amber wouldn't be asking. Neither would Tony.

A thud from the direction of the men's room, and a soft curse, told her Tony was on his way back. She watched him approach. He really was gorgeous. Those dark eyes and the dimple in his chin would make most women swoon, and probably a good many men. Amber smiled at that thought. Tony didn't swing that way, but that might change very soon. He was built like a swimmer, but with a little more muscle. He also had a nice crop of curly dark chest hair peeking out of the front of his shirt where he'd left the top two buttons unfastened. His jeans were just tight enough to show a hefty bulge where the wet spot spread from his accidental spill. Black loafers and a cowhide vest finished off the picture. If she'd been in the market for a one night stand, he'd definitely qualify.

Tony wasn't a nice man, though. He used his good looks to get what he wanted, and to hell with the women he hurt in the process. Fresh anger pushed any effects from the alcohol aside. She glared at his drunken swagger. What really pissed her off was even after all he'd done to her, she still wanted him.

Bound By Desire - Missy Lyons

Bound By Desire - Missy Lyons
August, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-744-4
$3.50 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
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"Are you going to Victor's party this weekend, Denise?" Sarah asked her boss.

"What party?" Denise Walden looked up from her stack of paperwork she had yet to complete.

"You mean you don't know? Oh! I shouldn't have said anything, I am sorry."

"Don't be sorry. How would you know he didn't invite me?"

Sarah flushed. "I just assumed. I mean you're so dominant...I mean, you and he have always seemed to get along so well and most of the other special agents are going, but they have been his friends for years."

"He invited everyone but me?" Denise sounded incredulous.

"Well, the single ones, at least, he probably just know his parties are special...he may think you don't want to come."

"Why not?"

"Oh, no's just you're so vanilla."

"Vanilla? Just what is that supposed to mean?" Denise's voice had a dangerous edge to it.

"Yeah, and he's s...I'm just putting my foot in my mouth now aren't I? Look, I'm really sorry, but there is nothing I can do to change things. I'm going to go now before I make things worse. Bye."

* * * *

Denise was busy in her office when Victor came in to see her. Her heart skipped a beat as she met his eyes. They had become close over the last two months she had worked for this satellite office. She had worked hard and made a lot of progress on several cases. She had made several new contacts and informants. But this wasn't just about her doing her job. She had come to think of him as a friend and not just a boss.

He closed the door behind him, giving them privacy. Which she didn't mind, but she didn't ask for either. It just proved how he was used to taking charge and being in control of his environment.

Not being invited to his party should not have bothered her, but it did. She thought they were friends.

Evidently he didn't feel the same way.

It just felt so high school to be "outed" like this. Denise jutted out her chin, and prepared to dig in her heels. If he could act juvenile, then so could she.

"You wanted to see me, Denise?" His voice sounded so smug, so superior. She wanted to wipe that expression off his face. He took a casual stance, with one hand in his grey dress pants. His brown eyes sparkled at her merrily. He could have been a model in that business suit. Damn him for being so good looking. It messed with her in ways it shouldn't. He was her boss.

Denise tried to phrase her words in her mind before she spoke. If he knew why she called him here to talk would he be any less happy? "It's not really important, but I heard you are having a party?"

"Yes." He didn't deny it.

"This weekend?"


Denise frowned at him. She was used to be able to intimidate men easily, and nothing seemed to crack this facade of his. He didn't look the least bit uncomfortable for her having brought up the party. Certainly he realized he didn't invite her? "Yes, well the only reason I am bringing it up is because if it happened to anyone else they may have felt uncomfortable being left out."

"Is this about you? Are you feeling left out, Denise?"

"Yes, and no. What I mean is if you did this to anyone else I would have to say something, because by leaving that one person out, it would make them feel ostracized. Personally, I have been hardened enough to not care, but to someone else it could really hurt their feelings." Denise's eyes caught on the off white card that he slipped out of his pocket. "I didn't ask to speak with you to force an invitation. I just wanted to help make you a little more aware of other people."

"Are you finished?"


"Who told you about this party?"

"It doesn't matter."

"It actually does matter, but since you won't tell me, I will figure it out on my own. Did they tell you what goes on at my parties?"

"All she said was it was the special kind." But her legal assistant Sarah did seem to like remembering the party. That was before she became uncomfortable from having brought attention to Denise's lack of an invitation.

"She?" he repeated, smiling at her. She winced at her disclosure. She had not meant to give out too much information. And she probably just narrowed his suspects down by half. Well, in this office, it was over half. More like down to three people.

He walked the invitation over to her and laid it on her desk. "My parties are very special. I just didn't think you were into that lifestyle, Denise."

He was regarding her with a wary expression, scrutinizing her reaction. She noted his set face, his clamped mouth and fixed eyes.

"What kind of lifestyle? Is this one of those swinger parties? A kinky sex party?" As she asked that question, she became aware of another kind of excitement overcome her body.

The corners of his mouth twitched in response. "You might call it kinky. It's where people can be free to express themselves and doms and subs can hook up and pleasure each other. It is not always about the sex, either."

"Doms?" she questioned, searching her mind for what the word meant, what it could be an abbreviation for. It sounded foreign and nothing clicked in her mind at the word. So her expression remained blank.

"Dominant," he answered her, letting her put the clues together. At the exact moment she registered what he was talking about, she blushed furiously, her face turned scarlet. He enjoyed watching her expression change to surprise as she registered what he was talking about.

"Oh...You mean like giving pain?" She never did have a good poker face. She could feel the heat in her cheeks at the thought.

"Pain can heighten pleasure."

"Oh my..." Her voice drifted off key at the end. She felt an erotic thrill sweep over her body, at the way he said that. His eyes locked with hers, and his words stuck in her mind. As if he was not just answering her question, but giving her a personal invitation to play.

With him.

A Reason, A Season, Or a Lifetime by Rayne 2. Marzett

A Reason, A Season, Or a Lifetime by Rayne 2. Marzett
August, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-900-4
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Everyday we meet new people. Even the most fleeting moments we have with people have the greatest and permanent effects on our lives. Most people would consider them to be reasons, seasons, and lifetimes. Now there are things that will get in the way of how we perceive these people. There are times when the things that we know or assume as fact will prevent us from truly getting the full nature and purpose of the people in our lives. You sit around praying like hell that you'll get another chance. Sometimes you do depending upon your luck but for us normal folks more times then not we will never get that back. That's when you're wondering why hindsight is twenty-twenty.

Some might ask why is it so important to understand which is which? Well, it all has to do with love, I think. Sometimes we often find someone and think that we're going to be together forever. That's not the case, and we end up more hurt than necessary. All because we long for that one special person to make our lives complete in some way. Hell, we have been taught ever since birth. Kiss a toad and find a prince, but in real life that toad is just a toad and the disappointment of that cuts like knives. In order to end the confusion and hang-ups we must figure out the system of love and people.

I have always enjoyed the company and companionship of many women. You might even say that I'm addicted to them; they are one drug that I can't just say no to. They just have to look at me a certain way, or whisper in my ear and I find myself doing the oddest of things just to please them. Surely this is nothing more then an ego thing. Something that makes me feel like a champion. How many women can I keep sexually satisfied? I could say that I love them all. And I guess that is true to a certain extent, but in all actuality I loved what they could do for me. The fact that they all play a different role in my life and I seem to play the same role to all of them sure does make things easier.

I learned at an early age that sex was something that I was great at. I love the sounds and sights of a well pleased woman. The fact that she will do anything and everything for that special gift I have keeps a smile on my face. It gives me a certain cockiness that drives me. But where it drives me at times seems to be out of my control. Like any other addict, I hurt those that I supposedly care and love, and worst of all I did it without even being aware. I was caught up in my own world because I was addicted to that feeling of grandeur and craving it more then I realized. Until one day things sort of all fell in place for me to see what it was that I was actually doing to not only myself but others around me. The day I realized my biggest offense was not understanding reasons, seasons, and lifetimes, and allowing my addiction to confuse one of the best things that ever happen to me. Now hindsight is in focus, and I'm receiving swift kicks to the behind.

Many of my friends have commented on my relationships. They always want to know how I found women willing to put up with my hopping from women to women. I can't say that it was simple, because to anyone else what I do might cause headaches and lots of drama. But I keep a drama free life by simply playing the game of love. I know what I want and I'm pretty sure of how to get it. Say I meet a woman. I'm not really interested in the whole girlfriend, future wifey thing. So, I explain my stance right up front. I tell her, "We can hang out and do whatever, but titles go with property and that I am not."

I think that women want certain things like love, respect, honesty, and all that other jazz they scream about in songs. And most think that marriage will bring about all these things in a mate, but a ring and a ceremony will not get you what you don't already have. Once they see they don't have to kick, scream, and threaten to get that; they're pretty much okay with what goes on. You can have everything you want as long as there is not strings attached. If but only for a brief moment in time, in a world made just for us two. Then again, if I were a therapist I would tell myself I was truly full of you know what.

My addiction just like any other addicts causes hurt and pain to the ones that are closes to us. Failure to recognize this leaves me and everyone else in a world of limbo, and not that magical place I have created in my mind. It's funny what one might tell themselves just to rationalize the wrong being done.

413 Remembrance Lane: Diary of a House

413 Remembrance Lane: Diary of a House - Cheri Valmont, Emma Wildes, D. Musgrave, Jamie Hill, Michelle Houston. Skyler Grey, and Jude Mason
August, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-992-9
$7 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!

Catherine Ashbury jumped and shivered when a raspy voice spoke, "I might be able to help ye, laddie. Why ye be looking for that man?"

Nervous and afraid to give away her disguise, Catherine's eyes flared wide as she took in the short, bald man who had sidled up to her and her two companions. She'd noticed him just a moment before, whispering to two other disreputable looking fellows. Tilly McDonald, her Scottish nanny, and Mr. Hillman, who had been Andrew Townsend's manservant from his youth, were in disguise as sailors.

Just as she was.

The alley, with its barely visible visitors milling around, heavy humidity mixed with scarcely a breeze, and flicking torch lights, was eerie and a far cry from the bright ballrooms and cozy parlors that she'd left behind in London. She was shocked at the casual way the pirates and their customers conducted their nefarious business.

Heaven only knew how she had gotten herself into this situation. Nay, her desire to find Drew had brought her halfway across the world to New Orleans and this alley to which their escort had directed them, before hurrying to leave to go about his own pursuits.

She had only herself to blame.

Tilly saved her from answering when she whirled on the little man quick enough to make him start, glaring at him with her dour expression. "And who be ye? A beggar, thief, pirate?" she asked him with a snarl.

Indignant, the man bristled and pulled himself up to his full height of five foot nothing. "I be boatswain to the most famous cap'n to tread these waters." And, as if no longer willing to give Tilly another moment of his time, the man walked next to Mr. Hillman.

Thank goodness the man was English. There were a variety of languages coming from the shadows, the majority being French, of course.

Although some of the French spoken sounded guttural, Catherine knew enough to know she had a right to be frightened. The last man that Mr. Hillman had attempted to ask about Drew's whereabouts had offered, "The boy, how much?" The baleful stare the man had given her as soon as Mr. Hillman had refused him sent a shiver of unease skating over her body.

"Harrumph." Tilly's voice had no need for disguise. She'd always sounded like a grumpy Scotsman and, with the addition of her male sailor's garb, the illusion was complete. "Verry likely."

Catherine suppressed a giggle at how disgusted Tilly appeared at the little man's affront to her. She really shouldn't find amusement at a time like this, but with Tilly's gray hair stuffed beneath a woolen cap and her thin frame in unkempt sailor's clothes, Catherine couldn't help herself. No caliber of clothing could disguise the annoyed green gaze she threw the boatswain. No matter how grumpy she sounded, Tilly only had her best interest at heart, she knew. Which was how Catherine had convinced Tilly to agree to accompany Mr. Hillman and her on what Catherine's father, Robert Ashbury, would have classed a fool's errand.

Her father. Catherine shivered again when she thought of how furious he would be when he found out from her sister, Diana, where Catherine had gone and why. She'd sent a missive to her sister right before she embarked on this trip, but knew that by the time Diana sent word to their father, Catherine and her companions would be well on their way to the Americas. He might even be halfway to New Orleans himself by now.

She wouldn't think about that now. Her mission to find Drew was her sole priority at the moment.

The man sent a scowl in Tilly's direction, then turned his gaze to Mr. Hillman, who, no matter how rough his clothing looked, could not be mistaken for a simple sailor. "Ye look to be a gentleman who might be interested in wa' I ha' to say. If yer looking for the gent, me cap'n might be able to 'elp ye. But ye ha' to follow me. Directly."

Mr. Hillman looked over the man's head at Tilly and Catherine. Tilly looked toward her, too. After Catherine's brisk signal, Mr. Hillman nodded in agreement. No matter that he appeared the leader of their small but misfit band, William Hillman had been in the employ of the Townsend family since his own youth. Thus, he never stepped beyond his station, which was why he presented something of a problem. The man was tall and distinguished looking, and although his steel gray hair was covered by a hat, there was no hiding his haughty, highbrow servant's expression or the mild disdain in his pale blue gaze.

Becoming - L.E. Bryce

Becoming - L.E. Bryce
August, 2007 - ISBN 1-59426-929-7
$3 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's Backlist: L.E. Bryce

The sloop turned toward the deeper water of the harbor, where the sea began to roughen. Unused to boats, the young man grimaced as nausea threatened to overcome him. He managed to hold his stomach. The fisherman and his crew noted his pallor with disdain, but his coin was good and, as long as he stayed out of their way, they would not bother him.

Waves frothed in the wake of the boat as the wind caught the sails, and it picked up speed. Among the whitecaps he saw the sleek, darting bodies that could only be hrill. On the port side, the fishermen paused over their nets to call out to them, to the dolphins frolicking among the seal-like creatures to compete for attention, and the fish heads the men would eventually toss back into the waves.

Swaying with the movement of the boat and his own unsteadiness, the young man stepped up to the stern, ostensibly to get a better look at the hrill. His breath caught at the dark heads that emerged from the waves to regard him; all his life he had heard of these sacred, intelligent creatures but had never seen one. The waterfront neighborhoods were too rough for well-bred youths, said his father, and his mother complained that such places always smelled unpleasant. From his bedchamber window the young man could see the ocean, and drink in the salty tang of the air that blew inland to cool warm summer afternoons. Until now, that was all he ever knew of the sea.

"You are very beautiful," he murmured to the hrill. With trembling hands, he gripped the rail to lean out and watch them. Time pressed down upon him. Urgency and fear made his heart race. If he was to do it, now was the time. There would not be a second chance.

"What are you doing?"

The boy's voice cut through the breeze, an arrow of annoyance that made him start. Forcing a smile, the young man turned to see about getting rid of the child. "Can you read?"

Curious gray eyes met his. "Just a little, sir, but my da can read better."

From his pocket, he took a sealed letter and pressed it into the boy's hand. He had meant to leave it on deck, but this was better. Its discovery would not be left to chance. "When the boat comes to shore, give your father this. Remember, when you dock and not before, and you are to tell no one you have it until then." He emphasized his point with a silver coin and bade the child to be off.

Toward the prow, he heard the fishermen calling out to each other. Rough nets were cast overboard, well away from the hrill who veered to avoid them. Now was the time, he decided, when their eyes were turned and they had no mind for him.

He pulled himself over the wooden rail, balancing there while he swung his other leg over. Splinters dug into his palms. Sea spray flew up into his face; he licked salt droplets from his lips. Behind him, he heard a shout and knew it was for him. He did not turn to see who had called out or bother to note what the man said. When the rail slid from his grasp, gravity sped him into the water. The sea weighted his clothing, surging into his mouth. Through the stinging spray he saw the boat making a sharp turn. Voices called out advice to tread water and remain calm. No one knew he could not swim.

Pale sky and blurred faces vanished under a smothering blanket of foam. Water swirled into his lungs and, whether he wanted it or not, the body's fight for survival began.

Beastly Intentions - Wendy Stone

Beastly Intentions - Wendy Stone
August, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-926-4
$6 eBook (five formats), $11 paperback - Buy Now!
Author's Backlist: Wendy Stone

"Hurry up!" His growl reverberated throughout the bed chamber.

She hurried up to him, book in hand, her small satin slippered feet scurrying up the steps that led to the huge, ancient bed in the center of the dark, stuffy bedroom. Sitting on the edge, she lifted the book, showing him the front of it, waiting quietly.

"Go on!" he growled, his temper foul.

"Once upon a time," she began, reading from the old book, for that is how all good fairytales begin here and everywhere in the world. "There was a girl born on the edge of a small village to poor people..."

* * * *

Melissa was a beautiful girl, full of love and laughter, and always a kind word to say to any who needed it. She lived with her parents, her father was a slightly bewildered farmer whose crops never amounted to much more than what the family needed. Her mother, once a carefree woman, took in mending and made clothing for the family's more affluent neighbors to help make ends meet.

When it became known that the big manor house outside of the village was being cleaned out, that an owner had been found and would be moving to the country for health reasons, her mother sent her to inquire about work, Melissa was old enough to be a maid.

She dressed in her nicest dress, a muted green that made her hazel eyes shine with gray green flecks and brought out the gold in her blonde hair. She pulled her long tresses back from her face, catching it up in a tail at her nape that fell to the small of her back. She'd blossomed into a beauty in the last days of her eighteenth year, her figure filling out the bodice of the dress nicely, leaving small mounds of flesh to draw the eye. Her hips were slender but ripe, her buttocks pleasing to watch as she walked to the manor house and rang the bell.

"Yes, miss?" said the older gentleman who opened the door. He was thin to the point of leanness, his head bare of hair except for the tiniest bit at his ears. His arms seemed almost too long for his body and his nose filled his face overly much, making him one of the homeliest men she'd ever seen.

"My name is Melissa, sir. Melissa Turner. I come from the village seeking employment." Her voice was breathless from nerves, her cheeks were burning and she knew they must be bright red.

The gentleman opened the door wider, ushering her into the foyer of the huge manor which was still full of cobwebs and dust. "My name is Jeffrey, Miss Turner. I will let the master know that you be wishing to work here." He turned, hesitated a moment, and turned back toward her.

"The master is a sick man, Miss Turner. His illness has taken a toll not only upon his body but upon his manners as well. He isn't ... an easy man to be around. But he is a good man and a fair master most of the time." His ears turned red and he stammered out the order to stay put, as if he were embarrassed by what he'd just said.

He was back before she could get even more nervous, waving her ahead of him, guiding her to a room at the back of the manor house. "He will see you, miss, but I must warn you. Today is not one of his better days. Do not be offended by anything he says. He's not himself."

Melissa nodded. "Thank you, Jeffrey," she said, bobbing him a small curtsey and taking a deep breath as he opened the door and waved her in.

She entered the room. It had once been a grand library, with shelves over all the walls that were now empty of books and covered with dust. A fire roared in the fireplace, sending a wisp of smoke back into the room and causing her to cough lightly as she looked around.

"Well," a voice roared from the shadows. "What are you waiting for?"

"Sir?" she asked, her hand rising to her throat as nerves tried to overtake her.

"You want something ... spit it out, girl."

"A ... A job sir, that is all that I want," she said, speaking up loud enough for him to hear. "I will work hard for you if you will but hire me."

"Undress," he growled from his hidden corner.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Breaking the Rules - Sage Burnett

Breaking the Rules - Sage Burnett
July, 2007 -ISBN 1-59426-463-5
$2.00 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's Backlist: Sage Burnett

Back molars ground together for the third time since stopping her. "Ms. Ames," he repeated. "I'm going to issue you a written warning this time." He'd buckled and damned if it didn't piss him off. "Next time, I'll issue you a citation."

Another bright smile lit up her face. If she didn't stop smiling at him, he'd damn well issue her a ticket for harassing an officer of the law. For the first time he noticed a small dimple in her left cheek. Just one, not two, which made the one dimple all the more sexier.

Straightening to his full height, he flipped open the ticket pad and proceeded to write out a warning.

"That's so generous of you, Deputy. I wouldn't want to ruin my good driving record."

Without looking at her, he said. "You will if you keep speeding."

"This was a one time thing."

His gaze darted down, noticing the innocent expression on Holly's face. Yeah, right. He had no doubt a woman like Holly Ames always got her way with men. Add another notch to her belt concerning him. If he didn't stop grinding his teeth together so tight, he might ending up cracking them.

David signed the slip and tore it off the pad. Bending down, he held it out. Holly took the paper without a word. Not giving the written warning the attention it deserved, she tossed it on the passenger seat, which added to his teeth grinding problem.

"Thank you, Deputy Burton."

If she smiled at him again, he would demand the warning back and write out a real ticket. Holly seemed to sense his mood because her expression turned serious. "I promise to behave." Several seconds later a twinkle sparked in those green eyes. "Scout's honor."

"No walking on the lake."

Placing her hand on her chest, she looked at him. "Oh...please. I learned my lesson the other day."


Their eyes locked and held like two magnets stuck together. Before he had a full fledged hard-on, David straightened away from the vehicle. She poked her head out the window, cheeks painted a becoming pink.

"Have a great day, Deputy."

Jaw tightening, he said through clenched teeth. "Keep to the limit."

"Yes, sir."

A Gamble Worth Taking by Wendy Stone

A Gamble Worth Taking by Wendy Stone
July, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-942-4
$7 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's Backlist: Wendy Stone

The rough wooden door splintered under the pounding of her fists, gashing her flesh. Pain radiated up her arms but was forgotten instantly as Lara kept beating at the door, praying that someone, anyone, would come and free her from this place.

Someone, or anyone but him.

Matthew Trent, Fourth Duke of Marshalling, was the reason she was behind these doors, locked in a chamber high in the tower of his castle. He was the reason she was trapped here, unable to escape, unable to leave this place of horrors. She was to be forced into marriage, the contract having been signed and validated by powerful people, leaving her no recourse but to be brought to this place.

It was her father's fault. If not for his stubborn refusal to quit the life of a debauched gambler and the debts that he had acquired, she would not be here now, a prisoner of the worst rogues that court had ever seen. Lord Matthew had a penchant for seducing young virgins and leaving them, soiled and spoiled, to be rushed into quickly contracted marriages. He drank and gambled, but, unlike her father, Lord Matthew had a way with a wager, never leaving a table as a loser.

His prowess with both women and cards was legendary, as was his skill with the sword and pistol.

He had come to their home, a small, modest manor very unlike the huge castle that was his own residence He'd come to retrieve what he was owed by her father. Money that they did not have and had no way of acquiring, for her father's friends and family had cut them off without a cent. With his high hat and starched cravat, deep claret-colored coat and fawn-colored breeches, Lord Matthew had been the epitome of the dashing young lord.

In this instance, the clothes didn't make the man, though they did frame well what the good Lord had blessed him with. Black hair, rich and thick, curled past his shoulders, clubbed back and tied with a black ribbon. High cheekbones under taut skin, and a thin, aristocratic nose that sat above lips that were just a trifle too wide. Ebony brows slashed across a wide forehead, and thickly lashed eyes that were a piercing shade of green seemed to see all with barely a glance.

He'd been shown into their parlor by their one servant, a woman who'd been with them since before Lara's mother's death ten years before. She'd taken over raising Lara and her little sister Kathleen, as her father had lost interest in his daughters with the death of his beloved wife. The servant, Mary, was too old to go and find a new post and stayed with the family despite the fact that she hadn't been paid in years.

If Lara had only known, she would have stayed in her room that day instead of investigating the raised voice of her father. The curse of curiosity had been stamped on her early in life, always leading her down the path of trouble, and that day was no different.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Certain Way by Renee Blaine

A Certain Way by Renee Blaine
April, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-937-0
$2 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!

It was my own fault.

It was Friday, the night I always worked late at the bank. I was never home before seven, and my husband, Richard, would have dinner from the Crock Pot dished up and waiting for me when I walked in. He didn't like eating alone, and besides, I had to heat the rolls before we could eat. We had a routine, and my coming home early was not part of that routine. He liked things a certain way.

It was my own fault.

My favorite lingerie shop was having its semi-annual sale and I had gone shopping during my lunch hour. I wanted to surprise him with my purchases. Lately, he had seemed more and more distant, and when he was speaking to me, or paying attention, it was as though I had done something wrong. He'd started complaining about the size of my breasts, going so far as to make an appointment for me to have a consultation for augmentation. I'd tried to broach the subject several times, as I was quite happy with the comfortably full breasts I'd been given by nature, but he brushed me aside. He liked things a certain way.

Everything was a certain way--his.

The house was quiet when I pulled into the driveway. The garage door was closed, and a single light burned in the living room against the growing dusk. I smiled, pleased that my boss had allowed me to leave a couple hours early, that I had made it home before Richard. I pulled my bags from the car and pushed the door closed with my hip, walking through the neatly tended bank of flowers and shrubs that bordered the sidewalk to our front door. I stopped to smell one of the last roses of summer, breaking the half-open bud off the bush. I'd put it beside the bed to perfume the air while we made love.

I unlocked the door and pushed it open. The warm, comforting scent of pot roast and home rushed out to embrace me. I had a bottle of Richard's favorite Burgundy in one of the bags--I'd open it, let it breathe, and go shower and get dressed. When he came home I'd be waiting for him, with a glass of wine, a home-cooked meal, and a wife dressed in silk and lace for his pleasure. He would be happy, I thought, and maybe we could actually talk, and re-explore our marriage.

Turning down the hallway, I started towards our bedroom, intending to start the bath running before making my side trip into the kitchen. The door was just slightly ajar, and flickering golden light spilled through the crack. I stopped in the hallway, puzzled. A soft, feminine giggle clarified everything for me. I bent and put my bags on the floor, quietly, and tiptoed to the door, peeking in.

My entire life had been a matter of playing second fiddle to my sisters. I had three, all beautiful and talented statuesque blue-eyed blondes with larger breasts, better figures, and more sex appeal than I had ever had. I was the shy one, the quiet one with the mousy brown hair and odd green eyes, and when I'd come home with my handsome, successful fiancé, the one question in all their minds had been, "Why you?" Admittedly, I had been quietly smug about my catch, happy to tell them what a marvelous man he was, glossing over the minor setbacks and uneasiness in our relationship.

My younger sister, Cara, was straddling my husband, laughing as he licked and nibbled at her breasts.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Blood Creek Haunting - D. Musgrave

Blood Creek Haunting - D. Musgrave
March, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-991-2
$3 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's backlist: D. Musgrave

Her scream echoed through the valley. Emily hit the kill switch on the tiller as fast as she could. The tines jerked to a stop, but not before more bones were pulled up by the plow. She jumped to the side, trying not to step on the skull that rolled out on top of the ridge of dirt. When the first long, white bone emerged, she couldn't believe her eyes. When she saw another, and then another, she knew something was wrong. But it wasn't until she saw the human skull pop out of the soil that she believed it was anything more than the remains of a dead animal.

All she could do was look at the skull, staring back up at her. There was a large hole in the forehead that looked as if something sharp and hard had stabbed through the head. Dirt was packed into the eye sockets and worms oozed out of the holes in the cheeks. It looked as if it was smiling at her, but that couldn't be. There was no skin or hair left on it. She reached out with the toe of her boot and flipped the skull over. The back was caved in. It looked as if something hard had bashed in the back of the head. Suddenly, she felt cold, even in the blazing summer sun. She rubbed her arms, but still she shivered.

Crouching down, she reached for the skull. When her fingertips made contact with the cold bone, a loud rolling yell rang in her ears. Snatching her arm back, she fell on her backside and thought she saw the skull move. She reached out again and touched the skull. This time there was no sound.

Shaking her head, Emily climbed to her feet. She told herself that she was being stupid. Just because the locals believed that the ghosts of the Cherokee warriors who died in the Blood Creek Massacre haunted her land, didn't make the stories true. It was just a ghost story. No superstitious tripe was going scare her off the land her family had owned for generations.

Emily knew, all too well, that if anyone found out about the bones, archeologists would be crawling all over her place. She couldn't risk letting a bunch of strangers dig up her land just so they could discover that the bones were from some unlucky cowboy who'd probably fallen off his horse and cracked his head open.

She went to the backside of the trailer she was living in while her house was being built and grabbed a shovel and a wheelbarrow. She came back to the spot she'd picked out as her garden and put all the bones, and the skull in the wheelbarrow. In minutes, she had removed all the bones and hid them under the pile of scrap lumber the construction crew had made. They were planning to burn the scrap pile on Monday, and with it, her problem.

Deciding she was hungry, she went into her cramped trailer to make a sandwich. Sitting at her little table, she looked at the garden and wondered if those bones were male, and if so, were they from a Cherokee warrior? Though she didn't believe in the tales of the ghostly Indian braves wandering her land, she knew that the massacre had happened in the valley, just not on her family's land. Her family had always said that it happened on the other side of Blood Creek.

After finishing her peanut butter sandwich, Emily went back to work in her garden. She managed to finish tilling the soil and didn't find any more bones. In her mind, it proved her family's story that the massacre didn't happen on their side of the creek. Maybe she'd found bones that were from something other than the massacre--at least that's what she was determined to believe.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Breaking Skye - Eden Bradley

Breaking Skye - Eden Bradley
February, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-906-6
$2.50 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's backlist: Eden Bradley

This could not be him. This man could not be the one who would strip her bare, put her on her knees and do unspeakable things to her ... lovely, wicked things she had only ever imagined in the darkest corners of her mind.

When she'd posted the ad on she'd imagined finding a man with an air of command. A man who carried himself with utter confidence. A man who could guide her through this experience with capable hands.

He was all of these things. But he was too beautiful to be real. Like some fallen angel with his evil-looking goatee, his sharply-honed bone structure, his too-lush mouth. He had shoulders like a Greek god beneath his black trench coat. Droplets of water clung to the fabric, and she watched as he shrugged out of the long coat and shivered a bit at the damp, San Francisco cold. Perhaps he was human after all.

He spoke her name in a low voice that felt like a caress. "Skye."

Certainty in his voice. She had a feeling this man never doubted himself. A Dominant through and through. What had she heard this kind of man called in her research on the Internet? A true Dominant?

"Yes. You must be Adam."

He nodded, took her hand as he slid into the chair across from hers. He held on just a moment too long, the flickering heat of his touch making her wonder if she wanted him to let go. The tiny café table seemed like too little space separating them. Adam Dunne had an enormous, palpable presence.

A waitress came as though summoned and took his order for an espresso while Skye made a brief study of his face. Absolutely masculine, every line, every plane. A short, thick thatch of brown hair a few shades lighter than his goatee. He had a small scar just below his lower lip, making his features appear even more masculine. His eyes were a dark, dusky blue framed in thick lashes. God, what it would be like to have those eyes turned on her, focused...

She shivered and realized he still hadn't released her from his grip. She glanced down and saw another scar on the back of his left hand, a small crescent around the joint of the thumb. Why was it she wanted to run her finger over it? When he turned to her, meeting her gaze, she shivered again with a fine, pure heat.


She hadn't expected to feel this.

"Are you all right, Skye?" He smiled. Gorgeous white teeth.

All the better to eat you with.

At The Edge - Marty Rayne

At The Edge - Marty Rayne
February, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-592-1
$2.50 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
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Michael pulled his jacket closer to his body. Still the cold February wind seeped in, making him shiver. He should have known that coming to New York this time of the year it would still be winter, and he wished he'd brought a heavier jacket. But, as another cold breeze slapped at him, he relished the stimulating sensations. It made him feel real. Alleviated some of the burden on his heart.

The city was alive all around him as lights blinked off and on and the never-ending traffic passed by. The sidewalks were still teeming with people coming and going even at this late of an hour. He wished he felt as alive as those around him.

Michael knew that he should be in a much better mood. He was in New York City. The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. But why did he feel so alone in a city full of so many people?

He crossed the street with a group of strangers when the light told them to walk, his body on automatic. Knowing that this was the way back to the hotel where he was staying. He would have already been there by now if he'd taken a cab, but he opted to walk. He wanted some fresh air along with time alone from the others.

Thinking of his friends, Michael's cell phone started ringing. Seeing who it was, he reluctantly answered it.

"Michael Tanner," Shannon's voice called loudly over the heavy beat of music in the background, her tone scolding, "how dare you leave so early!"

Michael sighed. Shannon was his best friend and the reason for them being in New York. A music scout had heard a demo Shannon had made and insisted that she come and do more recordings. As part of the incentive, the company interested in her work had also taken care of the bill for four of her friends to join her. An all paid, five-day vacation for himself, Shannon's boyfriend Riley, and her twin brother and sister, Christopher and Hannah.

It had been a whirlwind trip as the quartet visited museums and saw the sights while Shannon busied herself at the recording studio during the daylight hours. The music company also supplied their newest interest with tickets to a Broadway show their first night. The rest of the nights had been spent gaining access to several of the top dance clubs in the area where it was a usual sight to be next to hot young movie stars and musicians. Fun to be had by all. Or, that was the idea.

Yes, Michael had enjoyed his trip to the 'Big City,' but still felt saddened despite the excitement of seeing it for the first time. He only wished that Todd could have been the one to experience it along with him.

Todd Long. Michael's Mr. Right. Or, so he thought. Now he wasn't so sure. Things had been a little rocky in their relationship lately. Michael felt as if they were getting into a rut. A routine that was sure to make any relationship wither and die. Michael was only twenty-one years old, being younger than his lover by seven years, but he knew the signs. Their lives revolved around Michael's school and their jobs. They socialized little anymore and their sex life ... well, let's just say it needed help. They were so busy with other things in their life; they hardly made time for intimacy.

"Earth to Michael." Shannon's voice brought him back to the present.

"I'm sorry, sweetie. My head is pounding so I thought I'd turn in early." They had been tearing up the town for three nights straight. He was indeed tired. "Besides, we have a plane to catch tomorrow, remember?"

"Pah ... sleep is overrated," she huffed. "Besides, it's Valentine's Day. We are supposed to be celebrating it all together."

"I know, but I'm tired. I'm almost to the hotel now. You be careful, and I'll see you in the morning." Before she could protest further, he closed the phone and tucked it back into his pocket.

It was Valentine's Day, and here he was alone in a strange city. He would rather be back in Florida with Todd, but he wasn't sure if it would have been any more enjoyable. Todd had been so distant lately, and Michael knew he was partially to blame. He had come on this trip hoping that their time apart would give each of them a chance to evaluate their relationship. His only thought had been to be back home spending his time with Todd again.

Michael nodded to the doorman before entering the posh hotel that Shannon's benefactors of this little trip had set them up in. As a full time student with a part time job, Michael knew that he wouldn't have been able to afford even one night in this place on his own accord. It was top notch. The sucking up they were doing to Shannon was giving all of them a ride. This may be the only time he would ever get a chance to stay in such an elegant place. Teachers normally didn't make huge salaries, but his love of teaching outweighed that of monetary greed.

Stepping into the elevator, Michael turned his thoughts back to Todd and the reasons for his distance. The notion of kicking himself really hard crossed his mind, feeling he was the cause of the further distance between them. Michael had thought that maybe if they brought a little spice into their love life, it would help draw them closer again. So one night, after drinking nearly a whole bottle of wine, he made a confession to Todd.

Michael had always had a specific type of fantasy tucked away in the back of his brain. One he'd told no one before. A fantasy that had made his hands shake nervously as he looked at his lover. Michael had always wanted to try bondage. He had many times fantasized about being bound and helpless at his lover's mercy but was always unsure about seeing anyone's reaction to what he craved, until now.

Todd's reaction to Michael's confession was startling. Michael had held his breath waiting for the expression of disgust, revulsion, or shock to form, but Todd's expression was blank and remained that way. He nodded but said nothing about it. In fact, he kissed Michael on the cheek affectionately before leaving the apartment they shared together saying he would be back later. Later, as in six the following morning later.

That was four days before Michael left for New York, and Todd never did make a comment about Michael's confession or say where he went that night. Now Michael was beginning to regret ever taking the risk.