Chapter 3

The elevator door opened and Brent stepped into the hallway just in time to see Sophie disappearing behind the stairwell door. Shooting Tom a look of disgust, he took off after her. If you want something done right, do it yourself. All Tom had to do was escort her to the apartment across the hallway and hold her there until he arrived. It was his fault for not taking into account that Tom’s adventures were strictly limited to office work and not kidnapping.

Brent knew he had to stop Sophie before she reached the garage, and security. Senator Adams had spent nearly a week just convincing him to help and now the whole plan was about to go up in smoke. There was no way he was about to face his old friend this early in the game with news of failure.

He hit the door running, the force sending it against the wall as he sprinted after her taking the stairs two at a time. Her speed and determination surprised him; she was already a floor away. Funny, she hadn’t struck him as a survivalist but more like a woman who’d be helpless against someone kidnapping her. He’d taken her softness and pampered upbringing for granted and should have remembered that looks could be deceiving.

Just as she reached the third floor, he heard her gasp; watching as she stumbled before releasing a cry he suspected was from sheer frustration more than pain. Gaining on her, he reached out, his fingertips just grazing the delicate bones of her shoulder. A scream of pure fright echoed through the hollow stairwell, almost breaking his eardrums. She might as well have pulled the fire alarm. He swore. If the security guards didn’t hear that and come running, it would be a miracle.

His hand closed firmly over her shoulder and he pushed her into a dark corner, entrapping her there with his body. Sensing she was about to let out another scream, he quickly slapped his hand over her mouth, effectively cutting it off. "I’m not going to hurt you…damn it!" he swore when she bit down on his hand. "Unless you do that again!" he threatened, grating the words out as he shook his hand.

Debbie Wallace

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Butterfly Unpinned

Whew! We made it! Laura Bacchi and I started BUTTERFLY UNPINNED well over a year ago now. Maybe more I can't even remember. And we're so happy to see it finally published. I knew Laura had more experience than I did writing BDSM stories so I approached her to ask if she'd be interested in collaborating on a story idea I had. Butterfly is the result and it’s available at Samhain now.

Here's the storyline:
Butterfly chose slavery, but now it's time for her to fly free.

Butterfly wants kink. But she wants the kind of hardcore, edgy kink that will completely change her life. And she gets it…with the wrong guy.

Navajo woodworker Bryan Lapahie can’t believe his luck when a wealthy photographer hires him to create sculptures for a mansion beyond his wildest dreams. Once inside, Bryan finds his new boss is a man of many possessions, including a woman who has given herself to a Master whose extreme BDSM lifestyle makes Bryan doubt his own Dominant tendencies. As he and the slave known as Butterfly learn more about each other, their relationship grows until Bryan has but one thought—to rescue her from the life she’s chosen.

Freeing Butterfly from her Master is only the beginning of the journey. A trip home to the reservation Bryan had left behind brings the couple even closer together as they learn to let go of the past and become the people they choose to be.

And here's a tame excerpt:
Butterfly had wiped every last smear from the full-length oval mirror in the hallway. She’d polished every inch of the ornate gold frame, even detailing it with a Q-tip, but still she continued to rub and polish, as one minute after another slipped by. She couldn’t take her eyes from the reflection of the giant working in the other room. The mirror was angled to show the study where he carved one of the large pillars. When he stepped back to study it, his face and entire body were reflected in the glass, but he was so intent on his work, he didn’t seem aware of her working quietly in the hallway and watching him. The man was less intimidating at a distance, where she could study him at her leisure.

The way his big hands handled the tools was fascinating. As the carving grew finer, the chisels he chose were smaller and he handled them even more delicately, shaving off tiny shreds of wood. There was a frown of concentration furrowing his thick, dark eyebrows. He leaned in to blow away a bit of wood from the carving, and his full lips pursed slightly. A shiver ran through her as she imagined what those lips might feel like pressed against hers.

Leaning back, he regarded his work, impatiently pushing his hair away from his face. Today it wasn’t secured, but flowed long and loose down his back. What would it feel like to stroke? Soft and smooth as the raven’s feathers it resembled or coarse and thick? And what was she doing imagining such things or even looking at the stranger?

She turned back to her work, rubbing hard at a little fleck on the surface of the glass. There was no reason for her to be here any longer. The mirror was as clean as brand new. Butterfly looked at herself in the glass: wide eyes, flushed pink cheeks, lips parted and damp from her tongue running over them. She looked feverish and hungry, like a woman anticipating sex. This was wrong. It wasn’t what Master had meant when he told her to make the carpenter comfortable and please him in any way he desired. She was meant to fulfill those duties with non-attachment, as one of her owner’s dictates, not with lust and longing in her heart. But she couldn’t deny arousal and sexual curiosity were exactly what she felt when she looked at the woodworker. When Jasmine had taken her place serving the handsome stranger his food yesterday, she’d wanted to storm in there and pull the girl out of the room by her hair. Today Butterfly would make sure she was the one to supply his afternoon break.

Once more she glanced in the mirror—just to see if the man looked like he might be ready for a snack. He was staring back at her, his dark eyes focused on her reflection in the mirror.

She froze, the dust cloth clenched in one fist and her gaze locked with his. What did she look like to him? Long, straight brown hair framed her heart-shaped face. Her eyes were too large for her face, her chin and nose too pointed. She must look like a little mouse to him.

Master had taught her well that demurely downcast eyes best illustrated subservience, but somehow it was impossible for her to look away from the man in the mirror.

He smiled at her, strong, white teeth flashing against his dark face, and lifted a hand in greeting. “Hey,” he called from the other room.

Instinctively, she raised her hand in return, waving at him through the safe remove of the mirror.

“Want to come see what I’m working on?” His voice was low and cajoling, the timbre as warm as banked coals. When she hesitated, he said, “Come on.”

She couldn’t disobey a direct order. Dropping her rag on the floor, she turned from the mirror and crossed the hall to enter the study. Now that she faced him, she could no longer hold his gaze. She examined the floor, the draped desk, the toes of his big boots. She raised her head slightly higher and took in his jeans up to where they met the hem of his T-shirt. “May I get you something to eat or drink, sir?”

“No, thanks. I have my water here.” He gestured to a bottle sitting on one of the bookshelves. “I don’t need anything else. I just wondered if you’d like to see your portrait. And if you wouldn’t mind not calling me ‘sir’.” He laughed. “Makes me feel old.”

She started to explain that it was meant to show respect, but her eyes shot to the column he’d been working on instead. “Me?”

“This one is. The rest have roughed in shapes of the other women on them. I was going to save yours for last, but I was inspired to work on it today.” He shifted closer, more of him filling her view. “Are you… Do you, uh, work for Mr. Sanderson?”

“I serve him.”

“Like a maid or housekeeper or something?” Ducking his head, he tried to move his face into her line of sight. She caught a hint of a teasing grin curving his generous mouth. He had to know what she was, especially after meeting Jasmine. The girl would’ve told him, flaunted it even.

She turned away, gazing at his artwork rather than at him. “He’s my Master. I belong to him.”

“Huh.” The man didn’t say anything for a moment, and her stomach tightened as she thought how strange it must sound to an outsider, someone who didn’t understand. “That’s what that girl Jasmine said. I thought maybe she was kidding, that it was some kind of game.”

“No.” Moving closer to the mahogany column, she examined the freshly carved surface. Butterfly’s features were carefully rendered in the wooden woman, but none of her inner flaws were recorded. The artist’s version was pure and angelic, not unworthy as she knew herself to be.

“So all these women living here seriously consider themselves slaves?”

She took a quick, deep breath. Here goes. “We’ve each entered into a contract with our Master. We’re his by choice.” She wondered if she’d spoken too much. It was hard to know how much she was allowed to reveal to this man. Master hadn’t really told her.

“I’m not quite sure how to respond to that.” He moved up behind her to study the carving, too, and changed the subject. “I haven’t got this quite right. If you could pose for me, it would help.”

She felt the heat his big body radiated from inches away and glanced sideways at him, her gaze lifting no higher than his waist. The hard bulge of an erection was visible at the fly of his blue jeans.

Master had told her to please him in every way. “The man is doing some beautiful work,” he’d said. “I want to show him my appreciation and hospitality. Food, drink, sex, whatever he needs, you supply. Got it?”

Butterfly gestured to his crotch. “May I service you?” Her voice was low, barely a whisper. Even after all these years she had trouble offering sexual favors to Master’s friends or business associates. She would do anything to please him, but offering her body to strangers was still terribly difficult. With this man, however, it was not so hard. Not when curiosity made her want to see what lay behind his fly.

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Excerpt-Jenny's Passion-in honor of Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, Everyone.

Make sure you thank a soldier or veteran today and give them a hug. I did. My hubby is a Vietnam Veteran. We all gave him hugs today.

In honor of this day, I would like to post an excerpt from "Jenny's Passion," a Civil War romance featuring soldiers of our past, who helped shape our today.


The dawn was just breaking over the eastern horizon. Men in gray uniforms swarmed around, attempting to fortify their positions and provide themselves with cover, wheel cannon into position, load rifles, and fix bayonets. Scattered shots rang out. Sharpshooters were already at work trying to pick off each other. All around David the Union soldiers were amassing. His company sat silently on their mounts awaiting the order to charge the enemy. As they watched the activity between the trees each, undoubtedly, wondered how many of them would die today.

“Hold your position, men,” David shouted, hearing his words echoed down the line.

Loud booming started. The Union cannons had begun the assault. The noise from the big guns seemed to incite the Rebels into a more frenzied state as he watched them scrambling to engage the enemy—his men. The spine-tingling Rebel yell could be heard above the roar of the cannon.

It was time.

He gave the order to Lieutenant Thomas Miller, who sat on his horse to his left. “Move it out, get into position at the bottom of this hill quickly now.”

“Move out!” came the order passed from one horseman to the next, fanning out on either side.

Down the hill the blue line streamed, flowing between the trees until they melded into a unit at the bottom. The red, white, and blue flag carried by one cavalryman billowed out in the breeze, readily visible by all who looked on and an inspirational sight to all.

David raised his arm, saber in hand as the horse pranced excitedly under him. Napoleon was ready. The big horse seemed to thrive on the noise and excitement of this war. How would the animal adjust to a quiet life on the farm he planned to buy when this war was over? If he survived, he reminded himself. But there was no time to dwell on these thoughts. The war raged in front of them and the men in gray were coming closer.

The bugle’s tones rang out, its sound distorted by the trees, but identifiable nonetheless—Colonel Kellogg had ordered the charge.

David indulged himself with a quick look to his right. Down the long blue line of cavalrymen he saw Captain Jack Montgomery, his saber raised as well. They exchanged an unspoken message. Each man was ready to lead their men into battle. The familiar excitement was starting to build now, and he welcomed it.

“Charge!” he yelled, hearing the command echoed by the other officers. A shout went up from the cavalry. It had begun again. God save them all.

Go to, or any other bookseller to purchase this book.

Diane Wylie

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Rave Reviews for THE COWBOY WAY

I'm so excited! Since it's release in April my third torrid romance, "THE COWBOY WAY" has received three great book reviews.

Whipped Cream Reviews - Best Book Rating
Romance Junkies - Blue Ribbon Rating of FIVE
The Romance Studio - FIVE HEARTS

Blurb -Artist Lacey Owens comes home to her father’s ranch for a little R and R. She's not prepared for becoming the means for revenge by an old enemy he helped send to prison. Getting involved with her father’s ranch foreman and partner Chase Saunders isn’t in her plans either. But as unexplained incidences occur and Lacey’s life becomes threatened, fate throws her and Chase together when he makes it his mission to protect her. Her independent nature rebels against his arrogant high handed methods and tempers ignite, but it soon becomes apparent that their animosity is only a ruse for the intense sexual longing stirring in their blood.

Excerpt -He crushed her to him and slammed his mouth down on hers, locking any protest deep in her throat. Lacey struggled but it didn’t seem to matter to Chase. He over powered her easily, while managing to control his stallion’s nervous movements with ease and expertise. Lacey brought her hands up and pushed against his massive, rock hard chest. But it was like trying to move a mountain. She whimpered beneath his attack, becoming aware of things she didn’t want to notice.

She began to slip towards the ground and ceased her movements, bringing her arms up to cling to Chase’s neck. It brought Lacey closer to him. He growled, forcing her mouth open until he could slip his tongue inside. Unwillingly, she began to melt under his rough kiss, returning the thrust of his tongue against hers. A sharp need of desire uncurled inside her belly, turning her blood hot. She was afraid of not being strong enough to deny him if he should seek more than a kiss.

Lacey had never been handled so ruthlessly by any man before, no one had dared. And while she balked at his arrogance, she couldn’t deny the feelings he roused. The thrill of his mouth on hers, the feel of his whiskers against her tender skin and the taste of something sweet on his breath heightened her arousal. Her nostrils flared, greedily taking in the masculine scent of sweat, leather and horse.

Most of all his arousal.

Lacey’s breasts swelled against his chest, her nipples hardened into painful knots. When his hands traveled down her arms he left a trail of tingles behind. But when his hand closed over her breast, Lacey knew real desire, and fear. For her betraying flesh swelled even more into his caress. She shivered violently and moaned as his thumb flicked across her nipple, and arched her back before she realized what she was doing.

Without warning Chase broke away, promptly ending the sizzling moment between them. Lacey’s lungs screamed for air, and it gave her little pleasure to see Chase was just as out of breath. His expression frightened her a little. Dark like polished stone, his eyes were glazed over with heated passion, his nostrils flaring like a wild animal. Lacey could feel his heart beating in rhythm with her own.

She tried to turn away from his all too seeing eyes but there was nowhere to go. His horse moved beneath them, but Chase kept him under control with the steady pressure of his solid thighs and knees. Realizing her arms were still locked around his neck, Lacey slowly broke her hold and lowered them, humiliated and angry.

Tory Richards

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Edge of Sanity, new ebook release!

Freya's Bower has taken the chapter book Edge of Sanity and put it all together into one ebook, for one low price!

Detective Jake Gilford is skeptical when he hears Joss Wheeler say she believes her newly inherited house is haunted. He's a man of facts and hard evidence, and ghosts aren't on his radar screen. He's also a man, and Joss is a beautiful, if somewhat nutty, woman. Won over by her charms, he promises to stay and help her unravel the mystery of the house--or whatever else she has that might need unraveling...

Rating: Tangy
Book Length: Category Novel
Genre: Paranormal/Contemporary/Interracial
Price: $4.99


He pressed his mouth against hers. "I want to make love with you," he murmured, their lips touching.

She wrapped one leg around his butt, pulling his denim-covered erection closer to her core. "I want that, too. More than anything."

He lifted her from the floor, and carried her to his room. At the edge of his bed, he set her down. "Here we are." He deftly unbuttoned her blouse, and his mouth followed the trail his fingers left. He had no trouble freeing her breasts from the white bra this time. As soon as they bobbed loose, he sucked a puckering, air-chilled nipple into his mouth. "Mmm," he moaned softly. "Ever since that first taste of you, I've been dying for another."

She chuckled deep in her throat. "Still sticking with the story that crab and beer are your favorites?"

Jake laved his tongue over her nipple and watched it peak. "Oh, no. Not a chance. I have a new favorite flavor, right here."

She arched her back, sighed as he moved to her other breast. "That feels fantastic."

"Yes it does," he teased. Both nipples were now taut nubs. He rolled the first between his thumb and forefinger, nibbling the second until she squirmed.

"You don't know what you're doing to me!"

Jake smirked. "Oh, I think I do. I've only just begun. I intend to drive you absolutely crazy." Before the words were out, he regretted them. If he could have retracted them he would have, but it was too late. They hung in the air, and he exchanged glances with Joss. "I'm sorry—"

"Don't worry about it. I don't feel so crazy anymore. You've helped me get over that. Shall we see what else you can help me with?"

Relieved, he grinned wickedly. "Oh yeah. I have a few ideas."

Copyright (C) 2009 Jamie Hill


"a wonderful story that sucks you in from the very first page...I can hardly wait to read book 2..."

4 Lips from Alisha
Reviewer for Two Lips Reviews

"This first installment is a treasure... From the first page to the last, Edge of Sanity, Book 1 had me glued to the pages..."

Reviewer for Romance At Heart

"With Jake and Jocelyn's relationship just beginning, I'm eager to find out just who or what is making those ghastly noises, and if their relationship lasts the distance."

4 Champagne Flutes from Sangria
Reviewer for Cocktail Reviews

Buy Now!

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A Gypsy's Vow

A Gypsy's Vow available at Liquid Silver Books.

A proper, level-headed woman. A handsome, wandering rogue. Sparks fly between them, but does the innkeeper’s daughter dare leave behind all that’s familiar to run away with a gypsy?

After managing her drunken father’s inn for most of her adult life, Bess is presented with an offer of marriage from a member of the local gentry. She should be thrilled at the proposed match with a man so far above her station, but knows Lord Wallace is more interested in the income from her successful business than he is in her.

One day while shopping in the market, she meets a charming stranger who shakes up her world. She’s unprepared for the onslaught of powerful feelings Alexi rouses in her as he woos her with passionate intensity. Now Bess must decide what she truly wants from life and how she chooses to live her future.

1902, Dorset, England

Sunlight sent fragments of light winking and dancing, catching Bess’s attention. Following the sparkles to the source, she discovered a small gold hoop in a man’s earlobe framed against glossy black curls. The man’s face was tan, thin and sharp-featured. He stood by a cart displaying leather goods to a prospective customer. Over his white shirt he wore an embroidered waistcoat that set him apart from the local tradesmen and farmers. From the ring in his ear and the flamboyant vest, she guessed the stranger was a gypsy.

Her breath caught as he looked at her from across the crowded marketplace with an expression so intimate it seemed he knew all her secret thoughts and frustrated wishes. His dark eyes were too knowing and too disturbing. A flash of white teeth rivaling the earring’s glitter illuminated his face and, without thinking, Bess smiled back. Then she blushed and quickly dropped her gaze to the raspberries she was sorting through.

“Buy the basket and I’ll throw in an extra pound. It’s nearly the end of the day and they’re going soft.” Sarah Pickett always had a deal for Bess. “You know I’d be happy to stop by the inn. There’s no need for you to come all the way to the market.”

“Thank you, but I don’t mind.” She didn’t mention that shopping trips were a welcome respite in her busy day, a chance to get away from the Thorn and Thistle.

She paid for the berries and was about to pick up the basket when a small body barreled into her. Bess bent toward the dark-haired child who’d fallen on his backside on the ground. “Are you all right?” Grasping his hand, she helped him to his feet and gazed into his black eyes. She smiled and ruffled his hair. “Where’s your mother?”

The boy pulled away from her and started to run again, only to be stopped by a hand clamping down on his shoulder. “Radge chav!” a low voice barked.

Bess lifted her gaze to the face of the gypsy man, scowling now as he lightly shook the boy and spoke harshly.

She reached out her hand. “It’s all right. He didn’t mean to run into me. I’m fine.”

“No, it’s not all right. Here.” He reached into the boy’s shirtfront, and when he removed his hand her purse dangled from it, strings cut. The man clicked his tongue as he rapped the boy on the back of the head and sent him on his way.

“Oh.” Bess was stunned. She hadn’t even felt the boy take it. The stranger offered her the purse, and their fingers brushed as she accepted it.

“I apologize for the little animal. I’ll let his parents know and make sure he’s punished.” Despite the disapproving words, his tone was mild. A foreign intonation accented his English. “But let me make it up to you. I’ll carry your basket.”

Her pulse raced as if he’d suggested something else. “No, thank you.”

“I promise I won’t steal it. Roma aren’t all thieves.”

Both of them had grasped the basket handle. Bess didn’t want to have a tug of war that might draw attention and end in spilled fruit, so she conceded with a small nod.

“Don’t you have a stall to mind?” She glanced at the cart he’d abandoned where another dark-haired boy who resembled the one who’d run into her was hawking belts, purses and shoes.

“Marius can manage without me. Where am I escorting you?”

“The Thorn and Thistle Inn.” Pulling her shawl tighter around her shoulders, she walked briskly through the crowd, aware of many pairs of eyes watching her and the stranger.

“Is the innkeeper’s daughter as prickly as the establishment’s name, Miss Andrews?”

She flicked a glance at him. “How do you know who I am?”

“I asked someone before I came over to speak to you.” His smile was even more overwhelming close up. Its brilliance stole her breath and made her heart skip a beat. No wonder gypsies were rumored to have magic powers. His sheer magnetism made her dizzy and had her consenting to things she never meant to, such as letting him carry her basket for everyone to see.

The man strode alongside her, moving gracefully and with an erect posture that suggested arrogance, or at least, self-assuredness. She was intrigued by the contrast between his obvious poverty--scuffed boots, darned patches in the colorful waistcoat and a rip in the shoulder seam of his shirt--and his almost regal bearing, as if he were royalty rather than an itinerant traveler.

“So, I know your name, Bess Andrews. Can you guess mine?” He flashed another grin that made him look like the very devil his question implied. Folk stories claimed Satan couldn’t say his own name, and one way he could gain power over a person was by getting them to say it. Bess understood the joke and couldn’t resist a smart retort.


His hearty laughter invited her to join in. “My name is Alexi Cosmescu.”

“Pleased to meet you,” she replied automatically, but walked even faster, anxious to be rid of his company and safely back at the inn. Common wisdom claimed gypsies were an illiterate, thieving, feckless lot, but this man was clever and well spoken and he made her nervous.

As though catching the drift of her thoughts, he said, “Do I make you uncomfortable? Perhaps you fear I’m damaging your reputation simply by talking to you? That’s a sad commentary on the world.” He sighed. “My people are slandered at every turn. Isn’t there a saying about letting God judge who’s righteous and who isn’t?”

They were almost to the edge of the square and the street that led to the inn. She should relieve him of the burden and send him on his way. “I don’t mean to be rude, Mr. Cosmescu, but I really would prefer to walk alone. May I have my basket back?”

He faced her, looking deeply into her eyes. “I guess I was wrong. I saw you and thought something about you was different--that you wouldn’t be like them.” He nodded at the people buying and selling in the marketplace behind them. “Small-minded.”

“Just because I don’t wish to walk with you doesn’t make me small-minded.” His accusation upset her. She’d always considered herself more insightful than most of the people in this rural community. Books had opened her mind to the world beyond Framingham.

“No. I suppose not.” He extended the basket toward her. “But it makes you a fool, because now you have to carry this heavy basket all by yourself.” He winked, daring her to hang convention and take a chance.

She considered his challenging look and the fact that there was no one watching them any longer. What was the point in refusing his help now? “All right. Carry it for me, and thank you.” She walked on, acutely aware of his presence by her side.

“My people are camped in the hollow by Old Ford Road. You should come there this evening. You’ll see we aren’t the demons people make us out to be.”

She didn’t dignify his invitation with a reply. He had to know there was no possibility of her ever setting foot in a gypsy camp.

“You think I’m teasing, but I’m not. I like the way you look, Bess Andrews, and not just because you’re beautiful. There’s something about the set of your chin or perhaps your eyes that tells me you’re a strong woman and someone I’d care to know better. We won’t be here long so I can’t afford the time to court you properly.”

“Court me?” She stopped walking and gaped at him. “Is that what you imagine this is?”

He shook his head, setting his black curls and the small hoop in his ear swaying. “Perhaps ‘court’ isn’t the right word. My English is not always perfect.”

“Oh, I think your English is fine and that you said exactly what you meant. But this is flirting, not courting, and whichever it is, I’m not interested. At the inn I’m often approached by traveling salesmen. I’m not na├»ve. I know what men like you want.”

“What is it you think I want, Miss Andrews? To ravage you? I’m no barbarian. I only want to spend a little time with you.”

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Ethan's Choice Now Available

From authors Jude Mason and Jamie Hill, and publisher Total E-Bound, the first book in the Kindred Spirits Series: Ethan's Choice.

When two insanely hot guys encounter a few distressed spirits in the beautiful Whiskers' Seaside Inn, love becomes entangled with a mystery that must be solved.

Whiskers' Seaside Inn doesn't sound like the most exotic location for a weekend getaway, but it's certainly intriguing. Ethan Roberts is smitten the moment he sees the weathered clapboard inn, and even more so when he meets the establishment's hunky handyman.

Cade Wyatt seems like a good man to have around. He's muscular, handsome and very protective of the inn and its occupants. He falls into lust, and then bed, with Ethan.

The inn has two paying guests, but Ethan discovers there's another cast of characters who come and go.

Cade might be nonchalant about the ghosts, but Ethan's not sure he feels the same. He wants Cade more than anything, but Cade won't leave the inn. Somehow, Ethan must find a way to live with the spirits as well as the man he's come to love.

~ Buy Now


"I was wondering if you knew where I might find Cade."

Stan simply stared.

"Your, uh, hired man?" Ethan said stupidly. The fellow knew who Cade was. He just wasn't being very forthcoming that morning. "I broke the lock on my suitcase and thought he might have the right tool I could use..." He's got a tool I want to use, all right. Ethan smiled hopefully.

Stan nodded towards the beach side of the property. "He has one more hedge to trim. I think he said he'd finish it today. Should be out there."

"Thanks." Ethan refilled his paper cup and snapped the lid into place. He strolled through the dining room then wandered outside to the backyard.

Cade was exactly where Stan had suggested and looked as sexy as he had the day before. He reached over his head, using both hands to work the manual clippers and trim the tall hedge. The muscles in his back rippled with each snip, giving Ethan a fine view of the man who seemed to like wearing only cut-off jeans.

Ethan watched for a moment, hating to interrupt but afraid his erection would become noticeable if he ogled the stud for much longer. "Good morning," he managed, stepping around a concrete bench to get closer. At that moment, he wished he truly did have a broken suitcase lock.

Cade stopped trimming and turned towards him. His face showed a flicker of interest before he smiled pleasantly. "Morning."

"Another gorgeous day." Ethan looked around. "You do a wonderful job around here. Everything looks to be in top shape."

Using his forearm to wipe a trickle of sweat from his brow, Cade shrugged. "It's not hard. This is a fantastic place."

"It's got a quirky name, but the inn seems great."

Cade's smile broke into a full-fledged grin. "You think our seal pup is quirky? I'm rather fond of the little guy. He garners lots of attention. A real conversation starter with the guests, too." He sighed. "I really like it here. I'd hate to think about moving on if the inn gets a new owner."

"I'd hate that, too," Ethan mumbled, then realised he'd spoken out loud. "I mean, you just seem to know the grounds so well. I'm sure the new owner would value an employee like you." I sure as hell would. I'd value bending you over that bench behind me and fucking you senseless.

Cade shrugged again. "I guess time will tell. So, did you sleep all right?"

"I did. Had a little run-in with another guest around midnight. Little girl and her music box. I told myself I was lucky she wasn't into rap music."

"Another guest?" Cade's eyebrows rose.

"Yeah. I'd thought the only other person here was an older woman, but I saw her daughter last night. Or maybe it was her granddaughter."

Cade smiled. "Mrs. Nelson lives by herself. No grandkids."

Ethan was confused. "But the child-"

"I guess you met Laura. Didn't take her long to make herself known. She must like you."

"Laura?" Ethan blinked.

A big grin spread over Cade's handsome face. "She's one of our spirits."

Copyright (C) 2009 Jamie Hill and Jude Mason

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InDescent by K. Z. Snow

Now available from Liquid Silver Books.

When a breach in the Prism of Nezrabi frees creatures from another plane, a troubled wizard learns there are things more terrifying than the bogeymen of our nightmares. Like inner demons . . . and love.

Being a powerful, sexually magnetic wizard has its disadvantages. Like inviting the attention of bumbling but persistent rivals. And seductive women. And otherworldly beings.

For Jackson Spey, that isn’t the worst of it. His lover-of-choice is a man with a disturbing past. And a girlfriend. And feelings Jackson is reluctant to return.

The legendary Prism of Nezrabi brings all these elements together when it falls into the hands of Spey’s number-one enemy. No ordinary crystal, the Prism is an intricate microcosm wherein all time, space, and dimensions exist in delicate balance. Humans who’ve been pulled into it have gone mad . . . or simply never returned.

Through inept or malicious magic, the structure’s integrity has been compromised. A breach has freed creatures thought only to exist in Slavic myth. Nobody but the most qualified Adept can repair the split. If Jackson descends into this mystical world, he may have to face something more dreadful than a seemingly impossible task and its potential consequences.

He may have to confront the secrets of his own soul.

* * * * *

"Watching the world go by?" As Jackson sauntered toward the house, he tossed his keys in the air, executed a nifty, overhand catch, and theatrically swung his arm behind his back. Show-off, he thought, chiding himself. Why don’t you just launch into a tumbling routine? He was acutely aware of his houseguest’s smiling eyes.

"Did you see anything unusual while you were out and about?" Adin, who’d apparently found a couple of lawn chairs in the garage, sat placidly, ankle resting on knee, just outside the front door. He reached out and gave Jackson’s fingers a quick, affectionate squeeze.

"Yep, I did." Jackson self-consciously returned the pressure and took a seat in the empty chair.

He wanted to lean over and give Adin a long, slippery kiss. Just hold the man’s head and plant one and let their lips and tongues slide around. Since the house wasn’t far from the sidewalk, he refrained. The impulse continued to needle him, even though they’d had sex that morning. Why couldn’t he seem to get enough?

"Well," Adin said, "I’ve been hearing unusual things."

Before he could explain, a metallic clangor came from inside the flat. It sounded like a chef was throwing a tantrum in the kitchen. A distressed voice let out a mournful, blood-curdling moan. As Jackson bolted up from the lawn chair, Adin grabbed his wrist.

"Don’t bother," he said. "Nothing’s being trashed. Your domowoj isn’t real pleased by my presence, that’s all. So he’s banging the cookware."

"I don’t give a shit what his problem is. I just want him to leave us the hell alone."

A new crash echoed inside the apartment.

"I don’t think he’s happy with my language, either," Jackson said. "They’re sanctimonious little pricks."

This time, something thudded against the door.

Adin kept hold of Jackson’s wrist. "It wouldn’t be a good idea to banish your domowoj. He belongs here. He’s only doing his job."

Indecision made Jackson pause for a moment. He wasn’t sure he could communicate with the creature; he didn’t know its native language.

Slipping out of Adin’s grasp, he turned to the door. "I’ll try something else, then."

Entering the cool, dim flat, Jackson immediately spotted his domestic guardian diving beneath the stove. He didn’t bother wondering how the thing fit under there. It just slipped out of sight. Walking to the range, he gripped the top edge of each side.

In Latin he said, "This is my home. You are welcome here. My guest is also welcome here. You and I have nothing to fear from him. Therefore, you must dwell here peaceably, in silence. Leave me and my guest be."

The domowoj must have understood him. Perhaps because Latin was the universal language of magic, perhaps because this guardian could understand any language in which the homeowner spoke. The stove shuddered beneath Jackson’s hands. A disgruntled mumbling came from behind it.

Jackson sent tendrils of white light from his fingertips. The light spread over and seeped beneath the stove like irradiated frosting. Then it soaked into the stove. When no trace of it remained, the domowoj was still.

"Thank you," Jackson murmured. "Now stay that way."

He turned to the fridge and grabbed a beer, then rejoined Adin outside.

"Got it under control?" Adin asked, twisting around to look up at him.

"I think so."

Continuing to stand, Jackson let himself enjoy the view. He loved looking at Adin from different angles. It was like rotating a well-cut gemstone to admire its facets. Some things, and people, just seemed to redefine the concept of perfection. If only the man were dumber than a stump...

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Play it Again, Sam by Jamie Hill

Sam Merit spends his afternoons watching Casablanca at the local theatre. Recently laid off from his job, he'd rather hide in a dark auditorium than face a daunting job search. With one eye on Bogart and the other on a handsome theater employee, he doesn't mind viewing the same film day after day.

Marc Phillips doesn't have great aspirations. Running the projection booth at an old fashioned, run-down theater makes him happy. When he meets Sam he discovers there might be more to life than movie screen fantasies, if he can open his heart to the possibilities. (m/m, contemporary erotic romance)

Now available from Phaze books!

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