Millie: Venus and I have always clashed. Now she’s hell bent on rescuing our little sister, Katya. Which I agree with. Except I tried to get the bitch to go after Katya when we escaped, four years ago. Before I can kill Venus I get a look at the man standing behind her. Shadow. Talk, dark, and dangerous doesn’t begin to cover him. He’s hella big, with a wicked sense of humor that never seems to waver, no matter how much I insult him. He’s all that keeps Venus and me from tearing each other apart. And I want him. Oh, I pretend it’s just a fling, but Shadow has other plans. He’s also got some anger management issues we need to deal with. That’s OK, though. I have some issues of my own.
Shadow: I’m the rock of my club. The mild mannered one with a quick wit. But there’s a reason they call me Shadow, and it’s not the color of my skin or the way I blend into the night, so no one can see death coming. There’s a darkness in my soul. A rage that sometimes burns out of control. But then I meet my little Millie. She’s fierce in a tiny package. Can probably even take me in a fight. And I want her desperately.
“OK, then.” Millie sighed and stretched. “It’s eleven now. If we plan on going in at two, will that work for you?”
“I think so.” Millie watched as Shadow stood and stretched, too. She could see thick abs tenting his shirt as well as a defined chest. What would it feel like to run her hands over his body? To feel all that strength beneath her palms? God! Maybe Venus was right. Maybe she was a whore. Because she could totally see herself losing herself to this guy. Not her heart. Never that. But she’d love to find out how well his body could play with hers.
“Like what you see, sugar?” The man missed nothing. Millie’s face heated at the knowing smirk on his face.
“Well, you’re strong. Always a plus.” She tried to play it off, but his knowing she’d been ogling him only made her mouth water to look at him more. In her life, she’d never had a lover. Not really. She’d never trusted anyone enough to explore that side of her nature. It hadn’t kept her from looking at men — or women. She appreciated the beauty of the human body in all its forms. But to trust someone enough to be that vulnerable to them — mentally or physically — wasn’t something she was capable of. “But I don’t mix business with pleasure.”
“You afraid of proving Venus right?” His question was asked quietly, but she also heard a note of understanding in his tone.
“Venus has nothing to do with how I live my life,” she snapped. “I simply don’t trust you enough to do anything more than look.”
“Uh-huh,” he said, stepping closer to her. “That why you slept like a baby in my arms earlier? Don’t seem like something a warrior would do. And, make no mistake, you’re a fuckin’ warrior, Lyudmila.” He looked at her for long moments. Just staring at her. Looking for vulnerability in her eyes? “Yeah. You trust me,” he finally said, straightening to his full height. “You just don’t want to admit it to yourself.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erotic romance author by night, emergency room tech/clerk by day, Marteeka Karland works really hard to drive everyone in her life completely and totally nuts. She has been creating stories from her warped imagination since she was in the third grade. Her love of writing blossomed throughout her teenage years until it developed into the totally unorthodox and irreverent style her English teachers tried so hard to rid her of.
The daughter of an Indian raja and renegade Englishwoman, Sharda Holkar, was gifted with a magnificent dowry but little say in her future. Until now. She must endure one more depressing holiday season with her controlling cousins, then she will be free to begin her emancipated life. But her discovery of a plot to marry her off to the preening son of the house has Sharda wondering if her new start should begin at once. When Sharda meets the intriguing owner of a Highland castle at a Christmas Eve masquerade, she wastes no time in forming a plan—she will escape across the Scottish border!
Finella Forbes cannot imagine why a sophisticated heiress like Sharda would even associate with someone who manages a castle for a living, let alone accompany her all the way back to the Highlands in time for the raucous celebration of Hogmanay. But a wealthy buyer is just what Balintore Castle needs. Fin is determined to prove she is just as good an estate manager as her father, but with the negligent lordly owner refusing to do his duty, she needs help fast. When mistaken assumptions jeopardise their initial attraction, Sharda and Fin will need all the mischief and magic of a Highland holiday to discover the true nature of their feelings.
“It’s getting quite sticky in here, isn’t it? Don’t these people perspire a lot in their ridiculous costumes? But the fools will insist upon picking characters that require false beards and headwraps and the lot. What do they expect?”
Mr Edward Pilkington watched the white-masked Pierrots and Pierrettes rotating around the Mayfair ballroom the same way he looked at everything else—right down his upturned nose. Of course, on this occasion, he might just be stopping his own mask from slipping.
“I must say, I consider it in poor taste of Lady Belleville to host such a gaudy entertainment on Christmas Eve. There’s enough blinding décor in every home and shop window without humans dressing like a bunch of tinsel ornaments.”
Sharda thought the display of Venetian masks in gold, silver, and red rather complemented the miles of glittering white ribbon their hostess had threaded around her every enormous window and door. But five days of Edward’s persistent company had taught her to neither agree nor disagree with his frequent judgements as both fanned the flames of his perpetual dissatisfaction.
“Perhaps you now see, Miss Holkar, the wisdom of my selection of attire. A simple mask and fancywork vest, and perhaps a sash, is really all that is required on these occasions.”
“For women as well as men?”
Sharda’s costume took its inspiration from the opulent carnival style of Venetian women from the height of that city’s pomp and power two centuries back. Her square-necked black silk gown cut away to a blaze of scarlet underskirt. Tiny stitched-in crystals covered the tight scarlet front bodice as well as her matching silk hat. Jutting out over one eye, the bold topper terminated in a cascade of black feathers that brushed her black half mask. Edward’s mother, one of Sharda’s inexhaustible supply of second and third cousins, had tried to convince her to wear what that lady was pleased to call her “native finery.” But when Sharda had insisted on purchasing a new costume for the ball, Lavinia Pilkington had graciously conceded that the Venetian style looked well on Sharda, for “many ladies of the Italian peninsula are quite of your complexion, my dear.”
The lady’s son was equally talented at giving compliments.
“A bit of exotic finery is not amiss on a woman. Provided she’s young, of course. There’s nothing more displeasing than an old woman got up like the Queen of Sheba. Now, perhaps I can see if these insolent Turks of footmen have some iced sherbet. You must be awfully hot in all your…” The gentleman gestured to Sharda’s hat. “Er, not that you look to any disadvantage or are…” The gentleman sought in vain for an acceptable substitute for sweating.
Sharda suddenly wished she had selected a full mask to hide her private mirth. She should not find it so amusing when Edward remembered, too late, that he was trying to woo her. Though maybe if she did not find the clumsy courtship so funny, she might cry.
“Or perhaps you would like to take the air in the garden, Miss Holkar? And escape this dreadful crush.”
“They seem to have brought much of the garden in here, Mr Pilkington.”
She gratefully caught the crisp scent of the evergreen branches that wrapped every available railing in Lady Belleville’s house. A delicious freshness that made one forget one was in London.
“Hmm, yes, quite. But then you don’t have the same animal noises outside, of course. It’s much easier to talk.”
She had not noticed the noise of the ballroom impairing his ability to talk in the slightest. But she knew what type of conversation he had in mind. He wasn’t the first young man to try to negotiate her out onto a cool veranda.
“Perhaps I would like an ice, Mr Pilkington. If you would be so kind.”
“Yes, of course… Though it will be a dreadful ordeal making my way over to the refreshment area now… No matter. I will see that you get your ice…my lady.”
Sharda took a few calming inhales of the pine-and-wood-polish scent of the Belleville townhouse. Now she could face Lavinia Pilkington, a spare lady fluffed up with a great deal of feathers, descending upon her beside a very grand person in purple.
“Here she is, Lady Belleville. I thought we should have to send some of your splendid footmen in search.”
“That might have proved difficult. I have my own runaway to locate, Mrs Pilkington. My wretched nephew.”
Lavinia trilled a nervous laugh, unable to tell if this was a joke.
“This is my young friend, Miss Sharda Holkar, who is staying the holidays with us. Sharda, meet Lady Belleville.”
“I do like your hat, Miss Holkar. You need a bit of height for such a topper. I, alas, have always extended out rather than up. I do envy women who can carry off such plumage. You are enjoying the ball?”
“Yes, indeed, ma’am.”
“And you’ve been dancing?”
“Oh dear, I do like young people to dance.”
“Do not worry, your ladyship. I am sure my son Edward will do the honours soon.”
“Excellent. Now, you must excuse me, for I hear my dear husband’s growl even now. I should make at least a half-hearted attempt to save my guests from his best Scrooge impersonation, should I not?”
Sharda and her cousin each dipped a curtsy—Lavinia’s embarrassingly low—to their hostess as she moved back into the crowd like the prow of a ship easily carving a path through lesser crafts. Sharda was left stranded on an island of two.
“I do hope you truly intend to dance as you promised Lady Belleville. And what did you think of her ladyship? Quite a superior person, I think, but Edward says she wears too many jewels for true breeding. I only wish I had such a problem! Whatever is taking Edward so long, do you think?”
Lavinia had a fidgety manner that made it impossible to relax in her company. After nearly a week as her guest, Sharda was almost as high-strung as her hostess. The prospect of enduring even another five minutes with this wearisome woman was unbearable. Especially as her only reward would be to eat a melted ice and then dance in Edward Pilkington’s sticky grip.
“He promised me he would return very soon. Perhaps I might wait for him in the garden, Mrs Pilkington?”
Lavinia’s eyes glittered behind her feathered mask.
“Ah, yes, that would be an excellent idea. It is far too noisy and hot in here.”
“Should you like to come with me, cousin?”
“Oh, no. No, no. I declare I see my dear friend Mrs, er…Bamtree just over there. But you go right ahead, my dear.”
Meg moved from the US to England because she fell in love with the Victorians’ peculiar blend of glamour and grime. After a decade of exploring historical excesses in a prim scholarly fashion, she realized that fiction is the best way to delve into that period’s great female-focused and LGBT+ stories. Weaned on the high-seas romances of the 1990s, Meg’s lost none of her love for cross-dressing cabin boys but any tolerance for boorish heroes. She’s delighted to now have a whole raft of quirky and queer characters to cheer for on their quest for Happily Ever After. She frequently breaks off writing for an Earl Grey tea (milk not lemon). She’s trying to learn Polish and Portuguese at the same time. She plans to escape Brexit Britain.
Vivian, an adrenaline junkie and U.S. Army veteran, goes about her life as a bartender, avid runner, and polyamorous lesbian. Her life in Sacramento, California, is going well until she is blindsided by unforeseen financial issues that lead her to consider a new career.
In an attempt to recharge and take a break, Vivian goes on a motorcycle trip with her best friend, Bear, but the adventure does not turn out to be the carefree break Vivian had hoped for. She returns to Sacramento where her partner, Ang, tries to push her down rather than help her pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, Vivian takes big steps with her other partner, Audre.
Vivian has an epiphany about what line of work she wants to pursue. As things start to stabilize, one of Vivian’s partners commits an act of grave violence, resulting in life-changing consequences for all concerned.
Surrounded by friends, Vivian turns over a new leaf and finally finds the contentment she has sought for a lifetime.
Sweat dripped and bass pulsed as hundreds of women writhed and bumped to the music. Tick, the club DJ, was killing it. The vibe was so good that I was high on it. There was a line at my station ten people deep, customers jostling for position while dancing and shuffling forward each time I finished a drink order. One of my regulars stepped up and waved a twenty-dollar bill at me. She was in her forties, sporting a bowler hat and forearm tats.
“Viv, show me them titties and tats!” she shouted over the thumping and chatter.
I had already stripped down to my sports bra, with my beater hanging from the back pocket of my Dickies. It was hot for April, and the press of sweating, dancing bodies had made the nightclub a sauna.
“Aw, Tig, you know I can’t do that,” I said with a smirk and turned my back to the crowd. Behind the bar was a wall-to-wall mirror. I gyrated my hips to Bubba Sparxxx’s “Ms. New Booty,” which had become a club favorite. I made eye contact with Tig in the mirror as she jumped to the beat, still waving the twenty-dollar bill at me. Shoving down the shyness that crept up, I slapped on the façade of the confident butch barkeep I wore to work. I pulled my sports bra up, just a bit.
She hollered to her friends, “She’s doing it, she’s doing it!”
Amidst the chaos, they leaned to the side to see my reflection in the mirror, their mouths agape, eyes laser focused on me. I kept the tease up for a minute, dancing to the song, pulling my bra up a bit and lowering it again. Each time I lowered it, there was a chorus of “Awwwww’s” behind me. I finally relented and pulled my sports bra completely off. Their hoots and hollers made me grin, and I continued dancing for myself in the mirror.
Just as the song was ending, a bright light flashed in the mirror, reflecting straight into my eyes. I traced the light back along the mirror and saw it was coming from near the front door. Buck, our bouncer, stood on the rungs of her barstool by the door, flashing her Maglite at me. When we made eye contact, she tapped the top of her head three times, which was the sign that the cops were coming. I shimmied back into my sweaty sports bra, which was no easy feat, and turned back to my customers.
Tig pulled me into a hug across the bar. She tucked the bill into my waistband, her rough fingers lingering far too long on my skin. “Thanks, Viv. Looking good. Those tits and tats, you are so fucking hot. If I weren’t married, things’d be different.”
I patted her cheek and ended the hug, doing my best to keep my cool and stay in my role.
“Good to see you, Tig. The usual?”
She nodded and I poured her an Irish Car Bomb. She slapped some more cash on the bar, dropped the shot glass of whiskey and Bailey’s into her pint of Guinness, and chugged the whole frothing mess while her crew cheered her on. She slammed the pint glass down, wiped her mouth on her bare arm, belched, and disappeared into the fray.
Jen, the barback, bounced up to me with her usual level of cheer, and began unloading glasses fresh from the washer. “Tig still trying to get into your pants?” Her voice dripped with disgust as she fingered the American Spirit cigarette tucked behind her ear.
“Always.” I uncapped some beer bottles and rang up my next customer. “You know, I’ve been doing this job a few years now, and know that there’s a certain level of shit we have to put up with if we want those tips. And I need those tips. But it’s getting less amusing when people forget we are human and not a piece of meat.”
Jen nodded knowingly. “How much did she give you this time?”
“Twenty bucks. More generous than usual. She must have just gotten paid.”
“Well, don’t include it when you tally up your tips tonight. When you tip me out, I don’t want any of that. You earned it.” There was a pitying turn to Jen’s lips, and I nodded at her slowly.
We turned to watch as the police pushed their way past the line of women waiting to get into the club. Buck stopped them in the entryway at her lectern. She stood tall, her perfectly pressed uniform shirt tucked into her Wranglers. Jen slapped my ass and hustled back out to gather up empty glasses and beer bottles and likely drop her weed and pipe into one of the potted plants.
I spotted Sheila, our manager, mingling in the press of bodies and waved her down. I pointed toward the cops. She nodded and slithered her way through the crowd the way any seasoned bar or restaurant worker does. Sheila and Buck eventually convinced the officers to leave, which was a relief. Uniformed police in a queer nightclub were bad for business.
The frantic pace kept up until last call. Eventually Tick turned on the house lights and Buck worked her way around the place, breaking up lingering conversations with her usual: “You don’t have to go home, but ya can’t stay here.” As she escorted out the last couple and locked the doors behind them, I posted up on a bar stool and counted out my tips and cash drawer.
My hip itched and I remembered the money Tig had put there. I pulled the sweaty bill out of my waistband and dropped it into my tip bucket with disgust. The rant I had been holding back burst forth to no one in particular.
“Who do the fuck do they think they are, putting their hands all over us like they own us? Like we’re in a fucking petting zoo!”
“Pipe down, Viv.” Sheila lit a cigarette and watched us like a hawk as we counted the club’s money. I grumbled. “It’s just part of the job. It’s part of the atmosphere here. Remember what I told you way back on your first day?”
I turned and made eye contact with Sheila. Her brown eyes challenged me, a crinkle at the corners, her right eyebrow cocked just a hair. She took a long drag on her cigarette and blew it at me. She knew I was a runner and hated cigarette smoke, so I took it as a blatant sign of disrespect.
Speaking through clenched teeth I recalled, “On my first day you said: Know your place, stay in your role. Desirable. Flirty. Available but not attainable. Is that right?”
“Bingo.” She pointed a nicotine-stained finger at me. “If you don’t like it, you know there are a dozen other gals ready to take your spot. This is the only lesbian nightclub in Sac and it’s hoppin’. Adjust your attitude or get out.”
I went back to counting out my drawer. The bills were soggy with a combination of spilled beer and boob sweat. It was amusing how many women used their bras as a wallet, but at the end of the night the damp bills weren’t so cute.
My relationship with Sheila had taken several hits because I had disappeared on her a few times. Once friendly and warm, my boss now barely tolerated my presence, and only because I brought in big money. The customers loved me. Sheila would be an idiot to fire me, and clearly, she resented the fact.
Over the last two years I had beat a thieving customer to a pulp, disappeared because I had to go into hiding after witnessing a heinous crime, and gotten myself hospitalized with sepsis. My attendance at work hadn’t exactly been great because of all that, and Sheila didn’t seem to trust me anymore. Since returning from my bout with sepsis the previous year I hadn’t missed a single shift. That fact alone made me mad that Sheila hadn’t warmed back up to me. Work used to be one of my favorite places to be, Jen and Buck were some of my favorite people, but Sheila giving me the cold shoulder and my growing discontent with grabby customers were souring the pot.
Jen went about clearing the glasses, beer bottles, and trash that had been left all over the bar. Occasionally she would groan and announce whatever disgusting detritus she had found: used condoms and gloves tucked into the potted plants, puke in the corner, empty baggies, whippit canisters, and even someone’s thong underwear.
I finished my count, my drawer balancing out perfectly, and shoved it across the bar to Sheila. I grabbed my gear and walked into the back bar to find Jen and give her a cut of my tips. Buck unlocked the door and followed me out. We walked down Twenty-First Street, which was mostly deserted at the early hour, aside from the occasional person sleeping in a doorway. We reached my truck and I fished out my keys. Buck wasn’t much for small talk so when she cleared her throat, I was surprised.
“Things’ll settle down. Stick around.” Her gravelly voice tapered off as she gave my back a hearty thump, spun on her heel, and headed back to the bar.
“G’night, Buck.” She looked over her shoulder at me and nodded, her mullet flapping in the breeze.
Liz is a recovering workaholic who has mastered multi-tasking, including balancing a day job, solo parenting, writing, and finding some semblance of a social life. In past lives she has been a soldier, a bartender, a shoe salesperson, an assistant museum curator, and even a driving instructor.
Liz lives in the East Bay Area of California, and enjoys exploring nature with her son.
Kevin McNamara’s life after retirement is…fine. He has friends, a few consulting gigs, and an ex-wife he’s finally on good terms with. But when he meets an intriguing stranger–a rarity in close-knit Swanley, Massachusetts–in his apartment lobby, he can’t stop thinking about him or about the unexpected attraction that knocked him flat.
Awais Siddiqui never thought he’d want to come back to his childhood hometown, but when his grandmother falls ill, he’s the only one who can move back to help. Awais figures he’ll be back in a big city soon enough–but then a silver fox on his route catches his eye.
It’s never too late to accept a second chance at love.
As he trudged up the street toward his block, his building loomed ahead, five stories of forbidding concrete. His kids kept telling him he had to find a nicer apartment–he’d only meant for this one to be a stopping place after the divorce, but here he was fifteen years later, solidly into his retirement, still crammed into his tiny two-bedroom. It was fine. He didn’t have to mow a lawn, and most of the other residents were older people or divorced dads, so he fit right in. A few kids visited their fathers on weekends and livened things up, and it was close enough to downtown that he could walk to get whatever he needed. On less soggy, snowy days, a stroll home was appealing, but not after a four hour transit meeting in Boston and with gray slush soaking into his loafers.
As he pulled his keys from his pocket in the vestibule, ready to open the door to the lobby, tires crunched on the asphalt outside and he turned to see a mail truck pulling up. He pushed open the vestibule door and got ready to greet Doris–she’d been his mail lady for ten years, so she deserved a smile even if Kevin’s toes were numb. But instead of his compact, South Asian mail lady, he was surprised to see a man in a postal uniform standing on the sidewalk, tall, dark, and–well, attractive. He was staring at the front of the building, glancing down at the mail in his hands and back up again.
“Hi,” said the man. “This is 210 Washakum Avenue, right?”
Kevin nodded. “Yes, the two fell off the sign last week and nobody’s been by to fix it.” He wasn’t sure why he’d felt the need to explain and wished he hadn’t.
The man grinned, showing very white, very even teeth. They looked even brighter against his short beard and light brown skin, which even in December was a few shades warmer than Kevin’s ever got. “Great. I’ve got a couple packages here, and I really didn’t want to leave them out in all this wet.”
“Yeah,” said Kevin. “Um.” He glanced behind him at the door to his building’s lobby, feeling unaccountably flustered. “Doris usually leaves them inside. Is she not in today?”
The man nodded. “She took the day off, so I’m helping out. I can’t believe they approved the time. December’s usually a no-go for leave, you know? Busiest season for Santas like me and Doris.”
“I bet.” Kevin pushed the door open. “Here, I won’t let the door lock you out.”
“Oh, I’m sure Doris left me a key somewhere,” said the man. “Don’t want to hold you up. I’m helping deliver packages for my overtime, and I’m still learning the town.” He paused. “I’m Awais, by the way.”
“Kevin,” said Kevin. “And it’s fine. I’m happy to hold the door. I’m in no rush.”
“McNamara? Kevin McNamara, is that right?” asked Awais.
“How did you guess?”
Awais grinned again, this time showing a dimple in one cheek, barely visible under his close-trimmed beard. “You’ve got a package, man.”
Kevin swallowed as Awais gathered a tub of packages in his arms and brushed past him into the lobby. The door wasn’t wide and neither was the lobby. He set the tub on the floor and knelt beside it. His slacks hugged his thighs: they seemed tighter than the usual postal cut as he bent over. And was the foyer suddenly warm?
“Let’s see.” Awais dug in the tub, setting a few packages aside. Kevin stood awkwardly, still holding the door. Dropping it would be rude, and it would trap them together in the small space, but he’d been holding it open for what felt like a long time. “Okay. Here we go!” He pulled out a large manila envelope, stacked the rest of the packages back in the tub, and rose to his feet gracefully. He was slender, Kevin noticed, but his shoulders were broad enough that the small space was awkward with both of their nearly six foot frames crowding it. “Here,” said Awais, holding it out.
Kevin took it. His fingers brushed Awais’s, shockingly warm against his own chilled ones. “Thanks,” he said, putting a bit of his usual charm in his smile. He knew the effect it had on people, and maybe it would counteract the incredibly weird impression this guy was getting of him.
Awais smiled back. “No problem. Gift for the wife?”
Kevin blinked. “Um, no,” he said, flummoxed. “I’m single.” Divorced, he’d meant to say. But it was too late to correct himself without drawing attention to it.
Awais’s eyes widened for the briefest moment, then his smile stretched even further. He winked. “Well, the ladies are missing out then.” He slung his satchel back over his shoulder, brushing past Kevin again where he was standing, still holding the door like a chump. He smelled like snow and woods and a little bit of sweat. Kevin decided to pretend he hadn’t just smelled the guy. He couldn’t help it in the hot, steamy foyer.
Through the glass, Awais climbed back in his truck, slid the door closed, waved, and pulled away.
Kevin looked down at the envelope. He didn’t even remember what he’d ordered. He took a step backward and winced at the squelch. He’d completely forgotten about his soaked shoes.
For half-Sidhe billionaire Conal Donovan, rich people problems include an ex who’s an evil Fairy goddess named Siobhan. When Siobhan sends a team of werewolf terrorists to kidnap and torture him, he’s rescued by Helena Baker, African American, former FBI agent, and wolf-shifter. But Conal’s not out of the woods, because Siobhan has sworn to kill him, his sisters, and all his Sidhe friends. He and Helena decide the only way to protect the innocent is to focus Siobhan’s vicious jealousy on them by pretending to be lovers.
Helena Baker’s best friend is a gun inhabited by a retired death god, so she can handle werewolves. She’s less sure about the handsome white guy with the talking phoenix and the relentless commitment to protecting his sisters. Especially considering that she’s in her Burning Moon — the werewolf version of heat. Her pheromones make Conal just as interested in her as she is in him. But is their growing love real? And what will happen when the hormones wear off?
Love really shouldn’t be this complicated.
Publisher’s Warning: Master of Desire includes scenes of graphic violence and previous sexual abuse that may be triggers for some readers.
“You just ate. Last week you had two Fomorians and a troll.” Helena Baker turned the page, trying to concentrate on her romance novel. The roses that covered the arched wooden arbor cast cool, sweet-smelling shade over the pages. Maeve’s palace was surrounded by glorious gardens, and the arbor’s cushioned wooden bench was her favorite spot to enjoy them.
She glanced up from her book. The palace looming over the trees was breathtaking in its fluid Sidhe architecture, white marble blazing in the golden afternoon sunlight. I’m living in a Fairy tale. When she remembered she used to be an FBI agent, it was enough to give her psychic whiplash.
“That was last week. I’m hungry now.”
“What you are is bored.” Why wouldn’t he shut up? She was almost at the good part. Sexy, threatening Daegan was about to dominate Gideon. These days reading a BDSM romance was the closest she came to getting any. And she needed some. So, so bad. Her Burning Moon hormones were driving her insane. Swear to God, it gets worse every year.
“But it’s your job to provide for me.” His voice was way too close to a whine.
“My ‘job’ to keep you from killing people.” Turning the page, she glared down at him. “Would you please let me read my book in peace? Or do I need to put you in the Box?”
“All right, all right! You get so bitchy this time of year.” His tone brightened. “Maybe we could release some of that pent-up aggression by hunting a serial killer. Remember that DCN piece about those murders in…”
She held up one finger, frowning. “Hear that?”
“What?” Liam said.
“It’s the Box, calling your name.”
“That’s it!” Helena picked up the Desert Eagle and started to stuff him into the enchanted holster on her belt. “You’re getting quality time in the gun safe.” An hour in the Box would shut him up and give her a little privacy for a foursome with Daegan, Gideon and her new vibrator.
Liam promptly turned into a rocket launcher. She almost dropped him before she managed to get a good grip again. “The hell? You trying to shoot me in the head?”
“Of course not.” Lacking vocal cords — or a mouth, for that matter — he had to use magic to generate speech. “You’re my priestess.”
“For the last time, I’m not your damn priestess. I’m your keeper, and my job is to make sure you don’t kill anyone who doesn’t deserve to die. If I weren’t immune to magic, you’d be trying to convince me to shoot myself.”
“I’d never do that. You’re the best priestess I’ve ever had.”
“Yeah, in the sense I’m the only one you haven’t managed to kill. Yet.”
“I am a death deity.”
“A retired death deity. You swore to obey me, Liam. Change. Back.”
“Fine. Keep your flea collar on!” Sparks exploded, leaving behind a very ladylike Smith & Wesson with a pink grip.
Helena glared down at him. “Now you’re just being insulting.”
“Helena?” Maeve’s voice rang out over the garden, sharp and urgent. “Where are you?” Normally the Mother of Fairies could sense anyone on the palace grounds, but her magic rolled off Helena like water off a mallard.
Helena’s head snapped up as she rose from the bench, gun in hand. “Here! What’s wrong?”
“Werewolves have captured Conal Donovan.”
Liam cursed in a language that had been dead since the last ice age. Thrusting him into his belt holster, Helena leaped into a dead run. “Coming!” Conal Donovan might be a Changeling — half human, half Sidhe — but he’d also saved the life of Maeve’s granddaughter at considerable risk to his own. That was the kind of debt the Mother of Fairies took seriously. Since the goddess’s magic had no effect on werewolves, rescuing him would fall to Helena.
Maeve rounded a topiary unicorn and strode between towering mounds of Mageverse blooms toward Helena. Six feet, six inches of sculpted, regal beauty, the goddess radiated power like a storm front. Gleaming green hair fell around her shoulders, pulled back and bound with thin braids to reveal the elegant points of her ears. An emerald-green leather vest hugged her full breasts and bared powerful biceps, while matching leather pants and thigh-high boots made her muscled legs look even longer.
She was every bit the badass she looked, which was why the grim look on her face made Helena’s blood run cold. “What happened?”
“A team of werewolves broke into Conal’s house.” Maeve’s voice was clipped and crisp, but her peridot eyes held worry. “Essus was injured in the fight, but he managed to open a link to me. He says he can hear Conal screaming.” Her mouth tightened. “They’re torturing him.”
“How many wolves?” Helena thrust away the memory of blowtorch pain as fangs ripped into her belly. Looking down to see a coil of something red…
“At least ten. But there’s worse news.” Her jaw flexed. “I tried to open a gate and couldn’t.”
“Siobhan,” Liam spat. The magical geas that bound Maeve and her daughter insured neither could use magic in anything directly involving the other. It was a devil’s bargain from Maeve’s point of view, but she’d have agreed to worse to save her granddaughter. Otherwise Siobhan would have killed the little girl despite Conal’s efforts to save her.
Unfortunately, the geas did nothing to protect Conal, which was apparently why Siobhan had gone after him. She had an uncanny instinct for the best way to hurt her mother. But why now? Helena wondered. It had been thirty years, for God’s sake. Figure it out after you save the hostage. “We’ll take care of it. Where’s Conal now?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Knight’s romance writing career began in 1996, when she realized her dream of romance publication with Red Sage’s Secrets anthology. She is a New York Times best-selling author of more than fifty novels, novellas, and ebooks, including the Mageverse and Time Hunters series. Her career spans twenty plus years. Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine gave her a Career Achievement award in Paranormal Romance, as well as two Reviewers’ Choice awards for best erotic romance and best werewolf romance.
Angela is currently a writer, editor, and cover artist for Changeling Press. She also teaches online writing courses with SavvyAuthors.com. Besides her fiction work, Angela’s writing career includes a decade as an award-winning South Carolina newspaper reporter. She lives in South Carolina with her husband, Michael, a thirty-year police veteran and detective with a local police department.
Zoe — I would give my life to protect my son, and it nearly ripped my heart out when I learned the person I’d trusted with my most precious possession had turned on us. Luis is in trouble, held captive by the cartel, and there’s only one way I know to save him. Marry Dagger. He’s an outlaw, a biker, and hasn’t made it a secret that I’m not his first choice. Accepting him is one thing, but accepting his lover as part of the deal is harder for me. Until I end up falling for both of them. Dagger and Jared have shown me what it means to love someone, and I only hope they’ll have enough love for me and Luis as well.
Dagger — Being bisexual in a club full of alpha bikers means walking a fine line. They don’t care what I do behind closed doors, as long as I don’t flaunt that part of my life in front of them. The only way I could ever have an acceptable relationship with another man is if there’s a woman between us. I didn’t count on that woman being a sexy señorita with a little boy. It doesn’t take long for Zoe and Luis to wrap me around their fingers, and I can tell Jared is falling for them too. I have the family I’ve always wanted, and I’ll do anything to keep them safe. Even wage war with the Mexican cartel if that’s what it takes.
Jared — The Devil’s Fury are my family, the only place I’ve felt like I had a home in what seems like forever. The thought of jeopardizing that is the only thing holding me back from telling Dagger how I really feel. When I find out he’s married, the pain and anger nearly consume me. It never occurred to me he’d want to share Zoe, or that the three of us could be together permanently. But first we have to get Luis, her son, back, and end the threat that could take our family from us.
Warning: This book contains scenes of graphic violence, sexual scenes with MMF, MM, and MF pairing; and a darkness that some readers may find objectionable. Guaranteed HEA and no cheating.
I hunkered down in front of her, gripping her chin and forcing her to hold my gaze. What I saw pissed me off. Fear. Someone had terrified the shit out of her and I wanted a damn name. Even worse, now that she knew I wasn’t gay, she seemed afraid of me too. “Who tried to touch you?”
“I don’t know. It was dark and I couldn’t see their name on their…” She waved a hand at my chest. Even though I wasn’t wearing my cut I knew what she meant. “They were drunk, I think. But I got scared.”
I stroked her cheek with my fingers, noting how soft she was. I didn’t like that someone had frightened her, bad enough she came here thinking I was gay and wouldn’t touch her. I wanted to know who the fuck had gone after her. Everyone knew we were supposed to give these ladies a wide berth for now. Grizzly hadn’t decided what to do with them yet. The chunk of cash Ramirez had given the club meant they were here for the long haul, but we didn’t exactly have a good setup for a lot of single women, unless they were spreading their legs.
“How did you get away from him?” Jared asked. “Or did he stop when you said no?”
She paled and dropped her gaze, pulling free of my grasp. I looked over my shoulder at Jared and knew what he was thinking. Reaching for her, I ran my hands down her sides, then up the insides of her legs. She didn’t push me away, but I felt her shaking. I didn’t feel a weapon.
“Were you armed then and not now?” I asked.
Her gaze jerked to mine again. “What? No! I just… I kneed him between the legs when he didn’t want to let go. He kept telling me I’d like it and trying to pull up my dress. I didn’t like his attention.”
The way her cheeks burned it was almost as if… Whoa. I stood so fast I got dizzy, and took a few steps back. Was she a fucking virgin? I knew Griz said the women had worked in a sweatshop and not a brothel, but I’d figured there were guards of some sort sampling them on the side. Just thinking she was untouched both excited and fucking terrified me. I’d never been with an innocent before. The thought of being the first to touch her made my cock swell behind my zipper.
I couldn’t be here. Not right now. I tried to shake it off as I headed out of the bedroom, leaving her with Jared. He wouldn’t hurt her. Hell, he’d probably set her free and escort her back to the apartment where she was staying. Sweet thing like her had no business being around a guy like me. It was like offering a pure soul to the Devil.
I braced my hands on the kitchen counter, staring out the window over the sink. I didn’t think she’d tell anyone about what she’d seen, either time. Even if she did, I couldn’t imagine trying to scare her into keeping her mouth shut, not after hearing one of my brothers had already tried to hurt her. I couldn’t think of a single one who would force themselves on a woman, but if she was right and he’d been drunk, then he might honestly have thought she was playing hard to get. Might have even mistaken her for a club whore if he was sloshed enough.
Still, we needed to make sure those women stayed far the fuck away from the clubhouse once the sun went down. It wasn’t safe. I also didn’t trust the bitches who came here to spread their legs. If they caught wind of women living here, unclaimed ones, they’d raise hell and cause trouble. Just like that bitch Cheri had done with Dragon and Lilian. Demon had made an example of her, but we had some fresh blood coming through the doors these days. Might be time for a refresher on what happened if you fucked with someone, or any of the women under our protection. Wouldn’t matter that we were only offering those ladies a safe place to stay, the whores wouldn’t see it that way and would feel threatened or jealous.
Sometimes I had to wonder if things wouldn’t be simpler if I did just like men.
When Harley is writing, her motto is the hotter the better. Off the charts sex, commanding men, and the women who can’t deny them. If you want men who talk dirty, are sexy as hell, and take what they want, then you’ve come to the right place.
Would you give up everything — money, power, and even your old life — to save your marriage?
Realizing her obsession with her job is destroying her marriage — and her life — Million Dollar Millicent, real estate entrepreneur and all around bitch, books a fantasy vacation for herself and her husband Alex on a tropical playground planet. It’s a place where your deepest desires come true — even if you’re not sure what they are.
Alex has had enough of living with a hellcat who jumps at the sound of a ringing com unit. They’ve become a dysfunctional pair bond, and he’d give anything to have things the way they were when they were just poor students with no prospects. Worse, if Millicent knew his true fantasies, she’d be running, rather than trying to mend the breach between them.
But Millicent has some hidden fantasies of her own — and she and Alex aren’t as mismatched as they think.
Someone cursed Lena Austin with “may you have a life so full you’ll have many tales to tell your grandchildren.” Lena’s a “fallen” society wench with a checkered past. She’s been a licensed minister, hairdresser, Realtor, radio DJ, exotic dancer, telephone service tech, live-steel medievalist swordswoman, BDSM Mistress, and investment property manager. Not necessarily in that order. She never finished that degree in marine archaeology, but did learn to scuba — she’s got a lifetime of “Research material!”
Hey, why waste these stories on kids who won’t listen anyway? Writing them down is a nice way to spend her retirement. What? You expected an ex-BDSM Mistress to take up crocheting or something?
What better way for Harley to celebrate her birthday than with a book release?
Cover Art by Bryan Keller
Lilian — I may have survived my time with the Colombian cartel, but it nearly broke me. Even now, I can’t stand to be touched by men. But there’s one man who makes me feel safe. Dragon. He’s intrigued me for so long. I never counted on things getting heated between us, or me ending up pregnant. He made it clear he doesn’t want me, or a baby, so I ran. I thought I’d found sanctuary with the Reckless Kings, but it only put me in the crosshairs of a lunatic intent on revenge.
Dragon — I knew Lilian was still skittish with men. When she asked for my help in learning self-defense, I’d been surprised. I never counted on those lessons bringing us closer together, or that she’d ask the unthinkable of me. Now she’s carrying my kid, and I f***ed up six ways to Sunday. When she’s kidnapped, I realize it’s time to bring her home. My home. Whatever it takes, I’ll make sure Lilian knows she’s mine. Even if I have to grovel a little.
WARNING: This is a romance with darker themes that may trigger some readers. It has strong language and graphic violence, a heroine who is tougher than she realizes, and an alpha hero who will stop at nothing to make her his. If you’ve read this author’s work before, please be advised Dragon is more violent than the previous books. Guaranteed HEA and no cliffhanger!
I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to use what little money was in my account to stop at a motel. I pulled over for another break and used my phone to look up the Reckless Kings, hoping there would be some mention of exactly where they were located, or at least which town. When my phone rang, I nearly dropped it. Outlaw.
Oh hell. Did that mean he knew where I was? Would he tell my dad? Of course he would. Outlaw was nothing if not loyal to the club, which meant he was loyal to Grizzly. I answered, dread filling me.
“Lilian, you are in so much fucking trouble right now. Why the fuck are you in Tennessee?”
I did drop the phone that time, and scrambled to pick it back up. “What? I-I’m not.”
“Yeah, darlin’, you are. I can trace your phone and your car. Didn’t tell anyone shit just yet, though. Needed to talk to you and make sure you were okay. Want to tell me what’s going on?” he asked.
“I’m pregnant, Outlaw. Shella told Dad and I could hear through the phone how pissed he was. I left because I didn’t want…” I stopped, not knowing if everyone knew about Dragon now.
“You didn’t want Dragon to get into trouble with the Pres?” he asked.
“Too late. Griz ripped him a new one, then started pounding on him, until he discovered you were missing. When Shella called to tell him you’d taken off, it scared the piss out of him. Everyone’s been out searching. Told them you must have shut off your phone because I couldn’t find you. No one knows I can track your car except me, or that I lied about your phone being off.”
I swallowed the knot in my throat. “How angry is Dragon?”
“I’m not sure angry is the word. He yelled something about a morning after pill to Griz, and then your dad hit him. I think he’s more shocked than anything.” Outlaw sighed. “Look, I get it. Running seemed like the best option, but you need to come home. Grizzly is losing his damn mind.”
“Please don’t tell him where I am, Outlaw. I need some time. I was trying to find the Reckless Kings, hoping they’d let me stay there a few days at least. Maybe my dad will cool off by then, and it will give Dragon time to…” I wasn’t sure what it would give him time to do. He’d told me to get that pill. I’d known he didn’t want me to end up pregnant, even when I’d said I didn’t think I could. Well, it seemed that I could and I did. If he didn’t want kids, then I wouldn’t force him to be part of my child’s life, but I wouldn’t give up my baby.
“You’re putting me in a sticky spot, Lilian.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. I’m not ready to face either of them. I know my dad is mad because Shella made it seem like Dragon forced himself on me, but he didn’t. When he gets angry, he doesn’t always listen, and I need him to hear me when I talk to him.” Or I could just keep running and never go back.
“I’ll text you the location of the Reckless Kings, but their Pres is probably going to call Griz the second you get there. I’m not sure how much of a safe haven it will be for you.”
“Thank you, Outlaw.”
Praise for Dragon – What are ARC readers saying?
“I’ve got a girl crush! Lil is just amazing, sweet, fierce, and strong! She is by far my favorite so far. Harley Wylde always leaves me wishing she could write even faster. This is definitely in the reread pile…”
— 5 Stars from Korivee, BookBub Review
“I absolutely loved this book. While it was a little darker then the rest of the books. I loved that. Sometimes darker is a good thing. It gives you a different way of the story. I loved Dragon but at the same time I wanted to smack some sense into him. I loved Lilian and Dragon for each other. I totally recommend this book for all to read.”
Harley Wylde is the International Bestselling Author of the Dixie Reapers MC, Devil’s Boneyard MC, and Hades Abyss MC series.
When Harley‘s writing, her motto is the hotter the better — off the charts sex, commanding men, and the women who can’t deny them. If you want men who talk dirty, are sexy as hell, and take what they want, then you’ve come to the right place. She doesn’t shy away from the dangers and nastiness in the world, bringing those realities to the pages of her books, but always gives her characters a happily-ever-after and makes sure the bad guys get what they deserve.
The times Harley isn’t writing, she’s thinking up naughty things to do to her husband, drinking copious amounts of Starbucks, and reading. She loves to read and devours a book a day, sometimes more. She’s also fond of TV shows and movies from the 1980’s, as well as paranormal shows from the 1990’s to today, even though she’d much rather be reading or writing.
BRISTOL – When I met Torque, I didn’t expect more than a steamy one-night stand from the sexy-as-hell biker. His bedroom eyes. His wicked smile. His sinful body. I couldn’t resist him. It was only supposed to be one time. He didn’t do repeats, and I wasn’t looking for more. Until our night together had consequences – the kind that lasts eighteen years. Torque might be phenomenal between the sheets, but I wasn’t too sure the bad boy biker was daddy material.
TORQUE – The hot blonde with the lush curves and naughty mouth had given me a wild, wicked ride. A man could drown in her seductive eyes, but I never go back for seconds, no matter how tempting Bristol might be. Then she storms back into my life with news that sends me off kilter. I hadn’t planned to keep her, but now that she’s having my kid, there’s no way I’m letting her go. She’ll be mine whether she likes it or not.
*WARNING: This book is recommended for ages 18+ due to sexual content, strong language, and darker undertones.
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also available in paperback and large print paperback
The biker at the bar had held my attention since I’d walked through the door. There was a group of bikers, all wearing the colors of the Wicked Mayhem MC. Whispers around town said they were dangerous, and many gave them a wide berth. I’d always loved the thrill of a bit of danger, or rather dangerous men. The one on the end was captivating, a stark contrast to the blond man on his right, his swarthy skin and dark hair made my fingers itch to touch him. I hadn’t seen a sexier man before, not even on the covers of books.
I held back, watching as other women approached. Each was sent on their way, and none too gently. Mr. Sexy shook off a desperate looking redhead, a sneer on his lips. All right. The direct approach wouldn’t work with this one. Either he wasn’t here for a good time, or he didn’t like clingy women. I adjusted the top of my dress, so the girls were on display, then sauntered over to the bar, being sure to press against his side. Before he could send me on my way, I leaned over and lifted my hand.
“Bartender! I need a drink.” The man shifted, his arm brushing my nipples. I turned my gaze to him, trying to look surprised. “I’m so sorry. It’s just so crowded. I didn’t mean to practically crawl into your lap.”
His gaze skimmed over me, stopping to take in the swells of my breasts. He shifted again, turning to face me a bit more. Before I could step back, he’d pulled me between his legs, my back to his chest.
“If you want his attention so badly, you could tug that dress down a little more.” His voice was deep and raspy, sending chills down my spine.
“I wanted a drink. I wasn’t offering a lap dance.”
His fingers skimmed up my thigh and toyed with the hem of my body-hugging dress. “Wearing something like this? You seem to be offering more than just that. Makes a man think maybe you’re what’s on the menu for tonight. That it, babe? Want me to lift this scrap of fabric and fuck you right here and now?”
I gasped, but it wasn’t in outrage. No, his words were setting me on fire. I’d always loved a man who could talk dirty, and I had a feeling this biker bad boy could back those words up with his actions. He didn’t seem like the type who would be shy about whipping out his dick in the middle of a crowded bar or club.
He turned us that my belly was to the bar, but I was still firmly pressed to the front of him. He slid his hand around my hip, under the edge of the bar and out of sight. I felt his fingers sliding up my inner thigh and my heart started to hammer in my chest.
“I’m betting a woman like you came here without panties on. Were you a naughty girl and came out nearly naked?” he asked.
I tipped my head back and bucked against his hand. “Why don’t you find out?”
Refusing to believe loving another man is wrong, these werewolves fight to build their own pack.
Male of the Species: Devin Grant is an alpha on a mission. Rejected by his pack, Devin finds himself alone. A chance meeting with fellow outcast Quinn Alexander starts him on the path to forming his own pack. Along the way, he makes an enemy — the unscrupulous leader of a black arts coven — and unexpectedly finds his mate, human Ryan Mitchell. With strength and courage, Devin works to win his mate and build his pack — until a stunning betrayal threatens to cost Devin not only his mate, but his humanity.
Transcending Darkness: Is it possible to start a new life with a bang… or rather, a spanking? For Owen Connors that’s just what it takes. When Owen ignores him in favor of a strong and charismatic alpha werewolf, Sam realizes it’s time for a change. For Owen, he’ll take charge and become the dominant, decisive lover Owen needs.
Kate’s love of books started from the moment she read those fateful words: run, Spot, run! It took her awhile to discover that she didn’t have to just read and imagine, but that she could also write stories and so here she is writing romance and loving it. Like chocolate – her ultimate favorite food, with pizza running a close second – writing became addictive. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary or science fiction about werewolves, otherworldly creatures or the average Joe, she can’t get enough.
As for the everyday details, Kate lives in a turn of the century house located in the midst of Indiana farm country, and is kept company by family, along with demanding dogs, contrary cats and a pair of occasionally sweet, and definitely noisy, lovebirds. When not writing, she reads, is an enthusiastic grower of iris, and a fanatic fan of Japanese manga and anime.