Author Showcase-Joshua Tarquinio-Rogue Mountain

This week showcase is a Supernatural Thriller.  A novel set in my neck of the woods, Pittsburgh. Check out the First Chapter.

The Rogue Mountains by [Tarquinio, Joshua]

The end of times hadn’t been the end of times. It wasn’t even the end of Pittsburgh. But what else to call it? Heaven and Hell and all the other planes had opened up on Earth and the battle was fought. But then it ended, and everything was still here, albeit with more than a few new additions to the taxonomy.

If the end of times had come and gone, had God gone too? The Creative had given no sign, renewing the faith of some, destroying that of others. One question prevailed. Whether or not God was still around, what would be the place of mankind in the order of things?

As this story begins, Del Ballantine, monster hunter, arrives in a small mountain town to help with the infestation. He soon learns it won’t be as easy as the last ten or so places. One mountain is home to a witch. Another mountain, home to a primordial beast only one man ever lived to speak of. That man hadn’t been able to say much before he went insane though.

Ariana, Jeremy, and Reggie make up the house band at the Foothill Hotel and Bar. Though Reggie is content to go with the flow, his band mates are becoming frustrated with their situation. Jeremy, too talented to stay where he is, must care for his nightmare plagued mother. Ariana, who hasn’t yet found herself, finds that the thrills she once easily extracted from her middle-of-nowhere town are beginning to lose their luster.

Along the way, Ballantine meets the curmudgeon taxidermist and his uncommonly attractive wife, the no-nonsense hotel owner and her mute husband, a cocksure world traveler come to try his hand at hunting game from Hell, wood devils, shug monkeys, hunner dyers, hellcats, a ghost, and Jessica among many others.

There’s action and suspense, magic and mayhem, sex and violence, mixed emotions and questionable deeds.

Can the people take their mountains back? And whether or not they succeed, will they find their place?

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And now

on to

the First Chapter.

 

CHAPTER 1

The woods were dead silent. Even Tempest’s hoofbeats were muted in the dewy leaves, like she was tiptoeing. She’d been making these treks for about five years, since Ariana Coleman was 16. The human girl had the small town blues, among other things. Got her kicks from ringing death’s doorbell and running. Tempest was used to it, and if she’d been able to talk, would’ve said she enjoyed the thrill too.

The sun, still behind the mountains, lit the sky enough to see, even in those woods where the leaves had begun to change and fall. Ariana preferred the dull blue glow to the contrast of a sunny day. In those woods, where death took many forms, every stark shadow was a potential threat.

Tempest got that feeling—that innate sense of danger animals get when a predator is near—and she stopped. She stopped and gave a stamp, which she and Ariana decided a long time ago was her way of warning her human.

Ariana stroked Tempest’s mane and asked, “Where is it, girl?” The human held her breath and looked around, first for familiar shapes and then for movement…

Nothing yet.

The girl clicked her tongue which was the signal (they had decided) to proceed with caution and be prepared to turn tail. Reins in the left hand, Ariana slid her right hand over the grip of the Smith and Wesson Model 19 on her hip.

Tempest took a few more steps and stopped again. Ariana’s fingers closed on the handle of her sidearm. An alarm went off in her bones.

Ariana drew her gun as a hunner dyer emerged, shrieking, from under a swath of leaves and dirt. Tempest reared, brandishing her hooves.

Hunner dyers most closely resembled carpenter ants, though they were only slightly smaller than men. They had six legs and their bodies were segmented. Their abdomens were proportionally small, allowing them to walk and stand on their hind legs. Their thoraxes appeared to have human-like ribs on the outside. Patches of coarse hair grew randomly. Their heads contained a loose ring of 24 black eyes, a pair of fangs like a tarantula, a long, retractable middle tooth, and a needly tongue for extracting whatever the tooth exposed.

“Hunner dyer” was not the creature’s proper name. It’s just what everyone called it. Ariana and Tempest had seen and killed a ton of them; shriek, click, bang. This time, however, as Tempest’s hooves came back down, Ariana hesitated. This time she felt different. This time she felt like a bully; like she had just walked into the creature’s home with the express purpose of killing it for no reason. That was exactly as it always had been. Why it bothered her now, she didn’t have time to speculate.

The hunner dyer lunged. Tempest turned and ran without a cue from Ariana. They beat a path back across and down the hill. Though the monster gave chase, it couldn’t keep up with the horse. It was far behind by the time they reached the fence.

Ariana’s nerves balanced on a pinhead as she dismounted and opened the gate. She smiled at the feeling as her hand shook on the gate latch. This was what she came for—the adrenaline rush.

The hunner dyer shrieked again. It had cleared the last hump and was on its way down to torture and kill Ariana and her companion.

The girl threw open the gate and led Tempest through. The monster descended, kicking up leaves and shrieking every few breaths. Its movement was sloppy, as if it didn’t know how to run. It was neither a crawl nor a gallop, but something in between. Its clawed forelimbs waved and reached, only touching the ground when it needed the balance.

Ariana slammed the gate closed as the monster slammed into it, giving the girl a good look at about ten of her own reflections in its onyx black eyes. It ran its tooth through the fence, reaching its limit an inch from Ariana’s throat. The girl flinched and fell backward.

This was an unusual situation for Ariana. Typically, she would have shot the monster when it first appeared and left it deeper in the woods. The fence itself was never meant to hold the creatures of the mountains back, only deter them from the areas where people live. Ariana had never seen what would happen if a monster were given incentive to find a way over or through the fence.

She wished the creature away as it rammed and beat at the fence. She wished for it to get tired and go away. Then she thought she might have to kill it anyway, just to make sure it didn’t come back.

The hunner dyer made her decision easy. It looked up, ran its forelimbs along the top of the fence, then began to crawl up. It got one more shriek out before Ariana blew its head off. The gunshot tapered off through the valley, leaving Ariana and Tempest in dead silence once more.

The adrenaline sat in Ariana’s veins like stale coffee in a day-old pot. She wondered if that would be the end of that thrill—one of the few thrills she had in her podunk, one-horse, middle-of-bumfuck-nowhere town.

She opened the gate again and tied a rope from Tempest’s saddle to the carcass. Couldn’t leave chum by the gate. Girl mounted horse and they dragged the dead bug into the woods before heading home.

 

Away from the scant foothills, an old refrigerator truck puttered up to an old picket fence around an old farmhouse. The truck door slid open and Reggie Adams slid out, drumming a pencil on his clipboard. His curly black hair billowed and bounced as he bobbed to the song in his head. He popped open the side door, hopped in for a moment, and then dropped back out with a small package wrapped in butcher’s paper.

Rick Jenkins greeted Reggie at the door. Rick was one of the old timers. Been living in Brothers since before the whole Pittsburgh thing, before that mess made its way to the country. That was always the way though, Rick knew—everything starts in the cities and works its way out, whether countryfolk like it or not. Though neither Rick, nor anyone else for that matter, expected what they got. He thought the changing times would’ve meant dealing with kids and their long hair and devil music. Instead he had an infestation. It put things in perspective. With monster-infested mountains a stone’s throw away, Reggie’s hair was less of an affront to Rick than it could have been.

“Morning, Rick,” Reggie said with a smile.

“Reggie,” Rick nodded. “I don’t know how you’re so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after playing music all night.”

“I got a little nap. I’ll get the rest when my route is over. I’m used to it.” He handed the package over saying, “Five pounds of ground wood devil, right?”

“Sounds about right to me.”

“Solid. Just sign right here for me.”

Rick signed and handed the clipboard and pencil back to Reggie. “You know,” asked the elder, “I always wondered. How often you attract any them creatures, driving a meat bus around like that?”

Sometimes Reggie wondered that himself. That truck was on its last leg. He, nevertheless, responded as he always did—with confidence and good humor. “Ah! Well… Difficult as it may be to ascertain by the humble exterior of this fine machine, the refrigerator contained within not only keeps the fare fresh, but well sealed. And if all else fails, the exhaust fumes will repel just about anything.” Reggie patted his sidearm and said, “I’ve never even had to draw this thing.”

“Say, that’s pretty—watch out!” Rick pushed Reggie to one side and drew his own gun. He took aim at a hellcat that was sprinting toward them. Reggie covered his ears and watched. The gun wobbled in Rick’s hand. He was getting older, but not too old. And it certainly wasn’t the first time he’d had to deal with a hellcat.

The creatures looked like bobcats, but bigger and mangier. Their eyes glowed and flickered with hellfire whether at night or on a bright sunny day. They made no noise as they ran, creating a sensory dissonance in anyone unfortunate enough to see one bearing down on them.

Rick’s shot rang out and dropped the hellcat 20 feet from the porch. The old timer kept his eyes on the beast as he holstered his weapon. When he was satisfied it wasn’t going to get back up, he turned to Reggie and said, “Never had to draw, huh?”

“That’s right,” Reggie said with a smile and gesture at Rick’s gun. “Plus, most people around these parts don’t like to stand around talking with raw meat in their hands. Did you want me to take that?” He pointed at the hellcat.

“Please,” said Rick.

Reggie flipped the pages on his clipboard to start on a new form. “And do you want to sell it, have it processed, get it mounted?”

“I’ll take five pounds of it. Ground is fine. Make it easy.”

“You sure? The tenderloin on these is almost as good as beef. Just smaller. You can do like little filet mignon medallions. Little butter, little garlic… mmmm, mm!”

“Heh, all right then. I’ll take five pounds ground and a tenderloin. Sell you the rest.”

“Excellent choice, sir!” Reggie said, filling out the order. “Excellent choice, indeed. Here is your receipt. And I’ll bring you the difference on delivery. Sound good?”

“That’ll be fine, Reggie. Thanks.”

“Cool, cool.”

Rick helped Reggie load the carcass into the truck. Once it was closed, Reggie took a spray bottle and spritzed a few blood streaks left on the exterior. He said to Rick, “A little bit of bleach helps keep the monsters away too.”

The truck fought itself awake and backfired its displeasure. Reggie waved to Rick and pulled away. He only had a few more stops before he could head home and sleep.

When the truck had gone, Rick looked to the three mountains in the distance. The overcast sky reached down wisps to stroke them. The mountains used to be beautiful. They used to beckon. Back in the day, Rick’s chief motivation was to give himself as much time as possible to hike or hunt those mountains. They used to be havens for such things. Now they loomed, foreboded, and forbade. They were home to escapees of what everyone thought was the all-time final battle. They were gargoyles, demonic sentinels.

Rick realized he hadn’t looked behind himself lately. He wheeled with a hand on his gun.

Nothing.

A couple of farmhands rode tractors in the field behind the house.

 

Jeremy Crawford was jarred awake by one of his mother’s nervous tics. He took a deep breath and looked at the clock: 2:30pm. Pretty close to four hours of unbroken sleep. He’d take it. Despite it being upright in a chair, it was a deep and solid sleep. He felt rested and tongued the film out of the corners of his mouth.

Connie, Jeremy’s mother, twitched and chuffed in her bed in a dream state akin to the line between Purgatory and Hell. Whenever Jeremy left the room, the nightmare would return and push Connie’s dreams into torture.

The young man took another deep breath, then moved to the edge of the bed. He took Connie’s hand and said, “Mom. Mom,” startling her awake. Or maybe only half awake. Maybe Connie only feigned half awakeness so as not to have to think or talk or burden Jeremy or herself too much.

“Mom, come on. You should get up and move around a little bit. Get some food.”

Connie stared. Afterimages of her nightmares played on the ceiling; visions of gory death, torture, and loss burned into her memories. Like so many times before, Connie wondered how much more she could take. She didn’t know how she had made it as long as she did.

Jeremy gave her hand a tug and helped her sit up. She shambled to the kitchen while Jeremy went to the bathroom to relieve himself and get a shower.

There wasn’t much in the fridge. There hadn’t been since the nightmare, since the role of caretaker flipped at the Crawford house. Fortunately, Connie and Jeremy were friends with Kelly Karasek, the owner of the nearby Foothill Hotel and Bar. Kelly usually made sure to send some food home with Jeremy at the end of the night.

Connie slouched at the table, thousand-yard stare, turkey club between her hands. With no saliva to help, she chewed her first bite for a few minutes. She heard the water running in the shower—a sign of life in a house, formerly a home, being eaten by time before her eyes. She remembered the day she put up the now-peeling wallpaper with her husband, James. She remembered how they bickered over it. She remembered how he let her have her way and how he said it didn’t look half bad after it was up. She remembered the squeeze and smile he gave her. Then she cried, because she knew the nightmare would ruin that for her next. But as much as it hurt to sleep, it hurt even more to be awake.

Jeremy had barely rinsed the shampoo out of his hair when he heard Connie screaming. He sighed and shut the water off. He pulled on a bathrobe and walked out, cleaning the fog from his glasses with his sleeve. “Twenty minutes!” he said. “Was all I needed.”

Rounding the corner into the kitchen he saw Connie curled up on the floor next to the table, the sandwich a few feet away from her, and the nightmare. The gremlin-like creature sat on Connie and looked up at Jeremy. It was furry, with a pair of short round canines poking out over its lower lip. It turned its bulbous eyes to Jeremy with the ignorance of a house cat as Connie screamed and trembled beneath it.

“Go on!” Jeremy shooed. “Get outta here!”

When it didn’t move, Jeremy stomped toward it. It vanished.

Jeremy cleaned up the sandwich while Connie calmed down. He put the sandwich back in the container and the container back in the fridge. Then he wiped the mayonnaise off the floor with a dish towel and balled it up on the counter.

He woke up Connie again.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah I know,” he said, helping her to her feet. “Listen, I gotta get some clothes on. You think you can stay standing here for five minutes? Or even better, walk around a bit?”

Connie’s eyes were closed but she nodded and got out a weak “y-yes” as she held the doorway for support.

She didn’t walk around, but she did manage to stay standing and awake until Jeremy returned. He helped her to the bed, where she fell right back to sleep and right back into the dream state that wasn’t quite Hell and wasn’t quite Purgatory.

Jeremy set up a stool and began to quietly write and practice music with his guitar.

This was the majority of Jeremy’s daily routine.

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Contact info:

contact@theroguemountains.com

www.theroguemountains.com

www.facebook.com/theroguemountains

IG: @the_rogue_mountains

I hope you enjoyed it as much as me!

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Romance Showcase: Teddy Hester- The First Chapter

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Today, I have something very original for you.  Bunny, A Bow-Wow Bistro Series Novella by Teddy Cat Hester.  A new release and you get the first peek.   There are four novellas in this series.  I counted 93 pages in the debut book.  The other three are also available now! First off, I have to say that this novella is the best-formatted book…ever.  You have to pick it up just to see the original way she did her the interior.  Seriously!  There’s this paw and the pad is a little heart and inside the heart is the chapter numbers.  It is the cutest thing.

The Blurb:

At twenty-five, Bunny Cloverfield has had it with boyish men who spend more time playing games than attending to her and her two Cavalier spaniels. She’s serious about her computer-consulting career and her dogs, and she’s looking for similar dedication in a potential mate.

Thirty-year-old Maxwell Sheridan is too focused on managing his venture capital business to invest in serious relationships, much less ones that come with dog fuzz and slobbery kisses. In the little free time he allows himself, he plays backgammon for charity fund-raisers.

When their paths cross in this romantic comedy, fur and sparks fly.

Can a dog-loving computer consultant escape past mistakes and let herself love a seriously sexy, pet-immune gamer?

 

I’m excited.  Everyone loves a good story with dogs in it- me included.  What is it about those adorable little creatures we love so much?  

 

Now, for Teddy’s First Chapter.

 

1Every morning’s a cuddle fest with two tricolor King Charles Cavalier Spaniels. This morning I’m the filling in their sleep sandwich, two furry beasties snuggled tight against either side of my torso. In the nightly battle for the bed, even my ex, Duncan, hadn’t stood a chance. Not that it mattered. Night was almost day before he’d finish playing whatever game held his attention. Most mornings we’d find him curled up on the couch, draped in my Snuggie. Turns out pink was a good color for him. Too bad our relationship wasn’t as good a fit.
With a big sigh, I sit up. It’s the mops’ cue the day is about to begin. They leap from the bed and dash out the bedroom door. I’m slower to follow, taking time to shower and groom before joining them.
A familiar sight in the living room greets me and puts a smile on my face. Two little furry bottoms sway back and forth, bushy tails wagging. Flopsy and Mopsy stand at the picture window of our ground-floor apartment, front paws braced on the sill, noses pressed against the glass, entranced.
I flop down in the cozy chair I keep near the window for my own animal-watching, preferably the two-legged, muscled kind without shirts. I’ve gone almost all winter without sighting one of those . . . much less touching one since my break-up . . .
It’s full-on spring here in the heartland. The precious dark eyes of my pups follow the flight of birds swooping through the yard, sunlight dappling the grass. Colorful tulip beds and lilac bushes dot the space between my building and the residential neighborhood. Fat, lazy bees float around the wisteria arbor at the edge of our patio and beautiful ornamental pear trees in full bloom. A glorious time of year.
Riiight.
Here’s the problem—
My name is Bunny Cloverfield.
I dread spring. Well, commercialized Easter, mostly. With a name like mine, can you blame me?
What kind of mother gives her child a name ready-made for ridicule?
My mother.
She said she just couldn’t resist. With the last name Cloverfield, I guess it was to be expected. After all, a cute little bundle of pink skin, blue eyes, and a halo of apricot hair is just begging for it, right?
Once I get past Easter, though, I’m okay with spring, except for the sappy spring fever that seems to hit everybody. My two wiggly little dogs are freaky over spring. Can’t wait to roll around in it with their canine pals.
Flopsy jumps down from the window seat and fetches her leash.
“Ready to go outside, sweetie?” Her tail wags her whole body, and her eyes sparkle like obsidian in the sun.
Mopsy’s jumped down and splayed himself flat on the floor, going for broke.
Hands on my hips, I stare down at him. “Really. Pulling out the big guns?”
His tail whips back and forth.
What he doesn’t know is I’m prepared to stay inside with my head under the covers until all evidence of Easter is done and gone. If my solitude lasts past the usual spring fever evidenced by lovers and their goo-goo eyes, that’ll be okay, too.
Damn.
Chin between two fuzzy paws, Mopsy’s soulful brown eyes gaze up beseechingly.
He holds his pose.
Waiting.
Determined.
Unwavering.
I throw my hands up in the air. “Gah! You win.”
Canine Country Club and Bow-Wow Bistro, here we come!
Fit young maleThe main Canine Country Club building serves dogs and their owners, offering human bathroom facilities, a gift shop, and membership sign-in for access to the extensive grounds. The main building is large enough to contain a doggie spa where pampered pets are groomed and can even receive massages and acupuncture treatments.
Out of the north end of the main building, the Bow-Wow Bistro offers healthy, organic meals and treats for guests from a pass-through window. Heavy metal tables with attached benches are scattered over the concrete patio area covered with a permanent awning to keep out the sun and rain. Occasionally, as today, the Country Club hosts events to raise money for charity and operating expenses.
When I knew I was going to have to face pre-Easter spring in public, I called my posse. The Bowsers are my three BFFs who also own a pair of dogs each. We regularly congregate at the Bistro to chat and let our pups socialize. If the dog park weren’t owned by one of us, none of us would be able to afford it.
“Well! Isn’t the Bow-Wow Bistro a beehive of beautiful bitches today!” my friend Scarlett says, guiding her pair of Greater Swiss Mountain dogs to our table on the concrete patio. The male, who weighs more than his owner, plops his massive head on the tabletop while his mama bends down to sort out the leads. “Damn, my hair’s all tangled in my leashes! Can you help me here?”
Portia, the owner of the facilities, chuckles. I tug Scarlett’s long red hair up and out of the way, then go back to my seat. When the Swissies are tied up, Portia rubs the glossy spot between one dog’s brows. “He’s ready for lunch, I see. And how are you, girl?” she asks the female who’s sticking close to mama. “Feeling kind of shy today?”
After a beat, Portia squats next to her, not touching or looking at her, letting the dog socialize in her own good time. When the Swissy finally leans in to scent Portia, they rub cheeks. “Good girl.”
“Oh, yeah, they know the drill,” short, curvy Megan chimes in as she maneuvers her shambling pair of yellow labs to the metal loops on the back of the bench seat. They flash their signature doggie smiles around the group, panting their pleasure at the familiar outing.
One of my Cavaliers sounds a greeting, and I intervene. “Psst! Hey, Flopsy. No barking in public.”
Adoring black eyes stare up at me, fluffy tail wagging energetically. Mopsy roams over to sit with the big boys. I start to pull him back, but Scarlett stops me.
“Oh, let him live his dream, Bunny. He thinks he’s a Swissy who’ll catch up someday.” She unclips Mopsy’s leash from my seat and fastens it instead next to her Swissies. She gives him an affectionate pat, careful to dodge his sloppy thanks.
“That dog sure gives good tongue,” Scarlett observes. “A few of the men I’ve dated lately could take lessons.” She bends down and rubs the sides of his face between her hands.
Aww. Mopsy’s such a sweet thing. My heart flips over in a chest suddenly too tight, like it never has for a man. He runs in and out between the legs of the bigger dogs, oblivious to the fact that he’s a fuzzy house slipper to their steel-toed work boots. He’s also prey to hunters. Which reminds me . . . “Where are your racers?”
Portia’s finely manicured finger points to the dog run at the far side of the Club grounds. Two Italian greyhounds look more like prima ballerinas in pale gray leotards. They grand jeté around the dirt oval, chasing a furry toy on a mechanical arm. “They’ve been whimpering all morning, so I sent them out to work off some energy before lunch.”
“Golly, they’re beautiful.” Megan straightens from securing the labs and stretches, taking in a gulp of fresh air.
Golly? Only a woman surrounded by children all day could get away with saying something like that.
“I just love spring!” she gushes.
Sure. Your name’s Megan Pennybaker. If your mama had named you Marvelous Marigold Medley, I bet you’d be trillin’ a different tune.
While she’s busy channeling her preschool-teacher enthusiasm, I’m eyeballing a shirtless guy out in the fenced-in park. A well-defined arm raises, drawing attention to muscled shoulders and broad back as he flings a brightly colored Frisbee. The spinning disk sails through the air, and an eager pooch springs up to catch it. The lure of neon blue bicycle shorts hanging low on slim hips and hugging every bulging asset brings out my inner pooch panting and eager to spring into action—Frisbee optional.
“Yeah, great, beautiful,” I mumble, standing stock-still beside her, mesmerized by visions of homo erectus. Spring does have a couple of advantages, I guess.
Megan clears her throat, and I glance over at her. She’s stroking her male lab and drinking in Frisbee Guy. Two red patches on her cheeks look like somebody rubbed them with sandpaper. Her dog yelps. Hmm. Mama dig her fingers too deep into your neck, there, boy?
Max isHoly cow. Here we go. Spring fever sure is a potent freakin’ bug.
I turn back to the peep show in the park. What is it about men in their prime, exercising and having fun? Wide smiles? Faint sheen of sweat? Trails of body hair highlighting virility? Rumbling chuckles?
Strong hands rub furry ears, reminding me of how it feels to have strong hands on my—never mind.
Portia glides up behind me and follows my gaze. “All those rippling muscles. It’s like we’re voyeurs at an outdoor tanning booth.”
Scarlett’s attention is snagged, too, judging from her deep sigh. “Nothing better than a dog and his man.” She nudges me with her shoulder. “You about ready to get back into that scene, Bun? Maybe take home one of your own?”
And there it is. The video of stripped-down Frisbee Guy in the park cueing up on my internal monitor sputters to a halt. I roll my eyes. Bunny Cloverfield is immune to spring fever when it involves guys playing a game. Unless he’s a serious guy, ready for adult responsibilities over games-playing, Megan can have him. “Sure, Scar, Frisbee sounds fun. I’ll pick one up.”
“Honestly, Ms. Grouch, if you’re thinking to pick anything up, why not make it that hottie out there?” She jerks her chin at Frisbee Guy who chooses this moment to drop on the ground and rough-house with his pittie. It’s a toss-up as to who’s the better-built male. Flopsy whines. She’s made her choice. When she looks up at me, I swear her dark eyes beg.
I drop to my knees and fiddle with the curly black silk of her ear. “Oh, Sweetie, you’d be dessert for that fella. He’d scoop you up in one bite. And we couldn’t have that, could we?”
Wag, wag. Swish, swish.
My hands fit perfectly around her little face, and our noses nearly touch. Baby-talk dribbles out of my mouth. “No, we couldn’t have that, nope, nuh-uh, that’s right, no pittie party for you, sweet girl. Not my good little girl.”
By the time I’m finished, my register is higher than a 10-year-old boy singing soprano, and Flopsy’s tongue is flailing to rain kisses on anything that gets in its path.
Scarlett’s silence warns me. My gaze flicks up to where she stands staring at me with a smirk on her face. For a second, it seems like her head is on fire, the cranberry and neon orange streaks in her hair glowing in the afternoon sun.
“What?” I ask.
“How many dates have you had in the last month?”
Flopsy cocks her head at me as if she’s interested in hearing the answer to that question, too.
“With the upsurge in muggings these days? It’s too dangerous to date,” I say with a sniff for emphasis.
Suddenly I have an audience. Not only is Scarlett gazing dramatically down on me, Portia is back from fetching her racers and takes the bench closest to where I’m kneeling with Flopsy. Megan rouses out of her intoxication with spring’s bounty to turn around on her bench and face us. The female lab pops her head up with a doggie-vocal slide that sounds like a question.
The male Swissy raises his head to scope the scene. Oblivious to the tension around him, he dismisses us all with a jaw-cracking yawn before rolling over for a nap.
His nonchalance makes me want to giggle, but I figure that’s probably not the best way to handle this situation.
Geez, could things get any more uncomfortable?
“So, okay, it’s not about the increase in crime. You know this is the time of year I hibernate.”
Scarlett rolls her eyes. “No, Bun, this is the time of year animals wake up and find themselves a mate.”
“Richard Bach says ‘Our soulmates are the ones who bring life to life.’ Don’t you want a soulmate, Bun?” Megan asks, studying me.
Do I? Holding hands, wandering through a gallery, riding bicycles, cuddling through a movie? Sure, it would be nice, I guess. With the right guy. No, with a man. I’m tired of man-boys in backward baseball caps and video game equipment littering the living room.
Out of nowhere, I’m clocked on the back of the head.
“Ow! Hey!” I complain, rubbing the collision site. I turn to share what’s left of my mind with Frisbee Guy.
“Sorry. I didn’t see you down there,” says a man whose must have been excavated from the Mariana Trench. I scope him from head to toe and back.
I don’t know who he is, but he isn’t Megan’s Frisbee Guy.
Tingles radiate from the bump on my head, down the rest of my body in a shivering wave that almost knocks me over. It electrifies Flopsy, too. She sidles his direction with an enticing wiggle.
“I guess that suitcase you lugged to the dog park blocked your line of sight.”
He holds up the offending parcel. “You mean my backgammon case?”
Oh, that voice. If he doesn’t stop giving me chills with it, I’m going to need a sweater.
“Is that what it is? Felt like it’s filled with rocks.”
He gives me a stiff half-smile as he deposits his gear at the table next to ours and sets up for a game. He’s not model gorgeous, more substantial looking than handsome. Medium brown hair, cut businessman short. Fit body of a thirty-year-old, built like a mountain, his face its rugged surface.
“No rocks, just little round checkers.” He holds one up. “We’ll try to stay on this side of the aisle. I’m Max Sheridan, by the way. Aren’t you ladies playing in the tournament today?”
He’s into games? Oh, goody, just what I need, another gamer. “No, oddly, we brought our dogs to the dog park. Didn’t you bring yours?” I counter.
He eyes Flopsy and her antics to attract his attention. “I don’t have any pets. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
Strike two, Mr. Basso Profundo. Telling you my name would be a waste of breath.
“She’s Bunny Cloverfield, and I’m Megan Pennybaker,” our exuberant preschool teacher chimes. “This is Scarlett Peacock, and that’s Portia Goldstone.” They wave on cue, and he nods back.
He turns to me, a twinkle in his eyes. “Nice to meet you, Bunny Cloverfield.”
It’ll be stee-rike three if you make one comment about my name.
“And who’s this delightful flirt?” he rumbles down at Flopsy. She rolls over and presents her belly for a friendly rub. For a split second, I have the impulse to follow suit.
Dammit.
That’s spring for you.
All sorts of muggers on the loose.
Bunny season.Teaser 1(2)

Follow Teddy Hester

Short-n-Sweet Romantic Comedy. Debut novella, first in the Bow-Wow Bistro series of four standalone novellas.

Author Page:  Teddy Cat Hester

BookFunnel:  https://dl.bookfunnel.com/ffyjl7x5wk

GoodReads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17090854.Teddy_Cat_Hester

 

 

WILD ROOTS: Coming Alive in the French Amazon

Great book. #review #amwriting

The Naked Reviewers

4

Donna Mulvenna had everything she wanted in her modern Australian life: a rewarding career, a spacious home, and an around-the-clock connection to mobile technology. But for all these comforts, she couldn’t shake the feeling something was missing.

So when a Frenchman entered her life and invited her to move to France, she instantly daydreamed of strolling through lavender fields and sipping espresso in Paris. How could she have known he had two tickets to an obscure, mosquito-infested French territory in South America: French Guiana?

After that life got a little crazy. Donna found herself hacking through a perilous jungle, canoeing along anaconda-infested rivers, and overcoming a tropical disease: in a place that became more hostile by the minute. Harrowing ordeals became just another pothole in the road as she battled with bureaucratic nightmares, befriended a bizarre assortment of lively characters, and encountered oddball creatures in a chocolate-colored sea.

Then it…

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The First Chapter Showcase, PE Kavanagh

This week, I have the very talented PE Kavanagh.  She had two new novels out last just week for your reading pleasure.  I’m sure you’ll love her as much as I do.

She needs security.
He seeks redemption. 

THEY FIND EACH OTHER INSTEAD.
The façade of Lola’s carefully-crafted life begins to crumble the moment the sexy stranger walks into her neighborhood coffee shop. Aidan is smart, stunning, and impossible to refuse.
She isn’t looking for love and he’s too good to be true.
Ominous dreams and looming suspicions keep guiding her to stop. But she doesn’t.
Until the deception that brought them together becomes the danger that tears them apart.
Born in betrayal and threatened by revenge, their future demands they find the courage for bare, brutal honesty. 
It comes at an impossibly high price…
AND IT’S THEIR ONLY CHANCE.

 

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Sex, Money, and the Price of Truth
PE Kavanagh

1. The Great Escape

The door to Galaxy Bar & Grill flung open and nearly smacked Aidan Connelly in the face. He stumbled back as a blur of honey hair rushed past him and continued down the sidewalk. The air around her shimmered as if she were on fire, magnified by a pace that screamed hot rage. He stared, transfixed, as a sea of blue suits parted to let her pass.
Everything about her stood out, like an exotic bird among pigeons. He hadn’t seen her face but the view from the back – the flutter of a summer dress, sun-kissed skin, legs until tomorrow – left him gaping until she disappeared into the crowd. That was not the kind of woman he had ever expected to come out of that kind of place.
He reached for the discolored door handle, pausing in case some other pissed-off patron decided to burst out. The smell hit him as soon as he stepped inside, like getting slapped with a beer-soaked towel. When the door slammed shut behind him, the bright light of the afternoon and the golden veneer of Wall Street gave way to the dark gloom of neglect.
Galaxy wasn’t just a seedy bar, it was an alternate universe, home to a couple of day-drinkers and a grime-covered collection of fake planets and black-light posters. This time of day, the other bars in the neighborhood would be booming with bankers and tourists, while this place echoed with a dusty emptiness. Maybe Mack had chosen it for that very reason.
Aidan could turn around and disappear into the bustling city streets, skipping the pointless conversation. Why had he come, anyway? He had no obligation to sit through another tirade about getting revenge on some woman. What a waste of time.
Before his good sense pulled him back out the door, he caught sight of Mack’s blond hair, slicked back into an immovable mass that reminded him of the yellow ceramic bowls of his childhood. It wasn’t even 5pm on a Tuesday and Mack was already drunk, as evidenced by the jerk and sway of his head.
Morbid curiosity overtook Aidan’s pervasive apathy and growing disgust, and he took a seat at the bar. Everything about this place – the filthy glasses, the cloying darkness, the man sitting next to him – added to the revulsion. He closed his eyes, longing to replace the sights and sounds around him with the image of honey and heat.
Mack’s slurred, nearly incomprehensible rants began without greeting or introduction. “You gotta do this for me, man.”
As expected, that idiot’s begging for help. “Listen, I know this woman messed with you. That’s women, you know? But you can’t get all twisted about it. Don’t let it make you crazy.”
Mack tossed back a shot of tequila, leaving three empty glasses on the bar. “That’s not the point, man. She’s evil. Came all the way down here to tell me to fuck off. Like she’s so much better than me.”
That must have been her.
Aidan swallowed and turned to the drunk man in disbelief. Mack had seemed cool enough when they met at work a few weeks prior. Aidan’s bullshit bank, like so many others, had gotten caught with its pants down and Mack’s fancy law firm had come in to clean up the mess. The two men were in their early thirties, living large in New York City, indistinguishable from every other hotshot in the cesspool of the young and powerful. All part of the unholy bond of lawyers and bankers that kept the madness alive.
“Either way, it’s best to move on. You’re young and rich in a city full of hot women. Just pick another one and get on with it. Why waste your time trying to get her back?” Besides, anyone who’d go out with that schmuck had to be either a saint or a lunatic, neither worth keeping around.
Mack lifted his finger to catch the attention of the bartender before bringing his hand back down onto the grimy bar with a thud. “I’m not trying to get her back, Connelly. I’m trying to get back at her.”
Aidan had realized that something wasn’t right with Mack within their first few encounters. It didn’t matter if he was insane or on drugs or if it was something else; he’d taken the lunacy to a whole new level. But in comparison, Aidan’s life didn’t look so bad. Maybe that’s why he stuck around.
“I get it. But shit like that never ends up how you want it to.” Trust me, I know.
Mack slid his lips apart in a move that might have been a smile on another face. “All I’m asking is that you mess with her. Should be easy for someone like you.”
Aidan clenched his fist, wanting desperately to hurl it against Mack’s face. “You don’t know anything about me. And I don’t want to get involved.”
Mack tilted forward, closing the space between them. Stale booze seeped through his pores. “I can pay you. You just left the bank, right? Maybe you could use a little cash.”
Aidan’s stomach lurched. Right there was the problem. Everything had a price in this world he had helped to create. It was all about taking and owning, possessing and controlling. Nothing was out of reach. Not someone’s belongings, their time, their body, their soul. “I don’t need any cash, thanks.”
“Come on, Connelly. It’s easy money.”
All money was easy. Aidan could buy and sell that douche bag a few times over. “I don’t need your money. And I’m not interested in messing with some woman I don’t even know.”
Mack lifted the newly arrived tequila shot to his lips, paused, then arced it into his mouth. He swallowed without a flinch, then slammed the glass on the bar loud enough to get the attention of two men across the room. “That bitch needs to learn a lesson. You wouldn’t believe the shit she’s pulling. Shoulda heard what she just said said to me.”
“Sorry you got screwed. But I can’t help you.” Aidan pushed himself off the barstool, retrieved his wallet out of his back pocket, and dropped cash next to his glass. Only in Manhattan could a few spoonfuls of warm gin set you back twenty bucks. This city had made him jaded. Turned him into a different person. It was time to get out. This bar, this city, this life. He took two steps toward the door.
“Not even as a favor for a friend?”
We’re not friends. “No can do.”
Mack stood up, stumbled, and fell back onto his seat. “You’re going to regret this, Connelly!”
Aidan snickered as he continued out of the bar. One more regret wasn’t going to make a damn bit of difference in the mountain of remorse his life had become.

 

The sun accompanied Aidan nearly the whole walk to midtown, dipping behind the skyscrapers and into the Hudson River as he entered the lobby of his building. The elevator doors opened directly into his loft and to a spectacular view of the Empire State Building, a daily reminder why he had chosen to live far from the financial district.
Getting out from under all those soul-less financial towers helped him stand up straighter. Even the neighborhood was more peaceful. Not that he interacted with his neighbors much, but the occasional sighting of an artist or family made him feel less like an alien in a sea of clones.
He stood in front of the window, watching the buildings change from gold to grey in the fading daylight. This was a much better view than that repulsive bar. Going to Galaxy had been a mistake. There was no talking sense into Mack, hell-bent on revenge, as if he was the only guy to ever get dumped. Hopefully, he’d straighten out before doing something really stupid.
Aidan shook off the uneasy feeling around Mack’s threats to him and that woman, and grabbed a beer before heading into the spare bedroom. The sight of the stack of boxes against the far wall, a reminder of his upcoming departure, brought relief. Two more weeks and all this hell would be in his rearview mirror. He could turn his back on the mess he’d made, as well as the one on the horizon when all his bad choices caught up to him. That same feeling of imminent disaster he’d gotten before each of the recent financial meltdowns buzzed through his veins. He couldn’t be happier to be getting out.
He shoved the two small boxes labeled ‘Jessica’ further into the corner. His ex-fiancee would probably never get her stuff. Why was he even saving it? Maybe the same masochistic streak that kept him on Wall Street for so long kept him connected to her.
She was just like the rest of them, completely satisfied by a stallion on her arm, a huge diamond on her finger, and the good life in her future. Sure he thought all that crap was important too, until it fell apart. He shook his head at his own stupidity and gullibility. I should have known better.
It was book-packing day. The floor-to-ceiling bookshelves against the far wall contained some of his most treasured possessions. Most of them would have to go into storage with the rest of his stuff, but a select few would accompany him on his great escape. Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a book of Neruda’s poems, and Ulysses by James Joyce were definites. Perhaps Jung’s Red Book and something by Emerson, to get his mind right.
The promise of a dramatic escape had picked Aidan up off the floor, and given him hope that what had broken could be fixed. Southeast Asia was as far as he could get from Manhattan. He would start out in Thailand. Bali was a must, as was Vietnam. Other than that, he had at least a year, maybe two, to recover from the train wreck his life had become. Maybe he’d never come back. A permanent sabbatical. He called it his parole, even if nobody else got the joke.
Aidan frowned at the growing pile of books on the floor, already more than he could bring, and he’d only scanned the top two shelves. The whole point was to leave the city empty-handed. Only a total purge would begin to wash him clean, absolve him of his disgrace, wrest the life he never wanted from his clenched fists. If he could let go of all he was, maybe someone worth living would emerge.

***

Everything’s different. Aidan stared out the taxi window at the city that used to feel as integral and familiar as one of his limbs. Exhausted from nearly three days of traveling across the planet, he welcomed in that familiar rush of energy that had sustained him for all those years. New York City was a miracle, even compared to the exotic sights of his recent travels.
As the taxi rounded the corner of his block, he perched forward. Other than different names on a few of the businesses, his neighborhood was unchanged. Maybe the world had stayed exactly the same, but he had very little in common with the man who had fled New York more than two years prior.
The doorman’s eyes widened as Aidan stepped out of the taxi.
“Mr. Connelly! You’re back!”
“I sure am, Edgar.”
The uniformed man took the largest of Aidan’s bags. “Welcome home, sir. You’ve been missed. I’m glad to see you looking so well.”
Aidan ran a hand over his full beard. “That’s kind of you to say. How’s everything with you?”
“Can’t complain, sir. Can’t complain. Added two more grandkids to the stable. We nearly have a baseball team now.”
Aidan patted the older man on the back as the elevator opened. “Congratulations, Edgar. That’s wonderful news.”
“Your place has been well taken care of. I hope you agree.”
A sense of relief greeted Aidan as the elevator doors opened to his loft. During more than one dark moment, he’d imagined it had been looted and vandalized. Maybe the maintenance company he’d hired had stopped coming, and it would be a maze of cobwebs and dustballs. Or they had stolen every tangible piece of his life. Most of the time he didn’t care.
But at that moment, seeing his familiar belongings made him swallow against the push of an emotion he couldn’t quite name. Sadness had been his companion for so long. But this sensation was different, harkening back to a time so long before it might have only existed in his imagination. He was happy to be home.
The spacious emptiness felt like a glorious reprieve from the constant bombardment of people and activity that had accompanied him from place to place. Bangkok was crowded. Bali was chaotic. India was madness. But they were exactly what he needed, pummeling him into submission and breaking him of the fever that had taken over his mind. He breathed peacefully now, slept well, and lost the repulsion at being in his own skin.
Aidan walked through his home, checking each of the rooms. Edgar was right. It was pristine. Almost certainly cleaner than the day he left. Other than the boxes that filled the far corner of the living space, everything was exactly as he had left it.
He had taken a risk, shipping back all the art and decorative pieces he’d bought throughout Asia, but all the boxes appeared to be intact. Aidan ran his hand over the edge of the largest one, nearly as tall as him and three times as wide. Unpacking would have to wait. Maybe for a while. He wasn’t sure he’d be staying.
This city held too much history, too much evidence of his mistakes, too many reminders of how far he’d strayed. He loved New York, but didn’t know if he could be the man he wanted to be in this environment. Maybe he’d leave the city, head out west, re-create himself.
After a call to his parents, Aidan dialed his best friend. “Hey, Tommy. I’m back.”
“Finally! How are you feeling?”
“Really good. Bleary, but happy. I’m sure I’m going to crash in a few hours, but for now, I’m loving all the buzz of New York. My place looks perfect, too. Like I never left.”
“Well, we definitely felt your absence. I’m going to be in the city tomorrow morning. I’ll drop by and we can hang. I want to hear everything.”
“Sounds good, man. Can’t wait to see you.”
The line remained silent for long enough that Aidan checked to see if the call had dis-connected.
Tommy cleared his throat. “I’m so glad you’re home, Aidan. I was scared you’d never want to come back. After everything.”
“Can’t say I didn’t think about it. But I’m here.”
“See you tomorrow.”
Telling his best friend that he was thinking about leaving again, this time permanently, was going to be a hard conversation. At least he felt clear enough to make a decision. But there was no rush. First he’d have to re-acclimate to civilization.

Aidan cleared the steam from the mirror after a luxuriously long shower. He hadn’t missed much of his previous lifestyle, but a shower hadn’t felt that good in a long time. He picked up the tube of shaving gel, ready to eliminate the evidence of his transformation, and paused. Sure, he looked like someone who’d been living on a beach for a few years. But this was him, now. No pretense, no show, no being what he was supposed to be. He put the tube down and walked out of the bathroom. Civilization could wait another day.
His fatigue grew harder to ignore after getting dressed. He needed to stay awake for a few more hours to begin adjusting to the new time zone. A long walk was the perfect option, not only for his body, but for the thoughts tumbling around his head. Lots of decisions had to be made. Would he try to work? Going back into the financial industry was out of the question, but he was hardly qualified to do anything else. Thankfully, money wasn’t going to be an issue for a very long time. Maybe never. But being idle for too long was asking for trouble.
He stopped in the lobby to slip a hundred dollar bill into Edgar’s hand. That guy was a high quality human being – honest, caring, hard-working without being obsessed about money. Aidan needed more people like that in his life.
He walked out into the sunny day, grateful for the late summer breeze. There were times the stifling heat and humidity of the tropics had felt like a well-deserved punishment. He had run away to paradise, but a little bit of hell had followed alongside. Heading uptown to Central Park with a smile on his face, Aidan was certain of his redemption.

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Absolutely lovely.

PE KAVANAGH has been a professional dancer, MIT-educated engineer, corporate executive, spiritual teacher, and chef. These days, her favorite titles are author, mother, and hot stuff.

other links:website pekavanagh.com

facebook.com/pekavanagh

instagram @pekavanaghauthor

Amazon Author Page 

GoodReads: 

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other links:
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Author Interview – Godiva Glenn

Gotta love Godiva Glenn.

Very Sherry Terry

If romantic erotica your thing, you’re going to enjoy Godiva Glenn. I don’t personally know her, unlike many of the authors I host. I stumbled onto Godiva through a friend.  I was very excited when she agreed to let me interview her. She is very nice and gracious.

Go read the first chapter of Wedding Antics FREE.

Be sure to check out the reviews on Wedding Antics! Feel free to leave a comment or a review of your own in the comments section – here.

Pleas allow me to introduce, Godiva Glenn.

Hello, Godiva. First I want to thank you for being here, it’s an honor. I have so many questions, I’d love to just jump right in. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in erotic romance writing as far as content?

Godiva: In this field it’s particularly important to know your audience, and yet when it comes…

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Romance Author Showcase- Francisco Cordoba. The First Chapter

I’m excited today.  Francisco Cordoba has announced his new series.  Those of us who have read the series are bursting at the seams with glee.   Check out The Naked Reviewerson Wed for a review!!

After two and a half years The Image may contain: one or more people, cloud, sky, text and outdoorHorsemen of Golegã was unleashed on the world Sept 1, 2017 with Book 1 in the 8 book series, Bosanquet.
What do you do when your BFF’s dream vacation turns out to be your worst nightmare?

After a naïve relationship decision leaves Candice with a handprint on her face and no job, all she wants is to hide in a corner and lick her wounds. But when bestie Fiona comes begging for a last minute travel companion, what else can a true friend do but go along for the ride?

Fast forward to the bustling streets of Golegã during Portugal’s International Horse Fair. Where stunning horses and cocky macho men are every woman’s wet dream. Every woman except for Candice, that is. Horses are her least favorite animal and, right now, men rank a close second.

Determined to steer clear of arrogant males; pursued by a series of psychotic text messages, a crazed cavaleiro, and a vicious black stallion, Candice once again questions her judgment.
The only thing keeping her sane is curiosity over the fascinating stranger who seems as drawn to her as she is to him. Tall, ruggedly handsome, and enigmatic, Gaspar Bosanquet is a man like no other.

Will a night in his arms change Candice’s mind about men?
Or will one impulsive act become her biggest blunder yet?
Only one thing is certain, neither Candice nor Bosanquet will ever be the same again.

Join them on their journey!
Welcome to Francisco Cordoba’s debut novella.
Available on Amazon

Explicit sex (tasteful), and some swearing.

 

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And now to The First Chapter.
Grab your seat for a wonderful ride.
Chapter 1
Image may contain: one or more people, cloud, sky, text and outdoor“You are so going to pay for this,” Candice said, propped against her friend and using the edge of the curb to scrape fresh, sweetly pungent manure off her discolored sandal.
“I already paid for it,” Fiona replied with a smile.
Candice’s efforts were futile. The muck was a magnet for the sand and sawdust spread all over the road. Combined, these substances created a stinky, lumpy minefield with each pile issuing a siren-call just for her feet. Her once pristine footwear was stained beyond repair. She sighed and scraped again. “I cannot believe you lied to me.”
“I didn’t—” Fiona’s words disappeared beneath the whoops and clattering hooves of a passing cavalcade.
A fresh waft of equine and man sweat assailed Candice, causing her to breathe through her mouth while her friend flared her nostrils and grinned.
When the noise had subsided to the general dull roar of the crowd, Fiona tried again. “I didn’t lie. I told you there’d be horses. You should’ve dressed appropriately.”
“You told me there’d be a few horses.” Candice swept an arm toward a large open area and the wide track surrounding it, both were surfaced with the sand-sawdust mix. A low wood rail fence separated the open area from the track—the ‘manga’ the locals called it, making Candice view the scene through the lens of Japanese anime—and a similar fence separated the track from the road. Both the manga and the central ring were packed with horses—led, ridden, and driven. The street the girls stood on thronged with people and, inevitably, more horses. “Since when does a cast of thousands count as a few?”
“It’s all in the perception. One person’s few is another person’s too many or not enough, just like one woman’s adequate is another woman’s too damn small or holy crap that’s huge. Besides, I had no idea it would be like this.” A broad grin split Fiona’s face. “Isn’t it fabulous?”
Candice stopped scraping and started walking, slippery sandals skidding on the damp, uneven sidewalk. She’d only been here a couple of hours and already she was beginning to hate the artistic Portuguese mosaic street pavement. If she escaped this week without a sprained ankle at the very least, it would be a miracle.
The squishiness between her toes made her shudder. “No. It is not fabulous,” she snapped over her shoulder. “It’s wet, it’s cold—you said Portugal was a warm country. It’s crowded—you said Golegã was a small town. It’s overrun with horses and cowboys, and horse shit and testicles. And this is different from Calgary, how? Ahhhhh!” Her arms wind-milled as the ground slid away under her feet. She caught a glimpse of gooey sandals against gray sky a second before her ass hit the road. “Crap!”
“That hurt.” Fiona squatted beside her, green eyes full of sympathy. “You okay?”
“Fine.” Candice sighed. “I always thought dignity was overrated anyway.” She examined her bleeding hand and slimed feet, and repeated her question. “And this is different from Calgary, how?”
Fiona shrugged. “But look at it this way, Cans. You needed to get away from your unpleasant boyfriend—”
“He’s not my boyfriend!”
“—your cougar mother and her cubs—”
“Two of them. Two!”
“—your gay father and his fiancé—”
Candice rolled her eyes. “Don’t need the litany, Fifs.”
Fiona rolled on relentlessly. “—your self-centered brothers—”
“As long as they’re happy.” Candice mimicked her brothers’ favorite words to her every time she complained about their parents’ split and new alternative lifestyles.
“—and the dead-end job you got fired from.”
“Behavior unbecoming of an employee.” Candice stretched her face and voice into a caricature of her haughty boss and surrounded her words with air quotes.
“And your grief.” Fiona ended her list in a softer tone and paused before revving up again. “Coming with me provided a much-needed change. Think of it as a catalyst to propel your life in a whole new direction. Carpe diem and all that.”
“The way I see it,” Candice growled, holding her sore and filthy hand to one side, “I was sitting in shit there, and I’m sitting in shit here.” She wiped the hand on her no-longer-white skirt. “The only difference is at home I spoke the language, and when I ordered a cup of coffee, I got a cup of coffee, not a thimbleful of black tar that would melt the hide off a rhino.”
“Don’t be like that.” Fiona hauled her to her feet and started dusting her down, paused, and wiped her hands on the clean sleeve of Candice’s blouse.
“Hey!”
Fiona shrugged. “Sorry, didn’t want to get my clothes dirty, and this is wrecked already. Look, let’s go back to the hotel and get you cleaned up. Then we can go for dinner at that little café and ogle the eye candy while we eat.”
Candice cringed but followed in silence as Fiona wound through crowds of olive-skinned men in tight black pants, short black jackets, and flat-crowned black hats. As far as she could tell, they were the same as the cowboys back home, with possibly better fashion sense. But for all their tight sexy attire, they were still ruled by testosterone, thinking themselves as virile and macho as the stallions they rode.
Fiona seemed as much besotted by the men as by the horses she claimed to have come to see. But for Candice, fresh out of a brief and toxic interlude too short to even be termed a relationship, and unhappy with the whole cowboy scene she’d never even pretended to understand, this seven-day trip to Portugal’s National Horse Fair had rapidly assumed the guise of a nightmare.
Fiona was footing the bill, but only because she hated to do anything alone. She’d planned the trip with equally-horse-crazy-man-crazy-Sarah, and Candice had looked forward to a solitary seven days secure behind the locked door of their apartment, licking her wounds and reading through the contents of box Hist. 2 from Ted’s collection. But Sarah had backed out at the last minute, and Fiona had come begging.
Unable to leave her best friend in the lurch, Candice-the-mug-of-a-roommate and Candice-the-fired-without-a-reference and Candice-the-girl-with-the-most-fucked-up-family-in-the-world had smilingly agreed that a girl’s-only holiday in sunny Portugal would be just the thing. She’d closed the flaps on Hist. 2, packed Napoleon’s Wars: An International History into her travel bag and, ignoring her discomfort at having someone else pay for what she couldn’t afford, headed to the airport.
There would be a few horses in Golegã. Fiona had been up front about that. It was a horse fair after all. For her friend, Candice reckoned a few—a few—horses could be coped with. But holy hell, this was never a few, and if this god-forsaken town had seen sun in the last month, she’d be amazed to hear it.
Ahead of her, Fiona skirted a large pile of fresh droppings with a supple sway of her hips and barely a glance. Candice, envious of her friend’s grace, tried to do the same and promptly stepped on a turd ball. Her foot skidded, but a lucky grab at the nearby fence kept her upright. Muttering curses, she scraped her sandal on the lowest bar of the barrier and grimaced at the drab green stain on her ankle.
“You coming, Cans?” Fiona called through the crowd.
“In a minute.” After one final, pointless wipe, Candice moved to catch up.
A large gray horse overtook her, clopping through a puddle, splashing her legs with malodorous water droplets. A brown one passed in the opposite direction, splattering her with yet more wet filth. The gray sky singled her out for the heaviest of the drizzle. Candice sighed.
Fiona looked her up and down. “You’re a mess.”
Without a word, Candice stomped past her into the heaving sea of masculinity.
And then there were the men. Yes, the clothes were a definite plus, but the men inside the clothes? The muscles and other man bits were clearly in all the right places, but the hormones dripped right along with the sweat. So much sweat, human and equine, plastered all over them, wafting about them, worn like some super-macho membership badge. And the shit. So much shit; although, in fairness, she couldn’t blame the men for that directly.”
“Candice, watch—”
This time there was no fence to grab. “Ahh-ahhhhh! Ouch!” And the landing hurt.
“—out.” Fiona gazed down at her, clearly fighting to keep a straight face. “Again? Really?”
“Fuck off,” Candice snarled.
“Don’t you think you’re pushing credulity just a bit?” Fiona abandoned any attempt to control her expression. “And right outside the hotel? I thought you didn’t like drawing attention to yourself?”
“I may assist you, senhorita?” A deep, accented male voice blended with Fiona’s final words.
“Oh. Fuck. Right. Off,” Candice said, loud and clear.
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Book 2, The Great Gaspar Sept 15.
Book 3, Loving North Sept 29
Book 4, Seeking Home coming in October.  Can’t wait!
Book 5, A Dama and Book 6 Keeper’s Wife coming in November
Book 7, The Lone Horseman and Book 8, Candice will be out in December. If Life happens, they’ll be out in early 2018.
Visit Francisco Cordoba on Facebook today then head over and grab a copy of his wonderful books.

Don’t forget to check out The Naked Reviewers for her review and add yours!

Wedding Antics

Check out the #naughty books. #erotica

The Naked Reviewers

2

Introducing the first in many steamy adventures in the Godiva Glenn short story universe.

Ava’s flown across the country to attend her best friend’s wedding. But being a single stranger at an event encompassing love and happily ever afters isn’t looking so good now. Lucky for her, one of the groomsmen is willing to overstep her boundaries and give her a night of anonymous memories.

She wasn’t looking for a persistent suitor, but once his hands are on her, her protests fall apart. What is there to lose? No names, no strings, and very few limits on the fun. Ava and her stranger are in for a wild ride.

A Little About Godiva First:

Godiva Glenn started out by writing steamy romance novels, but soon discovered a penchant for creating delightful erotic encounters. She loves curling up with a martini and writing tantalizing smut for the world to enjoy.

Most…

View original post 273 more words

Erotica Showcase- Godiva Glenn. The First Chapter

Rarely does a writer come along who wows you as she drags you deep into her story.  Godiva Glenn is one of those authors. Godiva is one of my all time favorites.  Deep, sexy, and full of those special moments you’ll be reminiscing about for some time. Remember, mature audiences beyond this point.  You’re either 21 or you’re out of here.

 

Wedding Antics.  Introducing the first in many steamy adventures in the Godiva Glenn short story universe.

Ava’s flown across the country to attend her best friend’s wedding. But being a single stranger at an event encompassing love and happily ever afters isn’t looking so good now. Lucky for her, one of the groomsmen is willing to overstep her boundaries and give her a night of anonymous memories.

She wasn’t looking for a persistent suitor, but once his hands are on her, her protests fall apart. What is there to lose? No names, no strings, and very few limits on the fun. Ava and her stranger are in for a wild ride.

gunmetal-1584972_1920

And now to the First Chapter.

 

 

Ava skimmed the bottles behind the bartender and groaned.
“Yeah, they got the open bar but didn’t splurge on the top-shelf package,” a deep voice announced, mirroring her thoughts.
She turned to see who had spoken. Tall, dark, and handsome was an understatement. He stood over her even with the five-inch heels gracing her feet, and his eyes and hair were an intoxicating chocolate brown to contrast his pale skin. Her eyes drifted lower. Black vest with lilac boutonniere.
She gave him a polite smile and left drink-less. She was lonely but not lonely enough to flirt with a member of the wedding party.
The windows were spotted with windblown raindrops from the drizzling outside. She wandered towards the covered walkway, seeking fresh air away from a party of people she knew very few of, and just as she stepped out, the few people already outside made their way back in.
Either that was a coincidence or I’m some sort of pariah.
She pulled a cigarette from her purse and was looking for a lighter, but a hand reached around and plucked the cigarette from her lips. It went flying into the wet parking lot, and she turned to find herself chest to chest with the man from the bar.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she sputtered.
He held his hands up as if giving up and took a step back. “Hey. Just trying to make my night better.” She arched a brow and looked him over again, waiting for an explanation. “I don’t like to kiss women who smoke.”
“Yeah. Alright. Who said I’d be kissing you?” She grabbed the pack again and pulled out another cigarette.
“Well you don’t have to. It’s just nice. Goes well with fucking.”
Her hand froze and she blinked, wondering if she was hearing things.
“You left too quick for me to pull any smooth moves. Then the cigarette… seems like I needed to rush things to get your attention.” He motioned to her hand, which had crushed the cigarette between shaky fingers.
He was probably teasing but it had been forever since she’d last had sex and her body couldn’t tell the difference between flirting and joking.
“I… no thanks.” She looked away, because damn he looked even better this close, and his eyes looked like a naughty movie was playing behind them.
“Why do I suspect you don’t want to say no? And I’m not being a creep, just observant. You’re from out of town aren’t you? I’ve never seen you before tonight.”
She nodded and gestured to his vest. “Only here for the weekend. I’m observant too. Wedding party. Troy’s one of my best friends, and I know all of his groomsmen save for the ones that are his bride’s brothers. Which makes you one of them.”
“So?”
“So I barely know her, but I doubt banging one of her brothers at her wedding will endear me to her.”
“I don’t plan on telling if you don’t.”
“And Troy?”
“Nope. Our secret, I promise. I just want to defile you, not disrespect you.”
She nodded slowly, glancing away from his smoldering stare and wondering if he was for real or if this was some elaborate prank to embarrass her. “I’ll think about it.”
“No thinking… uh… didn’t catch your name. I’m-”
“No names,” She interrupted.
He grinned and stepped close again, engulfing her in his large frame. Warmth radiated from him. His hand instantly slid down her bare back to cup her ass and give a squeeze so firm that he seemed more familiar with her body than possible given his stranger status. Chuckling softly, he leaned down, and when he spoke his breath tickled her neck and made shivers erupt along her skin.
“You seem hesitant. How do I change that?”
He gave her ass another squeeze. His touch felt like ownership; not unsure in the least. He was confident. Though she liked her men a little cocky, his attitude combined with his magnetic presence left her off balance.
“You’re acting a bit presumptive, don’t you think?” she asked coolly, trying to pretend that he hadn’t riled her.
“Presumptive.” He laughed and once again her body reacted as if a cold breeze had slipped through her dress. “I’m just observant, like I said.”
She pulled away and turned, not because she didn’t want him touching her but because she was having trouble thinking. She stared out into the dark wet parking lot and considered heading back in. He wrapped a hand around her waist and the other snaked around her front and gripped between her legs, massaging through the dark bronze silk of her dress. Her lips parted and gasped.
His lips whispered against her ears. “You’re wearing fuck-me-heels and your dress is so skimpy that it’s teetering on the edge of being too scandalous to wear to a wedding. You’ve checked out my package at least six times since we started talking. And I’m grabbing your pussy right now and you’ve yet to complain. Clearly, I don’t misread women.”
“You’ll be missed. You can’t skip the reception,” She reasoned, heart pounding, knees trembling.
There were other excuses but they didn’t make it to her lips. Her body melted against him.
“I only know family in there. They’ll understand why I ditched my baby sister’s wedding reception. I have nothing in common with all of her theater friends. I have something in common with you.” He was now rubbing her pussy in firm circles through the flimsy fabric of her dress and it took her a moment to respond. Arousal tugged low in her. She squirmed against his strokes and stifled a moan before speaking.
“We… both hate cheap rum and cokes?”
“No. We both want me in you. Preferably immediately. Now. Seriously.” He started to lift her dress and she pressed her ass against him, giving up on trying to stay reasonable.
“Alright… shit. I’m in a double. The hotel was packed and all the singles got roommates.”
“My room it is then. I promise no unpleasant interruptions.” He released her and pushed her towards the doors back to the lobby, patting her ass with encouragement. “Go. I’ll follow at a respectable distance. Third floor. Three-seventeen.”

 

 

 

gunmetal-1584972_1920I can’t wait for the next chapter.  If that doesn’t give you a taste for Godiva’s writing, check out our next piece.  Supernatural Delights: A Paranormal Playground Book.  I love this one, too.  Powerful writing, great story.  

 

The Erotica Showcase presents Supernatural Delights: A Paranormal Playground Book, the First Chapter.

 

Prologue

 

Gabe shrugged, adjusting his black leather jacket while he walked.
“Nervous?” Aaron asked.
“Of course not.”
“Good. You’ll have plenty of tail to choose from tonight, trust me. Glad you ditched the costume idea—ladies like a free spirit.”
“I am in costume,” Gabe muttered. He glanced down at his navy t-shirt and black slacks.
“As what?”
“The Doctor.”
Aaron scoffed and glanced over, giving Gabe a quick sweep of his eyes. “Maybe don’t tell anyone that.”
They turned the corner, and Gabe saw the large house that was hosting what was supposed to be the Halloween party of the decade. He’d believe it. Already, people crowded the lawn, and music drifted from beyond the high ivy-laden fence around the backyard.
“It’s easy for you to go without a costume,” he pointed out.
Aaron simply nodded.
Though Gabe was a run of the mill human, Aaron was a werewolf, and though he was vague about discussing it, he was an important member of his pack. Aaron looked human, like any all-American guy with brown hair and blue eyes, but he had something about him that set him apart. Some inherent vibe that made women salivate and guys feel on edge. No one would care that he didn’t choose to dress up.
“Tonight, you have no idea how true that is,” Aaron smirked.
“Ready to explain why you’re so hyped about attending this party?”
Aaron stopped in his tracks and lifted his arms as if giving the dark sky a wide hug. He sucked in a deep breath and grinned.
“Ley lines.”
“Huh?”
“You can’t see them, but I can feel them. Mystical alignments etched deep into the earth. They exist all over the world, humming to my kind.” He lowered his arms and nodded to himself. “This party is supernatural friendly. Most of the guests will be human and clueless, but there should be plenty of others as well. All drawn to the ley lines and how wonderful they feel on All Hallows Eve.”
“The host isn’t human?”
“Oh, she is. Layla’s just a bit of a crazy one. She’s psychic, or she was when she was younger. Now she’s just… well, I already said crazy right? She likes to act as a liaison for us supernatural types. So she throws this party every so often and invites everyone. Like I said, though, the humans are mostly unaware of anything out of the ordinary. They just see it as a chance to see inside the famed Wiltmore place. This house has been in her family for years. The location is perfect for divination.” He started walking towards the house, which looked like a clean, crowded version of a haunted mansion. “And tonight, it’s perfect for a party.”
They made their way up the steps and into the crowd. The house was sprawling, so that even with the large number of revelers, the interior wasn’t stifling. Gabe looked around, slightly anxious. Aaron had insisted he come tonight and get laid to forget about his ex. When the topic was broached two weeks ago, it sounded great. Now, Gabe wasn’t so sure. People don’t really just hook up like that at parties, do they?
“Feels good already,” Aaron half-growled. “I love Halloween. And the wome-” He stopped speaking and narrowed his eyes.
Gabe traced his line of vision and saw the back of a woman in a bright red cloak that hit her knees. Her legs were miles of pale skin and she stood in shiny black spiked boots. Little Red Riding Hood. She turned and revealed a red latex minidress.
“Damn,” Gabe breathed. “I guess you found your conquest for the night. Fairytale fantasy huh?”
As if she heard, Red Riding Hood looked their way. Her ruby lips curled into a seductive smile and she pulled back her hood so that thick strawberry-blonde curls cascaded out. She winked, and Gabe startled. Aaron growled softly, the sound barely escaping his throat.
“No. I may slum with humans but it takes a special pervert to fuck a corpse.”
Across the room, the woman laughed at something, and turned away, giving them her back once more.
Aaron guided the two of them to a different room and muttered to himself.
“Vam-” Gabe stopped himself and then lowered his voice before continuing, “vampire?”
“Yep.”
Gabe peered back at the doorway they’d passed through, not that he could see the woman anymore. “Is it going to be okay? Aren’t you guys… Mortal enemies?”
Aaron shrugged and tossed Gabe a beer he’d snagged from a nearby cooler. “Something like that. But this party is neutral, so no fights. Besides, that one… that’s Elissa. For a parasite, she’s actually alright. I just like to give her a hard time. Not literally, of course.”
“Elissa,” Gabe repeated to himself, recalling the vampire.
“Don’t go there. I’ve had dealings with her before but I still wouldn’t trust her with your neck. Or your dick.”
“Sounds good to me.” Gabe took a swig of his beer and surveyed the room, happy to dismiss his prospects with the undead. “You do realize I have no experience picking up women? I was with the same one through high school and college. I don’t even think I could call my skills rusty. They’ve long degenerated.”
“It’s easy.” Aaron crumpled his can and tossed it aside, having downed it within seconds. “For you, I’d find one of the little geek birds. Like that one over there dressed like Tinkerbell.”
Gabe shook his head. “Tinkerbell isn’t geeky, so you know.” He nodded to a group by the corner. “Hmm. Lara Croft may be.”
“You aren’t ready for Lara. Lara would chew you up and spit you out—and that’s not a euphemism.”
Gabe shrugged. “What are you looking for, since the Red Riding Hood fantasy is a no-go?”
“When have I ever expressed a Red Riding Hood fetish?”
“Never, but it makes complete sense.”
Aaron grinned mischievously. “Yeah it does. Maybe another night. For tonight… I just want some plush pillows. Something I can just plow my… oh. Wonder Woman… look at that.”
Gabe watched Aaron work his way towards a group of superheroes. That was settled. Gabe chugged the rest of his beer and grabbed another one. He didn’t expect Aaron to chaperone him around tonight, or even act as a wingman, so he was fine on his own. He didn’t know that he’d be as lucky as Aaron…
“Hi,” a bright feminine voice said from behind him.
He spun around and found a dream come true. She was short and wearing a filmy white dress and white flats. Her olive skin seemed to have a golden glow to it, and actually, at second glance, everything about her seemed radiant somehow. Her eyes were a gem-like green, her lips full and pouty. And her hair. He’d never seen a girl with soft lavender hair before, and hers fell about her shoulders in gentle waves. A plush silver horn was nestled in the middle of it.
“Unicorn,” he said, dumbfounded.
“Yes! You get it then? I wasn’t sure if I did it right,” she chirped. Her voice was high and musical. “And you… you’re what? Some sort of bad boy?”
Gabe blinked while she examined him head to toe. “I’m… the Doctor.”
“A doctor?”
“Yeah… just forget it. I’m Gabe.”
She held out her hand, though he hadn’t extended his. He took it and they awkwardly shook.
“And you are?” he asked.
“Oh! Oh. Sorry. I’m Vella.” Her cheeks flushed a deep plum color and she bowed her head.
“It’s… I mean, nothing to apologize for.” She nodded quickly but kept her head down. “So, your costume is really clever. You look nice. Pretty, I mean.”
Her face lifted to search his. Whatever she was looking for, she seemed pleased, because she smiled again. “I like your clothing as well. You look dangerous. Serious.” Her smile changed from sweet to something he couldn’t define. “Like someone who would be nice to have for a night.”
He nodded because he wasn’t sure how to respond. Is she talking about what I think she’s talking about? She moved close to him, breaching what would be appropriate for polite conversation. Tiny hands pressed to his chest and she peered up at him, licking her lips.
“Would you like to spend time with me tonight? We could-” she furrowed her brow and pursed her lips, “umm, get to know each other?”
“Yeah, that sounds great,” he said as calmly as he could manage.
A squeal of delight left her throat and she took his answer as an invitation to get even closer. She pressed her body against him, small breasts flattening against his chest and making him aware—really aware—of his needs. Years in a predictable relationship with infrequent sex had left him a bit of a eunuch. But the feel of Vella’s breasts stirred him now, and he allowed his hands to hold her gently about the waist, since she seemed set on invading his personal space. She reached up and touched his hair with a mannerism of curiosity.
“I like this,” she said aloud, but almost to herself. “You’re an attractive male.”
“Thanks? I mean, I’m rather plain.”
“No. Not plain.”
“Brown hair, brown eyes, boring face. I’ve seen me. You don’t have to flatter me.”
She chuckled softly. “Hmm. Your hair is colored like… mousey, I think they say, but it’s so soft. I like how it feels against my palm. And your face isn’t boring. It’s yours.” She withdrew slightly and squinted at him, then relaxed and moved close enough that they could almost kiss. “Your eyes have golden flecks, and the left one has a tiny patch of green. They aren’t bad. I could stare into them happily.”
“I don’t think anyone’s ever looked that close at them.”
“Hmm. Are both of your parents human?”
“Huh? Yeah. I mean, aren’t yours?” What was she talking about?
“We should find some place quiet. To talk.”
“I guess. I don’t know if that’s actually possible though. I would think only the woods aren’t overrun with people at this point,” he said, looking around at the growing party.
“I know places.” She took his hand and shivered. “You feel very good, Gabe.”
While Vella dragged him by the hand through several rooms, Gabe quickly checked for Aaron, but he was nowhere to be found.

Godiva Glenn 450

Wasn’t that wonderful?  Join the VerySherryTerry blog on Wednesday for a review and send in your comments.  We’d love to hear from you.  Remember to write a review on Amazon when you’re finished.  Feed the author, give them a review.

 

 

The Bonding: Book 1 in the Tribe Warrior Series

And the reviews are in for the Bonding #erotica #book. One of the best #scifi erotica stories you’ll ever pick up. 2 High 5 stars!

The Naked Reviewers

7He must choose – her life – or his freedom.

Tam is brutal. Hard. Uncompromising. Resigned to a lifetime alone. Until he finds a woman frozen in space, suffering from a deadly disease. There’s only one way to save her – to Bond her to him for life with his mind, his body, and his serum.

She must choose – her people – or his love.

When her planet is invaded by alien slavers, Nissa launches into space in a cryo-pod in a desperate search for help. Tam may be her savior, but their future is not meant to be.

In a universe at war, Nissa and Tam battle their dangerous addiction and their own stubborn hearts. Their strange part-chemical, part-mystical Bonding brought them together – and just might be what tears them apart.

A little about Imogen first:

6

Hi! Call me Immy!

I’ve got a stupid-rampant imagination for all…

View original post 644 more words

Erotica Author Showcase… Imogen Keeper- The First Chapter

I’m excited this week.  Today, I’ll be showcasing Imogen Keeper.  Space Erotica! Do you love Sci-Fi?  Space travel and different worlds but want a lot of great action and a wonderful story?  Imogen’s got you covered.  Remeber.  this preview is for those over 21.

This is fantastic.

 

Tam is brutal. Hard. Uncompromising. Resigned to a lifetime alone. Until he finds a woman frozen in space, suffering from a deadly disease. There’s only one way to save her – to Bond her to him for life with his mind, his body, and his serum.

She must choose – her people – or his love.

When her planet is invaded by alien slavers, Nissa launches into space in a cryo-pod in a desperate search for help. Tam may be her savior, but their future is not meant to be.

In a universe at war, Nissa and Tam battle their dangerous addiction and their own stubborn hearts. Their strange part-chemical, part-mystical Bonding brought them together – and just might be what tears them apart.

READER ADVISORY: Graphic sexual content and language. No fade to black here! Including one attempted attack on the heroine.

 

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No fade to black.  Perfect action. Wonderful writing.  Join me now in the reading of The First Chapter of the Bonding. The first book in the Tribe Warrior Series
THE BONDING – Imogen Keeper

Image_Twitter BreakingPROLOGUE
I’m going to be a rocket,
Launched into space.
Nissa ran, lungs burning, sobs gasping. If branches cut the skin of her hands and
limbs slapped at her face, it didn’t matter. It was nothing compared to the suffering of
her people.
She had to warn her father. She jumped a fallen tree and landed in dark mud. Her
feet lost traction and she slipped, falling hard onto her hands and knees, tearing the thin
fabric of her dress. Bloody scrapes marred the skin of her knees.
One of her sandals had broken. It hung, hopeless, from her left ankle. They hadn’t
been designed for frantic running through the forests. They were for dancing on the
terraces outside the palace, for strolling manicured paths through the Red Gardens. They
were designed to be pretty and useless. Like her.
Nothing was pretty anymore. Nothing was right. Nothing was how it was supposed
to be. A drop of blood rolled off her palm, disappearing amid decaying red leaves on the
forest floor.
She closed her eyes. Red. The color of life. Beauty. Warmth. Now, the color of
death. Destruction. Blood. Above her, barely visible between crimson leaves, the sky
burned blue-violet. Even the furry-tailed Splirantu were silent in the trees, mourning the
death of her people. Of her world.
How many had died? Thousands. The quartz-cobbled streets of Trian pooled with
Trianni blood—the bodies of men piled up like bricks in a wall, with blood for mortar.
Still fighting to catch her breath, she tossed the broken sandal. It disappeared amid
lacy ferns and low, scrubby trees with fiery fronds. She took off the other one and threw
it after its mate.
The murderers weren’t just enslaving her people. They were torturing them.
Executing them.
She had seen them, seen the murderers, their skin glowing white as specters.
Laughing as they’d leveled their weapons on the surviving Trianni, herding them like
livestock.
She’d spied from the edge of the forest, crouched behind a fallen log, desperate for
a glimpse of her defected people, hoping they’d been given safety. They hadn’t.
She had watched the off-worlders, their shining black hair flowing down their
backs, glossy beneath the sun. They moved like animals, smooth and almost graceful.
Fast. The deal was off. The Trianni who had gone to them had been promised food
and shelter in exchange for labor. Lies.
She rose to her feet and ran on toward the ancient bunker her people had been
using for shelter.
Finally, she rounded the dip in the forest floor and saw the familiar metal doors of
the bunker. Her father stood in a cluster of elders with Hialmeron, the wise one.
“Father,” she called, but her breath was so short it barely made a sound. “Father!”
she tried again and this time they all turned, faces shocked. No one had even known she’d gone. They’d never have allowed it.
She stopped, panting, resting her hands on her knees, careless of the breach in
decorum from the queen-designate. The king raised his eyebrows at her. “What is it,
daughter?”
“They are killing them. I saw it—thousands in the town square.”
The men froze.
Hialmeron, with his pale, pinkish-gold hair run through with white, was the first
to speak. “It is time, Your Highness.” He turned his gaze toward her father.
She did too.
Her father had aged a decade in the months since the off-worlders had arrived,
since they’d stolen their city. Bags had formed under his eyes, deep lines around his
mouth. He’d barely eaten, saving as much of the food as he could for the others. His
robes hung, stained and frayed, on a frame grown skeletal. “You propose abandoning
our people.”
Hialmeron shook his head. “I propose saving what lives we can. A hundred
preservation pods for a hundred lives.”
Nissa’s belly convulsed. A hundred of their people hurled into space. And the
rest—abandoned.
“It takes only one pod being found,” Hialmeron continued when the king simply
shook his head. “The survivor can use the transceivers to locate the rest. We will launch
them in the direction of the neighboring solar system. There is life there. We must have
faith in the Goddess that one will be found to bring help back.”
“How do you choose a hundred from ten thousand?”
Nissa looked at the dark doors to the bunker that led to the underground caves. The
last of their people, still unenslaved, lived there, in the vast underground network that
had served as sewers to the ancient cities.
“You don’t,” said Hialmeron. “You let the Goddess decide. We leave it to her.”
Her father’s eyes were grim. “A lottery.”
“Yes,” said Hialmeron. “No mother would leave her child. No child should awake
alone in space.”
“No,” said her father again. “There are only four pods large enough for males. The
rest go to unmarried females, then.”
“Except for you, Your Highness, and the queen. Our people will need their leaders
when they awake.”
Her father shook his head.
“And Criamnon, their future king,” said another elder, and Nissa’s breath caught
as always at the thought of the man who’d won her hand in the Games.
“And Nissa,” said one of the others. “They will need their queen-designate.”
All eyes turned toward her.
She bowed her head, breathing deeply against the sudden burst of panic. A pod?
They wanted her to enter one?
“We will have the lottery tonight,” her father announced with a trace of his old
confidence. “The pods launch in the morning.”
She barely heard the rest of the conversation over the sound of her heart pounding
in her ears.
CHAPTER 1
There’s probably a place you belong, but it’s not with me.
“Fuck,” Tam breathed the word, not with ire, but with wonder.
As in, I would never have predicted this. Not in a hundred million years. And, that’s
beautiful. And, what am I supposed to do?
From his pilot’s chair, Tam stared through the window at the red orb floating lazily
across space. It wasn’t the orb itself that caused the awed expletive to pass his lips—it
was what he could see through the oculi cut into its smooth surface.
It pulsed like a heartbeat, flashing and dimming to black. Red. Red. Red. Space
was nature, chaos and disorder. Rhythm was a fabrication, something made. By
someone, or something.
It was possible it was a sentient being in need of help, but space pirates were a
reality—or, even worse, the Vestige. Using the ship’s holographic communications
system, HolCom, he contacted base.
“This is Captain Pilot Essinger of Whistlerjet Tango-Alpha, passing though
Sellulax in Andromeda on my way back from a training exercise at Sub-Base OneRomeo.”
“I hear you, Captain. This is Communications Captain Tycho Van, Base Fleet SierraSix.
Please proceed.” The ghostly hologram of the blond-haired captain flickered in front
of Tam.
“I’ve encountered a vessel, suspected preservation pod.”
HolCom Tycho nodded. “Contacting your chief, Captain. Please stand by.”
While waiting, he planned his approach. He didn’t want to tell the comm captain
about the fleeting glimpse he’d seen. Not until he got closer. It was too impossible to
believe.
Warriors of Tribe Argentus were always fully armed. He wore rezal blasters
strapped to either side of the black leather bands crisscrossing the thick muscles of his
chest. A large Marssollian blade hung in its holster at his waist, a deadly knife graced a
skede on his hip and more knives waited sheathed on each thigh. A long spear-like nustal
sword rode a scabbard on his back, at a diagonal angle so he could pull it in a clean motion ith his fighting arm.
Since everyone on board a craft would die if a stray rezal blast hit the wrong spot,
there was a universal preference and a tacit agreement for hand-to-hand combat in
nearly all non-planetary altercations. So Tribe warriors trained long and hard and
brutal, and the result was that he, too, was long and hard and brutal.
The markings on his ship were usually enough to warn off pirates. No one wanted
to tangle with Tribe Argentus, the most feared armed fleet in the known universe. Still,
one could never be too careful. He’d handled his fair share of the stupid and the desperate and there were formidable alien races out there, to be respected if not feared.
“Please approach, Captain,” Tycho said, his pale hologram wavering. “Report as
you proceed.”
Tam manually guided the ship to dock beside the blinking sphere. He tapped the
screen and confirmed there were no traces of viruses, amoebae or bacteria. Still, the pod
and the items it contained would have to be warmed and decontaminated prior to
absorption.
The light pulsed as the pod drifted, slowly spinning, subject to the trajectory of its
initial push into space.
One oculus aligned with his line of sight just as the light flashed on. It held a body.
Definitely female. Silhouetted against the red light. Frozen. Nude.
From the way her hair floated around her, she appeared to be suspended in fluid or
gel. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled as he froze before the glowing glass screen.
“Fuck,” he breathed. Definitely a woman. What is she doing in a pod in the middle of
nowhere?
And if he was honest with himself, the single, selfish thought intruded. I want that.
“What was that, Captain Essinger? Please repeat.”
Tam blinked. “Female life form present on board. Definitely frozen.” Tycho
silenced his end of the flickering feed and spoke to someone off the holo.
The sphere spun away and with it his view of her. The presence of a female
removed any lingering hesitation or concern of a Vestige trap. They’d never have let her
go if they’d found her.
He no longer had a choice. Base no longer had a choice. “Initiating process of
absorption, now.”
Tycho’s hologram shimmering in and out of focus. “Continue, Captain.”
Even across the HolCom, the excitement in the other male’s voice pissed him off.
He curbed a childish compulsion to shout, It’s my pod. I found it.
Finding a female anywhere at all was rare, but to find one floating in the midst of
space, especially one who appeared to be so similar to their own race, was a statistical
improbability. Tam’s jaw hardened and with effort he slowed his heart rate. Fewer than
twelve percent of the females of his homeworld, Argentus, lived.
He wasted no time.
Pacing outside the sterile docking room, he waited for the computer’s voice to
echo over the intercom, alerting him that the sphere’s core temperature had regulated.
He was glad, for the moment, to be away from the HolCom and all the watching
eyes that came with it. The ship’s computer would maintain a steady feed of
information but he had at least the illusion of privacy.
His hands itched to open the pod, to get close to the female.
The tinny, computerized voice came through the speakers. “Decontamination
completed. Object is neutralized.”
The hatches to the docking chamber unsealed with an echoing hiss, leaving him
sweaty-palmed and uneasy.
His heart thumped. He strode across the room. The light cast an eerie glow. He
stepped so close to the window his breath fogged the surface.
The female floating in a reddish liquid was so small she was downright dainty.
Her hair floated around her head and shoulders like the weeds that grew in the seas of
Argentus.
It would have taken more strength than he possessed to tear his eyes from her.
Even unanimated, her face was beautiful, as delicate as her figure, with pale, clear skin.
If she’d been an old crone with a bald head, sagging breasts and a beard, he’d
probably have gotten hard anyway. Just because she was a woman. He hadn’t seen one
on anything but a digi-screen or a holo-vid in half his life.
This was no crone. And she looked like the women of his planet. At least enough
to hope for genetic viability.
Staring at her, his chest tightened. Space was big. The sphere was small. Entering
life preservation pods was a ridiculous act of extreme faith or desperation. No sane
person would, unless under extreme pressure. Putting herself in a pod like this had
been a massive gamble.
It meant terror. And a total lack of reasonable alternatives. She had essentially
crossed her fingers, said a prayer and killed herself, in the hope that someone,
somewhere, at some time would find her, open the pod and bring her back to life.
So many variables could have left her for lost. If I’d taken a different route. If I’d come by a week later. She’d have already drifted off, out of sight. She may never have been found.
He shook his head at the stroke of fate that brought them to this point.
She had a smooth belly and small, round breasts with pink nipples.
He circled the sphere, moving with trepidation to see her through the other oculi.
She was so small. His footsteps echoed in the silent room.
Slender legs met a sweetly rounded ass that made his mouth water. Between her
legs, gods, he knew he should look away but he couldn’t. The lips of her pussy might as
well have winked and smiled at him, all pouty and pink and…fuck.
His mouth dried and his cock grew so hard between his legs he could barely walk.
He adjusted the front of his flight-suit.
He hadn’t seen a woman since just after he’d come into his manhood. This one was
perfect.
Averting his gaze, suppressing the vague guilt for viewing her unconscious body,
Tam searched for an opening to the sphere, a hinge or mechanism that would trigger its
unlocking.
Two depressions in the shape of hands, albeit hands far smaller than his own, were
the only markings on the surface.
His hand overhung the small depressions by more than an inch on each finger and
the entire heel of his palm.
The light stopped and the pod went dark. A buzzing hum sounded from within.
The color of the fluid changed, becoming a brighter, deeper red as the sphere vibrated.
He kept his hands in place, unsure what to do.
The surface warmed. With a hiss, it cracked open in a horizontal line, separating
the container top from bottom. The top’s internal springs pushed up, lifting away. It left
a gap large enough for him to shove his hand inside. Fog wisped from the opening. He
hefted the top with a grunt and tossed it aside.
The fluid inside had congealed, leaving a perfectly round gelatinous form that
glistened luridly in the light.
Nothing happened.
Unsheathing one of his knives, he cut the thick gel away, moving gently as he got
closer to her skin, careful not to snick her hair.
His hands and forearms quickly turned a rusty orange. He tossed chunks of the gel
aside and they landed with thick squelching plops, jiggling under the harsh lights,
piling up on the floor around them, like so much carnage. So much gel for so small a
female.
Her eyes stayed shut, her hair matted, dark and sticky. He detected no heartbeat
but he’d never woken someone from cryo before—maybe that was normal.
He needed to get her clean. Maybe she’d be able to open her eyes if the gel didn’t
cover her lashes.
Bending low, he lifted her, as carefully as he could, and cradled her against his
chest.
So this is how it feels to hold a woman. For just a moment, he held her tightly to
his chest, wondering if she would want him when she woke. It would be a cruel twist of
fate, to find the female in space and have her turn him away, choose another, choose no
one.
He shrugged. He’d never been lucky in his life. Not when he’d buried his mother.
Not when his sister had died five days later of the same damn disease. Not when he’d
watched his father waste away from the loss of his bonded mate. Why would his luck
change now?
Still, it didn’t matter. She was a woman and she needed him.
Resolve burning thick, he carried her to the bathing pool, where he lowered her
into the bubbling water.
He studied the woman in his arms as she sucked in a deep breath. And he released
one of his own.
She was awake. And alive. Her eyes were still closed but her pupils moved back
and forth and her body shook with chills despite the heat of the water.
What the hell must she be thinking? Feeling? Wet. Dark. Fear? “It’s okay.” There
was almost no chance that she spoke Argenti but he had to try anyway.
Water clung to her skin in tight beads, dripping down the smooth, pale skin of her
cheeks, sticking in her thick burgundy lashes. The water in the bathing pool was hot but
her shaking worsened, as if she were freezing. Not just shivering. Quaking. Down to
her bones.
He gripped her upper arms and shook her. Not hard, but insistent. Wake up,
damn it. Open your eyes.
For the third time, he shoved her head under the surface of the water, hoping to
clear the gunk from her lashes.
This time, when he pulled her back above the surface, she sputtered and opened
her eyes.
Blinding green. Her eyes widened, darting around the room, settling on his chest,
on the soaking front of his flight-suit. He hadn’t stopped to remove his clothes, hadn’t
wanted to scare her by having her wake up naked, with a naked man.
The weight of those green eyes moved up, over her neck, along his face and settled
on his eyes.
Searching eyes bore into his, asking thousands of questions. Water slid down
smooth cheekbones, ran over full lips.
He spoke again and his voice was gruff, even to his own ears.
She shook her head. He traced her cheekbones, felt skin smooth and soft. Her teeth
chattered. He pointed at the skin of her forearm, tracing a long finger over veins that
spread in dark-blue webs. He tried to let his worry show on his face so she’d
understand that something was wrong.
She had to feel it. The sickness in her system. Goose bumps rose over her skin. Her
nipples were nearly blue. He couldn’t imagine how scared she must be to awake naked,
in a strange room with a strange man and have no idea how much time or distance had
passed since her last conscious thought.
She shivered, breathing fast, heart pounding a fast pulse in her throat. What the
hell was wrong with her?
“I’ll get you help. You need a healer,” Tam promised, but she didn’t understand
his words.
She said something, fast, in a pretty, harmonious voice that didn’t hide her fear.
“It’ll be okay. I’m going to help you.” He picked her up in his arms, keeping his
eyes averted from her naked body, and carried her out of the pool to his room.
“She’s dying,” Tam announced flatly to the control room a scant minute later.
He hated leaving her, even for a few moments so he could contact base again. He
masked emotion from his voice as he spoke to the hologram of one of Base Fleet Sierra-
Six’s healers, Ajax. He was an old friend. It would be far too easy for Ajax to read Tam.
“Look at her stats,” Tam said evenly, glancing up at the HolCom of the healer. His
ship’s computer had linked to the base’s mainframe and sent her medical stats for the
healers to review. “Tell me what to do.”
The connection was as shitty as ever. The three-dimensional HolCom of Ajax’s
blond head appeared and disappeared, fading and crackling before Tam’s pilot chair.
In order to send transmissions across lightyears of space, they had to be relayed
through a series of tiny portals, anchored at even intervals. The resulting delays meant
fading images and choppy sound. Better than nothing.
Ajax’s HolCom eyebrows furrowed as he reviewed the woman’s health status.
“Low blood pressure. Low heart rate. Breathing rate is low. Core temperature low.” He
met Tam’s eyes but his voice stayed even and calm. “It’s a common form of
hypothermia that results from long cryo freezes. It’s called the blue-tinge.”
“Whatever it’s called, it gets worse every godsdamn second.”
“Quite the find, Tam.”
“Shut up and tell me how to fix her.”
Off-screen, chatter surrounded Ajax, who stood in WarCom, a massive, dark
conference room on Sierra-Six where the higher-ups made important decisions.
Ajax tapped away at his own glass digi-screen tablet, probably searching for past
patients with similar afflictions. “It’s in the veins, right? They’ve gone dark. How far up
her arms and legs does it go? From her mouth?”
Tam frowned. “Last time I checked maybe mid-thigh, upper arm, and to her
collarbone.”
Ajax looked up from his screen, eyes narrowed. Tam hadn’t felt fear in a long time
and he was embarrassed to admit its soft fingers stroked his neck as he studied his
friend’s face.
“Her fingernails?”
Something in the lines around Ajax’s mouth warned Tam his answer wasn’t going
to be a good one. “Dark purple.”
Ajax cocked his head to the side and the hologram wobbled. An almost amused
curve lurked at the corner of his mouth. Tam held his breath, knowing and fearing at
the same time what that half-smile meant.
“It’s time you started considering using your serum.”
Tam rolled his shoulders, flexing his palms, glad that his dick, stiffer than his
sword, was below the viewer of the HolCom feed.
“Look, Tam. Her body scans show her organs to be similar to ours. We’ve never
encountered a race as similar with whom the Bonding didn’t work. You can save her by
Bonding with her.”
“We don’t speak the same language.”
Ajax tilted his head slightly, regarding Tam with pale, laughing eyes. “I’m sure
you can find some way to communicate with her. It’s a formal request. From Healing to
you. You can say no.”
That was a lie. There wasn’t a warrior on board Sierra-Six, hell on any base or
colony of Argentus, who wouldn’t blame him if she died. Tribe warriors didn’t let
females die. Not if they could stop it. Not ever. End of story. He’d never forgive himself.
Ajax continued, “Forming a permanent union is drastic. But I’d say the situation is
drastic.”
When she’d opened her eyes, green, intense, unlike anything he’d ever seen, and
she’d looked at him for the first time, he’d seen fear bloom. Part of him had died. She’d
been so sick, too weak to do more than shiver.
He didn’t know her name or age. If he used his serum to save her, she’d be stuck
with him forever. How would she feel about that? He couldn’t explain the
repercussions to her. It felt like a theft of her whole life. How would she feel about the
method he had to use to save her?
He wanted nothing more than to claim the female as his mate. But like this? Hell
no.
How do you explain to someone that you need to fuck them or they’d die?
If someone said that to him, he’d kill them. Dead before their ass hit the floor.
Ajax locked eyes with someone off-screen. The admiral maybe. Tam wondered
from how high up the commands came.
“It’s a request,” Ajax repeated. But it wasn’t. Not really and Ajax knew that too.
HolCom Ajax faded to black-and-white for a few seconds then blinked back into vivid
polychrome.
Ajax raised his eyebrows as the hologram flickered. “She’s dying, Tam. You can
save her with your serum.”
“You mean my semen.”
“If you prefer that word. I’d say by injecting a life-saving serum into her mouth
and then mating with her.” Ajax leveled an even gaze at Tam, meeting his eyes through
the holographic feed across millions of miles of space. He tilted his head to the side
coolly. “If you’re really uncomfortable with the idea, you could put her in a hot bath,
pray like hell that she’ll make it, bring her back here. Another warrior could supply the
serum.”
“Like hell.” Even Tam was surprised by the growl that came from his throat.
“She’s mine.”
Ajax exhaled an amused laugh. “I thought so. Don’t let her die.”
Tam wasn’t sure what to say.
After a long silence, Ajax spoke again. “If your sister had become a woman,
escaped danger in a pod and was found by a warrior, only to awake with the bluetinge,
what would you have told the warrior to do?”
Tam swallowed heavily as an image flashed before his eyes of his sister as she’d
been before she’d died. Little more than a baby. Pink cheeks. Eyes gray and solemn and
so big in a little face. What would she have looked like, all grown-up? He blinked. “I’d
have told him to save her. No matter what.”
Ajax nodded. “And if you were her? Would you rather die?”
“No.”
“Understanding is part of the nature of the bond. Go slowly. Don’t scare her. Your
body’s chemistry will help you. Your kiss holds aphrodisiacs.” Ajax lifted one shoulder.
“Trust in fate. It led you here. It will work out.”
Tam scowled at the flickering holo of his friend. “What do you know about
women?”
Ajax smiled thinly. “Nothing. But I’ve studied the Bonding enough to know it’s a
lot more than just chemistry. Serum isn’t just a medicine. It’s a piece of your soul that
you give her with your bond. You will know her heart, her language, her history. And
she’ll know yours. It’s a transference of the cells in your body. It will change both of
you.” He frowned, eyes unreadable. “This is a good thing, man. You get a mate. She
gets a warrior who’ll stop at nothing to keep her safe.”
Put like that it didn’t sound so bad. Still. It didn’t exactly answer the burning
question in his mind. How the hell would he convince her to let him have sex with her?
“Hey, Ajax,” he said as the other male turned to leave the screen.
“Yeah?”
“Fuck you.” Ajax smiled.
“You’re one lucky prick, man.”
The HolCom imploded in a burst of clear white light.
Tam stared at black space beyond the windows of the flight deck. A hundred
thousand stars stared back at him, polychrome clouds of distant galaxies. Space stared
back, empty and merciless, a naked seductress, gravid with silken promise and
smirking rejection. She offered everything. She offered nothing.
Lucky. It wasn’t that simple. He’d gladly spread her wide open, spend a few days
with his tongue inside that sweet pink pussy. He’d happily make her scream and writhe
and he’d take her every possible way he’d ever seen on the pleasure holos.
If she were willing. But what if she wasn’t? He couldn’t exactly ask her. He
couldn’t even imagine what she’d think, seeing him, a great brute, coming at her, trying
to…
He shook his head, leaning against the hatch frame of his room, looking at her slim
form under the covers. He was stalling, trying to decide a clear way to proceed.
Once the Bonding was complete, they’d be joined permanently. He didn’t think a
Bonding had ever been broken.
He’d only ever been with one woman before, the dominess who had conducted his
manhood ceremony, in which she’d taught him how to give and receive pleasure. And
he remembered every second of the three sacred days he’d spent in the company of the
Tribe priestess, his cock shoved deep within the warm comfort of her pussy. He’d loved
every heartbeat of it. It had come as naturally as breathing. But he’d been young then
and his serum hadn’t been fully mature. It was now.
This would be something entirely different. The Bonding. Alone in his chamber, in
the solitude of space, when he fisted his cock, he imagined a million scenarios. This
hadn’t been one of them.
He approached. Her hair spread across the pillows, red and wild as a silken, florid
vine. Even asleep, she was so beautiful it almost hurt to look at her. Every warrior’s
instinct in his body called out to help her.
And before he could save her, he had to actually make her his. He scrubbed his
hands through his hair again, at a loss. Indecision. Self-doubt. Not emotions to which he
was accustomed.
“Fuck.”
Want more? Click here to keep reading.

 

line-42367_1280And there you have it.  The First Chapter.  Engaging, unique and beatuifully erotic to its core.

Book 2, brings us another couple but things aren’t so black and white for our hero.  The world gets trickier. This story is as wonderful as the first.

The Breaking: Book 2 in the Tribe Warrior Series

Feola made a terrible mistake.

Four months ago, she Bonded with the wrong man. Now there’s only one person she can trust to help break her Bond. The man she rejected.

Ajax, warrior and healer, has resigned himself to a mateless future. When he receives Feola’s cryptic plea for help, he must decide whether to break the law and sacrifice his career, or save the only woman he’s ever wanted.

Accused of murder, running for their lives from an intergalactic government and bounty hunters, Feola and Ajax struggle to overcome her tattered past so she can love again. Will she let him into her heart, or will her tattered past tear them apart?

One thing is certain, Bonds were never meant to be broken.

Reader Advisory: This story contains graphic sexual language and scenes, including an attempted sexual attack on the heroine.

 

The Breaking, Book 2 in the Tribe Series… The First Chapter.

 

PROLOGUE
I’d never let it break.
Ajax closed the door carefully and left his patient alone. She was finally asleep.
Exhausted. Irreparable.
The fever, nausea, chills and aches that plagued her body were nothing compared to
the onslaught of her emotional pain. It was difficult to believe a person could sustain such
aggressive tears. The woman had sobbed so hard and so long he’d considered sedating
her just to make it stop.
He’d never cried like that in his life, not even as a kid during the Plague of Days when
half his family died. He’d never seen anyone cry like that, shuddering and soundless, as
if her soul were separating from her body, as if her bones were breaking and her skin
fragmenting into a thousand tiny pieces.
That’s what the breaking of a Bond did.
Bonds were never meant to be broken.
If he were ever lucky enough to claim a woman and form a Bond, he’d never let it
break.
The thought of Bonding immediately brought an image of vibrant yellow-green eyes
to the front of his mind. And as always, his body responded.
He ran his hands through his hair, his cock jutting in front of his body like a flagpole,
bobbing in his pants. He lowered his hand, maybe to tuck it away, maybe just to squeeze
the stupid throbbing monster. He’d just laid the flat of his palm along the shaft when he
froze.
There she was, standing in an open doorway directly across the hall, watching him
with those eyes, yellow green and opened wide.
Feola. As if he’d thought her into reality. She’d had him hooked like an addict
desperate for an overdue dose since the first second he saw her. He’d never wanted
anything in his life like he wanted her.
He swallowed.
“Ay-shocks.” Even the way she said his name made him hard. As if she were singing
and whispering and moaning all at the same time.
Her gaze dropped to his groin. The look in her eyes said she knew exactly what it
was, and exactly what it was for, and exactly what he wanted to do with it. Her mouth
dropped open. Her skin flushed a pretty shade of pink.
He didn’t think. He did something he’d never done in his entire life—just acted. He
crossed the hall, reached out, took the back of her head in his palm, and moved in close.
As he slid his other arm around her back, her body bowed.
She gasped but kept her gaze locked on his. When he lowered his mouth to hers, she
whimpered. Her lips were full, and she tasted like summer on his home planet, Argentus.
Like sweet fruit and fresh water. Her tongue against his was as soft as velvet.
“Ay-shocks. I—”
He kissed her again, silencing whatever she’d been about to say with his tongue, too
frantic to stop.
His cock pulsed happily against her stomach, feeling the press of a warm, female
body for the first time in fifteen years. He backed her up against a wall, tugging at her
skirts, and pushed his hand up her dress, along silken thighs. When his hand found her
pussy, so warm and so wet, he nearly came in his pants.
Her clit was rock hard under his thumb, and she kept repeating his name, crooning
it out, breathless in his arms. It sounded like a prayer. Ay-shocks, Ay-shocks, Ay-shocks.
He’d never felt so powerful and so humble in his life. Like he was as big as the entire
universe and as tiny as a quark, all at once. Nothing mattered. Everything mattered.
He stroked his thumb over the slippery button of her clit, sliding his finger deeper
inside her tight, wet passage, hooking it in, knowing instinctively what she needed.
Her hands roved through his hair. He closed his free hand over a perfect little tit and
the turgid rise of her nipple.
The walls of her pussy fluttered around his finger, soft as the wings of a butterfly,
and his heart swelled. Holy gods, there was nothing sweeter than holding a woman while
she came. He swallowed her moans, but they echoed down the halls, ricocheting and
rising in a crescendo of their own.
His cock throbbed again, demanding attention, but he ignored it, slid his finger from
her body and righted her clothes, tracing kisses along her cheekbone up to her temple.
Her breasts heaved against his chest. Her wide eyes locked on him.
“Feola,” he murmured against her lips. “I….” He paused, right on the cusp of
declaring… what? His undying devotion? That wasn’t fair. First, he needed to clear the
proper channels, make sure his superiors wouldn’t forbid a union with one of the few,
precious remaining women.
He needed to make sure she was thinking clearly, that the aphrodisiacs in his saliva
didn’t cloud her thinking, to give her time to process before he asked for a Bond. She
wouldn’t be able to think with his tongue in her throat. She needed space. “I’m sorry.”
She froze.
“I didn’t mean to do that. I shouldn’t have. I—I just lost control.”
Her cheeks flooded with heat, and she backed away.
As soon as he got clearance, he would talk to her. And pray to every whispering
power in the universe that she’d say yes.

 

Chapter 1
I need another chance.
Just one.
Tell me I’m not too late.
Four months later
Feola had a comm of her own, a thin transparent disk the size of her palm. It even
buzzed sometimes, too. Just never for the reasons her friend’s did.
Samila’s comm buzzed as they walked through the lacy purple reeds in The Fields of
Romeo-Two. Like the rest of the women on the base, Samila was Bonded and
nauseatingly blissful in her union. Samila’s mate called to check in, to say he loved her,
to hear her voice. The smile on Samila’s face was unmistakable. It was the same smile
Feola had seen on the faces of the women from her home planet, Triannon, after they’d
been mated. It was the smile she’d dreamed of wearing herself one day.
The smile said: I love—and in turn—I am loved.
Feola had worn that smile for a sum total of seven days.
Seven days of serum-induced, mind-blowing, unnatural joy. She’d lived for her mate
during those days. For his smiles and kisses. For the intoxication of his serum, and her
own unnatural addiction to it.
Then it had all changed.
It was not a smile she would ever wear again. She knew that now. Had accepted it
long ago. She’d never have that smile.
When her own comm buzzed, she felt only fear, and lately a newfound rage that
simmered below the skin and terrified her with its intensity.
Utto’s presence pulsed in her chest, where their Bond united them permanently. His
emotions, as always, seethed and rippled, oily and viscous across her sternum, like a
parasite that had taken up permanent residence in the marrow of her bones.
He was the only person who ever called her comm because he was the only person
with her number, and her comm couldn’t contact anyone else. He’d made sure of that.
He checked in too, but it didn’t make her feel safe or comforted. He called to make
sure she hadn’t contacted anyone else in his absence, hadn’t seen anyone else, hadn’t even
thought of anyone else.
He wanted her alone, weak, and pathetic. Desperate for him.
Sometimes he told her he loved her, but when he did, she knew it was a lie. He didn’t
love her. He hated her. The line might be a fine one, but she knew the difference now.
She’d learned the difference between love and hate the hard way.
She and Samila met at The Fields occasionally to walk for a stolen hour together while
their mates trained. It was the only guaranteed time that Utto wouldn’t show up at
random. During his training exercises, she would sneak across the hall to Samila and her
mate’s chamber. Her friendship with Samila was just one of the many secrets that she
kept from Utto.
If he found out, he would forbid it.
He would do worse than forbid it.
“Let’s sit by the water awhile,” Samila said with a sly smile. “I’m a little sore from
last night.”
Feola nodded, tuning out the senseless chatter. Samila was nice, but she was
oblivious, thoughtless, and complacent in her happiness as she sauntered down the
grated path through a patch of solar light that filtered down through the crystalline
domed ceiling of The Fields.
The woman placed her comm negligently on the steel bench overlooking the
irrigation canal that had been dug into the artificial terra of The Fields that comprised the base’s hydroponic farms.
The crops spread before them in tidy rows of yellows, blues, and pinks. She sat beside
Samila, so close the comm rested only a few inches away from her pinky finger.
With the wide smile that always calmed Utto when the tempers took him, she pointed
at the tiny fluttering birds around a flowering cerulean bush. “What are those?”
Samila was one of the rare Argenti females. She knew more about the world of the
Tribe than anyone Feola had ever met. As Samila prattled away about the birds that
fertilized the crops and the canal that watered them, Feola slid the comm into the pocket
of her prim lacy white dress.
Samila didn’t notice.
Oblivious. Stupidly happy.
They sat for a while. Feola nodded and smiled at the right moments. All the while,
the comm rested against her thigh, a smooth, light weight that would either save her life
or end it.
Samila finally noticed it was missing and tried in vain to locate it. They spent precious
time retracing their steps. Feola furrowed her brow, made sympathetic noises, and looked under the bench and behind the bushes, careful not to get any dirt on her dress. If Utto saw stains, he would know she’d left their chamber.
“I can’t think where it could be,” she lied. She’d become good at lying. A necessary
skill. She ignored the vision of her mother’s face in her mind’s eye, sad and disapproving.
Mamma had always said lying was bad. It didn’t matter. Mamma had died a very long
time ago.
Anyway, Mamma had never met Utto. It was impossible to know Utto and not
become a liar.
Samila laughed gaily. “Jamar is going to tease me—ruthlessly—when I tell him. That’s
the second comm I’ve lost.”
“He won’t be angry, though?” Feola couldn’t help but ask and, when Samila
frowned, instantly regretted it.
“Angry? Over a missing comm? Of course not.” Samila looked for a moment as
though she might ask about Utto.
They rarely discussed him, so she laughed to distract Samila. It sounded loud and
shrill in her ears, but it did the trick.
She’d need to hurry across the base to Utto’s chambers to have any chance of using
the comm before he returned.
It wasn’t the first thing she’d stolen. Or the first thing she’d put in her stash of
supplies. Mamma wouldn’t have approved of theft either.
She refused to accept the surge of guilt. Resisted the anxiety. If she permitted the
excitement to affect her heart or her breathing, he’d feel it through their Bond.
She never quite knew how much he could actually feel of her emotions, or how clear
they were to him, but she did know he could feel her terror. Her sorrow. And he liked it.
A tiny flare of hope sparked, trilling along her spine. She squeezed her palms and
stamped it down. He’d feel that, too. And then he’d know.
She needed the comm far more than Samila did, with her safe and loving Jamar and
her thighs sore from a night of tender lovemaking.
When she entered, the chamber was empty. Clean and cool. Sterile, just the way Utto
liked it. She moved to the sink, pressed the code she’d stolen from the base’s healing bay
to contact a man she’d known several months ago, the only person she trusted to help
her now, the only person she knew couldn’t be connected to Utto or his family in any
way.
There was a short series of ticks and a moment of silence. Then a man’s deep voice.
“Hello.”
Ajax. His beautiful, rumbling voice swirled in her ears, bringing back so many
memories. Her nipples hardened instantly. That voice, his beautiful bright eyes. They’d
be crinkled at the edges now with concern.
She swallowed thickly, eyes closing, calling up his face, the hard jaw, the gentle smile,
his pale, soft hair, the velvety touch of his tongue to her lips. The seductive flavor of his
kiss. Utto would feel her arousal—but he’d never know the reason.
Self-loathing tore through her, and her eyes burned.
For a moment, her throat refused to function, wouldn’t shape the sounds she needed
to communicate. She dug her fingernails into her palms. “Ajax? I didn’t know who else
to call.”
A hot tear escaped to roll down her cheek. Even across the distance of star systems,
the frail radio connection of their comms made her feel safer. The only connection to the
last person in the universe who might still be able to help.
“I need your help.”
Over the line, he sucked in a breath.
As her body remembered that day so long ago, her stomach coiled, heat pooling
between her thighs. He’d backed her up against a wall and plunged his tongue into her
mouth as if he wanted to swallow her heart and fuse their souls.
If only he had. She’d have let him. She’d never wanted anything more than she’d
wanted him at that moment. He’d been so big. And so hard. So desperate for her. He’d
touched her body in a place no one ever had, and he’d made her feel the first burst of
strident, unadulterated, breathless pleasure in her life.
She’d been terrified. She’d hung in his arms like a ragdoll after, as he’d stroked and
petted and kissed her face.
Until he’d apologized, which had been humiliating beyond belief.
And then nothing. He’d turned away.
For days, she’d wondered. And he’d done nothing more than nod politely.
Utto had. He’d done plenty. Utto had told her that he loved her and he’d die for her.
He’d asked her to Bond with him. Brought her tea. He’d kissed her. Whispered promises
she’d been stupid enough and blind enough to believe. And maybe a small part of her
had wanted to prove to Ajax that someone wanted her, even if he didn’t. And always,
that sweet, steaming, spicy tea.
Her body had betrayed her, responding to the unknown call of Utto’s serum snaking
its way through her system.
She parted her lips to tell Ajax she was sorry, that she’d made a mistake, that she
should have waited longer, that she’d been confused and manipulated, that it wasn’t her
fault. It was a pathetic excuse. Her throat wouldn’t obey.
“What do you need? Are you okay?” That voice again, and all the warm shivers that
came with it.
Behind her, the door to Utto’s chambers hissed, providing no more than a splitsecond
warning.
Her heart jumped into her throat.
Utto. He’d returned early.
Moving in the fluid, practiced motion she’d learned in her three months at RomeoTwo,
she opened the drawer that held their plates and mugs.
Smooth, deft motions drew no attention. Jerky behavior garnered suspicion.
With her thumb, she ended the connection with Ajax on the comm and dropped it at
the back of the drawer, where Utto would never find it. He hadn’t stepped in the kitchen
more than once in their entire time at Romeo-Two.
“What are you doing?” His voice sounded from the entrance, distrustful as ever. His
suspicion slithered in her chest through their Bond.
The door slid closed with a hiss.
“I thought I’d make some eeffoc.” She pulled two mugs from the drawer and slid it
closed with her hip, wiping her damp cheek calmly.
“You drink too much of it. It’ll stain your teeth.”
She turned to find him unstrapping the holsters that held his rezals, but he kept on
the straps of knives that crisscrossed his barrel chest.
“They can be whitened if they bother you, can’t they?”
He made a face at that, somewhere between a scoff and a snarl, jerking his head in a
sharp motion that set his dark-blue hair shimmering. She had loved that thick, shining
hair at the beginning. So different from her own. She loathed it now.
She loaded the fragrant, brown-black powder into the machine and set it percolating.
Lifting one of the mugs, she moved to put it back in the drawer.
“I didn’t say I didn’t want any,” he bit off.
She pictured Ajax’s soft eyes.
Utto’s tone augured conflict. Experience had taught her that although his anger could
only be staved off for so long, she could frequently soften the intensity of it by forcing
herself to remain gentle and sweet.
“Sorry, my love.” The false words tasted bitter on her tongue, but the smile she
offered was sweeter than the lintorippi berries they grew in The Fields.
“My cousin, Rennie, is going to come for a while. He’ll stay in one of the guest
chambers, but he’ll eat meals here. I expect you to make him feel welcome.”
She didn’t want to ponder the meaning behind those words too deeply. “Of course.
Please let me know what his favorite meals are. I can find recipes.”
When the eeffoc was ready, she poured it into the mugs, pouring cream in his, just the
way he liked it, and brought it over to him where he sat in the lounge.
He put his mug on the table in front of him and met her eyes with a look she knew
only too well.
She smiled for him again—the big, wide-eyed, vapid grin that he loved, the one that
had probably gotten her into this mess. With Ajax’s turquoise eyes in her mind, she
dropped to her knees in front of the man she’d chosen.
He spoke, but she ignored his words, conjuring up the sound of Ajax’s deep rumble
across the distance of space.
She’d find a way to call him again soon.
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