Thursday, 31 March 2011

Excerpt Day - Dhampir Desire 2: Primal Passion © Evie Balos

Excerpt

 

 

Chapter One

 

Milan Markovic pressed the sole of his boot into the Grakhen vampire’s abdomen with a satisfied grunt. He’d kept close tabs on him and his clan for nearly two years, searching for a reason to invade their residence, waiting for one of them to slip up. Three days ago, one of them did, linking himself and the clan to the murder of a young man. That was all The Organization needed to perform a raid on the Grakhen residence. Even tranquilized, the vampire required two men to hold him down. Milan had dealt with dozens of vampires over the years. This evil bastard was exceptionally strong and had no doubt sucked the life out of several people.

 

Milan leaned his forearm on his perched leg and met the vampire’s soulless black gaze with a smile.

 

“Ready for a makeover, Lucian?”

 

The vampire’s muscles clenched beneath his boot. “You stupid half-breeds. You think some rehab program will destroy my need to feed?” he snarled. “I’ve lived off human blood for a hundred and sixty years.”

 

“Ooh. You’re old. No worries—genetic alteration always works. You’ll be enjoying raw steaks in a couple of months.”

 

Lucian thrashed around for a moment before calming. A frigid sneer curled his mouth. “I’ll kill those pathetic humans for the fun of it.”

 

Milan saw red. It was all he could do to stop himself from ripping the monster’s throat out with his bare hands. How could he have believed that a vampire like Lucian would simply turn into a good citizen like most other conformed vampires?

 

He pulled his semi-automatic from its holster. “Move away from him.”

 

“Are you sure, Milan?” Tom asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

Lucian had the gall to grin as the men released him. When they’d moved to a safe distance, Milan fired three rounds of silver bullets into the vampire’s heart. For a split second, as Lucian grunted and began pushing himself up, Milan froze, afraid the bullets wouldn’t be enough. Then a spurt of dark blood erupted from Lucian’s mouth as he went into a violent convulsion. Milan stood over him, weapon aimed. The vampire’s pale complexion turned gray and he let out a final, painful howl, which echoed across the room. Out of the corner of his eye, Milan saw the team of FBI agents gather close. All vampire raids were carried out with the support of a special FBI team. When the body finally stilled, he stepped back to let the agents remove it.

 

The FBI commander approached him with a piece of paper. “I believe we’ve located the two missing clan members. Police received a call from an employee at a gas station just before Beecher on Route 1. He overheard two men talking about a dhampir raid and hiding in a stable in Beecher. A second call came in shortly after from someone who lives next to an abandoned stable in Beecher. He witnessed two men drive onto the property and park behind the stable. Here’s the address.”

 

Milan took the report. “Thanks, Commander. We’re going to need backup. One unit, I’d say.”

 

“You got it.”

 

Milan called Tom over, and the two men were out the front door in minutes. He briefed his partner on the situation as they climbed into their SUV, and handed him the report so he could log the address into the GPS. He waited for the FBI team to get into their vehicle before swinging around toward the entrance of the driveway, where he slowed just enough to check the street. A car was leisurely coming down on the right. He didn’t have time to wait. It was inconsiderate, but he pumped the gas and hooked a sharp left onto the street, knowing that the FBI car was close behind and would cut the driver off.

 

“Whoa, cowboy!” Tom exclaimed as he looked over his shoulder. “That was close.”

 

“I know. We’ve got two bloodsuckers to catch before sunset.”

 

* * * * *

 

Tess Nielson cursed and slammed on the brakes to avoid crashing into the big black vehicle that swung out in front of her. “Damn lunatics,” she added as her eyes narrowed on the tinted windows and the municipal license plates of the car, instantly recognizing it for an unmarked law enforcement vehicle. Most likely FBI.

 

“Who are you guys chasing?” Something big was going down. And big was newsworthy, maybe even front-page news. Her blood stirred with a shot of adrenaline. It was one thing to be fed a story from the news desk, to describe events without having witnessed them, and quite another to be in the thick of the action. She sped up and tailed them at a careful distance while flipping open the glove compartment to remove her digital camera. Her reporter’s mind began drawing up a possible scenario. This neighborhood was fairly affluent and quiet, normally not the type of locale for organized crime. She suspected the case was on a domestic level. Murder most likely, but perhaps something more complicated than that if the FBI was involved. She’d find out soon enough.

 

The vehicles picked up speed once they swung onto I-294, and this time the emergency lights came to life on the rear windshield of the vehicle ahead. She had to break the speed limit to keep up, hoping she wouldn’t be stopped by a state trooper. She cursed again, afraid she’d lose them when they barely slowed through a toll, but she eventually caught up. Good thing traffic was generally light this evening, because these guys were flying. She followed them onto the 394 S toward Danville and then onto the IL-1. Where the hell were they going? They’d left the tidy Chicago bedroom communities over fifteen minutes ago. Dense corn and wheat fields now flanked the two-lane road, vast properties dotted by solitary farmhouses and silver silos. She’d glimpsed a couple of signs earlier, indicating the village of Beecher and the Cardinal Creek Golf Course farther south.

 

The flickering lights on the SUV died as the vehicles slowed and made a right. Tess waited several seconds before following so she wouldn’t be spotted—if she hadn’t been already. The homes were more spread out here, the fields longer. She felt a twinge of apprehension, not knowing what she was going into, but her strong sense of curiosity shoved it away. The cars finally pulled onto private property some hundred feet ahead.

 

Tess eased her car onto the long, gravelly drive that inclined slightly and curved in front of a small ranch house. Most of the land in front of the building was overgrown with weeds and grass. The vehicles weren’t where she’d expected them to be. She spotted them past the house, parked on another leg of the drive, near a red building that looked like a stable. She cut the engine several feet away, grabbed her camera, and stepped out. No need to hide—she was here to get a story. She walked alongside the vehicles, noting the Suburban—typical FBI car—and the Explorer. Neither one was occupied. She continued toward the red building, which was eerily still, and took a few pictures of it. About two acres of open land stretched out around the two buildings, enclosed by a wooden rail fence.

 

A warm June breeze danced through her hair, stirring her senses with the sharp country air. She paused and gazed up at the sky, now splashed with streaks of gold, orange and pink. Too bad she couldn’t enjoy this. The sound of male voices caught her attention.

 

A group of men emerged from the stable dressed in SWAT-style black uniforms. This was getting more interesting by the minute, Tess thought. As they approached, the group parted and revealed two subdued, unnaturally pale young men, escorted by two officers. Behold the culprits. She snapped a picture once she had a good angle.

 

“What the hell?” one of the officers rumbled.

 

She expected her presence wouldn’t be welcome.

 

“I’ll take care of this,” said another, breaking away to head straight for her.

 

Her heart skipped several beats. A big, solid panther had her in its sights, and all she could do was stare. Oh, but her insides were a fiery ball of chaos. He moved with a sensual, predatory grace. Virility, primal and dark, rolled off him in waves. Awareness arced through her like a hot current, making her knees weak. Her mind broke through the haze long enough to assess his features. They were all hard angles except for a sinfully full mouth and dark green eyes, a shade she’d never seen before. His hair was short, thick and midnight black.

 

“What are you doing here, ma’am?”

 

She didn’t miss the forbidding undercurrent in his voice. Tess forced her parted lips together and pulled in a steady breath through her nose. She had to tilt her chin up to meet his gaze because he was at least a head taller than her. “My name’s Tess Nielson. I’m a reporter with the Chicago Times. My press pass is in my car.” She noted the dusting of stubble that shadowed his square jaw and experienced a second jolt of awareness.

 

Green eyes flicked to her car before returning to her. “You followed us?”

 

“Yes. You guys nearly ran me off the road in Palos Park, but I realized something was going down so I wanted to check it out.”

 

“You smelled a story.”

 

Before she could respond, he snatched her camera.

 

“Hey!”

 

“This case is confidential.” He went through her recent pictures and deleted them.

 

She was pissed, but she glanced at the Suburban as it roared away, using the interval to gather her thoughts. She angled her chin as he returned the camera. “Those men you apprehended—they’re vampires, aren’t they? And you work for that dhampir organization.”

 

Despite the low profile dhampirs kept, she’d met a few in small social circles—three women and one elderly man specifically. The half-vampire, half-human race shared certain distinctive traits. Keen senses could pick up the animalistic essence, the unusual intensity in the eyes. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. Excitement bubbled inside her at the prospect of writing her very first vampire-related story. If only this guy would talk to her.

 

He gave her a quick once over, yet the heat in his gaze brushed every inch of her body. Then he shrugged and walked to his car.

 

She sensed the other man hovering nearby but paid no attention. “The public has a right to know about this incident.” She came up beside him. “Why did you arrest them?”

 

When he looked at her this time, his gaze lingered on her mouth. Her heart fluttered and she clamped her lips to keep them from parting. She didn’t like the effect he had on her, and on top of it his mouth curved into an amused half smile that suggested he knew exactly what she was thinking.

 

“How about I answer your questions over dinner tomorrow?”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

The other man chuckled. “I’ll wait in the car.”

 

“You want to write this story, right? I can give you the information you need.”

 

Her eyes narrowed. That was too obliging. “How about you come over to the Times in the morn—”

 

“No. Restaurant or nothing.”

 

Devil. She’d be an idiot to walk away from this opportunity, though. Vampires and dhampirs were a mysterious lot—toss in a serious crime, a covert operation, and you’ve made headlines. Her editor would do a backflip.

 

“Have a cell phone handy?”

 

He grinned and pushed his arm through the open window of the vehicle. “Tom, can I have my phone?” An iPhone appeared in his hand. “Shoot.”

 

She recited her cell number and caught his gaze. “So, tomorrow evening?”

 

He inclined his head. “Just give me a time.”

 

“Six works best for me. And it’s an interview—not a date,” she added, stamping it in her head as well.

 

He gave a low chuckle as he swung the door open. “Drive safely, Ms. Nielson.”

 

Tess returned to her car and climbed in as the Explorer rolled past. Her fingers clasped the wheel. It suddenly occurred to her that she didn’t know his name. She didn’t bother scolding herself for not asking—the encounter had been rather intense on several different levels. Any woman with a pulse would have been affected.

 

Before her fantasies went into overdrive, she dialed her editor’s private number and told him she had a news-breaking story for Wednesday’s paper. She kept the conversation short, promising to give him details tomorrow. Then she started the car and headed home while her mind strayed to him again. The man tempted the very primitive part of her female nature, so she’d have to keep her wits about her during their meeting, guard herself against his dangerous sensuality. God, his mouth alone evoked sinful pleasure. A sensible woman didn’t get involved with such a man for her own good. She wasn’t sure if it was the dhampir’s sexual energy or his roguish grin, but she was willing to bet he was a committed bachelor, which was fine if she was looking for a fling. But the casual relationships she’d had in the past had left her feeling empty and used. She wanted a steady relationship with a promising future, wedding gown and all.

 

There was, however, no risk in fantasizing. Her mouth curved slowly. It would be the perfect end to a long day.

 

© Evie Balos

 

Dhampir Desire 2: Primal Passion

Author:  Evie Balos

Publisher: Cobblestone Press.

Genre: Erotic Romance

Buy Link

Crime reporter Tess Nielsen is determined to get an exclusive vampire story, even if it means indulging a certain dhampir agent, whose dangerous sensuality sets her blood on fire. She lands in a bit of vampire trouble, but she can take care of herself, which is why she’s infuriated when the sexy agent intervenes and carries her off to his home.

Milan Markovic likes his affairs hot and brief. Spirited Tess Nielsen stirs his most primal instincts, but she suspects his only motive is seduction. It isn’t until Tess is kidnapped that he realizes his feelings for her aren’t limited to physical pleasure. Losing her isn’t an option

Read rest of entry

Excerpt Day - Pampering Jessica © Tessie Bradford

Excerpt

 

 

“This sure beats the hell out of my normal lunch experience eating a sandwich and banana at my desk,” Jessica said with enthusiasm as she took another bite of chicken Caesar salad. “I’ve been so looking forward to this all week, Barb. Do you realize, we haven’t seen each other in almost three months?”

 

“I know. Things have been so crazy since the twins were born.”

 

“You’d better have pictures with you.”

 

“But of course,” she said, reaching into her purse and pulling out an envelope. “Us grannies are always prepared to show off our babies.”

 

“It still is bizarre as all get out to me that you’re a grandmother now.” Jesse smiled as she looked through the photos.

 

“Oh, your time is coming, sweetheart, what with Carl being married almost a year and Laurie moving in with her boyfriend.”

 

“No way! Every chance I get, I remind both of them that kids are expensive little pains in the ass that’ll suck the life right out of you for at least eighteen years.”

 

“Very nice mothering technique,” Barb laughed uproariously.

 

“It’s my job to teach them the truth of things, and they love me for it. Most importantly, they need to understand I’m way too young to enter that particular phase of life yet.”

 

“Speaking of your advancing age, how are you planning to celebrate being on the planet for a half century tomorrow?”

 

“Jesus, that sounds awful!” Jesse rolled her eyes and shook her head. “It’s bad enough that every card I’ve received so far has fifty printed prominently all over it.”

 

“So what? It’s just a number, plus I read that fifty is the new thirty-five.”

 

“Yeah right, tell that to my grey hairs, extra pounds, and less than perky boobs.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Jesse. Those minor issues are why the Lord created hair dye, properly tailored clothes, and sexy yet supportive bras.”

 

“Amen,” Jesse agreed with a chuckle.

 

“Seriously, what are you doing this weekend? You better not be having a party, since I didn’t receive an invite.” Barb raised an eyebrow.

 

“To my knowledge, nothing is going on. The kids all have other plans, so we got together last weekend to celebrate. I’m hoping David and I will go out for dinner or something, but we haven’t really talked about it.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“He’s working six days a week, ten or more hours a day, Barb. I’m working at all kinds of weird times so that I can be available for Mom when she needs me, and David is helping Carl build his addition on Sundays. I’ll be thrilled if we can steal a bit of alone time.”

 

“You guys need to make time for each other. What you’re describing is the perfect recipe for marital disaster.” Barb reached out and squeezed her hand, concern more than evident in her eyes.

 

“Wait, no, things are fine, Barb. It’s just another hectic phase. Hell, after twenty-five years together, we’re pros at dealing with whatever life throws at us.”

 

“Glad to hear it, since you’re my hero in the marital longevity department. I swear my next husband is going to be ‘the one.’”

 

Jesse raised her water glass in salute. “You go, girl.”

 

They’d been best friends for almost thirty years despite their lives taking very different paths. Barb had been married three times, changed jobs constantly, and loved moving around the state. Jesse had recently marked her twentieth anniversary at the accounting firm and still lived in the same home David had built early in their marriage.

 

Ignoring her feeble protest, Barb ordered a big slice of chocolate cake at the end of the meal for them to share and sang a wonderfully off-key rendition of Happy Birthday.

 

“Touch base with me about the birthday happenings on Monday morning, okay?” she asked as they hugged goodbye in the parking lot.

 

“What if our celebrating is of the personal, naked kind?”

 

“Then I’ll need a complete, detailed reporting!”

 

****

 

A little flutter of anticipation danced in her tummy when Jessica pulled into the driveway and parked behind David’s truck. She was early—it was only a little after five o’clock. “This is a good sign.” Jesse hopped out of the car and hurried up the front steps. She opened the door and froze with only one foot in the house.

 

“Happy day before your birthday.”

 

Her jaw dropped as she tried to take everything in. A vase full of red roses sat on the coffee table next to two glasses and a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket. Soft music was playing. The scent of her favorite pine cleaning liquid wafted through the air, and the carpet had obviously been vacuumed. David stood in the doorway of the kitchen, barefooted, in a black T-shirt and faded jeans, a towel in one hand and a bottle of window cleaner in the other.

 

“What?” he asked. His ruggedly handsome face lit up with a mischievous grin.

 

“You’ve never looked more handsome to me,” she giggled. “Give me a sec to enjoy the picture.”

 

“If you’d been here a half an hour ago, you’d have found me on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor.”

 

Jesse closed the door and dropped her purse on the side table without taking her eyes off of David.

 

“Ooo, yeah baby, tell me more.” She practically ran across the room. David put down his cleaning supplies and gathered her close when she threw her arms around his neck.

 

“There’s not a speck of dust on any surface.” He gently squeezed her ass cheeks. “The refrigerator has been cleaned out.” He shifted his hips forward. “Dinner is in the oven.” When he flexed forward, Jesse moaned.

 

“You took time off to do this for me?”

 

“We both live here, and I’m well aware that I haven’t been helping much lately, and I’m sorry, Jesse.” The stark emotion reflected in his eyes warmed her to her toes.

 

“Kiss me, you sexy cleaning man, you.” He cradled her head and took possession of her mouth. He nipped and teased before sliding his tongue slowly past her lips to do wonderfully decadent things to her. Desire raced through Jesse as she met him stroke for stroke and rubbed herself against him wantonly. They were both gasping when David lifted his head.

 

“Keep it up, woman, and we’ll be on the squeaky clean kitchen floor.”

 

“Okay,” she agreed instantly. David gave her a playful swat on the bum.

 

“Although I appreciate your enthusiasm, I have a plan and can’t allow you to sway me with your feminine wiles…yet.” David took her hand and led her to the couch. “Sit down, Jesse. Take your shoes off and get comfy. How was your lunch?”

 

“Great, um, what are you doing?” David was digging around in her purse. He came back holding her cell phone. “These are off limits for both of us until Monday morning.” He powered it off and opened a drawer in the coffee table. “See, mine’s in here, too.”

 

“David, what about the kids and my mom and your work?”

 

“They will all survive without us for a couple of days.” Jesse flashed a doubtful frown. “Don’t give me that look. Rob’s on call for the crews, and Laurie and Carl are on call for your mom.”

 

“The kids have stuff going on, remember?” David grabbed the champagne and sat down.

 

“Yes they do, and it’s helping us to have uninterrupted time together.” The cork popped noisily. He filled both glasses and handed one to Jesse. “This weekend is all about you. There’s going to be pampering and a whole bunch of lovemaking and a few surprises.” David wiggled his eyebrows, leered, and clicked her glass. “Are you game?”

 

“You didn’t make that face when you talked to them about this, right?” God, it had been so long since she’d seen David at his devilish best. Her nipples hardened.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous. I told them we were going antiquing up North.”

 

“What happens when they ask where we went and what we bought?”

 

David pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to her. “I knew you would ask me those very questions. This should help with the authenticity of our alibi.”

 

Jessica couldn’t believe her eyes. It was a typewritten list giving the destination, the hotel name, a couple of restaurants, and some antique stores.

 

“You researched a trip that we’re not taking so we can convincingly lie to people?”

 

“Yes I did. Adds intrigue and mystery, don’t you think?” He casually crossed his legs and rested an arm along the back of the couch. The relaxed position accentuated his impressive hard-on beneath the worn denim.

 

“Without a doubt,” she replied, staring pointedly at his crotch. “But be careful, old broads like me have to start taking things easy. Too much excitement is probably not good for my aging constitution.”

 

“Give me a break, Jesse.” She squealed with surprise when David hauled her back into his strong embrace. “You’re turning fifty, not ninety.” He gently kissed her forehead. “This is a great time for us. We’ve raised two well-adjusted adults who have finally left the nest to live their own lives. We are more than reasonably financially secure, can enjoy some of the finer things, and after all of our years of practice, we’re smokin’ hot in the sack.” He flattened her hand against his chest. His heartbeat pounded wildly underneath her palm. “Feel what you do to me.”

 

“I love you so much,” she whispered, snuggling closer. David slowly caressed her hip, sending heat racing through her body. “Can we just stay here like this for a while?”

 

“There’s no place else I’d rather be, sweetheart.”

 

Jesse was in heaven as they chatted, sipped champagne, and cuddled. She was a bit surprised at how much there was to catch up on, things that were happening in their jobs, stories about friends and the kids, even current events in the news. It had obviously been much too long since they’d spent quality time simply being together.

 

David started telling a story about having to teach the new guy on his crew about jacking up the floor joist and installing load-bearing walls. With his deep, baritone voice, he could read the phone book and it would sound sexy. She traced lazy patterns across his chest and along his ribs. He was a big man, almost six three, and his muscular build came from years of hard, physical labor, not a gym. Jesse closed her eyes and let her mind wander.

 

The first time she’d seen him had been on a construction site across the parking lot of her apartment building on a steamy hot August evening. She was leaving to go out with friends, and the sound of male voices caught her attention. David was loading stuff into the back of his truck. Jesse stopped and watched as he lifted what appeared to be very heavy equipment with no difficulty. One of the other guys walked up and said something, making him laugh. In one fluid motion, he pulled his T-shirt over his head and used it to mop his brow. Jessica had lost the ability to breathe as she stood mesmerized by the play of muscles in his arms and chest. When he met and held her gaze then winked, she’d thought she might melt into a puddle on the pavement. Embarrassment at being caught gawking had her hopping into her car and practically racing away.

 

Over the next week, she’d made sure she had lots of reasons to come and go. She’d never run so many errands in her life! He started to nod or give a little wave when he saw her, but nothing more. Jessica didn’t have the nerve to make the first move, and by the second week, she’d resigned herself to the fact that the gorgeous construction worker would never be anything other than the star of her fantasies.

 

One Friday night, after a particularly shitty day at work, Jesse parked in her spot as the skies opened up in a near torrential downpour. She had a week’s worth of groceries in the trunk. She’d darted out of her car and loaded herself down with every bag so she didn’t have to make a second trip. In the mere seconds it took to get to the front door of her building, the paper sacks had gotten soaked. The bottom fell out of one of them, sending cans rolling. She’d been swearing a blue streak and fumbling to get her key in the front door when, all of a sudden, David was at her side. He looked down at her with the most beautiful grey-blue eyes, flashed a killer grin, and took the bags.

 

Jessica grinned at the memories. She repositioned herself to lay her cheek against David’s stomach. She gave his erection a tiny squeeze before tugging open the top button of his jeans.

 

“I don’t think you’re paying attention to me,” he chuckled.

 

“On the contrary,” she disagreed and slid down his zipper. “You’re the only thing on my mind at the moment.” She reached in and freed his penis. Jesse wrapped her fingers around the base and gave a playful lick to the swollen head.

 

© Tessise Bradford

 

Pampering Jessica

Author: Tessise Bradford

Publisher: Resplendence Publishing

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance.

Buy Link

David has been planning Jessica’s birthday weekend for months. His wife of almost twenty-five years is having issues with turning fifty, and he vows to do everything in his power to remind her how incredible she is and how much he loves her. 

Jessica’s birthday wish is to spend quality alone time with the man of her dreams—her husband. When David presents her with a gold gift bag full of sensual surprises, Jessica is more than eager to enjoy every one of them. What she doesn’t realize is that her husband has much more in store for her special celebration

Read rest of entry

Excerpt - Blood Oath 1: What Rough Beast © Kari Gregg

Excerpt

 

Lucien sprawled against the scratchy nap of the sofa. His chest heaved when Kate's mouth released the opening he'd made above his left nipple. The cut wept blood, but her boneless weight told him she already slept, too weak to notice or care.

 

He closed his eyes.

 

His head fell back against the couch's spine.

 

Five nights.

 

He'd wasted precious weeks circling Krystiyan's search parties and Garrick's ruthless hunt to reach his closest shelter, a derelict basement in Chicago's K-Town. Then he'd shut out the world to nurture and tend to her for five hellacious nights.

 

He'd cared for the injuries David had inflicted. He'd comforted her through the agony of the transition, murmuring into her hair, stroking and soothing her. He'd coaxed precious drops past dry, cracked lips as hour passed to hour and night melted into night. In the beginning, he'd marveled at how eagerly she'd feasted. Those brief periods of hunger had galvanized him while they'd been on the run, but hope had since become a vague memory.

 

He was losing her.

 

During the daylight hours, the pallor of her skin blanched to bloodless alabaster. The purpling of her bruises had intensified, and the slashed skin on her back had ceased knitting. Most telling, Lucien had forced her to feed for the past two days. Before, feeding had been instinctive. Though weakened, she'd fought for survival.

 

Not anymore.

 

He ran his fingers through her long, dark hair, comforted by its softness. "I'm sorry, bebe. So sorry."

 

Once they'd gone to ground in Chicago, he hadn't dared leave her. Garrick prowled, closer by the day, and though Lucien didn't know what had happened to Malachi, whether his partner lived or died, he knew Krystiyan hadn't followed the vampyr elder. The dark master pursued him and the woman instead. Both Garrick and the master tracked him through the scent Lucien couldn't avoid leaving in the human prey he trailed behind them. The Russian's foul odor soon joined Garrick's seductive scent to permeate Chicago's West Side.

 

Lucien couldn't hunt.

 

His strength deteriorated with each feeding he missed, and he'd missed too many. He felt the loss in the deadweight of his limbs, the lethargic beat of his heart. Fatigue crept over him, through him, and saturated his every pore and muscle.

 

His options had dwindled to a blur his mind refused to process.

 

He needed blood, but he couldn't feed while their predators were so near.

 

He couldn't run from them either.

 

Kate's transition had grown more difficult--and dangerous--every night they'd spent on the road to Chicago. He'd flee if he could, but she wouldn't survive if they ran again. Better to starve than allow Krystiyan to snare them on open ground. And Garrick? Damn his conniving, manipulative soul! Luc would fight him, inch by cursed inch, before allowing the vampyr elder to take her so readily.

 

Instead, Luc had gambled that he was strong enough to sustain them until the search wavered.

 

He'd been wrong.

 

He planted a kiss on the crown of her head.

 

He must call Garrick.

 

"I have fed richly, Luc, glutted myself for you and the woman both."

 

His eyes flashed open.

 

He tensed, tucked Kate against his side.

 

A startled growl emerged from his throat.

 

Garrick's eyebrow arched. "You would have called, and I would have answered." He lifted his arm and slashed at his wrist with sharp incisors. "I found you first."

 

The metallic scent of his blood burned Lucien's nostrils. "Stay away from her!"

 

"She's dying." Garrick shoved his streaming wrist toward him.

 

Lucien flinched from the first blow of a battle he knew he couldn't win, but instead--

 

"Feed."

 

Garrick's fingers dripped sweet crimson.

 

With the first splash on his lips, Lucien fastened one hand to Garrick's meaty forearm. He held it in his tight grasp, and bending to the wound, he drank.

 

Had he been so dry? So cold?

 

He hadn't noticed.

 

But as blood poured into his ravenous mouth, he recognized the disorientation hunger had wrought in him. If he--a three centuries-old headhunter--was so frail, how much weaker would his ward be?

 

"Restore yourself, and your ward will feed from you."

 

She would live.

 

She must live.

 

Lucien clamped his teeth into the wound, satisfied when Garrick's breath hissed at the roughness.

 

He drank.

 

Within moments, Garrick's strength seeped into his drained body, first as a trickle, then as a flood. Nerve endings snapped. His heartbeat doubled, tripled, until his heart pounded against the wall of his chest as the power of the elder vampyr's blood stirred it to brutal life. Flush with the virus that made them vampyr, Garrick's blood singed his veins like an electric current and so filled him with life, with energy, and blessed God, the power, Lucien sucked greedily.

 

"Drink deeply. The woman will need it."

 

With the first urgent demands of his hunger appeased, Lucien slid his fingers into Kate's hair. Cradling her scalp, he guided her mouth to the opening he'd made on his chest.

 

She sniffed at fresh scarlet gurgling from the cut, her nose wrinkling. They hadn't time to wait for Garrick's blood to steep inside his, but traces of Lucien's familiar scent would tempt her. It had to.

 

It did.

 

Kate traced the wound with the tip of her pink tongue.

 

Lucien's body clenched.

 

The violent bite of his teeth hurt Garrick, but Lucien couldn't help himself. His former partner had abandoned headhunting--abandoned him--when the temptation to turn had drawn perilously close. Garrick had said killing had become attractive to him. Too alluring. So he'd laid down his sword before he became what they fought to destroy--a monster.

 

Lucien had understood.

 

He'd tried.

 

But he'd missed him, missed his mentor and friend.

 

And God have mercy, he'd missed Garrick's blood.

 

He couldn't break free, would savor the feast he'd yearned for. The anticipation of Kate strengthening, taking the undiluted power of elder blood from his veins, maddened him. "Drink, chere. Please."

 

Her mouth flitted over the opening.

 

Lucien yanked his from Garrick to sever the link, but his old partner shoved his wrist forward, forcing his blood into Lucien when Kate gently suckled. Lucien's back bowed, nearly unseating her, but Garrick clamped down on her shoulder to hold her to the wound and maintain the intimacy of the connection.

 

Lucien shouted rage. He choked on hot blood forced past his gritted teeth. Garrick's presence speared through his mind, searching for Kate. Lucien cursed, marshaled his power to protect his ward while she took the sustenance she so desperately needed from him.

 

Garrick's will battered his. Determined. Violent.

 

Excruciating.

 

Nausea coiled like vipers in the pit of his stomach. He clawed at Garrick's wrist, fighting to wrench it away.

 

Garrick must not reach Kate.

 

The son of a bitch would fry his brain before he'd allow the link with her.

 

"Only a moment, Luc. Just to be sure..."

 

"Get away from her!"

 

When he launched his body forward, toward his mentor instead of away, Garrick stumbled. His wrist fell from Lucien's mouth. Kate slid from his chest. Once his fist connected with Garrick's jaw, Lucien's gaze darted to where she'd curled into a fetal ball on the

 

stained linoleum.

 

Cracked and crumbling plaster spilled to the floor when Garrick crashed into the wall. "Enough," he shouted.

 

Lucien scooped Kate from the floor and sprinted for newspaper-covered windows--their only chance for escape.

 

Garrick lashed out his hand and shoved them toward the sofa. "No!"

 

Lucien used his momentum to pivot, angled his body between Kate and the danger Garrick represented. His lips curled to a sneer. "I'll see you dead first."

 

"Hold, Luc." Garrick stepped back, hands raised. "Hold!" Blood slid in a vermillion trickle from his wrist. "Krystiyan is three blocks away. He'll slaughter us."

 

"You won't take her." Lucien let Kate tumble to the ratty cushions of the sofa and reached behind it to slide his sword free from its snug hiding place. "I'll have your head first."

 

Garrick's blue eyes, blank, dead, studied him long minutes. He fell to his knees and clasped his hands at the base of his spine. He bent forward, dark hair fanning at the nape to expose his vulnerable neck. "If you want it, take it."

 

Lucien tightened his grip on the hilt.

 

His stance widened for the more powerful blow.

 

Every instinct inside him screamed for the kill.

 

That horrifying impulse made the sword bobble in his grasp.

 

He shook his head, stunned.

 

Kate was his ward. The responsibility fell to him to ease her transition to vampyr. She was his to care for, his to guide and protect.

 

That and no more.

 

Only dark masters forced females to remain with them. Or God forbid, forced a sick travesty of what mating should be. Images flashed through his mind--the masters he and Garrick had hunted together, the vampyr Lucien hunted still. David, who had taken Kate, tortured her...

 

He dropped one hand from the hilt of his sword to reach for her. "Kate?"

 

"The others, Luc. They will not be far behind." Kneeling on the floor, Garrick peered at him through thick, dark lashes. "I won't take her from you, but they will. They'll kill you to take her."

 

Lucien stooped until his fingers brushed her pale cheek.

 

"Where will you run that I can't find you? That Krystiyan won't? Let me help. Kill me or let me help you."

 

"You can't have her."

 

Garrick's steady gaze never left his. "No. Not yet."

 

Pain exploded inside him.

 

Right or wrong, Lucien couldn't bear the thought of losing Kate. She could save Garrick's life, but the need to keep her for himself, his and his alone, still ripped at Lucien's gut. His eyes squeezed shut as he fought for control. Sweet darkness beckoned, the darkness of never, ever letting her go.

 

But that was a battle to be fought later.

 

For now, his old partner was right.

 

Kate must be protected.

 

He wasn't strong enough to guard her alone, and among his brother vampyr, there was no one Lucien trusted more than Garrick. They must work together--again--to defend her. Take her where Krystiyan and the others dared not follow.

 

He lowered the sword, dropped it to the floor with a deafening clang. He lifted Kate into his arms. "If she doesn't accept you—"

 

"I'll beg you for death."

 

Lucien prayed, when the time came, his integrity would be as strong. "All right."

 

©  Kari Gregg

 

Blood Oath 1: What Rough Beast

Author: Kari Gregg

Publisher: LooseId, LLC

Genre: Paranormal Erotica/Romance

Buy Link

Dark Masters and the vampyr they’ve enslaved for millennia are at war...And the vampyr are losing.

During a raid on a Dark Master stronghold, Luc stumbles across Kate, a rare female susceptible to the vampyr virus. Ruthlessly hunted by the enemy, they flee -- to Garrick, Luc’s mentor and friend. Garrick provides a sanctuary, but safety comes with a price for them both. Though her mind remains very human, Garrick initiates the biological trigger that begins pair-bonding, because they must mate. Quickly.

Dark Masters have tired of the Rebellion. They will not tolerate the escape of another vampyr to mating. Enraged, they flush the pair from Garrick's sanctuary and when he eludes them, they seize Luc instead. But Luc is just bait, and Garrick and Kate walk right into their trap...

Read rest of entry

Excerpt Day – A Portrait of Emily © J.P. Bowie

Excerpt

 

Prologue

 

Some years ago...

 

Emily lay in the dark, her eyes wide open, listening for the sound of his approaching footsteps. She had lain this way night after night for as long as she could remember. She could feel her heart thump within her chest and her breath become ragged with fear as the time drew near for his visit.

 

He came to her almost every night. He would smile and whisper close to her ear that he loved her above all others. She was his favorite, he would tell her, his pet. She knew he was lying, for she knew he loved her sister too, in the same way. They had spoken of it one day, when the burden of what they were concealing from each other, and from their brother Anthony, became too much.

 

The words had tumbled from their lips; their hatred and loathing for what he had done to them at last manifested in their sharing. They had cried and held each other, the two of them. There was some comfort now in the fact that they had spoken of it, but that comfort was dispelled when they were alone in their rooms-and he came to them.

 

Their father.

 

There was no protection for them within the family, for they both knew the truth-their mother was fully aware of her husband's perversion and would not, dared not, interfere. Emily had overheard her parent's conversation, when her mother had confronted him with the fact that she knew what he was doing to his children.

 

"How could you?" her mother had whimpered through her sobs. "Have you no shame at all?"

 

He had threatened her with all kinds of recrimination if she ever breathed a word of what she knew. He would throw her out, take the children away from her, tell her friends she was frigid and a worthless wife. His daughters would never betray their father, of that he was sure, and as Emily listened outside the door, she knew it to be true. They would never have the courage to admit to the humiliation they were forced to endure-and so it continued.

 

Paula finally begged her mother to help them.

 

"Shut up!" her mother had screamed at her. "Don't say such disgusting things about your father! You're a liar!"

 

Paula had stumbled away, incredulous that her mother would not help her. The sisters sought solace in each other's company, and the bond between them strengthened over the years.

 

When Paula left to go to college and Anthony to military school, Emily thought her heart would break. She was all alone, and without the support of her sister and brother her life became unbearable.

 

The first time she tried to kill herself by slashing her wrists, but her father found her and rushed her to a doctor friend of his who stitched her up, ignoring his duty to report such incidents to the police. The second time she almost succeeded. She waded out into the lake near her home, submerged herself and opened her mouth under water. She lost consciousness, but a group of boy scouts had seen her and swam out to save her. With great efficiency they revived her and she begged them not to tell anyone what she'd done.

 

It was then she decided she should live...and her father should pay for what he had done.

 

Chapter One

 

Peter Brandon glanced from the canvas in front of him to his subject seated on a chaise in his studio. He smiled at her, and she, dazzled by his good looks and the cobalt blue of his eyes, smiled back at him in what she hoped was a sultry, come hither expression.

 

Gloria Pedersen was a beautiful woman. Her smooth pale complexion, limpid green eyes, and a startling crown of long golden hair made her the center of attraction in any crowd. She wore a black velvet gown, deeply cut to reveal her ample breasts. Hanging from her neck was a stunning diamond pendant which she now held between her thumb and forefinger and played with somewhat suggestively.

 

Peter chuckled and grinned at her. "Now, now, Gloria. You know I'm a happily married man."

 

"Darn it, Peter. You could at least act as if you might be interested." She rose from the chaise and crossed to where he stood adding a few deft touches to the almost completed portrait. She kissed him on the cheek and stroked his bottom as she looked at his work.

 

"Mmm, nice buns..." She draped herself over him. "Do my breasts really look that big?"

 

Peter laughed, putting his arm round her waist. "Bigger, actually. I've refined them, somewhat."

 

"Pig." She giggled and kissed him again. "I need to get out of this damned dress. Unzip me, darling. I'm having afternoon tea with Carol, and she's a bitch if I'm one minute late."

 

Peter complied, and she turned to face him wearing only her bra and panties.

 

"Isn't there anything here you could go for?"

 

"You are, without doubt, a shameless hussy, Gloria. And I don't think that very large and well-muscled husband of yours would approve of your wanton display in front of me. He might resort to violence."

 

"Are you joking? Johnny loves you and your gorgeous Jeff. Never stops talking about how great you guys are."

 

"Well, I'd like to keep him a fan of ours, thank you."

 

Laughing, Gloria blew him a kiss and disappeared into the bathroom to finish getting ready for her appointment.

 

Peter hadn't known Gloria long, but her fun loving nature and easy conversation had quickly drawn her to him. Her husband, Johnny Pedersen, a successful defense lawyer, had contacted Peter asking if he could commission him to paint his wife's portrait for her thirtieth birthday.

 

Peter had agreed, meeting Gloria for lunch in Laguna Beach near Peter's home to set up a sitting schedule. They had warmed to each other immediately and a few days later she invited Peter and his partner, Jeff, to dinner at her home in Corona del Mar.

 

Johnny and Jeff, both being ex college football players, had a rapport going the whole evening while Gloria had monopolized Peter's company, anxious to hear his version of his recovery from a coma that had claimed three years of his life. She had listened with wide eyes as Peter recounted the aftermath when he and Jeff had discovered who was behind the attack that had killed his former lover, Phillip, and left himself severely injured.

 

"God, Peter, how awful for you to find out a family friend was behind all of that."

 

"Yeah, it was pretty devastating. These days I'm a little more wary of people."

 

"That poor detective's wife...Susan, was it?"

 

"Mmm, she really had her life fall apart in front of her eyes. Practically overnight her husband changed from being her dream come true to being her worst nightmare.

 

"You have to wonder why she was attracted to him in the first place."

 

"Seems he was a different man around her. He loved her with as much passion as he hated everything else he couldn't understand."

 

"Meaning you?"

 

"Well, I was a part of it. Jeff too, but it really started out as plain greed. He was paid to attack Phillip and me."

 

"What a bastard," Gloria said vehemently. "What happened to his wife?"

 

"She moved back with her folks and, hopefully, is getting over it by now."

 

"And you? How are you after all this?"

 

"I'm one of the luckiest and happiest guys around. How can I not be, with Jeff in my life?"

 

"You certainly did bag first prize." Gloria looked over to where Jeff stood talking with her husband. "That man is one of the cutest I've ever seen."

 

"Cute?" Peter laughed. "Rugged and butch is more like it."

 

"Whatever-you're a lucky son of a gun."

 

And Peter had to agree he was lucky. Since Jeff had moved in with him the previous Christmas Eve, he had felt himself completely healed from the trauma that had gone before. Even the nightmare of being held at gunpoint by a psycho cop had faded to a merely unpleasant memory. Jeff's presence in his life had brought him a feeling of love and security he had not realized he needed until then...and because of that, his desire to create and paint had increased. He was now even more prolific in his output than he had been before his coma. Gloria was just one in a long line of clients anxious to commission him to paint their portrait. He knew this was due in part to the publicity forced on him by the drama of past events. People seemed to have some kind of need to know those who'd been close to danger and death. The lurid and unusual was a powerful aphrodisiac for some.

 

Jeff's business had also benefited from the press exposure. He had moved his office south to Laguna a month after moving in with Peter and had been forced to limit the number of new clients he could take on. Even Andrew Connor, Peter's friend and physical therapist, now found his engagement calendar totally full. He had laughingly told Peter that one patient had blatantly told him she wanted the same hands that had massaged that divine artist's body' to be the only ones to touch hers.

 

"She was furious when I told her I had no opening for her," Andrew had told Peter in amazement. "I mean, how kinky can you get?"

 

Gloria, returning from the bathroom, interrupted his thoughts.

 

"Have to run, sweetie." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek, picked up her bag, and headed for the door.

 

Peter walked her downstairs. "I should be finished with your portrait in the next few days. Do you want me to arrange for the framing or do you want to choose one yourself?"

 

"I'll leave it to your impeccable taste, darling." Gloria gave him a hug. "And don't forget-you and Jeff are the guests of honor at my party for the ‘Grand Showing.'"

 

"Oh, we'll be there." He watched as she ran down the steps to her car, then he returned to his studio to wash out his brushes and straighten up the studio. He picked up a couple of dirty glasses, taking them down to the kitchen. As he slipped the glasses into the dishwasher, the phone rang.

 

"Hello?"

 

"Is Jeff there?" The man's voice had a slight accent Peter couldn't quite place.

 

"No, he's not home yet. Can I take a message?"

 

"No. Is this Peter?"

 

"Yes, who's this?"

 

The line went dead.

 

Jeff had said he'd be home around six, so Peter prepared a light meal for them both to have later. It was a beautiful, warm July evening. He set the table on the terrace so that they could enjoy watching the sunset over the ocean. He thought of inviting Eve, his mother, to join them then remembered she was going out with her old boyfriend, Fred. Ever since Peter's father had died, Fred had been there to support and comfort his mother. He'd been there for her when Phillip was murdered and Peter lost to them for the three years he lay in a coma. Now Eve was free to enjoy Fred's company even more as she no longer had to center her life around her constant visits to the hospital.

 

Eve still lived in the annex attached to Peter's house that Phillip had designed for her after Paul, Peter's father, died unexpectedly from a heart attack. She had talked of moving out now that Jeff and Peter lived together, but they had both insisted she stay. Peter knew that Fred still had high hopes of Eve agreeing to marry him-and secretly, Peter hoped she would eventually. He wanted his mother to know the same love and companionship he now enjoyed with Jeff, and he knew Fred would always adore her. So far though, she had resisted all of Fred's attempts to persuade her to marry him.

 

She can be as stubborn as...me, he thought, chuckling to himself. He heard the garage door open and his heart lifted as it always did when he knew Jeff was home.

 

"Hi there, you." Jeff crossed the few steps to where Peter stood and gathered him in his arms, kissing him tenderly on the mouth. "I've missed you," he murmured between kisses.

 

"Me too," Peter whispered. "Don't go to work anymore."

 

"Someone has to provide for you."

 

"Darn it, that's true. Like to provide for me-upstairs?"

 

"Anywhere you like-the kitchen table?"

 

"Uh...upstairs."

 

Jeff chuckled. "I need to take a shower. Join me?"

 

"You bet."

 

They were almost undressed before they reached the bedroom, playfully pulling at each other's clothes as they ran up the stairs together. Peter never tired of seeing Jeff's powerful body unclothed. The rigorous police training he'd undergone in his early twenties had honed muscle and sinew to near perfection; a body any sculptor would love to have as a model. And oh, that delectable ass...

 

Peter liked it all even better when Jeff wrapped him in his arms and held him pressed to his warm, smooth flesh, as he now did, his hot hard cock pressed to Peter's own burgeoning erection

 

"Mmm...you feel good." Jeff's lips glided over Peter's throat then down across his chest, sucking on each nipple in turn, hardening the tiny nubs, sending tingling jolts of pleasure through Peter's body.

 

Still in each other's arms Jeff backed Peter up until they reached the bathroom and Jeff could turn on the shower. "Get in," he growled, smacking Peter's ass.

 

Peter moaned. "More."

 

Jeff chuckled. "You enjoy it too much." He squirted body wash onto a sponge and started soaping Peter's lithe and compact body, trailing kisses over the nape of his neck and shoulders.

 

"Oh, man..." Peter pressed his back to Jeff's hard chest and ground his butt against the erection he could feel throbbing between his ass cheeks. Jeff ran the soapy sponge down to Peter's crotch, circling it with slow sensual movements that had Peter gasping with excitement and anticipation. He turned in Jeff's arms then sank to his knees, eager to take Jeff's erection into his mouth. While the shower water cascaded over them he slid his lips down the length of Jeff's hot, hard flesh. Jeff's fingers smoothed Peter's wet hair from his forehead and caressed his face as he thrust in and out of Peter's mouth. Peter ran his hands over Jeff's butt, pulling him in closer, deeper inside his mouth, his throat muscles gripping the head of Jeff's cock.

 

"Uh...you're gonna make me come," Jeff panted.

 

Peter released him and looked up. "That's good isn't it?"

 

"Yeah, but not so soon. C'm up here..." He pulled Peter back onto his feet and held him, his lips searing Peter's with a long, scorching kiss, their tongues dancing inside each other's mouths, searching, tasting every part of their wet heat. Peter's hands roamed over Jeff's back then slid down the length of his spine, lingering in the hollow on the small of his back before grasping the round, muscular globes of his ass and pulling him in, grinding their erections together.

 

Their kiss deepened, their breath filling each other's mouths.

 

Jeff pulled away from their kiss. "Let's get out of here. I need to be inside you." He turned off the shower and grabbed their towels from the rail. Quickly, they dried one another then practically ran into the bedroom, flinging themselves onto the bed, arms and legs tangling, their lips and tongues scouring each other's damp skin. They maneuvered themselves into a sixty-nine position and Peter grasped Jeff's pulsing shaft at the base, bringing the glistening head to his lips, shuddering with pleasure as he felt his cock being enveloped by Jeff's mouth.

 

His tongue swirled around Jeff's cockhead, scooping up the copious precum, swallowing it down, greedily taking the whole throbbing length as far as he could into his mouth and throat. He gulped and his body spasmed as Jeff slid a finger inside him, each pass over his prostate sending fire and ice zinging straight to his balls.

 

"Uh..." Now it was his turn to protest that he was coming too soon. He released Jeff and pulled himself up into Jeff's arms. "Want you to fuck me..."

 

"Want that too..." Jeff reached for the lube then warmed the gel in his hand before inserting one, then two fingers into Peter's opening. Peter sat astride Jeff's thighs then lowered himself slowly, impaling himself on the hard flesh, gasping as his opening was stretched, and each glorious inch of Jeff's cock slid deep inside him.

 

"Oh...yeah..." Peter's head fell back in ecstasy and his hips moved up and down, meeting every one of Jeff's thrusts in a mutually created rhythm that took both of them closer and closer to the brink of orgasm.

 

Jeff raised himself up then eased Peter onto his back. Without breaking their rhythm he drove his cock even deeper inside his lover, thrusting harder, faster, his breath quickening in his chest. He gazed down at Peter's face, transformed by his ecstasy, his eyes dark with desire, his lips parted in expectation of Jeff's kiss. Their mouths met and Peter wrapped his arms around Jeff's neck, locking them together in one long, rapturous kiss. Jeff squeezed a hand between their tightly pressed torsos and grasped Peter's rock hard erection, pumping it, urging it rapidly toward release.

 

Peter shuddered and gasped into Jeff's mouth and Jeff groaned, unable to control the rush of his orgasm. "Ah, babe...I'm coming."

 

"Yes..." Peter arched under him, and the sensation of his lover's semen surging between their bodies and spilling through his fingers took Jeff over the edge. One last thrust, his body stiffened, hard and taut as a strung bow as he climaxed. Spasm after spasm wracked his body and a thousand lights sparkled behind his closed eyelids as he filled his lover with his hot seed.

 

He collapsed over Peter, burying his face in the hollow between Peter's neck and shoulder.

 

"Beautiful," Peter murmured.

 

And if Jeff could have found his voice at that moment, he would have agreed.

 

© J.P. Bowie

 

A Portrait of Emily

Author :  J.P. Bowie

Publisher: MLR Press

Genre: Suspense, GLBT

Buy Link

When Peter Brandon is commissioned to paint Emily Hastings' portrait, his psychic awareness unlocks the dark secret that has haunted her since childhood. Now on the brink of at last finding happiness in the arms of the man she loves, she is faced with her father's manic desire to ruin her life.

Charles Hastings, Emily's father, is found murdered and the police consider Emily, along with her brother, Anthony, the prime suspects. It is up to Jeff Stevens, Peter's lover, to try and clear their names. His investigation becomes even more personal when Joey Fernandez, who had disappeared from Jeff's life some years before, is also found murdered. Jeff now has to track two killers, at great risk to himself.

His discovery that Hastings was involved with a child prostitution ring enrages Jeff and he agrees to be the bait in a police 'sting' operation...but when that goes wrong, the outcome is no longer certain.

Read rest of entry

Excerpt Day – Obsessed © Lisa Sanchez

Excerpt

 

 

Kaiti let out a frustrated sigh and yanked her cell out of her bag. “This crap isn’t gonna fly. I need to call the city and find out why our water isn’t turned on. I’ll be right back.” She stormed out the back entrance of the future bakery, her black heels clacking against the floor, her cell phone plastered to her ear.

 

Alone, Halley inhaled a slow, steady breath. She stood in the center of the large empty space, just breathing in the possibilities. Closing her eyes, she let her imagination run wild. She may have been standing amidst the dusty remnants of what was once a clothing boutique, but her mind pictured a bustling café. A top-notch pâtisserie, pushing out the finest cassata, pasticciotti, and cannoli money could buy. Located on Columbus, in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach, Zeppoli’s Bakery would be the place to go to get your sugar on. In just a handful of weeks, the dream she’d been holding on to for so long would finally become a reality. And oh yeah, baby, she was giddy with excitement.

 

The corners of her lips pulled up into a smile as she pictured a large refrigerated display case full of pastries, cakes, and desserts. The image of a shiny new commercial-grade convection oven filled with biscotti sent her mouth watering and her mind racing with possibilities. Most women got excited about new shoes, expensive designer purses. Not her. Throw a commercial-grade mixer in front of her, and she’d salivate all over the thing. The name KitchenAid was an aphrodisiac.

 

“Daydreaming, are we?”

 

Halley jumped, her high-pitched yelp bouncing off the dust-covered walls. She wheeled around, her hands automatically reaching for her injured neck and chest as she backed away from -- Mr. Blue Eyes?

 

“You…but…what…” Flustered, she shut her mouth before she made a bigger idiot of herself. What was he doing here? How on earth had he found her? Her heart hammered against her rib cage, and her hands got all hot and sweaty the moment she laid eyes on him. “What are you… Why are you here?” Shut up, Halley! Don’t bug him about why he’s here. Just be happy he is.

 

Fidgeting in place as though he were uncomfortable, he shoved his large hands into the front pockets of his faded jeans and winced before crossing his arms in front of his chest. His knuckles were an angry red, bruised, and swollen. Avoiding her eyes, he waved a hand through the air and spun in a slow circle, making a show of checking out the empty space. “Thought I’d…uh…check things out before I start working.”

 

Damn. He looks more uncomfortable than I am.

 

This, of course, was a surprising revelation. Nervous around anything with arms, legs, and a heartbeat, she’d armed herself with her bottle of happy pills, expecting anxiety to rear its ugly head at some point during the day. Yet, here she was, alone with Mr. Blue Eyes who stood just a few feet away, with no visible signs of panic. Aside from the normal nervous, giddy feeling she got whenever she came across a good-looking guy, she felt surprisingly okay. Looked like her happy pills were doing their job. Or maybe her Good Samaritan had a calming effect on her. She wasn’t going to question it either way. The lack of anxiety felt damn nice.

 

A little dizzy, Halley sucked in a quick breath and enjoyed a good, long look at her silent and brooding hero who had busied himself with inspecting a nearby wall.

 

 

A plain black T-shirt hugged the muscled expanse of his broad chest. A faded, battered pair of jeans rode low on a narrow waist, showing off a Grade A, top-choice ass. As impressive as his physique was, it was the dark swirling ink crawling up his right arm that drew her attention. Magnificent was the only way to describe it. Well, magnificent and sexy. A flush crawled up the back of her neck, down her front, and settled in nice and good. Had someone turned up the heat? Even more powerful than her body’s attraction to him was the sense of safety she felt now that he was in the same room with her. The tension in her shoulders eased, and she finally felt like she could breathe. Holy hell. She didn’t have the urge to bolt. She wasn’t afraid of him.

 

Apparently satisfied the integrity of the wall was sound, Mr. Blue Eyes turned and faced her once more.

 

She licked her lips, stared down at her hands for a moment, and then met his eyes once more. The electricity sparking through the air was almost tangible. Thick, full of anticipation and words unspoken. The sensation was new and foreign yet exciting at the same time. Hell, if she could bottle the magnetic, exhilarating, almost love-drunk feeling, she’d be rich. Halley opened her mouth to speak, but Mr. Blue Eyes beat her to the punch.

 

He shifted in place. “I work for David Nichols. My partner and I are here to meet with the owners of Zeppoli’s Bakery.”

 

His eyes are so blue. I wonder if they’re contacts. And that jaw…

 

Her breath caught, and she glanced away for a moment. Nervous, Halley chewed on the inside of her lip while she searched for her missing voice. She stepped forward. “It’s nice to finally meet you. It’s Mr. Ackart, right?” Her voice shook and sounded like someone else. Damn. Great, Hal. You sound like a dying cow. “My name is Halley Davis. I’m part owner of Zeppoli’s.”

 

He stared at his feet and inhaled a deep breath. When he looked up, it was like the sun broke out through the clouds on a rainy day, filling the room with warmth and light. His smile was radiant, and it warmed the bone-cold chill, which had refused to go away ever since the attack. His presence calmed her, eased her. Who is this guy?

 

“It’s nice to meet you, Halley. And yeah, the last name’s Ackart, but you can call me Nick.”

 

* * * * *

 

Nick glanced down at his shoe, trying his damndest to fight back the raging hard-on that filled his pants the moment he walked into the empty building. Dammit, why? Why couldn’t he escape her? Fate. The word kept nagging at his head, wouldn’t go away. Screw fate. Fate was yanking his chain, and if it didn’t stop, he was gonna yank back -- hard.

 

He’d wanted to turn around and run in the opposite direction the moment he walked into the bakery and found her daydreaming. Self-preservation took over, his brain screaming at him to get out, save himself from heartache. But something inside him, his gut maybe, glued his scuffed work boots to the dusty floor, anchoring him in place. The pull he felt toward her was magnetic, irresistible -- and frustrating as hell.

 

She hadn’t heard him enter the shop, and he was thankful. Damn, she was lovely. His little jaunt around the interior of the bakery had given him ample opportunity to sneak a few glances at her magnificent form. The maroon sweaterdress she wore was striking against her pale skin. And her legs -- Christ, he’d never wanted to be a pair of gray leggings more. Those bad boys hugged a pair of slender legs and a round, firm ass his hands begged to squeeze. And dammit if those legs weren’t topped off by another pair of wicked, sexy boots. He wanted to crawl up under that pretty sweater, wrap those boots around his waist, and sink himself deep into her warmth. Pound out his need until there was nothing left.

 

Rein that shit in, numbnuts. She was just assaulted. He tried to think of something, anything to deflate the painfully swollen rocket ready to fire in his pants. Shit. Why didn’t I take lit classes in school? Oh yeah, because I fucking hate poetry. Crap. Do some math, asshole. Recite the square root of pi. Pie… I wonder if she’s bare? Fuck, not working! Yeah, he was a total douche bag. Fantasizing over a fragile assault victim. He’d hit an all-time low.

 

Feeling like a jackass for ogling her while she daydreamed, he’d opened his mouth and ended up scaring the crap out of her. Her eyeballs practically shot out of her head when she jumped. Idiot. Of course she’d be skittish.

 

And when she finally spoke, well, he felt like he’d died and gone to heaven. Either that or the sky opened up and some winged creature started singing. Halley. Her name fit, and the way it rolled off her tongue with that soft, musical voice of hers made his pulse race and his balls ache with need. Yeah…he totally needed to get away from her. Princess was a choice helping of prime rib, and he was on a relationship fast. Scratch that. If women were meat, his ass was vegan. Regardless of how attracted he was to Halley, she was off-limits. He wouldn’t use her for meaningless sex, and a relationship was out of the question. Falling for someone so soon after losing… God, it almost seemed like a betrayal. Besides, he had nothing left to give.

 

“Thank you.” Her smooth voice floated across the air like a melody, breaking the silence between them. “You know, for what you did, for saving me.” She stepped forward, slow and tentative, her hand shaking like she was afraid, but her face full of gratitude and determination. Her brows furrowed. “Your hands.”

 

A jolt of electricity shot up his arm the moment her fingertip inadvertently grazed the top of his right hand. Holy shit. He waved her off, tearing his hand away from her touch, and crossed his arms again, hiding the angry red reminder of the attack. “I’m fine, and you’re welcome. Anyone would have helped.” Of course, that was a lie. This day and age, most people were more likely to turn their heads and walk away than get involved. Self-involved losers.He couldn’t fathom the idea of not getting involved, not helping.

 

He stood motionless, tethered in place by an undeniable need to soak up her intoxicating presence while she inched forward, slow and unsure.

 

Her eyes zeroed in on the whirling black ink etched into his skin, indecision splashed across her face. Brows furrowed and lips mashed into a thin line, she held her tiny, shaking hand over his arm as if she were afraid to touch him on purpose this time.

 

Hell, he couldn’t blame her for shying away, not wanting to get close. After what happened to her, he was surprised she could tolerate being alone in the same room with a stranger.

 

She let out a tiny gasp, then… Oh shit. She laid her hand just above his right elbow and gave a gentle squeeze.

 

The same spark that shocked him before lit up his arm, sending a powerful surge of lust straight to his johnson.

 

A soft smile graced her lips. “No. Most people wouldn’t have jumped into the thick of it like that, so thank you.”

 

Indecision ping-ponged through his brain. His first instinct was to take her in his arms, inhale her sweet, sugary scent, and never let her go. Not really appropriate, since they’d only just met. Maybe he could touch her. She’d laid a hand on him, and damn, he’d love to reciprocate.

 

A muffled chirping filled the empty space, and just like that, the moment was gone.

 

“Excuse me, I’m sorry.” She dug around in her bag, brows furrowed, searching for her cell phone.

 

She held up a finger and flashed him an apologetic smile as she held the phone to her ear. “Hello.” Her eyes narrowed in frustration, and her jaw clenched before she pulled the phone away and shook her head. With an irritated sigh, she chucked it back into her bag.

 

What the hell was that all about? “Not in a talking mood?” Nick teased.

 

She shook her head, the left corner of her mouth curling up. “No. It’s not that. Someone keeps calling me and hanging up. It happened twice at my place, and this is the second time they’ve called my cell. To be honest, it’s creeping me out.”

 

Nick opened his mouth to speak when a cool breeze rushed in, and Damon burst through the front door of the empty shop. The sassy pixie he’d seen Princess with Friday night followed close on his heels, along with his boss, David Nichols.

 

“So, an Italian bakery in the heart of Little Italy, eh? Real original.”

 

Damon’s deep voice bounced off the empty walls of the shop, making Halley jump.

 

A twinge of something that felt an awful lot like worry tore through his gut the moment she reacted. Those slender arms and tiny hands of hers trembled as she clutched her bandaged neck, and her frightened eyes spoke volumes. She was more than skittish from the attack. She was downright scared, and it tore at his insides.

 

The pixie brushed past Damon with a haughty glare and stood in front of Halley. “You okay?” When Halley gave her a nod, she turned and spoke through clenched teeth. “Let’s all try and use our indoor voices from now on, shall we?” She glared up at Damon with a serious look of “keep it down or ima beat you.”

 

Damon crossed his arms and puffed out his chest as he met the pixie’s glare with a scowl of his own. His excessive display of posturing was pure crap. Nick would put money on the pixie any day and twice on Sunday. Girlfriend could take all two hundred fifty pounds of him easy.

 

“Enough, Damon.” David stepped forward, placing himself between the guerilla warriors who continued throwing angry eye darts at one another. “Why don’t we introduce ourselves and get down to business? I’m sure the ladies have better things to do today than be mean-mugged by an idiot Greek and his bald companion.”

 

Nick did a double take and feigned innocence. “Hold up. How’d I get included in his crap? And what’s wrong with my hair?”

 

The soft sound of an angel laughing filled Nick’s ears, tearing his attention from the idiot Greek and his boss.

 

A nervous smile crossed Princess’s mouth but didn’t reach those emerald orbs of hers. As amusing as it must have been to watch the three men bicker back and forth like Larry, Curly, and Moe, he knew deep down she was still rattled by Damon’s abrupt entrance. Baby girl did a bang-up job at hiding her discomfort. Not only did she sound like an angel, she looked like one too -- ethereal, beautiful, and almost like a dream.

 

David cleared his throat. “Let me just go ahead and apologize for my men before we get started. The tall, dark one, Damon” -- he pointed in his direction -- “tends to stick his foot in his mouth on a regular basis. And the bald pincushion over here” -- he gave a nod in Nick’s direction -- “is Nick. He’s got a mouth that would put a sailor to shame. They’re crass, loud, and full of themselves, but they’re the best at what they do, they work fast, and will build you a damn fine bakery.”

 

David stepped forward and quickly extended his hand toward Halley. “David Nichols. It’s a pleasure to work with you, Ms. Davis.”

 

Princess flipped a complete emotional one-eighty. One minute she stood smiling, giggling, the next her body stiffened, froze ramrod straight. She stared at David’s hand like it was the spawn of Satan. Hesitantly, she reached her hand out, her gaze darting back and forth between David’s hand, the floor, and the pixie who stood staring at Damon like he was the Second Coming. Abruptly, she dropped her hand to her side with a nervous gasp. The moment was long, drawn-out, and awkward as hell.

 

“Sorry,” she said, forcing a polite smile.

 

David was a cool guy. Smart and successful, he didn’t lack in the sensitivity department. Obviously realizing Halley was spooked, he stepped back and cracked a wide smile. “Not a problem.”

 

“So, you the businesswoman or the chef?” Damon asked, apparently done playing “who’s got the meaner mug” with the pixie.

 

The fear that riddled Halley’s body dissipated and was quickly replaced with a swell of pride. Her shoulders, which had fallen forward and inward, straightened and rose as she took a relaxed breath. “The chef,” she said with a glorious smile.

 

© Lisa Sanchez,

 

Obsessed

Author: Lisa Sanchez

Publisher: Loose Id, LLC

Genre: Erotic Suspense

Buy Link

The victim of both a brutal attempted rape and now a serial stalking, Halley Davis is broken, and desperate to glue the shattered pieces of her life back together. Tormented by a psychopath and battling a heavy dose of anxiety, sex and dating are the last things on Halley’s anxiety-ridden mind. That is, until she meets the man who rescued her from the hands of a would-be rapist. With a body made for sin, a wicked, sexy tattoo and an aura that screams “badass,” her rescuer not only calms the storm of terror raging inside her mind, he ignites a passion within her she’s never known before.

Tired of using meaningless sex to drown out the horrors of his past, Nick Ackart has sworn off women. In fact, if women were classified as meat, his ass is Vegan. Despite his determination to remain unattached, Nick is unable to stay away from the emerald-eyed beauty he rescued from a sadistic pervert. Immersed in a tangled web of sexual desire and deep emotion he was certain was long dead, he vows to protect Halley from the monster hounding her, even though he stands to lose his heart in the process.

Read rest of entry