Sugar Bush: A New Lesbian BDSM Christmas Story

Sugar Bush

by Giselle Renarde

The island will always be home to Jeanette. Every year, she returns from the city to spend Christmas with Nanaate's family. Boxing Day, it’s BDSM in the sugar bush. Nanaate worries their annual tradition of bondage and temperature play might be harming Jeanette's chance of finding true love in the city, but Jeanette knows better. Their relationship transcends all things, but if Jeanette can't make Nanaate understand, this year's visit could well be their last.


"Is that Jeanette?" Nanaate's mother calls from the kitchen. I hope to find her cooking up fry bread, just like my gran did when we were kids, but no. She's got the Martha Stewart cookbook splayed on the table. "You didn't go overboard, did you?"

"Me go overboard?" I ask, laughing. "Look at all this food! Are you cooking for the troops?"

Rather than answering my question, she says, "Nanaate's been going up to the sugar bush every day, getting it ready for you. Trees are all tapped."

My cheeks blaze, and I know how guilty I must look. Rick understands the intricacies of our relationship, but Nanaate's parents? It makes my stomach flop, the idea of them picturing their daughter and me naked together in the sugar hut. I want them to think it's all innocence and tradition, just two old friends spending a night together in the wilderness. A city girl revisiting the places of her youth.

Dinner is abundant. The children chatter like monkeys while Rick argues local politics with Nanaate's parents. Neighbours have joined us, Greta and John and their four children, people I don't know well enough to be chatty with. They ask what the city girl does in the city, and I tell them about the programs I've created for two-spirit people -- youths, homeless, elders, sex workers.

Greta glances swiftly at her little blond children to make sure they haven't heard the wicked lady talking about prostitutes.

"Two-spirit?" John asks. "That sounds like something, all right."

He obviously hasn't heard the term before, so I clarify. "Aboriginal people who are what you might call transgender, bisexual, gay, lesbian -- we use the unifying term 'two-spirit' to identify. If we choose to, that is. Some Native people choose to identify as gay or queer, whatever they prefer, but my programs still serve them."

Greta's blue eyes are about to burst. Her lips purse so hard they're just one straight white line. "I'm not sure this is appropriate dinner conversation."

The city girl has been well and truly put in her place.


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New Release! RIDE 'EM HARD - Book Three of The Buckle Bunnies Series! Hot Cowboy Menage!

I'm so excited to announce that RIDE 'EM HARD, the third book in The Buckle Bunnies Series is out!

Like the other books in the series, this story is a hot cowboy menage, only this time it's about two women sharing a hunky bull rider by the name of Clay Winters. One of the women is a barrel racer named Britt Miles. If you read the first book in the series, RIDE OF HER LIFE, then you'll probably remember Britt as Daisy's wild and crazy friend who hooked up with Clay at the Rodeo Finals in Vegas. They were both a little worse for wear after their respective competitions, so when Clay runs into Britt again in Austin, he's eager for a re-ride. Thing is, Britt's out for a girls' night on the town with Shawna Barton, her best friend whom she hasn't seen in ages, and she isn't about to ditch her. That's not a problem for Clay, who's only too happy to show both of them a good time. While Britt and Shawna are both game for a sexy threesome, neither of them expect to the night to go where it does!


This night is going to change the meaning of best friends forever!

When Shawna Barton's best friend and barrel racer Britt Miles comes to town, she can't wait to have a girls' night out. The two haven't seen each other in years and the usually shy, reserved Shawna loves hearing about her friend's exploits, especially her most recent sexual encounter with handsome bull rider Clay Winters.

Things take a sexy turn after they run into the man himself a little while later. When he asks them to go dancing, the two women can't refuse and before Shawna knows it, she forgets about her inhibitions and is out there bumping and grinding on the floor with Britt and Clay.

The night gets even more interesting when Clay suggests they take their little threesome back to his place for the kind of ride only a cowboy knows how to give a girl - or in this case, two of them!


Kissing Clay just moments after his mouth had been on Britt’s allowed Shawna to pick up a decidedly feminine flavor that could only belong to her best friend. She was tasting Britt's kiss. It was kinky, not to mention arousing. But not in that I-want-to-have-sex-with-my-best-girlfriend kind of way. It was simply exciting to know that she and Britt were sharing something so completely personal—a man.

That perfectly wicked thought pushed any remaining nerves she might have out of the way. She and Britt were going to have sex with Clay—and it was going to be amazing.

Shawna deepened the kiss, moving her mouth all over Clay's and sucking on his tongue. He tasted better than Belgian chocolate.
Abruptly remembering she was supposed to be sharing, Shawna pulled away and used a finger on Clay's chin to turn him back toward Britt. Her friend didn't hesitate to claim the handsome bull rider’s mouth in a scorching kiss, and Shawna was once again gifted with the opportunity of watching two people put on a seriously sexy show.

Had she and Clay looked that hot when they kissed?

Shawna shifted a little to give Britt more room, pressing herself against Clay's left hip while Britt occupied his right. She placed one hand on Clay’s muscular shoulder and the other on Britt's back so that the three of them were in a tight, comfy triangle of intimacy.

Britt passed Clay off to her with a throaty laugh. “Is it just me, or is it getting warm in here?”

Clay gave Shawna's lips a quick nibble before answering. “If you're that warm, maybe you should do something about it.”

Britt gave Shawna a smile that was part daring, part questioning. Her hands drifted to the buttons of her western shirt. “Maybe I should. What do you think, Shawna?”

Shawna knew that was her friend’s way of asking if she still wanted to go through with this. She returned Britt’s smile. “I definitely think you should. I think I should, too.”

Britt’s smile broadened. “Yippie ki yay, girlfriend.”

Shawna stepped back, undoing the buttons on her shirt while Britt did the same to her own. Clay’s gaze swept back and forth between them like a predator eyeing his prey. Shawna almost laughed at the hungry expression on his face—the poor guy didn't know where to look.
Shawna untucked her shirt from her jeans and finished with the buttons, then gave Britt a few seconds to catch up. She wanted to see Clay's reaction when they both pulled their shirts off at the same time.

Britt finished undoing her buttons, but held her shirt closed as she quirked a smile in Clay’s direction. “You sure you don't mind if we get comfortable, do you?”

He made a sound that was half laugh, half groan. “Feel free.”

Shawna noticed his voice was a little tight. A quick glance at his crotch told her that wasn't the only thing strained. They were going to have to get those jeans off him soon or he'd start losing blood flow to his lower extremities.

Britt flashed her a big smile, and nodded slightly. As if they were synchronized strippers, she and Britt slid their shirts off their shoulders and let them drop to the floor.

And wouldn't you know it—they’d both worn the same pink, lacy bra. Clay definitely noticed.

“You two sure you didn't plan this?”

Britt laughed. “No, we didn't plan this. You're just one lucky cowboy, I guess.”

“Damn right about that.”

With a growl, he slowly moved a hand up each of their sides to trace his fingers around the cups of their bras. Even though he wasn't close to Shawna’s nipples, they stiffened, poking against the silky material of her bra. Clay shifted his hand, making little circles over the fabric-covered nipple with his thumb. She moaned, unable to help herself.

Britt laughed softly. “Looks like Shawna has some sensitive nipples—make sure you remember that, Clay.”

“Oh, I'll remember. Don't worry.” He applied a little more pressure with his thumb, eliciting another moan, deeper this time. “I wonder how much louder she'll moan when I suckle on them?”

“Why don't we find out,” Britt suggested.

Shawna's eyes popped open as she felt fingers working the clasp of her bra behind her back. How had Clay gotten his hand back there when he didn’t even seem to be reaching around her? As her bra slipped off her shoulders, she realized it was Britt who’d unsnapped the clasp.
Shawna resisted the urge to give into her shyness and cover her breasts as her bra fell away. Her nipples tightened almost painfully as Clay and Britt gazed at her. The appreciation in their eyes made her pussy gush with desire. She almost blushed at the thought of what they’d say when they pulled off her panties and discovered how wet she was.

Clay cupped her breasts, his thumbs and forefingers coming up to tweak her nipples. “You have beautiful breasts, Shawna.”

“Mmm,” she breathed. She probably should have thanked him, but it was difficult to talk with him doing what he was doing.

He squeezed a little harder and she gasped out loud. Clay chuckled. “Definitely sensitive. I'd love to suck on these beautiful nipples right now—you okay with that?”

Why the heck wouldn't she be? Shawna opened her mouth to say yes when she suddenly remembered Britt. She looked at her friend, hoping Britt wouldn’t think she was hogging Clay again, but Britt was biting her lip, her attention focused on what Clay was doing. She must have felt Shawna's eyes on her because she looked up quickly. Her face colored when she realized Shawna had caught her watching.

“Do you mind if Clay sucks on my nipples?” Britt had been letting her have most of the bull rider’s attention since it was her first time with him. She didn't want to take advantage of her best friend's hospitality. Shawna smiled. “I promise not to tire out his mouth too much.”

Britt laughed. “I happen to know for a fact that Clay's mouth can go all night, so have at it.”

Shawna turned back to Clay. “I guess you have your answer, cowboy. Do your best.”

She expected him to bend his head and gently take a nipple in his lips, but apparently that wasn't Clay's style.

Instead, he took her shoulders firmly in his hands and backed her up until she was pressed against the wall. Then he captured both her wrists in one of his big hands and pinned them above her head.

Okay, that was…different. But definitely arousing.

Giving her a lazy smile, Clay slowly cupped her breast, lifting it up as he leaned forward to wrap his lips around the very tip of her nipple.

“Oh, God,” she breathed.

Britt had been right—Clay's mouth was divine.

As he suckled forcefully on her achingly stiff nipple, nipping with his teeth and laving with his tongue, she writhed uncontrollably. Now she knew why Clay had pinned her hands to the wall—to keep her from getting away. Not that she wanted to get away, of course.

Clay released that nipple and moved smoothly to her other breast, giving equal attention to that one as his hand continued to sweetly torture the now very sensitized tip of the breast he’d just teased.
Britt came over to lean against the wall beside her, watching with obvious interest as Clay ravaged her nipples and breasts. She leaned close to Shawna's ear.

“Was I right?” she whispered. “That mouth of his is pure magic, isn't it?”

“Mm-hmm.” She cooed as Clay flicked the tip of her nipple with his tongue, then drew it into his mouth again. “I could let him do this all night.”

Clay held her pinned to the wall for so long while he suckled first one breast, then the other, that Shawna thought he might do just that. The hands holding her wrists weren't just controlling her now—they were holding her up. Her knees had turned to Jello.

By the time Clay finally lifted his head to look at her with those sinfully sexy, dark eyes of his, he had to slip an arm around her to help her keep her feet. Good heavens, she was panting like she'd just run a race.

Shawna tipped her head back against the wall and regarded him from under her lashes. “That was amazing.”

Clay gave her a wicked grin. “That was just foreplay. Wait til I get you completely naked. Then comes the amazing part.”

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Sexy Romantic Fiction!

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New Christmas Release: Decorating Spirit by Zenobia Renquist (Erotic Urban Fantasy)

Out now and part of the Santa's Helpers Changeling Press multi-author series...

Decorating Spirit by Zenobia Renquist
Decorating Spirit
 Santa’s Helpers (multi-author series)
 by Zenobia Renquist

Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Erotic Urban Fantasy Romance, Interracial, Fey
Price: $2.99
Length: Novella

She’s making sure Christmas comes more than once this year.

The Spirit of Christmas should be a joyous person who can spread happiness around the world. Spir is anything but. His mood is as dark as the black clothes he wears. Danette is hired to change his clothing in hopes that his attitude will follow. Spir doesn’t want to cooperate. When she finally gets him out of his clothes, Danette discovers something harder than her job and much more enjoyable.

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She shrugged. “This might not have been my calling from birth, like you, but this is my life. I can’t do anything else. My only talent is enhancing people so they are better, brighter versions of themselves, or so everyone thinks they are better and brighter.”

 “And now you think you can make me better and brighter?”

 “I’m not trying to make you better, Spir. From where I’m standing, you’re perfect already. I’m just trying to make you brighter.” She grinned. “Okay, not brighter. Just less dark. Hence all the gray.”


 “What about it?”

 “I’m not perfect.”

 “Dude, have you looked in a mirror ever? There are men who would sell their souls and the souls of their dear mommas to have your looks.”

 “I’m not bright like Kris.”

 “And your point is what?”

 “Women -- fey women -- have always ignored me and flocked to my brother.”

 “That makes them blind or stupid or both. Kris is gorgeous and so are you. You’re identical. And did you ever stop to think they were flocking to him because he was the heir of the house? He’s the head of the House of Kringle, the top house in the winter clan. Women would have been flocking to him if he looked like a troll because of the power he now holds.”

 Spir stared at her with wide, confused eyes.

 “I think the only one hung up on you being his shadow is you, Spir. You let the opinions of a bunch of gold diggers and opportunists determine your self worth. You’re the spirit of Christmas. It can’t exist without you. Even those who don’t believe in Santa do acknowledge you. Have you even visited humans around Christmas time?”

 He shook his head.

 “Did your uncle?”

 “I never saw him leave the North Pole.”

 “Well there you go. You’re basing your opinion on false information that further perpetuates your feelings of inadequacy. I was always taught that presents and a jolly fat man in a red suit don’t make Christmas. It’s the feeling inside. The giving -- not to be redundant -- spirit. The love of family and brotherhood and togetherness. Everything else is icing on the cake.” She took his hand and squeezed it. “You’re the cake, Spir.”

 His gaze went down to her hand and then back to her eyes. His earlier confusion had changed to surprise.

 She released him and stepped back, clearing her throat. She’d gotten too wrapped up in her preaching. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to start lecturing you. It’s one of my bad habits.”

 “It’s fine.” He raised the hand she’d held and looked at it as though he’d never seen it before. “It’s completely fine.” He lowered his hand and turned his attention back to her. A ghost of a smile tugged at his lips. “Your enthusiasm has rubbed off on me.”

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~ Zenobia
Zenobia Renquist
Discover Different and Unique Romance

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New from KC Kendricks - Doors of Time

Contemporary gay romance available now at

Calvin Lawson arrived in Clear River to rebuild bridges with his ailing father, not hook up with Emory Fleming, although being an honest man, he has to admit Emory’s on his mind. But first things first, and before he goes looking for his boyhood friend, he needs to find a restoration project to generate personal income so he’s not sponging off his father. Gutted by an arsonist, the Clocktower Theatre, affectionately called the Time by everyone in town, is in dire need of his special skills. 

As an on-the-air journalist, Emory Fleming is making a name for himself and getting noticed. He’s back in Clear River at the local network affiliate, preparing for the move up to a major market in a few years. When Calvin Lawson rolls back into town, Emory’s stunned. The old pal he worked with at the Time kept a big secret - he’s gay. All the fantasies Emory had as a teenager about Calvin suddenly become real as he and Calvin reconnect and quickly become lovers.

Calvin’s planned restoration of the Clocktower Theatre may not be a practical possibility. He has to secure a lot of funding to do the job properly, and money is tight everywhere. When Emory’s big break comes faster than anticipated, Calvin sees only one option - step aside so Emory will accept the job he’s always wanted. It doesn’t take Emory long to figure out why Calvin walked out, and put in action a plan to win him back before the doors of time close between them permanently. 


Emory leaned forward. “Okay, Calvin. Spill it. Just what do you plan on doing with the Clocktower Theatre once it’s been restored to its former glory?”

Calvin laughed softly and sipped his coffee. With slow deliberation, he sat the cup down. “That would be getting the cart way before the horse, wouldn’t it?”

Emory grinned and teased his friend. “You always did play hard to get.”

Instead of laughing again, the smile faded from Calvin face. Emory backpedaled. “I was teasing you, Calvin, so don’t take that too seriously.”

Calvin licked his lips, his eyes dark and serious as he leaned forward. “You don’t know me the way you think you do, Emory.”

They’d not seen each other in years. Calvin didn’t know the older version of him, either. It would take some time for them to catch up on everything, but Emory knew him well enough to know there was a hidden meaning in his words.

“So why don’t you tell me what it is I don’t know, and what is I should know?”

“Not tonight. It’s been a long day and I’m still a little tired from driving in from Kansas. I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early.”

Emery had no choice but to agree. He and Calvin were friends, and sometimes that meant not pursuing a subject. Besides Calvin was right, they would see each other in the morning.

“Okay, you win. I’ll rein in my curiosity until morning.”


“You don’t know what do when someone acts all gentlemanly toward you, do you?”

Emory reached out and squeezed his shoulder. “Not really, but I’m willing to work on it.” He climbed into the car and Calvin closed the door.

If he were lucky, his knees wouldn’t buckle as he walked around to the driver’s side of the Charger and got the vehicle moving.

It wasn’t news to Calvin that Emory liked to lead, but some habits were hard to break. From an early age, his mother had drilled polite manners into him. A man opened doors, carried packages, pulled chairs out from tables, and held umbrellas. As far as Calvin was concerned, being genteel applied to gay men as much as straight guys. But maybe Emory didn’t see it that way.

“I won’t open the door for you if it makes you that uncomfortable.”

Emory pulled his keys out of his pocket and fidgeted with them. “It’s been a long time since anyone did it. It’s not all good memories, Calvin.”

Had one of those older men who swarmed around Emory hurt him? “What’s that mean, or don’t you want to tell me?”

“As a younger man, I seemed to attract a macho element intent on making me their bitch.” 

Emory looked at him and lifted his hands, palms up. “And there you sit, only gay for a few hours.”
Calvin snorted. “Disconcerting, isn’t it?”

“You don’t know the half of it. I mean, I tell you you’re dessert and that makes you decide to have dinner with me?”

Calvin parked the car beside Emory’s little sports coupe. “I was leaning toward dinner without dessert, but your way sounds more interesting.”

Emory scrambled from the car as he reached for the door handle. “I’ll leave your name at the front desk.”

Calvin hurried after him and blocked his escape into his own ride. “Wait a second! What are you scared of, Emory?”

“Feeling sixteen and clueless again.”

He was familiar with what Emory described. He had a case of it right now, but Calvin wasn’t going to let it stop him. He’d thought about Emory for so many years, and in the blink of an eye, he had a chance. Even if he screwed it up royally, he had to take his shot. Calvin cupped the back of Emory’s neck and kissed him.

ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-360-4
Contemporary gay romance available now at

KC Kendricks
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Looking for some Sexy Christmas Romances to read?!

Looking for Some Sexy Christmas Romances?! Well, I have a couple! One is hot and erotic, the other is sweet and sexy! Hope you'll check them out!


I love writing holiday theme stories, especially Christmas ones, so when I came up with the idea for a story about a hero and heroine who get locked in their office building for the night, I thought why not have them end up there because they sneaked off during the office Christmas party for a little nookie and some sexy spanking?!

She's going to get exactly what she wants for Christmas!

Hollie Kerr has lusted after hot architectural engineer Dirk Fraser ever since they started working together, so she’s thrilled to discover he’s her Secret Santa at the office Christmas party. What she doesn’t know is that her friend has led him to believe Hollie prefers a good spanking over a boring, old present any day.

Though Hollie is surprised when Dirk put her over his knee, she can’t pass up the opportunity to get spanked by a hunky guy like him. Her upturned bottom isn’t the only thing that gets hot, however, and soon they’re having sex right there in the office. By the time they come up for air, the party has wrapped up, their coworkers have left and the building is locked up tight.

What’s a girl supposed to do when she’s trapped all night in the office with a gorgeous guy? Have sex in all the places she’s ever fantasized about, of course!

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I love writing holiday romances, especially Christmas-themed ones, but when my hubby (who is also my writing partner!) suggested we write a story about one of Santa's Elves, I was like, "You're kidding, right?" Silly of me, actually. I mean, we pulled off a zombie romance in DEAD SEXY, which turned out to be an EPIC Award Finalist, by the way. Hubby still had to do some convincing, but he did it, and as we outlined the story, I completely fell in love with the heroine Sosie, a guileless elf who doesn't fit in up at the North Pole and ends up stranded in NYC on Christmas Eve where she meets and falls head over heels for a hunky cop. I think you'll fall in love with her, too!

Happy Reading!

Being one of Santa’s elves isn’t all sugar plums and candy canes.

At least not for Sosie. Taller than the other elves, she’s always had a problem fitting in at the North Pole, so when the transport sled she’s on breaks down in New York City on Christmas Eve, she can’t resist slipping away to explore the world of the “big people.” While she’s having fun, the transport sled takes off, leaving the na├»ve elf stranded.

Fortunately, handsome police detective Derek Clayton comes to her rescue, offering to let her stay at his apartment. Having heard horror stories about the big people, Sosie is both surprised and relieved to meet such a kind, sweet man. Not to mention one so gorgeous and well-built.

Even though Sosie expects the North Pole to send out a search party any day, she finds herself falling for Derek. She desperately wants to tell him she’s an elf, but knows he’ll never believe her. When the lies and omissions start to pile up, Derek can draw only one conclusion—Sosie is working for the mob boss he’s been after for years.

Just when things seem like they can’t get any worse, the chief of elfin security shows up to drag Sosie back to the North Pole. How is a runaway elf supposed to overcome a determined security elf, dangerous mobsters and a suspicious boyfriend all while keeping her pointed ears a secret?

Read an Excerpt!

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Happy Reading and Merry Christmas!


Sexy Romantic Fiction!

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New Release: Out of the Cold (New Year's Erotic Romance)

Geeky Amira is desperate for fun. When she meets Keith at a first aid training course, she sneaks a peek at his registration form to get his email address. After exchanging some very naughty notes, they plan a get-together on New Year's Eve… but the man she meets up with isn’t Keith at all! Will Amira ring in the New Year with her online romance, or will she be left out in the cold?

WARNINGS: This title contains graphic sexuality, explicit language, and big surprises.


All week, Amira had postponed making contact. 
Not today; it’s Christmas Eve.

Wouldn’t want to interrupt his Christmas dinner.
Can’t now, it’s Boxing Day.

When she pictured Keith’s large hazel eyes contoured with thick, long lashes, and imagined standing on tip-toes to kiss him, she was more determined than ever. His caring gaze could melt the icicles from the eaves. She imagined those eyes staring back at her from the computer screen. The time was nigh. Now, where to begin?

Hello Keith.
No, too formal.
Hey Keith.
No, too casual.
Hi Keith.

Yes, that was perfect! Pulling her curly hair into a ponytail, she stared at the body of her email. Okay, so she had the first two words. What next?

Hi Keith,
My name is Amira. We met last week at the first aid training session. I was just wondering if maybe you might remember me?

Man, this attempt at flirtation was “like, so totally boring,” as her little sister would say. Amira scrapped it all and started over.

Hi Keith,
Amira here, from the first aid course. I’m sure you must remember me, because I can’t stop thinking about you.

Well, how was that for ridiculous? There was no way good, quiet, respectable Amira could send anything so silly. It wasn’t her.

Although, come to think of it, good, quiet, respectable Amira never had much fun, did she? And why not? Because she was too afraid of looking foolish? Of being turned down? What kind of a reason was that to always play it safe?

Everybody needed a little bit of fun in life, and after years of self-denial, Amira was desperately craving amusement. Why not, just this once, tell someone what she was really thinking? If Keith thought she was a total moron, that was fine. She would probably never see him again anyway. But if Keith had the same thing in mind, Amira’s life might just become a lot more exciting…


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I was born in London, England, and while I’ve thought many times about setting a story there it hasn’t happened until now. Raindrops And Roses is the first in my London Calling Series. I’m planning to continue Drew and Michael’s story in The Holly And The Ivy (tentative title), and then follow it up with Simply Irresistible—a story in which the main character discovers his new lover is connected to his brother’s mysterious disappearance. After that will be the story of two men who met at a train station some years ago and had a brief, one-night affair, then some years later meet again by chance.


Raindrops And Roses
by Christiane France

ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-356-7 (Electronic)


The day before Drew McEvoy is to fly home, following a temporary work assignment in London, he trips going down the stairs to a teashop and is saved from injury by the quick thinking of Englishman Michael Dawson. Michael can see Drew is a little shaken up by the incident, so invites him to sit at his table to catch his breath and offers to buy him a cup of tea.

The chemistry is there from the word "go." Drew doesn’t know if it’s a momentary thing, or if it could turn into something more, but there’s not enough time for him to find out. All he can do is hold onto the moment and stretch it out to the very last drop.

But Michael surprises Drew by inviting him to have a drink at his flat and then go for dinner. Drew knows the most they can have is a few hours, that this time tomorrow they’ll be thousands of miles apart. Should he risk spoiling their brief time together by telling Michael that? Or would it be better to keep his mouth shut? After all, they’re just ships passing in the night, right?

NOTE: This story is part of the London Calling series.


…I don’t believe in insta-love or what some call love at first sight. But sometimes the chemistry between two people is so strong and so compelling it’s overwhelming. A time when normal commonsense takes a vacation and anything approaching rational thinking goes along with it for the ride.

For me, this was one of those times. And I knew he felt it, too. That’s why we continued to sit here, staring at one another like we were under a spell or something.

“Can I buy you a cup of tea?” he asked.

“Umm…” I tried to break eye contact and failed. I knew I was in trouble. If I had any sense, I’d make up an excuse and go, now, while I still had the chance. And do what? Wonder what if, wish I’d acted differently and then come back in the hope he was still here?

The waitress placed a pot of tea and a bowl of soup in front of Michael. “Your sandwich will be up in a minute,” she said before turning to me. “And what can I get for you, sir?”

“I…er…I don’t know. I…” I glanced around for inspiration, a menu, wishing I didn’t feel so unsure, so vulnerable, so completely unlike my normal self. I gripped the edge of the table in an effort to get my thoughts back on track. I don’t do flustered. I’m the calm, cool, collected type. The guy people turn to when things get out of hand and panic sets in.

“Bring him the same as what I’m having,” Michael interjected smoothly. “Thanks, Sara.”

The waitress left, and he reached under the table and laid a hand on my knee. “Are you alright?”

“I’m okay.” I forced a grin. “Just a tad discombobulated, as they say…”


Cool mysteries and hot romance -
Coming soon from Amber Allure: GETTING REAL


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Anniversary Excerpt: Missed (Mist)

Today is the one-year anniversary of Mist, my story about a woman who was kidnapped -- then escaped. Now it's time for her revenge ... but first she has to put her past behind her, if she can.

We approached a small huddle of people, many wearing hard hats and others apparently civilians, like Ned and me. I didn't recognize anyone, but that didn't surprise me. Ron and I had lived on the street for just two years and we were both busy and didn't socialize much. I left after the abduction and never came back and if what Bob Bertowski said was true, the neighborhood had fallen on hard times since then. The residents who lived here when I lived here were probably long gone.
I looked past the group of people and saw my house still standing, next in line for the wrecking ball, constructions workers scurrying around it and the other houses nearby. The house had aged badly. The dark blue paint was peeling and the upper sleeping porch sagged as though it would tumble down of its own accord any minute. The appearance surprised me. I still remembered it as I left it. At that time, it had been repainted to its former Edwardian glory with contrasting paint on the trim and porches. The sleeping porch was slated for replacement during the spring when we tackled the upstairs remodeling.
But spring came and went with no one there to oversee any repairs. I was deep into therapy and when I wasn't talking to a shrink, I was at the hospital with Ron. This was the first time I was back since that day when I was drugged and forcibly removed. I had never returned, not even to get clothing or personal effects. I found a furnished apartment near Ron's hospital and later his nursing home so I could spend time with him. After the police were done with the house, friends and volunteers came in and had the furniture and household goods moved to a storage locker. The only item of furniture I really cared about was my desk, a battered old drop-front that Ron bought me at an antique sale when we first met. The desk and whatever other things they brought out were still in the locker, ten blocks away. I wasn't sure I'd ever look at any of it again.
I followed Ned to a tall man holding a clipboard. "O'Malley," I said, looking at the list of names on the paper clipped to the board.
He put a check next to the name and gestured to a row of paper bags near the curb. "Blue bag," he said then turned to another person approaching him.
Ned picked up the brown bag with the blue square of construction paper stapled to the front. He opened it and peered inside then closed it quickly. "What is it?" I asked.
"Just stuff," he said. "Probably from the house."
One of the construction workers overheard. "We went through the house and picked up the stray things we found. Weren't sure if it was important or not."
"What could be left?" I took the bag from Ned and looked inside. Memories flooded me. A small, grinning stuffed pumpkin that used to sit on top of the television. The broken remnant of a cat statue my mother gave me on my tenth birthday. The remote control to the DVD player. A tattered scarf, the 'tug toy' Ron used to tease Molly into a tug-of-war. And there was Molly's cloth Raggedy Ann doll, the worn and grubby thing that Molly carried with her wherever she went. I pulled it out and touched the crusty, bloody stain on Ann's leg. Molly used to sleep with Raggedy Ann, wrapping her doggy legs around the doll and resting her pug head on Ann's head so it looked like they were both dreaming together.
Ned took the doll from me and stuffed it back in the bag. "We'll look at it later," he said, jamming the bag under his arm. He nodded to the worker. "Thanks."
I nodded, too, unable to speak. Who would have thought, after all this time, that the memories could hurt so much? Ned tucked my arm under his and I leaned gratefully against him, his solid warmth and calm presence like a balm. Ned always provided a bulwark of comfort, silently there like a wall that I could lean on when I needed it. He didn't say anything, just walked with me a few steps away from the others where I stopped to stare at the house.
A few months ago a restoration group had contacted me, asking to purchase anything of authentic value in the home. I gave them my permission to gut the place once I knew the building would be razed. So now the windows were gone, the trim around the front porch had vanished, the decorative finials and fencing was torn away. I'm sure the inside looked as bereft as the exterior. The house stood like a poor sister stripped of her finery. I sighed as I remembered the work that went into the house. We hadn't even begun the upstairs restoration. It took us most of a year to do the downstairs, getting all of the historically accurate parts needed for a true rehabilitation of the old house. Ron was fussy about that, only buying reproduction work when he couldn't find authentic doorknobs, millwork, or flooring.
It wasn't just the house he restored. He made sure to purchase period furniture and furnishings, haunting antique shops and auctions around the country in order to find what he wanted. His wealth made such trips possible, of course. For Ron, money truly was no barrier to getting what he wanted. Those antiques were still in the storage locker, part of the estate contention I was fighting over with Ron's sister, Clarissa.
It was Ron's money and his connection to one of the wealthiest and famous families in Pittsburgh that first made the police assume I was simply kidnapped for ransom. It wasn't until days later, when no ransom note appeared, that they started to realize I was truly gone. And it wasn't until I escaped and another woman was kidnapped that they realized I had been a prisoner of a serial, sadistic rapist.
"Stand back, folks," someone said.
I started, surprised to find myself back in this place and time. Ned stepped to one side and I followed his lead as the crane moved forward, swinging a gigantic wrecking ball ponderously toward the house. There was one hesitant moment as I wondered if the house would withstand the pummeling then the front wall collapsed, dust and rubble shooting upward with a cracking noise, as though thousands of twigs were being trod on by a giant, careless child.
I jumped as the wrecking ball swung again, this time connecting with the south wall. That was the entryway into the mudroom from the garage, behind the house and in the alley. The walkway from the garage was a flagstone path edged with daffodils in the spring and daisies in the summer. I had plans for the back yard. I was going to put in a Victorian herb garden and an arbor. Ron and I took a trip to England, a combination of research and pleasure. The highlight of the trip was a visit to Sissinghurst, where I fell in love with the beautiful garden 'rooms.' I came home from that trip with plans to do something similar in our little plot of Pittsburgh soil.
"I thought you'd be here."
I turned when at the sound of a low, gruff voice behind me. Detective Eric Albert had aged in the three years since I saw him last, right before I left town for good. His dark brown skin seemed to hang in folds on his face, giving him the look of a bloodhound. He still shaved his head and his neck still disappeared into the lines of his shoulders, adding to his squat, linebacker image but he was heavier now than before, with some of the muscle going to fat. When I knew him, he was in his early sixties. A year after I left, I got a card from him, saying he had taken retirement. The Bridal Murders probably hastened his decision.
"Hi, Eric." I extended my right hand and after a brief hesitation, he took it and gave it a brisk shake. His gaze went to Ned. "This is Ned Buchanan," I said. "He's a friend."
Eric frowned, his bloodshot brown eyes assessing Nate in one long, sweeping glance. "Name sounds familiar."
"He was a friend of Ron's," I said in explanation. I looked beyond Eric to the ruins of my home, my shoulders hunched against memory and cold. "Ned and Ron were in the Marines together. Ned used to live in Pittsburgh, too."
"I investigated Carolyn's case." Eric glanced at me then his speculative gaze went back to Ned. "Maybe I talked to you back then."
Ned shook Eric's hand briskly. "I had lost touch with Ron. You probably didn't get around to me." He turned to watch the wrecking ball demolish my house, obviously closing the subject. Talking about Ron always shook Ned.
"When I found out you sold the house, I wondered if you'd come back. Then when I read it was being torn down, well, that's when I was sure I'd find you here." Eric's voice reflected sympathy and understanding. "You held out for a long time."
"They made me an offer I couldn't refuse." I tried to smile but it just wouldn't come. I had been playing a game for a long time and today I didn't want to play anymore. I just wanted to watch the last of my past life die before me, without witnesses to evaluate me or assess me.
"You worked the case? Have they found anything new?" Ned asked, releasing my arm and turning his back to the ruins of my home, his head tilted toward Eric, the angle of his body inviting Eric to turn and talk to him.
I silently blessed him for diverting Eric's attention. I let their conversation fade into the background as the last corner came crashing down at the back of the house. That had been my office, a cozy room with flowered wallpaper that faced west, shady in the summer from the maples and warm in the winter when the leaves were off the trees that lined our back yard. Molly used to love to curl up on the rug under my desk and doze, her snores like little pig snorts as she breathed through her pug nose.
Something pressed into my hand. I looked down and a tear fell off my chin. I raised the handkerchief Ned had given me and dabbed at my eyes. "Sorry," I mumbled.
"You go ahead and cry all you want," Eric said. His turned his face to the house as though offering me privacy. I glimpsed the telltale glistening of tears in his eyes, too. "All you want."

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