A Perfect Symmetry by Jeanne Barrack

A Perfect Symmetry by Jeanne Barrack
available now at Liquid Silver Books:


The battle begun over 3,000 years ago wages on...The struggle between good and evil continues. A new team of Terrans in Ireland and America add their skills to those of Brigid, Gabe and Ethan to create the perfect symmetry to destroy Lord Nolen forever.

SET UP: The Terran women are as strong and feisty as the men. Here we meet Eileen Murray, an Irish Terran and Aviva Shiron, a Desert Terran. Both women are very different except for one thing: their desire to fight against evil
County Donegal, Ireland
Dagda’s Cave
Dagda, former leader of the ancient Irish Terrans, ended the call on the communication device that Brigid had left with him and sighed. His daughter and her companions had been gone scarcely two days and already the loneliness was crashing into him.
The communication device, no, cell phone, was of some solace. It was good to hear Donovan Callahan’s voice clear as a bell from across the ocean, but after his too brief taste of human and Terran contact, it wasn’t enough.
Dagda gazed around the rough-hewn chamber ablaze with more than a dozen torches set in the rocky cave walls and wished for the clear, steady glow of electric lighting. When he had awakened briefly over a hundred and fifty years before, there was no such thing as electricity. Now, the wonders of modern technology made him hunger to experience more than just a cell phone.
The sound of music jolted him out of his reverie. The cell phone was summoning him again. He picked it up from the table, checked to see the identity of the caller, and smiled as he read the name. Brigid. He enjoyed that bit of control he’d mastered of the phone’s many features. Knowing beforehand who was calling was handy, although he doubted that he’d ever refuse to speak with the few other Terrans who knew of his existence. He made the connection with added joy, eager to talk with his child, and spoke in a mixture of the English he’d learned through Ethan’s Singer ability, and modern Gaelic.
“Brigid, my darling, it’s good to hear your voice. And do I hear Gabe in the background? Ah, indeed, it is late at night there you say? Then why are you not in your bed? You are.” He chuckled. “You’re quite naughty, a chara. So, why did you call?” A smile flitted across the stern features of the powerful Terran, softening them. “You missed me. I miss you too, my sweet girl. How I wish I could leave the confines of this cave and be with you. Now, don’t cry, little one. You’ll return and visit me and perhaps you’ll have a baby for me to dandle.” A rich boom of laughter erupted from the golden-haired male. “Ach, it doesn’t matter the circumstances, all parents want grandchildren to spoil.” He lowered his voice and whispered forcefully into the phone. “And have you made up your mind yet? Have they made up their minds? I know ‘tis soon, but I want to know you’re happy. Yes, yes, ‘tis your life, darling, I truly believe ‘tis part of your fate.” He sighed. “Yes, I’ll be patient, but don’t wait until it’s beyond your control. Yes, I’ll look forward to your next call. I wouldn’t miss it.” He ended the connection and shook his head. “Where else would I be?”
Dagda set the phone down on one of the wooden chests filled with goblets, torcs, silks and jewelry, daggers and plates and other treasures useless to him now. Uaithne’s—Ethan’s—ancient spell, strong though it was, only prolonged his life if he remained within the confines of the Cave and cliff. Wondrous as the spell was, the Cave was still a prison.
He tried to focus on the import of his earlier call from Donovan. As part of the plan to increase the number of Terrans to combat those Destroyers who would pollute and contaminate the world, Donovan was sending him a young Terran-mheasctha, a Terran of human Irish blood with Terran ancestry, to assist him in his quest.
Eileen Murray had assisted Brigid and the men track the Destroyer, Nimhnach. Eileen had eagerly embraced the existence of Terrans and the probability that she had Terran blood. And she wanted to help.
According to Donovan, she was single and living on her own. Eileen had called in vacation time from her employers at the airline and was bringing her PC with her.
Almost everything Donovan had told him was incomprehensible save for the fact that she was Terran, wanted to help and she should arrive today. His pacing continued as he waited for her arrival.
* * * *
Eileen Murray pushed a stray curl from her forehead and hoisted her backpack into a better position. Sweat dripped down her face and her shoulders ached from the straps rubbing her through her thin jacket. A blister was forming on her right heel and she just knew it was going to pop. She wanted to turn back, but damned if she would let achy shoulders and a blister or two stop her now.
“I’ve got to know if I’m loony or not.” A rusty chuckle bubbled out. “That is, beyond talking out loud to myself.”
Laughing, she checked her compass again. Yes, she was still heading in the right direction to the cave. She paused to take a sip of bottled water and placed the bottle back into the holder at her waist, glad she’d remembered to bring it.
Three days ago she had been a moderately happy twenty-four-year-old with her own flat and a boyfriend. By the end of the first of May, she’d seen a man turn into a woman before her eyes, met three people who radiated power, and come home to find her boyfriend in bed with another woman. The bastard.
After kicking his arse and that of the big-breasted bint out of the flat, them clutching their clothes to their chests, she’d dried the tears she’d shed and called up a Yank named Donovan Callahan.
If she couldn’t have her self-respect, she’d at least have her heritage. Why not take advantage of all her built-up time at work and find out for sure if she was a bloody super heroine? That worm Timothy had shoved his O’Donnell ancestry in her face often enough. Wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants if she had super powers?
Well, she’d soon see for herself. If she didn’t get lost.
The trees grew closer together but she kept going even though the shadows darkened around her. At last the trees thinned, she made one sharp turn and there before her was a sheer cliff. Just like she’d been told.
A crease in the rock face should be hidden by heavy brush. When she pushed away some branches, there it was. She clicked on her torch, took a deep breath and slid through the opening into blackness.
The beam of light cut through the darkness and, as she played the light around the chamber, she saw a red arrow on one of several openings. When she touched the red mark, her fingers came away with waxy lipstick stains. A smile touched her lips. Brigid must have made it with some lipstick. It was doubtful that any ancient wanderer could have packed high gloss carmine lip color.
So, this part of the story was also true. Plunging into the tunnel, she followed a downward path and the fresh breeze that continued unabated. The arrows led her on until she was crawling on her hands and knees. The blackness would have been oppressive if she hadn’t had the torch and Brigid’s arrows for company.
The shaft narrowed, before it took a sudden downward dip and a sharp right turn, and she fell forward. Somehow, she managed to hold on to the torch as she sprawled onto the dirt floor of a large cavern. A faint, narrow circle of light fell upon the room’s center and she aimed the torchlight upward.
The beam of light swung around the chamber. There were signs that the room must have been planned as a living space. Small stone circles, probably created to encompass campfires were placed around the perimeter. Rough-hewn wooden bowls of various sizes lay scattered about. Could they have been used by the small remnant that followed Dagda into the cave? Some other time she’d have to explore further—now she needed to meet her destiny.
Had Brigid left her a sign for the next step of her journey? She swept the light around the wall until she found what she had been hoping to find. A bright red arrow.
Shaky fingers forked through her dusty, tangled curls, and she took a firm grip on her torch and inched through the tight gap.
And into a legend.
* * * *
Greenwich Village, New York City
“Thanks for the lift, Tony. ‘Twas far easier than trying to flag down a taxi with my harp in hand.” Ethan leaned down toward the open window of the SUV. “Gabe said you’d be available whenever I called to pick me up. Are you sure that’ll be no problem?”
Tony Doherty shook his head. “That’s my job, Ethan. I maintain the physical plant of the house, drive Brigid or Gabe around when they need me and do errands.” He flashed his teeth in a smile. “I also take care of encouraging some of the lesser fish dirtying up the local waters to clean up their act.” His smile became a lethal grin. “Saves time and effort to go straight to the source. Anyway, just call and I’ll take you back. Later.” He rolled up the window and pulled away from the curb into the traffic.
Ethan stared after the innocuous-looking vehicle as it vanished around the corner. Somehow, he got the impression that, if necessary, Doherty didn’t just drop by for tea and scones with the fishes. He chuckled. Now there was a mixed metaphor for you. Ah, well, that was what a Protector was supposed to do, wasn’t it? Take care of things? His job was to help Aviva Shiron to compile a transcription of the melodies he played on Ceol Mhor.
He was eager to meet another Singer since he’d learned that there weren’t many of them. Hell, the last one had become a Destroyer. No wonder Gabe had been leery of him. He snorted. Gabe was leery because he didn’t trust Ethan not to use his talent on Brigid and compel her to become his lover.
As if he needed to do that. The only thing keeping him from claiming her was Brigid herself and his own determination not to share her with anyone.
He sighed. He needed to focus on the matter at hand and ring Aviva Shiron’s doorbell. He stepped up to the front door ornamented with ironwork in geometric designs and buzzed the intercom.
“Yes? Who is it?” A melodious, accented female voice responded to his ring.
“Ethan Clark. You were expecting me?”
“Kayn. Yes. Come on up.”
He pulled on the door handle as the buzzer sounded again and entered into a small foyer. To his right, a polished wood door with a translucent pane of glass beckoned. The words “Aviva Shiron, registered music therapist, licensed psychotherapist” were limned in an elegant script in gold paint. Straight ahead, a carpeted staircase led to another small landing, and above him, a solid, anonymous, mahogany door. He headed up the stairs.
The faint strains of a guitar and a liquid female voice escaped from behind the wooden barrier. The music’s magic wrapped around his body and headed straight to his cock, and he paused.
What the hell?
The words were indistinct, but he sensed they were in another language. It made no difference to his penis. If this female’s singing could have such a strong effect on him even through a door, he couldn’t imagine how powerful the effect would be face-to-face.
And if he didn’t knock, he was never going to find out. He struck the door twice with his clenched hand.
* * * *
The woman wasn’t what he expected. He expected a dried-up academician. What he got was a full-figured petite woman with wild, curly brown hair, honey-colored slanted eyes who dressed like a Rom, a gypsy. Large hoop earrings dangled an inch above her shoulders and rings circled each finger of the hand she held out to him.
For a split second, he ignored her outstretched welcome, mesmerized by her exotic looks. Catching himself, he shook her hand, dropping it when he saw her wince. “I’m sorry,” he stammered. “It’s just that you’re so … you’re not…”
“Not what you expected? Well, you’re exactly what I expected. You look just like the photo Donovan emailed to me.” She grinned. “I think Donovan was playing a joke on you, nachon? Correct?”
Ethan set down Ceol Mhor near the door and shrugged. “I’m starting to think he takes pleasure in keeping us on our toes. Expect the unexpected.” A broad Irish smile widened his mouth and, putting on the thickest brogue he could, he teased the beautiful female. “And now, agra, would you be after telling a fellow Terran what’s to be happening next?”
Aviva chuckled. “I offer you tea and we get to work.”
Ethan’s laughter joined hers. “Ah, you said the magic word to an Irishman—tea. I hope it’s strong and not like that dishwater stuff the English drink.”
“Would I do that?” She led him farther into the apartment. A long, narrow hall opened up at the end into an enormous, sunny kitchen. Bunches of rosemary, thyme and sage hung from racks. The air was redolent with fragrant aromas from the dried herbs and the pots of basil, mint and cilantro. A copper kettle whistled on a gas burner and a platter of fresh, sliced bread sat on a granite countertop.
Ethan pulled over one of the wooden stools placed by a breakfast bar and inhaled. The familiar scents brought back memories of his gran’s homey kitchen.
He watched Aviva prepare tea, scooping up a portion from a tightly capped jar and placing it in a tea ball. Her motions were graceful, precise, like a dancer as she reached up to take down a couple of chunky mugs from the top shelf of one of the cabinets. When she stood on her toes and stretched her arm to grasp the mugs, his breath caught. Her blouse tautened across her breasts, her nipples pushing against the fabric.
Christ, his cock was rising again!
He cleared his throat. “‘Tis a lovely place you have here.”
Aviva poured the steaming water from the kettle into the cups before she answered. “It’s not so large as Gabe and Brigid’s place. They have five floors, can you believe it? But this is all mine. I have my practice downstairs for my clients and beyond the dining room behind you is my studio. I’ve a pretty guestroom just past the kitchen with a small bathroom, and upstairs my private quarters.” She opened the fridge and brought out a pitcher of cream and placed it by the cups.
“No cream for me, but if you’ve some honey, I’d love some for my tea.”
A little ceramic pot shaped like a beehive took its place on the counter. Ethan smiled and for a few moments companionable silence filled the room as they sipped the tea.
“Have some bread and butter. I baked it myself.”
The bread disappeared into his mouth and once more they didn’t speak except for Ethan’s brief compliment. “Delicious.”
And her as brief reply. “Thank you.”
At last, the dishes cleared, the crumbs wiped off the counter, Aviva spoke. “Let’s get started.”

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Losing It by Ericka Scott

It's a cold and blustery day here in the high desert of California, but I can guarantee that this hot little tale will warm you right up!

Now available from Cobblestone Press 


Is there a shelf life on virginity?

On the eve of her birthday, Penny Granger is desperate to lose 'it' before she becomes a forty-year old virgin. Thowing caution to the wind, she fills out an application to e-bootycall.com and gets a birthday surprise. She's been matched with someone she's been fantasizing about for years. Her boss!


“You’re still a virgin?”

Belinda’s voice was way too loud in the diner, and heat rushed to my cheeks. I motioned for her to keep her voice down, but she didn’t appear to notice.

“How can that be? Your fortieth birthday is next week!”

A man at the table next to ours looked over with interest and caught my eye. Although he was dressed in a business suit, he didn’t fit in with any of the bankers, lawyers, or stock analysts who usually frequented this particular diner. He had a five o’clock shadow even though it was only ten in the morning, and his spiky brown hair was tipped with gold highlights. A small black ring pierced his eyebrow, and a diamond sparkled in the ear turned toward our conversation. I didn’t want to stare at him but out of the corner of my eye, I memorized his features to use later in a few of my fantasies.

I leaned across the table, hoping she would catch my drift that this was confidential information I didn’t want shared with the whole world. “I didn’t plan it this way. It just happened.”

Belinda’s brown eyes got a little wider and if anything, her voice grew louder. “But what about Rick? I thought you two had been making out! At least, that’s what you implied.”

Had I? Well, yes. I had mentioned a few details but that was last week—when Belinda and I were sitting in the booth at the back, away from prying eyes and ears. But did she have to bring this up today when all the tables were filled and we’d had to take a seat in the middle of the floor within sight and sound of the entire diner?

I prayed everyone was too busy enjoying the all-you-can-eat Friday buffet to pay any attention to us. Unfortunately, it appeared I wasn’t going to be that lucky.

Not only was the guy at the next table studying me with interest, our conversation had also caught the attention of other customers. One lady was so enthralled she stood in the aisle next to our table, openly listening. I wished a large earthquake would hit and the ground would swallow me up.

“Well, did you?” Belinda insisted.

“Of course, we did,” I mumbled. “And we got close to, um…doing it the other night, but when I told him I was a…” I dropped my voice to barely above a whisper, “virgin, he suddenly remembered he had to be somewhere and took off. I figure he probably thought I was saving it for marriage and had decided he was the one.”

“Do you think that’s why he broke up with you?” Belinda asked, then answered herself. “Of course it was. The M-word makes them head for the hills every time.” She gave me a knowing nod.

“But I didn’t mention marriage,” I protested. “I waited for him to call, then finally broke down and called him yesterday. He gave me the it isn't you, it's me speech and then said he’d met someone else.” I tried to shrug it off, but tears filled my eyes. Damn. I really wished I hadn’t responded to Belinda’s question about why I looked so sad. We only worked together; she wasn’t really my friend. Unfortunately, the heartache had been right there, on the surface, and had just spilled over.

“So, what are you going to do about your virginity? Don’t you want to lose it?”

“Yes. No,” I snapped out. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” When her expression went from interested to hurt, I tried to soften my words by adding a belated, “Please.”

“Sure.” She looked at her watch. “I’m due back anyway.” Without gathering up her tray, she flounced over to the door and left without even a backward glance or wave. Shit. There went another possible friendship.

I sighed and took another bite of my sandwich. It tasted like chewy cardboard. Oh, well. I had a pile of work on my desk so I, too, should probably return to the office.

While gathering Belinda's tray as well as my own, I was surprised by a touch on my arm.


It was Mr. Gorgeous from the table next to us.

“I have a solution for your…ahem…problem.”

Shit, the guy was coming on to me. Probably going to offer to help me lose my virginity. Not that I’d protest overmuch; he really was a hunk. But having him proposition me in the middle of the diner where I ate my lunch almost every day was too much. I pulled my arm away and tried to glare at him. Instead, I found myself smiling back at his contagious grin. Oh, heavens, I wasn’t desperate. Really. I fixed my face into some semblance of a disapproving look and walked away.

I could feel him walking beside me but didn’t want to encourage him. What if all these people saw me leave with him? They’d all think… Shit, I was going to have to find someplace else to eat every day.

But instead of following me all the way to the door, he slid a business card onto my tray and then headed back to his table.

I willed my feet to keep walking. Since I couldn’t very well dash out still carrying the remains of my lunch, I had to stop at the big red trash can near the door. The small white card on the bright blue tray taunted me. It would have been so easy to throw it away. However, at the last minute, I shoved it into my purse and fled back to the safety of my cubicle.

It wasn’t until five o’clock, when I was digging in my purse for my bus pass, that I really took a look at the card he had handed me.

Jason Bigelow—if that was his real name—was a relationship consultant for a company called e-bootycall.com. Discreet and Confidential was written in red right above the web address.

Was this the answer?


**********************************copyright 2009, Ericka Scott


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I'm very proud to say that my Steamy Nights, released last Friday, is Changeling Press's first ever "Montage" - that is, a novel-length story made up of three novellas in a series but publsihed all together, like an ebook "Collection" without the wait :) . Here's an adult taste of it, after the blurb. Hope you enjoy it!

Available now from Changeling Press

Love, lust, and revenge, woven through the twisted chaos of time…

Fighting for her life in Edinburgh's dark, dangerous streets, Miri stabs the wrong man -- and ends up in his arms, sparking a sequence of events that alters history, with catastrophic consequences.

Wrongfully exiled from his own dimension, Caratacus is determined to find a way home. But that's going to be difficult using only nineteenth century steam technology -- even more difficult when distracted by the sort of steam he creates with Miri!

Before he can go home, he has to set things right. That means hunting down a Jack the Ripper copycat, prevent Robert Louis Stevenson from becoming an engineer, and help a brutal, game-playing civilization protect itself from cannibals -- all without destroying the intense but fragile love he's found with Miri.

After that, reversing time should be easy.


“You’re a funny bastard,” Campbell observed. “What will you do now? Will they let you back in to the university?”

Caratacus shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve learned all I need.”

They stared at him.

“Trust me,” Dixon stated. “You need your degree.”

Caratacus only shrugged again, and glanced in his jug. “I’ve run out of beer.”

“Thirsty work down here,” Campbell agreed with a grin. “We’re going to Dixon’s. He’s got beer.”

“Come with us,” Dixon offered, poking Caratacus in the ribs.

Campbell threw his arm around Miri’s waist, hugging her to his side as he added, “But you might have to bring your own girl. Unless my miniature joy here --”

“I can’t,” Caratacus interrupted. “I’m busy.”

Something surged through Miri. She couldn’t work out if it was disappointment or relief. She rather liked being treated not like a whore. Except for some reason, it made her wonder how he would treat her body. If he had any interest in it. She was damaged goods, of course, but even respectable men didn’t find that so unattractive. After all, she knew how to please them.

With her head on Campbell’s shoulder, she regarded her host with more than a touch of regret. The beauty of his face, the strength of his body, all appealed to her. And his strangeness didn’t frighten her. It intrigued her.

But as they all made their way up the stone steps in front of him, his eyes neither sought her out nor avoided her with embarrassment. Which left her with the oddly lowering conclusion that he was polite but completely disinterested.

Unless he had no money? He probably spent it all on his ridiculous machine. And she had already sold herself to the other three students for a few coppers and a plate of soup.

Lost in thought, she started when her shawl landed on her shoulders. Glancing up, she saw Caratacus close behind her.

“You forgot it,” he said mildly. “And it’s cold outside.”

Her mind tricked her. It imagined his face without glasses, suffused with physical pleasure. It saw him naked behind her like this, but holding her, his clever, oil-stained hands on her breasts, while he pushed his cock inside her. And it felt good, better than…

She blinked the vision away. He still gazed at her, a faint, quizzical smile in his dark green eyes. She’d never seen eyes that precise color before. Perhaps it was a trick of the spectacles. Embarrassed, almost panicked by the heat coursing through her, she dropped her gaze.

Sometimes, I give free shots. You could have one.

He didn’t want her; he’d be disgusted. She couldn’t bear either reaction. Besides, he probably had a nice young lady waiting for him. She scurried after the others, forgetting to thank him for the shawl, and the bread and beer.

Only as Campbell dragged her out the front door did she recover enough to give Caratacus a smile and a wink over her shoulder. Though the door closed on him very quickly, she could almost have sworn he winked back.

Thanks for reading :)


Marie Treanor
Haunting Romance
Out now: Steamy Nights from Changeling Press
Queen's Gambit from Samhain Publishing

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Now available from Loose Id: Seeking Something Wicked by K. Z. Snow, Book 2 of the Utopia-X series and the sequel to Looking for Some Touch.
* * * * *
Who, or what, is prowling the Northwest Interzone beyond the Utopian Metroplex of Regenerie and snatching Otherbeings, leaving their body parts behind like a trail of crumbs? Answering that question is the next challenge faced by Win, Tole, and Zee, Regenerie’s unusual Coven of Three.

Unsettled by the passionate romance between his comrade Win and their new employee Pablo, Tole hopes to quell his restless spirit by spending a night in the woodsy Interzone. He’s joined unexpectedly by a handsome vampire acquaintance, Ridley Barron, and the two men begin to succumb to a longstanding attraction. But their cozy campfire interlude is interrupted by a shrieking menace that swoops from the sky.

Regenerie’s mismatched wonder-workers must pull together to identify and neutralize this dire Interzone threat. But when Ridley himself is kidnapped, their challenge becomes personal and takes on added horror and urgency.

Dealing with the elusive attacker turns into a game of clever stratagems and careful timing. Trekking through the Interzone, confronting paranormal creatures, and infiltrating a hostile metroplex will test the Coven’s mettle . . . and prove to be Tole’s introduction to the unique demands of loyalty and love.
* * * * *
Taking a deep breath, Tole patted the side of his cape. Yup, the flask was still there and still intact. As daylight continued to wane, he ambled through the woods, looking for any small clearing in which he could safely build a fire.

As soon as he found one, he set his flask of bourbon on the ground, took off his cape, and went around gathering kindling and larger pieces of fallen wood. Carefully heaping the twigs and branches into a wickery tent, he stood back and smiled. Damned if building a campfire—or bonfire or any kind of fire, for that matter—didn’t saturate him with satisfaction. Oh, that demonic DNA.

Holding one hand over the pile of wood, he snapped his fingers, chuckling as the structure ignited.

"That is really hokey. Pissing on it would’ve been more original."

Tole spun around so fast, he nearly fell into his beloved fire. A tall, dapper man stood behind him. Not as tall as he—Tole was nearly six-foot-five—but not that much shorter, either. He peered at the face. "Ridley?"

The man looked bewildered. "Tole?"

"Ridley." Tole released his tension on a long exhalation. "Can’t you sons-of-bitches ever announce your arrival?"

The vampire smiled. "That would be rather counterproductive, wouldn’t you agree?"

"Just don’t try to bite me. I’m not in the mood."

"I wouldn’t dream of it. Unless you offered yourself."

"Seems you won’t be dreaming of it, then." Tole bent over and grabbed his flask off the ground. "Haven’t seen you around for a while. Did you leave the area?"

Ridley shoved his hands into his coat pockets. "I spent almost four months in Trieste, dealing with an estate settlement. I got back three weeks ago."

Tole’s gaze slid down Ridley’s trim body and back to his face. "I didn’t recognize you at first. You’ve changed."

Different was an understatement. The vamp’s previously long, pitch-black hair had been cut and styled into soft layers. A small hank of it threatened to drop over his forehead. Upturned commas of clipped hair grazed the tops of his ears. He wore a dark all-weather coat; beneath that, a businessman’s shirt in some pale color and dress pants with razor-edge creases. The shirt was open at the collar. His face was clean-shaven, and he smelled wonderful—like cedar, with an underlying note of a more exotic scent.

Tole caught a glimpse of a chain around his neck from which a small, inscribed disc dangled. It looked like an amulet, crafted from white gold or platinum. Then Tole remembered that’s indeed what it was. Ridley had suffered a nasty burn last fall while hooking up with some strange woman here in the Interzone. Win had designed the charm and another Alterationist, skilled in the construction of magical jewelry, had made it.

Although it was strictly for protection and not for ornamentation, the silvery necklace perfectly complemented the dark fan of chest hair in which it nestled. The hair wasn’t thick, just noticeable enough to create a masculine signature.

Truth was, Ridley looked damned good all around. A bit like a junior executive, maybe, but a sexy one. He’d always been a striking creature. Now, he was striking in a different way.

"If you’d been around as long as I have," Ridley said, "you’d get sick of seeing yourself, too. I need to change once in a while just to be able to keep living with me."

"Actually, I think you look great."

Ridley’s eyes glimmered. They were nearly as dark as his hair. The lids, perennially lowered like stuck awnings, hung just at the tops of his irises, giving him a drowsy look even when his gaze shone like obsidian.

"Thank you," he said. "And ditto."

Tole wasn’t used to compliments. "You’re not schmoozing me to get a drink, are you?"

"Only if it’s from that flask you’re holding. What’s in it?"


Unscrewing the cap, Tole indulged in a long swallow that set a flash-fire inside his body. He offered the flask to his uninvited companion, who took it and tilted it to his lips. The sight transfixed Tole. He saw no fangs in Ridley’s mouth. He only saw a handsome man’s lips closing over the opening of a bottle.

The sight kindled a restless warmth that slithered through his lower abdomen.

"You seem different, too," Ridley said. "Must be the hair."

"All I did was let it grow out." Self-consciously, Tole pulled his hair back. It was just past shoulder-length now, with waves he’d never noticed when it was short.

Ridley continued eyeing it. "Very nice. Much more touchable. Before, you looked like a mad cactus. Are you going to keep the blue streaks in?"

"I don’t have much choice," Tole said, "unless I dye the whole mess. The colors are natural." Deep gold with blue highlights. Shit. Sometimes, when Tole caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he felt like a school mascot.

"Natural," Ridley repeated. His gaze sharpened into scrutiny. "What are the three of you, anyway? As soon as I tasted Win’s blood, I could tell he wasn’t a mere human. And now you, with your unnaturally natural-blue hair."

The question made Tole’s heart jump to his throat. "I’m really not at liberty to discuss that."
The answer would have to do.

Tole lowered himself to the ground, where he sat with forearms resting on his upraised knees. He stared into the fire. If he kept his wits about him, he could make it burn, slowly and evenly, all night.

Ridley hadn’t moved. At least, Tole didn’t think he had. One could never tell with vampires. They were stealthy buggers, as swift and silent as an airborne contagion. Unsettled, Tole glanced over his shoulder.

Ridley was still there. He, too, gazed into the flames. "The wood isn’t dwindling."

"If you’re going to hang around," Tole said, "at least sit down. I’m not crazy about having an Otherbeing hovering at my back."

Ridley hesitated, then sank to the ground and stretched his legs out in front of him. He crossed his ankles and pulled his coat around his lap.

Tole slid him a glance. He really was a suave bastard, darkly alluring. Very smart, too. His sense of humor, on the acerbic side, was similar to Tole’s.

The firelight looked good on his face.
from Seeking Something Wicked, copyright (c) 2009 K. Z. Snow

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