Saturday, March 1, 2008

Phaze Fantasies, Vol. VI

Phaze Fantasies, Vol. VI - Anthology
February, 2008 - 978-1-59426-858-8
$6 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Authors' Backlists: Jude Mason, Augusta Li, Jessie Verino, N, D. Musgrave, Yvette Hines

From "To Have and To Hold" by Yvette Hines:

"Brett is gone." Patricia ran back out of the sanctuary of the church.

Kelli looked at her mocha colored friend with her platinum colored hair cut in a bob around her face. "What do you mean Brett is gone?"

"G.o.n.e. Like as in not at the altar," Patricia emphasized with a sassy tilt to her head.

Gathering the satin and tulle skirt of her wedding gown in her hands, Kelli brushed past her best friend and marched over to the open doorway. Glancing down the aisle to the altar, Kelli expected to see Brett, her fiancé and expectant groom, standing between the minister and his best man, Dan. Scanning the wedding party, who stood up there with odd expressions on their faces, she saw two groomsmen, one bridesmaid and the junior bride. The cute ring bearer and flower girl were making their way down the aisle to the pianist's beat. Gloria continued to play as if she hadn't been told that the groom was absent. But no Brett.

Kelli turned away from the packed church of two hundred guests and faced Patricia. "Where is he?"

Shrugging, Patricia said, "I don't know. When I came out I didn't see him. But everyone is standing around like he just walked away to go to the bathroom or something. When I look at Carl, he just hunches his shoulders."

This is not happening. Kelli's heart felt like lead as it dropped into her stomach. She and Brett had been planning this wedding for the last year. She sold her condominium, because they would be moving to Charlotte where Brett would be working with his father at their law firm. She quit her job, because Brett wanted a stay at home wife. He'd made a big production of her not renewing her birth control because he wanted them to start a family as soon as possible. Now she had less than a month before she would be out.

Anger boiled in her veins and poured out of her heart like hot lava from a volcano. Brett had a lot of nerve to do this to her after everything she'd sacrificed for him. He professed to love her. But if this was his damn idea of love she didn't want any part of it.

"Weren't Dan and Carl driving with him to the church?" Kelli asked, stepping away from the open doorway.

"When it became apparent that Brett wasn't coming out I signaled to Carl to check on him. When he came back out without Brett, Carl pulled me to the side and said that Brett was acting funny this morning and had decided he wanted to drive to the church alone. Said he needed time to think. Carl said Brett seemed fine while they were waiting in the minister's office, but that Brett told them to go out first and start the wedding and that he would be right out. He said that when he went back there to check on him, Brett was gone. When he looked out Father Riley's window Brett's car was gone as well." Patricia grabbed her hand and squeezed as she finished talking.
Carl was one of the groomsmen, as well as Patricia's husband of four and half years. They had met and married shortly after their college graduation. Unlike she and Brett, who had decided to wait until after Brett graduated from law school and passed the bar exam. Now, to have this happen after her years of patience, felt like a slap in the face. "I've heard of the runaway bride, but the groom…" Kelli could feel her throat become thick with emotions. She knew soon she would be in tears. "…this is a first."

"What are you going to do, Kelli?" Letting her hand go, Patricia moved to a side table in the foyer area, grabbed a tissue, and handed it to her.

She wasn't going to cry. No way she would allow herself to break down in the church where she was supposed to be promising her future husband she would love, honor and obey. What a big joke. Kelli figured she looked like she was about to cry. Swallowing hard and taking a deep breath, she shook her head letting Patricia know she didn't want the tissue.

"I don't know." Turning, Kelli marched back to the dressing room she and Patricia had used to change into their wedding attire. She tossed clothes and other items around until she located her purse. "Where are my keys?"

"In my purse. Why?" Patricia sounded unsure of giving her the information. "Kelli, what are you doing? Why do you need the keys?"

Her eyes were beginning to burn as she clutched at pants, tops and shoes, throwing them over the back of the couch. I am not going to cry. When Kelli finally located her friend's purse on the cushion of a couch, she dug inside. She heard Patricia's voice waver with caution.

"Kel, you can't leave."

Swinging around, she looked at her friend who stood beside the open door. Kelli could hear the notes of Richard Wagner's Lohengrin begin to play from the main sanctuary. She wondered if Brett's Aunt Gloria was deaf, dumb, and blind not to see what was going on around her. Over the wedding music murmurs and whispers were beginning to echo through the guests. "The hell if I can't, the groom didn't see an issue with doing it."

Gathering a handful of her dress one hand and her purse and keys in the other, she brushed pass Patricia.

Kelli felt the quick grip of her friend's hand as she halted her exit.

"Who's going to tell the guests what's going on?"

A bark of laughter erupted from her chest as Kelli looked at Patricia and said, "Tricia, as if they haven't figured out by now that the wedding is off. Not going to happen. Then they're not as smart as I am." With that, she pulled her arm away from Patricia and ran toward the door.

"Where does she think she's going?" Kelli heard Mrs. Cardwell, Brett's mom call out to Patricia in her wake. "She needs to talk to the guests."

Kelli shook her head at the woman's audacity and continued racing down the steps of one of the oldest cathedrals in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mrs. Cardwell wanted someone to speak to the people, she needed to locate her damn son.

Pushing all thoughts of Brett and his overbearing mother out of her mind, she sprinted by the black limo decorated with white ribbons and bows and a large sign that said 'Just Married' on the back bumper. In an hour it would have been taking them to the reception. But not anymore. Arriving at her Carolina blue convertible Mazda MX-5 Miata with its hard top, she unlocked the door. Shoving the bulk material of the skirt of her wedding dress into the car, she closed the door, not caring if any of it got trapped in the frame. She would never wear this dress again.

Starting the car, she pulled out of the parking spot and shifted into drive as she pressed the control to make the hard top retract.

"Kelli!" Mrs. Cardwell bellowed, her face noticeably beet red even from the distance. "You get back here this instant!"

Ignoring her, Kelli drove away as the wind pulled her wedding veil from her head, signaling her departure. She watched her rearview mirror as the pearl headpiece that landed in the middle of the road and Brett's mom both became specks.

The feeling of water streaming down her face as she traveled down the street drew her eyes to her face in the mirror. Damn, I'm crying.

Lady Sun Has Risen by Teresa Noelle Roberts

Lady Sun Has Risen by Teresa Noelle Roberts
February, 2008 - ISBN 978-1-59426-859-5
$2 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
New Phaze Author!

"Why so silent, Miryea?" Velari asked. "You've hardly said a word for hours. I think you offended Shiran and Kiran." Velari inclined her head slightly, indicating the two young men—identical twins—with whom she'd been chatting as the caravan trudged along the high road to Poldar.

Miryea dragged herself out of the well of introspection she'd fallen into and made herself smile. "I doubt it. They had eyes only for you anyway, and you for them. Thought you might like some time to decide which one you'd prefer on the Equinox."

She dropped her voice to a whisper, "Or if you want a matched set."

A grin lit up the little blonde's face. "That's true friendship, Miryea." The grin slipped away almost as quickly as it came. "It's also nonsense. They teach us to read body language in the temple. Something's on your mind." Velari was an acolyte of Lady Sun, traveling to the shrine in Poldar.

Miryea glanced around. Most of the travelers seemed merry, enjoying the fair weather. (Velari's twins were bellowing a lewd song about a Kulchu and a lonely widow, and more and more travelers were joining in. The Kulchu, from the sound of it, was going to turn down the widow in favor of buggering her sheep.) Although spring would not officially arrive for several days, the grass was already green and the almond and apricot orchards lining the high road were fuzzed with pale, fragrant blossoms and tiny, bright new leaves. Birds sang their mating calls overhead, and below, at least some of the travelers seemed to be doing the same, as Velari and the twins had had been earlier.

Miryea wished her heart were so light.

Every day brought them closer to Poldar, and to the master physician—the son of one of her grandmother's myriad old connections from her days in the Soranian Imperial Army—who would oversee her apprenticeship.

Which she had to do in faraway Poldar, two entire satrapies away from home, because no one in Yareth wouldn't want Fanel the Failure's daughter to get anywhere near an actual sick person. At least not without the whole town holding its collective breath, waiting to see if she were more like her grandmother—a decorated veteran of the Kulchu wars—or her father.

Her father. The brilliant scholar who came back from the university heaped with honors, but who fainted the first time he saw a bleeding patient. Who panicked and wavered when faced with a crisis, so that people died who might have lived. Who ended his life as a failure, a drunkard supported by his wife and mother-in-law.
Miryea knew she was like her father in certain ways: a good memory for anything she'd read, an affinity for herbs, cleverness in school.

She only hoped she wasn't like him in other, less desirable ways.

Miryea knew she could put arnica on a bruise, patch up a small cut, or dose someone so a mild cough didn't become pneumonia. That already put her practical skills ahead of her father's.

She didn't know, though, if she could handle a true emergency, the pain and fear of people who were really suffering.

And the closer they got to Poldar, the more it preyed on her mind.

"I know," Velari said, touching her arm gently, "I bet you're worried because we're getting near Thelana satrapy. I certainly am." She shivered theatrically, making her blonde curls bounce. "Hard to believe we're so close when everything still looks so civilized."

At that, Miryea managed a real smile. "You've heard those stories too—about the Thelanese making blood sacrifices to Kulchu demons? My father used to tell them when he was trying to cadge drinks. Good tales, really scary, but nonsense. My grandmother fought the Kulchu. They're barbarians and slavers, but they're not demons. And Thelana's backward after being yanked back and forth between the Empire and Kulchu for so long, but I doubt there's anything too odd about it other than a lot of family trees that look more like grass."

"Do you suppose we need to worry about slave raids?" Velari shivered and looked around her. "I know it's a lot safer than it used to be, but still it's a scary thought…"

Frankly, Miryea didn't think Velari sounded nearly scared enough. To most people who'd grown up in Yareth or the surrounding villages, far from the Kulchu border, slavery was something that happened somewhere else and had an exotic tinge to it that made it more exciting than horrifying.

Most people hadn't been raised by someone who'd fought the Kulchu, who'd freed captives and heard their stories.

"We'll be fine. This is a big caravan." She wasn't going to admit that her grandmother had personally interviewed the caravan-master and had recommended several mercenaries of her acquaintance as guards before she'd let Miryea travel with the group. Admitting it would make her feel like a child, but deep down, knowing it made her feel safer. "Besides, if it comes to it, I know how to fight. I'll protect you."
She hoped.

She was great with her quarterstaff in a practice bout, but actual fighting, in the face of actual danger, was another thing at which she was unproven.

Then a crazy notion popped into Miryea's head, and she went with it because talking about sex seemed far preferable to letting her mind wander even further down paths of self-doubt, or worrying about the possibility of slavers. "We're going to be in Thelana for the Spring Equinox rites. Want to see if we can find out what their festival is like?" She felt a shimmer of excitement at the idea of being the newcomer in some insular village—inhabited, since it was her daydream, by unusually handsome, well-endowed single men as randy as the goats they herded, but a great deal cleaner. She didn't know about Thelana, but in Yareth, it was considered especially good luck to lie with a new acquaintance on the Equinox, a particularly powerful offering to Lady Sun and the Lord of Grain. What a Spring Equinox she and Velari could have, with men lining up to entertain them!

Velari turned a happy shade of pink, obviously thinking along the same lines.
Then Miryea's common sense kicked in, deflating her fantasy. "On second thought, maybe it's not such a great idea. Thelana was a Kulchu territory for a long time and you know how if you live with someone for a while, you'll pick up their bad habits? The Kulchu treat women like cattle."

"More like house pets," Velari concurred. "From what I hear, they're prized, maybe even loved, but still possessions. Half the time they just buy slaves instead of taking wives so the poor things really are possessions. And I'm sure the bad attitude rubbed off in Thelana, even if they didn't take to keeping slaves. Overbearing men and meek, mousy women—I bet that what we'd find in Thelana. And that would make the rites just nasty."

So much for the happiest thought she'd had in several days. She'd have to find her partner for the Equinox rites among the men in the caravan—none of whom attracted her that much. "If they're that much like the Kulchu, Thelanese men are probably dreadful lovers anyway."

They heard a deep chuckle. Miryea turned.

The laughing man was, if not the tallest person she'd ever seen, then one of them. Unlike the other travelers, who were showing signs of fatigue as suppertime drew near, he walked with the long-legged, relaxed stride of someone thoroughly at home in his body. It was clear to Miryea's eyes that the long sword he wore at his hip in a plain leather sheath was an old friend, not (like, for instance, Shiran's) an affectation he might not know how to use properly. He was somewhat older than the two women, but not a great deal.

And as handsome as the Lord of Grain, she thought, but a Lord of Grain carved out of shadow. He was a dark man, black-haired and gray-eyed, with an olive complexion rarely seen among those born in the heart of the Empire. Although the day was not especially warm, he'd taken off his outer coats (at least Miryea figured he must have been wearing them to start out—he didn't look like a beggar). His linen under-robe was slit in the front and hung open, displaying a very impressive bare chest.
She found herself puzzling a bit at how his salvar were cut. Linen, or even a silk-linen blend, shouldn't cling to a man's thighs and hips like that and still allow him to move properly. He had a foreign look to him—apparently they made their pants a bit differently wherever he was from, and she definitely approved.

More than easy on the eyes.

But definitely laughing at them.

"What's so amusing?" Miryea demanded.

"Little girls spouting theories about places they don't understand." The big man had a slight accent, one Miryea couldn't place. "You'll learn soon enough."

"Who are you?" She thought she had met everyone traveling with the caravan but she'd hardly forget such a distinctive-looking man.

Such an attractive man, even if there was something infuriating about him, an air of confidence that bordered on arrogance. "And why are you listening in on our private conversation?"

The man gave an ingenuous smile that Miryea didn't believe for a minute. "My name is Adimir. I joined the caravan only today. As for why I was listening in on your conversation, I drew closer to the two loveliest women around, as a man will, only to hear them spouting nonsense about my land and my people."

Miryea and Velari glanced at each other. Miryea wondered if her own face was as red as Velari's. Probably.

"You're Thelanese?" Miryea said, wishing she could sink into a hole in the ground.
"Part Thelanese, part Kulchu."

He narrowed his eyes and glared at them. The look was part annoyance, part condescension, as if they were someone else's bratty children whom he'd dearly love to swat, but couldn't—and part frank male assessment. He looked ready to start an argument at the very least, and Miryea was relieved that there were other people around.

And in a strange way, very sorry. There was a stern set to his jaw, but his lips were full and sensual, like they'd be more adept at smiling or kissing than frowning—as if he might be ready to argue or rant, but could be diverted into making up the quarrel in some very amusing ways. Some very erotic ways, even. And despite his current grim expression, there was a glint in his eyes that suggested suppressed mischief.
And heat.

Heat which was spreading through her body, making her nipples crinkle and her sex
involuntarily clench.

He loomed closer. Lord and Lady, he was tall. And broad. And as close to perfectly built as a human being could be. Miryea had heard older women talking about "rippling muscles," but had never seen a specimen who actually had them before. It was…distracting. She had to fight not to touch him, to see how that combination of rock-hard muscle and smooth olive skin would feel under her fingertips.

"The Kulchu are not barbarians, let alone demons. They have kept to their own ways instead of falling in with those Soranian. There's good and bad there, as there is any place. Thelana, you will find, is not so different from what you know. The main difference is in most of the Empire they pretend that men and women are the same. In Thelana we celebrate their differences."

"'Celebrate their differences'—is that a polite way of saying 'treat women poorly'?" Miryea scoffed. "Or does it mean 'have a lot of sex'? I approve of that, at least if you're typical of Thelanese men. We don't grow them so tall and broad-shouldered at home."

Had that really slipped out of her mouth?

Lutin's Heir by James Buchanan

Lutin's Heir by James Buchanan
February, 2008 - ISBN 978-1-59426-932-5
$6 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's Backlist: James Buchanan

Prelude, La Rochelle, 1629

I made my way to the small chateau by the sea near Pont-de-Piere, a windswept bit of strand exposed to the coast and isolated from all other habitations. T'was Cardinal Richelieu's choice that it be so. There, in a tiny little villa, in the middle of a religious war, the Lord granted him fleeting periods of freedom from the worries of his office. He could move about as he chose. For a time he could pretend that he was not the second man of France. But, only for moments you understand. Such a fancy could not be maintained for long.

We, his créatures, would come and go without notice of the outside world. The spider's web of information could thrum its warning without any, but he, the wiser. Fishermen brought news of the English fleet. Soldiers carried rumors of dissents in the ranks. Spies, such as I, brought reports from the opposing lines.

The warm summer winds carried the crash of the surf across the night. The noise jarred with the ringing in my ears that had been my lot for weeks now. Shivering on the sand, at the margin of the trees, I waited for him. I could not be warm even in the throes of August. Had I stood amidst the flames of Hell itself, I would have been frozen.

At his approach, I rose from my lie and then nearly fell as a wave of dizziness overtook me. He stood in the darkness, waiting for me to recover. Gorget, breast plate, and greaves flashed under the scarlet robes of his office. Trained for the military, but destined for a life devoted to God and King, he straddled both worlds here. As he stared beyond me towards the black velvet of the ocean, "Tell me."

My nails were bitten to the quick, but I chewed on them anyways. "La Rochelle is the same, only worse now."

"How so?" Five guards stood back apace from us. Although near enough that they could come to his aid, they all knew not to approach too closely. What I would say was to be heard by one man only.

"There are no more miracles as they called them. Even the devil has ceased to torment the heretics with false hopes of salvation." Early on the defenders would pray for deliverance and such would be answered by a ship of meal or small victory. Even those counterfeit hopes came no more. "Jean Guitton fights hourly with the clergy. He wishes to cede the day to you."

"And what has brought about such a change of heart in the Maire? Was it not he who started this farce?"

Shrugging, "Madame Guitton succumbed to the privations this last week."

"So he is upset that he has had to bury his wife?" His voice carried both contempt for the man's weakness and sorrow for his loss.

"No, Your Eminence." I rubbed my hands for warmth. My fingers burned as though stung by a thousand ants. The ulcers where I had bitten into my own skin broke fresh. "He is upset as there was not enough of her left to bury."

For a moment the horror of my words did not register. Then, slowly, their import wound through his mind. "Is it almost done here then?"

"Almost." I blinked and shook my head to clear the spots that swam before my eyes. "There are still a few of the most rabid who say they will die in La Rochelle. Many others are willing to make certain they do."

"Bon," as if he half expected the news, "they will expect a report?" When I nodded my assent, he continued. "This, then, is what you must tell them." For an hour or more he filled me in on such things as I should know. In these last months my memory had begun to suffer lapses and thus he must quiz me over details. I repeated and repeated what I was told until I had it to his satisfaction. Finally there was nothing more to be locked within my brain. Before I could take my leave, the Cardinal's voice drew gentle. "Julius, where do you plan to go when this is done?"

"Some say that the Duc de Rohan will not concede." My voice had faded to a hoarse whisper. "I thought that I might go to him."

"And when we have crushed him?"

"I will go wherever your eminence tells me I must."

He turned to me then and put his hand on my shoulder. "You understand, Jules, I cannot afford to spare you from among their number. Whatever fate is theirs will be yours as well." The legend of Richelieu is that of a despot. He was always anything but. Removed and calculating to be sure, but gentle, brave and warm to those he held affection for. In my dreams my father was he… it could never have been aught but a dream. My father was Fé and Richelieu and I were almost the same age. Sad brown eyes considered my emaciated form.

Have you ever seen a man who is starving? Skin turns to oiled paper. Every bone and joint is wrought in base relief. The approach of mortality is carved into your skull. I had always been slender, tall, and muscular. Physical labor was no stranger to me. In these past months my patron had witnessed me fade to a shadow. As Richelieu was prone to do at times when emotion conquered him, tears slid down his cheeks. I studied the line of the shore in the distance pretending I did not see him overcome by the sight of me... by the knowledge that I was so because he had asked it of me.

"Oui. I understood such from the moment I received your orders." My wife had brought them home to me, home to our lands in La Florida. I had not seen my eldest son in more than a year. I had never met the babe that clutched at her skirts. She could not bring herself to tell me that first day, nor for some days after. Finally Keiko had whispered the charge of my patron, commanding me to France. But I was not to go to him. I should instead, make my way to La Rochelle as a convert to the cause.

It was not unreasonable to think that such could be. My wife's family was Scots, long a stronghold of the reformed faith. We had weathered a summer there of late. La Florida was a bastion of Huguenot flight. Calvinists outnumbered Catholics in the Americas three to one. My provincial position was, in truth, an exile, banishment for murder. I would have many reasons to join with the unrest. To have the Vidamé du Caroline renounce his faith and see the truth of God was propaganda for the Calvinist masses who had raised themselves against their king. Such things had quickly garnered me the trust of the men within the city.

More than a year now La Rochelle had withstood the blockade. I had slipped into the city towards the close of the previous year, before the ring of guns on blockships had cut off the harbor. Protestant Charles I had promised aid. The hoped for salvation from England had never truly come. A few ships here or there had managed to run the blockade. Supplies had long since dwindled to nothing. Prayers, once effective, were wasted.

Dog and donkey meat had been luxuries in La Rochelle when I first arrived. Then the residents of the besieged town stewed leather in tallow until even that was gone. There was not a mouse or rat to be found within the city walls. We ate what under normal conditions would have been unthinkable. Tens of thousands of people had died during the siege. Perhaps a little beyond five thousand were left.

I still shudder at the thought of what I was willing to consume then. I thought of nothing else but eating. Even the brief escape of slumber had been denied to me by the crawling emptiness in my stomach. My apartments were crammed with useless pots and books and clothes. I could not leave anything be. I might have need of, might want it later.

Thus, these last horrid months, I had brought Richelieu the news of the state of the siege from within the city walls. In return I gave the defenders snippets of the truth mixed with stories of the Cardinal's devising meant to show how hopeless the situation was. Some were fabrications. Some were truth. Some were a mixture of both.
After I made my reports, I would find myself loitering, delaying my return, just to watch his guards at their simple meals. Fantasies, rivaled in nature only by those sexual ones which beset me as a youth, overcame me at the smell of food. There was no joy in my life except the hope that someday I might sit at a table and eat until I burst. "Have you further instructions for me?"

"Non. You may go." As I turned to make my way back to Hell, "Jules, when the city falls, do not go to the Duc. Others will serve me there."

I knew he meant it to be my salvation. It rang in my ears as a dismissal. "As you wish, Your Eminence."

He walked back to his guards. For a moment he paused and spoke with a soldier with a sergeant's knot on his shoulder. Both looked at me, and the officer nodded in response to a question I was not privy to. Then Richelieu took his leave accompanied by four of his guards.

The captain approached. Tortured black eyes looked out from beneath his broad brimmed hat. I smiled. "Bonjour, mon ami." His clothes and arms spoke of his rank. The livery he wore spoke of his position within the house of the Cardinal. "You are looking well. Your new situation suits you."

Swallowing his emotion, "I've brought yer something." He could not manage more than a whisper. Like the Cardinal, he was forced to witness my slow descent into a caricature of death. A small packet was cradled as though he held the Host in his hands. My stomach roiled at the scent of bread and cheese.

"Non. Curran, I cannot." I don't know if he understood what hell it was for me to turn him down. "If I ate anything now I would be ill."

"Jules," the Irishman's voice caught, "Jaysus, don't die on me."

What could I say? "I have no intention of doing so without a fight." It was time to go. We could only have spare moments to speak with each other. Sometimes all we could console ourselves with was to be in the same room as I reported to my patron. I stepped to him, pulling him into my arms. His hot tears slid down my cheek. "Do not worry," I whispered into his skin, "God will protect me."

Half a dozen men waited for my return in the chapel of La Rochelle. Like me, all were on the edge of death. Months ago we had abandoned the preambles of rank and courtesy. Such things were luxuries we could ill afford. I dropped myself onto a bare bench, stretching out as if to sleep. A wave of nausea swept over me as lights danced behind my eyelids.

When I had recovered enough that I could speak, I gave my report, "Le Roi has returned to the battlefield. He has taken command. The longer we resist, the more determined he becomes to crush us." Grumbling swept round the room. Throughout the battle the young king had alternatively taken ill and recovered. Each time he was well enough he returned to fight. Each time he returned to fight his troops rallied. "The news from England is worse. Buckingham is dead. There will be no more ships raised by him." Both of those things were true. They would soon enough be verified by others. The men fell to arguing among themselves. I cared not for it and turned my head to the wall. Silently I prayed for this hell to end.

I prayed to die.

What ships the Duke of Buckingham had raised before his death came and were driven back. The Cardinal and King could be seen among the troops. Both manned cannon during the brief assault. Yet another month we held out. One more was needed for the negotiations to be completed. The terms were the unconditional surrender of the town. Protestant chapels would become Catholic churches. As with other Huguenot nobles who survived the siege, I was forced to make public renouncement and conversion back to the Catholic faith. Le Roi was lenient for those who did; three years of banishment, but none forfeited their lands or profits.

Many who had survived starvation died horribly from the instant effects of return of a normal diet. I had so little control over myself that I found I had to stay away from food. Even when I had eaten so much that I would vomit, I could not find a point of satiation. I returned home to recover my health and let all men forget about my existence until he should need me again. Curran stayed behind, in the service of the Cardinal's guards.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dulce by Leigh Ellwood

Dulce by Leigh Ellwood
August 2006 - ISBN 978-1-59426-607-2
$2 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's Backlist: Leigh Ellwood

So this was Caracas at three in the morning.

The wrong side of the tracks, assuming trains chugged through Venezuela en route to deforestation elswhere. Here was a side of town Fodors had clearly missed, a neighborhood set to the soundtrack of screeching Russian-made automobiles and slurred, Spanish curses. Shattered glass sparkled on dirt avenues under yellow lamplight; the salty tang of nearby waters hung thick in the air. Here, surely, was where the kids of Spring Break banded together for safety when the money ran low, when they were too full of pride and independent spirit to call home.

Here was a place the tires of chartered tour buses never tread. One would never see this part of the otherwise glamorous city in the backdrop as Robin Leach waxed gloriously of sangria wishes and churros dreams.

Neil Randall smiled through the windscreen of his helmet at Caracas at three in the morning, thinking of how much Cal Briscoe would have loved this place. Pity that his best friend was unable to accompany him on this trip, choosing instead to do something so out of character as fall in love and get married.

Que loco. How crazy, were those the words? Crazy to fall in love and marry after decades of confirmed bachelorhood. Crazy to suggest Neil do the same, to remarry anyway. Shake off the grief and anger, sell the bike, bloom where planted and find a pretty flower to stab repeatedly with his pistil until her petals wilted.

No, those hadn't been Cal's exact words, but they had been muy loco nonetheless. All Neil could remember of his last meeting with Cal was tuning out the lecture after the fourth beer and thinking of his passport and keys, both of which pinched his skin through a back denim pocket as he rocked on his ass, eager to leave the bar for this vacation. Nod and drink, nod and drink, until Cal's wife dragged him to the dance floor, where the two joined crotches in a seductive tangle. Cal's words had glance off of him. Neil would not remarry, he decided, yet he fully intended to stab many flowers before the month was over. He would be the plant kingdom's answer to Jack the Ripper, there would be so much stabbing with his rock hard pistil on this trip.

What a trip it had been so far. Even the most arid patches of the continent had provided at least one flora bonita to give his cock a good workout. Caracas, he hoped, would prove as bountiful as the Amazonian rainforest. He wanted to limp home with Popsicle sticks taped to his cock like splints, and fondly recall having screwed around as much as his ex-wife did in the ten years they had been married.

Sí, muy loco, as the natives might say. A man would be crazy, too, to ride the coast of South America in full leathers—in Agosto—to plow through miles of pussy, but here he was. True, he could have stayed home and sampled the spoils Cal left behind when he married, but that notion held no excitement for him. American women were wonderful lovers, yes, but the temptations of exotic Latin America beckoned strongly. So many countries, so many different flavors. A smile played on Neil's lips—he could still taste Honduras.

Ugh. The heat didn't take a break in the early hours. Neil's temples burned and itched and beaded with sweat underneath his heavy helmet.

He steered his Harley into the gravel lot bordering the pool of the El Cacto Verde, drawn by the half-lit sign depicting a smiling cartoon cactus beckoning passersby with a prickly, fingerless hand. Hardly a four-star resort, The Green Cactus looked as though it tried very hard to live up to the name. It was a leprachaun green strip motel nestled like an unsightly mole among the sleek distant landscape of towering resorts, which were no doubt built to purposely block the middle and lower classes from the sun. The building had the look of a teenage beach movie set from the 1960s. Neil had to wonder if morning would bring the requisite villainous real estate developer, itching to evict Franco and Annette so he could tear down the place and erect luxury timeshares and one or two El Starbuckos.

He removed his helmet and shook away the discomfort of the ride, feeling as though he had been freed from a microwave only to fall into a kiln. No gust of tropical breeze welcomed him. Nor did any natives...at least, there were none that Neil could discern from the lively crowd gathered poolside. A rusted chain-link fence, sagging in places, surrounded the many college-age kids splashing in the water, which was illuminated by lights fixed in its cement bottom. The kids ranged from lily white to lobster red, all boisterous and clearly American, so Neil surmised as he listened to their racuous banter.

He checked in quickly, paid cash up front for the week, and started past the fence with his key-card in hand—one modernization, he was pleased to see. Perhaps there would be an indoor toilet in his room, too.

He kept his gaze low, avoiding the clandestine stares of doe-eyed co-eds draped across lounge chairs and dampened beach towels, looking close to lifeless in the sticky hot air as they struggled to lift longneck beer bottles to their lips and bob their heads to a distant radio. Pretty though they were, American girls were off limits during this tour. Many of his conquests weren't English-speaking, and had no means of getting to the United States to track him down. He played safe, but all the same he didn't want trouble following him home.

He checked rusted door numbers along the path past the pool and realized he had walked too far. His room was situated within the courtyard, granting him front row seats to the party. He bit back a curse as he retraced his steps and hung a right at the fence. If anything, perhaps they could provide some entertainment if he was unable to tune them out and sleep. The girls were practically nude, excellent eye candy to picture in his mind while whacking off.

Closer to his room, a young coed paused against a stronger patch of fence, watching him with childlike fascination. Tiny fingers looped around links high above her head; her right pinky clasped around the neck of a brown beer bottle. Standing in this position presented to Neil the picture of a lithe pixie with saucer wide eyes and lips twisted in amused restraint.

Cute, he decided, and obviously American despite the deep tan. Off limits, alas. If she left this supposed college graduation trip without her virtue it wouldn't be by his doing.

She appeared to appraise his appearance, amused no doubt by his jeans and leather jacket. "Don't think you'll be getting a sunburn now," she told him. "Why the getup?"

Her dishwater blond hair was slicked back behind her ears. Water droplets beaded on her forehead and small bust, which was barely concealed by a blue and white polka dot bikini top. The matching bottom proved an even smaller scrap of material, Neil saw as the girl swayed her hips to the song's beat. The patch covering her crotch tapered back to two thin straps circling her waist, leaving nothing but the promise of seeing more skin if she turned her back.

She wasn't as thick as he liked them, but she was definitely tempting enough to cause Neil to reconsider. He could see a strip of hairless pussy lip peeking from the thong bikini, and imagined her skin tasting like a sticky sweet combination of dried suntan lotion and tropical sunshine.

"There's a reason for wearing this much clothing when you ride a motorcycle," he told her, "even in the heat of summer."

Her lids lowered demurely. The added lazy tilt of her smile lent her face a dreamy expression. The faint aroma of weed wafted in from poolside, and Neil surmised the girl probably had a hit sometime in the evening. "Sounds interesting," she purred, her voice taking on a sudden husky quality. "Wouldn't mind hearing why."

The key-card was slick in his hand. His thumbpad slid rapidly over the raised, emblazoned cactus logo, back and forth until he thought he could wipe the image clean. He wouldn't mind repeating this action against her clit, pushing his fingers through the chain links and stroking her tiny pink bud until she screamed her release and dribbled down the fence. Maybe, too, he could undo his pants and thrust his cock through a hole in order to get to her hole. He pictured the girl with her ass against him, her arms flying backward to grasp the fence for support as he fucked her, the thin metal leaving marks in her creamy flesh. He could hear the shrill jingle of loosened chain links collapsing, falling victim to their passion.

No. She was a slip of a girl, probably some barely legal heiress blowing her great-grandfather's hard earned tobacco fortune, slumming at El Cacto Verde to piss off somebody. Or to see how the other life lived.

Oh, but he wanted to tear away that thong and sample her other half.

Double Dare by Leigh Ellwood

Double Dare by Leigh Ellwood
September, 2006 - ISBN 978-1-59426-619-5
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"We did it, guy."

Cal leaned against the stucco exterior of the chapel, flicking the dead ash from his cigarette. He hadn't seen Brady appear at his side, and turned only when he was addressed. Brady's tie was loosened now, the top buttons of his shirt undone. Relief highlighted his friend's face…or was that the glare cast from the neon flamingo lovers?

"Yep." Cal drew out the one word for a few seconds and patted his jacket pocket for his soft pack. He offered a cigarette and light, both of which Brady took. He was taken aback by the enthusiasm with which his friend thanked him. "What? It's a cigarette. You don't even smoke regularly anymore."

"I know that," Brady said. "I meant thank you for letting me witness something I thought I'd never see: your wedding. We should call Hell for the weather report, see if Hitler's ice skating down there."

"Shut up." Cal snickered, yet inside he still felt a bit numb. After decades of confirmed, debauched bachelorhood, he thought he'd never see this day either. He certainly had never planned it, back in the day, anyway. Now that it was here, it felt great indeed, if not a tad surreal. "The girls still inside?"

"Yeah, they'll be out in a bit. Don't see why they need to bother, 'putting on their faces.' The second I get Ellie in that limo I'm only going to mess her up again."

"Can I watch?"

"You're riding with us, like you have a choice." Brady grinned, and Cal laughed along with him. "Watch all you want, unless you plan to be busy with your lovely lady, of course."

"I plan, of course." The prospect of limo sex excited Cal. The thought of Sue spread-eagled on a bench seat as he kneeled before her, eating her pussy, caused his cock to stir in his pants. That Brady and Ellie would be mere inches away engaged in some heavy-duty lovemaking only enhanced his mood. It wouldn't be the first time Cal had an audience or dabbled in group sex, either. At the peak of Brady's career, when the two toured the world as a couple of horny bachelor musicians, both had partaken of a number of interesting sexual activities and combinations, in the most interesting of places. "Gonna be just like the good old days, but much better."

Looking at his friend's smiling face, Cal wondered if Brady was reliving a few of those memories as well. "Hey," he nudged Brady, nearly jostling the cigarette from his friend's mouth, "What's with you, reliving the good old days?"

"Planning good old days to come." Brady exhaled a ribbon of gray smoke and dropped the smoldering butt to the ground, then smashed it with his heel. His face turned suddenly serious, and Cal felt suddenly guilty. Had he said something wrong to upset Brady? Ellie was very much aware of her new husband's checkered past, and had even encouraged reenacting some of his stories with her, so Cal couldn't imagine what was bothering his friend.

He didn't have to ask, however. Brady cleared his throat, and his skin flushed. Highly unusual behavior for his normally bold friend.

"You planning to give Sue a wedding gift?" he asked Cal.

Cal shrugged. "Actually, I hadn't given it much thought. I knew I wanted to marry Sue, and when I proposed I told her we could do it any way she wanted. I figured she'd want a big wedding." He smiled at the memory of that night. He had taken her to the nicest restaurant in Sue's native, small town Dareville—actually, Dareville's only restaurant—and had the waiter smuggle the ring in the crème brulee. He had given Sue the works, got down on one knee and embarrassed them before a dozen diners, all of whom erupted with applause when Sue happily accepted.

That Sue had assured Cal that a quickie Vegas wedding would suit her surprised him as much as his proposal surprised her. And here he was now, smoking a cigarette and clutching a paper-framed Polaroid wedding snapshot, embossed with the chapel's flamingo logo. It was cheesy, yes, especially considering that Sue was a professional photographer. Certainly she could have arranged for a statelier portrait. She loved the snapshot, though. It was what she wanted. This was what she wanted.

And Cal wanted it, too.

Definitely, though, he would have to give Sue something special for their wedding. He wanted to ask Brady for suggestions, but his friend seemed lost in thought.

Brady shifted his weight, and bent one knee. He seemed to be mentally searching for the right words to say, and when the words finally came, Cal tried his best not to laugh out loud.

"Ellie's giving me a three-way…what?"

"Nothing." Cal held his breath for a few seconds and exhaled his laughter. "No offense, but that hardly seems like a unique gift." Like Brady, Ellie had an incredible sexual appetite, and Cal was especially aware of it, having joined the couple in threesomes before he met Sue. He wondered which of their hotel's hunky stewards managed to hit the jackpot tonight, so to speak.

"Yeah, well, this is different. Another woman this time," Brady said, and Cal nodded. Far as he knew, that had been the one border the couple had yet to cross. As for this event happening on their wedding night…most people might find the notion odd, but Cal understood. His friends were highly sexual. What would seem like an unnatural act to some was quite commonplace for the Garristons. As for the choice of date, it did make some sense. Brady could only take so much time off his current tour, and more than likely Brady had taken his time in finding the right woman, rather than pick up some groupie in a strange town.

"You know I've told you that Ellie had once expressed interest in it, being with another woman, but the one time we were about to do it she called it off. I guess she wasn't ready to be with a woman yet, and that's why I'm conceding now." Brady sighed and shifted his hips. Cal could see his friend's loose slacks tenting, and he turned away with a chuckle.

"Conceding? Guy, I'd hardly call two women at once conceding."

Brady shook his head. "That's not what I meant. Ellie is conceding to this, for me. Nothing would turn me on more than watching Ellie going at it with another woman. Just the thought of watching her kiss another woman, eating her pussy…"

Cal groaned. Yeah, that would be a nice sight. Beautiful, blond Ellie, naked and curved in all the right places, crouched over a faceless woman and tapping at a swollen, pink clit with her tongue. Maybe Ellie would be reaching underneath to stroke her own slick labial folds while she was doing this…

Great, now he held the image in his head of Ellie going at it with another woman. Cal felt his cock twinge when the other woman in his fantasy took on a face, Sue's.

"God, I'm getting hard right now just thinking about it," Brady continued. "I need another cigarette."

Cal stiffened. He really needed a joint to calm himself after this vision, but he didn't partake anymore. Used to be a few hits helped him get in the mood, but he didn't need any extra stimulation with Sue. This new development, however...he surmised he needed the hit to calm down.

"Shouldn't you wait until after the sex for the smoke?" Cal joked. He was close to melting in the dry, desert heat. "Anyway, she's conceding to your desires. What's your big sacrifice?" Cal hoped for something to supplant the erotic image in his head, but knew if what his friend said next made him even hornier, Sue wasn't going to have a chance to breathe once he got her in the limo.

"Ellie wants…" Brady paused with a sigh, smiling foolishly, " to do me."

"Well, there's a news flash." Cal brought his cigarette to his lips for one last drag.

"With a strap-on."

Cal paused. The cigarette smoldered in his hand, a line of ash growing as he lowered his hand. "So she wants to…ah."

"Ah," Brady echoed. He looked like a little boy next to Cal now, having committed a grave sin and awaiting his turn in the confessional.

Dolce and Diana by Cassidy Kent

Dolce and Diana by Cassidy Kent
March, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-524-2
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After a quick and painless divorce, fashionista Diana Radford (formerly Simmons) is ready to start over. With a settlement of three million and a resort island off the coast of Grenada, she decides to realize her culinary dreams by taking over the island's restaurant, naming it "Dolce" after her mother. Although not classically educated in the culinary arts, Diana possesses a rare natural ability and puts it to work creating brilliant Italian/Caribbean fusion dishes.

Chance Kohler is a culinary celebrity like no other, with an arrogance to rival his talent. After helming several 5-star restaurants in the States, Chance jumped at the opportunity to host "Fighting Chance", his own reality cooking series. For the past two seasons, he's faced off against the best and the brightest of the cooking world. When Diana is selected as his next opponent, Chance balks at his producer's choice. The former waitress doesn't even have a degree and has only had her restaurant for six months, even if she is some kind of prodigy!

From the moment Chance sees Diana dicing mangoes in designer couture, she whets his appetite and leaves him craving for second helpings. Diana can't stand his antagonistic edge, but there's no denying the delectable sensuality in his every movement. After all, even if she loses to him, it means press for her resort. But if she wins, Diana will be the series' new host and Chance will suffer the humiliation of losing. Either way, the competition will be fierce but tasty, and the whole world will be watching.

Read an Excerpt
Length: Comet (30K)
Rating: 2 Novas (click here for our ratings legend)

EXCERPT

Five minutes until their arrival. The camera crews, the executive producers, the prop masters.

The host.

Five minutes until her world changed. Goodbye to the solitude of the Cease and Sekkle Inn, to the relative obscurity of her restaurant Dolce, to her peaceful little resort island off the coast of Grenada. Diana Radford could deal with change. She just didn't know if she could deal with fame, even if only for fifteen minutes.

Too late for second thoughts. Any moment they would speed in on motorboats, silhouetted against the fiery glow of a Grenadian sunset as they unpacked their equipment.

Focus, Diana. You've got a first impression to make.

She smiled. Now there was an idea she could wrap her thoughts around. She had planned a feast that would knock the socks off of any off-islander. The resort's regulars might have come to expect her dazzling creations, but the impending visitors would not.

Tonight's feast was all about casual elegance. The kitchen staff already ran at full speed to keep up with the demands of Dolce's regular guests, but Diana had retreated to her private kitchen to prepare the welcome meal. Since she flew solo in the kitchen tonight, Diana had made sure to select a menu that would allow for early prep work, refrigeration, and fast cooking time.

Dolce would offer shrimp and mango pizza bites for the appetizer, as well as tostones with pineapple salsa. The entrée would be simple, but jaw-dropping delicious, jerked chicken in brown-sugar peanut rub laid over a bed of angel hair pasta. For dessert, the piece de resistance ... island spice cheesecake.

The oven-ready pizzas waited in the refrigerator along with the marinated chicken breasts and the cheesecake. For the moment, she diced ingredients for the pineapple salsa. A few minutes from now, Diana would pop the pizzas into one of Dolce's industrial ovens, load up the broiler with the chicken, and boil the pasta to al dente perfection. These thoughts calmed her racing mind for a moment, taking her focus away from the impending doom.

Some group of friends she had. All of her gal pals had visited her on the island for a post-divorce check-up a few months back, and as usual, Diana had done all of the cooking. Her repayment? Robin, Freesia, and Raleigh had all conspired against her. They had brought along an innocent video camera, presumably to capture their vacation moments for posterity. Three months later, it turned into a tool of evil, used against Diana to submit her kitchen antics to the producers of Fighting Chance, the reality cooking show.

Ever since she'd been selected as the next contestant, Diana had done her homework, religiously watching repeat episodes to get an idea of what she would face. Each season, a new opponent squared off against Chance Kohler, a celebrity chef of epic proportions. Owner of several five-star restaurants and author of a dozen wildly popular cookbooks, Kohler had easily knocked off every contestant. Perhaps "knocked up" more aptly suited the situation.

Diana threw back her head and laughed.

Okay, okay. That rumor was disproved.

Discovery by Rob Graham

Discovery by Rob Graham
February, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-904-2
$2 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
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I had known Marie for just over a year. We first met online when I started to explore the lifestyle. When we found out we lived in the same city, we met face-to-face. The two of us became rather good friends in a short time.

She was lesbian, and a domme, so there was no sexual tension between us. I started to pick her brains about the BDSM scene, and she helped me examine why I was so interested in her world.

I grew up being dominated, not in the sexual sense but in all other aspects and unpleasantly so. Always there was the threat of pain and humiliation. It had nothing to do with discipline and everything to do with power. The people dominating me could have cared less how I turned out just so long as I didn't break their rules.

Given my strong personality, this was a difficult thing to do. Sometimes I was perverse, disobeying for no reason other than to get up the nose of my owners. By inviting their punishment I could prove to myself that I had the grit to take it and smile.

When I became an adult, my unhappy upbringing and my anger made relationships of all kinds difficult. My distrust and dislike of those with power made working and socialising a distasteful thing.

And that attitude extended to myself. Being a strong man, I had a great deal of power of my own, which I kept well hidden and under tight control. I was always afraid that I would be as irresponsible as those who raised and taught me. I adopted a facade of the quiet, polite person: someone soft, with no interest of or use for power.

It didn't work well. I was always uncomfortable with the role. The disguise didn't fit me. It was a clumsy, inappropriate thing that held me back.

My graceless ineptitude extended to my relationships with women. Since I was unsure of myself, they were unsure of me. I would generally chase strong women, telling myself I was weak and needed their strength. It never worked. If the women were controlling, I would push them away. If their strength was a mask to cover weakness, my guise as less than what I was would be unsatisfying to them. And if they really were strong, we would end up in conflict over who was strongest. All my couplings with women had been short and unhappy. It had been many years since I had even bothered to try.

In spite of my ambivalence towards power and control, I had always found D/s fascinating. I was, it took me long to realise, by nature a dominant person. The idea of a relationship where I could be the one in command was a very exciting one for me. I consistently pushed those desires aside, though. I couldn't help but think that such a joining was based on power and control. As arousing as I found it, I felt a connection revolving around those traits alone would make me resemble the people I grew up hating.

Over many long and often alcohol sodden nights, Marie and I had discussed all this. Like all good friends, she never judged, merely asked questions and made observations. Sometimes she used her own relationships and those of others she knew to illustrate falsehoods I had about the lifestyle. Certainly, there were people in the life whose only interest was power, but for many there was a deeper bond with the discipline and playing merely a facet of that link. What they did together was emotionally satisfying and fulfilling, not a display of weakness at all.

With that revelation, my mind began to change. I came to the conclusion that maybe here was a place I could truly be myself. In the life, there would be less conflict within me, and I could approach something resembling contentment.

I decided it was time for me to do more than talk about it.

When I shared this discovery with Marie, she had invited me to her party. And now she had let me know that she had also invited someone with whom I could explore my new interest.

Diet Another Day by Sammie Jo Moresca

Diet Another Day by Sammie Jo Moresca
January, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-532-7
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Remember, this is a team effort. Your roommate will be your lifeline when the chocolate calls. Don't let her fail you. The team that loses the most on the Body Mass Index at the end of the month will be awarded the spokesperson's contract worth upwards of forty thousand dollars," said the trim boot camp diva of ceremonies with legs of steel. She had her audience riveted.

Crystal couldn't have cared less about becoming an infomercial diva. She wanted a new life. As she looked around at controlled applause in the sea of pink skirt suits in subtle shades from cloud to fuchsia, she finger-combed her long, mousy brown hair and squirmed, tugging on her size 1X stretch jeans, to make her thighs and crotch comfortable. Giving up, she flicked a tiny dandruff flake off her black ribbed tank top and tucked her errant white bra strap back underneath.

One other soul stood out. Seated in the rigid conference chair next to her was her Scottish e-pal Rosaleen Dalrymple, who'd talked her into this retreat. Bespectacled, frizzy redheaded Rosaleen wore an ankle length, blue plaid jumper, dingy grey tee shirt with armpit stains, and plastic flip flops. Crystal shook her head. Had she any idea how Roslaeen dressed, perhaps she would have treated her to a new outfit or two.

"As you'll see on page forty-one, along with a strict ten carbohydrates per day diet, the exercise component is straightforward. Activity, ladies. The best and safest way for you Sofa Sherries to begin is walking. The valet will not release your Mercedes until after graduation. Cabs will not carry you, the busses will not shuttle. Don't even think of renting one of those cute little motorized scooters you see models zipping around on. Use your large muscles, ladies. Build endurance. Increase your aerobic capacity."

The women applauded again.

Crystal was on board. Yes. I can walk. Yes, if my meals are prepared, I can adjust to a restricted carbohydrate diet. All of the support will be fun. Just like college. Or what my impression of college is like from books. A wave of shame tried to overtake Crystal. Everybody here probably has at least a bachelor's degree. And a fabulous career.

"You will be assigned a canteen. Keep it filled and with you at all times. Optimum water intake is twelve eight-ounce servings per day. Strive to hit that target exactly. No more, no less. And subsequently, ladies, you need to feel free to pee. With two hundred women on the same schedule, the designated restrooms at this conference center will prove inadequate. Do not waste time in line. Guard the door of the men's room and take turns. A body waiting in line for a toilet is not a body in motion burning fat. If you stand in line for five minutes every time nature calls this month, you will be two pounds heavier. It's not worth it, ladies."

Uproarious laughter and nods filled the room.

No wonder I'm fat. Wow. I had no idea. Yes, absolutely I'll use the men's room. All right then, two pounds guaranteed weight loss. Check.

"Turn to page forty-eight. Tomorrow's itinerary: Breakfast in the Palm ballroom from five-fifteen to five thirty-five. Feel free to mingle and meet the other ladies. Most of you are sales consultants with the Patty Unger Cosmetics Company. Enjoy chatting with your counterparts from other states and territories. After breakfast, you all have a rigid list of activities to achieve before lunch at high noon, back in the Palm ballroom. You and your roommate are responsible for each other's successful completion. Don't be a weak link."

The ladies applauded yet again. Crystal turned to Rosaleen. The friends smiled and nodded in unison.

Crystal skimmed the activities. This sounded fun. A sunrise stretching period on the beach. Power walking in the saltwater pool. A four-minute restroom break. Thirty-six minutes on the cardio machines. Sweat a few pounds off in the sauna. Power Pilates. Thirty minutes to shower and dress for lunch.

"Our afternoons are for spiritual growth. We will meet for a prayer session on the beach, in front of the first lifeguard stand to the left of the steps. We will rotate through the world's religions. Deeply contemplate the messages. Open your heart to your maker. Accept Him in different forms through the hearts of your peers."

Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. At least we'll get to relax.

"At one PM, you will break off into groups for barefoot beach walking. Please arrive in a suitable bathing suit with ample sunscreen, SPF fifty or higher, sunglasses, and sun bonnets. Each group will receive a unique novel to read while walking. Yes, ladies. We will learn to integrate exercise seamlessly into our lives. You can, and will, walk and read a book. Be prepared for a pop quiz at breakfast each morning, on the previous day's book."

Is she kidding? I'm supposed to read and walk and finish the book in one day? And not collapse of heat exhaustion? Miami in July. What was I thinking, signing on for this?

Dead to the World by L.E. Bryce

Dead to the World by L.E. Bryce
October, 2006 - ISBN 978-1-59426-621-8
$7 eBook, $16 print - Buy Now!
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His vision swam before him in a lazy, heated shimmer. The leather knots that bound his wrists to the pommel cut into his skin. Lady, he murmured, his lips moving soundlessly, give me some sign that You still hear me.

Over and again he repeated the plea, until it was as formless as air. Give me some sign. One voice, desolation in an ocean of sand and sun; the goddess did not hear him.

Erred had stopped measuring the days since the foreign raiders ambushed his escort and seized him; his recollection was blurred by flashes of noise and blood that he quickly suppressed. From the green hills of his homeland, he had been carried on a march that now brought him to a wasteland with few discernable landmarks and seemingly no end. Two weeks might have passed, or a month. He did not know, did not think to ask and did not to care.

Other captives, ragged and parched, were chained together and made to walk across the sands, and when they dropped, their corpses were left for the vultures. At night, Erred shut out their stifled sobs and groans as their captors sported with them. Peasants were cheap profit, fit only to be laborers, the raiders told him, and if a few expired from thirst or a bit of amusement there were always more where they came from.

No one touched him. He was sequestered from the other captives in a tent where he was given food and drink and water to wash, though his ankles were hobbled to limit his movement. In a broken variation of his tongue, his captors intimated that he would fetch a high price where they were going. He should be happy, they said, as he would not be worked to death like the others, but would go to the house of a wealthy buyer and enjoy luxuries ordinary slaves only dreamed about.

Erred was not told precisely what that implied, but they did not need to tell him what he had understood from the moment they cornered him among the corpses of his guards and torn away his veil. At first they thought he was a woman, but when he punched one of the men in the face they quickly realized the mistake they had made. And when his pale hair spilled loose from its ties and they saw that he was a beautiful young man, they knew what a prize they had taken.

He tried to rise, to shake off the rough hands that grasped him, but a backhand to the face sent him sprawling to the grass. Two raiders pinned him down while another began to undo his belt. Erred struggled even harder, despite the hand that seized him around the throat and threatened to cut off his air. He felt a third pair of hands tear at his clothing, and a heavy body sat on his legs when he tried to kick his unseen attacker.

Then, it ended. The weight pinning his lower body slumped to the side. Shouting ensued in a tongue he could not follow, and the men who had held him down withdrew. He was still choking and gasping when one of the raiders, probably the leader, dropped his veil into his lap and gestured for him to cover his head.

His would-be rapist, his leggings down to his knees, lay facedown on the grass in a spreading pool of his own blood. The other men were not looking at him, but at the curved blade in their leader's hand, which he wiped clean on the dead man's clothing. Erred heard him say something to the raiders; he had learned enough of the eastern tongue from the eunuchs of the Blue House to understand that his captors were not to touch him. The rest of it, he could not translate except for the word that meant slave.

Panic seized him, but he clamped down on his fear and forced himself to meet the man's eyes. "I am a talevé, servant and lover of the Lady of the Waters, and I am a kinsman to the prince of Altarmë." He spoke slowly, enunciating his words in the coldest voice he could muster. "I am no man's slave."

Slowly, the leader bent to him and, murmuring a phrase that might have been an apology, struck him across the face. Orders were given and Erred, his face stinging from that blow and the earlier one, was pulled onto the back of a horse and bound to the saddlebow. Just before they left, the leader returned with a moist cloth and dabbed away the dirt and blood on his face, most of which did not belong to him.

"You no argue now, eh?" the man said. "We go and you be quiet."

The raiders traveled by night, avoiding all roads and populated areas until they were through the Haban Pass and safely in their own lands. Erred watched behind the gauzy silk of his veil as the lush green of his homeland turned to mountainous paths. Then, beyond the mountains where they stopped in a village to exchange their horses for camels, the land became a scorching expanse of desert where the sands stretched for endless miles and one day melded seamlessly into the next.

Once, while they were still in his land, he tried to run. A sentry quickly ran him down, bound him with cords and, taking care not to injure him, returned him to the camp. His captors made clear that while he was valuable property and could not be marked, there were ways of punishment that did not leave scars. Then they lashed him to stakes driven into the ground, pulled off his shoes and beat the soles of his feet with withes until he passed out. The skin was not broken, so skillfully had the blows been dealt, but he could not walk again until they were well into the desert.

Numbed by heat and sun, he began to wander in his own mind. He wondered why the Lady had not intervened on his behalf, why it had taken a mortal's sword thrust to stop the man who would have raped him and intimidate those who would have taken their turn next. It was sacrilege to lay violent hands on him, even to attack his escort. The only conclusion he could draw was that he had somehow displeased the goddess, and that this was his punishment.

There would be no rescue, he knew that. He and his escort had been attacked two days from the nearest village, and he would not have been expected back in Altarmë for another six days. Only then, when his party failed to appear, would the city garrison--at the request of the House of the Water--ride out to search for him. By the time they found the corpses, scavengers and decomposition would have left little by which to identify the bodies. No one would suspect that his body was not among them.

"And your people, they don't fight," said Orneb, the leader. The man's accent was so thick that Erred could scarcely understand him. "They won't come for you. They never come for their people."

Erred was numb to the man's taunts, even to the sniggered references to what would become of him. It no longer surprised him that he was destined for a stranger's bed, though the part of him that was not deadened by the heat and the hopelessness of his situation railed at the sacrilege of being touched against his will. But, in trying to escape he had played his only hand and lost, and there was nothing else he could do.

Daring Young Man by Leigh Ellwood

Daring Young Man by Leigh Ellwood
October, 2006 - ISBN 978-1-59426-620-1
$6 eBook (five formats), $12 print - Buy Now!
Author's Backlist: Leigh Ellwood


"Lauren..." Jake faltered and turned to face her, then started when he saw Lauren was now standing in front of the desk. With her long, brown hair dusting the shoulders of her aqua blue blouse, she looked beautiful. Her dark eyes reflected an expectant blow, and Jake felt his heart sink. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her, much less ruin her weekend.

"About ... what happened..." He wanted to look her in the eye, and found it to be a difficult task. Casting his gaze downward helped less. The view of Lauren's curved hips, hugged by her black pencil skirt, triggered his want again, but there was no display or table he could hide behind this time.

"Yeah, Jake, I'm sorry about that." Lauren seemed to look for a distraction in the office as well. The open doorway provided plenty, and they watched shoppers pass as they talked.

"I had too much drink," she was saying, "and I wasn't thinking. Trust me, I would never do anything to embarrass you the way I did."

"Lauren, you did nothing wrong. Truly, you're a great friend and a good worker, and I'm the one who should be sorry for embarrassing you. Wow." He chuckled. "You'd think at this point in my life I wouldn't have ... that kind of problem. I supposed I should be flattered..."

Now was a good time, he believed, to stop talking. He didn't need to discuss further his ability or lack thereof to obtain and maintain an erection.

"Jake, are you saying ... you're sorry that I came onto you?" Lauren frowned. As if in afterthought, she rushed past him and closed the office door. "Or," she turned slowly around, "are you apologizing for coming onto me?"

"I guess, I guess ... the latter." Had he come onto her as well? Was he that drunk?

"But you didn't do anything."

"I certainly haven't done anything gentlemanly, Lauren," Jake said. The circulation in the small office ceased when Lauren shut the door. His heart stopped upon hearing the familiar click of the lock being engaged.

Now why ...

The aroma of vanilla coffee and sweet perfume clashed and assaulted him at every angle. He felt light-headed and nauseous, more so than earlier.

"Are you okay, Jake?" Concern colored Lauren's voice and she reached forward, as if to steady him. "Do you need to sit down?"

"No, no." He noted the look on Lauren's face as he flinched away. She looked hurt, and he wondered if she thought he was repulsed by her. Quite the contrary. Given what her voice could do, a simple touch was certain to cause an eruption.

"Lauren, I'm fine. Just a little stuffy in here." He illustrated the point with a hooked finger tugging at his shirt collar. "I think if we just--"

"Jake, I love you."

"What?"

Lauren looked a like a deer in headlights. Her soft, brown eyes seemed to double in circumference, and her hands tightened into a large fist that wavered up and down before falling sharply to her abdomen. She didn't seem to know what to do with herself.

"I can't take it anymore, Jake. I have to tell you that I love you."

Her voice now took on a desperation that rattled Jake. It was true, what J.J. had said. To think, despite being somewhat aware of subtle gestures and body language, and of course the pictures on the computer, Lauren's revelation still came as a shock.

"Well," he said finally, "Lauren, I adore you, too..."

"I'm in love with you, Jake. I don't love you like you were my father. I already have a father. I want a lover, I want you."

Oh. There was that unmistakable sensation. His cock stirred to life again, bidden by her voice. When did he lose control of his body? His heart knew this couldn't happen, but his cock had other ideas.

"Lauren..." He said nothing more as he backed into the coffee station. A tower of Styrofoam cups toppled to the ground. The coffeepot clattered on its burner, yet Lauren's approach remained steady and seductive. She seemed to move toward him in slow-motion, graceful, like a movie seduction scene.

"I'm almost ashamed to admit I sort of carried the torch for a few years now," she said softly. "All that time I was married to my loser of a husband, I'd watch you with Cindy, how loving you were to her. I'd wonder why couldn't I have a man like you."

"Lauren, you're a beautiful woman. You could have many men who'd love you." Shit. That didn't sound right, more like something J.J. might have said to imply promiscuity. "Er, I mean, that man does exist for you..."

"And he's right here," Lauren finished. She was a breath away now; her scent intoxicated him, and the whisper touch of her skirt against his thigh was enough to keep his cock stiff. "I felt so bad when Cindy died, yet I still wondered why I couldn't have a man like you. It didn't hit me until a few months later that you could be that man, Jake."

"I can't be that man, Lauren."

Dare Me by Leigh Ellwood

Dare Me by Leigh Ellwood
July 2005 - ISBN 978-1-59426-513-6
$6 eBook, $13 print Buy Now
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When Cal reached the back patio, his mirthful attitude had instantly dissipated, and he no longer felt like further yanking Sue’s chain.

Sue reached the patio, and he turned to her, scowling. He pointed to the ashtray resting on the glass-topped umbrella table. "Where is it?" he demanded.

Sue frowned. "Where’s what?"

"You know damn well what." Cal’s body quaked lightly, partly from anger and partly from withdrawal. He had ridden a good thirty miles around and through Dareville and was looking forward to coming home to relax with the remains of the joint he had left in the ashtray last night.

Only the ashtray was empty now, save for the tiniest bits of ash even the sharpest of roach clips wouldn’t pick up. The joint was missing, as was the dime bag resting on the table beside it, and he said as much.

"And so you know," Cal added, "‘dime’ doesn’t mean I paid only a dime for it."

"I know what it means, and I didn’t take your stupid pot," Sue said dryly. "I don’t do drugs."

Cal exhaled sharply through his nose. A hit off a joint would probably do Her Majesty some good, he surmised, but he kept that thought to himself. He was light-headed and parched from the ride and definitely not in the mood to argue. She had to be lying, he knew. The cottage sat on a remote piece of land just within Dareville’s borders; there wasn’t a neighbor for at least three miles, and the property sat on a cul-de-sac, so traffic was a non-issue.

"Well, if you didn’t take it, and I know I didn’t move it from the backyard—" Cal began, his tone patronizing.

"How do you know you didn’t move it?" Sue challenged. "Perhaps you were so stoned at the time you just don’t remember."

"It wasn’t in my room when I left for my ride this morning. I would’ve seen it otherwise, even with all your crap lying around." All the crap that had been lying around his room for the past two weeks, that Sue had said she would move. Maybe her neglect in following through on her promise was her way of trying to get him to move out altogether. Fat chance.

"I’ll move my stuff when I can," Sue insisted. "My studio is too small to hold everything, and I haven’t had the time to move my equipment around to make room."

"Seem to have found the time to move my stuff," Cal grumbled as he yanked hard on the front zipper of his bike jersey.

"I didn’t take your stupid pot!" Sue echoed, her voice a screech.

"Well, if you didn’t, who did, then?"

"Well…" Sue dramatically took a seat in one of the patio chairs and nodded to the wooded area bordering the backyard. "I suppose we could sit here and wait to see how many woodland creatures come stumbling from the forest with the munchies. Maybe we’ll see Bambi and Thumper raiding the garbage cans."

"Very funny. I don’t need this." Cal pulled the jersey over his head and used it to wipe away a few beads of sweat lining his breastbone. He bit back a smile; the catch in Sue’s throat as he flexed his muscles was too audible to miss, and the sudden drop in her gaze spoke volumes. He watched her shift uncomfortably in the chair until he could no longer resist.

"You okay?" he asked sweetly. "You went all quiet there for a second."

"I’m fine." Sue’s annoyance betrayed her discomfort, easily. "It’s just…this stupid chair. It’s so stiff."

He was ready to let another comment fly when suddenly the catch transferred to his throat. Sue wiggled her hips and crossed her legs, and when she did so a well-timed breeze lifted the hem of her flared skirt. Cal was granted a view to rival the infamous Basic Instinct money shot: a flash of creamy flesh—no stockings—and feather soft pubic hair just barely covered by a patch of…was this woman wearing a thong under that conservative dress?

Now it was Cal’s turn to wriggle like an awkward teenager. He clutched the bike jersey close to his shorts and hoped Sue wouldn’t be able to tell that he was using it to conceal his stiffening cock, which would surely become quite visible underneath the Spandex. The movement, however, did nothing to vanquish the image in his mind of what Sue would look like wearing just the thong, of his tongue gliding across her hip and following the string trail down to her pussy. He saw her open wider for him, granting him access to her slick core and throbbing pink clit…

He pressed his other hand against the shirt covering his crotch, and hoped Sue didn’t have X-ray vision.

To his relief, Sue bolted upright and straightened her skirt. "You know, I’d love to stick around and argue more about your absent-mindedness and your enabling of bunny rabbits, but I’m late for work," she said, and started back around the house. "Try not to do anything foolish today, like burn down the house or kill the cat."

"Hey, you think maybe Typhoid took my stash?" Cal called back. "Maybe he’s the one enabling your furry friends." Cripes. What kind of lame comeback was that?

Sue did not turn around, but flipped back her hand toward Cal and extended her middle finger. Another breeze teased at her skirt, but it wasn’t strong enough to expose anything above the backs of Sue’s thighs.

Nice thighs they were, too, Cal observed. Smooth and supple, and supporting a nice, heart-shaped ass, one he never really appreciated during their accidental coupling.

Oh, but how he would have appreciated rubbing his oiled-up cock between her cheeks, and spraying his hot seed onto her back…

He shook his head. No, he was going to stand by his word this time. He wasn’t going to initiate intimate contact; she would have to do it.

Daisy by Jenna Allen

Daisy by Jenna Allen
September, 2006 - ISBN 978-1-59426-602-7
$2 eBook - Buy Now!
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"Hey baby." His voice rang in my ears, echoing all afternoon. "You got plans later?"

I knew what he had in mind. But still, I played along. Hell, I played along because I knew what he had in mind.

"Can you sneak away for a couple of hours?" His deep voice gave even his most basic words a slightly sexy undertone.

He knew I'd rush home, shuck the work clothes and slip into something easier to slip out of. He wanted me to rush, that's why he'd be there just twenty minutes after I got off.

The truck rumbled down my street, the sound vibrating all the way inside the house. I dabbed the peachy lip-gloss with a finger and checked the mirror again.

He didn't cut the engine, just turned up the Tom Petty thumping the speakers. On my way out the door I reached for my purse, but decided against it. Where we'd go, I didn't need anything.

Locking the door I stepped off the porch, letting the screen door shut behind me. His dimples deepened as he leered at me through the open window of the truck. He leaned over, pushing the door open.

I looked up and down the street, wondering who might peek out their window at us. What would they think?

"Don't you worry, Daisy. We ain't doing nothing wrong. Just picking wildflowers is all." He leaned back against his door; thumb tapping the insistent rhythm against the steering wheel.

Daisy. So that's who I was tonight. I stepped up into the truck and shut the door before sliding all the way across the bench seats. The engine roared as soon as our legs touched.

The backs of my thighs sealed to the seat, the seam of his jeans pressing against my bare leg. The denim dusted with dirt, proof of his day. His strong, rough hands gripped the steering wheel and steered us past the railroad tracks and out of town.

His tanned forearms flexed as he turned the wheel. The road dipped and rose beneath the truck, pitching us closer together. His hand disappeared between my thighs. I gasped and pressed my knees against each other.

"Where are we going?"

His eyes stayed on the dirt road as it dwindled to a single lane. The hard lines of his face made a harsh profile against the setting sun, almost sinister the way his hat shaded his eyes. My stomach fluttered, his thumb rubbing against my inner thigh.

"I know a spot you'll like. By the water, lots of wildflowers. I know how you like wild things." His hand slid up, but he pulled away before it hit home.

OohRah! by Tilly Greene

OohRah! by Tilly Greene
December, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-800-7
$3 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Authors' Backlist: Tilly Greene

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him looking at her, or more precisely her large bouncing breasts. No matter how good the sports bra, they were big enough to shift about at will. If she looked down, Tash had no doubt she'd find her nipples were hard as a rock and poking through both the bra and her t-shirt, maybe tempting him to have a play. She didn't mind, in fact, the image added a little something extra to her engine. Straightening her posture so they thrust out a little further, she put an extra shake in her step as she kept moving toward the finish line.

Why not? She could feel attractive and sexy while sweating.

As they came around the last bend, she tried to catch a more detailed look-see, only he'd slowed his pace to match hers. With each step, she tried to catch a glimpse of more and caught peeks here and there. What she could see best was one strong arm, tanned, with soft looking hair on his forearm and ending in a pumping fist. From her limited position, his shoulders looked broad and she could imagine his chest tapering down to a slim waist. Unfortunately, that was all she could catch a glimpse of and she wanted to see much more.

However, despite the fact that she couldn't check him out further without having to stop, she knew he must be perfectly buff all over. A naughty idea raced through her mind, she could slow down a bit, try to fall behind him. This would help her finish her perusal of this spectacular specimen of manhood, but little else.

Tempting but she wanted to finish this race first. Tash decided her reward for running over the line would be to check out the rest of him from a standing still position. She'll have earned it.

She didn't pick up speed when she passed the fair grounds or the bus station, but when she turned onto Coast Highway and saw the banner denoting the end of the race set up two blocks away, she knew she'd made it and picked up a little more momentum. Crossing that line brought a big smile to her face; she'd done it!

Moving off to the side, she bent over and tried to catch her breath when she felt him put his hand on her back.

"You did really great."

She was left panting and couldn't talk yet, but still offered her appreciation for his compliment.

"Thanks."

He stood there beside her until she'd composed herself enough to stand up straight and look at him. Immediately she was lost in his light blue eyes, surrounded by thick black eyelashes. They were pretty, but set against his tanned chiseled face, they ended up being simply stunning. Giving herself a mental shake, she introduced herself to him before she started to drool.

"I'm Tasha Ruskya, well Tash."

"Hello Tash, I'm Dale, Dale Smythe. You did a fabulous job today." He stood tall and powerful in front her, hands on his hips, looking as if he'd just walked around the block. As far as she could see, the man hadn't even broken a sweat and here she was looking really rough.

"Well, I have you to thank for keeping me on pace."

"It was my pleasure. Do you run often?"

"Ha! No, I'd have thought that was obvious."

"I don't know, it looked like you were holding steady to me." Oh man, his smile made her feel like a giddy teenager in the midst of her first crush. This guy definitely had her undivided attention.

"It was kind of a last minute decision to run so I'm quite pleased to have finished." There was something about him that made it easy for her to speak with him. She liked that.

"I wondered if you'd like to go get something to drink? A coffee or something?"

"Ummm, sure."

Tash felt a blush flash up and fill her face but figured he wouldn't notice because of the flush she still wore from the race.

They walked down one of the less busy roads and luckily found a table outside at a café. She was starting to chill down and could do with a sweatshirt or something, but didn't want to walk away from him. After he asked what she'd like, he went inside and ordered for them both, coming out with two bowls of porridge, a coffee for him and a hot chocolate for her. Almost two hours later, she was starting to shiver, but still didn't want to leave. They were talking on an easy superficial level and she was interested in learning more about him. While he was talking about how hair bands of the 80's did some of the best ballads, she searched for a way to ask him if he'd like to go out sometime. Fortunately, he beat her to it.

"Would you like to meet up for dinner this evening?"

"Oh yes, I'd love to."

"Great. How about here in town at Fresh Forest?"

"Sounds perfect." Of course, she didn't turn him down, who in their right mind could say no to anything this man asked? Her smile grew even bigger. Tash liked how he took control of it all. It seemed like the last couple of guys she'd been out with deferred to her in everything. Wanting a strong confident man, she'd never bothered with a second date. This was a nice change, a man who knew what he wanted and went after it. She bet he was a real beast in bed. Oh my, just the thought had her heart beating faster. She could definitely see herself having some wild sex with this hunk, and enjoying every moment.

"Good, I'm looking forward to getting to know more about you this evening. Shall I pick you up or would you prefer to meet at the restaurant?"

Okay, she needed to be careful here. Just because he was sexy and made her heart go pitter-pat didn't mean she should give her address out. It may be too good to be true and Dale may yet turn out to be a nutcase. She hoped not, but better safe than sorry.

"How about if I meet you there, say at six?"

"I'll be there."

"I'm looking forward to it." As she went to stand up, she held her squeal of delight when he came around and pulled her chair back. The man just kept getting better and better, there must be something wrong with him. They made their way back toward the ocean, laughing about how many times she saw Flashdance and he saw Scarface. When it was time for her to turn to the right to make her way home, Tash stopped and faced him.

"Well, I need to go this way, but I'll see you at six tonight, right?"

"Yes, and Tash, really, you did a great job today." He leaned over, placed his big hands gently around her upper arms, and kissed her on the check.

How she held in her love struck sigh she'll never know, but she did. Nobody, especially not her, could've guessed she'd find such a cutie after having sweated profusely and wearing smelly running gear. But, she had and they were going out tonight.

"Thank you again and I'll see you in a couple of hours." Smiling at him, she tried to keep her cool and give him her honest appreciation for what he did this afternoon for her.

"See you tonight then."

She waited for him to turn around and leave first but he didn't move so she did. Waving, Tash started to walk away, only and after maybe five steps, she looked over her shoulder and he was still there watching her. After another smile and wave, she kept going. After walking down to the next shop, she turned again and her mouth dropped open. He was walking away and she finally had her reward for finishing, and quite a prize it was.

As he headed in the opposite direction, she was finally able to enjoy the sight of his tight backside. Oh yes, she was happily hooked on whatever line he threw her way. Putting a hand to her chest, feeling her heart beat out of control, she had to laugh at her uncontrollable lust. Apparently, she'd been without a man for far too long to be this horny.

The light pink t-shirt, marking him as a volunteer, pulled tight across his shoulders and hung loosely around his hips. What an incredibly gorgeous sight. Her hand moved to wave in front of her face as if cooling it off, the body on this man teased her to distraction. The army fatigue green shorts ended just above his knee and showcased his ass perfectly. It was so fine she'd like to give it a little pat in appreciation. He looked damn sexy and now she was even more eager to meet him later.

Taming Marie Antoinette - Tilly Greene

Taming Marie Antoinette - Tilly Greene
October, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-784-0
$3 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!
Author's backlist: Tilly Greene

Standing in the doorway to debauchery, actually a ballroom full of costumed revelers, his gaze slowly slid over the room, looking for a ripe piece of flesh to play with. James Michaud and his twin Thornton refused to dress up, it wasn't their thing, but sex was and tonight they were after some prime pussy. Instead of costumes, they chose to wear black suits with dress shirts and silk ties. When they'd arrived at the entrance, required silk half masks in black were offered.

Putting a hand in his pocket, James checked over this year's offerings.

In many circles they had wicked reputations. They didn't mind, as long as everyone involved played an informed, safe, sane, and consensual game, they felt free to indulge themselves.

Since their first sexual experience, they'd shared their women. Separately or together, it didn't matter to either of them. Simply put, the Michaud brothers got off on sex and saw nothing wrong with offering a good fuck to the other to enjoy. Neither one of them has been in a steady relationship where the other hasn't, in some way, been sexually involved. They were always upfront about what they wanted and if the woman balked, she was politely shown the door.

With a small frown creasing his face, James thought about how some of their bedmates had enjoyed the experience but over time, most had wanted more from them than they could offer. It wasn't because they were anti-commitment, because they weren't. The problem was neither one of them has met a woman they cared enough about to even think about making it a permanent relationship.

Tonight they were here to fuck. Nothing else.

Shaking his head pushed away all the nonsense and he refocused on the possibility of superior pussy mingling below them.

Paris was their second home and they loved it. In their opinion, it seemed as if the people were not as sexually repressed as they had been back in the states. As far as he and his brother were concerned, there was no shame attached to enjoying the carnal arts--especially when done without barriers. Although, one thing the French didn't do was celebrate the American holiday, Halloween. Years ago, someone from the Liberté Sexuelle group adapted the fancy dress aspect for their annual fall bash in an effort to bring the new and older members together. Now the Depravity Dance was as famous for its costumes, as they were for drawing people who listened to their body's darkest hedonistic desires.

Leaning on the railing running across the arrivals balcony, they stood there and took in the party.

Located out in the eighteenth district was the warehouse where the party took place. A few groups who played less conventional sexual games owned and operated the building as a consortium and maintained it for various functions. In direct contrast to its exterior and location, the interior had been entirely reworked to present an opulent, comfortable, and sensual space.

James looked around and didn't see anything had changed from the last time they'd been here. The lower ground floor was constructed of large rooms for mingling, dancing, and partaking of refreshments. The upper levels held rooms for more intimate encounters the partygoers enjoyed throughout the evening. Room sizes varied, as did the privacy level. Some people wanted to have sex behind closed doors, others liked to be watched, and the more deviant of party goers liked to encourage anyone to join in. There was space for vanilla sex up the scale to the sweetest love found only through pain.

"Well, shall--" Thorn was as eager as he to start searching the various rooms.

"Wait, look over there to the left, I believe it's a very sexy Marie Antoinette."

Two sets of eyes looked across the room at a vivacious figure wearing a wig twisted high, powdery white and decorated with a crown set at a jaunty angle. Even with the white satin half mask, both men immediately felt this was the woman to take on their needs tonight. She looked capable of accepting them both and enjoying it.

As one, and with their attention set on the beauty, they started making their way down the stairs. While he was walking, James took in as many details of their target as he could glimpse through the throng of roving characters.

She wore a soft, gold satin corset. The cups lifted, but failed to cover all of her high, round breasts or hide the big red nipples peeking over the top edge. The garment flared out over her lush hips, and arrowed down in front until it ended by pointing straight at her mound. He felt a moment of disappointment to find her cunt covered by a small triangle of matching satin.

He needed to know if her pussy was smooth or had a dusting of curls decorating it. It didn't matter either way, but he didn't like being denied any part of her lush form.

When they drew closer, he was able to see her smooth white thighs were bare until just above her knee. This was where solid white stockings started and were held in place with golden satin ribbons tied in a bow. The skyscraper-high, simple white leather lace-up boots were the final straw.

Oh yes, this was a sexy bit of feminine flesh they had to have. There was no need to look to his side to see if Thorn was in agreement. It was more than a twin thing, after almost thirty years they knew each other as well as they knew themselves, and this included their taste in women. And this woman was it.

Within a few steps of their goal, she turned around but didn't walk away. This view had him reaching down to grab hold of his hardened cock, readjusting it for comfort as they continued making their way to her side. Starting at her waist a swath of gold satin, gathered like a bustle and elegantly trailed down and across the floor behind her. The brothers didn't rush but neither did they stop to talk with anyone, nothing would deter them from their objective.

They stepped up beside her, one on each side, and simultaneously used a hand to cup an ass cheek. The twins manipulated the globes, savoring the soft flesh as well as its resiliency.

"My, my, what a lovely ass you have here, my Queen. Silky and malleable, perfect."

Without jumping or moving away, she stood between the two men and let them fondle the body part in question. Before answering their compliment, she looked both right and left. Sharp and intense bright blue eyes focused on each of them, assuredly taking their measure. James felt his cock jump in his pants.

"Thank you, it's mine, and I'm quite attached to it." James was surprised. In their haste, they'd made a mistake and spoke in English, but it seemed that was okay because she sounded American.

"Hmmm, do you ever share it with others?" While neither had released their hold on her delectable ass, Thorn continued to make their play to claim her for the evening.

For a long moment she was quiet, checking them both out again. They didn't make even the smallest of moves, letting her make up her own mind to their request.

"Yes, with the right person ... or persons."