First Chapter Friday

Dear Readers and Fans:

It is First Chapter Friday! It is my turn to share! Proudly I present to you, the opening chapter from my own work in progress, ‘Hunter’s Claim’. Feedback welcome. Do enjoy!

Peace,
Emily

Chapter One

A strong, well-remembered hand closed around Charlie’s automatically outstretched right. Then the man before Charlie pushed that hand aside and grasped Charlie’s left, white cane and all.

Charlie laughed as lean, muscular arms pulled him close and tightened around his back. It was Luis. His nose had been right.

“I was planning to see you here,” Luis whispered in Spanish, his voice richer than the thrum of the best-played bass. “But I didn’t think it would be so soon.”

Charlie drank in Luis’s scent, relishing how Luis held him. Then he pulled back slightly, though he was still safe in Luis’s embrace. “It’s good to see you.” That was an understatement, and he was hard-pressed not to resume the kisses he’d run from in March. He had no right to such a warm welcome, and for a breath his heart lodged in his throat.

Then another smell–a stench compared to Luis’s heady aroma–invaded the library, and Charlie stepped away completely. He held up one finger. “Un momento.”

Luis retreated several paces, and Charlie blinked at the psychic vampire’s discretion. Luis hadn’t possessed anything close to circumspection or respect for duty when they’d worked together in Tampa.

Charlie went to the library doors, meaning to close them, but the werewolf he’d smelled stood before him. He made the conscious switch to English, realizing he must be overwhelmed by Luis’s presence if the change needed to be willed rather than instinctive. Or maybe I’m intoxicated again. As he’d been when he and Luis had tumbled into bed for a single, blissful hour. Maybe it wasn’t the Lady Lavender drinks that got me drunk in March. It could’ve been Luis.

“Yes?” he asked, pushing for the authority he didn’t technically have here but that he should. If only.

“I came to see if everything’s all right,” said the female wolf.

Charlie blessed his quick ears and his quicker memory. “Thank you, Cassandra, but Agent Delgado and I are fine.” It had crossed his mind to say satisfied or more than comfortable. Five minutes in Luis’s presence, and I’m ready to throw in all the hard-earned camouflage. “He’s here regarding the peace summit.”

“Stop talking,” Luis whispered in Charlie’s mind. “She’s intimidated by you already. Don’t spoil it.”

That was why Charlie had fled Luis. The psychic vampire couldn’t be trusted not to spy.

Or feed.

“Get out of my head.” Aloud he said, “Thank you for your diligence, Cassandra.” He reentered the library, closing the doors in her face. He crossed to Luis, and the two of them sank onto the leather sofa. “Thanks for telling me, but ask my permission next time before you jump into my thoughts.” As if such a reminder would keep Luis in check. Charlie had watched, back in March, as the psychic vampire tapped indiscriminately into people’s heads.

Luis had pissed off Agent Tavery, when angering a water dragon wasn’t wise. He’d also barged into an unshielded human’s mind in the name of doing his job.

“It’s not that I’m not grateful for your insight,” Charlie continued in Spanish, in case Cassandra still lingered by the door. “But I’d appreciate it if you’d stay out of this pack’s minds.” Now that was interesting. He’d planned to say my pack’s. What had changed his mind?

“I’ll be good.”

Even though Luis sounded repentant, Charlie didn’t believe. Still, it was a step in the right direction. So he spoke more gently. “They’re all suspicious. How did you handle getting in here?”

“I hid my eyeteeth when I smiled. And of course I sent out a general impression–not into anyone’s mind specifically–that I’m harmless.”

If Luis hadn’t been a SearchLight agent, such things would be accepted as a matter of course. SearchLight’s employees were held to a higher standard, however, and Charlie wondered how Luis had risen to such a high position–second in command of his department–with such a slipshod modus operandi. Then, remembering that Luis was a tracker and that trackers were allowed many freedoms, Charlie set aside his frustration. It felt too good to see Luis. There would be time for chewing the younger magical creature out. Surely Luis would give him plenty of opportunities.

So Charlie smiled a little to hide his feelings. “Since when have you known how to manipulate werewolves?”

Luis took Charlie’s white cane and set it aside. Then he began massaging Charlie’s left wrist and forearm methodically.

Charlie did his best not to melt under the ministrations. Except for that one night, he hadn’t let Luis touch him much beyond a handshake. Because he was attracted to Luis, who was a psychic vampire, a Tampa-based SearchLight tracker, and fifteen years Charlie’s junior. Of those three reasons, that last was the least important. Age hardly mattered between most magical creatures, who tended to be essentially immortal. Even though Charlie thought he’d gotten his father’s long-lived genes–he based this on the fact that he still looked twenty-five rather than his forty-two years–he couldn’t be sure that applied to a half-and-half.

He smirked mentally at that term. Besides the name “half-and-half,” his kind were called “creamers” and “halfies,” not to mention a few more disrespectful nouns.

Luis said, “I’ve commanded werewolf trackers a time or two, although it’s usually Ethan and me, not me versus five other trackers and twenty-five werewolves with their own ideas and prejudices.” He laughed quietly. “I’m scared to death, but it will be all right. The team I’ve been given is competent.” He nodded toward the closed door, the movement of his head surely exaggerated for Charlie’s near-sighted benefit. “What’s her problem anyway?”

“She’s– It’s not a problem. She’s protective and curious in accordance with her species. Like a certain psychic vampire I know.” Charlie groaned, working to keep the sound quiet. “Stop, please. That feels good.”

“That’s a contradiction.”

Charlie pulled away. If he didn’t maintain some sort of distance, he’d lose his concentration completely. “Which part? That she’s–”

“That you want me to stop because it feels good.” Luis caught Charlie’s wrist between firm palms and resumed the massage.

And it was purposeful misunderstandings like this that helped me ignore your blatant desires back in March. Not to mention mine. Still, he couldn’t pull away yet, and Luis’s closeness drew the truth from his lips. “I’ve missed you.” He used the fingers of his right hand to trace Luis’s stubbly jaw. He stroked the psychic vampire’s long hair back, relishing its soft texture. In many ways, Luis was a god.

In too many ways, he knows his effect on others and uses it to his advantage.

Luis caught Charlie’s hand, kissed the palm lightly, and let him go. “Me too.”

Lured by Luis’s voice, Charlie closed the distance until he held the psychic vampire.

Charlie felt Luis’s heart pound and knew his pulse was just as high. Do you know how badly I want to give in to this and kiss you?

That thought brought Charlie up short. To kiss a psychic vampire was to take their virginity. Not sexually, as for humans and most other magical creatures, but to take their soul sanctity. Perhaps Luis had given that up long ago, but Charlie couldn’t be sure. And even losing one’s virginity in the more well-known way didn’t make one a slut.

Charlie drew back, leaving only his left arm, which Luis still seemed to want to massage, in the psychic vampire’s power. He refocused, working to remember why Luis had come here. “Who put you in charge of so many trackers and civilians?”

“Agent Weinberg.”

Luis’s frustration showed in his voice, and Charlie laughed. “She is a meddlesome pain in the ass, isn’t she?”

Luis didn’t relinquish Charlie’s hand, and he managed to sound businesslike as well as annoyed. “That’s a polite way of putting it. In her seventeen pages of written orders, she commanded me to make Firos William’s acquaintance first thing. I take it he’s not home?”

Strange how Agent Weinberg, with all her preparatory statements, verbal and written, hadn’t mentioned to Charlie that Luis would be here. “He’s not.” Although it took you long enough to get to the point of your visit. This thought was unfair, so Charlie didn’t share it. Besides, he might not have gotten to enjoy more than a few seconds with Luis if he’d announced earlier that his father wasn’t here. “You get his erstwhile son instead. I’m here at SearchLight’s request. As their long arm of the law, so to speak. And of course as a physical reminder of SearchLight’s interest in peace.”

“Madre de Dios.” Luis laughed. “Apparently those words have a habit of jumping from mouth to mouth.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows, but it had never been like Luis to share inside jokes, so he didn’t press. “What do you need to ask? I’ll do my best to answer.”

“My team’s assembled. Our delegation’s all here. We’re staying at the Palace Hotel several blocks south of here.”

“Were there any squabbles over your delegation taking the smaller accommodations?”

“Not once I pointed out how historic and beautiful the Palace is.” Luis’s teeth gleamed in a quick, sun-kissed smile.

Charlie’s heart constricted, and he fumbled his right hand up to Luis’s face again, needing desperately to touch him, to know this wasn’t a dream. “Really?”

Luis laughed softly but said nothing.

The straight werewolf delegation had claimed the Merrik Hotel in downtown Buffalo. Because they had more clout–and more money, for the most part–they got what they wanted. The LGBT delegation had been relegated to the Palace on Delaware Avenue, a beautiful old building with historic ties to the city. But it was significantly smaller. “Tell me the truth. I knew you possessed a silver tongue, but that’s a bit much.” Yes. I remember your silver tongue. Luis had licked him all over with that talented muscle.

Luis continued the massage, moving on to Charlie’s forearm. “I’m not quite that good. I pointed out how much easier the Palace would be to defend, and the eighteen werewolves with good sense shouted down the ones without. With a little help from Ethan.”

That’s the second time he’s mentioned this man Ethan. Vaguely Charlie remembered a short, black-haired werewolf who had accompanied Luis to the Tavery-Morrison wedding back in March. It was after the wedding that Luis and Charlie had slept together. “Is Ethan your second-in-command on this mission?”

“He’s my partner. We’ve worked together for almost six years now.”

Partner? Charlie dragged his mind past that word. Romantic partner? He repressed a stab of jealousy. Of course, he thought. Ethan had joined Luis at the reception after Mark Tavery’s wedding, so it made sense the psychic vampire and werewolf were romantically involved. They hadn’t been “together” enough to keep Luis from wanting to jump Charlie.

And vampires, psychic or otherwise, tended to have many sexual partners at one time.

Charlie forced himself to listen as Luis continued.

“Ethan’s different than anyone I know. I’ve never met a werewolf with so little interest in leading a werewolf pack yet who has so much ability to convince alphas that his way is the right way.”

That is special. Even if Luis sounded half admiring and half in love.

Charlie’s heart ached. He’d never know the joy of working with a werewolf like that. He hated the notion of being someone else’s beta or gamma, but that was the only way he’d become a member of a pack. LGBT wolves accepted psychically able humans–and halfies–into their packs. But no pack would ever follow a human, half or otherwise. “Ethan must be incredibly loyal.”

Luis leaned close. “I don’t want to talk about Ethan, though.” He spoke with a sultry, forget-the-world, love-me voice that made Charlie break out in goose bumps.

As Luis moved even nearer, Charlie stared at his lips. They were thick and slightly pinker than the rest of Luis’s olive complexion. Charlie struggled to think clearly. This time he failed. Using one finger, he traced the shape of Luis’s smile.

Luis kissed Charlie’s finger before briefly sucking the digit into his mouth.

Charlie shuddered.

“I know we can’t do anything here and now,” Luis whispered after releasing Charlie’s finger. “But is there a time, maybe later today, when you can get away?”

The thought of escaping this house, where he had to be so polite and he was watched all the time, made Charlie’s heart lighter than it had been since Agent Weinberg roped him into this assignment. But then he thought of what excuse he could possibly use to leave his post. None presented itself, and he knew any reason would come off self-serving.

Besides. As much as he enjoyed Luis’s body, Luis’s touch, he couldn’t trust Luis to stay out of his mind. Sexual attraction knew nothing of trust, but at this point in his life, Charlie wanted more than a series of now-and-then tumbles.

He sat back, folding his hands in his lap. “I can’t.”

Luis sighed. “I understand.”

Moving past the disappointment he heard in Luis’s voice, Charlie asked, “Is there anything else you need to tell me?”

Luis drew back far enough to be out of Charlie’s ready sight range. “Probably nothing you don’t already know or suspect.” He shifted forward again. None too discreetly, he pressed his knee against Charlie’s thigh. “Both sides have agreed to SearchLight’s presence, but there weren’t enough werewolf trackers willing to protect the LGBT wolves. My security team’s made up of enough psychically strong agents to defend, or defend against, the twenty-five wolves we’re guarding.”

That caught and held Charlie’s attention. “Do you expect those you’ve brought to cause problems?”

Luis laughed softly. “Werewolves are as hotheaded as vampires. There will be many disagreements at this peace summit. And telling alpha wolves to run one way or another in response to danger may prove to be like telling a toddler to stop eating things off the ground.”

Charlie nodded. “True.”

“Ethan and Agent Stanford are the only werewolves among my team. The other members are fae, although I don’t know their specific species.”

Luis sounded annoyed at that idea. Charlie had become a professor at SearchLight Academy during a time when the fae–elementals, fairies, and many others–were encouraged to keep their species private if they wished. However, because not knowing often caused misunderstandings and hurt feelings from fae and nonfae alike, the academy had started a new trend: when dealing with other magical creatures, tell your species no matter what you are, and have confidence that others will treat you fairly. That policy had only gone into effect at the academy last semester.

Charlie considered the news of three nature spirits working together. Surely a water elemental, another of air, and a tree sprite could act as one if given the opportunity. But how would they deal with two werewolves and a psychic vampire?

Luis said, “Not a single heterosexual werewolf could be bribed enough to work with my team.”

Charlie buried the familiar frustration that rose in response to Luis’s words. “SearchLight is a model of acceptance, but that doesn’t mean every employee can be taught the difference between honoring traditions and thinking for themselves.” Aware of his duty as a language and cultural expert, he added, “And would a single LGBT wolf serve as a security guard for the straight wolves?”

Luis made a slightly choked but amused noise. “No. Ethan would have volunteered, but I wouldn’t allow it.” He gripped Charlie’s hands. “I’ve talked about everything I came here to say. Mostly I wanted to make Firos William’s acquaintance before tomorrow. Failing that for now, I’d like to steal a moment of your time. Or I could steal you.”

Too tempted by that suggestion for comfort, Charlie stood up. “No.” He couldn’t smell Cassandra or any of the other wolves who’d stayed behind, but he didn’t need that warning. His time with Luis hadn’t ended well in March, and it would play out less well now that August had come with increased responsibilities for both of them.

“But, Charlie–”

“Stay out of my head, please.” He reinforced his shields, bringing them up to the strength they’d often been when he and Luis had worked together in March. Not that it was Luis he’d guarded himself against back then. The psychic vampire was no real threat. Not to Charlie, whose telepathic talents rivaled those of everyone he’d ever met. Luis was just a horny kid.

I’m horny too. Now that he’s so close… Charlie clamped down on that thought, and when he spoke, he did so as much for himself as for Luis. “We’re both here in an official capacity, and neither of us can afford the distraction.” He held out his hand. “May I have my cane?” He cursed the formality of his tone the moment he’d spoken, and once he felt the rubber grip between his fingers, he said, “Thanks. I’m sorry we can’t talk about this now, but we can talk. Later.”
Copyright © Emily Carrington

The Weekly Thursday Teaser

Dear Readers and Fans:

I am posting the latest Thursday Teaser from my novel in progress, “Dragon In Training”. Do enjoy the opening chapter. I hope it leaves you excited for the rest of the story.

Love,
Emily

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Being trapped in a lamp for twenty years at a time wasn’t as unpleasant as it sounded. Damn lonely but not unpleasant. Luke, like all genies, was able to make his prison a palace, and as long as he kept busy, each time of confinement went swiftly. He’d been alive for over ten centuries; what was a score of years?

This stint was almost done. He went to the covered clock that hung on the other side of the room, walking easily with the almost imperceptible rocking of the lamp under his feet. His last mistress, after getting what she most wanted, had tossed his prison over the side of a boat, and he’d been forced to go with it.

He brushed the clock’s velvet curtain aside so he could study the face. The hands read April 2004, and he nodded. Almost twenty years had passed. His lamp would be picked up soon. Goddess, God, or fate always made it so.

Luke grabbed his wrists and stretched upward, wincing at the satisfying series of pops that walked up his back. “About time.” He shot a glance at his bookshelves. “This time, I’ll bring back more books.” He leaned backward and rolled into a handstand. Facing away from the clock now, he headed for his closet. Its doors slid back, disclosing outfits that reflected the many centuries of his existence. His first-meeting wear would never be current, but that didn’t matter; peacock behavior was for mortals.

He laughed. “Says the man who keeps almost everything he wears in any century.” He curled down into a crouch, then stood, shedding both boxers and T-shirt with two fluid movements. “Maybe a traditional genie turban…” Brushing clothes this way and that on the closet’s bar, he didn’t at first feel the summoning tingle that started at the roots of his hair. “Or a business suit?”

The tingling spread down to his neck and then out to both hands. Luke scrabbled for his boxers. “Wait! I’m not ready!”

“Use your magic, stupid,” spoke up Benji’s voice. His maker was long gone, but his voice seemed to always come at the best and worst times.

He laughed again and started to think himself into a pair of swimming trunks, but the summoning tingle encompassed his whole body. Naked, his own powers frozen for the moment of transport, he was sucked out of the lamp.

Well, he was definitely going to make an impression. He grinned inside himself like a fully risen sun. Best case scenario, his new master would be blind, and thus his nudity wouldn’t matter.

Transport complete, the tingling feeling receded. Hovering above the water like a leaf in an updraft, Luke gazed down at the man who treaded water below him. His new master’s eyes were hidden by what Luke assumed was a newfangled version of the scuba mask his last mistress had worn on occasion. Dark brown hair like bittersweet chocolate made little plastered curls on his forehead and neck, and his face was lightly tanned.

“Put some clothes on!” Benji all but screamed, and Luke snapped his fingers. Swimming trunks appeared. He sank into the water, cradling the lamp under one arm to keep it from floating away. In the same breath, he buried his magic within himself, rather like covering a neon pink and spiky-bad haircut with a hat. Any other magical beings within a hundred meters of him would know where and what he was, but those farther away would have no idea he was here unless they were seeking his magic-signature specifically. Partial anonymity would help him focus on only his master.

His magic safely hidden away, he smiled at said master. “Hello, Master. My name is Luke.” That hadn’t been his name when Benji had made him a genie; he’d adopted the new name some hundred fifty years ago. He swam forward a few strokes, surreptitiously checking out their surroundings. A mostly empty beach was visible in the middle distance. Though he couldn’t be sure, he thought he might still be in the Gulf of Mexico, where his mistress had dropped him. The water was ocean-buoyant with salt, and calm. He hadn’t been summoned to save his master from drowning.

His master pushed up the mask, revealing blue eyes just a shade lighter than the water around them. He laughed, a deep, rough purr. “Whichever of my coworkers hired you, tell them you had me going for a minute, especially with the mirrors or whatever you used to appear naked in midair, but I’m not interested in any one-night stands.” He pulled the mask back down. “Oh, and tell them — whoever they are — that they don’t know my taste in men at all.” He struck out for shore.

That was the first frustrating part: convincing his new master that he was in possession of a genie. The second would come when Luke had to explain the rules. Well, soonest begun and all that.

Luke did another check of the beach. There were people there, but none of them seemed to be staring in their direction. They were alone out here in the water. He vanished, reappearing in midair before his master’s eyes. “Can you explain this?” He rolled over on his back, tipping his head back so he could look at the man in the water. “What’s your name, Master?” Not that it mattered. Masters and mistresses usually didn’t want you to use their name; it was just something to ask so the silence wouldn’t rush in. He hated silences. They were annoying.

“I’m Mark,” his master said. “Of SearchLight.”

Luke didn’t recognize that name, but it was apparently significant to his master.

“I don’t know how you’re doing this,” Mark said, “but there’s surely a trick of science involved.” He swam under Luke, who resisted the urge to roll over and keep him in view.

Mark passed his hands under Luke, not quite touching him.

He could feel the heat of those hands, and he wanted to move just enough to make the contact, however brief, skin to skin. Mark’s voice — steady like a professor’s but rough as if he used it as a weapon — called to all Luke had denied himself for far too long. This new master looked nothing like Jesse, but that somehow made Luke’s desire okay.

“Okay,” Mark said, “this is sophisticated.” He sounded intrigued. “What kind of technology…?”

Luke turned over. “You’re a man of science?” Why couldn’t he run into someone who believed in anything and everything? No, that would be too easy.

“More or less.” Mark’s eyes shone like a mirage. Yes, he was intrigued. “Is this some new science?” His eyes flicked to Luke’s swim trunks. “You’re not hiding some kind of…” He shook his head, muttering, “Nothing’s that small, and this isn’t Star Trek.”

Not understanding the reference any more than he knew the meaning of SearchLight, Luke ignored it. If he had to know, he’d find out. “I promise, I’m not using any sort of scientific find to stay suspended up here.” He made his trunks disappear for a moment, waited until Mark’s jaw had dropped far enough and his cheeks had colored before poofing the trunks back into place. “See?” His gaze flicked down to the water, and he wondered if Mark was sporting an erection or if that was just the play of light on water.

“Yeah… I see.” Mark started for the beach again, tugging once, harshly, at his swim trunks. “Will you answer a question?” His voice was unsteady, but when he glanced over his shoulder, that gleam was still in his eyes.

Fighting the need to swim under Mark, maybe even touch him, Luke said, “Sure.” He sank back into the water and swam beside Mark. “You’re a little confused, right? Let me try to help. I’m a genie, and you rubbed my lamp.” He paused. Twenty years was too long to go without a tease or two. “Feel free to rub other things.”

Mark loosed a short, unamused laugh and faced him. He treaded water confidently, like it was his element. “No.” He frowned. “Genie? Well, since dragons exist, why not?”

“You’ve seen dragons?” He prayed there were no dragons in the area.

The man quirked a tight smile. “Several.”

“You believe in them.” Luke’s excitement was like a flood; he worked hard to suppress it. His master believed. This was so much easier than convincing his last mistress.

“Of course I believe. But why was your lamp — if it really is yours — near this particular coast? Where’s your master? Wait.” He nodded to himself. “You called me master. That means your last one ran out of wishes?”

Luke handed the lamp over. He watched Mark examine it. “I was dumped here after my last mistress found her happiness.”

“So, I get three wishes?” Mark shook his head; his face was set. “Unless you can help me catch a murderer, I don’t need anything. Do you want me to wish you free now?” He shook his head and muttered something else Luke didn’t understand: “Disney Classics. Blue fuck.”

Luke frowned. “You can’t just give up your wishes. Don’t you have someone or something you want? If one of your friends is setting you up with one-night stands, you must not have anyone. Isn’t there someone you want to fill your bed?”

Mark was laughing again, a little humor garnishing the bitter sound. “No. But maybe I do have one wish: I wish you’d –”

Luke held up his hands. “Wait. Before you make it, I should tell you the rules.”

“There are rules?” Then, probably to himself, “Of course there are.” He nodded at Luke. “Fine. Let’s talk on land.” He struck out for the beach, moving like a thing born for water.

Amused by his own erection, Luke followed him in.

He lingered by the water to stay out of the way as Mark approached a tall man with brown-red hair and a fierce gaze. “Sir, there’s nothing out there.” Mark scooped up clothing from the beach and quickly covered himself as if he were shy. “If there was anything, the tide took it. With your permission, I’ll come back tonight and see if our target’s nocturnal.”

The man — his master’s boss? — started walking away, gesturing for Mark to follow. A woman joined them. She dusted off her hands on her shorts. “Nothing on the beach, either,” she said.

“We might still be dealing with a rogue merman,” the man with Mark said. “Everybody call it a day.” He looked to Mark. “Come back after nightfall.”

“I’ll let you know if I find anything.”

The boss took a step closer and said something that made Mark’s shoulders tense. “Try, Mark,” the man said louder as he stepped back. “Exhausting yourself isn’t going to help.”

The woman who had reported an all clear on the beach was looking at Luke, so he flexed a muscle, grinning at her. She laughed.

He caught up to his master as Mark yanked a shirt over his head and even a pair of shorts over his swim trunks, which were practically still dripping. “Nice girl.”

Mark scowled. “If you’re done flaunting what you think you have, let’s go.”

No wonder you don’t have anyone if that’s how you talk. Luke straightened to his full height (he towered over Mark by a whole quarter inch) and said, “Of course, Master.”

“And quit saying that in public. I’m not into S and M, and I don’t need Re — anyone thinking that’s what I like.”

Luke made a great show of looking around. Then he stepped close to Mark and purred, “I think we’re alone, dahling.” Shit, he smells good.

Mark tensed. “And keep your distance.” His voice dropped. “If I’m your master, do you have to do what I say?”

Luke sighed. Open-minded as the man had seemed at first, flirtation was obviously outside his comfort level. “Sort of. That has to do with those rules we have to discuss.”

Mark’s scowl deepened.

Luke said, “You’re pissed at me. I didn’t realize you’re in the closet.” He hid a grin, loving how he picked up all the slang within minutes of arriving in a new time. It was definitely one Benji-given gift that he didn’t think he could have done without. Leave comedic customs confusion to I Dream of Jeannie.

Mark whirled and shoved him back a step. (This probably wasn’t the right time to comment on his master’s sexy-as-hell strength.) “I’m not. I just don’t need you coming on to me.” His voice dropped again. “If you really are a genie, and you’ve been trapped in that lamp for centuries, you probably want to get laid. I understand that; I respect it, but I’m not interested.”

“I’ve only been in there for twenty years.” He tried to pass it off as a joke, but he retreated two steps, hands raised. “I didn’t mean to come on like a horny bastard. I was just flirting. Joking.”

Mark gazed at him for a moment, and his eyes said he wasn’t going to forgive. But then he looked down at his sneakers. “Yeah, well, I’m not in the mood, okay?”

Maybe he was just trying to do his job. Hadn’t he mentioned a murder? “Yeah.” Luke nodded beyond Mark. “Shall we?” He picked up the pace and walked beside Mark, not too close. “When did you see your first dragon?”

Mark’s lips quirked. “Change of topic? All right, I’ll bite. I was sixteen. It was after one of my cousins. I’m just glad I saved her.” He looked away, then back. “It’s hard not to believe in something like that when it rockets out of the water right in front of you.” He let out a bark of laughter. “And yet people have been fooling themselves and forgetting on purpose as long as Homo sapiens have had an imagination.” He glanced at Luke and shifted so there was another half foot between them.

Had his master been assaulted, or just harassed too often by guys with nothing but fuck on their minds? “Were you out in the water looking for others today?”

“Not dragons specifically, no. But there have been too many near drownings and all-out deaths even for this season.” He pointed. “There’s my car. I’m going to take you back to my place, partially to verify what you are, partially for research, and partially so I can listen to these rules without having to drive at the same time. All right?”

Luke shrugged, suddenly tired. This business relationship was going to be as boring and taxing as the one with his former mistress. “It’s not as if I have a choice, Mawster. I do what you tell me. For the most part.”

Mark smiled. It was a jaded twist of his lips. “Quit pretending to be docile. And stop calling me master.” The smile fell away, and he took on a decidedly hungry look. But Luke thought it was more the craving of knowledge than money. “This has more to it than three wishes, doesn’t it?”

“Yes. There are genies of the three-wishes type; I’m just not one of them.” But he couldn’t be serious no matter how it might ease things between them. “You have almost endless wishes with me.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Mark took half a step back, his body language all about caution and “don’t touch me.”

Luke tried to look apologetic. “Sorry, but I’m pretty much at your disposal, and a lot more people than you’d think want the sex that can go with that statement.”

Mark turned away. “A ten-thousand-year-old slut. Why me?”

Luke grimaced at his back, then followed in his master’s wake. Sometimes, when you got saddled with an asshole for a master, the best you could do was keep your mouth shut.
Copyright © Emily Carrington

First Chapter Friday Arrives Early

Dear Readers and Fans:

For First Chapter Friday I present to you the opening chapter of “Time Shifters” by fellow author, Myra Nour. Please take a moment to check out her exciting excerpt below. Thanks!

Peace and Love,
Emily

Chapter One
“Oh,” she groaned aloud. There he was again, the dark mysterious figure that haunted her more nights than she cared to count. This time, they stood facing each other in the middle of a night-black forest; she was already frightened, her breathing frenzied and her heart pounding. She felt like she was caught in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode—death approached, but it was as if she were stuck in a quagmire and couldn’t move.
He edged closer, stepped into the moonlit glade between her and the protective foliage that had covered his form. A werewolf! Briana was shocked. Even though she was a strong person, she was too scared to move an inch. She’d expected a menacing stranger, not a fictional monster. He looked real enough, his body bulky with muscles, and she even noticed a musky odor.
Abruptly, the creature jumped in one great predatory leap, landing directly in front of her. His weight crushed a small branch into kindling as he landed. Strangely, she wasn’t frightened, not now. Why? She didn’t know. Her heart thudded heavily against her chest, her breathing came in short pants, but from another source entirely—she was turned on. Briana found this startling. The appearance of a savage, beast-like wolfman made her hot? It was insane, this sudden switch from terror to lust.
For years, she had been involved in strange encounters with this mystery man, who tonight, had turned out to be a nightmarish creature. But this was turning into the weirdest experience she’d ever had. Once he made his appearance in wolf/human form, she no longer feared his presence. It was as if there was a connection between them, a hidden knowledge she found puzzling.
“Who are you?”
His answer was a guttural growl, then a pounce onto her body. She fell to the ground, landing uninjured on a soft pile of leaves. For some crazy reason, she knew he did not intend to hurt her. The beast’s body was heavy, his long hair tickling against her exposed skin. She glanced down at her naked body, again surprised; she’d been wearing her nightgown earlier.
Drool dripped onto her chin and she looked up into its beautiful, but eerie, golden eyes, strangely unaffected by the savage grin of its fanged mouth. She still wasn’t frightened.
Suddenly, he swooped down on her neck, sucked up flesh into his mouth, his teeth delicately holding the skin, but not piercing it. His warm tongue licked between his fangs, up and down, then made swirls, as if he drew on an invisible artist’s palette. My, it certainly felt real.
Briana’s insides churned, heat concentrated in her neck and connected with her lower body in a surprising rush. Moaning, she arched her back. She wanted…she didn’t know what she wanted, perhaps more of his delicious-feeling tongue. The werewolf released her with a quick flick of his tongue, then descended lower and nuzzled one of her breasts, tickling the sensitive skin into a hard nub simply with his downy soft facial hair. When he latched onto her flesh with his tongue and gentle nips of his teeth, her nerve endings were set to explode.
She could see nothing but his golden eyes; his body hair melded with the ink-black night so efficiently. But she didn’t need to see; she could feel. His member bumped against her thigh, as if asking entry. Brianna was ready, filled with a desire she couldn’t fathom. She welcomed him with her whole being.
It was unbelievable…it felt so good. Felt like he belonged there always, moving his large body in a rhythm she matched stroke for stroke. She had never felt such heat during a sexual encounter. Gripping his hairy behind, she urged him forward faster and harder. His large staff filled her completely and she trembled as a body-thrumming orgasm rioted through her senses.
Abruptly, she pitched into wakefulness completely confused. Where was she? For a second, Briana looked around for a hairy form, but only the interior of her cozy hotel room met her gaze. Stretching, she was startled by the dampness of her arousal and the aching throb that emitted in rhythmic beats from her cloth-covered groin.
Man, what a dream!
A wet dream. She knew this was common for men, but didn’t think it was for women—she’d never experienced one before. Breathing slowly, she consciously slowed her body’s response to the highly erotic dream. It took a few minutes, but finally she had control of herself again.
Why am I having such bizarre dreams when I’m having such a great time?
Briana not only didn’t understand her strange, surreal dreams, but also didn’t understand herself anymore—at least not after last night. She was in New Mexico on vacation, sequestered in a quiet spa resort, Los Ojos, enjoying her first true vacation in a long time.
The naturally heated medicinal pools of the resort were heavenly; the soda pool was her favorite. She’d been soaking for hours each day. A daiquiri in hand made it easy to chat with others who came to relax as well. For the most part, the patrons of the spa were intellectuals, and like her, sought a quiet, lesser-known place to relax. Briana had made several acquaintances, people she’d never see again, but it was surprising what you could discuss with strangers, private things you sometimes didn’t even share with friends. Subjects like dreams, goals unmet, and desires of the heart.
Exchanges about boyfriends and job issues made the rounds with little forethought. She realized that maybe the conversation and companionship were the biggest pluses to her trip, not the hot springs “tubs”, luxurious massages, pampering facials, nature hikes, or wonderful gourmet restaurant.
As manager for a large hotel in Dallas, Briana was simply too busy to have much of a life, period. She didn’t have regular girlfriends, unlike many of her co-workers; there never seemed to be time to make any. She dated so infrequently it was a subject of gossip for the hotel staff, and that was not due to her looks; she was self-confident enough to know she looked just fine.
Not one of the men she’d ever dated had piqued her interest either for more than a short period of time. Again, she didn’t understand why she seemed to have such a problem finding the right man. A few of the men had been “real catches”, as the female staff would say. They had good jobs, their appearances ranged from cute to downright handsome, and they drove luxury cars. Of course, being a modern woman, she didn’t require a man to make a living, and even orgasms could be easily achieved with a toy. But dates were nice. Having someone to share activities with was fun, and making love with a man was, for the most part, an experience she didn’t want deleted from her life.
Lovemaking. Some lovers had been adequate, giving her satisfaction with mostly unskilled efforts, probably due more to her own natural sensuality than anything else. A few were downright pitiful—a “two-minute man” wasn’t for her!
Mark had come the closest to being someone she could spend a lifetime with. He was handsome and was the manager of a nearby hotel, so they had that in common. And they both enjoyed walks in the park, watching horror movies, and reading science fiction novels. He was even a spectacular lover, always bringing her to satisfaction more than once during a session.
But, there was something she couldn’t put her finger on, some unfathomable reason why she couldn’t commit. She wasn’t afraid of commitment; at least she didn’t think so. Mark had even asked in a diplomatic way about an engagement, which she’d ignored. He was the one who broke off their long-standing dating relationship, after she’d dragged her feet for months without giving him a response.
Getting up from the comfortable bed, she gulped down a glass of water. She had been having a fun vacation until he had appeared in her dreams. The dark figure she now knew was a wolfman. Sighing, she pushed the curtain aside, surprised when the sun’s rays hit her full force. Dressing quickly, she thrust thoughts of her disturbing dream from her mind, determined to enjoy a full day of activities. And she did.
That night, she was exhausted. She’d made sure to hike, do yoga, and swim, in order to guarantee a good night’s sleep. But, as she was drifting off peacefully, the male called to her once again. She managed to ignore him and fall asleep anyway. Demanding attention, he made such a racket in her head; she finally awakened, disturbed and confused. She jumped up, grumpy and tired, but dressed mechanically.
She was restless, paced the floor for over an hour, and then suddenly decided to go for a drive. The road she chose was dark, much of it long and straight, stretching for miles with nothing breaking the boring landscape. Flatland, with ugly shrub brush frequently marring its surface. She must have driven for hours, her thoughts flitting back to him and all the appearances he’d made into her night realm. At all times she was still aware of him, as if he sat at the back of her mind and sang to her. It was eerie, but beautiful.
Finally, after hours, she pulled into some kind of cleared area. That singsong voice had stopped and somehow she knew she’d arrived at her destination. She was exhausted and fell into a restless sleep. Waking at predawn, when the land was gray and indistinguishable, she waited for the sun to rise so she could see where the heck she’d driven herself during the night. She did not feel refreshed.
It was dusky dark, not much to see except the huge, dark hump of something big directly in front of her vehicle. Probably a mountain, from its shape. When the sun peeked over the horizon, she looked through the windshield, and realized she had stopped in an area that looked like a primitive parking lot. It was dusty and small. She had no idea what it was a parking lot for, and right then, she didn’t care. Running a hand through her short locks, she peered with groggy eyes at the landscape.
“What’s wrong with me?” She spoke aloud; the absolute silence surrounding her made her aware of the isolation of this park. Where am I? Out in the middle of nowhere, Briana answered herself—silently this time. God only knew where she was.
Am I going insane?

A Thursday Teaser for Your Delight

Hello Readers and Fans:

Tonight I am posting Chapter One from my Work in Progress, Three Brothers Fair 3: The Zephyr Prince. Please enjoy. Insights and feedback welcome. I am posting book covers from my previous books in this series because “Zephyr Prince” does not have a finished cover at this time.

Peace,
Emily

Three Brothers Fair 3: The Zephyr Prince.
Chapter One

Andy sat at his desk. His brothers, Tian and Hans, sat in two armchairs. In an effort to look relaxed, Andy sat backward in his chair and folded his arms atop the uppermost rung. It was a comfort having his younger brothers with him after so many years apart, but he couldn’t shake the thought that they were all together one last time.
Not for any fatalistic reason but because he would be wed in a week’s time. His brothers were already married and he hadn’t seen either of them in years. It took months for letters to traverse the distances between the United Sates, Ireland, and Greece. And although letters kept him appraised of the large things in his brothers’ lives. The birth of first children and the dying of elders. (Felimid, Hans’s husband, was now king of all water demons.)
He smiled at his brothers. “I am so glad to see you both.”
“You won’t be saying that by the end of the week,” Tian pointed out.
Hans smiled, a little thing.
Andy shook his head. “Probably I won’t be saying it about you, Christian.”
Tian asked, “So, what’s his name, this king you’re marrying?”
“King Nubes.”
Tian snickered “King Noobz? Doesn’t that mean something disrespectful in a version of the humans’ English?”
Andy sighed, and when he saw Hans’s smile grow, he made a face at Tian for good measure and for Hans’s further amusement. “Noo-behs. You will address him by his proper name.”
Hans put in, “Felimid says King Nubes’s name means clouds in Spanish.”
Andy nodded. “Well, that makes sense. He’s the king of all sylphs.” Which meant all air beings.
Tian scoffed. “I don’t care if he’s the king of all the world. With a name like Noob…”
Andy rolled his eyes. “Christian…”
“Yes, big brother?”
Hans said quietly, “Andy, you’re pacing.”
When had he gotten up? Hans was right; he was covering the same space in the floor like a caged thing. Andy colored.
Hans asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Besides Tian?” Maybe he could pass it off as less than it was.
Hans smiled. “You know it’s not just that. What’s wrong?”
Even Tian was looking at him now and not making any comments. Andy hesitated, but the concern in Hans-a-la’s eyes was palpable. “I’m…nervous…about meeting King Nubes. And about…marrying him.”
Tian snorted. “Now you know how I felt when Mother tried to unite me with Felimid.”
Hans snapped, “Not now, Tian,” and so displaying more testicular fortitude than Andy had ever seen out of his youngest brother except via letter. “Andy,” he went on, “what scares you?”
This was less definable, but Andy took a stab at it. “He’s a king. He’s so much more than I’ll ever be.” Tian:
“Just because of his title?” Tian demanded. “Andy, that’s crazy.”
He struggled to defend himself. “Not just because of that. It’s more…” He shrugged. “Marrying him means the completion of Mother’s prophecy, and I don’t even understand what that is.”
Hans said, “None of us understand it beyond who we were supposed to marry.”
Tian suggested, “So, don’t marry him. It’s that simple. You don’t love him; you haven’t even met him.”
Andy frowned and said the dutiful thing. “I will this evening. And he’s coming all the way from the Mediterranean to meet me and wed.”
Tian said, “If you don’t believe in Mother’s prophecy—”
“It’s not that I don’t believe; I just don’t understand it.” Andy moved toward his closet, thinking to put an end to this conversation. “I need to start getting dressed. And so do the both of you.”
Hans said, “Give him a chance. He may turn out to be someone wonderful.”
* * * *
Nubes caught his consort by his single wing and dragged him close. “Kiss me.”
Un-Ala struggled free. “No.”
Nubes frowned. Although Un-Ala was allowed to disagree with his king, it was rare. “Just a little play,” he said, trying to make his voice teasing rather than needy. He doubted he succeeded.
Un-Ala smiled, but the shake of his head was firm. “No, my king.”
Frustrated, Nubes’s wings fluttered. He demanded, “Why?”
“Because you need to have your mind and heart pure and ready for this new one if you want any chance to love him.”
Nubes made a rude noise. “I do not need to love him. And I cannot. He cannot participate in the soaring rituals.”
“Then why are you marrying him?”
As if Un-Ala didn’t know. Still, if it would keep him talking and perhaps reduce his resolve… “Marriage isn’t about love, Un-Ala. It’s about the safety of the world. Joining myself to Lord Andrew will give that.”
Un-Ala said, “I can’t believe you would give up on the chance of love because of a little thing like a mating custom” He frowned. “It certainly didn’t stop you from bedding me.”
Nubes made a face. “You were different. Your spirit lives on past your, er, condition.”
Un-Ala sighed. “If you can see my spirit, have hope for Lord Andrew. Besides—” he grinned wickedly—“it is time you dressed. The dinner will not wait.”
“You will sit at my left hand?”
Un-Ala blushd.
Nubes was glad to see it. Rare were the times he could make his consort show his emotions unless they were in bed.
Un-Ala agreed, “Every night until the wedding.”
Hubes tried one more time even though there was not much before he needed to be at the banquet. “I love you as I thought I could never love a consort.”
Un-Ala turned away and hid his face with his single wing. “You know I’m still looking for true love, Nubes. Do not put me on the spot like this.”
“True, it isn’t fair. I was only trying to bestow a compliment.”
“I know, which is why I am not angry with you. But have a little compassion for yourself. At least view Lord Andrew as a potential love.”

A New First Chapter Friday Post

Today for First Chapter Friday, we have the pleasure of enjoying an excerpt from the novel ‘Programmed to Please’ by Jenna Ives. Wanting more? Readers can buy the book here:
Programmed To Please

Excerpt: Chapter One

“Turner, I’m sending you undercover as a Beautiful Dolls sex toy.”
Jai Turner stared at her boss, Commander Talis Rainey, convinced she couldn’t possibly have heard him right. She and her partner, Leith Wyatt, had been called into his office at the end of their duty shift. It had been a long day, as they all were on Tau Cetus in this post-apocalyptic era, and she was in no mood for a joke.
She shifted tiredly on her feet in front of his desk. “Sir?” She noticed that even Leith, who was standing beside her, had raised his eyebrow in question.
For an answer, Rainey leaned forward in his chair and pushed a button on the console on his desk. “Send in Mr. Carron.”
A minute later, a short man stood in the doorway. His eyes darted nervously as he checked out the spartan office before taking an apparently reluctant step into the room. He was such a stereotype that Jai felt herself stiffen. Thick glasses… hair askew… frankly, all he needed was a lab coat with a pocket protector to complete the picture. Savant. Adept. Carbon-copier.
Maybe her boss hadn’t been making a joke.
Rainey cleared his throat. “This is Anson Carron. The creator of Beautiful Dolls.”
If the abrupt and impersonal introduction annoyed their guest, he didn’t show it. His eyes had locked on Jai, and were scanning her up and down in a way that felt decidedly intimate despite the generic, navy blue one-piece uniform that she and everyone else on the Tau Cetus force wore.
“Yes,” he murmured. “I suppose I can work with this.”
“This,” Rainey said hotly, “is Jai Turner, one of my best agents. She’s human.”
The little man seemed lost in his own train of thought. “She meets his prime criteria. Of course, it would be better if I could see her without her clothes on before I make a final assessment.”
What the hell? Jai stiffened even more. “Commander!”
Rainey let out a loud sigh, then glanced at Jai and the two men. “Sit. All of you.”
Instead, Carron took a step closer. “Can I touch her, at least?”
“Lay one finger on me, asshole,” Jai growled, “and it’ll be the last thing your hand ever does.” Wyatt stepped closer to her to drive the point home.
Behind his desk, Rainey blew out a breath. “I said sit!”
The three of them held their adversarial positions for a moment, then took the hard chairs arrayed around Rainey’s desk. Jai crossed her arms and legs defensively, and even Wyatt turned his chair around to straddle it. It was obvious neither one of them anticipated liking whatever the Commander might be about to say.
Rainey ran a hand through his grey-black hair and looked at the partners. “Before I start, I have just one thing to say to you two. Marque Callex.”
Jai gasped. “What?”
That changed everything. The infamous name had both her and Wyatt leaning forward in their chairs, now eagerly waiting for Rainey’s next words.
“You know how long we’ve been trying to get close to this guy. We may now have a chance, albeit by a very unconventional route.” Rainey nodded toward their guest. “A month ago, Mr. Carron here ran afoul of the law. No need to get into the specifics, but in an effort to save his neck – and his very lucrative business – he suggested a unique proposal in return for us not pursuing charges against him.”
“What kind of proposal?” Wyatt asked.
“A clever one, as it turns out.” Rainey smirked. “Mr. Carron agreed to send out an… invitation… to Marque Callex, in the guise of offering ‘a select number of high-powered businessmen’ the chance to sample the latest model of Beautiful Doll for free, in exchange for their feedback on the product. In reality, Callex was the only person to get this invitation.”
Jai’s mouth set in a disgusted line. “And he accepted.”
“He did,” Rainey confirmed. “It was a gamble, but it paid off. In this supposed ‘latest model,’ clients are able to customize their girl. Callex filled out the form specifying the criteria of his ideal Beautiful Doll, and now all we have to do is fulfill his requirements.” The Commander gave Jai a pointed stare. “With you.”
Jai’s eyes went wide. “You want me to impersonate a sexbot?”
“He’s requested certain specifics,” Anson Carron spoke up. “Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Lean, athletic build.”
Jai let out a relieved breath. “Well, that rules me out then. I’m brown-haired and brown-eyed.”
“Easily fixed,” her boss pointed out. “You fit the most important characteristic: athletic build. We can’t fake that, but we can correct the other things with hair dye and contact lenses.”
Uneasy, Jai leaned forward in her chair. “Sir, do you really believe a man who can have any model of girl he wants, would pick a B-cup and not a triple-D? For a sexbot? Come on, Commander. Are you sure Callex is even serious about this?”
Rainey stroked his chin thoughtfully, and then shrugged. “Well, we’ll have our answer on Monday, if he shows up at the Beautiful Dolls boudoir. Until then, prepping you for the assignment is the way we’re going to proceed. That is, if you’re agreeable.”
Jai scowled. There was absolutely no way she was going to volunteer for this. Have sex on command? Not a chance. Not even to bring down a man they’d long been after for suspected weapons smuggling. Besides, she could never pass for a sexbot. She had a heartbeat, for Christ’s sake! “Why don’t you send in a real Doll for the job?”
“Because the whole point is to get information out of him,” Rainey answered. “A robot can’t be programmed to be clever. We need someone to coax him into spilling his secrets.”
“With all due respect, Commander,” Wyatt interjected. “Callex is locked up tighter than a penitentiary. Security is everything in his line of work. It’s not realistic to think he’s going to give away top secret information while in the throes of passion.”
“You haven’t met my Dolls,” Carron mumbled.
Rainey ignored the remark. “Maybe not during sex, no. But haven’t you heard of pillow talk? Read your history books. Greater men have been brought down by baring their souls during that post-coital sense of euphoria. I want Jai to build a relationship with him, gain his trust.”
In response, Jai re-crossed her arms and legs. There was no way – absolutely none – that she was going to be anyone’s personal sex toy.
Rainey sighed into the stubborn silence. “Do I really need to play the Joran Breaux card with either of you?”
A spark of anger shot through Jai, even as she heard Wyatt shift uncomfortably on his chair. Joran was the second – and definitely much more personal – reason they were after Marque Callex. Joran had been sent in to infiltrate Callex Industries from the inside, to discover how one of the government’s top weapons contractors was secretly diverting arms to militant countries. Joran’s cover as an employee had seemed secure until two months ago, when the police force had lost contact with him on the very day he’d scheduled a meeting with Marque Callex. Three weeks later, Joran’s body had turned up – in pieces – in a recycling center a hundred clicks away.
Joran had been Wyatt’s partner before Jai.
Jai would relish the chance to avenge the death of a fellow Tau Cetus agent, but was becoming a sex slave really the best way to do it?
“How do we know Jai won’t end up the same way Joran did? Dead?” Wyatt rasped. Raw emotion was clear in his voice.
“Because we’re embedding you as the Beautiful Dolls concierge,” Rainey answered. “You’ll be there secretly taping the sessions, close by to protect her if things get out of control.”
“Good God,” Jai balked. “You plan to record the sex encounters with Callex?”
Rainey scowled. “You know how long we’ve been trying to get to Marque Callex. This may be our best chance. But if you’re not up to it, Turner, I’ll find another female agent with athletic build who’s more committed to her job.”
“I’m committed to my job, Commander,” she protested hotly.
Rainey waved a hand. “I probably shouldn’t have even offered it to you two. Wyatt is too close to this case. I just thought he’d want a crack at the guy who murdered his partner. But you’re right, Turner. Wyatt could very well be a liability.”
“I didn’t say –” Crap. Now the Commander was accusing her of letting down the force and her new partner. The guy was a master manipulator.
Silence stretched in the room while Jai considered her options. Her very limited options. As in, none. Shit. “I’ll do it.”
“What?”
Jai’s mouth set into a mulish line. What real choice did she have? Marque Callex needed to be stopped. “I said I’ll do it. If this is our best – and possibly only – chance to get to him, well, then, I’m in.”
Rainey blew out a breath, as if he hadn’t really believed his attempt to convince her would work. Wyatt, on the other hand, didn’t look half so relieved.
“Are you sure, Jai? I want to nail this bastard as much as everyone else. Maybe more so, since Joran was my partner. But even I think this sex scheme is asking too much of you.” He turned to Rainey, swallowed hard, and threw a quick glance at Carron. “How about sending me?”
Their guest shook his head. “He didn’t choose that option. He doesn’t want a mascbot, he wants a fembot.”
“Besides,” Rainey added, with a meaningful look at Wyatt, “I was serious when I said you’re too close to this situation. We don’t want you killing Callex before we can find out how he’s siphoning arms to rebel countries.”
Jai sighed, and gave Wyatt an attempt at a smile. “It’s all right. Really. You’ll have my back, right partner?”
The worried frown on Wyatt’s brow didn’t ease.
“All right then,” Rainey said, moving on now that the decision had been made. “Wyatt, I think it’s best if you leave us for a few minutes. Mr. Carron has some questions for Turner that are rather, um, personal. Pull the door closed behind you.”
Wyatt stood reluctantly, gave Rainey and Carron an equally troubled glare, and then left. The oily Mr. Carron took the seat Wyatt had vacated, and pulled out a pad of paper and a pen from a pocket of his rumpled brown corduroy jacket. In Jai’s opinion, he looked much too excited about this scenario.
Pervert.
“Remember, Turner, this is your job,” Rainey cautioned. “Marque Callex is playing a dangerous game with his double dealings. The fate of our world could literally be in your hands. Keep that in mind, and forget about your modesty.”
Jai scowled. It was hard to believe she could save the planet by having sex with a stranger.
Carron was nodding his agreement with something else Rainey had said. “Yes. No need for modesty here. I see naked women in my job all the time.”
“Those are robots,” Jai growled. Asshole.
Carron cleared his throat. “Yes. True. Well, then. Shall we begin?” He threw a glance at Rainey. “Are you staying, Commander? As you mentioned, my questions are rather personal.”
Rainey’s jaw tightened. “I’m staying to make sure you keep everything aboveboard, Carron. This is a police case, not one of your usual prostitution arrangements.”
Carron shrugged indifferently, then flipped open his yellow pad and turned to Jai. “I need to get some preliminary information.” He squinted at his notes. “Now then, when was the last time you had sex?”
Jai’s eyes narrowed. “What the hell has that got to do with this assignment?”
“You’re supposed to be a virgin model, our latest version, fresh off the assembly line,” Carron explained. “So this is important. How long has it been since you’ve had sex?”
Crap. Jai supposed that explanation made sense, given the situation. Still, her mouth pulled down into a scowl. “A year.”
Carron seemed surprised by her answer, but he fought to keep his face impassive.
Bastard pervert. My sex life is my own affair. How the hell was she going to work with this guy?
“All right, then,” Carron replied. “You should be tight enough to fool him. No need for a little nip and tuck down there.”
A nip and tuck? Down there? No way…
Carron’s pen scribbled something on the pad. “Next. How are you at fellatio? All our models are experts.”
“Oh, for the love of—”
“Not to worry,” Carron assured her quickly. “We can teach you everything you’ll need to know.”
An uncomfortable thought occurred to Jai. “Wait a minute. What if he prefers serious… kink? As in…hurting me? He’ll be under the impression I’m a machine.”
Carron shook his head. “Not allowed. He can’t damage the merchandise. That will be made clear to him. But we do provide a wide range of sex toys, so things could get a little… interesting.”
Jai swallowed hard.
Commander Rainey shoved a hand through his hair. “Turner, let’s be clear. This is what you’re agreeing to. You know what Marque Callex is. What he’s capable of. What he did to a fellow agent.”
“But commander—”
“How many times in the past three months since Joran Breaux’s death have you asked me to be part of the team to take Callex down? Well, now you are the team.”
Jai froze, the enormity of this assignment finally sinking in. Marque Callex was a powerful man. Guarded. Protected. Tau Cetus’s finest hadn’t been able to get near him. But now she was the team? For a moment, she couldn’t move.
“You’re creeping me out, Turner,” Rainey said. “Move. Blink. Do something. I hate when you freeze up like that. It’s unnatural.”
Frankly, it’s no wonder she froze. This whole scenario was enough to send anyone into shock. “Bad habit,” she mumbled. “Wyatt hates it, too.”
“No,” said Carron, looking at her thoughtfully. “Actually, it’s good. We can use that. It makes you seem almost…robotic.” He scribbled another note on his pad. “One last thing. Any surgeries, incisions, birth marks, visible scars?”
Jai shook her head. She’d been lucky; five years on the force and not an injury yet.
Carron flipped his notebook closed. “It doesn’t really matter. We’ll be coating you in a thin layer of polymer before each session, to cover your skin. We want you to look human, but not too human. You’re supposed to be a robot, after all.”
“Yeah, about that,” Jai said wryly. “How the hell do you seriously expect me to pull this off?”
Carron smiled complacently. “Just give me this weekend, and you’ll be ready for your assignment on Monday.”

Behold, The Latest Thursday Teaser!

Hi to my Dear Fans and Readers:

The latest Thursday Teaser comes to you from my Three Brother’s Fair Series, Prince of Land and Fire. Please enjoy the following excerpt.

Peace,
Emily

Excerpt:

Stopping within touching distance, he said, “Excuse me, Toga, but we need to talk.”

The man turned, and when he did, Tian heard the scuff of something soft on the wooden deck.

Risking a glance down, he saw the stranger wasn’t a kelpie. Instead of hooves left bare or wrapped in doeskin, as Hans had done for years, this man wore shoes. Real human-type shoes.

He gaped at the bizarre footwear, something few kelpie would bother with, and then lifted his head. He found the black-haired man gazing at him with a frown creasing his handsome face. Feeling a blush start, Tian realized most of those around him had fallen silent and were watching. “Forgive my rudeness, but I mistook you for one of my people.” That wasn’t exactly it; he’d assumed none but kelpies would show up at his mother’s mandated Solstice in October feast. True, the man might be wearing stuffed shoes, but he was darker skinned than any kelpie Tian had ever seen.

“Are your people named for what they wear?” The man—not human, not kelpie, so what was he?—chuckled. “I admit that’s not a custom for which I was prepared.”

Given the choice of continuing in largely unjustified anger or joining Toga in the land of amusement, Tian smiled. “Those I don’t know by sight often earn a temporary nickname.” He gestured at his damp shirt and clinging trousers. “You may call me All Wet if you wish until names are exchanged.” Or until I figure out what you are.

“I am Alastair.” He raised an eyebrow. “And what is your true name, All Wet?”

I like him no matter what species he is. “I’m Tian.” Then, because he realized Alastair probably didn’t know the names of the royal line, “That’s short for Christian. I’m the son of Lord Cuirm and Lady Weinberg.”

“May Lord Cuirm’s spirit find rest,” all the kelpies around him murmured.

Tian pressed his lips together to keep them from trembling. He refused to show even a hint of sorrow here. His father had died less than a year ago, but the length of time wouldn’t matter to the courtiers and other subjects. So long as Lady Weinberg remained the ruler of all the kelpies of the Five Lochs, the miniature eulogy would be spoken.

Enough is enough for tonight. He offered the man of unknown species a nod. “Enjoy the festivities, Alastair.” But then he remembered why Matthew had fallen in the water. “And if Matthew—the kelpie you were talking with until he fell overboard—does not want your company, steer clear of him.” He smiled enough to show his canines, which were mildly sharp while he walked in his two-legged guise.

Alastair smiled back. His canines weren’t even as pointed as those of most humans. “I will keep my distance from the edge.” He started to step around Tian.

Who seized him by the upper arm. “You will not dodge my order, sir.” He tightened his grip until Alastair looked at him. “Keep away from Matthew and any others disturbed by your presence, or I will see to it you visit the bottom of this loch.” The fear that leaped into Alastair’s gaze ensured Tian he’d guessed the reason the man hadn’t followed Matthew into the chilly waters.

Lowering his head, Alastair answered, “I will do as you ask.”

Reassured, Tian loosened his hold and strode toward the far end of the float where boats waited to convey to land those who didn’t wish to arrive at the ball soaking wet.
* * * *

Alastair swallowed his fear as he stepped onto what the kelpies called “the floating ballroom.” Last night had been his first sojourn into Lady Weinberg’s circle of control, and he’d come up empty. He hadn’t managed to gain any information from anyone who knew the leader of the kelpies. Intimately or otherwise. And the one leak he’d started to plumb hadn’t been helpful. Either before or after he’d fallen in the water.

To make things worse, Alastair had attracted the notice of one of Lady Weinberg’s sons. He didn’t know much about the Lords Andrew, Hans, and Christian beyond their names. And knowing Christian’s nickname was Tian couldn’t even be stretched into the general term “information.”

To put it plainly, Alastair thought as he moved onto the deceptively steady float, I have been here an entire day, and I have learned nothing. The only coup I’ve managed is that her son didn’t seem to know who or what I am.

It would be wise, Alastair knew, to steer clear of Lady Weinberg’s son no matter how their last encounter had ended.

He slipped between two groups of chatting kelpies. Pausing a moment, he noted the female kelpie closest to him had decorated her hooves with little bracelets. The idea of jingling while he walked made Alastair’s skin crawl. Leaving the clusters of chatterers behind, he looked toward the far end of the float. Scanning the crowd, he spotted Lady Weinberg with her half a dozen guards. Her chair was on a platform built to at least four feet in height. As though she considered herself above the others.

She’s not my direct problem right now. If he had any hope of learning more about her plans for the land as well as the water, he would do well to stay out of her sight. So rather than drift toward the platform, he melded seamlessly with a score of kelpies who seemed to be watching a single couple dance in an unexpectedly open space.

Alastair scrutinized the twirling duo, repressing a snort of laughter when one of them tripped sideways, his hooves stuttering on the deck in atrocious counterpoint to the triple time of the music. Then, remembering he might also be under scrutiny, Alastair wiped the smile off his face. He wasn’t here to judge the kelpies’ dancing abilities. They’re definitely better swimmers than I’ll ever be. Having poured a teaspoon of contempt on his pride, he realized the kelpie who’d tripped was the one who’d fallen into the water yesterday evening.

“Do you dance?”

He jumped, berating himself for retreating into his head rather than focusing on the world around him. And when he turned, he saw the kelpie lord he’d submitted to. Almost gladly. He had to admit this; there was no other way to construe the tightening of his testicles and the pleasant tension in his thighs. Being commanded, ordered about like a gnome-salamander hybrid of half his status, was arousing.

Aware that he should be inventing an excuse to escape the lady’s son, Alastair bowed. “I have never danced on such an inconsistent platform.”

Lord Tian laughed and gestured for Alastair to rise. “It won’t come apart under your feet. I promise. Do you dance in other places?”

Would there be any real harm in pumping such a ready mouth for information? As long as he was discreet, Alastair decided, a short dance might reveal enough that he could go home tomorrow. Longing for the caves and calderas of Naples half crushed his chest. “I do. And I would gladly dance here.”

“Our moves are probably a little different from what you’re used to.”

Especially because you have hooves rather than feet. Alastair shrugged. Smiled. And took Tian’s offered hand.

The musicians had fallen briefly silent. Standing in a cleared place with Alastair’s hand still in his, Tian nodded to one of the fiddle players, moving his hand in a duple pattern. Then he whistled a brief snatch of what could have been melody.

The fiddler he’d been “talking” to grinned, muttered something to the rest of the musicians, and then tapped a quick and staccato rhythm with his foot. And the musicians lunged into a wheeling twirl of notes.

With his hand still in Tian’s, Alastair was surprised when the kelpie put the other hand at his waist. The intimate press of their bodies seemed to defy the rapid music, especially when Tian led the way into close-pressed spin after spin.

Just as Alastair began to feel slightly dizzy, Tian pressed their bodies together from the chest up before stepping into a strange sort of line dance. The heat from his skin simmered against Alastair’s stomach and chest. And when he ground his hips briefly against Alastair’s, there was wild laughter in his gaze.

Penis shooting toward full erection, Alastair groaned in frustration when Tian pulled back. When Alastair tried to reinitiate the contact, Tian smirked and kept his lower half a hand’s span away.

“Is this whole dance a tease?” he demanded when Tian resumed the dizzying spins.

Tian’s gaze continued to laugh. “It’s one of the rituals we have to perform regularly before winter solstice.”

Barely able to catch his breath, Alastair knew he’d been given an opening to ask about the kelpie way of life and perhaps about Tian’s mother, but he couldn’t order his thoughts enough to speak. Instead, he dropped his gaze to where their bodies didn’t touch. Tian had put even more distance between them, his fingers scarcely holding Alastair’s and the fingers of his other hand brushing Alastair’s hip.

The music halted midcareen. Or so it seemed to Alastair. In the silence left by the motionless drums and fiddles, he heard himself gasping for breath. As if he’d gone running through the ruins in Old Athens where he’d played hide and seek as a child. He struggled to say something, anything, to distract from the ache between his legs and the shuddering air escaping his parted lips. Before he could manage such a minor miracle, the musicians were off again.

After the second dance, which had been as quick as the first and just as erotic, Alastair begged off. “I need to sit.” Then, remembering that all the chairs and stools were at the edges of the float, he added, “But only if there’s a place not too near the water.” He was embarrassed to ask for such a thing, but he’d never dreamed his assignment to spy on Lady Weinberg would involve so much time on a lake. Didn’t kelpies run on land too? Why were they spending every night on a creaking square of wood and ropes?

Tian grinned. Tugging at Alastair’s hand, he said, “Follow me.” He threaded through the clumps of onlookers and dancers with the same grace he’d used to lead while the music played. His hooves didn’t hinder him in the least; Alastair had forgotten them until he was walking in Tian’s wake. He couldn’t hear the clomp of each step, and Tian wore no bracelets or other decorations below his knees. In fact, Alastair mused, Tian’s clothing bore little connection to what was sported all around them. Tian’s trousers were some light material that didn’t cling to his ass or thighs, and his shirt, while open at the throat, didn’t show the definition of his muscles.

If he has any definition. Alastair dismissed that thought at once, however, because Tian must have some sculpted muscles if he could dance so well. And if he’d been able to push that chair out of the water last night. Even if he hadn’t gotten it up on the deck, he’d fished it out.

Alastair was distracted by a quick, light pressure on his hand. Blinking, he gazed into Tian’s light green eyes.

“Stay here a moment.” Tian disappeared into the throng. But before Alastair could begin to miss the warmth that had encompassed his fingers, the lord kelpie was back with a chair. No, two chairs, one on top of another. He set both down and sat, gesturing to the other.

Alastair touched the good, strong wood of his seat and raised an eyebrow.

“Yes?” Tian grinned as if he knew Alastair’s thoughts.

That idea—a telepathic kelpie when kelpies weren’t supposed to have control over anything outside the pheromones and glamour they used to lure prey—urged Alastair to push a little back from Tian. But when Tian’s teasing expression didn’t change, he pursued the question that had flitted through his mind. “How strong are you?”

He received a shrug in response, but Tian looked away as if he were embarrassed. “I was showing off a little. I don’t usually manage two chairs at once.”

The admission helped Alastair relax even though he reminded himself that the words didn’t mean Tian wasn’t telepathic. But so far as he knew, there had never been a story of a kelpie with mental abilities beyond the norm.

Silence stretched between them, and Alastair shifted uncomfortably. Without the excuse of dancing to occupy him, his mission loomed large. “Can you…will you tell me…” He fumbled to a stop. There was no delicate way to ask what he needed, not when they were surrounded by a thousand ears. And the careful prodding he’d studied refused to come to him at the moment of truth.

“What are you?” Tian asked. He skidded one hoof across the deck. “I know that’s rude, but I’ve never… All I’ve met are kelpies.” He paused and then whispered, “And humans.”

Of course you’ve met humans, Alastair thought. They’re your main source of food.
Copyright © Emily Carrington

A Blog Post to Incite Your Interest

Dear Readers and Fans:

Please consider the following information. I hope you will want to learn more…

Morphed: Before They Were Bears
This exciting delve into the Paleolithic history of the world’s bears filled me with love for one of the most misunderstood animals in the world.

*Why I’m posting only the title: I don’t have legal permission to post the link. Check out the title on YouTube.

Check out Ziff Edu, the creator of these MORPHED videos and many other fascinating snippets about human history.

Love,
Emily

First Chapter Fridays

Hello Readers and Fans:

It is with great excitement that I present to you the latest work of fellow author, Allie Quinn. Titled, ‘In The Dead of Cold’, here is a provocative excerpt for you to enjoy!

Peace,

Emily

Excerpt:In the Dead of Cold
By Allie Quinn
Prologue

Jane Smyth dashed out of the bookstore, stopped suddenly and took a deep breath as she looked around. Terror clutched her heart and froze her insides. Sucking in a lungful of cold, mountain, night air cleared her head, awakened her senses, and gave her the strength to keep from turning back. The false warmth called to her until she slapped her own cheek—hard. She had to get away. She had to warn…
She ran. Her SUV was around the corner in the alley, but she couldn’t move any faster, and the distance felt like miles. Despite the cold horror of what she’d witnessed, her legs burned from running by the time she reached her vehicle. Her fob didn’t unlock the door as she approached. She was left with no choice but to slide the key in the door lock.
In the same instant, a hand covered hers. She hadn’t even know she was followed or that he was so close behind her. Her racing heart moved up her throat and choked her. She wasn’t given the chance to scream.
“Not leaving so soon, are you? And it seems you’ve forgotten your coat.”
She was caught in his black, endless gaze. To her horror, he leaned closer, his breath, hot and putrid, touched her. Then his tongue was on her face.
She felt as if she drowned in the evilness that filled him. She couldn’t breathe.
His darkness pulled her, called her closer. She wanted nothing more than to lean against him, test his kiss. Then snowflakes landed on the spot where his tongue touched her. The coldness woke her from his spell.
He smiled the most evil smile she’d ever seen and showed his fangs. She knew she had to do something or she’d be feeling those sharp incisors. She concentrated on the idea of pushing him away. Her thought sent a surge of energy swirling through her. As she felt it build in her like a million thread-like tornadoes, she envisioned the threads clustering together, strengthening before she sent them out at him. Never before had she unleashed so much energy with a single thought. The power of it frightened her almost as much as he terrified her. Her energy hit him in the chest and sent him stumbling backwards. He might have fallen on his ass had he not collided with the bricks of the next building.
When Jane saw how fast he recovered and that her blast at him wasn’t enough to do more than surprise him, her heart clenched with horror. There was not enough room to knock him far away. Hell, he was still on his feet. Then his grin grew as he accepted her unspoken challenge.
He returned and slammed her against the bricks of the store so fast she didn’t see him move. But she felt him as his fist collided with her chin. The next thing Jane knew she was on her hands and knees in the snow, and her entire body burned with flashes of pain. He grabbed the collar of her blouse, ripping it in the process, in an effort to haul her back to eye level.
In another second, she’d feel something worse than his fist or his tongue.
Beyond him, she saw a cart, nothing more than trays held in place with metal rods.
She gathered her energy and sent it to the cart. Like a huge dart, the first rod slipped from its place and shot through the air. It impaled him and held him to the building. He stared at her. His grin disappeared, anger filled his gaze. Without looking away from her, he reached up and pulled the rod from his shoulder. The horrid, sucking sound his motion made filled the stillness. Blood oozed from his wound. Its heavy, coppery smell caused her stomach to roll. Then the gaping hole slowly closed, leaving nothing more than a tear in his shirt. He licked his lips. “I am so going to enjoy you.”
His words and his ability to heal his wounds so quickly froze her heart.
Without hesitation, she sent the remaining three rods at him. She didn’t wait around to see if he could free himself so easily. She raced to her SUV, jumped in and locked the doors. Then she sped off through the snow.
To the Moonlight Resort. Not only did she have to warn Graham Masterson, the owner. But the Moonlight was only place she would be safe…

Chapter One
¬¬
Shaking with cold and uncontrollable terror, Jane struggled with the door to enter the lobby of the Moonlight Resort. Until now, adrenaline had kept her warm despite the frigid temperature and snow outside. She stopped short inside the sudden heat of the large foyer where she discovered her clothes were soaked. Gooseflesh covered her like sharp nails, and she had to clench her teeth together to keep them from chattering.
The lobby was extravagant. Warmth touched her from flames that licked the logs filling the huge circular, stone fireplace in the center of the room. The sweet, alluring aroma of coffee and chocolate from the cafe on the other side of the curved registration desk penetrated her senses. It mingled with the smell of roasting marshmallows from the three kids who made S’Mores at the fireplace. Her stomach twisted and gurgled. The place was filled with noise and laughter and motion as people ate and enjoyed the evening.
Before anyone noticed her, she looked down and took a quick inventory. Fire burned through skinned areas on her too numerous to count. Her right shoulder blade felt as if it had a knife stuck in it. Her head throbbed as if tiny men beat away at her skull with sledge hammers and ice picks. Well, at least she’d thought to wear her snow boots. Her feet were the only thing dry and uninjured on her.
Her skirt was ripped up the right seam and revealed several inches of her scraped thigh. She was certain the back of her blouse was dirty from where she’d been shoved against the bricks. And then she remembered, it was ripped, too.
She swallowed hard. It was impossible to calm her hammering heart. She told herself she was safer.
What if she wasn’t safer?
It couldn’t be helped. There was nowhere else she could go. And she needed to warn Ella Masterson.
She took in another heavy breath and tensed to keep her shivers at bay. Without further hesitation, she rushed to the front desk, dragging in snow with each step. The clerk behind the counter looked up. The automatic smile she wore disappeared the moment she took in Jane’s appearance.
“How can I help you?” the young girl asked, her blonde ponytail swinging behind her.
“I need to see Mr. Masterson immediately.” Jane leaned against the counter and fought the urge to rest her weary head in the palm of her hand or ask for a drink of water. She couldn’t waste the time.
“Perhaps I should call the hotel doctor or an ambulance for you instead. Did you fall on the slopes or something?”
Oh, right she always wore a skirt and blouse to go skiing. And did this cute little clerk wearing a bit too much eye liner see her wearing any ski gear? Jane let out a huff and gripped the polished marble counter in an effort not to grab the girl by the polo shirt she wore. No, wait, Jane couldn’t do that without touching her. And the last thing Jane needed was to feel anyone’s emotions. Blood felt like it pulsed through her veins at a hundred miles an hour from her last encounter.
Jane took in the girl in less than a heartbeat. The girl’s name pin read Mandy.
“Mandy, I don’t need an ambulance or the hotel doctor.” Oh, yes, she probably did. “I need to speak with Mr. Masterson. It’s urgent.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
Hell, she did not have time for this. “No, I don’t. I’m sorry to say that when emergencies come up, you can’t always plan for them with a two or three days’ notice.”
“Would you like me to make one?”
Mandy’s high voice was salt rubbed into every one of Jane’s wounds. Jane had to force in another deep breath before she could speak. “Yes, please do.” She glanced at her watch and hoped to hell Mandy caught the sweet sarcasm in Jane’s words. “I need to see Mr. Masterson in the next thirty seconds.”
Another man approached. “Excuse me, I’m Jim, the concierge. May I help you?”
Didn’t concierges generally work on getting people better accommodations or tickets to the ballet?
Jane didn’t care as long as this one got her to Mr. Masterson. Mandy smiled at being able to hand Jane to someone else. “I hope so. I need to see Mr. Masterson right away.”
“And you don’t have a scheduled appointment?”
Jane cleared her throat. “No.”
“It’s after six. Mr. Masterson may no longer be in his office. Would you mind stepping over here, please?”
Jane thought it was another waste of valuable time but in order to keep from wasting any more, she followed Jim to his nearby desk. She licked her lips and ignored the heat of all the stares she felt touch her back from the many patrons that moved through the lobby.
“Please, sit down,” he offered. He did, plopping his butt onto a chair.
“No, I don’t have the time.” She also didn’t have the patience or the strength to get back up. “Please, I need to see Mr. Masterson. It’s urgent.”
“And whom shall I tell him needs to see him?”
She felt something warm on her right knee. She didn’t look down, but wondered if she might be bleeding on the plush carpet as parts of her thawed in the warm. “Jane Smyth, not that my name will mean anything to him. Please this really is important—a matter of life and death—that I speak to him, in person.”
“In regards to what?”
A horrific vampire wants to kill him and claim his wife. “Nothing I can relay to you, I’m sorry. I can say that I believe his wife is in danger.”
His gaze moved down her body from her face to the rip in her skirt, and Jane gritted her teeth together so hard her jaw hurt more than it already did. She considered telling him the wet T-shirt—or in her case, blouse—contest would cost him fifty dollars. His slow study left her feeling foolish and naked and somehow that this was her fault.
It wasn’t.
“Mr. Masterson is the owner of this resort as well as many others—”
Jane reached the limit to her patience. “I’m well aware of that.” Fatigue clawed at her insides, and she had no choice but to reach out and grasp the chair she had refused. “I need to see him. Please.”
Jane wanted to applaud when he picked up his cell phone and touched the screen. She was getting somewhere. She took the moment to look around. Most of the people in the lobby were too caught up in their own lives to watch her.
The vacation town of Royal Peak, located in the heart of the Rockies, was busy every season—boaters and skiers on the lake in the summer, foliage observers in the fall, skiers from the first snowfall to spring, and those searching for an escape in the many hot mineral springs had made this new resort the hot spot west of the Mississippi.
She pursed her lips, then stopped when the action hurt her chin. The pain reminded her of the collision her chin had with a fist. Jim grabbed her attention as he ended the call.
Absently, he reached out and touched her hand.
Jane was too tired to react, too slow to step away.
Jim’s worry hit her like a snowball in the face. His wife and young daughter were sick with the flu. And all he wanted was to get rid of Jane and finish his shift without any problems so he go home to them. She heard his thoughts as if he spoke. Geez, what the hell has this woman been doing? Roller Derby? I need to get finished with her and get out of here.
“There will be someone with you in a moment,” Jim said.
That meant she’d have to go through someone else before she met Graham Masterson face to face. Hell. She let out a huff pointed up that blew her bangs. Well, if anything happened to his pretty wife, she knew she’d done everything she could. There were too many roadblocks. Besides, now that she’d had time to slow down and not feel like she was running for her life, she wasn’t so sure this was the safest place. But until she thought of something better, she had no choice but to stay.
“Are you sure you won’t have a seat while you wait?” Jim suggested.
Jane didn’t return his smile. “I’m sure.”
“At least let me get you a towel or a blanket?”
A blanket sounded wonderful but bulky. “A towel would be fine, thank you.”
It took him a moment to move to the desk and get her a large, plush, white towel. She often wondered how hotels kept their linens so white. Perhaps that was a question for Mr. Masterson—when she ever got to talk to him. She was careful not to touch Jim again as she took the towel from him and used it to dry off as best she could.
“Whom am I waiting for?”
“There he is now.” Jim nodded at the elevators.
When Jane saw the man who exited the elevator and now strode toward them, her heart picked up pace. It was impossible to look away.
Hell, it was impossible to breathe.
It was he. Oh…Oh…Oh…She couldn’t even think enough to utter an oath. She’d always known he existed—she had, after all, bumped into him, had touched him and had seen so much in that slight brush of skin against skin. She had never expected to see him again except while she slept. He was the man who filled her dreams, the man who made her panties wet with warmth right now. He might fill her nights with passion, but by day, he was little more than a monster in her nightmare. Despite the passion he shared with her in her sleep, she had planned to avoid him.
Too late for that.
He paused for a moment when he saw her. It was a quick hesitation. Jim probably didn’t notice, but Jane did. For a long moment, she didn’t breathe. She’d spent every night for the past two years with him, and she didn’t know his name. Yet, his sandy hair and laughing gray eyes, as well as his slightly crooked nose, and the rest of his body beneath his clothes, were as familiar to her as his lips would feel on her skin.
He made her scream, cry, giggle, laugh. In her dreams, he held her, kissed her, touched her, explored her, talked to her, and made passionate love to her—among other things while they visited exotic places. And perhaps he dreamed of her, as well, for Jane couldn’t mistake the recognition she saw in his gaze.
With each step he took closer, her insides tightened. Her nipples hardened. Her pussy quivered with anticipation. Damn, her body recognized him and reacted with need for his touch.
His eyes now were somber, serious. “Thank you, Jim, I’ll handle this from here.”
She would have recognized his voice in complete darkness.
“Of course, Mr. Drummond.”
Mr. Drummond. Soft, light, perfect, leaving the tiny hairs on her arms standing at attention, his name flowed over her like a feather on her flesh. Now she had a last name to go with his face, his body, his strong, experienced hands.
Hold on a minute, time to back pedal. She had always known he was real, not a figment of her erotic dreams. She did, after all, remember touching him in the elevator so long ago. It was all the other visions that came with that simple brush of skin she could never believe—until now. She sucked in a deep breath and tried to bring some moisture to her cracked lips with her tongue, but it was too dry, too. She might be wet and freezing, but she fought the urge to take off her clothes.
Mr. Drummond directed his deep, gray gaze to her, and Jane thought she might drown in it. “Miss Smyth, is it?”
He sounded as if he needed to test out her name.
But Jane couldn’t answer for a long moment. She was too caught up in the look of his eyes. Although his eyes were gray, not blue as the creature she’d tangoed in the alley with, they still held the same I’d-love-to-devour-you look. She shuddered. But it wasn’t from fear, it was with need.
Despite her snow-soaked wet clothes, her breasts were hot and pressed against the tight lace of her bra. It was hard to breathe. And while her panties were wet from snow and freezing rain, her crouch was warm. Very. “I think I’ve made a mistake,” she said, almost more to herself. She turned from him. Why was this so hard? She should be able to talk to Graham Masterson for thirty seconds, tell him of the danger she saw and be finished by now.
“Wait, please, Miss Smyth.” He reached out before she could distance herself from him and grasped her arm to stop her.
“Don’t…” she let out. She couldn’t let him touch her. She was too exhausted, too vulnerable and too wounded to experience even the slightest of visions that often came with touch. But then she stopped.
His warmth and more moved through her with his touch. Inviting, alluring, beckoning, his familiar feel she recognized from the dreams she’d shared with him flowed through her. She thought she could melt and be nothing more than a puddle on the floor by his Italian shoes. She’d expected coldness. He was, after all, a vampire. Weren’t vampires supposed to be cold as death, or so the myths stated?
Well, this one wasn’t.
Mr. Drummond’s touch made her skin sizzle.
And the rest of her…
She should pinch herself to make sure she was still awake and not sharing another dream with him. With his touch and his heat, her body responded as it did every night. Her pussy sparked to life like a bear who awoke from hibernating—starving, needing and searching for instant satisfaction.
Her lower belly tightened and her nipples itched for freedom from her bra. He let go of her suddenly as if her arm burned his hand, making her wonder what he felt. The absence of his touch sent a shiver through her. It left her confused. She stared at his mouth for a moment—too long, since he noticed. But she couldn’t help it. She was certain any moment, his fangs would grow—like the one she’d left in the alley—and he’d bite her. She forced down a swallow. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come here.”
This time she didn’t turn away. Instead, she backed away from him. Even though she had no idea where she planned to go.
“Don’t go.”
His soft words flowed over her like a warm breeze. With the sound of his voice, Jane’s legs grew heavy and she couldn’t take another step.
“Please…I should go.” But oh, she wanted to stay. She knew from her dreams how perfect his arms would feel holding her close. She needed to feel them now. She told herself she owed it to Graham Masterson’s wife to face her fear long enough to give a warning. Mr. Drummond could tell him. He was, after all Mr. Masterson’s top security man, as Jane had learned from his touch.
“But the snow’s coming down like crazy. If you go, you won’t get a mile. Besides, you look like you need help.”
His words confused her more. He would help her? She knew if they were together in a dream, he would help her. It was as if he mentally called to her, compelled her to stay. He no longer touched her. It didn’t matter. Jane was positive he somehow held her fast and refused to let her move. “I need…” With him close, she forming a coherent sentence was impossible. She had known about Graham Masterson. She had known about this man. She had hoped whoever came after being called by Jim, he wouldn’t be a bloodsucker. Mr. Drummond was. Still he wanted to help her.
“Ella Masterson’s in danger. Can you warn her husband?”
“Let me help you, Ms. Smyth.”
His voice sounded so much like the voice he used in their dreams. With the way he focused on her and not what she’d told him, it was so easy to imagine him saying more. “Let me help you remove your clothes. Let me touch you. Let me taste you. You’re so beautiful. You’re so tight…”
Jane blinked and her mind cleared, a little. But enough for her to know this was no dream. Her heart raced, and she drew in a deep breath. She was hot all over, despite her uncontrollable shivering. “Call me Jane.” She felt as if she knew him well enough to be on a first-name basis. After all, last night, he had put his fingers inside her and touched her soul.
“Jane Smyth? Seriously?”
Jane bit down on an impatient reply. “Yes. It’s my name, but spelled with a Y.”
“Oh. Come with me, please.”
She thought of all the nights of wild passion, all the walks through woods, lake excursions in a canoe, picnics beside streams, sleep-outs and making love under the stars she shared with this man. In all her dreams, he was nothing more than a compassionate lover no matter how hard or fast or slow he fucked her, no matter how much he made her scream and cry while he tickled her clit with his tongue or how often he explored any or all of her orifices with his probing fingers.
No, he’d proven in two years of night moves together, she didn’t need reality to come. In fact, she hadn’t been able to even go out to dinner with another man since the dreams began, much less fuck or even kiss another guy.
And yet, she knew there was more than perfect soul-searing sex when it came to Mr. Drummond. Even now, she couldn’t help thinking about the vision she got, so clear, when he brushed against her two years ago. In less than a heartbeat, she’d been given a nightmare and more than seven hundred nights of wild dreams. Her knees started to shake. She told herself it was from the adrenaline rush. That mental picture couldn’t be real. Besides, a few seconds ago when he touched her, she had seen nothing dangerous. It didn’t matter that she’d felt something close to the warmth of her own blood pulsing through her veins. She sucked in a breath in an effort to ignore her sudden need to unbutton her blouse and press her naked skin against the hard chest she knew he possessed.
She stared at him for a moment and tried to forget the vision she’d seen so long showing her he was a monster. Think of the dreams you share with him. Think of how his hands play over you like you’re the finest instrument ever made. The man before her, the man of her dreams, couldn’t hurt her.
But the monster in him could hurt her, kill her.
That was what she’d seen in her vision and what she worked to ignore.
“I’ll take you to see Mr. Masterson.”
Jane never felt so torn in her life. She needed to see Mr. Masterson. She needed to keep her distance between herself and the man in front of her. Her heart raced again, and she worked to swallow the lump in her throat. Fear or no fear, she followed, as if he again controlled her steps. Another shiver moved through her with the memory of the way he’d touched her the night before.
Cold fear touched the back of her neck at being alone with him. And awake…
He led her to a quiet area in the hall a short distance away. “I’m in charge of security for Mr. Masterson.”
“I know.”
“Would you care to tell me why you need to see him, and what warning he needs? While you’re at it, you can tell me who did this to you.”
There was unmistakable authority in his voice, and Jane thought she detected anger in his last sentence.
She was done. She held up her hands in mock surrender. “Someone is after his wife and wants to kill him.” And wants to kill me, too. “But everyone would rather waste time instead of take me to see him. I thought he should know.” She turned to toward the doors.
He reached out to touch her arm again. Perhaps one touch hadn’t been enough for him, either. Perhaps he needed to convince himself she was real.
Jane stepped back and almost stumbled in an effort to get out of reach. “Don’t touch me.”
“You know I won’t hurt you,” he whispered.
Did she really know? Her dreams told her one thing, her vision of two years ago told her something different. “Please keep your hands off me. Don’t ask me why. And if you aren’t going to take me to see Mr. Masterson, I’m leaving.” A few minutes with Mr. Masterson would be all she needed—and all she could endure. Then as soon as she was finished with her warning, she was getting the hell out of the resort, snow or no snow. She was not able to think beyond that. Would she have to sleep in her locked car?
“Please. As you can see, I pose no threat to him. I have no weapons, but you’re welcome to check my bag if you wish.” She almost bit her tongue since she told him one of the biggest lies of her life. She did have a weapon—an unseen weapon, not that she planned to use it on Graham Masterson.
“All right, I’ll take you up to him.” Into his cell phone, he told someone they were coming up. He led her to the nearest elevator, and they climbed in alone. Once the door closed, he grabbed her arm and turned her toward him. “If this is all some plan to get to him, if you’ve lied to me at all, I won’t be very happy.”
He misunderstood her gasp as surprise at his sudden grip on her arm.
She didn’t tell him what she felt, what she saw when he touched her. The feelings, thoughts, visions were all mixed up and jumbled together coming to her in blinding flashes and in complete contrast to feeling only warmth a few moments ago. His anger was an uncontrollable animal chewing through his gut. His tension stretched tight through him. His worry for her was a cloud of fog that swallowed him. And was it her imagination, or did his teeth change? Did he sprout instant fangs that turned normal again in a flash? Jane couldn’t be certain. He might say he’d never hurt her, but could she believe him? She shivered and tried to pull away. He was hesitant to let her go.
Then her confusion doubled as she saw his goodness. She also saw the conflict in him. His want—his very need—to hold her close and offer the safety of his arms was overwhelming like an assault that took more of her energy. He was angry who whoever had hurt her. He wanted to lash out, punch the wall.
The idea of pressing the emergency stop button flashed through him like lightning. And he wanted her back against the wall while she wrapped her legs around his waist and he fucked her hard and fast before they reached the top floor. His want touched her with the sudden intensity of a burning ember. It left her head swimming. He released her arm as if he knew if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to fight the need to pull her into his embrace and make the thought reality. His touch left her skin tingling, and Jane felt weaker than she had after using so much energy in the alley when she was attacked less than an hour before.
She fought the urge to step closer to him again, as if her body, her skin craved his closeness and her soul longed to melt with his. Being close to him is the only safe place…
Hell, what was wrong with her? She’d never before been so conflicted. He was like a fire, warm and inviting. But she knew if she got too close, she’d burn to ashes. She closed her eyes and leaned against the wall as the elevator rose to the top floor uninterrupted. She locked her knees to keep them from shaking. Exhaustion gripped her. She hoped she had enough strength left to tell Graham Masterson what he needed to know. What if he didn’t believe her?
His wife would be in trouble, that’s what.
When she looked up again and was caught in Mr. Drummond’s gaze, she found his expression had softened, but his eyes were still hard. “And after you’ve told Mr. M your dire news, you will tell me who did this to you.”
Another shiver moved up her back at the coldness in his voice. She had never heard icy, killing hatred come from him. When he spoke to her in the dreams they shared, he was nothing but warm and loving or light and laughing even when filled with passion and desire. The sound of his voice could make her hot and wet. His whispers in her ear could make her come.
The door opened into something that looked like a foyer. There were two solid oak doors, small tables on either side of them, each holding a plant. Mr. Drummond started to take her arm and lead her out of the elevator. She stepped out ahead of him before he could touch her. Her legs tingled as if thousands of bugs crawled in them. Her wet clothes clung to her. She clenched her teeth to keep them from chattering. She held the towel as if it were her lifeline. A tornado clashed through her—a mixture of hot from the man beside her and cold from her wet clothes and the fear she now stepped into a pit of vipers.
He stepped in front of her and opened one of the doors, leading her into a grand office. Deep, sea green carpet, a large desk with intricate carving, comfortable plush chairs and a sofa, and a well-stocked bar took up one end. There was also a huge fireplace with a beautiful oak mantel. Flames poured from the gas log, filling the room with warmth. Jane fought the urge to move closer, to hold out her hands and let the fire send its heat through her. Above the mantel were two swords set in criss-cross position, their intricate handles pointing at the ceiling, their edges appearing sharp. At the other end of the huge room was a round conference table that reminded Jane of King Arthur. All in all, the office was larger than some apartments Jane had lived in.
With his picture gracing the front cover of three separate magazines this month, she knew what Graham Masterson looked like. With his dark hair and black eyes, he was a looker. But she was too tired, cold, and uncomfortable to notice or care. Not that she would anyway since her dream lover stood beside her. She forced a swallow and stepped into the office. There were four other men in the room, each sitting at various points. She recognized defense tactics when she saw them.
Graham Masterson stood up. “Thank you for bringing her up, Milo.”
Now she had a first name to go with her midnight lover.
Milo. Milo Drummond.
She glanced over at him and found he watched her.
“Ms. Smyth?” Graham Masterson extended his hand to her.
Jane stepped closer to him, but didn’t reach out. “You can call me Jane.”
He got the message and put his hand back on his desk. “Of course.” His words were polite. “Please sit down.”
“No, thank you.”
He nodded, another polite gesture. “Can I offer you a drink?”
“Perhaps after we’ve talked.” She grasped the back of the chair to stay on her feet. Milo took the towel she still held.
“I understand you’ve refused the assistance of the hotel doctor. May I suggest you change your mind?”
“I don’t need a doctor.”
“I beg to differ.”
“I came to help you.”
At her words, he raised a brow. “And how is that?”
Jane licked her lips before she spoke again, but it didn’t help ease her fear. “I was at the bookstore earlier. There was a man there. I don’t know if you know him. But he knows you.” She felt trapped in his endless gaze.
Graham tilted his head in question. “Does he have a name?”
“All I know is a first name—Bart.”
At the sound of that name, the men behind her shifted and stood, on alert. Jane turned and glanced at them. Her gaze swept past Milo. He had dropped the wet towel on the nearby chair. His hand was now tucked under his other arm. Obviously, he had a gun holstered there and had his hand on it ready. Yes, these men knew Bart. Well, Jane had to confess that after her encounter with him, she’d react the same way. So much for Milo saying he wouldn’t hurt her, she thought.
Graham was the only man in the room who appeared calm, at least everywhere but in his dark eyes, which glistened with anger and hate. Had she been wrong to bring this to him?
“What can you tell me about Bart?” Graham’s question was subtle, but Jane heard how he forced himself to remain calm.
“He plans to kill you.”
“And he was in Silvia’s Book Store on Maple Street in Royal Peak?”
“Yes.”
“How do you know his plans?”
“It’s not important.” She didn’t need to waste time explaining her ability. “What’s important is stopping him from using your wife as bait to kill you so he can keep her for himself.” She knew it sounded blunt, but there was no other way to convince him. And considering the horrific experience she’d had with Bart, her words were rather sugar coated. Jane clenched her jaws again, this time to fight off a yawn.
Should she continue, or should she leave? Had she told enough?
She remembered the way Bart had looked at her, and she decided to take the leap. “And I don’t need a doctor, but I would ask for your assistance.”
“What kind of assistance?”
“Well, Bart’s not too happy with me right now. I’m not lying about his wanting to kill you. I think you top his list, and my name’s right below yours. I’m asking for your protection.”
“Perhaps you should talk to the police?”
Jane couldn’t hold back the next yawn. “Excuse me.” She met Graham’s gaze again. “I know what you are and what you’re capable of.” Just as she knew about Milo Drummond before she knew his name. “I also know what Bart is. I know you—and others around you—are the only ones who can protect me from him.” But who would protect her from them?
His eyes hardened. “What do you know?”
She had so hoped she wouldn’t have to explain things. There was so little time before fatigue overcame her and she was nose level with the carpet. “I know you’re a vampire, with greater strength and speed and endurance than any human.”
He chuckled as if he thought that was a silly idea.
Jane didn’t smile.
He stopped laughing abruptly. “How do you know?”
“I learned it from one of your men.” She gripped the chair harder. Her knuckles turned white. She stared at Graham to keep from glancing at Milo and giving away the identity of her informant.
Graham sat up straighter and his eyes narrowed. It was his first sign of emotion—anger. “One of my men betrayed me?”
Jane shook her head. “No, this man would never betray you. He would give his life without hesitation to protect you. He has nothing but respect and loyalty and admiration for you.” She had to pause and take a deep breath to avoid another yawn.
“Then how is it you came to know about me and when?”
She didn’t want to tell. And for a moment, she considered lying—we were drunk, having wild sex, and he spilled his guts and told everything about you. In the end, she spoke the truth. Besides, she felt Graham would recognize any lie. “Sometimes when I touch someone, I feel things or I know things. Two years ago, I bumped up against this man in an elevator, and I knew about him. I knew about his job for you.” She didn’t add since that simple, innocent touch, she’d been sharing her bed with Milo every night in the wildest dreams possible. She kept her gaze glued on Graham, but her nipples hardened with the thought of Milo.
“You’re telepathic.” Graham relaxed.
“Yes.” Right then, she was also exhausted, and gosh that was such an easy word for such a complex ability. “And at first, I couldn’t believe it. It all seemed so… Impossible.” As did the dreams she shared with Milo. “Until tonight. It was through the same kind of touch that I learned of Bart’s evilness. In the bookstore, he asked me to have a cup of coffee, and he touched my hand.” She looked down at the chair in front of her, no longer able to look at him.
“There’s more to it than that.”
Given her torn clothes, he didn’t have to be very perceptive to know there was more.
She couldn’t tell. The thought of what he planned to do to her—to rape her and feed on her before he killed her caused her stomach to roll. He’d leaned closed and smelled her. He’d known her blood had a negative factor. She looked up to find Graham’s steepled fingers resting against his chin as he watched her. “He’s like you, a vampire, only evil, unimaginably evil.”
He held her gaze, and Jane couldn’t look away. “That is true.”
“So who attacked you?” Milo’s question drew her attention, and somehow made pulling her gaze from Graham’s easier than she thought.
“He did. I left as soon as I could get away. I was parked in the alley behind the bookstore. He caught me there.”
In less time than it took for her to blink, Milo grabbed her and shoved her back against the opposite wall of the room just as Bart had against the building. The impact knocked the wind out of her and sent pain down her back all the way to her toes. She would have screamed, but she didn’t have the energy or the air.
“You bitch, everything you said is a lie so you could get close to Mr. M. Bart sent you, didn’t he?”
“No!” she choked out. She felt his anger and his pain—both were like thousands of tiny knives stabbing her. He thought she’d betrayed him. He wanted to kill her, right here, right now, snap her neck. And this time, there was no mistake, his teeth did change. His fangs were so close.
This was her vision, she realized. This was the image she’d seen flash through her mind like a short movie when she’d bumped into him in the elevator two years ago. Mesmerized by fear, she stared at him. Even though her vision only went as far as Milo lunging toward her, she knew in the next second he would sink his strong, unforgiving teeth into her throat, and it would be the end. His breath was hot, yet froze her heart in an instant. She stared at him.
At the same time, she felt his hesitation, too. He held back. She felt his heart racing.
“Milo.”
She heard Graham’s voice.
His hold loosened, but Milo didn’t release her. “So how in hell did you get away, because if he wanted you, he’d have had you? No mortal woman can escape him.”
His words broke the spell he cast on her. In a huff, she let out her breath. He still held her pinned to the wall, but at least she could think coherently. The man who held his elbow pressed against her throat was not the Milo who made her come with his tongue every night. Then the hesitation she felt in him grew, and she no longer thought he’d bite her. Yet, her terror was worse than what she’d felt with Bart.
Through dreams of the past two years, she’d learned to trust this man.
Now, she couldn’t trust him.
Her heart twisted at the idea. She wanted to trust him. Did he hesitate to sink his teeth into her throat because of what he felt her for in the dreams they shared? Or because Graham had stopped him?
As her fear eased, her aches and pains again made themselves known. Every bruise and scrape was suddenly alive and competing for attention. A hot, fresh wave of anger swept in despite the pain. How dare he not trust her when she had never given him any reason not to? How dare he put his hands on her in any other way than the loving way he put them on her while she dreamed?
She summoned what little energy she possessed and channeled it toward him. It hit him in the chest and knocked him away from her. He stumbled back a few feet, far enough to stun him and leave him off balance. Everything he felt she felt. Like a tornado, he felt pain thinking she betrayed him. It mixed with need to protect her and find who’d hurt her. She felt his desire to hold her and kiss her. In its shadow as an uncontrollable yearning to slip his dick into her right there as he pressed her against the wall. That need was topped off by excitement at discovering she was more than a dream and he’d found her at last. All of it stopped slamming into her the instant she shoved him away and got his hands off her. Her nipples, however, still responded to the idea of being fucked hard and fast. Jane tried not to breathe, not to move them in any way to keep them from being noticed as they attempted to push their way out of her blouse.
He glanced down, aware of her nipples.
She didn’t need to touch him to feel his unasked questions.
What the hell was that?
How did you do that?
Milo must have thought she’d punched him in the gut. For two seconds, she didn’t see his chest rise or fall with a breath. His silent questions mixed with confusion in his expression. His nose twitched.
Bart had told her he liked the way she smelled.
Could Milo smell her terror? Her anger? Or something more familiar? The woman of his dreams?
He stared at her. “What the fuck?”
Despite the distance between them, Jane felt his need. She nearly responded with a step closer to close the gap between them.
She shivered, and again she wanted in his arms where he could warm her using any and all means possible. She shook her head to avoid his distraction.
“Like that,” she let out, having enough energy to whisper, before dark spots danced before her eyes. How she stayed on her feet, she had no idea. She reached out and grasped the edge of the chair again and locked her elbows, doing everything possible to keep herself standing.
The room spun for a moment, then there was utter silence.
Just breathe. Her single breath felt like a knife slicing into her chest. She had exerted more energy in the past few hours than she would have had she run a marathon.
Do not think about how he makes you scream and groan and beg for more before he makes you come every time you sleep! Do not! Do not think about how much his deep, animalistic, gruff voice turns your legs to jelly and makes your insides search for his cock. And no matter what, do not fall at his feet!
“Milo, call Dr. Burns.”
She recognized Graham’s firm authority and looked up to meet his gaze.
“No. I—need…” She had to force each word. She wanted nothing more than to move, reach the door and leave. But if she let go of the chair, she knew she’d reach the door crawling. And she didn’t think her knees could handle it, they’d already been abused enough. Gentle hands gripped her arms. She recognized Milo’s touch, but she didn’t want it on her arms, not where Bart had assaulted her. She turned to look at him. “Let go of me. And no doctor.” Her words were whispered through her painful throat. “Please.”
Milo ignored her. His wonderful touch remained on her arms.
Graham drew closer. “It’s obvious you’re in need of medical assistance.”
She forced her hand up and grasped Milo’s shirt. “Please. It—“ Her breaths sounded loud. “Takes all…” Hell, she couldn’t even get out a complete sentence without pausing to breathe. “My energy. Just. Need. Rest.”
“You’re telekinetic, too.” That was Graham again.
Jane forced a nod, and the movement left a headache in its wake. Another easy word for a very complicated ability, Jane thought.
“Get her a drink of water, James.”
One of the men left.
Graham continued. “And Drew, find my wife. I feel she’s still here at the resort and hasn’t headed into town yet because of the snow, but make sure. Then get the names of everyone who knew her itinerary for today so we can figure out how Bart got the information.”
“Yes, sir.” Another man headed to the door.
And a moment later, Milo held a glass of cool water to her lips. “Swallow.”
She did. It was heaven on her tight throat. Her fatigue was overwhelming, but for now, feeling Milo’s warmth was wonderful. It helped her forget how dangerous he was, even though moments ago, his fangs had been inches from her throat. Besides, she was too tired to stand without his help.
“What did you do to Bart?” Milo asked.
With her words still slow and divided by the panting breaths while she shifted her weight from one cramping leg to the other, she said, “He grabbed me as I unlocked my car door. I slammed him pretty hard against the building. It stunned him, but not for long.”
“Yet you managed to escape him.” The man who spoke was the one Graham called James. “How?”
“There was a cart, held together by metal rods. After I shoved him to the bricks, I skewered him to the building. I didn’t kill him, though.”
“Then what?” Milo’s expression held a combination of concern, disbelief, awe and fear.
And even if she hadn’t seen those emotions on his face or his eyes, they were undeniable in his touch. And with all the emotions in him, there was something deeper, something more terrifying than all the others. He was possessed by a wild, uncontrolled urge to kill. But it wasn’t directed at her. Which was good. She didn’t have the strength or the desire to move away from him.
Over and above all of his emotions, she felt some kind of pull. It compelled her closer to him.
“Then…” Jane couldn’t finish. She closed her eyes for a moment and forced away the terror in the memory. “Then, I managed to get into my SUV and lock the doors. I didn’t stop until I got here to warn you. The drive took forever with the snow. And I was so afraid. I kept looking in my rearview mirror, certain I’d see him behind me.” Jane remembered thinking the danger of Bart was worse than the danger of the vampires at the Moonlight Resort. Her gaze went from Milo to Graham. Milo left her uncertain, but there was no doubt with the way Graham’s dark eyes hardened and his brows knit closer together that he knew she either lied or she left something unsaid. Besides, her ripped clothes and evident abrasions told a different story.
Yet, Graham said nothing to accuse her. “James, take a team to the bookstore. See what you can find. And be on the alert, no one is to be anywhere alone. If what she says is true, then it’s possible Bart’s injured. He’ll be desperate and more dangerous than ever as he needs nourishment to heal.”
“Yes, sir.”
A moment later, James was gone.
“And August, hunt for any activity,” came the next order.
“Yes, sir.” A mountain of a man left the room.
Jane didn’t want to question what activity there might be. She’d seen enough activity for one day.
Graham met her gaze again.
Jane looked away, her eyelids heavy. “I think I’m feeling better.” Another lie. She still couldn’t meet Graham’s intense gaze, nor Milo’s. They weren’t stupid. They had to know she wasn’t telling the complete truth. She leaned away from Milo, but didn’t have the strength to move far. She wished for strength to let go of the chair, but her legs wouldn’t hold her up without help. “Is it possible for me to get a room here?”
Graham’s hard expression never changed. “No, I’m afraid it’s not, Jane.”
“What?” She’d come there to warn them, to save Graham Masterson’s life and his wife, and she was being turned out where Bart could get to her?
Jane now had no trouble looking at Graham. Her gaze shifted from his to Milo’s. For a long moment, she was stunned speechless. At least Milo’s teeth now appeared normal. Except for the hard look of worry that filled his expression, he was back to the man who had licked her clit relentlessly in her dreams the night before. That should make her feel better. It didn’t.
She wished she had more energy. She’d slam them against the wall and show them how it felt.
It was Milo who answered her question. “There aren’t any available rooms.”
“You’re kidding,” she let out.
“We don’t kid when it involves monsters like Bart.” Graham turned away for the first time and moved back toward his desk.
“So I should head to my sister’s cabin as I planned?”
“No. It’s obvious Bart touched you. He may have been able to read your thoughts as easily as you read his. And even if he didn’t, he no doubt saw what you drove. He can track you by your scent alone, even with the snow. ” Graham paused and studied her, letting her know he knew there was more to her confrontation with Bart than she told them. “Milo, see that she’s made comfortable and has everything she needs.”
Milo didn’t hesitate. “Yes, sir.”
“But—”
“No buts about it, Jane,” Graham interrupted. “If Bart wants you, you wouldn’t last the night outside my gates. Besides with the snow, you wouldn’t get far.”
“But you said there weren’t any rooms.”
“There aren’t. You’ll go with Milo.”
“With Milo?” Her heart pounded at the idea of being close enough to feel more of his body heat.
“Yes, with Milo.”
And stay with him in his room?
It wasn’t a good idea. Even if her body cried out for that very thing and the thought of it made her heart pound. She was caught in Milo’s gaze.
“But,” she started again.
Graham turned away from her, picked up his cell, touched the screen and put it to his ear. The dismissal couldn’t be any clearer.

The Latest Thursday Teaser

Hello All!

I present to you the latest Thursday Teaser! In the coming weeks, I will be showcasing snippets of my upcoming novels in progress. Please enjoy an excerpt from my upcoming work, ‘Prince of Seas: Three Brothers Fair’. Comments welcome!!

Love,
Emily

Excerpt:
One for the land, one for the sea,
And one for the air.

Golden, chestnut, and jet of hair,
Three brothers to unite the kingdoms:
Land, sea, and air.

Innocent one, quiet and wise,
Foolish one in another’s guise,
And third, the Destroyer and Spy.

Happiness for three,
But greater the Lady’s Power will be.

—from The Lady’s Words, translated by Lord Andrew Cuirm Weinberg

Comfortable in the high-backed armchair, Hans watched his brothers.

“The hair dye won’t stay for more than a few hours.” Tian grimaced at his reflection. “Andy, what the hell’m I supposed to do?”

Andy didn’t look away from the book on his desk. “You could start by not croaking like a new-hatched chick.”

The armchair was positioned in a corner, well out of the way of the teasing and annoyance that always flew between Tian and Andrew Weinberg. With a mug to warm his hands, Hans smirked. He loved listening to his brothers bicker without true heat.

Tian stalked over to the desk and gave one of its legs a hard kick.

The book jumped, but Andy didn’t react.

“What’m I gonna do?” Tian’s voice rose. “He’s a hideous, self-centered water demon.”

“Is there any other kind?” Hans asked, his voice barely audible to his own ears. Although he thought Prince Felimid mac Lugh rather attractive for a water demon. Yes, his skin tended to resemble that of an eczema sufferer when he walked in air-breather form, but his grace when he swam… Hans drank deeply of his tea in an effort to hide the flush of his cheeks with the liquid’s heat. In an effort to distract himself, he considered the archaic form of the prince’s last name. Mac meant “son of.” And lugh was some sort of sea god. The space between both names wasn’t common anymore, but from what Hans knew, the mac Lughs were a highly traditional people.

Tian stomped back to the mirror and whined, “Andrew, help me.”

“You’re pathetic.” But Andy got up from his desk at last and crossed to Tian. “You know our bodies don’t hold human chemicals well. Why did you waste time trying?”

Hans watched as Andy flicked a hand through Tian’s hair. Gray dye flaked off into the air and dropped to the carpet.

“Were you thinking to pretend you’re an ancient mortal?” Andy raked his fingers over the part in Tian’s chestnut mass. “The prince—or at least his parents—know we’re triplets. The moment Hans and I walk into the room, your secret will be out.”

Color blazed high in Tian’s cheeks, but his voice carried less prissy outrage and more fear. “I wanted to make myself unattractive to him. I’m too young to be married off this way.”

“Too young by whose standards? We’ve been eighteen for almost six months. Most of our cousins were married within a moon cycle once they reached their eighteenth year.” In spite of his pitiless words, Andy put an arm around Tian’s shoulders. “You’re attracted to males in general, if not this specific prince, and that’s more than many an intended bride or groom can claim.” He lowered his voice. “And you’re no stranger to sex.”

Assured that he was still being ignored, Hans grinned. Tian was the second of their trio to be born. He’d always played the part of middle child even though he’d broken shell a scant three minutes after Andy. Tian went on the adventures, got into more trouble than Andy and Hans together, and was able to maintain an erection many months before his nest siblings. Of course he’d gotten laid first. Andy often played the role of older brother. He had also enjoyed a coupling or two, although he’d waited until he turned eighteen.

Hans pressed his lips together when Tian spun to bury his head against Andy’s shoulder. That leaves me to play the virginal shadow. It was either that or act the part of the weak but intensely intelligent youngest one. He wasn’t quite fit for that. Not when he enjoyed swimming and diving so much but couldn’t manage to learn more than one language besides his own.

“Shh, shh, it will be all right.” Andy rubbed Tian’s back. “He’s a good match for you: brave, strong, and playful. I’ve heard—”

Tian shoved his way out of Andy’s arms. “You go marry him if you’re so convinced he’s wonderful.” He went to the desk and kicked its leg again. “I want a chance to pick my own ball and chain. We’re immortal, Andy. Hasn’t it occurred to you that I’ll be trapped in this marriage for the rest of my life? A thousand years from now, I’ll be stuck with someone I’ve never—could never—want.”

“I’ll take your place.” Tian and Andy whirled toward him, and only then did Hans realize he’d spoken loud enough for them to hear. Blushing under their regard, he refused to back down. He’d always been told the sons of Lord Cuirm and Lady Weinberg must say what they meant and mean what they said. So he raised his chin and balanced his mug on one knee. “I find Prince Felimid attractive.”

Tian’s expression, startled at first, morphed into one of amusement. “Hans, I love you. You’re a selfless lil’ thing with a tragic heroine’s heart.”

“Don’t call me lil’ thing.” But he couldn’t put any heat behind his voice. Andy and Tian were the warriors; he was only the shadow.

Andy sighed and returned to his desk. “It’s a kind gesture, Hans-a-la, but Tian can’t accept.”

“Why not?” Now Tian’s attention was back on Andy. “Not that I would put our lil’ thing”—he smirked over his shoulder at Hans—“in such a position, but I’d like to know why you think you can speak for me.”

“I speak for you because Father and Mother aren’t here. And because, after them, I’m the keeper of our family’s traditions.”

“You mean you’re the only one self-important enough to want to keep them.”

Hans got up, setting his mug silently under the armchair. While Tian and Andy glared at each other, he escaped the room. Neither of his brothers said anything to him. Soon he was halfway to his favorite balcony.

Loch Erie—what the humans called Lake Erie in their newspapers—was considered to have mostly deserted shores where it bordered with New York State. But the glamour that kept kelpies like Hans and his family disguised from the nonmagical world also made their home invisible. It wasn’t a castle, but Hans had never cared for his cousins’ generational, impersonal homes. He liked the relatively small dwelling that allowed him to jump from the second-story balcony into the water below. There was just enough time between leap and splash for him to change from his mostly human aspect to his true shape.

He opened the balcony door, prepared to sprint to the railing and vault it. But he froze with his hand still on the doorknob. Someone sat on the low stone railing Hans often thought of as his. It’s him. Prince Felimid. The auburn-haired man in the leather kilt sat with his back to the loch. His face was broad and a little homely by popular standards, and the reddish, almost pebbly look of his skin in human form would be taken as unattractive by most. But his hair and eyes were beautiful, and his posture bespoke royalty.

“Hello?” Hans asked in clumsy, memorized Gaelic. He gave up and switched to English. “Are you Prince Felimid mac Lugh?” Gaelic was not his second language. He’d chosen to study Scots, best known as English’s second cousin once removed. It was his people’s tongue.

He was rewarded with English. “I am.” The prince smiled a little. Gestured for Hans to join him. “Sit for a moment. I’m sure the master won’t mind.”

You consider me a slave? It followed that Felimid didn’t know what Hans and his brothers looked like. Repressing a grin, Hans approached and bowed. “Thank you, Majesty.”

“You burst out here like you were going somewhere.” Felimid nodded toward the lake. “Were you going for a swim?”

“Yes, Majesty.” Hans wondered if the shape of his thickening cock could be seen through the tights he often wore when in human guise. The prince’s voice was as silky as gently flowing water.

Felimid stood and pushed his kilt off his waist. It dropped in a little puddle around his beautifully fashioned, human-seeming feet.

Hans blushed when he looked at those perfectly made toes so unlike the horse hooves he wore while on land. Whether he disguised himself as a human or as the water horse, he couldn’t get rid of those hooves.

Felimid chuckled. “Have you never seen a naked water demon before?”

Hans shifted his weight. His hooves, hidden in their doeskin wrappings, made no noise on the balcony’s stone floor. “It’s not that. I suddenly remembered…” But he didn’t have the courage to admit his embarrassment.

Felimid took both of Hans’s hands. “Will you listen to a piece of advice?”

Swallowing, Hans lifted his gaze. “Of course, Majesty.”

The prince shook his head. “Don’t call me that, please. We’re alone out here. There’s no need for protocol.” He smiled. His broad face was just right for big expressions. “Here’s the advice. We’re all born the same way, more or less, and we all die.”

Hans felt his lips stretch in a tentative approximation of amusement. “More or less.” It was the immortals among his community who came to mind.

“Yes, more or less.” Felimid tugged Hans toward the railing. “So since we’re all basically the same, we should have the courage to look each other in the face and say hello.”

“That’s easy for you to do,” Hans blurted. “You’re not the youngest of three…” He stilled his traitorous tongue.

Felimid raised one reddish-brown eyebrow. “Come. Swim with me.”

Aware of the heat that still remained in his face, Hans stripped and kicked off his shoes. Then he vaulted the waist-high railing and dove into the blissful, chilly water. His transformation from human guise to kelpie was over before he’d completely submerged.
Copyright © Emily Carrington

A New Post.

Hello Dear Readers:

Please check out this new blog post. An interesting anthropological perspective on bears, which is informative and makes you think.

Morphed: Before They Were Bears
This exciting delve into the Paleolithic history of the world’s bears filled me with love for one of the most misunderstood animals in the world.

*Why I’m posting only the title: I don’t have legal permission to post the link. Check out the title on YouTube.

Check out Ziff Edu, the creator of these MORPHED videos and many other fascinating snippets about human and animal history.

Peace,
Emily

WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera