Opportunity Knocks

Talk about starting off the year with a bang!

Opportunity Knocks, available from Dark Eden Press on 1 January 2008.


Once upon a time, there was a girl, a stepmother, two evil stepsisters, and an invitation to a party. Sound familiar?

Well, this particular party was being thrown in the honor of a talent scout for a major recording company. If Cindy could do nothing else, she could sing. Which is why I was here, to ensure Cindy went to the party, and got that recording contract.
The stepmother and stepsisters left for the party earlier in a long black stretch limousine. I waited until they were safely ensconced and had disappeared from sight before I approached the front door. I rang the doorbell, and knocked until my knuckles were raw. Where in the world was Cindy? Instead of drinking punch and hobnobbing with the rich and famous, I cooled my heels there for over three hours. Needless to say, I was foot-stomping mad about it.

At one minute ‘til midnight, Cindy came strolling up the walk, smiling, and humming to herself. She stopped, eyeing me suspiciously. “Who are you?”

“Why, I’m your fairy godmother, here to take you to the party. We’d better get a move on, you’ve only got a minute left to impress that talent scout.”

“Fairy godmother? What do I need one of those for? Opportunities don’t just sit around waiting for you to open the door! You have to grab them before they pass you by. I went to the party and signed a recording contract. My name may be Cindy Rella, but I wasn’t born yesterday.”

With that, she slammed the door in my face.

End of Excerpt

I hope all of you are able to grab Opportunity by the tail and make the best of every one that comes your way!

Happy New Year!

Ericka Scott

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Happy New Year, Everyone!

MAGIC MAN...available January 24, 2008 from http://www.resplendencepublishing.com/

To everyone at the REO blog - to my fellow writers and my readers -
I'm wishing all of you a wonderful New Year, filled with lots of good things. Thank you for sharing your excerpts with me (I love them all!) and thanks for allowing me to share my written work with you.
Stay safe this New Year's Eve and...
Happy reading, everyone!
From -
Catherine Chernow
And here's a little excerpt treat for you from MAGIC MAN - a sensual start to a bright New Year...
“I’ve never seen a pear-shaped emerald,” Seth Masters gazed at the shimmering gemstone ring he held in the palm of his hand. Each time Seth moved his hand, the two-karat stone glistened as bright green prisms of light danced against the ceiling. The sign above him read: ‘Crystal Jewelers - Rare Gems and Unique Crystal Designs – Brides and Browsers Welcome!’
The owner of Bride’s Inn jewelry concession, Crystal Lane, lifted the emerald ring from Seth’s palm and held it up to the light. “Look at that sparkle,” she grinned as she admired the piece of jewelry she designed. “I think Serena will love it.” She laid it gently in Seth’s large palm. “It’s the perfect gift for your anniversary, Seth.” Crystal shook her head. “You’re married two years already? I just can’t believe it.”
Crystal’s heart had a funny little catch in it as she gazed at Seth Masters, a man she’d known most of her life, and now, one of the owners of what every home magazine in the country touted as America’s premier wedding establishment – Bride’s Inn.
“I think the color will match Serena’s eyes, don’t you?” Seth’s deep voice resonated with the sound of…love. The severe angles of his face relaxed, his dark eyes grew soft.
A sharp pang of envy pierced Crystal’s heart.
How she wished a man would look that way when he thought about her!
Men said they admired her, some told her they loved her, but none of them stuck around for the long haul. Seth had always been a good friend, and maybe, a friend is all she’d ever be with a man.
“Let me wrap that for you.” Crystal reached under the counter for a box and centered the magnificent ring in a velvet-lined jeweler’s box. As she did, a chill breeze swirled around her legs. The frigid air traveled up her ankles and calves, causing goose bumps to rise on her skin. Her eyes darted towards the windows where she gazed outside at a beautiful, sunny fall day. Not a cloud in the sky…the air temperature had climbed to a balmy sixty degrees…
A perfect early fall day on Long Island’s north shore.
She gave a small shudder as the cold air blew around her, rustling some papers next to the cash register. Crystal caught them just before they drifted to the floor.
“I’ll do something about the front door,” Seth told her. “I’ll get one of the maintenance people to see if they can’t get it to close properly. We’ve been having quite a bit of trouble with it lately.” He grinned sheepishly. “Seems like the renovations still aren’t complete.”
Crystal returned his smile but hers didn’t quite reach the corners of her mouth. “I’m not sure that’s the problem.” She darted a hesitant glance towards Seth. “I mean, the front door.” She shrugged, trying to let go of the jitters she felt whenever she was alone in her shop. The chill she felt deep in her bones, and the creepy feeling that settled over her seemed to have nothing to do with the broken front door in need of repair. Crystal pasted a bright smile on her face. “The renovations are daunting, especially for a seventy-year-old home like Bride’s Inn.” She closed the satin-lined ring box, placing it on the glass counter. For just a second, she thought she saw a shadow move in the far right corner of her shop. The hairs rose on the back of her neck. She concentrated on Seth, on his familiar, comforting face, but that creepy feeling returned. “I just can’t believe the work you and Jake did around here. Bride’s Inn is beautiful, Seth. You should be proud.”
Again the chill breeze snaked up her legs. At the same time, the lights above their heads flickered once…twice.
Seth shook his head and gazed upwards. “When did that start?”
Crystal shrugged. “It’s been happening all morning, actually.”
He sighed. “I’ll get someone on that, too.” Seth took his wallet from his pocket, but Crystal laid a hand over his when he placed it on the counter. “No,” Crystal shook her head. “This is on me.”
He raised one dark brow, his handsome, chiseled face set in determined lines. Seth was always a knock out, even in high school. How many girls, including her, had a crush on him at the time? But along with his dark, dangerous looks lay a heart of gold, a man who held her painful secret.
She owed Seth – for then as well as now. Crystal’s jewelry design business increased ten-fold since she opened Crystal Jewelers at Bride’s Inn, and it was all thanks to Seth and his wife Serena, for encouraging Crystal to take over the concession. A leading woman’s magazine had even featured her diamond wedding jewelry from her Bride’s Inn shop in one of their issues, increasing her sales and her popularity.
Crystal smiled as his beard-shadowed chin tightened. “Put your money away, Seth. It’s not good here.”
He raised both brows but then he smiled back, a wide, rakish beam she remembered every girl in high school sighing over. “Then I want a pair of earrings made too, and those, my friend, I’m going to pay for, whether you,” he reached out and tapped her lightly on the nose with the tip of his index finger. “…like it or not.”
Crystal frowned. “I don’t know if I can have them ready in time. When are you giving the ring to Serena?”
“Next week.”
She’d have to rush…put other things aside. The fall holidays were fast approaching. She had a wedding party to contend with and…
What did all that matter? If Seth wanted it for Serena by next week, then he would have it.
“They’ll be ready,” she told him. “But you’re one tough customer.”
He placed some bills on the counter. She gave him a stern look, but then her face softened. How could she be angry with him? Whenever she was around Seth, Serena, and their sweet baby boy, they made things seem…normal. Like she was just a nice, normal girl. With a nice, normal life…
Right. Well, she could dream, couldn’t she?
She smiled once again, all trace of her stern demeanor gone. “So, Mr. Tough Guy, what are your plans for today?”
Seth glanced at the watch strapped to his wrist. “I’ve got a meeting in a little while.”
“Oh,” she placed the jeweler’s box in a gift bag, stuffing the top with bright green tissue. “With who?”
“The Amazing Zodan - our star attraction for the holiday crowd. You remember him, don’t you? He went to school with us.”
Memories of tall, lanky Anthony Zodan swirled through her mind.
“Jake and my Aunt Clarice booked him for the holidays, so we’re going to meet with him today. He’s the hottest thing going right now – a mentalist…and a magician.” Seth snapped his dark brows together. “I think the term for him is…”
“…mind freak.” Crystal replied, recalling the time she watched Anthony levitate before her very eyes. She remembered a sultry, summer night when she had been with a group of friends, including Seth and…Anthony. In her mind’s eye, Crystal could still see Anthony rising from the ground, his feet dangling in mid-air, the full moon bracketing his tall, lean, bony frame as a lone wolf howled in the distance. She remembered a large bird with talon-like claws that flew over Anthony’s head, circling in the dark night sky as he rose from the ground, a strange, gray mist swirling around him, then the mist had settled around her…
She fluffed the tissue in the gift bag, her hand trembling as memories of that night filled her mind. Crystal handed the bag to Seth. Pasting another smile on her face, and hoping that her voice sounded steady, she replied, “Anthony Zodan will be one more attraction Bride’s Inn can count on, besides all these fabulous weddings.” She angled her head. “Don’t let Serena see this bag.”
He frowned. “You’re right. Can I leave it here with you, away from beautiful prying green eyes?”
She laughed, grateful for the reverie they shared. It broke the tension that memories of a long-ago summer night…and Anthony Zodan…created. “Of course.”
“Okay then, I’ll be in next week to get it.”
“That’s fine. You can pick up the earrings, too.”
Seth made his way out of her shop, his long legs eating up the floor beneath him as the bell tinkled above his head.
Crystal grabbed some paper towels from underneath the counter. As she spritzed the glass countertop with her special cleaner, a breeze kicked up, blowing the cleaning fluid everywhere but where she wanted.
“Oh for Pete’s sake,” she muttered as she wiped the foaming liquid from the side of the cash register. She started to leave her shop, intent on closing the large front doors at the main entrance when the lights flickered, causing the bright, power-track lighting over her jewelry cases to fade, plunging her shop into a state of semi-darkness. “Damn,” Crystal muttered. She flipped the light switch on the wall behind her, but nothing happened.
The breeze kicked up again, this time it lifted the stack of papers by the cash register, scattering them in the air, blowing them across the floor. They floated along the tiles, some landing as far away as the entrance to her shop.
Crystal shuddered as the icy cold air swirled around her shoulders, lifting the ends of her hair, her shoulder-length tresses skimming her cheeks. She removed the errant strands and made her way towards the entrance. Crystal stopped when she saw a woman standing there. She wore a long white dress and held a bouquet of white roses in her hands.
“Can I help you?” Crystal’s eyes remained intent on the woman. Her beautiful gown had the most delicate beading and lacework Crystal had ever seen, but…
Parts of it seemed tattered and worn.
Crystal bit down on her lower lip as thoughts swirled through her mind. She didn’t hear the woman come in…hadn’t heard the tinkle of the bell above the entrance.
The odd woman stared straight ahead. Even though a veil covered her face, Crystal noticed that the woman’s eyes appeared wide and vacant. She never blinked once.
Crystal’s heart started to pound. “Are you looking for something in particular?”
The woman still didn’t answer as she moved towards the jewelry counters. Crystal swallowed hard as she watched the woman’s slippered feet. They barely skimmed the floor as she floated towards her, stopping near the display of diamond wedding jewelry. Crystal shook her head to clear it - she must seeing things!
The lights flickered again.
Crystal sighed. “I’m so sorry about this, but my lights aren’t working. Would you like to come back some other time?”
No answer.
“Great,” Crystal muttered under her breath.
The woman looked down at the diamond-studded rings, the ends of her tattered veil trailing across the glass countertop. The light might be dim, but Crystal noticed that the bride wore no rings, no jewelry graced her slim fingers, and when she gazed at Crystal’s dazzling diamond designs, what Crystal could see of the woman’s face seemed sad.
Okay, so this was another customer. A rather odd customer; but a customer just the same – and it looked like she had no intention of leaving.
“Why don’t you give those flowers to me?” Crystal asked, trying for some levity. “You won’t be able to try on anything if you’re holding your bouquet.” The woman’s knuckles grew taut, the thin skin stretching across the backs of her hands as she gripped the wilted roses. The woman’s skin had an odd, shimmery, translucent quality, as thought Crystal could see through her hand, straight to the counter…
Crystal shook her head to clear it of her crazy thoughts. “Please,” she told the woman. “It would be easier for you to try on those rings you’re looking at if you’d just give me your flowers.” Crystal tried hard to keep her tone neutral, but the woman wore her patience thin.
The woman didn’t reply…and she didn’t let go of the flowers.
Another thought passed through Crystal’s mind. Where was the groom? What wedding could possibly be going on now during the middle of the week, and if it was, why was this bride in her shop?
She pushed those thoughts aside. A customer was a customer – no matter how weird.
Crystal stuck out her hand. “Crystal Lane,” she said by way of introduction, giving the woman a small smile. The woman’s sad face and her wide, unblinking eyes remained fixed on the rings displayed in the case. “It’s a pleasure to meet you…Miss…Ms.”
Crystal sighed. “Okay, you don’t have to tell me your name. But please, let’s put those down.” She reached over the counter and grabbed hold of the flowers. Her eyes grew wide as the rose petals crumbled, disintegrating into thin air. Crystal’s throat constricted with fear. How old were those damned flowers? What kind of bride carried an old, dried bouquet?
The chill breeze blew once more, its icy tentacles creeping up Crystal’s legs. She shuddered as the bone-chilling cold permeated every pore in her body.
The woman started to move. “Hey!” Crystal shouted. “What are you doing?” Was this woman completely out of her mind? Where did she think she was going?
Before Crystal could utter another word, the woman floated straight through the counter! She stood in front of Crystal, staring at her with those wide, unblinking eyes, her cold, frigid breath forming a white, misty puff of frozen air around them.
Terror clogged Crystal’s chest as she grabbed the bottle of cleaning fluid and hurled it at the woman. It passed through the strange bride’s body, landing with a loud crash against a jewelry case, the sound of splintering glass echoing throughout Crystal’s shop.
The woman spun around, the tattered train of her dress swirling around her legs, the tiny beads and pearls glowing as she disappeared into thin air before Crystal’s eyes. Her hand shook as she raised it to her mouth, but the scream lodged in Crystal’s throat. She stared at the spot where the woman had been…
All that remained were the jagged pieces of glass from the jewelry case.
Crystal tore out of her shop and flew down the hall towards the lobby, hoping against hope to find Seth there…or Jake or…
“Oh God, please, someone please be there!” she cried, feeling her eyes well with tears. She ran, but her vision blurred, making it difficult to see. “No, don’t cry,” she chided herself. “Don’t cry!”
Crystal skidded to a halt in the lobby, her eyes darting everywhere in search of Seth’s familiar face or Jake, Seth’s friend – the general manager of Bride’s Inn.
Relief filled her when she saw Seth on the other side of the lobby, admiring the paintings that graced the walls.
“Seth!” she screamed.
He turned his head and glanced her way.
“Seth! Oh, Seth,” she cried.
She ran straight towards him, her heart racing, her mind filled with the strange, eerie image of the woman in white.
He opened his arms and reached for her just as she collapsed in a heap against his tall frame. She blinked as her blurry, terror-filled eyes took in the sight of him…
Dark hair brushed lean, fit shoulders. He wore all black, from head to toe – including a long, black leather duster. It trailed down to the tips of his black boots.
“Did you see her?” Crystal willed her tears to stop, her breath hitching. Slowly, her vision started to clear, and that’s when she noticed his eyes. Like liquid silver, piercing gray eyes bored down into hers.
He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand, his knuckles smoothing across her skin. She gazed upwards and saw her reflection in his eyes, saw her mouth form a wide ‘O’ of shock when his long fingers trailed across her chin. Crystal couldn’t stop gazing at his eyes for in their depths, she saw a strange vision...
A bird. A large, black bird flew overhead, its talon-like claws reaching out as it landed on her shoulder. When the bird turned its head, she saw that it had red eyes - they glowed from within, the color of rubies.
Nestled in Seth’s arms, she looked down to see a large, silver ring on the fourth finger of his right hand. Fashioned into a large bird – it resembled a hawk with ruby eyes.
Crystal breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that what she had just seen reflected in his eyes was the ring he wore…
Or was it?
She glanced at the ring again, it seemed…old, almost…ancient. Crystal had never seen such a ring before.
A pair of strong hands circled her waist, pulling her against him, cradling her between his long legs. Crystal’s thigh brushed his, her face heating when she felt the long, hard length of him against the inside of her right thigh. Sensual heat seared her skin, burning through the silk material of the dress that swirled around her knees. Then he spoke.
“I should be so lucky.”
Crystal blinked as his deep voice washed over her, filling every empty space within her heart. His narrow, sculpted face came into focus…and that voice – it didn’t sound like Seth …
Her eyes opened wide as he smiled down on her. “Like I said angel, I wish I were Seth, more than you’ll ever know.” He tugged her closer…and closer still, leaning down to brush his mouth across hers. “Sweet,” he muttered thickly. “So sweet.” He had the most beautiful mouth – his upper lip slightly fuller than the lower lip, and his cheekbones – they stuck out prominently beneath his long, lean, sculpted face. Long, jet-black lashes lined his amazing silver eyes…
Her eyes fluttered closed as her lips melded with his, the tip of her tongue trailing over his full upper lip. A shudder of pure erotic pleasure tore through her body as her fear melted away.
“You’re not Seth,” she whispered, barely able to speak. The feel of him…oh, it was…magic! Her body hummed, her pulse quickening when she felt his long fingers gently squeeze her waist, his stiff member brushing against her mound. Her clit pulsed with the most delicious throbbing sensation, making her body vibrate.
“Anthony Zodan,” he said by way of greeting.
She blinked as she registered his words, but it was hard to concentrate. In fact, it was getting hard to stand, too. Her head swam…the precursor to one of those damned headaches.
Crystal felt her knees give way as her body started to slide, her nipples peaking as her breasts brushed his chest. Warmth washed over and an all-consuming feeling of lethargy.
“Easy, angel,” he whispered. “I’ve got you.”
Her eyes closed and then she fainted dead away, her last thoughts being she didn’t want to wake up as strong arms lifted her against a very wide, warm chest.
“Pass the bottle under her nose. Yes, just like that.”
Through the hazy fog clouding her mind, Crystal thought she heard Serena’s cool, crisp voice. She snuggled into the warmth surrounding her, rubbing her face against something soft and silky …
“Don’t hold it there too long, just enough so she gets a good whiff.”
The strong odor of ammonia filled Crystal’s nostrils. She blinked rapidly as the pungent burning smell lined her nose, her throat tightening around the searing heat. She coughed, and that’s when she felt a hand against her back, a wide, warm palm tapping her between her shoulder blades, using just enough force to help her rid her throat and lungs of the acrid ammonia.
Her eyes stung. She blinked again, willing the tears in her eyes to dry, using her old trick of opening her eyes wide, then shutting them tight, squeezing them to stem the flow. Crystal breathed a sigh of relief when she felt her eyes dry and the ammonia burn leave her throat, but the blissful feeling of respite fled when she gazed at the scene before her.
Jake Roper ran into the small, crowded banquet office. “Looks like someone tried to rob her, Seth. I’m calling the police. They cracked open one of the jewelry cases.”
Rob her? No one tried to rob her. What was he talking about?
Seth nodded in agreement then he turned to glance at Crystal, his face drawn in tight lines. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, but that’s not what happened,” Crystal replied, fearing Jake would call the police if she didn’t do something. She moved to get up, but a strong arm circled her waist, pulling her back down until her head lay pillowed against a firm, broad shoulder.
“You’re staying right here, angel.” A deep voice whispered in her ear. “…until I’m positive that you’re okay.”
She turned to face the person who spoke and whose lap she rested on.
Anthony Zodan.
This wasn’t the same, tall, lanky boy she remembered from high school! The feel of his hard, muscled thighs created sensations in her bottom cheeks – like tiny little sparks of electric energy. When she felt his member swell against her backside, Crystal bolted up from his lap, rising to stand on shaky legs, her face heating with embarrassment. She tried to ignore the rapid beat of her pulse, feeling the Amazing Zodan’s eyes on her back the entire time.
“Please don’t call the police,” she implored, looking at Jake.
Jake snapped his tawny golden brows together. “Crystal, someone tried to rob you. We have to call the police.”
Miranda, Jake’s wife, placed an arm around Crystal’s shoulders. “Did they hurt you, Crystal? Are you sure that you’re okay?”
Crystal nodded, turning slightly, her eyes locking with the Amazing Zodan’s silver ones. She wasn’t okay…she was feeling flushed and a little woozy, but she couldn’t be sure of the cause as she gazed at his sensual, dark looks. Her hormones spun into overdrive.
Serena placed a hand against Crystal’s cheek. “I’m sorry about the smelling salts, but you passed out. It was pure luck that Mr. Zodan caught you before you hit the floor.”
Passed out! Crystal groaned inwardly, not sure of how much more embarrassment she could take.
“You stay put.” Serena eased her back down on the couch, next to the Amazing Zodan. His long, lean body radiated heat. Crystal had to fight the urge to snuggle against him.
Crystal shook her head. “No, I can’t just sit here like this. I don’t want anyone calling the police.” She rose from the couch once more, placing a good amount of distance between herself and Anthony Zodan.
A nice, safe distance…as far away as she could get so her traitorous hormones would calm down.
He uncoiled his tall muscled body from the couch, rising to his feet. Her eyes remained glued to his. How had she missed those tiny, glowing red centers in the middle of his dove gray irises? They resembled the eyes of that bird on his large silver ring…
She tore her eyes from his and faced Miranda and Serena. “I’m fine.” Crystal patted Miranda’s swollen belly. “And a woman who’s due to give birth to her second child in the next few days shouldn’t be on her feet.”
“Nonsense,” Miranda replied, her smoky violet eyes large and round. “It’s you who needs to rest. Isn’t that right, Serena? Crystal seems too pale.”
“Absolutely,” Serena nodded in agreement. “She’s had quite a shock.”
“What’s going on?” All eyes turned to see Clarice Masters, Seth’s elderly aunt, standing by the entrance to the banquet office. She walked over to Crystal and laid a wrinkled hand against her cheek. “What happened?” She asked, her voice filled with worry.
Crystal blew out a shaky breath. “I-I think I saw the Lady In White. Th-that ghost that haunts this inn.”
It became deathly quiet. Crystal swore she could hear a pin drop.
Clarice shook her head. “Oh my, I was wondering when it was going to happen.”

Anthony Zodan stood off to the side watching as the owners of Bride’s Inn formed a protective circle around Crystal. An angel…that’s what she was. The beautiful woman who had collapsed in his arms just needed wings.
Crystal. The name suited her – it always had. With her light blue eyes, the color of topaz, and that long, pale blonde hair, she seemed ethereal. His shoulders slumped as he recalled the taunts he endured growing up. No one ever understood his curiosity for magic arts. The need to perform – the need to create illusion burned bright within him.
Like his need for Crystal. He also remembered that Crystal only wanted Gray’s Point High’s star quarterback…Bobby Michaels.
Anthony shut his eyes again, swallowing back the pain of hearing Bobby Michael’s voice ring in his ears as he boasted to his friends that he had fucked Crystal Lane.
He shook his head to clear it. All this talk of ghosts was getting to him.
Crystal was very real…and more beautiful than he remembered. The years melted away and time seemed to stand still for just a few seconds as he gazed at her.
Anthony glanced at her dress – a pale, gauzy creation that barely skimmed her knees. White, knee-hi boots trimmed with silver and tiny, ice blue crystals adorned her long, shapely legs. She wore a silver belt around what he considered the smallest waist he had ever laid eyes on…and had the pleasure to hold. His fingers tingled, their tips buzzing from the little contact he had with Crystal.
He placed two of those tingling fingers against his lips, recalling the taste and feel of her mouth…
Again he shook his head. There was no magic in the world and of all people, he should know, but when he gazed at Crystal, he seemed to lose all sense of time and space…and reason.
His cock swelled in response to his heated thoughts about Crystal. Anthony wondered if she had felt it earlier, wondered if she liked it or…not. How many times had he imagined making love to her over the years since he’d moved away from his hometown of Gray’s Point on Long Island’s North Shore? Gazing at Crystal now, he felt the urge to be back home…and stay there. It tugged at his heartstrings, creating a tight feeling in his chest.
Crystal turned away from all eyes but his knowing ones, placing a hand against her temple, closing her eyes as her face formed tight lines. It bothered him to see her face grimace in pain, her lovely features pulled into taut lines as she massaged her right temple. He had the most unholy urge to find the perpetrators, to hunt down the person or persons who attempted to rob his ethereal angel’s shop…he’d make them pay for hurting her…for causing her all this distress, this pain this…
He walked over to her, his body stiff with anger and…desire.
A deadly combination.
“I think you should lie down,” he said quietly, his body inches from hers. He turned so that he shielded her from the rest of the small room’s occupants as they gathered to confer about Crystal Jewelers and its lovely owner.
She shook her head, but he could see the slight movement pained her.
“I-I’m fine, really.” She raised her eyes to his. Faint blue veins lay beneath the surface of her pale, translucent skin. “I owe you an apology,” she told him, her voice quivering. “I thought…”
He placed two fingers against her lips. “No apology needed, angel.” He drew his brows together. “Does your head hurt?”
Her eyes filled with tears. The sight of them made his heart squeeze painfully in his chest. “It will pass,” she replied.
Twice he saw her start to cry and twice she had stopped. Why? She used to do that in high school, too. Like that time he saw her near her locker…alone…her eyes filled with pain and heartache as shimmery tears welled in the corners of her eyes. She choked them back as she tossed her load of books in her locker.
Anthony cradled the side of her head in his hand. “Look at me,” he commanded, his voice pitched low. When she didn’t raise her head, he lifted it gently, until her eyes met his. “Look directly into my eyes, angel.”
She did, raising her pale blue eyes slowly until they locked with his. “Now, relax one muscle at a time. Start at the very top of your beautiful head.”
Her eyes grew wide.
He smiled into them. “That’s what you are…you always were…beautiful.” Anthony massaged the side of her head and neck, his fingers kneading the tight muscles. He continued to croon softly. “You’re going to feel each muscle, each tendon unwind.” He rubbed her soft skin and silky hair, his heart tripping happily in his chest when her stiff, tense muscles loosened. “Keep your eyes focused on mine, angel.”
Crystal’s eyes dilated with each pass of his fingers. He bent his head slightly, inhaling her heady scent – a mixture of some sweet, flowery fragrance and something strong and earthy. She smelled fresh, new…
“Crystal, you really saw the Lady in White?”
She didn’t answer Serena’s question, but continued to gaze into his eyes. “Crystal? Did you hear me?”
He cupped Crystal’s chin in his palm and gave it a gentle squeeze. She blinked several times, her pale lashes sweeping across her cheeks.
“What?” She glanced at Serena, stepping away from Anthony. He felt instantly bereft. “Yes. I saw her. She came into my shop. She didn’t speak, but…” Crystal lifted a hand to her throat. “She didn’t utter a sound, but kept looking at the engagement rings and wedding bands in one of my jewelry cases. Serena,” she gripped her friend’s arm. “I swear, the Lady in White had the saddest look on her face and then…” She caught her breath. “Then she walked straight through the display case. I got so scared that I threw the bottle of glass cleaner at her but it bounced on the case and broke the glass.”
Miranda spoke next. Raising her elegant dark brows, she replied, “So you’ve joined our little club. You’ve seen her, too.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
All eyes turned towards Anthony.
“There is no scientific proof that ghosts exist.”
Clarice walked up to him. She narrowed her bright, blue eyes. “The skeptics who come to Bride’s Inn take the hardest fall, Mr. Zodan.” She poked him in the chest.
He grinned, admiring her spunk. “And who might you be, madam?”
“Clarice Masters. I’m one of the owners.”
Anthony beetled his brows. “Clarice Masters…C. Masters…are you the C. Masters who created those magnificent landscape paintings in the lobby?”
She smiled. “That’s me. You’ve seen them?”
He gave Crystal a sideways glance. “I was admiring them when Crystal came barreling into the lobby…and my arms.”
Crystal’s face turned pink. His body leapt into overdrive when he saw the rapid rise and fall of her pert breasts outlined beneath that silky, filmy dress she wore.
“Well, as long as you’re all right, that’s all that matters.” Jake Roper nodded at Crystal. “Seth, how about giving me a hand? We’ll grab a couple of the maintenance guys and get Crystal’s shop cleaned up.”
“Absolutely,” Seth replied. He patted Crystal’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about a thing.”
“I’ll help you.” Crystal moved towards them, but Anthony reached out and snagged her belt, halting her movements. She turned to face him, her chin set at a stubborn angle. “You should rest,” he told her. He had to stop himself from leaning down and kissing her mouth, set in mulish lines. His body burned when he thought about fusing his mouth with hers again. “You still look pale.”
She lifted one platinum, white-blonde brow. “Thank you for your concern.”
“Of course I’m concerned,” he snapped. Softening his tone, he grinned. “I care very much about beautiful women who hurl themselves at me.”
Crystal folded her arms across her chest. “Even ones who see ghosts?”
He laughed. “Yes. Even those.”
She took a step towards him. “You don’t believe me.” Her voice sounded flat and…disappointed.
He wanted to tell her yes, he believed her. Hell, he wanted to tell Crystal anything - anything that would wipe that crestfallen look from her face.
“You’re one of those debunkers, aren’t you?” Her voice held challenge. “You claim there’s a rational, reasonable explanation for everything.”
All eyes focused on him. “I venture to say that I can explain anything…including the existence of this mysterious ghost, this Lady in White.’”
Crystal’s voice vibrated with anger. “I know what I saw.”
For once, he wished he could say that he believed in ghosts - in her tale of a mysterious figure that walked through solid objects.
He sighed. “I’m sure you saw something.” Her frosty look made him sorry he said anything, but he pushed on. “The power of suggestion can be strong. I’m sure, working at Bride’s Inn, you’ve heard the tales of the Lady in White, so naturally, you just assumed it was she.”
“I saw her, too.” Serena told him. “When I first came to Bride’s Inn.”
“So did I,” Miranda added her two cents.
“We did, too.” Seth and Jake chimed in.
He glanced at the four of them, their faces set in determined lines.
Clarice spoke next. “I believe that my nephew, Seth, and his friend,” she cast a warm glance at Seth and Jake. “…and my niece and her dear friend ,” she beamed at Serena and Miranda. “…have seen her. The Lady in White shows herself to those who need her most.”
Crystal’s eyes flew to Clarice’s.
“One of the usual explanations people use to justify a ghostly sighting,” Anthony scoffed.
His angel turned to face him. “I don’t lie.”
Anthony held up a hand, palm out. “I didn’t say you did.”
“I know what I saw. And I won’t be dissuaded, even by you.”
He angled his head. “You have something against me, Crystal?” Her eyes shone bright with glittery tears. Great. Just what he needed. He glanced at the stubborn faces of the very people who hired him – and at quite an expense. They hadn’t balked at paying him his exorbitant fee – and his required large deposit without so much as batting an eye. If he didn’t need the money, he’d just as well leave this crazy bunch to their ‘haunt.’
“There are some things that just can’t be explained in scientific terms,” Crystal stated, her voice firm.
He raised a brow. “Like what?”
She inhaled sharply. Then a tear slipped from her eye…and another…and another…
As each one fell, they changed into tiny, glistening crystals, each one rolling down her pale cheeks and chin to land against the front of her dress. They clung to the material, forming a shimmery shield.
When the next tiny crystal slipped from her eye, Anthony reached out, catching it on the tip of his index finger. It glowed softly under the light, the small, crystalline bead winking at him.
“How did you do that?” he whispered.
Crystal’s hand flew to her mouth, stifling a sob. She ran towards the door and wrenched it open.
All he could do was stare as his angel ran through the doorway, her boot heels clicking across the floor.
Jake shook his head, giving Anthony a wry look. “Welcome to Bride’s Inn.”
Anthony stared at the tiny crystal that lay on the tip of his finger. In the next instant, it shrunk and disappeared before his eyes.
Seth nodded in Anthony’s direction. “And just how do you explain that, Mr. Magician?”
Anthony Zodan, the world’s foremost illusionist and debunker of everything everyone held true…
Didn’t have a damned clue.

copyright 2007 by Catherine Chernow
This excerpt is subject to final edit and may differ slightly from the final version

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Tinsel Time

Noel reached out a tentative hand and touched hers. The warmth of his skin against hers started a tingle from her fingertips all the way up her arm.

“You’re real,” he said.

“Of course, I’m real.”

“You were driving a sleigh.” Noel’s voice was still low, but he was looking at her with a less speculative look in his eyes.

“It’s just a little Christmas magic.” She shrugged and leaned back as the waitress placed a steaming mug of cider on the table.

“Do you need anything else?”

Noel shook his head, never taking his eyes from her. Tinsel felt a sudden rush of pleasure when she noted Noel’s attention was now focused on her cleavage and not the waitress’.

“So what are you?” Noel asked when the waitress had drifted off to take the order from another table.

What was she? What an odd question. Perhaps finding Noel had been a mistake. She could always go and buy another newspaper, find a different bodyguard. Time was ticking. Christmas Eve was only one day away. She didn’t have time to chase down more bodyguards. Besides, she didn’t need him to think; she just needed him to keep Santa safe. As a bodyguard, Noel fit the bill. He was tall, and his face was all right for the job, too. Rugged, with brown hair badly in need of a trim, just the right amount of stubble on his cleft chin, and the warmest brown eyes she’d ever seen. Noel sat up and shrugged out of his coat. She tried not to gasp as the muscles bunched on his arms—she could almost see them rippling through his flannel shirt. And she was positive she’d find a tight six-pack hidden under the soft fabric. Oh my. She got all hot in all the right places just thinking about taking his clothes off.

Reigning in her imagination, she decided she’d better get down to business. “My name is Tinsel.” She held her hand out for him to shake.

“Like the silver stuff you put on Christmas trees?”

“Yes. I was born on Christmas day.”

“Hey, me, too.” Noel suddenly smiled, and it lit up his whole face. His brown eyes sparkled, and two dimples flashed in his cheeks. Then his smile dimmed. “However, it’s been a rotten Christmas so far.” He waved his hand dismissively. “You probably don’t want to hear about that.”

“Sure I do,” Tinsel said.

“Well…you see…I’m a cop. I got injured on the job a couple of months back. The doctor won’t clear me until after the New Year, if then. To tell you the truth, I’m going a little stir crazy.”

“Oh, so you can’t work at all?” Her spirits flagged. She’d come all this way and was now going to have to start over.

“Well, I can’t work at the precinct. I’ve been filling up my time doing some bodyguard work here and there.”

“Oh, that’s why I—” Tinsel began.

Noel didn’t seem to hear her. “Heck, I’ve been in such demand even prank callers are asking for my services. Can you believe some woman called yesterday wanting to hire me as a bodyguard for Santa?” Noel laughed. “Heck, if it pays, I’d guard Little Miss Muffet.” He took a deep gulp of his beer.

Shit, shit, shit. Tinsel didn’t often curse, but now seemed as good a time as any. Prank call indeed. Now what was she going to do? While she was thinking, her gaze met Noel’s across the table, and time seemed to stand still.

Tinsel struggled to take a breath. Perhaps the hot cider had gone to her head. Whatever it was, she liked it. She felt warm all over, and her nipples tightened, seeming to strain against the rough fabric of her coveralls. Heat flooded between her thighs, and she took a sip of her cider, hoping Noel wouldn’t notice her loss of composure. Then she had an idea. If he wouldn’t protect Santa knowingly, perhaps she could trick him into believing he was protecting her instead? If she didn’t tell him until the last minute when it was too late for him to back out, he’d have to do the job anyway.

Who could he protect her from? She shuddered. There was one person she was afraid of.

The memories flooded back. Memories of her mother, naked and wanton, in a man’s arms under the Christmas tree. She had been so little but even now could still feel the cold floor under her feet. She’d heard a noise and slipped out of bed to see if Santa had come. To her shock, it wasn’t Santa in the living room by the fireplace. It was an unknown man and her mother. She had stood still in the dark, holding her breath. She was afraid to be seen. As she watched, the man’s bandaged hands roamed over her mother’s breasts. Tinsel started to turn away when he bent to suckle on her mother’s nipple. That small movement caught his attention, and his gaze met and held Tinsel’s. Instead of turning away, he shifted so she could see the hard planes of his naked body pressed against her mother’s soft form. Then the man went back to sucking noisily on her mother’s breast. Tinsel had been relieved when the fire in the fireplace flared up and sparks danced out. The lovers scrambled apart, and Tinsel stepped back into the darkness of her room while her mother led the man down the hallway to her mother’s bedroom. As he passed, the man had looked back at her and smiled. A predatory smile that terrified her.

There had been sounds—odd grunting and moaning sounds—coming from her mother’s room. She hadn’t panicked until she heard a stifled scream.

Santa had found her huddled under the Christmas tree shaking with fear. With soft whispers, he took her in his arms and whispered for her not to be afraid. He’d packed her up among the toys in the back of his sleigh, and they had flown off. She hadn’t even looked back.

End of Excerpt

I hope you enjoyed this Christmas Tidbit!

Ericka Scott

Check out my website for a free e-book download of Mail Order Mama, a historical short story set in 1883. While you are there, check out my contest page. There's still a few days left to enter to win a free e-book a month for a whole year!

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Tarnished Gold

Tarnished Gold is now being published by DALP Press. Visit DALP at http://www.dalppress.com/ and purchase a copy of Tarnished Gold and/or Circle of Diamonds and be entered to win an autographed copy of Dangerous Affairs. Get one entry for each book you purchase. Contest ends Dec. 31, 2007.

Back Blurb:

Destitute, Lilly Stanton has come home after four years in prison. Hardened by her past, she trusts no one, especially the Stanton’s newly hired hand, Chance Boyd. Although he reminds her of every worthless man she’s ever known, Lilly slowly learns to trust him. When her former lover, an outlaw, reveals the truth about Chance’s identity, her love for him crumbles into feelings of betrayal. Now she has some hard choices to make; choices that could send her back to prison.

Dedicated to upholding the law, Federal U.S. Marshal Chance Boyd is assigned to find stolen gold. Only Lilly Stanton can help him, a former convict whose trust he must gain. Keeping his identity a secret, he maneuvers his way into a job on the Stanton farm, but soon learns that Lilly is not the criminal he expected to find. When Lilly is kidnapped, Chance realizes this may be the one woman who can help him recover from his past.

She mistrusts the law and he is sworn to uphold it; can Lilly and Chance find a common ground that will enable them to survive the danger facing them and finally admit the love they feel for one another?


A burst of gun fire and yelling filled the glade. Shoving Lilly to the ground, Jeb grabbed his gun. She rolled away from him, excitement throbbing through her. Chance had found them.
A hand grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the trees.
“You’re coming with me, gal.”

She glanced up. Dead Creek Luke dragged her away from the fire. She swung her foot, kicking him in the shin. She wasn’t going anywhere with him.

“Stop fighting me, gal,” Luke roared. He hauled her to her feet. “You’re mine now.”

She continued kicking his shins. She scraped her fingernails down his face. His hand covered her mouth and she sunk her teeth into his palm. He struck her across the face and continued dragging her into the wood.

Gun fire and shouts echoed through the air. Suddenly he stiffened and fell beside her. She turned him over. His sightless gaze stared up at the sky. After searching the ground around him, she rolled him over again, finding his gun. She grabbed it and flipped open the chamber. Two shots remained. Crawling over to Luke, she pulled more bullets out of his gun belt and reloaded.

Around her the battle continued. The stench of gunpowder stung her nostrils. Horses screamed and men cried out. Jeb shouted something she couldn’t make out.

“We’re surrounded,” Billings called out.

“There must be an army,” another man yelled.

“Let’s get out of here,” someone shouted.

Several of the men ran for their horses. Riding while they shot, they scurried from the camp.
Lilly scanned the area, finally finding Jeb running toward his horse. Lying flat, she took careful aim. She waited while the horse danced in front of him, blocking her view. He finally swung a leg over, the horse taking off through the woods. Tightening her finger, she stopped when Chance stepped into her line of vision. He fired once, but Lilly had no idea if he hit Jeb or not.
The area became quiet as several men moved into the camp, but Lilly ignored them. She stayed focused on Chance. He turned and smiled at her. Standing, she stalked toward him and stomped her foot.

“Damn you, Chance Boyd,” she cried, “I could have shot him if you had stayed out of my way.”

* * *

Chance stopped. Lilly stood before him, glaring. One hand fisted at her side, the other clutching a gun. Her hair flew around her dirty face and her clothing hung loose and wrinkled. She glared at him, fury sparking in her eyes. He’d better watch himself or she might shoot him.
“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Am I all right? Am I all right?” Her arms flayed at her sides. “No, I’m not all right,” she shouted. “That bastard would be dead if you had stayed put.”

“Lilly, calm down.”

“Calm down? Calm down?”

If he didn’t know better, he’d swear she had led the men, tracked the outlaws, and directed the attack without help from anyone. So much for rescuing her.
She poked her finger in his chest. “Do you know what you did? You let him get away. Two more seconds, Chance, that’s all I needed and he’d be dead. Now we have to hunt him down like the dog he is and kill him.”

Joe walked up. “This is the woman you thought needed help?”

Lilly stopped shouting and glared at Joe. “Who are you?”

Joe doffed his hat and grinned. “Federal Deputy Marshal Joe Hawk, ma’am. Pleased to meet you.”

Recognizing the expression on Joe’s face, Chance inwardly groaned. The man would tell and retell the story of how one little woman attacked Chance Boyd and put him in his place. There was no help for it; he’d have to kill his best friend. Anything to save his pride.

Lilly turned, noticing the other men surrounding them. “Marshal Calhoun?”

“Hello, Lilly,” Seth said. “Are you all right?”

Gasping, she dropped the gun and flew into the Marshal’s arms. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
Chance holstered his gun. Damn the woman. He helped save her too. How come she didn’t throw herself into his arms?

Joe slapped Chance on the shoulder and grinned. “It must be love.”

“What?” Chance turned. Joe walked away laughing. Instead of pursuing his friend and knocking him unconscious, Chance touched Lilly on the back. “Lilly—”

“Go away, Chance.” She turned her back on him. “How’s Ma?” she asked the marshal.

“She’s mighty upset,” Seth said. Placing his arm around Lilly, he led her to a log and sat beside her. “I wish I could have taken the time to reassure her before we left, but we wanted to get started immediately.”

Chance stalked away.


He turned at Mr. Parker’s voice.

“We caught one of the outlaws.” Parker approached, shaking his head. “He’s just a kid. What a waste.”

Chance followed Parker to the other side of the camp. A young man sat against a tree, holding a cloth against his left arm. Mussed brown hair fell over his forehead and dirt smudged his face, making him look ridiculously young. Chance squatted in front of the boy, guessing his age at about seventeen or eighteen.

“What’s your name, boy?” Chance asked.

“Tony Atwood, sir.”

“Tony.” Lilly ran toward them. “Thank God you’re all right.” She knelt beside him. “I thought you left with Jeb or the men killed you.”

“No, Miss Lilly. I took a bullet in my arm when the fight first broke out.” The boy hung his head. “I saw Dead Creek grab you, and I wanted to help you, but I was so scared I crawled under a bush.”

“That’s all right, Tony.” She brushed his hair back. “We’ll get the bullet out and you’ll feel better.”

Chance had just about all he could take. He pulled Lilly to her feet, but she shook his hand off.

“Lilly, this boy held you prisoner.”

Lilly snorted. He hated it when she did that.

“Tony made a mistake,” she said. “He had no idea what he was getting into when he joined Jeb’s gang.”

“Lilly, he’s an outlaw.”

“Chance, he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“He helped kidnap you.”

She huffed out a breath. “Chance, he’s the only one who showed me any kindness. He protected me from the other men and helped me over the past five days. All he got for his trouble was teasing from Jeb’s gang and a bullet in his arm. I think he’s been punished enough.” She pulled him away from the other men. “If you helped him, he’d get over this foolish idea about becoming a gunslinger. Maybe you could take him to Texas and get him into law enforcement.

Chance slapped his hat against his leg. “I hate dime novels.”

End Excerpt

You can enjoy the first three chapters of this award winning novel on my web site at http://www.leslierosendavis.com/, where you can also read my blogs and join my mailing list.


Leslie Rosen Davis
Distinctive Love Stories-Unforgettable Romance

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Bounty Hunter by Deanna Lee - Available Now at Cobblestone Press, LLC

Tyr Kaden escaped a prison planet with one thing on his mind, five years of captivity hadn't dampened the burning need for revenge. When the man he hunts sends the one bounty hunter he can't kill his way, Tyr makes a choice that will alter his life forever. Jacq Wolf wasn't and most certainly could not be collateral damage in his plan for retribution but that doesn't mean he won't use her for bait.

Jacqueline Wolf spent the first years of her life on the streets of Omega home world, cut off from civilization and dying. The company Space Tek-ko saved her life, but now they own it. Twenty years later, she'll do anything to buy out of her contract even accept the bounty on Tyr Kaden's head.

Can she survive Tyr's killing game and the unexpected passion that burns between them?

EXCERPT (Adult Language/Sexual Situations)

* * * * *
Of course, the elevator was broken. With a curse, Jacq gripped the side of the maintenance ladder and swung into the shaft. It ran four levels in either direction, but the control station was on top and that’s where she’d find him. Spending the last hour squeezing and crawling her way through the ruins of the mining operation had left her two seconds short of homicidal. Since the mood fit the circumstances, she let it brew inside of her as she started up the elevator.

Cultivating anger, frustration, and apathy... that’s what would see this assignment complete. It was just like any other assignment, except this pay day would buy out her contract.

At the top of the shaft, a sliver of light spit out like a beacon. She could hear him moving around and wasn’t surprised he hadn’t bothered to check her progress. He either didn’t consider her a threat or thought she wouldn’t really kill him.

Seconds later, she swung one foot out, caught the ledge, and shoved herself through the narrow slit. Her weapon raised, she slid her gaze over Tyr Kaden’s relaxed form. Heavy-soled leather boots, black leather pants stretched tight over muscular thighs, and a gray micro-fiber shirt that emphasized the power of his chest. She frowned at the sleek baldness of his head before meeting his gaze. His bright green eyes were filled with amusement and something that looked dangerously close to curiosity. She glanced briefly at the weapon beside him; he hadn’t even looked at it.

“You’re not making this very difficult.”

He smiled and raised one eyebrow. “You think you can pull the trigger on me like this? Can you deal out this kind of death?”

She swallowed hard, her hand jerking slightly as she tried to force herself to continue. “I’m not weak, damnit!”

Tyr stood and moved forward. “No, not weak. You lived on the streets of Omega Prime for how many years?”

Orphaned at five, she thought, rescued at ten. “Do you want to die?” she demanded through clenched teeth.

“No.” He stopped when she flipped on the laser site of her weapon. It bounced off his face and centered on his chest. “I don’t want to kill you, either.”

Her finger slid over the trigger. “Pick up your fucking weapon, Tyr.”

“The first time I saw you I thought you couldn’t possibly be real. Women weren’t made beautiful like you anymore. I sure as hell had never seen one.”

“Shut up.” Her voice cracked and her fingers started to ache as she tightened her grip on the blaster.

“Soft, female, taken from the streets of the most dangerous planet in the sector and yet you still looked innocent.”

“You son of a bitch.”

* * * * * *

She couldn’t kill him. Taking her freedom at the cost of his life was unacceptable. With a shudder, Jacq lowered the gun and took a deep breath. “If isn’t me, it’ll be someone else. They won’t stop until you are dead.”

“I can handle whatever the Company throws my way.”

Yes, Jacq thought, you certainly can. “What a fucking mess.”

Tyr reached out, grabbed a fist full of her riot vest and yanked her to him. “What shall we do with all this time, little wolf?”

With a curse, she slapped him hard across the face with the barrel of her blaster and sucked in a breath when his head snapped back briefly. His gaze locked with hers as he grabbed her gun hand and held her tight. Those pretty green eyes of his darkened and he ran his tongue over his bottom lip. Her muscles tightened as she strained to pull away. She wasn’t foolish enough to think they were evenly matched. He had nearly a hundred pounds on her and, even with modifications, she wasn’t his equal in strength.

He pulled the gun from her hand, tossed it on a dormant comp-terminal behind her and brought her closer. “You shouldn’t tempt a man like me, Jacq. I’m not the boy I was when we first met.”

“No. That is obvious.” She sucked in a breath as the magnetic straps of the riot vest gave way under his hand. With a gasp, she started to slide out of it to escape him but he immediately whipped her around and held her tight against him.

Her back to his chest; her ass to his groin. The contact was immediately more than she could handle. Jacq sucked in a deep breath as he pulled her closer and pressed one large hand over her stomach.

“Let me go.”

“I’m not going to hurt you.”

His lips grazed her neck, teeth nipped at sensitive flesh, and her entire body heated. It wasn’t what she expected. Of all the ways she’d imagined Tyr Kaden touching her over the years... none of them had ever been this gentle. He pulled the vest free and tossed it aside.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Searching my prisoner for weapons.” He chuckled as she struggled briefly against him. “No knives?”

“No, cutting weapons are for the uncivilized.” She really didn’t like the sight of blood but she would be damned if he’d find that out.

His hands drifted over her hips, down her legs briskly and then back upward. Her thin, sleeveless, skin-tight shirt wasn’t much of a barrier and he proved it when both of his hands drifted over her ribcage to cup her breasts. She sucked in a breath as heat worked over her body and he groaned against her neck. His fingers plucked at her already hardened nipples. She arched in his arms, pressing her ass firmly against the hard edge of his cock as her sex dampened.

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Cade, Book One of the Cutler Brothers

Cade, Book One of The Cutler Brothers

Contemporary Spanking Romance

Heat Rating of 3: Story contains explicit sexual activity and spanking.

The beautiful, but irritating Riley Barnett has been a thorn in the side of the U.S. Marshals Service ever since she entered the Witness Protection Program. And now that she once again believes her identity has been compromised, new U.S. Marshal Cade Cutler is the one sent to placate her. But the simple task of babysitting her is made more difficult when she refuses to obey his simplest instructions. Cade has never met a woman so infuriating, and soon realizes that the only way to get through to her is to put her over his knee for a good, sound spanking.

Riley, though, will be damned if she’s going to take orders from the gorgeous Marshal just because he spanks her, especially when he refuses to believe that she’s actually in danger. She has been in the Witness Protection Program long enough to know when someone is after her, even if all of the other times had been false alarms.

But when it turns out that she’s right this time, Riley has to depend on Cade to protect her, even if that means putting up with his spankings every time she refuses to follow his silly rules!

Excerpt - Adult:

Cade closed his notebook and slipped it into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. “We’ll look into it, Ms. Barnett, and get back to you,” he said, getting to his feet.

Riley did the same, her frown deepening. “How are you going to look into it? Will you be posting Marshals outside my apartment building then?” She really hoped so; she hadn’t slept well the past couple of nights.

He inclined his head. “If we determine that you’re in danger, then you’ll be given protection,” he told her. “But I don’t think you have anything to be concerned about. As I said, a lot of people own black SUV’s.”

Riley stared at him in disbelief. Did she have to end up at the bottom of some river somewhere before they believed her? She opened her mouth to argue, but Cade Cutler was already walking toward the door.

Annoyed, she followed after him. “How will you know if there really is a threat from the SUV if there’s no one here to see it?” she persisted.

In the small entryway, he turned to give her a placating smile. “Like I said, we’ll look into it.”

She folded her arms to glare at him. “You’re not going to do a damn thing, are you?” she said sharply. “Now that you people have already gotten my testimony, you couldn’t care less about what happens to me.”

His jaw tightened. “I’ll be in touch,” he said, ignoring what she’d just said as he turned to leave. He was just reaching for the doorknob when the greeting cards on the table along the wall caught his eye.

Riley watched in confusion as he picked one up and read it, and then did the same to another and another. But before she could ask what he was doing, he turned to fix her with a hard look.“What the hell are these?” he demanded, holding up the cards.

Her brow furrowed. “Birthday cards,” she said, her tone implying that it should have been obvious to him.

“I can see that!” he growled. “But this one’s from your mother! And these,” he added, gesturing with the others, “are from the rest of your family!"

She shrugged. “Duh! Who do you think sends birthday cards?”

His eyes narrowing, Cade tossed the stack of birthday cards back onto the table and strode toward her. “How about, duh, you’re in the Witness Protection Program! Which means that you’re not supposed to tell anyone where you are. That includes your family! You’re so worried about your identity being compromised, and here you are broadcasting it to the world!”

Ignoring the implied insult, Riley lifted her chin to glare up at him. “My mother would never tell anyone where I am,” she told him coldly. “And neither would any of my sisters.”

His brows drew together. “Really? How reassuring,” he scoffed. “What about the people that might be snooping through your family’s mail to find out where you are? Have you thought about that?”

She frowned at the words, wondering if that could be true, but then told herself it was ridiculous. Nobody, not even Albert Donatti, the main mobster she had testified against, would bother with digging through the mail just to find her. Besides, even if he had, her family had addressed the envelopes to her new name.Riley gave Cade another shrug. “That would be impossible because my mom and my sisters didn’t put my real name on the envelope,” she said. “I’m not stupid, you know!”

“That’s debatable,” he retorted. “So, how many relatives does your family have that live across the country?”

She gave him a confused look. “What are you talking about?”

He held up the card from her mother. “It doesn’t matter what the name on the envelope says,” he told her. “The card says Happy Birthday to My Daughter on the front. I think people will figure out that it’s you.”

Before she could say anything, he added, “I’m going to have to call my boss and let him know about this.”

“Good,” she muttered. “Because I want to talk to him, too. That way I can tell him that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, and that he needs to send someone out here who does!”

At her words, Cade paused in the act of reaching into his pocket for his cell phone, his eyes narrowing. “Okay, that does it!” he growled.

Riley braced herself for another one of his snide comments, and was totally surprised when Cade grabbed her by the arm and marched her over to the couch instead.

“What are you...?” she began as he sat down, but the rest of what she’d been going to say came out in a rush of air as he gave her arm a quick tug that sent her tumbling headlong over his knee.

Riley was so stunned that she simply lay there draped over his lap as she tried to catch her breath. When she finally came to her senses a moment later, it was to push herself upright, but a strong hand on her back held her down. What the hell was he doing?

Outraged, she turned to glare over her shoulder at him, only to let out a startled gasp when she felt his hand come down hard on her jean-clad bottom. Oh my God, the brute was spanking her!

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Cindra and the Bounty Hunter

Cindra and the Bounty Hunter

Sci-fi Erotic Romance

Heat Rating of 4: Story contains, explicit sexual activity, spanking, and bondage

Beautiful Cindra Mallory is determined to become an interplanetary bounty hunter and has set her sights high for her first job. She tracks a major organized-crime figure halfway across the galaxy, only to run out of both leads and money. Facing the possibility of going home empty handed, she decides to enlist the services of more experienced bounty hunter Bladen Sloan. Unwilling to share the glory – or the bounty – with the ruggedly handsome Bladen, however, Cindra fabricates a convoluted story that has her posing as a jilted bride-to-be, with her bounty as the fiancĂ© she needs Bladen to track down. But when Bladen discovers she has no money to pay him, he agrees to do the job only in return for some extremely special compensation.

Before she knows it, Cindra finds herself signing a contract that has her agreeing to provide ten sexual favors to Bladen in return for his services. How difficult can it be? she thinks. After all, the man certainly isn’t hard to look at. And besides, she can always skip out on the deal the moment they find her fugitive. However, things get complicated when she discovers that Bladen believes in spankings plus she not only enjoys being Bladen’s sex toy, but is starting to fall for him as well. But is there a way to tell Bladen the truth, get her bounty, and still keep the man she’s falling in love with?

Excerpt - Adult:

Bladen lifted his gaze to her face and found her regarding him expectantly. “While your offer is very tempting, Ms. Mallory, I can’t accept it.”

Her brow furrowed beneath her long, sexy bangs. “Why not?”

He gave her a small smile. “Because for one thing, it wouldn’t be very professional of me. And for another, I would feel like I was taking advantage of you.”

She blinked, obviously surprised by the words. But then her lips curved into a smile. “You wouldn’t be taking advantage of me, Mr. Sloan, I assure you. I know exactly what I’m offering you, and I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to retain your services.”

Bladen said nothing for a moment. Damn, she must want to find her ex-boyfriend bad. And since she obviously wasn’t going to let Bladen bow out of this gracefully, he was going to have to try a different approach. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Ms. Mallory. I find you very attractive, but I don’t think that a single night of sex would be a fair trade for ten-thousand credits worth of my services.”

While he’d been careful how he phrased the words, he could tell by the color rushing to her cheeks that he’d clearly offended Cindra Mallory. Then again, maybe that might be a good thing, he thought. If she was suitably insulted, maybe she’d storm out of his office in a huff and he could forget all about her very tempting offer. But instead, she simply lifted a brow.

“Then I’ll sleep with you more than once,” she said. “Is there a particular number you have in mind?”

Bladen had to fight to keep his jaw from dropping. Shit, that hadn’t gone like he thought it would. Cindra Mallory was seriously willing to sleep with him in exchange for his help. And the sultry look she was giving him right now was making his cock stand up and demand to be put in charge of the negotiations.“I’d have no idea what the going rate would be,” he said. “But even if I give you the benefit of the doubt and say that a single night of lovemaking with you is worth a thousand credits, that would still mean you would owe me...”

“Ten nights of unbelievable passion,” she finished for him. “Deal!”

For the second time that night, Bladen stared at her in disbelief, stunned by what she had just agreed to. His cock however, was quite thrilled. “Let me make sure I understand this,” he said slowly. “In exchange for my services, you’re agreeing to provide me with ten sexual favors, of my design, and at the time of my choosing?”

“Yes, Mr. Sloan, that’s exactly what I’m agreeing to,” she told him.

What was she thinking, agreeing to sleep with Bladen Sloan ten times in exchange for his help? Cindra wondered. But she’d been so caught up in their sexy banter, not to mention mesmerized by his hypnotizing good looks, that the words had come out of her mouth before she even knew what she was saying. Was it too late to back out of it? she asked herself. But one look at the expression on the bounty hunter’s face told her that he considered it a done deal. Maybe she should tell him that she changed her mind, and then make a mad dash for the door.

But she didn’t. Instead, Cindra forced herself to take a deep, cleansing breath. Why was she freaking out? What difference did it really make if she agreed to sleep with Bladen Sloan once or ten times? It wasn’t like she was actually going to have sex with him anyway. She’d flirt and lead him on just like she planned, then when Sloan found DelCour for her, she would be off Pendari before she’d ever have to honor their agreement.

Behind his desk, Sloan inclined his head. “Then I’ll draw up a contract and we can make it official.”

Cindra frowned at that. She found it hard to believe he was actually going to put something like that into writing, but she said nothing as he dictated the terms of their agreement into the computer. Well, she could only hope he was just as thorough when it came to looking for DelCour, she thought wryly.

Once the contract was printed, the bounty hunter came around the desk and held it out for her signature. Quickly reading it, she saw that he had simply put their agreement into words. There was something about seeing it on paper that made her blush though, and her hand trembled a little as she signed it. It wasn’t as if the contract would hold up in any council of law in the galaxy anyway, she told herself. At least she didn’t think it would.

“So, what do we do first?” she asked, handing the signed contract back to him.

He set the contract on the desk, and then turned to give her a grin. “You.”

Cindra looked up at him in confusion. “Me?”

Taking her hand, he pulled her gently to her feet. She had known the bounty hunter was tall, but now that he was standing so close, she realized just how tall he really was. The top of her head didn’t even reach his chin.

“I think it would only be fair for me to get a partial payment up front, don’t you?” he said softly.

Her pulse quickened as she realized what the bounty hunter meant. He wanted to have sex with her. Right then! “Here?” she asked, looking around the office.

Bladen released her hand to lightly run the tips of his fingers up and down her bare arm. The touch sent the most delicious little shivers up and down her back. “Why not?”

His nearness was making it difficult to think. Or speak, for that matter. She hadn’t expected to have to make good on her side of the bargain quite this soon. “B-but anyone could walk in,” she stammered. Damn, he smelled good! Not like cologne either, she thought, just pure, unadulterated masculinity.

He reached behind him to press a button on his computer. A moment later, a lilting female voice confirmed that the doors had been locked and the office was now secure. “Not anymore,” he told her.

Cindra chewed on her lower lip, trying to come up with some excuse she could use to avoid having sex with him right that minute, but for some reason, nothing would come to mind. Maybe it was because she was flustered, she told herself. Then again, maybe it was because with Bladen standing so close to her, she was suddenly thinking that sex with him wasn’t necessarily something to be avoided. Before she could really decide if that was a good thing or not, the question became moot as Bladen lowered his head and covered her mouth with his.

© Paige Tyler and ABCD Webmasters, 2007

Cindra and the Bounty Hunter is a Blue Ribbon Favorite at Romance Junkies!

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The Dark Man-Forbidden Love: Sacred Bands

The Dark Man is an erotic male/male horror romance story included in Forbidden Love: Sacred Bands (all male/male romance anthology, publsihed by Under the Moon. Find it at Sacred Bands on Amazon . ISBN-10: 1934153222

Michael never understood the compulsion to go to the beach. There, he meets Sevin Merrow, a Finman, a creature of the sea, and a seductive sorcerer. Michael begins to understand what the Dark Man wants of him as he weaves a sexual spell about him. Will it lead to love, or something darker and deadlier?

Explicit/adult excerpt:

Michael. Wake up and come to me. Salt water to land, lover to lover, you are mine.
Michael woke up, struggling and gasping. He felt as if he were drowning in sea water. Not just his body, but his heart and soul too. Then his breathing became normal again. Instead, hot waves of fire blazed as his cock hardened, leaving him aching and
unfulfilled. Reaching down with his hand, he closed his eyes and played with the head first, then gripped the shaft, stroking it and seeking relief. He moaned, and the pleasure rose, thrumming until he peaked, screaming from the explosion and spewing onto both his belly and the covers. He let out short spurts of breath as his body continued to vibrate. He itched to touched himself again, masturbate. He had fucked women, but none of them ever brought him the ecstatic relief his own hand could.
"See what I do to you, my Michael," said the dark voice in the room with him.
Michael screamed and sat up in bed, the blanket sliding down and uncovering his bare chest, pooling around his waist. The bedroom was dark, but he discerned the outline of someone standing by the rain-lashed window.
"Who are you and how the hell did you get in?" Michael demanded, frightened.
"I'm the reason behind the erotic dreams you've been having since you turned eighteen. I am called Sevin Merrow and I will teach you a different kind of love, one that will bring you ecstasy."
The shadow slowly approached the bed. Michael switched on the lamp standing on the table next to his bed. The soft glow from the halogen light lit up the lines of a man's stern, gloomy face, the skin dark. Long black hair fell over his shoulders like a waterfall and eyebrows black as sin slashed over dark eyes. A well-made man, he stood taller than Michael's own six feet, with a lean and sinewy form. And naked as a newborn baby! His cock jutted up, thick and long, a pearly bead of pre cum at the tip.
"Where are your clothes?" Michael asked. A horrible thought crossed his mind. "Oh God, you're going to rape me, aren't you?" Instead of fear though, he began to feel excited at the thought.
The dark face glowered. "Do not say His name, it's abhorrent to me! And I assure you there will be no rape here tonight. You will give yourself freely to me." He drew nearer. "I have wanted you since the first time I dreamed of you at the bottom of the sea and so, I began to call to you. Finally after five years of cajoling you came here to me. Tonight, we will mate. Then you will come with me to Hildaland, to live with me as my lover."
His eyes smoldered with a dark flame.
Ensorcelled by his eyes, Michael felt the dark stranger pull him out of the bed and into his arms. His flesh felt cold as ice and slimy. Shocked, Michael tried to withdraw from his arms, but he held him in a vise grip.
A strange sheen of silver coated Sevin, adding a other-worldly gleam to his darkness. His skin felt soft and sleek as satin while underneath iron-hard muscles rippled. The same held true of the Dark Man's cock, steel in velvet. It pressed against Michael's belly, erotic to the touch, and Michael's own organ responded in kind, hardening. And yet, Sevin felt freezing cold to the touch, like the cold Atlantic Ocean.
Sevin reached between their bodies and his fingers found Michael's engorged flesh, gripping it. Michael arched away in shock. It felt like a shard of ice had surrounded his penis! Still, he grew even more sexually excited as Sevin slid his hand up to the head and back down to the balls.
For the first time in his life he enjoyed the touch of another, the sexual excitement from not a woman, but a man. Suddenly he began to understand why fucking women's pussies had never been enjoyable. He shivered, and then began to thrust, helping Sevin bring him the incredible feeling that burned in him.
Sevin growled against his lips. "I feel you wanting to come, my Michael. You're sweating and I can smell your excitement. Your cock feels so warm and dry. I've waited years to have you, promised to me in my dreams and now, here you are. Mine to fuck till the sea covers the Earth." He chuckled.

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Stocking Stuffers

Now available from Phaze, Stocking Stuffers by Jamie Hill

Ben Mercer is comfortable with his life in tiny Mabel, Oklahoma. He's got a good job, nice friends, a loving family and a dog who lets him believe he's the boss. Everything that a man could want--almost. Dean Caldwell wasn't happy living in the small town, and moved away as soon as he could. He's back for the holidays, with the idea of dragging Ben off to the city with him. Ben's insistent about staying, and sparks fly between the two men, in more ways than one.

Elements: M/M

Length: HeatSheet (13K words)
Rating: 3 Novas

Buy now!

Adult excerpt:

"Don't talk." Ben reached out, dragging his body close. As they kissed, he unbuttoned the man's shirt and shoved it off, and to the floor. The belt was next, and Ben managed to unfasten the buckle and drag the jeans down without removing his tongue from Dean's mouth. He was on fire, and there was no stopping him.

His mouth swept lower, tonguing the hard ridge running the length of Dean's neck. Still lower, he stopped to suckle both flat nipples, until they were puckering nubbins. Ben dropped to his knees, examining the bulging erection tenting the tight, white briefs. He plunged forward, settling his mouth around the bulge, briefs and all.

Dean groaned and gyrated his hips, letting his hands fall to Ben's head, fingers dragging through the short hair. "Oh my God," he whispered.

Ignoring everything but the appendage in front of him, Ben allowed one hand to slip inside the briefs and caress. The excitement was almost too much to bear, so he drew down the shorts and bit his lip as the raging cock sprang free. "Yes," he sighed before nuzzling his face against the soft head and foreskin. His tongue reached out, flicking the underside, causing the cock to jump. Ben smiled. He still knew the moves to make this man squirm.

Dean thrust his hips and he took advantage, swallowing as much of its length as he could. Both men groaned with pleasure, one rocking back and forth and the other gobbling, licking and sucking as much, and as quickly, as he could. He caressed the low-hanging ball sac and felt the orbs withdraw. If he remembered correctly, soon his mouth and throat would be flooded with thick, warm come. The very idea sent a thrill down his spine, and Ben sucked even harder to get things going.

"Wait." Dean reached for his face, rubbing his cheeks lightly as he pulled his cock out. "My turn." He took a step back and dropped to his knees.

Copyright (C) 2007 Jamie Hill

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Your Wedding

Blurb: Associate history professor, Kari Montgomery, has carried the feelings of loss and inadequacy ever since she broke off her engagement. As she attempts to make it through a rain storm the day of her cousin Emily’s wedding, her feelings change when she looks into a pair of steel blue eyes. Even though Kari begins to feel compelled toward this inexplicable man, she isn’t sure if she can love again or if she is even worthy of his love.

Youth pastor, Randy Steele, has a sense of humor, a pair of remarkable eyes, and a desire to serve God which attracts most of the women he meets. After meeting Kari, he endeavors to help her see her own worthiness and ability to let God heal her heart. But can he reach Kari and show her how wonderful life can be with God in control of their futures and their hearts?

Excerpt #1:

Walking with her head tilted toward the sidewalk, she wasn’t looking beyond her own two feet through the pouring rain when she smacked hard into something and started to fall backwards. With her arms flailing out hoping to grasp onto something, her belongings flew into the storm. Her heart jolted inside her chest as she moved closer and closer to the ground.

Before hitting the pavement, a hand came out of nowhere, wrapping around her left wrist and pulling her into an upright position. Before she knew what was happening, her savior hoisted her closer to him until she was shielded from the rain under his umbrella. She was so close to him, she could feel his heat. Her eyes clung to his humorous, kindly mouth until he gave her an irresistible grin she found impossible not to return. Her mind clouded over as her heart continued to beat rapidly. It was almost as if she was moving in slow motion and for the moment had forgotten where she was or what she was doing.

This was hardly the time to stop and stare with a torrent of rain storming around them and time ticking away until she was to walk down the aisle as maid of honor.

“In a hurry, aren’t you,” he said with a trace of laughter. The timbre of his voice was friendly and soothing. It reminded her of how she felt on rainy afternoons while curled up in her mother’s afghan, reading a book in front of a fire.

She withdrew her hand quickly as a new and unexpected warmth rushed through her. She watched as he picked up her suitcase and book from a puddle on the ground. After handing the suitcase back to her, he glanced down at the cover of the book, Pride and Prejudice, her favorite novel.

He looked back at her with intelligent yet humorous blue eyes. His dark hair ruffled in the billowing wind with a single lock falling forward on his forehead. And for the first time in a long time, she forgot about her heartache. A sudden shiver skittered down her back. She wasn’t sure if it was caused by her soaked condition or the man who somehow sent her senses spinning.

Kari pushed her wet tawny hair back from her face before accepting her waterlogged book from him. “I’m so sorry,” she finally said after releasing the breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. “It’s just this rain…and I’m late.” Her voice wavered. “I can’t seem to find the place I’m supposed to be. I’m in a wedding this afternoon.” She tried to hide how awkward and strange she felt standing a few inches away from a stranger.

He smiled teasingly as he looked over her outfit of Capri pants and tennis shoes. She’d never seen such an authentic smile. It was as if it started in his eyes and traveled down to his genial mouth. “And that’s what you’re wearing?” he asked as his eyes returned to her own.

“No, of course not. I…” She shivered again.

“Well, maybe I can help you out with directions.”

She replied with the name of the church, and he provided her with yet another devastating smile. “Sure I know the place. You passed it at the beginning of this block. Just turn down the street and you’ll see it. If you don’t mind, I could come along with you. It’s on my way.”

“No need and I’m really in a hurry. Thanks.” She started to head off when he stopped her, causing her to jump at the gentle touch of his hand on her arm.

“Here take my umbrella,” he offered.

She faced him again, taking the handle of the umbrella. “Are you sure? You’ll get soaked. I don’t want to impose, and I won’t even know where to return it.”

“Consider it a gift then. And who knows, we just might bump into each other again sometime.”

“Yes, but hopefully it will be less jarring in the future,” she said with the hint of a smile on her lips, trying to be just as witty.

He tipped his head close to hers. “I doubt that.” This time he replied in a smooth, deep tone, the playfulness gone from his eyes.

To read the entire 1st chapter visit my website.

To purchase visit the Wild Rose Press. In e-book format, it is also at Fictionwise.

Also available in print at Amazon & Barnes and Noble.

Cindy K. Green

Bringing Sweet Romance to the Heart

Website Myspace

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