Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Only Gold by Tamara Allen

Summary:
Jonah Woolner’s life is as prudently regulated as the bank where he works. It’s a satisfying life until he’s passed over for promotion in favor of newcomer Reid Hylliard. Brash and enterprising, Reid beguiles everyone except Jonah, who’s convinced Reid’s progressive ideas will be the bank’s ruin. When Jonah begins to discover there’s more to Reid than meets the eye, he risks succumbing to Reid’s charms—but unlocking the vault to all of Reid’s secrets could lead him down a dangerous path.

Losing his promotion—and perhaps his heart—is the least of Jonah’s difficulties. When the vengeful son of a Union army vet descends upon the bank to steal a government deposit of half a million dollars during the deadliest blizzard to ever sweep New York, Jonah and Reid are trapped, at odds and fighting for their lives.


You can't help but fall in love with Jonah when he loses his promotion to an outsider and you definitely want to dislike Reid because of it but he charms the pants of the other employees as well as the readers.  I knew there was going to be a twist in the story but I must say I wasn't expecting what we got.  No spoilers so that's the best explanation you're going to get.  A perfect blend of historical fiction and romance all wrapped in a nice big New York blizzard.

RATING: 

 Jonah was late.

Two minutes late, by the somber reckoning of the Trinity Church clock. Three, by his reliable old Waltham, which had kept him punctual for fourteen years while the rest of New York hurried to keep up. It was only on this morning, twisted into disorder by weeks of expectation and anxiety, that he had failed the Waltham and himself.

Braced for the wind, he jumped from the streetcar the instant it stopped and navigated a path through the muddy slush to the sidewalk. There, fueled by stomach-churning anticipation—fourteen years’ worth—he stepped into the crowd and proceeded down Wall Street.

When Bennet Grandborough had first entrusted him with drafts for collection at the callow age of nineteen, a promotion to bank officer had seemed as unattainable as the stars. Though he had performed many of the duties of cashier during the years of Mr. Crowe’s increasing frailty—and taken on all the rest upon Mr. Crowe’s passing—the board had yet to vote.

Grandborough naturally wanted a respectful interval in which to honor Crowe’s twenty-seven years of service. But in the four weeks since, the impending announcement had hung as weighty and ripe as an apple in autumn, increasingly tormenting Jonah as each day passed without that bounty dropping into his lap. Then, with Christmas past, the directors had met privately—which pointed to one thing. Today, with the first business of the new year, was the day.

And he was late. Not an auspicious start, but it couldn’t be helped. He’d awakened earlier than usual, but the well wishes of his fellow boarders had slowed his progress out of the house. He had missed both the usual omnibus to Broadway and the usual streetcar down. Rather than wait, he’d braved the muck and congestion of that thoroughfare until a car could spare him standing room the rest of the way.

Making up for lost time on foot along Wall Street was not to be thought of. The tide of humanity had grown from the customary seven o’clock tempest to a depth and breadth sufficient to drown a fellow. By the time he rounded William Street and covered the short distance to the bank, no amount of reproach in the Waltham’s minute hand could tip the scales against his own. Still, it would not do for Grandborough Bank’s new cashier to be seen dashing madly into the lobby. He took the steps up the broad stoop with barely contained haste and arrived at the landing just as the porter opened the door.

“Good morning, sir.”

Jonah nodded. “Good morning, Mr. Satterfield.”

The clerks and tellers huddled at the wide curve of the counter, a marble and mahogany bulwark from whence they could peer across the lobby to the cashier’s office. Jonah suspected they had stationed themselves there ever since Bennet Grandborough had gathered his vice president and one of the more vocal directors into the office to meet with someone Jonah couldn’t recognize through the plate-glass partition.

Mr. Satterfield coughed gently. “Out late celebrating, sir?”

“No….” Jonah tried to pull his thoughts together. The tableau in the office bewildered him. “I was waylaid this morning and had no means to traverse Broadway except by my own locomotion….” He hesitated, aware that Mr. Satterfield, still troubled by a game leg twenty-five years after his wounding at Fort Fisher, might not sympathize with such a complaint.

But Mr. Satterfield, who had a way of smiling as if there were little he did not understand, only bobbed his gray head and looked sheepish, himself. “Only meant a joke, sir. Begging your pardon.”

“Oh. Of course. I beg your pardon.” Jonah took note of Mr. Satterfield’s dubious glance toward the office. “A new depositor, is it?”

“Not my place to speculate, sir.” Mr. Satterfield resumed sweeping the smoke-gray marble with more than his usual energy. Jonah looked toward the office, at the stranger who sat on the arm of a chair, hat resting on his knee, one hand fingering the watch chain draped across his cream-colored waistcoat. He wasn’t more than thirty and had the manner of someone at ease in any company. He chatted with Mr. Grandborough and the other two as if they were old chums, but Jonah resisted the notion that it was an interview for a bank position. Grandborough Bank was as strict as any other in the matter of attire. The brown sack coat was too casual, the blue tie too—blue. The fellow seemed more suited to employment at a notions shop or haberdasher’s, where passably attractive features and an ingratiating smile served above other skills.

Besides, Mr. Grandborough always promoted from within—even Simon Campbell, who was habitually late and flirted with the female clerks.

“Oh, Mr. Woolner!”

Speaking of which…. Helen MacDonald, deserting the huddle at the counter, had reached his side with a flounce of taffeta underskirts, to gaze at him with dangerously moist eyes. “Oh, Mr. Woolner, is everything all right?” She laid a trembling hand on his coat sleeve. “You will tell me, won’t you? For the sake of our long-standing association. For our respect mutuel.”

She had been reading French novels at her desk again. Jonah checked a sigh. “No need to worry, Miss MacDonald—”

“No one is being discharged?”

“Discharged! Wherever did you come by that?”

Helen blinked. “Simon told us—”

“Yes, you may inform Mr. Campbell and any other concerned parties that promotions in this bank are handled according to tradition.”

“Oh, sir.” She clung to his sleeve. “Who is he, then?”

Jonah followed her gaze toward the office. “Well, to be honest, I don’t know. But neither, I daresay, does Mr. Campbell, so you will kindly not succumb to unfounded rumors. It’s not in the bank’s best interest.” He gently disengaged her. “I think a word with Mr. Grandborough will squelch this nonsense once and for all.”

“Shall I take the minutes?” she asked, pulling a pencil from the loose bun of her dark hair.

“It would be best if I went in alone.”

A little of the excitement faded from her face as she returned the pencil to its niche. Mr. Satterfield persisted in sweeping the same spot within earshot as Jonah passed. The clerks and tellers observed it all like mourners at a procession.

Ignoring the furtive gazes through the iron scrollwork, Jonah stalked into the wide corridor, past the offices on either side. With the bank in the midst of staff changes, rumors were common enough. He supposed they were even more likely when a bank made the momentous move from state to national. But if anyone on the staff had earned the wrath of Bennet Grandborough or Vice President Naughton, the directors would have summoned him upstairs to discuss it. They were always forthcoming and understood that even a depositor with a cross word was part of the business. No reason to discharge anyone. He would have a word with Simon Campbell about perpetuating such rumors.

At the cashier’s door, he knocked and was glad at once to see the welcoming smile on Mr. Grandborough’s bearded face as he rose before anyone else to admit Jonah. “Just the man we were waiting for. Jonah, I would like you to meet Reid Hylliard. Reid, this is Jonah Woolner, our assistant cashier.”

Assistant. He’d begun to loathe the word. Fortunately, he would not have to endure it much longer. When Reid stood, hand outstretched, Jonah took it, matching the man’s polite smile with one of his own. “A pleasure, Mr. Hylliard. Will you be opening an account with us?”

“In a sense.” Behind the smile, Reid seemed to be taking the measure of him. “I understand you’ve been at Grandborough fourteen years.”

“Not quite that long, sir. Thirteen years and ten months.” He couldn’t conceal the question in his eyes as he turned back to Mr. Grandborough.

If the bank president noticed it, there was no sign in his usual brisk manner. “Jonah, please sit. I’d like to have this matter disposed of before we open for the day.” Mr. Grandborough laid broad hands on the desk and laced his fingers. “This will be a momentous year for Grandborough National Bank.” His smile stretched until his blue eyes were quarter moons shining under bushy silver brows. Jonah could tell by Naughton’s and Gavet’s beaming countenances that they savored the new title as thoroughly. He savored it himself.

“A momentous year,” Mr. Grandborough went on. “It is no small matter to be designated a national depository, gentlemen. We have always sought to combine prudent management with the adoption of sensible innovations, a policy which has won us the confidence of not just the community, but President Cleveland, himself. I will not, however, permit us to become complacent in our success. No, indeed. To that end, I’ve spoken with the directors, and we’re agreed that, for the betterment of the bank, we should seek to view our inner workings through a new pair of eyes.”

The sudden knot in Jonah’s chest threatened to choke the breath out of him. Dear God, it was true. He was being discharged. “Sir, if I may—”

Mr. Grandborough turned to him, still smiling, and mowed down the protest before Jonah could gather up steam. “In this, Jonah, we will require your assistance. Mr. Hylliard comes to us with extensive banking experience. He’s assisted before in the transition from state to national, and he can see us safely through our apprenticeship, as it were.” He chuckled, the others joining in, and Reid smiled.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

“Yes, thank you, Mr. Hylliard. As I was saying, you’ve all the skills we require, lacking only a familiarity with our own standards and practices. For that, you may rely unequivocally on our assistant cashier. Jonah has been taking on the cashier’s work since Mr. Crowe’s passing. For nearly fourteen years, he has been as steady and circumspect as any bank president could wish.”

The note of fatherly pride made Jonah’s heart only ache the more. “I have always worked for the betterment of the bank, sir.”

“Of that, I have no doubt.”

“Yes, so you will understand if I—”

“Don’t decide anything in haste,” Mr. Naughton said suddenly, and shifted an uncomfortable gaze toward Mr. Grandborough, who only shook his head, attention still affectionately directed at Jonah.

“Our Mr. Woolner does nothing in haste.” He rose. “A tour of the bank is called for, I think, and introductions all around.”

Jonah found his own feet. “I… must put my things away, if you will allow me a minute.”

He escaped across the lobby to the cloakroom, and in the close confines, collapsed on the seat beside the lone window. The room smelled damp from clothes and overshoes encrusted with melting snow. The two rows of coats in their cubbies on each side of the narrow room sheltered him from voices drifting in, at least until Helen appeared—trailed by Simon Campbell, who probably feared she would miss some morsel of gossip in relaying it secondhand.

“Oh, Mr. Woolner….” Helen exhaled the words and pressed clasped hands to her chest as if she had expelled her last breath. “It cannot be—”

Simon ceased cracking gum long enough to interrupt her. “You sacked, then?”

Jonah stood and began to unbutton his coat with hands he would allow to be nothing less than steady. “I am not, as you put it, sacked, Mr. Campbell. You’d best get back to work, the two of you. You’ll want to make a good impression on your new cashier.” Though he didn’t suppose he had.

“Oh, Mr. Woolner—”

“He’s in?” Simon looked astonished. “Damn—”

“Not at the bank, if you please.” Jonah hung his coat, smoothing the shoulders to be sure it draped evenly on the wooden bar. Snow sparkled against the black worsted, and he brushed it away with burning fingers; he wanted to run outside to bury his hands and face in it. He turned back to two troubled visages and a smile came, out of necessity. “Nothing to worry about. Our positions are secure.” Perhaps too secure. “Back to work, please.”

Simon raised a coppery eyebrow. “Think you’d be mad the old man passed you over.”

Jonah shook his head. Supervising Simon Campbell was one task he did not envy the new cashier. “We are about to open, Mr. Campbell. The ledgers—”

“On your desk, sir. Or his desk, as the case may be.”

“We’re to go to him?” Helen asked, as if the idea cut her to the quick.

“Yes—”

“And treat him same as we treat you?” Simon asked.

God forbid. “Treat him as you treated Mr. Crowe. I have not been, nor will I be, chief cashier. At least, not in the eyes of the directors.” Jonah stopped himself from saying more. He’d felt mostly numb and bereft, but now a sense of injustice was creeping in, and he would only regret letting it show. “Please tell Mr. Grandborough I will be out in a moment.”

The only place left to escape curious stares was the washroom, and he went there to try again to collect himself. The face in the glass appeared unusually pale, but there were no telltale signs of moisture on his lashes to give him away. It was fortunate he’d become so practiced at hiding things. Perhaps he should pinch his cheeks after the fashion of Helen MacDonald whenever John Darlington came into the bank. He combed his hair and straightened his tie, instead. It was back to his old office now: his desk with the worn-smooth cubbies, his chair with its sideways wobble, his ever-leaking radiator. He would miss Mr. Crowe’s office and the way the sun came in so cheerfully in the afternoons. Of course he would still be called in to take instruction from Mr. Hylliard.

The face in the glass looked back at him in resignation. He had performed conscientiously so that none could find fault with him. What had Mr. Grandborough called him? Steady. Circumspect.

And still not suitable.

The board’s decision was made. He might consider leaving Grandborough altogether, but he wouldn’t. He could not leave the bank in other hands. Reid Hylliard might know more—might be the cleverest cashier in the state—but he didn’t know Grandborough Bank. He didn’t know its ins and outs, its quirks and practices. And no one was in a better position to enlighten Reid on those matters than he. Not even Mr. Grandborough, himself.

Jonah squared his shoulders and assumed an air of ruthless self-possession. He would be as proficient and cooperative as expected. No one would have reason to gossip about him at the end of the day. And a long day it would be. The pity of staff and depositors alike would have to be borne, as well as any commiseration awaiting him at home. He dreaded simply going into the lobby, but he’d lingered long enough to fuel a likely rumor that losing the promotion had quite destroyed him.

And rumor was all it was.

He marched out of the washroom and nearly ran into Margaret Noble, poised to knock. No pity to match Helen’s deluged him from Margaret’s direct gray gaze or her cordial smile. Sympathy, yes, but even that was offered in thrifty measure. It brought to mind how she had once admonished a downhearted Helen to give up dwelling in the shadows when the sun shone just around the corner. Jonah knew it was not merely talk, as Margaret seemed to live accordingly, despite—or because of—her widowed state.

“Mr. Grandborough wished me to collect Mr. Crowe’s keys….” She coughed gently. “Your keys to the vault gate.”

“Mine? Mr. Grandborough has his own—” Jonah bit back the rest, certain he could not be a more blessed fool. “For Mr. Hylliard. Of course.” He handed her the keys. “I suppose he’ll want the desk keys too. I’ll bring them,” he added as she once more extended a hand. “Mr. Hylliard should not attend the correspondence without my assistance.”

Margaret looked approving. “You are always the gentleman. Would you rather…?” She held out the vault keys.

Jonah hesitated only an instant. He supposed there was nothing for it but to surrender with dignity. “Yes, I think I should. Thank you, Margaret.”

“You’ll be all right, my dear,” she said quietly as he moved past her. He found some comfort in her thinking so. His own confidence remained on fragile ground, threatening to topple altogether at the sight of newly arrived directors crowding into Crowe’s office to welcome their cashier and shake hands all around. Jonah slipped inside his own office further along the corridor and closed the door. It took him a minute to fumble the key into the drawer lock and retrieve his old copy book. It had lain forgotten since he’d taken on all the bank correspondence in the last year. Now he would be reduced to those duties Reid saw fit to give him.

He locked the empty drawer and trod an uneasy path back to the cashier’s office. Laughter came from within, and through the beveled glass, Jonah saw the directors listening attentively as Reid rambled on, no doubt about his vast wealth of experience in various banks around the state. About to knock, Jonah went in uninvited instead. He hadn’t the title, but he’d worked too long in the cashier’s office to be made to feel he must ask permission before entering.

The laughter dwindled to quiet chuckles, and Jonah wondered if a guilt-stricken conscience or two provoked the businesslike demeanor suddenly overtaking everyone. In the quiet that reigned, he felt he should say something.

“Good morning.”

They stepped gingerly with their replies, no one remarking on anything other than the weather as they bid him good morning and left the office one by one. He smiled politely as if it were merely another day at the bank and mused in amazement that the searing humiliation hadn’t left him a pile of ash on the floor. He wanted to walk out, too, out of the building and away from his failure, away from the pity he knew everyone felt, whether they showed it or not.

Reid rose from the broad sill where Mr. Crowe had once kept a row of prize-winning gladioli. “I think I’m somewhat at your mercy, Mr. Woolner.” He moved toward the desk that was almost a vault itself, with its array of drawers, shelves, pigeonholes, and an expansive writing surface locked, for the moment, behind its cover. Placed against the wall to afford a view out the window, it was a pleasant place to work.

Jonah unlocked the cylinder and slid it back. “It sticks in certain weathers, but you’ll get the feel of it.” He held out the key, and Reid took it.

“I wasn’t just referring to the desk—”

“Of course.” Jonah met an expectant gaze. “I am at your disposal.”

The lift of Reid’s brows betrayed surprise. “I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear that. No simple thing, to come into an established business and upset the status quo. I’m sure you have ideas of your own—”

“No need to worry, Mr. Hylliard. You may be sure I am in favor of those innovations which will benefit the bank.”

That measuring look again, in contrast with the easy bloom of his smile. “It’s Reid. And I’m pleased to see we’re thinking along the same lines. Thank you, Jo.”

There was only so much presumption one could overlook. “Jonah. If you don’t mind.”

A rueful humor flattened Reid’s smile, and he began to nose through the drawers. “Impressive,” he murmured after a moment. “Up to date, organized, not a scrap of paper out of place.”

“This is a bank.”

“Yes.” Reid blew out a breath and straightened. “Your office is nearby?”

“One door down. I’ve used this office in the last month.”

Reid glanced around. “I’m sorry to steal it from you,” he said, with a nod toward the cabinet full of books and the armchair beside the radiator. “It’s a comfortable spot.”

“The chair and books belonged to Mr. Crowe.” It seemed a lonely spot, with Mr. Crowe no longer hunched over his shawl-covered knees, paging through the ledgers. “He was in a fragile state during his last weeks.”

“So I understand. I’m sorry.” Reid’s attention continued to roam the reaches of the office, finally seeming to settle beyond the partition glass to where the morning lull was giving way to activity. “Excellent view of the lobby. Probably discourages staff idleness.”

“Our staff is not idle—”

Reid laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ve got nothing against an idle moment now and then.” His glance dropped to the books Simon had left in the desk chair. “You’re going to catch me up this morning?”

Presumptuous altogether. “I expect it will take a little longer than that.” Jonah scooped up the books. “We have been in business thirty years, after all, and our old practices have gotten us pretty well along in the matter of keeping the public trust. I know you intend to implement new practices—”

“Depends. Some banks hold on to outdated practices till they’re smelling like week-old mackerel. I’ll need a few weeks to see how fragrant the air is here.” Reid followed that with a grin he no doubt imagined quite disarming.

Jonah smiled politely back. “We’ll start with the correspondence. I’m sure you’ve handled your share of it.” He laid the books on the desk and shifted out the pile of letters stuck between them. “We’ve the usual applications for discounts, requests for opinions, proposals, stock and bond orders—”

“Complaints?”

“All banks will have those.” Jonah pulled out the main copy book and his own. “Here are the correspondence books. I think if you observe while I attend each letter, it will familiarize you with some of our depositors as well as our practices. Our receiving teller, Matthew Falk, will bring you the newspapers and letters as soon as you feel ready for them—”

“Beginning tomorrow will be fine.”

Jonah hid his exasperation but not his surprise. “There’s no cause for haste. As you said, it will take some weeks to acquaint yourself with the workings of our bank.”

“I know how to answer letters.” The humor in Reid’s voice did not mask an apparently obdurate nature. “If I need help in the particulars, you’re just next door.”

Jonah bit back an argument. To clash with Reid at this early point would only make him appear resentful in the eyes of Mr. Grandborough and the directors. He sat at the desk and unstopped the ink stand. “We’ll begin with John Darlington,” he said, as Reid removed a begonia that had taken over a straight-backed chair and pulled the chair beside Jonah’s. “Mr. Darlington has been a depositor in excellent standing for more than twenty years. When he is next in the bank, I will introduce you—”

“Eighty-eight.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The date. You wrote eighty-seven.” Reid sat back, fishing around in his coat pocket. “I guess everyone’s allowed a little room for error around the first of the year.” He held out a small white paper bag. “Taffy?”

Jonah eyed the bag, at a loss. “Mr. Hylliard, there is a time and place—”

“For taffy?” Reid’s grin came back, gentler, with its own touch of exasperation. “I believe I extended an invitation for you to address me by my given name.”

Jonah laid down the pen. “Are you familiar with the expression that he who is intimate on short acquaintance is sure to be—”

“Short on intimate acquaintance. Clever but not necessarily true.” Reid straightened in his chair and tucked the bag in his coat pocket. “Can we work together or should I ask Mr. Falk or Mr. Campbell to assist me for the time being?”

Jonah crumpled the paper and drew another sheet. He could not meet Reid’s gaze. Instead, he pushed back his shirt cuffs and with his neatest script set down the correct date. “You’ll want to be sure the clerks are preparing the exchanges. Or I would be pleased to do it, if you wish.”

Reid stayed quiet, perhaps pondering if a word with the directors was in order. Jonah found himself welcoming it as a chance to formally protest the board’s decision, but one glance at Reid told him it would not be thought of. Jonah saw it in the curve of his lips, the gleam in his eyes—confidence that he could handle anyone, even a disagreeable assistant cashier.

Author Bio:
Tamara Allen resides in the piney woods north of Houston with her cozy family of husband, son, and cat. Her primary occupation is keeping them out of trouble, but on the side she likes to make up stories, for the pleasure of living briefly in an era long gone by.


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Sales Blitz: Bait by M Mabie

Summary:
He was trouble from the start, but I couldn't resist.
She was the best kind of trouble. The kind that was so wrong, it felt right. 

I’ve tried and failed to stay away from him.
I’ve done everything in my power to make her mine and keep her. 

He’s almost impossible to say no to.
She never tells me yes.

We’re always fighting.
When we’re not fighting, we’re… well… making up. 

He makes me laugh so hard.
I miss her laugh the most. 

I'm a liar.
She knows the truth, but won’t admit it. 

Sometimes, I wish I'd never met him.
I wish we could meet all over again. I'd do better. 

His girlfriend knows.
The guy she’s with is a fool. 

I’ll never love anyone like I love him.
She doesn’t love me enough to choose us. 

It was the wrong place.
It was the wrong time. 

It should have been him.
It will always be her. 

***This book contains adult situations and is recommended for adult readers***


Blake
Saturday, February 14, 2009
     THE WEEKEND WASN’T GOING to make anything better, but I had to give it a shot.
     I was shaking. Running the razor up my soapy leg. I’d been nervous all day.
     It had to be the last time, but I wanted to make it count. I knew how twisted that was. Finish on top, as they say. After tonight I’d go back to being the adoring fiancée.
     I’d be faithful.
     And if that was my last night with Casey, I’d need to make it count. I wanted to remember every second.
     After my legs were smooth and everything else was in order. I put my face under the hot stream of water coming from the showerhead. I thought about the shower we took in Seattle. About how his hands roamed my body and touched me everywhere a man could touch a woman. My hand ran down to my core, feeling my trimmed hair.
     God I want to feel you bare. I don’t want anything in between us.
     His words echoed through my mind and I reached for the soap and the razor. I’d gone down to naked skin before, but it was a very, very long time ago. I thought it was probably in college.
     I took my time, doing a thorough job. When I was finished my skin felt new and sensitive. Like the hair had been hiding me from wondrous sensations. I ran my fingers over myself and anticipated Casey’s doing the same.
     After I had dried myself and applied his favorite-smelling lotion, I blow dried my hair, then stained my cheeks and lips and darkened my eyes and lashes.
     I pulled a black garter up each leg. I wasn’t going to be wearing much, but I wanted to enjoy him taking his time removing them. I pulled the black, thigh-high stocking up my calves and fastened them to the garters with the clips that hung from ice-blue bows. I slipped my legs through the black silk underwear and prepared myself for the icing on the cake. The set that I’d ordered, and was currently dressing in, came with a corset.
     It was black with ice-blue ribbons matching the bows on the garters and panties. It laced up the front. I’d looked at the ones that laced from behind, but they looked like a nightmare. I’d already have a struggle getting into one I could watch myself lace.
     When the last hook and eye was latched, I straightened it and pulled. Instantly my chest looked bigger, fuller and heaved from the already very low-cut fabric that held my breasts. I ran my hands up the sides, feeling the rigid and straight boning, and yet I felt so comfortable and held together.
     I pulled on the blue silk robe that completed the ensemble and went out into the main room to find the shoes and start a fire. I plugged my phone into the suite’s speakers and got out the champagne, putting it on ice in a bucket on the coffee table in the main room. I brought a plate of cheese and fruit to the table and then I went back to the kitchenette for the last piece.
     The courage. The kind from a bottle. I had ordered a small decanter and placed it on the table as well. I was going to need a few shots if I ever had a prayer of pulling this off. Seduction wasn’t my forte. But he deserved it.
     I usually felt so awkward and clumsy during sex. Well. Not with Casey.
     With him I felt worshiped and desired. He acted like he craved me in the way he moaned from kissing my neck sometimes. It made me feel special. Made me feel sexy and wanton.
     I arranged the extra pillows and blankets, that I’d ordered up, and they looked so inviting there on the floor in the center of the room.
     I’d given it some thought on my plane ride here this morning. I wanted the night to be unforgettable. It was already unforgivable.
     I downed two shots. Back to back. The cognac tasted sweet and bold. The taste lingered on my tongue.
     I left the robe on. I wanted him to open me like an expensive gift. I wanted to watch his eyes up close when he saw what I was hiding underneath.
     I’d told him to be there at eight and it was five to when he knocked. I’d left him a key—as was customary for us at hotels then—knowing he would use it if I didn’t answer.
     I rose to my feet, with an extra four inches added from the Brian Atwood heels which Reggie bought me for Christmas. How was I to know they’d come in so handy when I’d sent him a joking picture in a text message version of a fairy-tale princess’s Christmas list?
     As I stood there preparing myself, my heartbeat didn’t exactly feel fast; it just felt strong. A powerful pulsing that reverberated throughout my whole body.
     The door handle clicked.
     I’d turned the lights out, only a few recessed lights over the bar area and the fireplace remained lighting the room. It was tastefully amber and dim. The backlighting behind his body from the bright hallway, when he opened the door, gave me a chill.
     He wore a perfectly tailored suit and looked so masculine in profile. It fit to his tight body in magical ways. His hair was tamed back with that miracle product he used to make it look controlled, and in the light, I could see the front was beginning its rebellion, loosening and falling forward more than it should.
     He looked like a king. King Casey.
     He closed the door gently and pocketed his hand into his slacks making the fabric taught over his already visible bulge.
     I licked my lips.
     I wanted another shot, but I didn’t dare move.
     His blue eyes glittered from the lick of the flames behind me.
     The song changed. I recognized it within the first few chords. The single guitar. The arpeggio. Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.
     I swallowed. Eyeing him standing there, looking at me, the beautiful confusion of it all made my mouth water.
     His eyes wandered over me like a search light, both warning and guiding my body home.
     He walked toward me and I started forward to meet him halfway, but he held a hand up and stopped where he was when we were still feet apart.
     “You look like my wildest dream.” His perfect hand still hung in the air. “Let me look you at you little more. This memory has to last me long time, honeybee.” He pandered his time. I watched him examine every detail of me. I thought I’d feel self-conscious, but the opposite happened.
     I was proud, and having him take the time to look at every one of the things I’d done to get his attention felt so gratifying. I had prayed that at least one would capture his interest.
     The corners of his lips quirked when his eyes shifted focus down toward my garter clips. He faked coolness by biting his bottom lip, but he didn’t fool me.
     Finally, he said, “Come here.”
     My right leg, my left leg and I, we all went to him together. My entire body working on its own. It was so easy.
     “Wait, one more thing,” he interjected. Then did the international sign for spin-it-a-around, his smile bleeding through every feature on his face. His eyes looked like neon in the darkness.
     I did a slow twirl, looking over my shoulder on my way back around. I batted my eyes to get a reaction.
     “You look like the definition of temptation.” His eyes squinted and he pantomimed a come-here head nod. God, his claws were sunk so deep into me. If I looked like temptation, he looked precisely capable of charming-the-pants-off the Queen of England.
     With my shoes, the height brought my eyes to his lips, my favorite latitude on planet Earth.
     He ran a hand over my hair and pushed it behind my shoulder. “I can almost taste you, you smell that good,” he said, hushed. “You did all of this for me?”
     “I did.” I was fixated on his mouth. I wanted to put my lips on him. I wanted to touch and undress him, but this was his show and I was only too happy letting him run it. The energy coming off him was palpable.
    “Do you know how hard I am? I don’t know if you considered my lack of restraint when it comes to you this close to me.” His hands grazed way down my arms. “What is all of this?”
     “I wanted to do something for you.” I looked up at him through my lashes. “I want to make you happy. I want to be your Valentine.” I took a deep breath, the anticipation of his body hot against mine at the forefront of my thoughts. “Open me.”
     Ten fingers rushed my face and his lips crushed mine. Then he lifted me into the air. Eye to eye. Mouth to mouth. His arms wrapped around me and held me close. Mine went straight into his hair, my fin-gers spreading to get a grip on my unavoidable man.
     “You taste like the night we met,” I heard him say.
     He walked us farther into the room, me in his arms, our mouths tasting one another, his tongue circling mine to a beat unheard before.
      I let my head fall to his neck and I opened my mouth to wet him with kisses, inhaling his scent—earthy and masculine and something sweet and only him.
     The music changed again, but at that time, I couldn’t tell you what the song was.
     When my feet touched the floor again, his hands were urgent. He undid the bow where my robe tied in the front and he pushed the silk off my shoulders. The fabric easily slid off me.
     The look in his eyes was feral. “Look at you. You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?” He teased as his hands found my breasts and cupped me. Like he couldn’t decide what he wanted to touch, he roamed me. Over the tight trussed-up corset, around to my ass, and back in quick succession.
      “I’ve missed you. I know I’m not good to you and I’m sorry,” I said, not knowing where the words were coming from.
     With a finger over my mouth he said, “Shhh. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.”
     He was right. He did handle it, but what I didn’t know was how. I could barely manage.
     He continued, “You’re my Valentine. Tonight you’re mine. Understand me? Even your thoughts.”      He caressed my cheek. “Don’t think about anything but me. That’s what I want. I’m going to take every-thing you’re wearing off. I’m going to touch every inch of you with my mouth. And I’m not going to pretend this is just a fling tonight, like I’ve done every time. For one night, I want you to pretend like it’s me you’re promised to,” his thumbs ran over my lips, “Mine to care for and adore. Say yes to me. Even if it is only for tonight. Please?”
     His words came honest. I knew he didn’t always say what he felt, because of me. Because I fought my feelings hard and so, battled his as well.
     I’d said the most honest sentence I had, “Then I’m yours.” And with all my damned heart, I wished the words were true. He had never offered me more, and I didn’t think he ever would.
     He took his time unwrapping me. I luxuriated in the feeling of his hands on me and my body followed his gentle direction. When the cor-set was gone and I stood there in my panties, my hands began wandering him. I couldn't help want to touch his body the way he had been mine.
     My nimble fingers undid the button on his coat and he shrugged out of it. My hands untucked his pressed dress shirt and began the climb of buttons separating him from me. I pulled it open and found him, like always, well defined and muscular. His stomach cut with lean muscles that flexed under my hands. His chest strong and firm. The long ridge of his collarbone, my favorite meal.
     I didn’t bother with removing his shirt. Having even the slightest access to him was enough for me.
     In my panties, stockings, and shoes I bent down to my knees with one thing in mind. I wanted to taste, to touch, and to have all of him. To please only him.
     I kissed along the top edge of his dress pants, undoing his belt, and pulling it through its loops. Then, I tossed it away. The zipper went the way zippers do in these situations, and to my wonderful surprise, he wasn’t wearing anything underneath. I smiled at my discovery. It looked like he had finally made a decision about his undergarments.
     My mouth continued to water.
     His skin, too, was bare. But unknown to him, so was I.
     My fingers circled underneath his length and pulled him out. I ran both of my hands under his pants to his ass and pulled them down farther to expose his scrotum, taught and collected tightly against him. Everything about him was beautiful.
     I took him into my mouth and felt him flex inside me, growing even fuller. The taste of him was so intoxicating. His skin was like catnip and the more I had of it the more I needed. I looked up at him to see him watching me in wonder, his jaw ticking and every glorious muscle from my face to his was in full view.
     I moaned around his cock, the sight of him like this stealing the remnant of every wayward thought from my head. It was only him and me. This night was for us.
     I moved to a slow beat, enjoying every twitch, every breath he took while I pleasured him. He stood anchored in his spot. He brushed my hair back away from me, threaded his fingers through it, and pushed himself deep inside me before he pulled out of me and urgently pulled me up his decadent body. He kissed me, still holding my head in his hands with my hair. It was rough and his chest rose and fell in time with mine.
     “Go lay down over there, Blake. I want to play with my Valentines’ gift.” A shiver ran through me. He released my hair and I backed up without looking at where I was going. My body on autopilot, I did what I was told.
     I felt brazen and daring. I felt like I was living a fantasy. I leaned back on my elbows and drew my legs up then parted them like I’d dreamt of doing so many nights on the phone.
     He came to crouch next to me and took stock of the table’s offerings.
     “May I have a drink, honeybee? Good choice with the cognac. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were sentimental.” His voice was rich with sensuality, but his eyes were alight with happiness. He was going to play with me. I was his toy tonight. His toy.
     He fixed himself a drink. Two pieces of ice clanked in the glass, then two fingers of the sweet liquor followed. He brought the short glass to his lips and hummed his pleasure at the taste.
     I was on fire and the anticipation of him touching me was thrumming through my veins.
     His shirt was open and his pants, although still undone in the front were pulled back up. The runaway lock of hair, which had broken formation from the rest, was gathering company from us running our hands through it.
     While I’d been studying him, I hadn't paid attention to my wandering hand that was now rubbing my breast. My mouth was open and I was nearly panting.
     After he drank down half of the glass, he touched my leg at the knee and leisurely ran his fingers up the skin to my thigh. His barely there touch wasn't enough.
     I wanted more. I needed more.
     I spread my legs farther for him and unabashedly ran my hand to my sex. I rubbed myself over my panties trying to satisfy a need that was blazing deep inside me. His eyes watched me touch myself and I saw that his desire matched mine. The usually cool and easy-going Casey, was again gone, and in his place was the take-control lover I dreamed about nearly every night.
     On his knees he climbed closer to me, between my legs, and his hand met mine.
     “I want you, Casey.”
     He replied, with a firm demanding voice, “Say it again.”
     “I want you.”
     Maybe it was the ambiance and romantic mood of the room. Maybe I felt so free because it was, decidedly, my last time with him.
     That singular thought made me panic and I had to remind myself why. I had to recite in my head, Because you’re marrying another man. Because Casey only likes chasing you. Because he doesn’t want the same things you do. He doesn’t want a family. He doesn’t want a home. He likes traveling and being carefree.
     And it was those exact things that made me believe I had to leave him and made my heart retch to let him go. Because he would never offer me anything different and I could no longer live with the desperate yearning I had for him, that was entwined with my deeper desires for home, future, and stability.
     Then he caught me and halted the runaway train that was my thoughts.
     “I told you, honeybee. No thinking like that.”
     Had I said all that out loud? Or was it possible my thoughts were loud enough to hear.
     Still, even though my mind was playing chess with itself, my body and heart never strayed. They belonged to him.
     “Then kiss me. Distract me.”
     He reached for the table and his glass, emptying it in his mouth and I watched as he downed every last drop, including the ice. Returning the empty glass to the table, his eyes found mine and I saw a hint of mischief.
     He dipped his head to my neck. The sensation was hot, but I could feel the coolness of the ice at the same time. He kissed my chest and when he took my nipple into his mouth the ice across my warm flesh sent a rush of need straight through me. I bucked my hips trying to find the pressure and friction I craved, but he backed away and down my body, taking his ice with him.
     When he got to the elastic at the top of my panties he stopped and looked up at me.
     “You’re so beautiful, Blake. Your body was made for me.” He kissed above the little blue bow on my panties. He said, low and sultry, “Your smell haunts me.” He dipped his head lower and breathed me in, his eyes flickering as he inhaled. “I crave the taste of you, like a man starved.”
     Sitting up a little, he grasped both sides of the thin string that circled my hips on both sides of the expensive lingerie bottoms.
     Then they were gone.
     He caressed me with his stare. His eyes took in my bared flesh and he prayed, “Mercy.”
This passage is protected under copyright ©M. Mabie 2015

Author Bio:
 M. Mabie lives in Illinois with her husband. She is the author of the steamy comedy Fade In. Her sophomore release, Bait, is the first book in the angst-filled erotic Wake Series. She writes unconventional love stories and tries to embody "real-life romance."

She cares about politics, but will not discuss them in public. She uses the same fork at every meal, watches Wayne's World while cleaning, and lets her dog sleep on her head. She has always been a writer. In fact, she was born with a pen in her hand, which almost never happens. Almost. 

M. Mabie usually doesn't speak in third-person either. She promises.


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Hook by KR Thompson

Title: Hook
Author: KR Thompson
Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale/Adventure
Release Date: January 1, 2015
LENGTH (Pages/# Words): 300 Pages/78,000 words
Summary:
Archie Jameson dreamed of adventure.
Today, it found him.

Caught in a chilly October storm, he ducked into a tavern, hoping to escape the rain. What he found, was a room teeming with pirates. Shanghaied by the most elderly of the lot, Archie awakens to discover that he is serving on a ship captained by the fiercest pirate ever to sail the seven seas--the man known as Blackbeard.

Through a series of thrilling twists, Archie finds himself captain of another of Blackbeard's ships, the Jolig Roger. In an attempt to flee danger, his ship becomes lost beneath uncharted stars and arrives at a mysterious island.

Determined to save both his crew and the woman he loves, Archie will make decisions that will forever seal his fate.

For in Neverland, not all is as it seems.

    The breeze picked up and was bursting insistent, frigid puffs that threatened to dislodge his hat. Archie clamped one hand on top, squishing it down around his lean face as he resolutely lengthened his stride and marched on, determined to make it home before the storm set in.
     He'd almost made it to the corner, to the place where he normally made the left on N. Westburl, and then a right onto 43rd, followed by a various assortment of other long deviations that would get him safely home, when a large crack of thunder shook the air. He decided that just this once he might consider taking the most direct route, albeit dangerous, foreboding, and possibly life-threatening. He stopped right on the bend of the street, uncertain for a split moment, until the next jolting crack of thunder made up his mind for him. He headed straight along Market St that followed the length of the Thames River, hoping that the seedy individuals who lurked around the pier were as mindful of the storm as he and would not cause him trouble on this particular evening, for even though he was quick-witted and could talk himself out of most troubles, sailors tended to be a harder breed of people. They were a sharp and cunning lot, and Archie did not know if he could outsmart anyone else that day and didn't wish to press his luck.
     He made it past the pier, hesitating just long enough to glance at the small boats tied to the dock. There were obviously people about, and so far he had been lucky enough not to encounter any of them.
     But one final ground-shaking crack and the tinkling sound of bells changed it all. The clouds overhead clashed and he ran for the shelter of a nearby tavern, barely escaping the torrent of rain.
     Archie had never been in The Captain's Keg before. He stopped just inside the door and let his eyes adjust to the dark, smoke-filled room. He realized that not only had he run into the very people he wished to avoid, but that he also had a new problem.
     These men weren't just sailors.
     He was ready to run back out and take his chances of drowning in the street, when he heard the same tinkling of bells from earlier. This time, it sounded like mocking laughter.
     Well. He might very well be losing his mind, but a coward he was not.
     He straightened to his full height—all six feet and four inches of it—and removed his crumpled hat with a flourish, tucking it under his arm. He walked proudly down the three steps that led into the heart of the tavern—to a bar, teeming with pirates.
     A couple of heads turned at his arrival and those who met his solemn, blue gaze were quick to drop their eyes back to their drinks. His spirits momentarily lifted, Archibald nodded to himself more than to anyone else in particular, a slight smile playing on his lips. He was holding his own.
     Still erring on the side of caution, he scanned the length of the bar, finding three open seats. Two were between rather burly, shifty-looking blokes with tattoos. The third seat, nearly on the end of the bar, sat betwixt an elderly gentleman with longish white sideburns, a round belly, and spectacles to match that sat precariously upon a rather bulbous nose. The gent on the other side was scrawny, his clothes in tatters, thin face in a scowl as he stared at a leaflet of paper before him. Even though he sat still, there was a nervous energy that pulsed off the small man. He gave Archibald the impression of a jittery, starving squirrel. Archibald decided his best chances lay between the old man and the squirrel and so he took his seat, nodding in a genial fashion to the old man, whose watery blue eyes barely gave him a passing glance. The squirrel didn't acknowledge his presence.
     "What'll it be, mate?" the barkeep asked.
     Archibald bit his lip to keep from laughing. Every drink in the tavern was the same yellowish liquid. Why the bald man standing behind the bar bothered to even ask such a mundane question was beyond him. Perhaps he was daydreaming again. He did do that a lot and at times it seemed real. "'Tis all ale, is it not?"
     "Aye, but will it be single or double ye'll be havin'?"
     Archibald lifted a single finger and waited for his drink.
     "Ye'd have much better luck with rum, I should think," the old man said quietly as he stared down into his own glass, "The ale's watered down. Not fit for a fish to drink, it isn't."
     One dreg out of the glass, and Archibald was quite certain the gentleman was more than right. It tasted like something poured from an old boot. Not that he regularly drank from old boots, mind you.      Thank heavens he hadn't ordered twice the amount of the vile stuff. Deciding it better not to even bother asking for the rum, which most definitely hidden beneath the counter and out of sight, he tossed a couple of coins down on the scarred wooden bar, and sat looking down into the remnants of his glass, listening to the patter of rain on the tin roof.
     A strange thought came suddenly. For a bar filled with pirates, it was most unusual. It was rather quiet, an odd comment here or there, but otherwise there was nothing but silence. Surely they weren't all sitting around listening to the rain. Archie couldn't figure it out. But he knew one thing, these people certainly weren't living up to his expectations of the loud, fearless persons he always thought pirates to be.
     The squirrel on his left shifted around on his stool, staring even harder at the parchment. Sweat popped out on a face that was now a color that reminded Archie of the paper in the print shop, a colorless, pasty white. Good for paper, not for squirrels.
     "Well?" a low, deep voice rolled out from a dark corner and broke the silence so suddenly that it startled Archie. "Give us the news then, Harper."
     Ah, well now. Things may get lively yet, Archie thought, casting a quick look to the corner from where the voice rumbled. It was too dark to see the man who sat against the wall, but Archibald got a good look at the pair of worn, dark leather boots propped up on the table, and the curling wisps of cigar smoke that floated up to the rafters.
     "It says a r-roy, royy…" the squirrel named Harper stuttered, the paper shaking in his hands.
     "Ach! The man canna read it anymore than the rest o' us." A complaint hurtled from one of the tattooed blokes at the opposite end of the bar.
     As if he were getting more anxious, Harper tried again, his voice in a near squeak, "A royy-alll…"
     Archie spied the lettering, and against his better conscience, whispered just loud enough that Harper would hear, "A royal pardon is offered to those pirates who surrender on or before the fifth of September, this year of 1718." He waited as Harper relayed the message, then continued, "Being limited to crimes committed before the fifth of January. All other crimes committed after such date, will be considered for a death of hanging."
     Archie sensed the old man on the other side of him shuffle about, as if he were searching for something on the insides of his pockets, but Archie's attention was fixed on the squirrel he saved. Harper turned and gave him a toothless, yet thankful, smile and set to guzzling the contents of his glass as quickly as possible in an effort to calm his shaking nerves.
     "Well, that counts us out, lads," a dark chuckle came from the corner, "'No pardon for the likes o' us, I fear. We all be hanged."
     "Aye, but they must catch us first. I won't be finding me neck in a noose," a shout rang out, followed by the murmur of agreement from all the others as they lifted their glasses in salute.
     Feeling rather in-tune with the pirates, Archibald picked up his glass as well and toasted the luck of the now boisterous lot, draining the last contents of his glass. Some small part of his brain noted that while the ale was certainly vile before, it also became bitter the longer it sat. The bitterness left nearly as soon as he noticed it, having been replaced with a rather calming sensation.
     Pirates truly weren't a bad lot, he thought sleepily, just people like everyone else. They were only misunderstood. He turned to convince the elderly gentleman on his right of exactly that, when the darkness came and took over. The last thing he heard was the old man chuckle, singing softly,
     "Yo-ho, me mateys, yo-ho…"
***
     "Careful now, lads, mind the poor lout's head, aye? He'll be having a dreadful headache come morning without any extra bumps ye'd be givin' him along the way."
The voice was familiar—rather achingly so—though Archie couldn't quite seem to get his faculties in order to remember who the owner of the voice was. The few times he could open his eyes, nothing at all made sense. It all came and went in blurs with distorted figures he couldn't quite make out. The darkness came and went, so in the end, he figured it better to keep his eyes shut for the time being and try to concentrate on other things, foggy and confusing as they might seem. He thought he was being drug along the rough boards of the pier, and while that familiar voice seemed to care about the condition of his head, his legs and backside seemed to be another matter entirely of which the man cared not a whit as they bumped him along each splintering plank. Luckily, the drug slipped in his drink deadened the pain, and he only registered the faint, odd pricks and scrapes where the wood had its way with his flesh.
"He's got hair like black candles, he does," a crackling voice snickered by his head.
"Aye, Smee, are we taking this poor soul aboard for his long locks? Did the Cap'n order you fetch him a wifey, then?" another voice chimed in, followed by raucous laughter, and a low retort from the man named Smee that Archibald couldn't make out.
"A good bit heavier than he looks," the first voice by his head huffed, "Slow ye down a bit, Murph. I'm losin' my grip. Oh drat, there he goes!"
And those were the last words Archibald ever heard on the shores of bonnie England as his head hit the pier and the darkness crept over him once again.



Author Bio:
K.R. Thompson lives in southwest Virginia with her husband, son, three cats, and an undeterminable amount of chickens.
An avid reader and firm believer in magic, she spends her nights either reading an adventure or writing one.
She still watches for evidence of Bigfoot in the mud of Wolf Creek.


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Zoku's Hope by Chelsea O'Neal

TITLE –  Zoku’s Hope
SERIES –  Angel Crest Trilogy #2
AUTHOR –  Chelsea O’Neal
GENRE –  Urban Fantasy Romance
PUBLICATION DATE –  March 21, 2014
LENGTH (Pages/# Words) – 220 pages
PUBLISHER –  Mirador Publishing
COVER ARTIST –  Mallory Rock’s Art
Summary:
After Jaiden found Daniah in Juniper, they returned to Garnet City. Daniah is destined to become Queen of Zoku, a race of angel half-breeds who protect the humans from a soul-stealing evil. Now, Daniah is learning of her abilities and responsibilities as queen. Just as things seem to be going smoothly, a group of Zoku show up to help, led by an angel, Shelly. Mallory has been on her own for most of her life, trying to protect and save those around her. She is Toyek, and she's been hiding in plain sight while fighting for her life. She is intent on finding her friends' daughter, whatever the cost, when an innocent trip to the supermarket takes an interesting turn. Orion has been hired to find a female and, as a Tracker, finding people is his specialty. He finds much more than he was looking for when he runs into the beautiful Mallory. While pursuing both his target and the resistant Mallory, he finds himself fighting to defend Princess Daniah and the Zoku. Can Orion and Mallory work together to help Daniah be the hope the Zoku so desperately need? Or will a few surprises and a tragedy be all it takes to break the united front of the Zoku fighting against the evil Meikal?

 “Cord, come dance with me,” I suggest, sliding out of my chair and holding my hand out to her.

She looks up at me in surprise then blushes and reaches her good hand up to clasp mine and we head to the dance floor. The music has all been slower songs, which is good because with her broken arm Cord wouldn’t be able to get too crazy.

I slide one arm around her waist and pull her against me while taking her free hand in mine. We sway to the music and I notice the beat changes into another song which is a bit faster, so I dip Cord back then nudge her gently with my arm at her waist while pulling her other arm, making her go in a circle before pulling her body back up against mine.

She giggles. “This is fun, and you’re quite good,” she says smiling up at me. “Even with my bum arm.”

I smile back and respond, “thank you.” Then we continue on, me dipping, swaying, pushing away pulling her back against me. I twist her so that her back is against me and we sway in time to the music. I drop my head against her shoulder and lay my cheek against hers.

“You’re pretty good at this yourself,” I say into her ear and feel her body tremble against mine as she lays her head back against my chest. ““Even with your bum arm.”

We sway a bit more, before I spin her around again and dip her before bringing her up against my body, lifting her to where her face is close to mine. We are still swaying slightly as the music changes again, and then, looking into her eyes and her flushed face, I lean closer, my eyes falling to her lips.

I feel her take in a breath and hear it catch in her throat. I release her hand and slide both of my arms around her, one on her waist and the other around her back. Her hand moves to my shoulder and I feel her pull me closer. My eyes flick back up to hers, which are locked onto my mouth. Without another thought, I lean in and press my lips against hers softly. My hand moves to her nape as I cradle her against me.

I feel a shock at the first touch of our lips and then I feel Cord press herself even closer to me as she pulls at my shoulder. She is everything I have been wanting and more than I had hoped for. Her lips are soft and warm, molding against mine; her body is lean and muscled, though still soft. Her hand moves up to my hair and she lightly scratches my scalp and I moan into her mouth feeling the touch all throughout my body.

I move my lips against hers, lightly swiping my tongue against her lower lip, coaxing her to open for me. She does, sucking in a shuddering breath, and I thrust my tongue into her mouth. I feel as well as hear her groan in to my mouth as she angles her mouth against mine.

I pull back from her mouth and move to her neck, lightly leaving open- mouthed kisses along her jaw and neck. I have waited years to finally kiss her, and I have wanted her more the last few days. “Cord,” I whisper and I feel her body stiffen.

I pull back and look at her in question. She looks up at me with indecision all over her face, though I can see the desire in her eyes.




Jupiter's Princess
Summary:
Daniah is different, she always has been and now her dreams and visions of the future are increasing, she knows her life is changing. She just doesn't know by how much...

Jaiden is different, but he knows why and he knows his responsibilities. He must find the saviour of his race, the angel human half-breeds who are fighting a war for humanity's souls. If he can't convince Daniah she is more than just a little different - she is the princess of their people - they are all going to die.

Unfortunately Daniah doesn't have many reasons to trust Jaiden, especially when he is caught in a web of his own lies. In a world where half-breed angels walk among us, fighting an evil for our souls, Daniah must find the strength to become the princess we all need.

Chelsea O'Neal has a unique voice in storytelling, threading the characters lives together intricately to give us a complex web of good versus evil in a world descending into chaos...

Author Bio:
Chelsea O’Neal lives in her fantasy world where people can fly, vampires could be real, money is never an issue, and the romantic meeting of your true love is a normal happening.  When not relaxing in Chelsea-ville, she enjoys talking with animals that talk back and taking long walks with her Prince Charming…

Actually Chelsea lives in the United States in Nebraska, where she was born and raised, with her black lab Daisey, who hasn’t spoken actual words, but she is pretty sure Daisey understands her. She is yet to meet her Prince Charming, though she is quite sure he is out there.  Chelsea enjoys working in a library as well as a cosmetologist. She is an avid reader and writing has always been her passion. Zoku’s Hope is her second novel, and she is working on her next book now.


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Zoku's Hope

Jupiter's Princess



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Release Day Blitz: Hysterics by Kristen Hope Mazzola

Title: Hysterics
Author: Kristen Hope Mazzola
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 29, 2015
Summary:
Once upon a time, I was Fallon Dunbar.

Rock and roll, drugs, and bad decisions were the life I lived.

I’d fallen so deep into the dark rabbit hole that I was certain I would never make it out alive. People like me didn’t get second chances. People like me didn’t get lifted from the darkness. So when the opportunity showed up, I had to take it.
I walked away from everything I loved, everything that was killing me, and I became Fae Dunham. After that, I hid behind makeup, long sleeves, and a closed-off heart.

All was well until I met Dane Pearson. He wasn’t convinced of the new me, and whenever he was near, I felt like the old me, the real me, filled with passion and a love for music. Every day was a struggle of self-discovery. Every day was a fight to not fall back down the rabbit hole. And every day, somehow, someway, I slowly began to discover what it meant to find myself.

It was a hysteric ride, but it was ours. And I wouldn’t change a thing.​

PROLOGUE
FAÇADE

FALLON
I was Fallon Dunbar.
I was a drummer.
I was confident, strong, and driven.
I was a junkie.
I am dead.

The full boxes scattered around my small one room apartment made it feel more real. The sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach made it feel so wrong. The new title and job made it feel surreal.

I am Fae Dunham.
I am the assistant editor of Raging Underground.
I am unsure, nervous, and scared shitless.
I am in recovery.

Staring into the full length mirror I had just hung up on the back of the door in my new room, I saw the shell of what I used to be, the life I could no longer have. The only traces left of my old life were the lips piercing I refused to take out. They were my favorites and they were staying. People like me don’t get second chances, but for some reason, I was standing knee-deep in one.

There’s no turning back now.
I will live again.


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Author Bio:
You want to know more about me? Well, let's see...
I am just an average twenty-something following my dreams. I have a full time "day job" and by night I am author. I guess you could say that writing is like my super power (I always wanted one of those). I am the lover of wine, sushi, football and the ocean; that is when I am not wrapped up in the literary world.
Please feel free to contact me to chat about my writing, books you think I'd like or just to shoot the, well you know.
A portion of all my royalties are donated to The Marcie Mazzola Foundation.


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