Posted in Teasers

If Anything Happens to Him part 2

If Anything Happens to Him I’ll (part 2)
Author: Estel Baggins/Emily Carrington
Rating: M
Pairing: Jake/Chance
Warning: slash, threats of sexual violence and cross-dressing
Author’s Note: This definitely takes place after the first “if Anything Happens to Him, I’ll…” so still slight AU. Blame the plot bunnies.

If Anything Happens to Him, I’ll… (part 2)

Chance had no idea how many times he’d worried about Jake getting hurt. It had been months since the mess with Dr. Viper and the spore pod but he still had nightmares sometimes. Most of those involved watching Jake, dressed up in helmet and flight suit as Razor, falling off the top of the mayor’s Megakat Towers project. In these dreams, Chance wasn’t right there to catch him. He missed and Jake plummeted to his death.
Now was certainly not the time to be thinking about that. If Chance didn’t watch it, he was going to lose a finger as he fiddled with the troublesome engine of a luxury sedan. Callie Briggs’s sedan.
Still, he couldn’t ignore one more thought: Jake had admitted to checking out Chance’s ass just the way Chance had been looking at him. So, what were they still doing, three years later, being buddies?
He swatted the question into the dark recesses of his mind and focused on his work.
“Not done yet?” Jake asked as he came waltzing into the garage bay. Literally waltzing, his paws up as if he was actually dancing with someone.
Chance grunted. “What are you doing?”
“Practicing for tomorrow night. All the city employees are being invited to a masked ball. Didn’t you get the email?”
Chance hadn’t; his inbox was overly full. Like his snail mail bin, he supposed. It was a damn good thing Jake kept up with the bills and the “you must repay the city” marble slab that would be hanging over their heads for the rest of their nine lives.
And how many lives does Jake have left? Chance wondered.
“Oh crud it all to hell,” he muttered.
Jake, usually perceptive and intuitive to the point of being slightly annoying, apparently missed where Chance’s thoughts had gone because he said, “You haven’t picked out a costume yet, have you?”
Chance scowled at him. “I’m not going.”
He thought he caught a flash of hurt in Jake’s eyes before his partner laughed. “you have no choice. I’ve already picked out what you’re wearing, including a great mask, and you can’t say no.”
“Read my lips: I’m not going.” He wasn’t sure why but suddenly attending a ball where he might watch Jake dance with other kats… Oh, crud. That was why.
oOo
Jake wanted to scream. Not because there was anything unusual about Chance avoiding a huge group function but because he could see his brilliant plans going up in smoke. Less than six weeks ago, he and Chance had almost been killed by a coordinated effort between Dark Kat, Mack and Molly mange, and Dr. Viper. That misadventure had taken out the TurboKat. It had been hard rebuilding from scratch. But what had been harder was watching Chance, dressed up as T-Bone, looking at him while enemy fire flew over their heads and seeing the worry in his eyes. Worry not for himself but worry for Jake.
It was time to end all the uncertainty between them. But Jake had a plan for that and it involved Chance going to the masked ball. So, he stopped waltzing and approached the side of the car where his partner worked. “Do you want a hand?” he asked humbly.
That earned him another scowl but this one melted when Chance saw he really meant it. “Sure.”
They worked in silence for a little while, Jake privately cursing Callie’s poor judgment in cars. Then again, this was a gift from Mayor Manx so she’d had little choice but to accept.
“What’s making you look like that?” Chance asked querulously.
“Like what?” Jake asked before he could stop himself.
“Like someone ran over your pet.”
Oh, crud. So, Jake hadn’t managed to keep everything in his own head. “Just…I really wanted you to come to the dance.” He realized how vulnerable he sounded and tried to push past it. Months of therapy after he was attacked while on the Enforcers had taught him two things. First, that it was okay to be vulnerable but, second, he could choose when to let his feelings show.
And why was he hiding how he felt from Chance anyway?
“Because,” he muttered. He could have swallowed his tongue. That single word had come out sounding undefended. He shut up and waited to see what Chance would do or say. Probably he would blow it off and they could act like it had never happened. Or maybe the warning buzzer would sound and they’d be called for some emergency.
Nothing for a few seconds and Callie didn’t call in.
Then, just when Jake thought he’d explode from the tension playing out in his head, Chance said, “I’ll go. But I’ll hate it. You’d better not dress me up in anything silly.”
“Nothing you won’t feel proud wearing,” Jake promised.
Chance took a quick look around, probably to make sure they weren’t being overheard, and asked, “It’s not my flight suit, is it?”
Jake grinned as the awkwardness passed behind them. “Nope. But just as sexy.” He blushed. He hadn’t meant for that to come out of his mouth. But, hell, Chance knew he was gay. What more damage could be done?
And that was when the emergency button began to flash and the klaxon began to sound.
oOo
“Crud!” T-Bone watched as the two new bad guys in town split up and took different streets.
“You take the little one,” Razor said. “He looks faster. I’ll get the slow guy.”
T-Bone didn’t like that idea but there really wasn’t any time for debate. If they didn’t move, the two bank robbers would get away. “Radio if you run into trouble,” he said before Razor could deploy the small scooter that would take him down to the ground and let him keep chasing their quarry.
“Affirmative.” And Razor was gone.
T-Bone swung the TurboKat to the left and tried to spot the “little guy.” The two wore masks; they moved like a well-oiled machine. He didn’t like that he knew nothing about them. They were low tech but that was all he had to go on.
And, crud again, he couldn’t find the little mite. Where had he gone? T-Bone turned on the heat seekers and searched for someone running. Finally, he found the crazy kat, three streets over from where he’d expected. “Little guy really moves.”
He wasn’t going to be able to get at the robber from up here. He decided to land on a roof and use the portable heat-seeker Razor had invented. He’d follow the desperado as long as he kept running.
His hope was that the creep would meet up with his buddy again. Then Razor would be where T-Bone could keep an eye out for him.
He landed and started down the fire escape. His quarry was still running, heading actually toward the building where T-Bone had landed. That was a stroke of luck.
It wasn’t that Razor couldn’t take care of himself. He was accomplished as a fighter, a marksman, and even, in a pinch, as a pilot. It was just that Razor put himself in all sorts of dangerous circumstances. Like wanting to chase the bigger of the two bank robbers. What did he think? That the tom kat, assuming it was a tom, would just surrender? No, Razor wasn’t that foolish. But he’d never seen his opponent’s size as something he needed to worry about. From Dr. Viper to Volcanus, he believed he was invincible. T-Bone knew better. Maybe Razor’s heart was the most tender part of him. The deception Dark Kat had created, where Razor thought he’d injured innocents, showed that was true. But Razor was also a slight kat. He could be overpowered.
All right, T-Bone thought as his feet hit the ground and he made his way quickly and quietly down the alley toward the avenue where his quarry would soon appear, that’s not fair. I can be taken too.
But Razor was… Oh, crud, just admit it. Razor was precious to him. He didn’t want anything to ever happen to this kat that he’d never even kissed.
He crouched in the shadows and waited. The smaller of the two bank robbers drew closer and closer.
And then, he veered, cutting into a building.
Nothing about this was going to be easy, was it? T-Bone got moving again.
oOo
Razor had stalked his prey to the site of an old library that was scheduled for demolition. He didn’t know what the larger kat was going to do here, probably try to hide. He slipped off the Cyclotron and crept warily into the cavernous space, maybe using the same broken window his prey had used.
It was dim inside but Razor refused to use a light. His eyes would adjust in a few moments. And a light would only alert the kat he was chasing.
He smelled something odorous. Disgusting. He gagged as quietly as possible. Had something died in here?
Something scraped the floor off to his right. He backed away carefully, straining to see.
That was when his radio crackled to life. Luckily, it was in his helmet so it wouldn’t alert anyone. Razor, come in.”
He didn’t dare speak. Not until he knew how hot the trail was. He typed a quick message on his gauntlet “Stalking. Radio when I can.”
His eyes had adjusted. He moved silently through the huge space, seeking. Seeking.
“Razor, come in. The little guy’s off my radar. Do you copy?”
The room he’d just entered was deserted. Razor risked a quick verbal response. “Affirmative. Mine is att the old MegaKat Library, OakHaven branch. Rendezvous—”
Something scratched the floor behind him. Razor spun. But not quickly enough. Something connected with the side of his head. It bounced off his helmet. But then a huge figure pounced on him.
“Oof!” His back hit the floor.
“Razor! Come in!”
Massive paws closed around Razor’s throat . They tightened until Razor couldn’t speak. He could only rattle.
He passed out.
oOo
“Razor! Come in!”
Nothing. No reply. Then: a grunt. That was not Razor’s voice. It was too deep.
T-Bone whispered, “If anything happens to him, I’ll…” He wasn’t close enough to the TurboKat to use its speed. He was nearer the library. He kicked his run into a sprint.
oOo
When Razor regained consciousness, he was aware of two things right away. First, his head ached as if he’d been out drinking all night. Second, he couldn’t move. His arms were pinioned behind him and there was a knee on his tail, holding him effectively in place. He squinted aginst the pain in his head and tried to see. Finally, out of the gloom, a figure swam. It was the shorter of the two bank robbers, identifiable by the orange mask he wore as well as his height. If he was here, where was T-Bone? Had this sneaky little jerk shaken his tail?
“Hi there, Jake.”
Razor’s gut froze. He knew that voice. “Murray?”
The kat backhanded him. “Good ears, but that won’t save you. Soon, everyone will know Jake Clawson and Chance Furlong are the famous Swat Kats.”
Did that mean they’d captured Chance too?
“You’re a pretty piece of work,” Murray said. “Right, Burke?”
“yeah,” the other kat grunted. ‘Pretty.”
Murray chuckled. “You’re lucky I got here when I did, Jakey. Burke has a thing for you.”
The words were impossible to misunderstand when a massive paw reached around Jake and touched him.
In a flash, he was back in the barracks at Enforcer Headquarters. He was being held down by three other recruits while two others used a knife to shave away the fur around his eye. One of the kats holding him had stomped on his left hand and the only thing that saved him broken fingers was that the kat wore no shoes.
One of them, the one holding his head, had been sporting an erection and Jake had feared they were going to try something worse before they were done. At the time, they’d been content with cutting him. But the excited one had promised he’d be back for Jake.
“nothing to say, Jakey? If you’d stop looking so delicate…” he licked his lips suggestively.
He wouldn’t give Murray the satisfaction. He glared and waited for a chance to fight. He hadn’t fought his attackers at Enforcer Headquarters because he’d been afraid he’d be kicked out if he was seen as a troublemaker. Now, there were no such restraints. And he knew these two. They were arrogant. They’d make a mistake eventually.
That was when the little bit of light in the room went out.
Jake reacted instantly, yanking his paws out of Burke’s slackened grip and twisting his body so he could deliver an elbow to the big kat’s stomach.
Burke doubled over and Jake was ready with another elbow, this one catching Burke under the chin. He hoped he’d gotten the lummox’s windpipe.
Off balance, Burke fell sideways, moving the knee that had been on Jake’s tail.
Someone seized Jake’s arm. Jake struck.
“Woah, woah, it’s me!” his partner cried.
Jake made a light and held it high. Not because he didn’t know his partner’s voice but because he needed to see their enemies. Murray was trussed up and unconscious, but Burke was struggling to his feet, probably preparing to run.
Jake shot him with a knockout dart and the big kat toppled.
oOo
They were home and out of their flight suits. They were safe. Chance could let his paws shake.
“They know who we are,” Jake kept saying, his voice taut with suppressed emotion. “We’re going to be surrounded by Enforcers, Feral leading them.”
Chance caught Jake’s shoulders in a gentle but firm grip. “We’ll find a place to hide everything. It’s not like there isn’t a code to get in. And nothing’s obvious from topside.”
“If I hadn’t let him get the jump on me—”
“Don’t you dare blame yourself.” Chance realized he was snarling and tried to force himself calm. “Jake, listen. What happened wasn’t your fault.” He hesitated and then added, “Not burke bringing you down and not what Murry said.”
To his surprise, Jake laughed. “yeah, I know. Rape isn’t about attraction Its’ about power.”
“Crud, how can you talk so casually about that? Has someone… Did anyone ever…”
“I’ve been threatened with it before but, no, no kat’s ever hurt me that way.” Jake laughed again but this time he covered his face with one trembling paw. “Trust me; it’s not easy being the ‘little one.’”
Chance pulled him into a hug. As he bowed his head and buried his face against Jake’s shoulder, he realized this would probably be seen as unwelcome. He started to step back. “Jake, I—”
Jake pushed his face against Chance’s chest. “Thank you. I needed that.”
“Rough day?” asked a stern voice.
They sprang apart. Chance glared at Commander Feral, who stood in the open bay doorway. “Haven’t you ever heard of knocking? Sir?”
Feral frowned at them both. “Answer my question.”
“Yeah, it’s been a rough day,” Jake snapped. “Has someone ever threatened to rape you, Commander?”
Chance’s mouth went dry. Was Jake going to confess? Explain who they were?
“Some of the customers who come through here leave a lot to be desired,” Jake went on. “If Chance hadn’t come in when he did…” He shook his head. “I’m going to start carrying a wrench everywhere I go. Just to split a few skulls.”
To Chance’s immense relief and amusement, Feral looked embarrassed. “Were they Enforcers?” he asked, trying for his original stern tone.
“No, sir.” Jake shrugged. “They’re just ordinary crud-suckers.”
Feral hesitated; his indecision was all over his face. “The Swat Kats brought in the bank robbers.”
None of this had hit the news so Chance blinked in apparent confusion. “Bank robbers?” All the while thinking, It must be killing you to give the Swat Kats any credit.
“The two were city employees.”
“Well, the city does pay next to nothing,” Jake said.
Feral scowled. “They made a claim that you two were the Swat Kats. I want to see every inch of this place.”
“Sure,” Chance said easily. “It’s kind of a mess but I’m sure you can handle a little dirt on your paws.”
They took him around the top floor of their domain; Chance noticed that Jake discreetly unplugged the emergency phone from its wall jack.
“Do you need to count all the screws we’re using?” Jake asked, offering the commander an inventory book.
Feral shook his head. “I should have known better than to listen to those two.” He looked profoundly uncomfortable for a moment. Then he said, “You two are running this place better than I expected.” He turned around and stomped out.
oOo
Chance stared at the long black cape and beautifully beaded leather mask. Jake had spent a lot of money on this. Well, if he wanted to… Chance got dressed and wen out to the garage bay to see if Jake was dressed and ready to go.
Jake was glorious in a cape of deepest purple. His mask was like Chance’s. Leather an beads. But it covered more of his face so that only his mouth was visible.
Chance’s body woke at the sight of that inviting mouth. He salivated and only hoped he wouldn’t embarrass himself. “You look good,” he said as neutrally as possible.
“Do you like your cape? Let me see you swirl it.”
Chance did, feeling a little foolish. But the grin Jake flashed him made the embarrassment disappear.
“Let’s go,” Jake said. “Do you want me to drive?”
It was an old tease, like a needle finding a groove. Chance snorted. “Never.”
oOo
Jake’s pants felt tight. He was wearing leather trousers in addition to his leather mask and swirl-worthy cape. He’d put on a pirate-style top, with the front open halfway down his chest. He caught Chance shooting glances at him instead of focusing on the road and he was quietly pleased. Tonight was going to go better, maybe, than he’d hoped.
Step one was get inside. Step two was dance with Chance until they were both half crazy with lust. Step three was find a quiet place, preferably back at the junkyard they’d made their home and make love. Three years of waiting; it was more than enough.
But when they walked in, Chance hesitated. He looked around and the obvious discomfort in his eyes made Jake uneasy too. “What is it, buddy?” he whispered.
Chance’s voice was louder than Jake’s and rough with some emotion Jake couldn’t name. “They’re all straight couples.”
Jake scanned the crowd and, yes, everyone was paired off tom and she-kat. “That’s okay. We don’t need to fit in.”
“We’d be in the only… well, you know…here.”
“I’m sure we could take anyone who tried to start trouble,” Jake said, trying to turn it into a joke.
Chance shook his head. “I’m not risking…” But he wouldn’t finish that sentence even when Jake gave him a look.
“You’re going to not dance with me because—” Jake bit off the rest of the words. He was furious and he knew the anger carried in his voice.
“Let’s eat, dance a little, with other kats, and get out of here.” He brushed past Jake and disappeared into the press of bodies.
Jake gaped after him, feeling lost. Then he growled, “Crud.”
”Excuse me,” said a soft female voice he recognized.
He pasted a smile on his face and turned toward Calico Briggs, the deputy mayor. “Yes, Ms. Briggs.” She wasn’t wearing a mask but was dressed as a fairy princess with wings and a tiara. Her glasses clashed with the costume but otherwise she could have stepped out of a dream. Someone else’s. Jake’s only dreams were of Chance.
“It is you.” She lowered her voice. “Razor.”
He swallowed despite his suddenly dry throat. “Yes, ma’am. How did you know?”
“I heard you talking to T-Bone.” She was grinning but keeping her voice down. “This is chancy for you, isn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am. But even vigilantes need to have a little fun.”
“Will you step outside with me?” she all but purred.
Instantly on alert, not because she was a threat but because he didn’t want Chance, wherever he was, to get the wrong idea, Jake said, “I’m just here with my partner, Ms. Briggs.”
She nodded and he saw by the look in her eyes that she hadn’t been coming onto him after all. Her gaze was sympathetic. “I heard your argument. I have an idea.”
Intrigued, and expecting something ingenious because Calico Briggs was sharp, Jake said, “Let’s go outside.”
oOo
Chance was slightly drunk. He’d been plied with wine and other things, mostly punch laced with katnip, by hopeful she-kats. He’d lost track of time for a while as he’d staunchly refused to look for Jake. He danced with female after female and refused to acknowledge the growing worm of worry in his gut. Probably two hours had passed and he’d seen nothing of his partner. Had Jake gone home? If so, how had he gotten there? A cab would be expensive and surely he wouldn’t leave Chance stranded here.
Another she-kat approached him. She was small in stature, which he preferred because it reminded him of Jake. He was a bi tom, attracted to both genders, although he’d done no dating since becoming a Swat Kat. He didn’t have time for one thing. For another, he spent many hours dreaming about a certain tom and no she-kat could measure up.
This one was small in other ways too. She had minimal breasts and the tight, short skirt revealed legs that were more masculine than feminine. She had a long and flowing head of hair; it was longer even than Ms. Briggs’s. It was the color of milk chocolate, perfectly complimenting the dark orange of the she-kat’s fur.
She wore a mask that covered almost her whole face, leaving only small slits for medium brown eyes and a tiny mouth.
Chance realized he’d been staring. It was certainly too late to pretend he hadn’t seen her. So, he held out his paw. “Want to dance, beautiful?”
She bobbed a curtsey and didn’t say a word.
“Shy?” Chance asked. “That’s okay. I can talk enough for both of us.”
But once they were out on the floor, he was preoccupied with the way she held him and the way she moved. She glided but more like a stalking lynx than a dancer. She was perfectly balanced on feet that were, actually, a bit too large for the rest of her. Muscular feet, bare and dark orange like the rest of her. He speculated that if he’d seen her feet and Jake’s feet side-by-side, they’d be nearly identical. Except he’d know hers because her claws were polished with a rosy pink coat.
She cupped his ass unexpectedly and he groaned, wriggling away from her. “I’m sorry, but that’s too personal. I don’t even know your name.”
She rose on her tiptoes and whispered, “Jake.”
Chance’s jaw dropped. He wanted to shout his partner’s name but Jake covered his mouth with a slightly trembling paw.
“Listen to me, Furlong, and listen good. Ms. Briggs dressed me up like this so you’d give me a chance to dance with you. But she thinks I’m Razor. So, keep any name behind your teeth.”
“What about when you switched masks?” Chance asked after Jake had freed his mouth.
“She gave me everything and told me to change in private. The only thing she actually did for me was paint my toenails.”
“Do you like being a she-kat?” He was honestly curious. Jake made a sexy female.
“It’s a little uncomfortable but would have been ten times worse if I’d put on the shoes.”
Chance laughed. Then it hit him. “You really wanted to dance with me, didn’t you?”
“I got all dolled up, didn’t i?”
“Do you like wearing that stuff?”
“Never tried it before and the skirt’s a little constricting but it’s not the worst thing I’ve never worn.” He smirked. “now. Do you want to dance with me like this or…” He stopped. “I don’t want to make dancing with me as a tom a stipulation of our relationship. It’s important to me but not that important.”
What Chance wanted to do was take Jake home and get him out of those clothes. He weighed his desire against the three years of nothing but “buddy” they’d had. “You won’t be disappointed?”
“As long as we somehow move past the ‘buddy’ stage tonight, I’ll be satisfied.”
Chance lifted Jake’s paw to his lips. “Absolutely we can move past it.”
“Then let’s get out of here.”
oOo
As they lay together in the tangle of bedsheets and blankets afterward, both of them spent, Jake asked, “Chance?”
“Yeah?” The bigger tom pulled Jake against him and nuzzled against his shoulder.
But Jake wasn’t quite ready to say “I love you.” So, he settled for what he knew was probably on Chance’s mind. “This doesn’t change anything in the sky. No matter who takes whom in bed.”
Chance grunted. “So, that means you’re still going to run off and put yourself in danger?”
“I’m a Swat Kat. Danger is my middle name.”
Chance grunted again but it sounded like an acknowledgement instead of a protest. “All right. But I reserve the right to defend you like you’re mine.” He hugged Jake fiercely. “Because you are. Unofficially for three years but officially from now on.”
Jake buried his face in the fur on Chance’s chest. “I can live with that. Just so you know it goes both ways.”
“You worry about me too?” Chance seemed startled.
“OF course I do. You’re my partner. In all things.”

Posted in Teasers

If Anything Happens to Him Part 1

Title: If Anything Happens To Him, I’ll…
Author: Estel Baggins/Emily Carrington
Rating: M for battle scenes, sexual situations, but mostly for Jake (!) cursing
Pairing: Jake/Chance
Warning: slash
Summary: The first time Chance utters the famous words “If anything happens to him, I’ll…”
Author’s Note: I know I’ve messed up the timeline a little: Dr. Viper became Dr. Viper after Chance and Jake became Swat Kats. Forgive me- I started this before learning that. Consider it a slight AU if you want. If you aren’t familiar with the Swat Kats, here’s a short video to introduce them!

Chance wandered into the hanger earlier than usual. He’d been dreaming- for almost a month, damn it- about the kat who sat behind him in their Enforcer hunk of junk that was barely good enough to be called a plane, let alone the fighter jet Chance had been all but promised when he proved himself to be an excellent pilot.
He’d come early to be alone, and maybe mess around with the hunk of junk and coax a little more out of her. But as he strode towards the bay where his piece of junk sat- she might not be much, but no one better insult her- he heard a muffled “Son of a bitch, just let me in already!”
Chance blinked. Was that Jake? Couldn’t be; the kat’s usual line of frustration included no more than ‘crud’. It had gotten so Chance, usually a lover of swearing, had started restricting himself to ‘crud’, too, not to impress Jake but because he kind of liked how much fury Jake could pack into such an understated word.
He jogged to the open bay, but skidded to a halt when he saw what Jake was doing: trying to load the missile launchers by hand. That was unnecessary: the launchers were loaded by machines each day, checked and rechecked. What was he doing besides running the risk that the missiles wouldn’t fire when it was time? Then again, sometimes the missiles didn’t fire, machines be damned.
Jake at last got the missile in place and he leaned against the hulk’s side with a sigh. Then his gaze fell on Chance. “Hey.” He wiped sweat off his forehead. “How long have you been here?”
“Just a minute.” He swaggered in because, damn, even sweaty and obviously frustrated, Jake was the cause of all his erections for the last few weeks. “What’re you doing?”
“Making sure we actually have working missiles next time we’re in the air.” Jake tugged a rag out of his back pocket and wiped his paws. “I’m sick of Feral and all those other idiot jet jockeys telling me I’ve gotta quit blowing you and learn how to shoot.”
“What?” He wasn’t sure if he was furious or embarrassed. Had mostly-quiet, mild-speaking, karate-master Jake just said ‘blowing’, as in blowjob?
Jake closed the panel under the missiles and shoved his rag back into his pocket. “Yeah. I’m vertically-challenged, I check out toms’ asses, and I like Cher-Kit. I must be gay.”
Chance ran those words back through his stunned brain. “You check out toms’ asses?”
Jake laughed. “Yeah.” He crossed his arms and leaned against Chance’s broken-down baby. ” ‘Course, they don’t know that. If they did, I’d probably lose my place on the force. Not for being gay- of course not; that’s against the law-” he snorted- “but for something. Maybe for starting a bunch of ten-kats-to-one fights when the other gunners jump me during target practice.” He shook his head. “If Feral would just come out of the closet maybe I’d stand a chance of staying, but…” He laughed. “Look at your face. You think I’m serious. Sorry, buddy, but my gaydar sucks. I have no idea if he’s really gay, into dogs or just the masturbatory type.”
Wonder and admiration curled up the corners of Chance’s mouth. “Uh, buddy, I’ve got a question for you: where’d all this come from? I mean, yeah, I’ve thought of you as a friend almost from the first. You’ve just got this vibe about you, you know? But you’ve never been like this.”
Jake closed his eyes. “This is me without enough sleep.”
All the humor went out of the situation like color bleeding out of a picture. Chance sidled closer. “What’s wrong? Anything I can do?”
“Not unless you want to get kicked off the force with me.”
Chance had been halfway to a full erection when he’d first seen Jake, but it had reversed itself and left him feeling just a little lightheaded. He padded still closer until he, too, was leaning against the not-plane. “But you said no one knows you’re gay, at least not for sure.”
“That doesn’t stop them from screwing with me at night. Every chance they get, really. Have you ever seen Platoon Kat?”
He loved movies, though he’d never imagined Jake liked them. “Yeah! Oh. Shit.” Platoon Kats was a true story about this kat who wasn’t cut out to be in the army or something- he hadn’t seen the movie in years- and so got picked on, harassed and even beaten up by the other kats in his platoon. He was finally transferred- for his own safety- but if Chance remembered the end of the movie correctly, the kat had ended up committing suicide. “Shit, Jake, you’re not going to-”
“Hurt myself?” Jake shook his head. “No.” He opened his eyes and met Chance’s gaze. “But I’ll probably get kicked out sooner rather than later and I have three goals to meet before that happens. One, get these fucking missiles to fire so someone in this damn homophobic squadron knows I’m a good marksman. Two, make sure I have a job lined up for when I’m kicked out. Three, cause as many problems for the kats who’ve been tormenting me as I can.”
Chance’s chest had tightened. He tried to joke his way through it. “You could just dust all of them. You’re a martial arts master, aren’t you? I mean, I know they’ve got numbers on you, but, well, do you fight back when they attack you? Maybe if you did-”
“That’s against my principles.” Jake shook his head and his anger faded, leaving only sadness, which made Chance’s chest even tighter. “All the revenge I’m planning won’t actually happen, you know. That’s also against my principles.” He laughed; it was a shard-filled sound, like pieces of glass hidden inside a white cake. “I just hate having to prove myself over and over again without any results.”
He wanted to take Jake’s hand, but considering what Jake had just confessed, Chance thought any move like that could be seen as harassment. He needed to stay firmly on Jake’s good side. “But, you got into the Enforcers, right? I mean, that’s not exactly easy.”
Jake gave him a wan smile. “True, but I’ve been here for less than a year. I won’t consider it a success until I don’t run the risk of being fired every day based on my sexuality.” He pushed away from the hunk of junk. “We need to get out of here before they do six o’clock inspection.”
Chance nodded and they started for a side door he’d taken on many occasions.
Jake laughed as he followed. “And here I thought I was the only one to know about that door.”
Chance glanced back at him and offered a smile. “You’re not the only one who has something to prove.” He thought for a moment he’d confessed his sexuality, but then Jake laughed again.
“In your case, it’s because everyone’s jealous of you. You’re the best pilot here.” He caught up with Chance and even gripped his shoulder for a moment before they slipped through the door and into the almost-silence of the sleeping barracks. “At least I only have to live with the rest of the newbies for another two months. If I can get through that, they won’t be able to touch me- at least not as easily.”
They were headed for the east side barracks. They’d be within someone’s earshot within sixty seconds. Chance slowed down a little as his need to know got the better of him. “Uh, Jake?”
“Yeah?” Jake glanced at him… and burst out laughing. He bent double, paws on knees, and all but laughed his fur off.
“What?” He was blushing. Maybe even a little hurt. “I didn’t-”
Jake held up a hand and when he straightened, there were tears in his eyes. “No, Chance, I’m not going to come after you in the night with a raging hard-on.” He sobered in an instant and in the breath before he hid everything behind the usual happy-go-lucky face he’d worn all the time Chance had known him, Chance saw anguish and almost savage pain in his eyes.
He jumped forward and grabbed Jake’s shoulders before the slighter kat could turn away. He blurted, “I was going to ask if you’ve ever checked out my ass like I’ve checked out yours.”
Jake’s jaw dropped, but in the next instant he pulled away. “Fuck. You. Buddy. I’m not falling for that.”
“But it’s true. It’s-”
“Look, Furlong, I like you, and I know I’ve got this huge chip on my shoulder that makes it hard to take shit like that as a joke, but I thought you had more class than that. See you on patrol.” He sprinted for his barracks.
Chance waited until Jake was safely inside before he screamed. “CRUD!”
oOo
Chance slipped into his seat and ran a thorough check of all systems. The computer said that the missiles hadn’t been base-approved, but that was as it should be. Obviously, no one had found out that Jake had placed the missiles in by hand. If that had been discovered, neither of them would have been flying today.
He glanced at the clock on the dash. Almost time to taxi out to meet the rest of the squadron. Where was-?
“Sorry I’m late.” Jake hoisted himself in using both paws instead of his usual left-pawed habit. He was already wearing his helmet and goggles.
And still Chance saw the swelling the gear couldn’t quite hide.
Jake caught him looking and scowled. “Don’t ask. Let’s fly.”
He recognized that tone; he’d used it a lot growing up, and even once to Commander Feral. So he said nothing but started the hunk of junk’s engines and headed for the runway. They weren’t even the last ones there, which was good, and the commander wasn’t there yet. That was even better.
Ten minutes later, they were in the sky and patrolling their sector of a dozen blocks. Chance glanced once in the rearview, trying to see how exactly Jake had been hurt, but when the kat glared at him, he snapped his gaze back to the sky. And saw his first mutant plant. “What’s that?”
“Depends,” Jake answered, his voice awed. “Would you think I’m nuts if I said it was a giant walking punmpkin?”
“Reminds me of that movie I saw last week. Assault of-”
“-the Killer Kat-Minded Pumpkins!” Jake finished with him. “Yeah, it looks just like that, except I don’t think there’s a zipper in that thing’s skin.” He made an amused sound.
Chance snorted. “Yeah, well, whatever it is, let’s go investigate.”
He heard a series of beeps and Jake answered, “I’ve got missiles locked. Just in case.”
Chance headed down, cautious approach, as he’d been told, though his blood sang with the need to race into battle. “Let’s hope we don’t have to blow it up. That’s an awful lot of squash and I don’t even like vegetables. Just imagine if we had to help clean up that thing.”
“Aw, come on, Chance; veggies are a kat’s best friend.” Jake laughed again. “Let’s just see if this one can talk before we blow it sky high, okay?”
“Yeah. Just so we don’t get too close to its mouth.”
“I’ve got a breath mint all ready for it.”
Were they back to being friends? Chance put that question aside and pulled the hunk into a shuddering circle two dozen feet over the pumpkin. The thing definitely had a mouth, but it wasn’t the only thing down there. “Do you see-?”
“A kat that looks like his father was a snake? Yup. Crud!”
Chance yanked the not-plane up, barely avoiding a stream of thick goo that flew out of the pumpkin’s teeth-lined mouth. “What is that stuff?” He stared down at the pumpkin for a moment, then scanned for the snake-kat. “Hey, the green guy’s gone.”
“Yeah, and that’s not our only problem. Can you fly a little lower? I want to get that one before the others get here.”
Chance scanned his radar. “Crud, there’s like fifty of them! I’m calling for back-up!”
“Good. We don’t have half a hundred missiles.”
Chance made the call and got told to wait for back-up before going in. “Can’t,” he and Jake said together. It was so good to hear Jake backing him up again that Chance grinned as he flipped off the radio. “So, partner, which ones do we go after first?”
The pumpkin below them leapt into the air with the use of vein-like appendages. Again, it spit that gooey stuff.
“Missiles locked,” Jake said. “Deployed!”
Chance flew a little higher as the missile hit and the pumpkin exploded in a shower of orange guts and twitching vine pieces.
Jake crowed: “Bingo!”
“Let’s get the others,” Chance said, laughing his joy and battle-high.
“Wait.” Jake reached over the seat and gripped Chance’s shoulder. “I have an idea to get them all at once.”
Chance looked down at the pumpkin army. “You sure?”
“Yeah. Just take us up where those billboards are.” He snorted. “You know, the ones Manx ordered tied up instead of welded to ‘save money.’ ”
“Didn’t know you were so politically minded.” Chance saw them: there had to be a dozen large advertisements and twice that many half-size ones. He headed that way.
Jake was quiet for a moment. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
Chance didn’t answer, and not only because he couldn’t think of anything to say. “What are you going to do? Blast them so they fall on the Killer Pumpkins?”
“Not exactly. The missiles we’re carrying would vaporize every billboard.”
Chance heard the click of Jake’s harness.
He couldn’t turn around, but he put all the fury possible into his voice. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to set them on fire before dropping them. The way those things are marching close together, we’ll have fifty roasted pumpkins even if I manage to set just a few on fire.”
Chance groaned. Jake’s plan was a good one, but- “How are you going to cut all the billboards loose? Or set them on fire in the first place?”
“If you open the canopy, I’m just going to hang over the side and light them, then use my knife to cut them loose.”
Jake couldn’t be talking about a simple pocketknife; any blade that thin would snap. Still, he was comforted by the thought that Jake wouldn’t actually be getting out of the jet. “What knife?”
Jake held the monstrosity up so Chance could see the thick, twelve-inch blade.
“That’s not a knife, buddy. That’s a tiny sword!” It was also against regulations, but who cared? They were close enough to the billboards now. “Ready?”
“Let’s do it.”
Chance opened the canopy. “Be careful, partner.”
Jake hoisted himself up on the edge of the cockpit. He was still using both hands. “No problem-o. I’ll just-”
As one, the pumpkin-things rocketed up from the street. Three crashed right into the not-plane’s underside hard enough to make Chance’s teeth close on his tongue and the others soared around it. A few were charbroiled in the engine exhaust, but one of them connected with Jake and he fell.
“Jake!” But there were too many pumpkin-things all over him, making it impossible to see, and worse: invading his cockpit. He flipped upside down and the ones in Jake’s seat-
Jake…
-fell out. Chance rolled again, trying to burn the ones who were clinging to the billboards, but they leapt out of the way, onto the roof… where Jake was struggling to his feet. He had lost his helmet and his gloves; Chance saw the bandages and the swollen, furless skin around Jake’s right eye. He headed down. “If anything happens to him, I’ll…”
“Back off, hotshot. I’ll handle this.”
Chance grimaced at Commander Feral’s voice crackling through his radio. He glanced to the left and saw the chopper coming. “Can’t, Commander. Jake’s down there.”
“You were supposed to wait. I’ll get him if I can, but these creatures are my first-”
“Chance?”
“Jake!” Chance had swung around the building to keep the pumpkin things from jumping onto his wings. Now he headed back. “You okay?”
“Mostly. These things’re- Crud! It ate my grappling hook!” The ones they kept on their belts in case of emergency. Jake must have used his knife already. “Chance, I need you here. Now.”
Nothing could keep him away. He headed in.
“Retreat!” their commander ordered. “You’re outgunned, Clawson. And you’re right in my line of fire.” A pause, and then: “Stay out of the way, Furlong! I’ve got missiles locked.”
Chance muttered, too quiet for his commander to hear, “You’re not hurting Jake.” He spotted his partner on the roof, his back to a little shed. He was surrounded and though he’d started kicking the shit out of the pumpkin-things, there were far too many. Chance dove. If he did this right, he’d be able to roast the veggies without hurting Jake. “Jake?”
“Yeah?”
“When I say so, go flat, okay?” That would put Jake in even more danger- unless Chance was able to execute his move exactly. But having Jake stand when the not-plane rushed by would be a disaster. He wished Jake still had his helmet.
“Roger.”
In that moment, he loved Jake so much for his unquestioning trust that Chance laughed. It was either that or be rocked to his core by the other kat’s trust.
He headed in.
“Furlong!”
“Sir,” Chance all but snarled. “Stop cluttering up my channel, sir. Jake needs to hear me.”
For a wonder, Commander Feral shut up.
He was only a few feet above the roof. The pumpkin-things- some of them, anyway- had turned towards him, but most were concentrating on the kat they’d cornered. He gunned the engine and plunged in among them. “Jake! Drop!”
Jake flattened himself and covered his head with his bare paws.
Chance said a quick prayer for Jake’s unprotected paws and then burned his way through the pumpkin patch.
They went up like exploding road kill, showering the hunk of junk and surely Jake, too. But when the parts stopped falling, Chance saw that he’d gotten all of them. And, miracle of miracles, Jake was pushing himself to his feet and looked no more hurt than he’d been before Chance’s crazy move.
Commander Feral was coming in; he’d be landing on the roof in a minute. Chance beat him to it, yanking his hunk of junk to a stop. He was out of his harness and jumping to the veggie-littered rooftop an instant after he shut off his engines. He caught Jake by the shoulders and held back from embracing him only because of what had passed between them that morning. Up close, he could see that Jake’s fur had been shaved away around his eye, and not by a gentle hand. Little cuts surrounded his eye, one so close Jake could have lost his eye if it had been a breath closer. But before Chance could decide if he should say anything, Jake gripped his arms.
He was grinning. “That was amazing! No one can fly like Chance Furlong!”
Commander Feral strode towards them. “And no one can make a mess like you young hotshots.”
oOo
Chance helped Jake to his feet. They’d been scrubbing bathroom tile for hours and though Jake hadn’t complained once, he’d been favoring his left paw and the swelling around his eye had risen to the size of a small volcano crater. It had been an almost-silent punishment detail with Chance not sure what to say that wouldn’t lead to him being kill-crazy at whoever had hurt Jake and Jake not saying a word.
But now, as Chance helped him up, Jake said, “Thanks. I think we’re done.” He swayed on his feet.
Chance steadied him with a paw on each shoulder. “Buddy, you okay?” Fuck not talking about it; he wanted to fuck them up, whoever they were, until they didn’t dare come within ten feet of Jake.
“Yeah, I-” Jake’s eyes rolled back in his head and Chance jumped to catch him.
He laid Jake on the sparkling floor by the sinks, turned on the cold tap, and cupped water in one paw. This he brought to Jake’s mouth as he lifted the kat’s head, but Jake didn’t stir so Chance trickled it over his face instead.
Jake’s eyes didn’t open, but his tongue flicked out to catch a little water. So Chance scooped up another palm-full and brought it to Jake’s lips. “Here, sure-shot. Drink.”
Jake did and his eyelids drifted up. “Sure-shot?” He grinned weakly. “My plan didn’t exactly work.”
“It would’ve if those things hadn’t started playing leapfrog. You okay now? For real?”
Jake’s grin widened. “Yeah, this time I think I’m really okay.” But he didn’t move. “Chance?”
“Yeah?”
“I’m sorry about this morning.” Jake closed his eyes, but he showed no signs of slipping away again. “I guess I really do have a chip on my shoulder.” A pause; he peeked up at Chance again before closing his eyes once more. “And, yeah, I’ve checked out your ass. I’m kinda in shock that you’re gay, but my gaydar’s never worked.”
Chance’s heart did a little leap and he was extremely glad he hadn’t laid Jake on his lap as his cock leapt at the possibilities. “Does that mean Feral could be gay?”
Jake laughed and again opened his eyes. “He could be into dogs or sheep for all I know.” He sat up. “Guess we’re done, huh?”
The bathroom door opened; another pilot and gunner walked in. “Taking a break, boys?”
“Uh, don’t you mean girls?” the gunner asked.
Chance was about to say something, but the way Jake suddenly moved… Was that a flinch? He looked from the self-satisfied pilot and gunner to Jake. He saw the pilot’s bruised knuckles and his blood ignited.
He was on his feet and halfway to the door between one breath and the next, but Jake got there first. Back to the intruders, he put both paws against Chance’s chest. “Don’t bother. They’re not worth it.”
He would have nudged Jake aside and gone for their throats, but Commander Feral appeared in the doorway. “Inspection.” He glanced at the pilot and gunner; they split. “You two look hum-” His jaw tightened. “What happened, Clawson?” He pointed at Jake’s eye.
“Nothing.” Jake turned to face their commander and hid his paws behind his back. “Just a little allergic reaction to the cleaning supplies, I guess.”
“Don’t hand me that.” Feral was glaring at Chance. “Do we need to talk alone, Enforcer?” he asked Jake. “Maybe there’s something you need to tell me?” The look he was giving Chance was disgusted.
“Hey!” Chance’s claws came out. “I didn’t do anything to him!”
Feral ignored him. “Well?”
Jake shook his head. “I’m fine, Commander. It was just-”
Feral’s scowl was fiercer than anything he’d ever turned on two of his youngest recruits, even when he’d ordered them to scour this bathroom. “You’re not doing yourself any favors by protecting the kats who attacked you, Clawson. The same speech I give to my female enforcers I give to anyone being abused: stand up for yourself.”
Jake’s eyes flashed. He took half a step before seeming to remember where he was and who he was talking to. “You have no idea, sir, how I’m standing up for myself.”
Feral crossed his arms and in that moment, Chance liked him for the first time, despite, or even because of the harsh words he spoke next. “I can see it’s not working.”
“Look, I-”
“Jake,” Chance said quietly. His partner hadn’t been kidding about that chip on his shoulder; it was going to knock him over soon.
Jake turned on him, his eyes narrowed.
Chance didn’t back down and didn’t raise his voice. He’d never thought of himself as a therapist- and would have been embarrassed if anyone had suggested that’s what he was doing- but Jake didn’t need harsh words. “They’re going to keep doing it unless you stop them.”
“And if I turn them in, they’ll…” Jake blinked. “Crud,” he whispered. He met Chance’s gaze, really met it, and Chance thought he could read the thought there: part of Jake was scared of the ass-wipes; the rest of him was ashamed of that fact.
Before he could think of anything to say, Jake turned back to Commander Feral and gave the names of the five- Five! Chance thought. I’m gonna kill them!- kats who had attacked him that morning as he snuck back into the barracks.

Posted in Books, Teasers

Teaser Tuesday–Author Beth D. Carter

For this edition of Teaser Tuesday, we are pleased to have Beth D. Carter as the featured author. Below you will find a blurb and an excerpt of Beth’s current release, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, including a book cover and other author information. Enjoy the scintillating reading!

Ronan Hark and Noah Kabot are deep space salvagers, partners in business as well as in life. While investigating an old ship they discover a cryo chamber holding the frozen body of a beautiful woman who’s been asleep for thirty-one years. Against Ronan’s better judgment, they take the chamber and wake her up.

Alivia has spent her life living as a sheltered yet unloved princess, until the day she is forced into cryo stasis. It was only supposed to be for a short time, but somehow her ship crashed and she became nothing more than a memory.

But now everything has changed. A hunter is after her and killing anyone who knows she’s alive. As they race across the expanse of space, can Ronan and Noah keep her safe? And what happens when she finally returns home to confront a life that forgot about her?

Excerpt:

Ronan moved cautiously through the ship. The thick view windows had cracked upon impact, allowing dirt and rocks to tumble inside. Everything was washed out, colorless. Lifeless. He made his way through the broken, silent ship, dreading to see the cockpit and the remains of the captain. But much to his surprise, the control room stood empty.

He moved to the engine console and wiped off the inches-thick dirt, baring the powerless control panels. He set his scanner on it and activated it. Seconds later the cockpit came to life as the wireless remote downloaded all the information available. It didn’t last long and as soon as all the data was collected he disconnected the console, shutting down the power surge. The small area fell silent and lifeless once again.

He activated the neural com link with Noah. “Where are you?”

“I’m next to a large clump of twisted metal.”

Ronan rolled his eyes. “Well, that narrows it down.”

“Wait,” Noah’s distracted voice told him. “I think I found what was causing the power signature.”

Ronan hesitated, but when Noah didn’t contact him after a minute, he went after him, making his way carefully through the rubble into the back of the ship.

“Noah?”

“Ronan, you won’t believe this.”

“Believe what?”

He pushed into the back of the ship, which was actually in much better shape than the front, and saw him standing next to a large steel box. Through his visor Ronan could see the surprise coving the younger man’s face.

“What is it?”

Noah shook his head. “It’s a cryo chamber. And it’s occupied.”

“What?”

Ronan hurried over. The metal box, also known as a cold coffin, held a sleeping woman inside. He couldn’t see much of her because of all the tubes obscuring much of her face, but he could tell she was young, her flaming-red hair a glaring contrast to the paleness of her features.

More:

Author Info & Social Media links:

I like writing about the very ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, so my heroines will probably never be lawyers, doctors or corporate highrollers. I try to write characters who aren’t cookie cutters and push myself to write complicated situations that I have no idea how to resolve, forcing me to think outside the box. I love writing characters who are real, complex and full of flaws, heroes and heroines who find redemption through love.


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Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/BethD.Carter/e/B00EOTD1T0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1385417145&sr=8-1

Posted in Books, Teasers

Tuesday Teaser from Autumn Montague

Dear Readers and Fans:

For this Teaser Tuesday, I am featuring author, Autumn Montague, and a teaser from her latest work, ‘Blood Sworn 1: Salva Me’. Enjoy the excerpt below. Should you seek more of Autumn’s writing style: please see the list of available books from this author that follows the excerpt. Happy reading!

Autumn Montague Blood Sworn 1: Salva Me (Excerpt)

Chapter One
London, 1816

Blood. Sweet, sweet blood thickened with terror. The girl in his arms fought with weakening desperation, her life rushing away through the crimson tide pulsing from her with each frantic beat of her heart. Intoxicating copper heat coursed across his lips, suffusing him with its nourishing power.

Her moans grew fainter as his poison saturated her body. The exquisite torture of emptying his venom flooded his muscles with godlike power, and he tightened his hold, crushing her fragile, merely human form against him. Her gasp of pain drove a spike of lusty pleasure through him. He released her neck to watch her blood flood across her shoulders to stain her flimsy gown.

A waste perhaps, but he could find another. The silent, horrified plea in her dulling eyes spurred his lust, and he ripped the sodden dress open to bare her cotton stays. A hand batted feebly, a near-unconscious impulse to protect her vanished modesty.

Little whore. She’d no need for modesty with him. He had no interest in her person, not yet. Not until she was at the brink. Then he’d spread her legs and revel in her death throes.

Yes. Yes, that peak of ecstasy neared, her glazed eyes beginning to fade. She drew a hitching breath, and he dropped her limp body to the mud, reaching for the fastenings to his breeches.

The clatter of hooves and creak of heavy wheels broke his concentration, his anticipated pleasure vanishing.

Damn! With a frantic bound, he hurled himself into the velvet black shadow of the alley behind him. Frustrated desire boiled through him as he watched the carriage lurch to a halt. A murderous rage rose, urging him to attack the interlopers. He attempted to quash it, but the slavering beast of his hunger did not want to be assuaged. The girl was his rightful prey, and he would be damned if he would allow mere humans to drive him off. He readied himself, prepared to lunge when the correct moment presented.

The tiniest of breezes stirred the air as the passengers descended from the barouche. It carried the oh-so-faint scent of the intruders, driving him back into the shadows.

“Imbecile!” The word escaped him in a hiss. He peered around, forcing his eyes to see, his ears to hear. As if a veil had been drawn back, he realized he stood almost in the heart of London. How had he followed the girl so far without recognizing his danger?

At least one of the men in the carriage knew him by sight and scent. Worse, if they were to meet, his enemy was duty-bound to kill him without hesitation. He twitched, annoyed, uncertain—wanting his prize but unwilling to face his opponent at this moment.

His hunger stilled, replaced by an urgent need to flee. Later. The time would come, but that time was not now. With a last look at the shuddering girl behind him, he forced more venom to his muscles and shivered in delight as he fled into the night.

* * * *

Morgan Holland clenched his teeth against an impious curse as the carriage lurched to an unexpected halt, knocking his skull against the lacquered wooden panel behind his head. Inertial momentum pitched his companion face forward against the opposite seat with bruising abruptness. Morgan gave the trap door over his head a savage thump with his fist, even as he reached to help the Baron of Colbourne up off the floor.

“Blast it all, I’m fine, Holland,” Colbourne barked.

Morgan smothered a grin at his master’s temper over his bruised dignity. He gestured at the gaping tear across the knee of Colbourne’s superfine trousers. “Perhaps we should return home for a change of clothes before we continue to White’s.”

Colbourne scowled. “Damn. Weston just delivered these this week. I’ll have to commission a new pair.”

“As you say, my lord.” Amusement warred with Morgan’s ringing head as he fought to keep a smirk off his face. Colbourne’s penchant for fine clothes had been a constant source of humor between them.

“Don’t be smug, Holland. Just because you managed to maintain your seat is no reason for a swelled head.”

The dour tone proved too much, and a highly inappropriate snort evaded Morgan’s control. Jeremy Takeshi Yamakawa Colbourne, Fifth Baron of Colbourne, took great pains to appear neat and elegant for any evening revelry. Since his Japanese ancestry drew the derision of his peers, he always maintained a flawless nobleman’s appearance. Morgan felt privileged to be among those few who could jest about the habit without giving offense. Moreover, the unique circumstances of Morgan’s employment had built a bond between them, a bond closer to friendship than master and servant.

A sharp rap at the window halted Colbourne’s next salvo even as he drew breath for the words, undoubtedly to cast unmeant aspersions on Morgan’s ancestry. The words died at the sound of their driver’s frantic rap on the door.

It seemed the difficulty interrupting them was more than a mere rut in the road.

“This needs your attention, my lord,” Toby quavered, fear plain in his voice.

Morgan felt a chill worm its way down his spine, a chill having nothing to do with the damp air outside the carriage door. Colbourne’s handsome face tightened, his grave expression igniting an answering spark of alarm in Morgan. He followed his master into the dank night, and nearly choked.

“Plague of the ages!” Colbourne’s biting exclamation did not quite carry the weight of a bellow, but it might as well have been a shout.

The night air carried a familiar coppery tang, laced with the faint odor of bile. Morgan knew the smell, of tainted blood and death. When he’d first met Colbourne, the man had been covered in the same bloody aroma. Morgan could not see this poor soul, not yet, but the smell left no doubt.

“Nosferatu.” He’d never encountered one, only read in books what they were, what they did. Read, and seen what had happened to his master, the Baron of Colbourne, one of the preeminent nosferii nobles in England. Or anywhere else. The last nosferatu to hunt here had almost cost the country its most needed protector.

Colbourne cast a keen glance his way but said nothing, just stepped around the corner of the carriage for a look at what had bollixed their plans for the evening. Morgan followed, suppressing the urge to gag at the foulness of the air. He tried to keep his strides casual, as though he were walking into yet another evening entertainment, not around the carriage corner for a look at a shredded human being.

Colbourne quirked an eyebrow at Morgan’s calm facade. “No one would think twelve years ago you were a mere tenant farmer, untutored in such things.”

“Even a farmer faces death, my lord.” A true enough statement. After all, Morgan had tended to enough carrion when he was younger: dead livestock, headless chickens after foxes raided the coops. Yet none of his experience prepared him for the putrid aroma hovering over the slumped form in the road. The rank odor was fouler than the oldest carcass he’d ever cleared from his fields. With reluctance, he turned his full attention on the unfortunate victim.

“God!” The exclamation burst from him at the appalling sight that met his eyes.

The brown dirt of the road had turned to mud, glistening with the darkness of spilled blood. A young woman lay trembling in that crimson sludge, her neck savaged and raw. The gaping wounds reeked from the pungent slime coating them.

“Well, she lives, Morgan.” Colbourne sighed, as though the fact was unworthy of celebration. “At least for the present.”

“For the present? Is there nothing to be done?” Morgan could not tear his eyes from the girl. She couldn’t have seen more than sixteen, eighteen years at best.

“From the smell of things, the abomination emptied his venom into her.” Colbourne knelt in the mud, oblivious now to his appearance. “See?” He pointed to the ragged edges of the wounds on the girl’s neck. “There are multiple bites here, some more recent than others.” He laid a gentle, gloved finger near the deepest one. “This bite is hours old, and she is nearly exsanguinated. I am amazed she can still draw breath.”

“Is it too late for a turning?”

That caught Colbourne’s attention. His master stood, searching Morgan’s face for something. Then he sighed, perhaps finding no answer to what he sought.

“It is far too late. At this point, all we can do is ease her passing by treating the wound and dosing her liberally with laudanum. I doubt she’ll notice, but it should be done nonetheless.” He gave Morgan another cryptic glance. “I suppose it’s time to introduce you to the real meaning behind the existence of the Colbourne title. I’ll call you to my study after I have fed. In the meantime, you might want to do some research into turnings. The library has plenty of material for your reading.”

Research? Morgan felt the faintest flush of embarrassment warm his neck. It seemed he’d touched on a sensitive topic. He turned to the coachman. “Toby, get the lap blanket.” He considered for a moment. “And your long coat.” Between the blood, the sodden clothing, and the general mess, two layers should provide both warmth for the young woman and protection for the carriage.

Toby returned, and Morgan watched as Colbourne bundled the girl tightly in the coat, wrapping her head to toe in the blanket. When he lifted the fragile burden, Morgan attempted to assist him, only to receive a flat denial.

“This slime will eat through your hide,” Colbourne reminded. “Don’t forget your teachings, Holland.”

Morgan stepped back, feeling the Compulsion his master laid behind the words. He suppressed a sigh. When Colbourne used such a trick, it usually meant unpleasant instruction ahead.

They rode home at a rapid clip, carriage swaying on its springs at Toby’s urgent pace. Morgan could see the lax bundle in his master’s lap out of the corner of his eye, though he did his utmost not to stare. He focused instead on the adorning crest of the panel immediately behind Colbourne’s head, little good though it did him. Every time he relaxed his control, his eyes flew inexorably to the doomed girl. At some point, he glanced down again and discovered her hitching breaths had ceased.

Colbourne’s dark eyes were shuttered. Even in the dimness of their carriage, distress showed in the line between his brows and the bunched muscles of his jaw. Morgan reached across the gap separating them, called to soothe his master’s pain. Dark lashes lifted, revealing Colbourne’s grief at his failure.

Tonight’s enjoyments were meant to be a prelude in advance of Colbourne’s Contracted feeding; a bit of casual camaraderie to make amends for the awkward strain that had recently come between them. With this appalling discovery, the emotional toll on them both could hinder the process. Worse still, it might encourage Colbourne to postpone the feeding.

A tinge of red outlined those dark eyes. “Don’t worry, Holland. I’ll have myself under control by the appointed time.”

“I am certain you will, my lord,” Morgan answered, keeping his voice level. “I worry more for my control than for yours.”

A wistful smile touched Colbourne’s lips. “Your iron will? It will never waver, regardless of my desires.” The smile vanished. “Nonetheless, we will bury this poor child before we begin, Holland. I owe her that much, at least.”

* * * *

At the expected time, Morgan stood outside the sanguis cubiculum, irresolute. After a moment, he drew a deep breath and opened the heavy door enough to slip into the dim room. Hoping to recover his usual calm, he looked around at the comforts scattered about the feeding chamber. His master’s ancestry held full sway here, unlike any other room within Colbourne Manor. In the center, where the Contract always took place, a pile of soft bedding dominated. Oriental basins and water pitchers flanked the futon, with folded cloths of soft linen laid neatly alongside. Wax-paper lanterns lit the room with softened candlelight, casting shadows over the ornate screens and furnishings in the corners.

Colbourne waited on the futon, his white shirt open at the neck. Shadows from the flickering lanterns enhanced his Japanese ancestry, drawing attention to the faint epicanthic folds and the graceful arch of his brow. It presented a strong contrast to the British height and strong jaw, but Colbourne’s nosferii nature blended the two into pleasing harmony. Altogether attractive, sensual, and dangerous for Morgan’s heart, given what usually passed after a feeding.

Over the past twelve years, Morgan had gradually become accustomed to his master’s bisexuality, though with difficulty. It was a hallmark of the nosferii, but as Colbourne had said, Morgan had once been an untutored farmer. The Church of England considered such relationships unnatural and anathema to any God-fearing man. To be accused—worse, to be convicted—bore the potential for death. Earlier this year, Lord Byron himself had fled from England, fallen from his lauded pedestal and hounded by rumors of sodomy. Despite the political immunity granted by the kings of England to the nosferii, what a choice it proved: declare yourself attracted to the same sex, or declare yourself a vampire.

Yet for all the moralizing of his past, for all the strength he put into his denials, Morgan found himself continuously consumed by the desire for the sexual acts that followed a nosfera’s blood-feed. Though he could not prevent the upsurge of lust, he held it at bay, keeping his master at arm’s length and insisting another partner be ready once the feeding was done.

Despite knowing all this, despite his desires, the sight of Jeremy Colbourne’s demanding eyes and waiting lips had Morgan’s groin twitching in anticipation. It shamed him to know he couldn’t settle his feelings into the simplicity he’d known a dozen years earlier.

Colbourne’s strong hand pulled him to the down-filled bedding, sending a shiver through Morgan at the contact. Raw, sensual hunger rolled over him in waves, as the nosferii power of attraction shattered his determination with mere proximity. He swallowed, exerting as much control as he could over his physical reactions.

“You are as unyielding as ever, Holland.”

“Only in one matter, my lord. Is there someone near at hand for—after?”

A sad chuckle answered him. “Yes. My guest waits in my chambers.” Colbourne’s hand grazed Morgan’s neck, sliding sensuously along his throat. “Are you ready, Hostia Aeternus?”

The change in Colbourne’s voice indicated the time had come. Morgan looked at his master, seeing the reddened eyes, the widened pupils. A surge of desire flooded him, and he suppressed the unnatural lust. Still, the yearning to yield and be everything his master asked of him almost overpowered his sense.

Colbourne’s tongue touched his neck. Morgan shuddered, unable to prevent the involuntary reaction.

“I am hungry.” His master’s hot breath accompanied the words, while bared fangs grazed Morgan’s skin. “So hungry.”

The shivers increased tenfold. Morgan felt his control slipping and struggled to hold on to it long enough to complete the Contract. “Then please feed, my lord.” His voice had grown husky as anticipatory tremors took hold of him.

Another caress of Colbourne’s rough tongue drew an exquisite shudder. Such an intimate act, followed by an even more intimate one as the piercing bite of sharp fangs penetrated his neck and withdrew. Hot lips formed a seal around the twin wounds, and Morgan felt his groin tighten with the intense sensation of his master drawing deeply of the crimson flow.

It shouldn’t be this way, Morgan’s hazed brain insisted. Despite this, the lust bubbling up was the same as always, driving him to the brink of madness as he fought the desire. Every time he offered his blood, the yearning to succumb, to yield more than he gave—every time, it grew stronger. He wanted what he denied Lord Colbourne, wanted the carnal touch the Church deemed sinful, longed for what the courts condemned with death.

He trembled at the strengthening draw, fighting the spiraling temptation. The ache in his loins increased with every passing minute, inflamed by the chemicals hidden within the nosferii fangs. His stomach tightened against the feeling as he strove to suppress the exhilaration racing through him, starting with the fanged kiss at his neck.

Morgan shivered as Colbourne laid a hand between his thighs, stroking him, caressing the erection he couldn’t suppress. A groan escaped Morgan as the pleasure increased tenfold.

In a flash, he found himself pinned against the futon. He jerked at the feel of Colbourne’s hand fumbling with the buttons of his breeches. Heat flooded him, running straight from the hot contact to the ecstatic draw of blood from his neck. Hot, shaking with need, he pressed himself against that warm palm, his mind a blaze of passion. Colbourne moaned into Morgan’s neck, sucking harder.

“Touch me…touch me please, Morgan.”

The words slipped into his mind, jarring him from his lust. He shoved hard at the man above him, desperately building a wall in front of the invading thought.

“Get out of my mind!” Frantic, Morgan lunged upward, thrusting Colbourne away from him and wincing at the sudden, tearing sting at his neck. He stumbled forward, pressing his hands to the wounds, attempting to stanch the flow of blood.

He didn’t finish feeding, a portion of his mind whispered. He didn’t finish, and now I’m going to bleed to death.

“Makoto!” Colbourne’s panicked voice beat on Morgan’s ears with the force of a drum. “Makoto! Tasukete!”

Footsteps drummed across the floor as Colbourne’s retainer responded. The room started fading at the edges, and Morgan blinked at the bedding wound about his feet. Arms like steel trapped him, holding him up but keeping him hostage.

“You damn idiot!” Despite the angry hiss of the words, Colbourne’s voice shook. “Hold still.”

Morgan struggled against the iron grip holding him fast, while his hands were wrenched away from his neck. Colbourne’s unyielding grip held his head as the vampire leaned in to bite a second time. The pain shattered the last wall of Morgan’s consciousness, blackness overtaking him at the penetrating sting of his master’s fangs.

* * * *

Jeremy stared at Morgan’s sleeping face, the tremors of angry fear finally subsiding. He’d never before lost control during a feeding. Never. He’d been taking blood from normal humans for more than three centuries, and not once had he ever insinuated his thoughts into an unwilling Host’s mind.

Host. Hostia. The cruel irony of the title struck Jeremy more forcibly than it had ever done before. Hostia, the victim. Centuries before, it had been a word to deny the humanity of those used as nothing more than a food supply. Now, it stood as a title of respect, of importance. Hosts themselves had made it so.

When Morgan had fought Jeremy, rending his flesh beneath Jeremy’s fangs, the true meaning of Hostia had resonated in the terror shining in Morgan’s eyes. It had cut Jeremy to the quick, flaying him with the knowledge of his transgression.

But Morgan had allowed him liberties he’d denied for a dozen years. Jeremy had been pushed over the edge of reason, and he’d reached out, succumbing to a longing he’d thought he’d safely buried.

He stroked the bandages wound about Morgan’s neck. The man’s power of will never ceased to amaze him. The nosferii mind connection had originally been a means of prey control. For anyone to break free and physically pull away, as Morgan had, took strength of mind not commonly found.

A shadow shifted behind him as Makoto entered the room, a laden dinner tray in his hands. Fresh cuts of red meat predominated, lightly seared but rich with the coppery smell of blood.

“Time to eat, danshaku,” the samurai said, setting the tray on the small table by the chair. “You did not feed enough. Please replenish your strength with this.”

Jeremy ignored the dark look, though he did reach for the glass of brandy. “It was sufficient. I do not need to dine early.”

“I respectfully disagree.” Makoto plated a modest portion of beef and fruit. “Will you call for another Host?” Despite the words, Makoto’s voice carried no disapprobation. “It may be weeks before Holland-san is able to meet his Contracted terms.”

“I will be ready when he is, Makoto,” Jeremy answered, loath to consider anyone else. “I can wait.”

“That would be most unwise, danshaku.”

“Perhaps, but I will wait, nonetheless.”

“As you wish, danshaku.” Makoto bowed and left the room, shutting the door noiselessly behind him.

“I have no need of another Host, do I, Morgan?” Jeremy posed the question aloud, more for his own reassurance rather than expecting his Host to wake and answer. “After all, you are my Hostia Aeternus, my Eternal Host.”

Jeremy looked at the brandy in his glass, staring at the deep burgundy liquid. Sweet, yes, the thick fluid was sweet and restorative, but it was not Morgan’s blood, which had called to him from the moment they met.

“No, no need at all.”

Available now:

Blood Sworn 1: Salva Me
Bacchanal Moonlight Mating Cruises Ticket 1: Siren’s Daughter
Storm Called
An Unintended Seduction
Challenged by Love 1: Caliban
Challenged by Love 2: Narcissus
Challenged by Love 3: Vulcan
Challenged by Love e-Boxed set

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Upcoming book from Anne Kane Running From the Cyborg

Cover of Running From The Cyborg

Running from the Cyborg
(Terras Five – Book Five)
By Anne Kane
Genres: Sci –Fi, Cyborgs, romance

Blurb:
She can run but she can’t hide from the sexy cyborg who has her in his sights.

Caitlyn: Gorgeous. Feisty. Human. A survivor in an unforgiving galaxy. Running from an enemy she can’t see for reasons she doesn’t understand. Whoever he is, he’s trying to kill her.

Jakob: Large. Mouthwateringly sexy. Loyal. Cyborg. Determined to find the female who seduced him, gave him a night he’d never forget, then disappeared before he woke. When he finally manages to catch up to her, he intends to do whatever it takes to keep her at his side.

Excerpt:
She whirled to face Jakob, raising one hand to cover her mouth. Wouldn’t do to have him see how happy she was to be cornered by his big muscular self.
Jakob slid to a stop just inside the doorway and leaned casually against the metal frame. His eyes danced with a mixture of lust and mirth as he lifted one brow to study her. “Tag? Don’t you think I’ve wasted enough time chasing you back and forward across the galaxy? You want me to chase you around my ship as well?”
Caitlyn sauntered across the room, striving to look casual. “I don’t see why not. Don’t you think the prize is worth the effort?”
“The prize?” Jakob pushed himself off the wall, stalking toward her. “ I didn’t realize you were offering yourself up as a prize if I caught you. I would have put more effort into the chase had I known.” He reached her side and cupped the back of her head in one large hand, tilting it up so that he could gaze directly into her eyes.
“Umm…” She didn’t manage to get out more than that strangled exclamation before his mouth descended, scorching a kiss across her lips. A soft whimper escaped her lips as he stole her breath away, his tongue sweeping the inside of her mouth with the intimate ease of a longtime lover. Damn, but he knew how to silence her with a single kiss.
He tasted good, so damn good she wanted more. Winding an arm around his neck, she drew his head down to her level.
His hands dropped to her ass, pulling her in close against him as the kiss deepened from sensual to demanding. She could feel the hard ridge of his erection pressing into her belly, and the knowledge that he wanted her that much fueled her own lust.
Damn! This was so not good.
She wanted him. Craved him, craved his touch. The timing sucked. She could not afford to be distracted from the need to survive.
Jakob swore softly, his hands going to her shirt. He fumbled with the closure for a long moment before grasping the edges in his hands and ripping the material right down the middle.
Her breasts spilled out into his waiting hands, and she whimpered as his rough palms swiped across the sensitive nipples. It felt good. So good. Too good
Surely a little dalliance while they were en route wouldn’t matter?
Cyborgs didn’t do forever, she reminded herself.
She seized the closure at the top of his flight suit, pulling it down with a quick jerk of her hand. The soft whir of the mechanism filled the room as the material parted. She slid her hand inside, palm flat against the tight muscles of his chest.
So hard. So male. So damn tempting.
She moved her hand lower, pushing the fabric out of her way. Lower. Across the hard planes of his abs. Down.
He shrugged, and the top of the flight suit fell away from his shoulders leaving him bare to the hips.
She gave the flight suit one last tug, and it pooled around his ankles.
His cock burst free, arcing proudly up from its nest of thick curls. Caitlyn wrapped her fingers around the hard shaft.
So thick. So long. It pulsed eagerly in her hand.
Dropping to her knees, she took him into her mouth and ran her tongue around the mushroom shaped head, savoring the musky male taste.
Jakob tangled his fingers in her hair and let out a low growl. “Damn, Caitlyn. You are enough to drive a cyborg insane. You know just what to do to make me forget how pissed off I am.”
Yeah. She really did. For just this tiny bit of time she felt totally in control, and it felt good. Great, actually.
She glided her head up and down his rigid shaft, enjoying the sounds of his arousal, the little groans and growls that slipped out of his lips.
She reached up to cup his balls, squeezing gently, tugging just a little, teasing him with her fingers.
Control. Yeah. When most of your life felt like a total mess, control was a drug she craved almost as much as she craved this big idiot.
“Enough.” His voice was hoarse, edgy with need as he pulled himself out of her mouth and pulled her to her feet. His lips came down on hers, harsh and demanding.
She gave back as good as she got, her tongue darting between his parted lips to let him taste himself on her.
He grunted loudly and brought his hands up to push impatiently at the fabric of her pants. They skimmed down over her hips, and Caitlyn kicked them off and to the side.
Jakob slipped his hands beneath her buttocks and lifted her off her feet. She dangled helplessly in the air, her back scraping against the cold metal of the wall. He recaptured her mouth as he slowly lowered her onto his hard shaft.
Oh, sweet mother of the universe!
Caitlyn wrapped her legs around his hips, locking her ankles behind him as he began to move his hips , using his cybernetic strength to hold her up off the ground as he thrust his cock deep.

AuthorBio and Links
Anne Kane lives in the beautiful Okanagan Valley with a bouncy little rescue dog who’s breed defies description, a cantankerous Himalayan cat, and too many fish to count. She spent many years trying to fit in and act normal, but finally gave up the effort. She started writing romance in 2008, and her fate was sealed when she won a publishing contract with Red Sage Publishing and just a month later Changeling Press accepted her first submission. Since then she had published more than thirty stories in a variety of sub-genres, all with a happily ever after.

Her hobbies, when she’s not playing with the characters in her head, include kayaking, hiking, swimming, playing guitar, singing and of course, reading.

You can find Anne around the web at:
Ann’s Website

Anne’s Blog

Anne’s Twitter

Anne’s FacebookGood Reads

Buy her book on Amazon

Buy the book at B&N

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New Changeling Press Pre-Releases

Several new books are available at Changeling Press. Check them out!Check out these pre-releases from Changeling Press!

Sir Spanksalot (Sexscape 2
)by Alice Gaines
$3.99
Sale Price: $3.39

Transported into her favorite game, SexScape, Maddy meets a sexy devil named Sir Spanksalot. Really.
Buy it today at Changeling PressBuy it today at Changeling Press
Pre-order Now:
Amazon
Barnes and Nobel

KOBO/Wal-Mart
iTunes

Mysti and Starr (Wild Witches of Beaver Bay 1)
by Kate Hill
$4.99
Sale Price: $4.24

Family magic summons Mysti Wild to her destined mate–a demon hunting biker with secrets of his own.

Buy it today at Changeling Press

Pre-Order Now:
Amazon
Barnes and Nobel
KOBO/Wal-Mart
iTunes

Intergalactic Brides Vol. 3
by Jessica Coulter Smith
$5.99
Sale Price: $4.79

Three sexy aliens and the women who can’t resist them — an unexpected out of this world romance.

Buy it today at Changeling Press

Pre-Order Now:
Amazon
Barnes and Nobel
KOBO/Wal-Mart

iTunes

Intergalatic Brides Vol. 3by Jessica Coulter Smith

Print $12.95

Three sexy aliens and the women who can’t resist them — an unexpected out of this world romance.

Buy it today at Amazon

Enjoy!

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My new book will be released early!

Hello everybody! I have great news! The release date for my new book has been moved to August 30. It will be available from changeling press on Friday

Excerpt: Technical Difficulties

Chapter One

The dragon had been brutalized. As Medical Technician Johnson worked over the corpse, she couldn’t miss the signs. The poor dragon-in-human-guise was female. She hadn’t been raped; at least there were no signs of trauma to the uterus, nor fluids. But she’d been ripped apart, flesh from bone. There were tears in the muscle that bespoke deep and terrible injuries.
Sonya Johnson whispered, “I think you were dead when most of these were inflicted.” She’d quickly discovered the cause of death: a crushed skull that had occurred while the dragon was in human form. Now all she wanted was to be done chronicling the post mortem atrocities and see to it that the poor soul had a decent burial.
Sonya smiled just a little. Thinking of any dragon as a “poor soul” was a little like calling a lion a kitty cat. Dragons, like werewolves, she thought with a shudder, were known for taking care of themselves. Both Apex predators of the magical world, for slightly different reasons, they were treated with respect and almost obsessive politeness by other magical beings and the few humans unlucky enough to know about their existence.
“Humans like me.” Her smile was gone as she finished cataloging the last injury. Shaking her head, Sonya covered the body with a sheet and left the autopsy room. She locked the door before heading into her office.
All right, so it wasn’t technically “her” office any more than the autopsy room belonged to her. But she thought of both as her property because she spent more time in them than anyone else. That was thanks to the doctoral-level degree she was seeking from SearchLight Academy in Reptilian Magical Creatures: Treatment and Dissection. Unlike those who studied humans, magical creature experts were expected to have a wider knowledge base. The closest comparison Sonya could make was a general practice physician. And even they weren’t responsible for both the living and the dead.
She had just finished her second year of postgraduate work. It was May. She had a blissful ten weeks off for the summer. Of course, she was still expected to work on her dissertation, so “rest” wasn’t in her vocabulary. But she wouldn’t be attending biweekly meetings with this or that professor to discuss her research. She might even have considered a week away from the City of Tampa, where she worked, and its lesser cousin, the City of St. Petersburg, where she lived. But she hadn’t scheduled any time off because she’d been too fixated on her dissertation to think beyond the next few days.
Someone knocked on the office door. Not closed completely and made of a light pressboard, the door opened a little more.
Sonya caught sight of a skirt in a bold print and a tapered shoe. She called, “Come in.”
A woman stepped in. But then she spoke. “Sorry to disturb you.” And Sonya’s mind went sideways. Not because there was anything particularly wrong with the voice. It was just that she wasn’t used to hearing a slightly male voice coming out of a woman’s body.
Transgender. That’s what they call themselves. And, on the heels of that, I hate it when someone says “they” about my people so I will not start out by thinking of this person as a part of “they.” She’s dressed as a woman. I’ll call her “her.”
“Um,” she said uncomfortably, “you’re not. Please sit down.”
The transgender person… The woman, Sonya scolded herself…didn’t sit. Neither did she shut the door. “Thanks, but…” She looked briefly discomfited. “I’m Agent Brown. Maxine.”
$That surely wasn’t the name you were born with. Oh, shut the fuck up! She doesn’t want you staring, and you will get over yourself.
Sonya realized Maxine was waiting for a response. Her small, delicate and frankly slightly attractive nose was turning slightly red, just like Sonya’s did when she was embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” she said, rising and extending her hand. “I’m Sonya Johnson, one of the medical techs.”
The moment their hands touched, the hair on the back of Sonya’s neck stood up. She pulled back rather quickly. “Um…um…” She looked away from the hand she’d shaken and into eyes that were startling in their beauty. Honey-brown and shadowed by lashes as thick and long as any ever seen in a boys’ band, they took Sonya’s breath away. She forgot for a moment that her neck was prickling and smiled. “How may I help you?”
Maxine, who had taken a step forward to grip Sonya’s hand, retreated at least that far. “Agent Wellington wants to see you when it’s convenient.” She hesitated before adding, “He’s the head of Werewolf Watch.”
Sonya shivered. She couldn’t help herself. She hated werewolves. They were the craziest, most terrifying— $Oh, get ahold of yourself. If you’re being called, you specifically… She met Maxine’s eyes. “You $are looking for me specifically, right? Because Jenny Davis could—”
“I’m sorry. He wants you personally.” She really did look empathetic. “If it helps, it will just be him, you, and me in a large conference room.”
Sonya’s particular skills were needed. She specialized in dragons and basilisks. What could she possibly do for a werewolf? Because Wellington had to be a werewolf. Unlike in the Department of Dragons, with which Sonya worked on a regular basis, Werewolf Watch was stuffed to capacity with its namesakes.
$Shit. That probably means this woman is a werewolf. She looked directly into Maxine’s eyes, needing to know. “You’re a werewolf too?”
Maxine nodded. “Agent Wellington said to tell you he understands your circumstances, whatever those are, and that he wouldn’t call for you unless it was absolutely necessary.”
$Whatever those are. She doesn’t know. Sonya felt a little better. “Can he give me fifteen minutes to…to…” She glanced down at her report. $To finish my work flashed across her mind, but it would take at least two hours to do that.
“I’ll tell him you’ll be up in thirty,” Maxine said gently. Still a little more comforted, Sonya said, “Thank you. I’ll be up soon.”
Maxine left, closing the door behind her.
$Black, like me. But transgender and werewolf. The three modifiers to the name Agent Maxine Brown hit one right after the other. Sonya sank into her chair and covered her face with her hands. If she was going to have a prayer of working with werewolves…
Her mind insisted on calling them monsters.
If she was going to have any hope in Hell of working with those…people…she needed to calm down. So, instead of focusing on her report, she began the deep breathing exercises a SearchLight therapist had taught her shortly after a werewolf nearly ripped her arm off.
* * * *
Maxine was just leaving the frightened human’s office when she heard the distant ching close of the elevator doors. She ignored it and started, slowly, away from the site of confrontation. It wasn’t that she hated near-arguments, but the stench of MedTech Johnson’s fear had shortened Maxine’s breath and made her heart speed up.
The only things that had saved the encounter from becoming a meltdown were Sonya Johnson’s refusal to dwell in terror and the woman’s distraction (bordering on obsession) about Maxine being trans.
Mild telepathy could be more than mildly helpful.
The sound of rubber wheels on tile caught Maxine’s attention. Putting her thoughts about Sonya Johnson aside, she walked around a corner—and saw a genie approaching.
To be fair, he wasn’t dressed like a cartoon genie and, so far as she knew, there wasn’t a stereotypical way for a wish-giver to walk or talk. In this case, Maxine wasn’t even relying on her telepathy. Her nose told her what kind of magical creature was pushing the sheeted gurney. “Agent Morrison.”
Blond haired and blue-eyed, he flashed a stellar smile. “Luke, please. You have me at a disadvantage.”
“Maxine Brown, field agent in Werewolf Watch.”
The genie nodded. “Mark, er, Agent Tavery, found another pair. A dragon and a werewolf. They were discovered in Ybor City about an hour ago. I’m taking the dragon half to Sonya.”
Obviously, Luke had worked with Sonya before, to call her by her first name, and with such respect in his voice. “She’s been summoned up to WW. Do my bosses know about the latest bodies?”
“Absolutely.” Luke frowned. “Does Sonya know she’s expected to go into the wolf’s den, if you’ll excuse the expression?”
“She does. I promised her a large conference room so she’ll have distance from Agent Wellington and me.”
Luke nodded and his frown smoothed out. “Well, I’ll just leave this in the autopsy room.”
Maxine looked down at the sheet-covered form and felt her gut tighten. If this turned out to be murder, as the first two killings had been… Well, no one, not even a dragon, deserved to die before his or her time.
Luke said, “The werewolf half isn’t a member of the Fehrna pack.”
Not from Maxine’s pack. Fehrna Susan, the only alpha in Tampa, had come here from Montana after the slaughter of ’78.
“Like the other werewolf from the first murdered pair, he’s from far away based on his clothes and…” He laughed. “And other tells I don’t understand.”
“What’s the dragon’s gender?”
“Female.”
Like the first pair. A female dragon and a male werewolf.
Luke shook his head. “I don’t understand why they’re being killed in twos.”
“Probably they killed each other. Either out of self-defense or hatred.” And it was the slaughter of ’78 she was thinking of.
“They came all the way to Florida to do that?”
“Maybe they were both here for separate reasons and met by chance.” Maxine frowned. “Although finding a second similar pair, female dragon, male werewolf, makes that less likely.” She started to walk past Luke. She was heading for the stairs since traveling in an elevator was too confining.
But she stopped and turned. A question appeared like a floating neon sign in her head. “Agent Morrison, Luke, aren’t you in the MMCD? Why are you delivering dead bodies?”
Luke chuckled. “The head of Miscellaneous Magical Creatures let me run this errand since he had nothing else for me to do.”
This thought flitted from Luke’s mind to hers. She didn’t often get complete sentences. He must have been feeling his gratitude, or his love for his husband, intensely. $I’d do anything for my Mark but getting out of that cramped office…he was doing me a favor.
Maxine felt a pang of sorrow. She missed having a mate who filled her with a sense of strong devotion.
Luke had reached one of the autopsy rooms. He raised his hand and waved it in front of the door. There was the sound of an invisible hand knocking and then the door opened even though the room, Maxine saw, was empty.
“MedTech Johnson is in her office,” she told Luke.
He glanced over his shoulder. “I guessed as much.” He touched his ear. “I can hear her breathing. Have a good day.” He wheeled the gurney in.
As Maxine opened the door to the stairwell, her thoughts went back to Sonya Johnson and the fear rolling off her in waves. $Except for one instant. When our eyes met. Then she seemed…interested? Aroused? Maxine shook her head. $I can’t read humans very well. Just werewolves or half-wolves. Whatever she was feeling, she wasn’t scared for a moment. Did that mean Sonya Johnson had hope to be not afraid some day?
Maxine wished it so. Both for Sonya’s sake and because, under the fear, the woman was attractive. $And probably straight. And at least somewhat intimidated by trans people.
She reached the first landing. $In other words, she’s not attainable.

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Rocket Hades: Abyss Pre-Order Book Information

ROCKET (Hades Abyss MC) by Harley Wylde
Published by Changeling Press

Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

ROCKET Hades Abyss MC2 book cover
ROCKET Hades Abyss MC2 book cover

Genres/Themes: MC Romance, Contemporary, New Adult, Interracial

ABOUT THE BOOK

Violeta — It’s been a year since I was brought to the US and given to Rocket. I’d thought he was like the others and would only cause me pain. I was wrong. Rocket is the kindest, sweetest man I’ve ever met. I arrived an abused, pregnant teen. Now I’m a more confident woman, and I have Rocket to thank. Falling in love with him was inevitable, but now I need him to see me as a desirable woman and not a girl who needs his protection.

Rocket — The young girl who came to live with me was more broken than I’d realized. The horrors she faced have made her stronger, but it didn’t happen overnight. It’s hard not to watch her, to want her. I shouldn’t. I’m too damn old for an eighteen-year-old woman. She’s not as fragile, physically and emotionally, but I can’t shut off the protector inside me that wants to shelter her and keep her safe. When she’s taken, I know that the men responsible will die. I only hope that side of me doesn’t scare my sweet Vi, but nothing will stop me from spilling their blood. I just don’t know if we can end the war before it starts, or if this will only be the beginning. I’ll keep her safe, no matter the cost, because she’s mine whether she knows it or not.
WARNING: This book contains violence, strong language, explicit sex scenes, and an abused woman. But it also has a biker who will protect the woman he loves, no cheating, and a guaranteed happily-ever-after.
Pre-Order your copy today!
Releasing August 9th at online retailers.

Amazon WorldWide

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Too eager to wait until August 9th? You can get it on August 2nd at Changeling Press

What do the ARC reviews say about Rocket?

“This is such a great book. I love it! Violeta has blossomed into quite the confident young woman. Rocket is perfect for her.” — Victoria @ GoodReads

“Their love is sweet, so darn sweet but the heat isn’t missing between them either. I love the pure escapism that I find in Ms Wylde’s books. I can open one of her stories and dive right in.” — Leslee @ GoodReads

KEEP READING FOR A SNEAK PEEK…

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Harley Wylde

I peered out the front blinds and couldn’t contain my sigh. Rocket was outside washing his bike. Shirtless. It hadn’t taken me very long to get over my fear of him. The man had been nothing but kind to me, gentle even, as if he were afraid I’d break. No one had ever treated me better, not a male someone anyway. Even Luciana’s husband had frightened me at first. Then I’d seen the way he looked at her, knew that he cared for her, and I’d realized that there were decent men in the world. Spider was one, and so was Rocket. It had taken some time to feel the same about the rest of the Hades Abyss crew, but I now understood that I was completely safe here. None of them would hurt me, or my sister. For the first time in our lives, we were protected.
Once my fear had subsided, the little things Rocket did to take care of me had started to make me feel something. At first, I’d thought maybe I saw him as a friend or older brother, but that hadn’t felt right. It wasn’t until my sister had given me a knowing look that I’d realized I was falling in love with him. Not that it did me any good. I was seventeen, a child in his eyes. For a little while longer at any rate. I would be eighteen soon, but I didn’t know if that would matter. Just because I felt something for him didn’t mean he felt the same about me. He never did anything inappropriate or said anything he shouldn’t. He was nice, but not in a flirty type of way.
I’d thought Id heard him in his room one night, my name on his lips and the unmistakable sound of a man jerking off. The next morning, he wouldn’t look me in the eye and Id wondered if h’d been thinking of me while pleasuring himself. To some it might have seemed wrong, but after everything Id been through, I didn’t view life the way most people would. Despite my age, I hadn’t been a child in a long while, and back home my father could have easily married me off to someone by now. After the initial awkwardness with Rocket that morning, things had returned to normal between us, which meant he was treating me like a child in need of protection and not a woman. It aggravated me, more than just a little.
“Just a few weeks,” Luciana said from where she sat on the sofa.
“What?”
“You’re almost eighteen.”
I shrugged a shoulder. Rocket was protective, but it didn’t go further than that. I didn’t think it ever would. He’d already seen me naked that first day. Maybe I wasn’t his type. Just because Id heard him doing that and saying my name didn’t mean much. Men had needs, and I was the woman he saw day in and day out. It was likely that and nothing more. Id always thought men didn’t really have a type, that any woman would do, but then Id never met someone like him before. He’d not once brought a woman home. It didn’t mean he was’t seeing someone the times he wasn’t at the house, but I tried not to think about that.
“He cares about you,” she insisted.
“I know he does, but he doesn’t love me. Not the way a man loves a woman.” At least, it didn’t seem like he did. There were times I thought I caught a certain look in his eyes, but it was gone so fast Id convinced myself I was imagining things. Wishful thinking on my part.
“I know you think he doesn’t see you that way, but you’re wrong.”

ABOUT HARLEY…
Short. Erotic. Sweet. Harley’s other half would probably say those words describe her, but they also describe her books. When Harley is writing, her motto is the hotter the better. Off the charts sex, commanding men, and the women who can’t deny them. If you want men who talk dirty, are sexy as hell, and take what they want, then you’ve come to the right place.
Harley Wylde is the “wilder” side of award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith. Visit Jessica’s website at jessicacoultersmith.com or Harley’s website at harleywylde.com.

****** COVER AND OTHER IMAGES BEL

Posted in Teasers

Technical Difficulties Excerpt

Technical Difficulties

Chapter One

The dragon had been brutalized. As Medical Technician Johnson worked over the corpse, she couldn’t miss the signs. The poor dragon-in-human-guise was female. She hadn’t been raped; at least there were no signs of trauma to the uterus, nor fluids. But she’d been ripped apart, flesh from bone. There were tears in the muscle that bespoke deep and terrible injuries.
Sonya Johnson whispered, “I think you were dead when most of these were inflicted.” She’d quickly discovered the cause of death: a crushed skull that had occurred while the dragon was in human form. Now all she wanted was to be done chronicling the post mortem atrocities and see to it that the poor soul had a decent burial.
Sonya smiled just a little. Thinking of any dragon as a “poor soul” was a little like calling a lion a kitty cat. Dragons, like werewolves, she thought with a shudder, were known for taking care of themselves. Both Apex predators of the magical world, for slightly different reasons, they were treated with respect and almost obsessive politeness by other magical beings and the few humans unlucky enough to know about their existence.
“Humans like me.” Her smile was gone as she finished cataloging the last injury. Shaking her head, Sonya covered the body with a sheet and left the autopsy room. She locked the door before heading into her office.
All right, so it wasn’t technically “her” office any more than the autopsy room belonged to her. But she thought of both as her property because she spent more time in them than anyone else. That was thanks to the doctoral-level degree she was seeking from SearchLight Academy in Reptilian Magical Creatures: Treatment and Dissection. Unlike those who studied humans, magical creature experts were expected to have a wider knowledge base. The closest comparison Sonya could make was a general practice physician. And even they weren’t responsible for both the living and the dead.
She had just finished her second year of postgraduate work. It was May. She had a blissful ten weeks off for the summer. Of course, she was still expected to work on her dissertation, so “rest” wasn’t in her vocabulary. But she wouldn’t be attending biweekly meetings with this or that professor to discuss her research. She might even have considered a week away from the City of Tampa, where she worked, and its lesser cousin, the City of St. Petersburg, where she lived. But she hadn’t scheduled any time off because she’d been too fixated on her dissertation to think beyond the next few days.
Someone knocked on the office door. Not closed completely and made of a light pressboard, the door opened a little more.
Sonya caught sight of a skirt in a bold print and a tapered shoe. She called, “Come in.”
A woman stepped in. But then she spoke. “Sorry to disturb you.” And Sonya’s mind went sideways. Not because there was anything particularly wrong with the voice. It was just that she wasn’t used to hearing a slightly male voice coming out of a woman’s body.
Transgender. That’s what they call themselves. And, on the heels of that, I hate it when someone says “they” about my people so I will not start out by thinking of this person as a part of “they.” She’s dressed as a woman. I’ll call her “her.”
“Um,” she said uncomfortably, “you’re not. Please sit down.”
The transgender person… The woman, Sonya scolded herself…didn’t sit. Neither did she shut the door. “Thanks, but…” She looked briefly discomfited. “I’m Agent Brown. Maxine.”
$That surely wasn’t the name you were born with. Oh, shut the fuck up! She doesn’t want you staring, and you will get over yourself.
Sonya realized Maxine was waiting for a response. Her small, delicate and frankly slightly attractive nose was turning slightly red, just like Sonya’s did when she was embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” she said, rising and extending her hand. “I’m Sonya Johnson, one of the medical techs.”
The moment their hands touched, the hair on the back of Sonya’s neck stood up. She pulled back rather quickly. “Um…um…” She looked away from the hand she’d shaken and into eyes that were startling in their beauty. Honey-brown and shadowed by lashes as thick and long as any ever seen in a boys’ band, they took Sonya’s breath away. She forgot for a moment that her neck was prickling and smiled. “How may I help you?”
Maxine, who had taken a step forward to grip Sonya’s hand, retreated at least that far. “Agent Wellington wants to see you when it’s convenient.” She hesitated before adding, “He’s the head of Werewolf Watch.”
Sonya shivered. She couldn’t help herself. She hated werewolves. They were the craziest, most terrifying— $Oh, get ahold of yourself. If you’re being called, you specifically… She met Maxine’s eyes. “You $are looking for me specifically, right? Because Jenny Davis could—”
“I’m sorry. He wants you personally.” She really did look empathetic. “If it helps, it will just be him, you, and me in a large conference room.”
Sonya’s particular skills were needed. She specialized in dragons and basilisks. What could she possibly do for a werewolf? Because Wellington had to be a werewolf. Unlike in the Department of Dragons, with which Sonya worked on a regular basis, Werewolf Watch was stuffed to capacity with its namesakes.
$Shit. That probably means this woman is a werewolf. She looked directly into Maxine’s eyes, needing to know. “You’re a werewolf too?”
Maxine nodded. “Agent Wellington said to tell you he understands your circumstances, whatever those are, and that he wouldn’t call for you unless it was absolutely necessary.”
$Whatever those are. She doesn’t know. Sonya felt a little better. “Can he give me fifteen minutes to…to…” She glanced down at her report. $To finish my work flashed across her mind, but it would take at least two hours to do that.
“I’ll tell him you’ll be up in thirty,” Maxine said gently. Still a little more comforted, Sonya said, “Thank you. I’ll be up soon.”
Maxine left, closing the door behind her.
$Black, like me. But transgender and werewolf. The three modifiers to the name Agent Maxine Brown hit one right after the other. Sonya sank into her chair and covered her face with her hands. If she was going to have a prayer of working with werewolves…
Her mind insisted on calling them monsters.
If she was going to have any hope in Hell of working with those…people…she needed to calm down. So, instead of focusing on her report, she began the deep breathing exercises a SearchLight therapist had taught her shortly after a werewolf nearly ripped her arm off.
* * * *
Maxine was just leaving the frightened human’s office when she heard the distant ching close of the elevator doors. She ignored it and started, slowly, away from the site of confrontation. It wasn’t that she hated near-arguments, but the stench of MedTech Johnson’s fear had shortened Maxine’s breath and made her heart speed up.
The only things that had saved the encounter from becoming a meltdown were Sonya Johnson’s refusal to dwell in terror and the woman’s distraction (bordering on obsession) about Maxine being trans.
Mild telepathy could be more than mildly helpful.
The sound of rubber wheels on tile caught Maxine’s attention. Putting her thoughts about Sonya Johnson aside, she walked around a corner—and saw a genie approaching.
To be fair, he wasn’t dressed like a cartoon genie and, so far as she knew, there wasn’t a stereotypical way for a wish-giver to walk or talk. In this case, Maxine wasn’t even relying on her telepathy. Her nose told her what kind of magical creature was pushing the sheeted gurney. “Agent Morrison.”
Blond haired and blue-eyed, he flashed a stellar smile. “Luke, please. You have me at a disadvantage.”
“Maxine Brown, field agent in Werewolf Watch.”
The genie nodded. “Mark, er, Agent Tavery, found another pair. A dragon and a werewolf. They were discovered in Ybor City about an hour ago. I’m taking the dragon half to Sonya.”
Obviously, Luke had worked with Sonya before, to call her by her first name, and with such respect in his voice. “She’s been summoned up to WW. Do my bosses know about the latest bodies?”
“Absolutely.” Luke frowned. “Does Sonya know she’s expected to go into the wolf’s den, if you’ll excuse the expression?”
“She does. I promised her a large conference room so she’ll have distance from Agent Wellington and me.”
Luke nodded and his frown smoothed out. “Well, I’ll just leave this in the autopsy room.”
Maxine looked down at the sheet-covered form and felt her gut tighten. If this turned out to be murder, as the first two killings had been… Well, no one, not even a dragon, deserved to die before his or her time.
Luke said, “The werewolf half isn’t a member of the Fehrna pack.”
Not from Maxine’s pack. Fehrna Susan, the only alpha in Tampa, had come here from Montana after the slaughter of ’78.
“Like the other werewolf from the first murdered pair, he’s from far away based on his clothes and…” He laughed. “And other tells I don’t understand.”
“What’s the dragon’s gender?”
“Female.”
Like the first pair. A female dragon and a male werewolf.
Luke shook his head. “I don’t understand why they’re being killed in twos.”
“Probably they killed each other. Either out of self-defense or hatred.” And it was the slaughter of ’78 she was thinking of.
“They came all the way to Florida to do that?”
“Maybe they were both here for separate reasons and met by chance.” Maxine frowned. “Although finding a second similar pair, female dragon, male werewolf, makes that less likely.” She started to walk past Luke. She was heading for the stairs since traveling in an elevator was too confining.
But she stopped and turned. A question appeared like a floating neon sign in her head. “Agent Morrison, Luke, aren’t you in the MMCD? Why are you delivering dead bodies?”
Luke chuckled. “The head of Miscellaneous Magical Creatures let me run this errand since he had nothing else for me to do.”
This thought flitted from Luke’s mind to hers. She didn’t often get complete sentences. He must have been feeling his gratitude, or his love for his husband, intensely. $I’d do anything for my Mark but getting out of that cramped office…he was doing me a favor.
Maxine felt a pang of sorrow. She missed having a mate who filled her with a sense of strong devotion.
Luke had reached one of the autopsy rooms. He raised his hand and waved it in front of the door. There was the sound of an invisible hand knocking and then the door opened even though the room, Maxine saw, was empty.
“MedTech Johnson is in her office,” she told Luke.
He glanced over his shoulder. “I guessed as much.” He touched his ear. “I can hear her breathing. Have a good day.” He wheeled the gurney in.
As Maxine opened the door to the stairwell, her thoughts went back to Sonya Johnson and the fear rolling off her in waves. $Except for one instant. When our eyes met. Then she seemed…interested? Aroused? Maxine shook her head. $I can’t read humans very well. Just werewolves or half-wolves. Whatever she was feeling, she wasn’t scared for a moment. Did that mean Sonya Johnson had hope to be not afraid some day?
Maxine wished it so. Both for Sonya’s sake and because, under the fear, the woman was attractive. $And probably straight. And
aTechnical Difficulties

Chapter One

The dragon had been brutalized. As Medical Technician Johnson worked over the corpse, she couldn’t miss the signs. The poor dragon-in-human-guise was female. She hadn’t been raped; at least there were no signs of trauma to the uterus, nor fluids. But she’d been ripped apart, flesh from bone. There were tears in the muscle that bespoke deep and terrible injuries.
Sonya Johnson whispered, “I think you were dead when most of these were inflicted.” She’d quickly discovered the cause of death: a crushed skull that had occurred while the dragon was in human form. Now all she wanted was to be done chronicling the post mortem atrocities and see to it that the poor soul had a decent burial.
Sonya smiled just a little. Thinking of any dragon as a “poor soul” was a little like calling a lion a kitty cat. Dragons, like werewolves, she thought with a shudder, were known for taking care of themselves. Both Apex predators of the magical world, for slightly different reasons, they were treated with respect and almost obsessive politeness by other magical beings and the few humans unlucky enough to know about their existence.
“Humans like me.” Her smile was gone as she finished cataloging the last injury. Shaking her head, Sonya covered the body with a sheet and left the autopsy room. She locked the door before heading into her office.
All right, so it wasn’t technically “her” office any more than the autopsy room belonged to her. But she thought of both as her property because she spent more time in them than anyone else. That was thanks to the doctoral-level degree she was seeking from SearchLight Academy in Reptilian Magical Creatures: Treatment and Dissection. Unlike those who studied humans, magical creature experts were expected to have a wider knowledge base. The closest comparison Sonya could make was a general practice physician. And even they weren’t responsible for both the living and the dead.
She had just finished her second year of postgraduate work. It was May. She had a blissful ten weeks off for the summer. Of course, she was still expected to work on her dissertation, so “rest” wasn’t in her vocabulary. But she wouldn’t be attending biweekly meetings with this or that professor to discuss her research. She might even have considered a week away from the City of Tampa, where she worked, and its lesser cousin, the City of St. Petersburg, where she lived. But she hadn’t scheduled any time off because she’d been too fixated on her dissertation to think beyond the next few days.
Someone knocked on the office door. Not closed completely and made of a light pressboard, the door opened a little more.
Sonya caught sight of a skirt in a bold print and a tapered shoe. She called, “Come in.”
A woman stepped in. But then she spoke. “Sorry to disturb you.” And Sonya’s mind went sideways. Not because there was anything particularly wrong with the voice. It was just that she wasn’t used to hearing a slightly male voice coming out of a woman’s body.
Transgender. That’s what they call themselves. And, on the heels of that, I hate it when someone says “they” about my people so I will not start out by thinking of this person as a part of “they.” She’s dressed as a woman. I’ll call her “her.”
“Um,” she said uncomfortably, “you’re not. Please sit down.”
The transgender person… The woman, Sonya scolded herself…didn’t sit. Neither did she shut the door. “Thanks, but…” She looked briefly discomfited. “I’m Agent Brown. Maxine.”
$That surely wasn’t the name you were born with. Oh, shut the fuck up! She doesn’t want you staring, and you will get over yourself.
Sonya realized Maxine was waiting for a response. Her small, delicate and frankly slightly attractive nose was turning slightly red, just like Sonya’s did when she was embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” she said, rising and extending her hand. “I’m Sonya Johnson, one of the medical techs.”
The moment their hands touched, the hair on the back of Sonya’s neck stood up. She pulled back rather quickly. “Um…um…” She looked away from the hand she’d shaken and into eyes that were startling in their beauty. Honey-brown and shadowed by lashes as thick and long as any ever seen in a boys’ band, they took Sonya’s breath away. She forgot for a moment that her neck was prickling and smiled. “How may I help you?”
Maxine, who had taken a step forward to grip Sonya’s hand, retreated at least that far. “Agent Wellington wants to see you when it’s convenient.” She hesitated before adding, “He’s the head of Werewolf Watch.”
Sonya shivered. She couldn’t help herself. She hated werewolves. They were the craziest, most terrifying— $Oh, get ahold of yourself. If you’re being called, you specifically… She met Maxine’s eyes. “You $are looking for me specifically, right? Because Jenny Davis could—”
“I’m sorry. He wants you personally.” She really did look empathetic. “If it helps, it will just be him, you, and me in a large conference room.”
Sonya’s particular skills were needed. She specialized in dragons and basilisks. What could she possibly do for a werewolf? Because Wellington had to be a werewolf. Unlike in the Department of Dragons, with which Sonya worked on a regular basis, Werewolf Watch was stuffed to capacity with its namesakes.
$Shit. That probably means this woman is a werewolf. She looked directly into Maxine’s eyes, needing to know. “You’re a werewolf too?”
Maxine nodded. “Agent Wellington said to tell you he understands your circumstances, whatever those are, and that he wouldn’t call for you unless it was absolutely necessary.”
$Whatever those are. She doesn’t know. Sonya felt a little better. “Can he give me fifteen minutes to…to…” She glanced down at her report. $To finish my work flashed across her mind, but it would take at least two hours to do that.
“I’ll tell him you’ll be up in thirty,” Maxine said gently. Still a little more comforted, Sonya said, “Thank you. I’ll be up soon.”
Maxine left, closing the door behind her.
$Black, like me. But transgender and werewolf. The three modifiers to the name Agent Maxine Brown hit one right after the other. Sonya sank into her chair and covered her face with her hands. If she was going to have a prayer of working with werewolves…
Her mind insisted on calling them monsters.
If she was going to have any hope in Hell of working with those…people…she needed to calm down. So, instead of focusing on her report, she began the deep breathing exercises a SearchLight therapist had taught her shortly after a werewolf nearly ripped her arm off.
* * * *
Maxine was just leaving the frightened human’s office when she heard the distant ching close of the elevator doors. She ignored it and started, slowly, away from the site of confrontation. It wasn’t that she hated near-arguments, but the stench of MedTech Johnson’s fear had shortened Maxine’s breath and made her heart speed up.
The only things that had saved the encounter from becoming a meltdown were Sonya Johnson’s refusal to dwell in terror and the woman’s distraction (bordering on obsession) about Maxine being trans.
Mild telepathy could be more than mildly helpful.
The sound of rubber wheels on tile caught Maxine’s attention. Putting her thoughts about Sonya Johnson aside, she walked around a corner—and saw a genie approaching.
To be fair, he wasn’t dressed like a cartoon genie and, so far as she knew, there wasn’t a stereotypical way for a wish-giver to walk or talk. In this case, Maxine wasn’t even relying on her telepathy. Her nose told her what kind of magical creature was pushing the sheeted gurney. “Agent Morrison.”
Blond haired and blue-eyed, he flashed a stellar smile. “Luke, please. You have me at a disadvantage.”
“Maxine Brown, field agent in Werewolf Watch.”
The genie nodded. “Mark, er, Agent Tavery, found another pair. A dragon and a werewolf. They were discovered in Ybor City about an hour ago. I’m taking the dragon half to Sonya.”
Obviously, Luke had worked with Sonya before, to call her by her first name, and with such respect in his voice. “She’s been summoned up to WW. Do my bosses know about the latest bodies?”
“Absolutely.” Luke frowned. “Does Sonya know she’s expected to go into the wolf’s den, if you’ll excuse the expression?”
“She does. I promised her a large conference room so she’ll have distance from Agent Wellington and me.”
Luke nodded and his frown smoothed out. “Well, I’ll just leave this in the autopsy room.”
Maxine looked down at the sheet-covered form and felt her gut tighten. If this turned out to be murder, as the first two killings had been… Well, no one, not even a dragon, deserved to die before his or her time.
Luke said, “The werewolf half isn’t a member of the Fehrna pack.”
Not from Maxine’s pack. Fehrna Susan, the only alpha in Tampa, had come here from Montana after the slaughter of ’78.
“Like the other werewolf from the first murdered pair, he’s from far away based on his clothes and…” He laughed. “And other tells I don’t understand.”
“What’s the dragon’s gender?”
“Female.”
Like the first pair. A female dragon and a male werewolf.
Luke shook his head. “I don’t understand why they’re being killed in twos.”
“Probably they killed each other. Either out of self-defense or hatred.” And it was the slaughter of ’78 she was thinking of.
“They came all the way to Florida to do that?”
“Maybe they were both here for separate reasons and met by chance.” Maxine frowned. “Although finding a second similar pair, female dragon, male werewolf, makes that less likely.” She started to walk past Luke. She was heading for the stairs since traveling in an elevator was too confining.
But she stopped and turned. A question appeared like a floating neon sign in her head. “Agent Morrison, Luke, aren’t you in the MMCD? Why are you delivering dead bodies?”
Luke chuckled. “The head of Miscellaneous Magical Creatures let me run this errand since he had nothing else for me to do.”
This thought flitted from Luke’s mind to hers. She didn’t often get complete sentences. He must have been feeling his gratitude, or his love for his husband, intensely. $I’d do anything for my Mark but getting out of that cramped office…he was doing me a favor.
Maxine felt a pang of sorrow. She missed having a mate who filled her with a sense of strong devotion.
Luke had reached one of the autopsy rooms. He raised his hand and waved it in front of the door. There was the sound of an invisible hand knocking and then the door opened even though the room, Maxine saw, was empty.
“MedTech Johnson is in her office,” she told Luke.
He glanced over his shoulder. “I guessed as much.” He touched his ear. “I can hear her breathing. Have a good day.” He wheeled the gurney in.
As Maxine opened the door to the stairwell, her thoughts went back to Sonya Johnson and the fear rolling off her in waves. $Except for one instant. When our eyes met. Then she seemed…interested? Aroused? Maxine shook her head. $I can’t read humans very well. Just werewolves or half-wolves. Whatever she was feeling, she wasn’t scared for a moment. Did that mean Sonya Johnson had hope to be not afraid some day?
Maxine wished it so. Both for Sonya’s sake and because, under the fear, the woman was attractive. $And probably straight. And at least somewhat intimidated by trans people.
She reached the first landing. $In other words, she’s not
Technical Difficulties

Chapter One

The dragon had been brutalized. As Medical Technician Johnson worked over the corpse, she couldn’t miss the signs. The poor dragon-in-human-guise was female. She hadn’t been raped; at least there were no signs of trauma to the uterus, nor fluids. But she’d been ripped apart, flesh from bone. There were tears in the muscle that bespoke deep and terrible injuries.
Sonya Johnson whispered, “I think you were dead when most of these were inflicted.” She’d quickly discovered the cause of death: a crushed skull that had occurred while the dragon was in human form. Now all she wanted was to be done chronicling the post mortem atrocities and see to it that the poor soul had a decent burial.
Sonya smiled just a little. Thinking of any dragon as a “poor soul” was a little like calling a lion a kitty cat. Dragons, like werewolves, she thought with a shudder, were known for taking care of themselves. Both Apex predators of the magical world, for slightly different reasons, they were treated with respect and almost obsessive politeness by other magical beings and the few humans unlucky enough to know about their existence.
“Humans like me.” Her smile was gone as she finished cataloging the last injury. Shaking her head, Sonya covered the body with a sheet and left the autopsy room. She locked the door before heading into her office.
All right, so it wasn’t technically “her” office any more than the autopsy room belonged to her. But she thought of both as her property because she spent more time in them than anyone else. That was thanks to the doctoral-level degree she was seeking from SearchLight Academy in Reptilian Magical Creatures: Treatment and Dissection. Unlike those who studied humans, magical creature experts were expected to have a wider knowledge base. The closest comparison Sonya could make was a general practice physician. And even they weren’t responsible for both the living and the dead.
She had just finished her second year of postgraduate work. It was May. She had a blissful ten weeks off for the summer. Of course, she was still expected to work on her dissertation, so “rest” wasn’t in her vocabulary. But she wouldn’t be attending biweekly meetings with this or that professor to discuss her research. She might even have considered a week away from the City of Tampa, where she worked, and its lesser cousin, the City of St. Petersburg, where she lived. But she hadn’t scheduled any time off because she’d been too fixated on her dissertation to think beyond the next few days.
Someone knocked on the office door. Not closed completely and made of a light pressboard, the door opened a little more.
Sonya caught sight of a skirt in a bold print and a tapered shoe. She called, “Come in.”
A woman stepped in. But then she spoke. “Sorry to disturb you.” And Sonya’s mind went sideways. Not because there was anything particularly wrong with the voice. It was just that she wasn’t used to hearing a slightly male voice coming out of a woman’s body.
Transgender. That’s what they call themselves. And, on the heels of that, I hate it when someone says “they” about my people so I will not start out by thinking of this person as a part of “they.” She’s dressed as a woman. I’ll call her “her.”
“Um,” she said uncomfortably, “you’re not. Please sit down.”
The transgender person… The woman, Sonya scolded herself…didn’t sit. Neither did she shut the door. “Thanks, but…” She looked briefly discomfited. “I’m Agent Brown. Maxine.”
$That surely wasn’t the name you were born with. Oh, shut the fuck up! She doesn’t want you staring, and you will get over yourself.
Sonya realized Maxine was waiting for a response. Her small, delicate and frankly slightly attractive nose was turning slightly red, just like Sonya’s did when she was embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” she said, rising and extending her hand. “I’m Sonya Johnson, one of the medical techs.”
The moment their hands touched, the hair on the back of Sonya’s neck stood up. She pulled back rather quickly. “Um…um…” She looked away from the hand she’d shaken and into eyes that were startling in their beauty. Honey-brown and shadowed by lashes as thick and long as any ever seen in a boys’ band, they took Sonya’s breath away. She forgot for a moment that her neck was prickling and smiled. “How may I help you?”
Maxine, who had taken a step forward to grip Sonya’s hand, retreated at least that far. “Agent Wellington wants to see you when it’s convenient.” She hesitated before adding, “He’s the head of Werewolf Watch.”
Sonya shivered. She couldn’t help herself. She hated werewolves. They were the craziest, most terrifying— $Oh, get ahold of yourself. If you’re being called, you specifically… She met Maxine’s eyes. “You $are looking for me specifically, right? Because Jenny Davis could—”
“I’m sorry. He wants you personally.” She really did look empathetic. “If it helps, it will just be him, you, and me in a large conference room.”
Sonya’s particular skills were needed. She specialized in dragons and basilisks. What could she possibly do for a werewolf? Because Wellington had to be a werewolf. Unlike in the Department of Dragons, with which Sonya worked on a regular basis, Werewolf Watch was stuffed to capacity with its namesakes.
$Shit. That probably means this woman is a werewolf. She looked directly into Maxine’s eyes, needing to know. “You’re a werewolf too?”
Maxine nodded. “Agent Wellington said to tell you he understands your circumstances, whatever those are, and that he wouldn’t call for you unless it was absolutely necessary.”
$Whatever those are. She doesn’t know. Sonya felt a little better. “Can he give me fifteen minutes to…to…” She glanced down at her report. $To finish my work flashed across her mind, but it would take at least two hours to do that.
“I’ll tell him you’ll be up in thirty,” Maxine said gently. Still a little more comforted, Sonya said, “Thank you. I’ll be up soon.”
Maxine left, closing the door behind her.
$Black, like me. But transgender and werewolf. The three modifiers to the name Agent Maxine Brown hit one right after the other. Sonya sank into her chair and covered her face with her hands. If she was going to have a prayer of working with werewolves…
Her mind insisted on calling them monsters.
If she was going to have any hope in Hell of working with those…people…she needed to calm down. So, instead of focusing on her report, she began the deep breathing exercises a SearchLight therapist had taught her shortly after a werewolf nearly ripped her arm off.
* * * *
Maxine was just leaving the frightened human’s office when she heard the distant ching close of the elevator doors. She ignored it and started, slowly, away from the site of confrontation. It wasn’t that she hated near-arguments, but the stench of MedTech Johnson’s fear had shortened Maxine’s breath and made her heart speed up.
The only things that had saved the encounter from becoming a meltdown were Sonya Johnson’s refusal to dwell in terror and the woman’s distraction (bordering on obsession) about Maxine being trans.
Mild telepathy could be more than mildly helpful.
The sound of rubber wheels on tile caught Maxine’s attention. Putting her thoughts about Sonya Johnson aside, she walked around a corner—and saw a genie approaching.
To be fair, he wasn’t dressed like a cartoon genie and, so far as she knew, there wasn’t a stereotypical way for a wish-giver to walk or talk. In this case, Maxine wasn’t even relying on her telepathy. Her nose told her what kind of magical creature was pushing the sheeted gurney. “Agent Morrison.”
Blond haired and blue-eyed, he flashed a stellar smile. “Luke, please. You have me at a disadvantage.”
“Maxine Brown, field agent in Werewolf Watch.”
The genie nodded. “Mark, er, Agent Tavery, found another pair. A dragon and a werewolf. They were discovered in Ybor City about an hour ago. I’m taking the dragon half to Sonya.”
Obviously, Luke had worked with Sonya before, to call her by her first name, and with such respect in his voice. “She’s been summoned up to WW. Do my bosses know about the latest bodies?”
“Absolutely.” Luke frowned. “Does Sonya know she’s expected to go into the wolf’s den, if you’ll excuse the expression?”
“She does. I promised her a large conference room so she’ll have distance from Agent Wellington and me.”
Luke nodded and his frown smoothed out. “Well, I’ll just leave this in the autopsy room.”
Maxine looked down at the sheet-covered form and felt her gut tighten. If this turned out to be murder, as the first two killings had been… Well, no one, not even a dragon, deserved to die before his or her time.
Luke said, “The werewolf half isn’t a member of the Fehrna pack.”
Not from Maxine’s pack. Fehrna Susan, the only alpha in Tampa, had come here from Montana after the slaughter of ’78.
“Like the other werewolf from the first murdered pair, he’s from far away based on his clothes and…” He laughed. “And other tells I don’t understand.”
“What’s the dragon’s gender?”
“Female.”
Like the first pair. A female dragon and a male werewolf.
Luke shook his head. “I don’t understand why they’re being killed in twos.”
“Probably they killed each other. Either out of self-defense or hatred.” And it was the slaughter of ’78 she was thinking of.
“They came all the way to Florida to do that?”
“Maybe they were both here for separate reasons and met by chance.” Maxine frowned. “Although finding a second similar pair, female dragon, male werewolf, makes that less likely.” She started to walk past Luke. She was heading for the stairs since traveling in an elevator was too confining.
But she stopped and turned. A question appeared like a floating neon sign in her head. “Agent Morrison, Luke, aren’t you in the MMCD? Why are you delivering dead bodies?”
Luke chuckled. “The head of Miscellaneous Magical Creatures let me run this errand since he had nothing else for me to do.”
This thought flitted from Luke’s mind to hers. She didn’t often get complete sentences. He must have been feeling his gratitude, or his love for his husband, intensely. $I’d do anything for my Mark but getting out of that cramped office…he was doing me a favor.
Maxine felt a pang of sorrow. She missed having a mate who filled her with a sense of strong devotion.
Luke had reached one of the autopsy rooms. He raised his hand and waved it in front of the door. There was the sound of an invisible hand knocking and then the door opened even though the room, Maxine saw, was empty.
“MedTech Johnson is in her office,” she told Luke.
He glanced over his shoulder. “I guessed as much.” He touched his ear. “I can hear her breathing. Have a good day.” He wheeled the gurney in.
As Maxine opened the door to the stairwell, her thoughts went back to Sonya Johnson and the fear rolling off her in waves. $Except for one instant. When our eyes met. Then she seemed…interested? Aroused? Maxine shook her head. $I can’t read humans very well. Just werewolves or half-wolves. Whatever she was feeling, she wasn’t scared for a moment. Did that mean Sonya Johnson had hope to be not afraid some day?
Maxine wished it so. Both for Sonya’s sake and because, under the fear, the woman was attractive. $And probably straight. And at least somewhat intimidated by trans people.
She reached the first landing. $In other words, she’s not attainable.

tainable.

t least somewhat intimidated by trans people.
She reached the first landing. $In other words, she’s not attainable.

Posted in Books, Teasers

Fiery First Chapter Friday Roosters 3

Host’s Note: Please visit www.emilycarrington.com every Friday for a Fiery First Chapter of a new or recent release. Sometimes there will be giveaways, always there will be pleasure.


Title: Roosters 3: Bastard’s New Baby
Author: Raisa Greywood

Blurb
Jackson: I need a wife. I’d much rather keep my string of submissives and the occasional lady I can take out in public, but my job — no, my very identity as Jackson McKenna, CEO of McKenna Logistics — is at risk if I don’t find some woman to marry. I wish I could find a woman who could do both. She would be intelligent, beautiful, of course, and be filthy enough to drop to her knees and service me in a parking lot before walking into a country club with perfect lipstick and manners. Nobody’s that lucky, though. That woman doesn’t exist.

Siobhan: I need a husband. I’d much rather focus my attention on Andy, my nephew and the son of my deceased sister. Despite my sister and her husband’s wishes, his grandparents want his trust fund and threaten to take him from me. They call me a whore and say I’m not a good guardian because I’m not married. In this small Ohio town, their argument holds weight. But Siobhan Jane O’Malley doesn’t roll over for anyone, and they’re going to find out I fight dirty. And I’m going to have to get very dirty when Jackson McKenna makes me his wife.

—–
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Chapter 1
Siobhan closed her eyes and prayed for patience. Lila Sievers gave her ulcers on a good day. “I don’t remember how many times I’ve told you this, Lila. I. Have. A. Job. Interview.”
Andy’s grandmother snorted. “A likely story. You’re getting all dolled up in that cheap suit for a date. And you expect me to watch my grandson while you gallivant around the county.” Straightening to her full height of just under five feet, Lila wagged a bony finger in Siobhan’s face. “Let me tell you this, missy—”
A horn tooted outside and she heaved a sigh of relief as she gathered her portfolio and purse. “Thank you for watching Andy. I’ll be back in a few hours. He should wake up soon, but his breakfast is already in the fridge in the purple bowl. Please don’t forget to change him this time.”
Lila scowled. “As if I need instructions from the likes of you.”
She had the door half open, but slammed it and spun around to face Lila. “It took a week to get rid of the diaper rash from the last time you took care of him. I’d prefer Andy not go through that again.” Looking at the clock on the stove, Siobhan winced and raced outside into the rain. She didn’t have time to deal with Lila anymore.
Watching her heels and the hem of her skirt, she climbed into her neighbor’s truck. “Thanks for the lift, Mr. James. I really appreciate it.”
Reggie James spat with unerring accuracy into the Mason jar between his legs. Siobhan was both entranced by his skill and appalled by the action and the nasty brown fluid arrowing into the receptacle. But he was her neighbor, and for all his bad habits, he was a good man. There were far too few of those these days, and Laura, his wife, was a lucky lady.
“No problem.” He glanced sideways at her, “I would have looked at it, you know.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s just a starter motor, but thanks. I already got a tow truck out.”
“Good idea. You don’t want to ruin your pretty suit messing with it. I’ll be in town until noon if you need a ride back. Just look for me at Marge’s Diner.”
“Thanks.” She listened with half an ear to his tales of his great-grandchildren, too focused on her mental preparations for her interview with McKenna Logistics. Thankfully, he didn’t notice her inattention.
She blinked when the transmission grumbled as he put his old truck into park, surprised that they’d already arrived.
His grizzled jaw worked his lips into a smile around the wad of tobacco in his mouth. “Good luck with the interview, honey! You’ll like Jackson. He’s a good boy.”
“Thanks!” She opened the door and dropped to the pavement, opening her umbrella. This summer storm wasn’t the best way to make an entrance, but she’d have to manage. “I’ll meet you or give you a call if I find another ride.”
She slammed the door and waved as he drove away, leaving her at the corner of Main and Spruce. The Prairie School building across the street would hopefully be her new workplace if she managed to nail this interview. It was a temporary assignment, covering for Jackson McKenna’s PA, who was out for maternity leave. It was also a shot at getting something that wasn’t bartending or waiting tables. She mentally thanked her friend Moira from the book club for the scoop on the job. She’d have to find a really filthy book for her to read after this.
Siobhan tried to forget the fight she’d had with Lila that morning. To hear Andy’s grandmother, Siobhan was nothing but a whore because she hadn’t found a husband before twenty-five. Lila had even gone so far as to hire a private investigator to take pictures through her windows, hoping to catch some incriminating photographs.
That was yet another reason to hate Lila. She hadn’t gotten laid in months, thanks to the nosy old cow. She was even afraid to use her vibrator under the covers, for fear that the creepy slime of a detective Lila hired had installed cameras in her house.
How a great guy like her brother-in-law had come from such awful people would forever be a mystery to her. There was a reason Dan and Susan had chosen her to be their son’s godmother and guardian. Hell, it was because of Lila and Alfred Sievers that she’d sold a very lucrative business in Chicago to move into Dan and Susan’s old house in the middle of nowhere in southern Ohio. They’d gotten a court order to keep her from taking him out of state without permission.
She knew they were waiting for her to dip into his trust fund, but she wouldn’t. They would be the first ones to scream misuse, and she refused to give them the opportunity. They thought they could drive her off by taking away her livelihood and spreading enough nasty rumors that she couldn’t find work. They’d learn differently soon enough. Siobhan Jane O’Malley didn’t take that shit from anyone.
That two million dollars was there for his care, but it was his legacy. Not hers, and certainly not Lila’s. She’d already seen the printed MLS listings for Hilton Head condos on their coffee table. If they were given custody, his trust would go everywhere but toward his care.
Though she could ask her parents, she didn’t want to bother them. They didn’t have the financial assets to take Lila on in a legal battle, and the situation would only worry them. Besides, Susan and Dan had asked her to care for Andy, not either set of grandparents.
She could take care of Andy by herself, thank you very fucking much. She didn’t need a damned thing: not a man, and not Andy’s money. They’d do fine, and come hell or high water, she’d live up to her sister’s last request.
***
“Hey Mikey, you think you want to try some of this?”
Jackson stared down at the slender blonde on the bed as he tugged his jeans over his hips. He’d already given her sufficient aftercare that she was bright eyed and ready for round two – a necessary evil when playing in a private home. He was always happier when he could foist the important duty off on someone else. “Sorry, honey. I need to motor. Got things to do.”
He had no idea what her name was, but that was fine. She didn’t know his either. He never, ever gave his conquests his real name.
She pouted and stroked the landing strip over her pussy. Rope marks covered her wrists and ankles, evidence of their play. They’d fade soon enough. When she bent her knee, he saw thin stripes from his crop on the creamy skin of her upper thigh. He felt vaguely guilty that he’d taken his irritation at his job out on her tender flesh, but she hadn’t complained.
The smell of their sex was thick in her stuffy bedroom and he very nearly forgot about work. But duty called, and he needed to turn himself back into Jackson and leave Mike behind for another evening. She had no idea he was like superman; bland corporate executive by day, grease-stained biker with a penchant for whips and soft rope by night. He wanted to laugh at the analogy.
“You keep doing that and go back to sleep after you come,” he ordered.
The woman gave him another small pout, but nodded and settled back into the damp sheets, her fingers busy between her legs as Jackson closed her door behind him.
He started his bike and let it putter to the end of the driveway. There was no reason to wake the neighbors this early in the morning. He shifted and picked up speed as he left the residential area for the supercenter off the highway. He needed more condoms.
The clerk glanced down at the pair of economy sized boxes in Jackson’s hands and smirked as he went through the self-checkout. “Dude, I don’t know what you got under the hood, but you need to tell a brother your ways. This is the third time this month.”
“It’s only Monday.”
“That doesn’t make it better. How are you getting all the ladies?”
Jackson sighed and decided to give the boy a piece of advice. “Figure out what makes them come so hard they pass out. Do that over and over until they beg you to stop before you take anything for yourself.”
The boy frowned. “Nah, there has to be more.”
“Nope. That’s it. If you don’t have claw marks on your back, you aren’t doing it right.” He winked and added, “Practice makes perfect, son. Just don’t forget that no means no.” Holding up his purchases, he added, “And don’t forget these.”
He left the boy staring after him, counting the advice his good deed for the day. His mother would be so proud of him for educating America’s youth.
It was pouring rain by the time he was showered and dressed in a Jackson McKenna appropriate suit. Mike and all his trappings were safely hidden away for another day. Getting into his car, he glanced at the clock on his dash and swore. He was going to be late meeting with the woman his mother had recommended for a position as his temporary PA. He’d considered firing Rachel for her bad judgment in letting her husband knock her up, but her leave would only be a few months. He could put up with a temp for that long.
Lost in thought, he picked up speed as he drove the familiar route through downtown Briartown. It would be nice if someone called him by his real name as he was doing wicked things to their quivering flesh. He shook his head and downshifted as he turned the corner of Spruce and Poplar toward the last of the red lights blocking his way. If he kept them gagged, he didn’t have to listen to them scream someone else’s name
His phone chimed a text notification as he approached the intersection and he thumbed it awake. Yanking the wheel over, he pulled into his reserved parking spot and read the message. Glancing at the time, he sighed irritably and returned his mother’s message, agreeing to take her to dinner tomorrow evening, though he ignored her increasingly shrill demands about finding a girlfriend, or better yet, a wife.
He’d have to do it sooner or later, but he hated being forced into marriage. His mother had every intention of issuing a vote of no confidence if he wasn’t at least engaged by the time Haruto Nakamura of Nakamura Shipping retired. The old man wouldn’t sell to a company headed by a single man, and McKenna Logistics needed the influx of assets and connections badly. She’d already told him to update his resume.
If he was lucky, his mystery wife would pump out a few brats to give Moira McKenna her grandchildren and leave him alone to focus on his company. If he was very lucky, he’d find a nice girl who could put on pearls and a frothy dress for business dinners after she’d gone down on him in the parking lot. That was a fantasy, though. A woman filthy enough to give a public blow job would never be an executive’s trophy wife. A sharp tap rattled the Mustang’s window and he pushed the thought aside. Nobody was that lucky.
***
The walk signal flashed white at her. She hopped over the torrent of water racing toward the storm drain, landing a few steps away from the curb.
She was so focused on the building in front of her that she didn’t see the yellow Mustang speeding around the corner. She looked up as tires screeched in the early morning air. The engine roared its downshift and she watched in horror as it barreled through the intersection, completely ignoring the red light.
“Fuck!”
She turned and darted toward the sidewalk, but her heels caught in the sewer grate and sent her falling forward. Her knees hit the pavement as the Mustang sped past, the pain making her bite her lip as tears escaped to mix with the rain. As her umbrella tumbled away in the gusty wind, she caught a glimpse of a man at the wheel, his eyes trained on the phone in his right hand.
Hauling herself to her feet, Siobhan looked down at herself and swore viciously, the syllables clipped and virulent. Her dove gray suit was blackened with mud and filth, her stockings were torn, and blood seeped from ugly scrapes on both knees. She was soaked to the skin from the pounding rain and the deep puddles she’d landed in. At least her favorite Louboutins were intact. She hadn’t broken a heel, though the expensive leather stilettos might never be the same.
Hot tears welled in her eyes, and she scowled as the Mustang careened into a parking spot in front of McKenna Logistics. Wiping the mud from her face, she stood and faced the building, watching as the man who had almost run her down sat in his car, still screwing around with his phone. With her luck, he probably worked there and she’d have to see him every day.
If she got the job at all, that is. She wasn’t exactly successful interview material right now, but decided it was better to show up and explain. Maybe Mr. McKenna would be understanding and let her reschedule.
She crossed the street and tapped on the tinted window, ready to give the driver a piece of her mind. Yet when the dark glass lowered into the door, she nearly swallowed her tongue. He was an asshole, but a gorgeous asshole.
His chestnut hair laid neatly; the haircut alone probably cost more than her car. Wide blue eyes were surrounded by incredibly long lashes, and damn, that late night ginger and gray scruff on his jaw made her thighs twitch. Well, at least until he opened his mouth.
He looked her up and down and wrinkled his nose. “St. Leo’s has a homeless shelter right down the street, miss. I believe the soup kitchen is open today, and they might have something in the charity box…”
Nice. Two people in one day dissing her favorite suit. At least the asshole had an excuse now that he’d ruined it. “This used to be a six-hundred-dollar suit before you decided to be a total dick and run me down.”
He blinked at her in surprise and opened his mouth, but she spoke right over him. “Did it ever occur to you that red lights are there for a fucking reason, asshole? If I wasn’t already going to be late because you were too busy playing with your goddamned phone, I’d call the cops and have you arrested.”
“I… Let me pay…” He fumbled in his pocket, his reddened face turned away from her.
“You know what?” she interrupted. “Fuck you. Save your money for your next speeding ticket.”
She spun on her heel and limped toward her destination, hoping they had a washroom with lots of towels.
A blast of air conditioning made her shiver as she opened the door. A tall, elegant woman with pin straight brown hair looked up from a fashion magazine, blinking at Siobhan’s disheveled appearance. Her severe black suit matched the stark Scandinavian décor. “Can I help you? St. Leo’s…”
Gritting her teeth, she said, “I know. I apologize for my appearance. Someone ran a red light and nearly hit me.” Siobhan drew in a breath. “Sorry. I’m Siobhan O’Malley. I’m interviewing with Mr. McKenna for the PA position. Is there somewhere I can clean up before our meeting?” She looked down and winced at the blood trickling down her shins from her scraped knees. “And maybe some bandages, if you have them? I’m happy to reschedule if Mr. McKenna prefers to postpone our interview.”
Wrinkling her nose in distaste, she said, “I guess it’s okay. There’s a first aid kit on the shelf in the bathroom.” The woman led her past a cubicle farm and down a darkened hallway to a bathroom, a cloud of strong perfume in her wake. Workers glanced at her, their eyes filled with curiosity.
The lights flickered on as the door opened and Siobhan turned to give the woman her thanks, but she’d already walked away. Shrugging, she closed the door behind her and got to work.
***
Mandy’s pretty face was set into a sneer as she sashayed into his office, her heels clicking on the marble floor. She had enough makeup caked on that it was hard to discern a real expression on her.
He would have liked to have seen a smile on the face of the blonde he’d nearly run down. She was a knockout, despite the fury in her poisonous green eyes. She rocked the half-drowned waif look, for sure.
And damn, the woman had a rack to die for. He would have loved to see her in nothing but a corset and those fuck me black stilettos. There was nothing finer a little flesh on a woman, and she was built like a brick shithouse. She was tall, too. He liked not having to bend down to kiss a woman. His cock stiffened as he remembered those sweet, pink lips spilling the most deliciously profane words. He wanted to give that filthy mouth something else to do. He wanted to see those pouty lips wrapped around his cock, or maybe a ball gag.
But first impressions counted, and he’d done a piss poor job of it. There wasn’t much he could do to make up for nearly killing her, assuming he ever saw her again. She’d disappeared around the corner before he’d had a chance to get out of his car. There wasn’t a greeting card for, ‘Sorry I almost killed you’. That was definitely a flowers event. Jewelry might be better.
Shifting in his chair, he readjusted his hardening cock and firmly put the image of that stacked blonde in nothing but rope and those shoes out of his head. He had to focus on business.
“Your PA interview is here…sir.”
Mandy’s breathy little girl whisper annoyed him, but he didn’t mention it. When she leaned forward, exposing surgically altered cleavage, he huffed out a breath and leaned away from her and the overpowering scent of her perfume.
Women like Mandy were the reason he refused to consider a relationship. She would play the part of a trophy wife well enough, but he couldn’t imagine her skinny body in his ropes. And if he had to have a wife, he wanted someone with a fucking brain in her head. If women like Mandy were what he had to choose from, he’d almost rather be out of work.
“Show her in, please.”
Ignoring his order, she folded her lanky frame into the chair in front of his desk and crossed her legs. Her skirt rode up, baring a long thigh almost to her hip. “She’s in the bathroom trying to clean herself up. I guess she forgot to look both ways before crossing the street and someone almost hit her. I should have told her not to bother.”
She stretched out a hand, checking her manicure, and thankfully not looking at him. What were the odds that there were two women in this town who had almost gotten run down on a Monday morning? He must have been a very good boy in a past life. Or maybe not. He scowled as he remembered his mother had recommended the blonde for an interview. Worse, he’d still be out a PA. What were the odds some banging blonde in a rumpled suit would have the skills he needed?
“I doubt soap and water are going to improve on things, Jack,” she continued. “We should tell her the position has been filled. She isn’t the sort of person we want representing McKenna Logistics.”
“We, Mandy?” His voice was soft, but dangerous. “I don’t recall adding your name to the letterhead.” He missed his old receptionist, Lois, but she’d been unfaithful and left him for her grandchildren in South Carolina.
He’d hired Mandy with his mother’s idea of an appropriate wife in mind, but had realized she annoyed the fuck out of him before she’d completed her first day of work. Well, if what she did could be called work. She didn’t take messages and dropped most of the calls she tried to transfer, but she did take two-hour lunches most days.
Rachel had been another prospect, but she’d turned him down flat in favor of her dairy farmer husband. In his defense, he’d hit on her before their marriage. When she’d gotten pregnant, she’d become firmly off his menu. He didn’t do mothers or kids. The combination made his flesh crawl.
“And I certainly don’t recall inviting you to address me by my first name, which, by the way, isn’t Jack.”
Her face turned red with anger, and she lost the Marilyn Monroe drawl. “Excuse me? I’ve been working here almost…”
He held up a hand, cutting her off before she said anything that might make him fire her. He didn’t have time to find another receptionist, especially with Rachel on leave. He looked down at the stack of paper on his desk, finding her resume on top. Glancing at her name, he said, “Please show Ms. O’Malley in when she’s ready, and make sure there’s fresh coffee. She could probably use some after her mishap.”
Mandy sniffed and tilted her nose into the air. “Of course, Mr. McKenna. Whatever you say.”
***
Siobhan glared at herself in the mirror. Unless she could find a good dry cleaner, her beautiful suit was a lost cause. She tossed the stockings into the trash and cleaned up her knees as best she could, stopping the bleeding with several bandages from the first aid kit and wishing her skirt was long enough to cover them. God, she missed the monogrammed polos and black trousers of her old job.
The rain had washed away what little makeup she’d put on, leaving her freckled and blotchy. At least her hair looked decent. The rain had tamed the frizz, and if she could get the interview over with before it dried, she’d be happy with it. She’d managed to wash the mud and road grime off her hands and face, and the little polyester shell she’d worn under the suit had rinsed clean.
Nothing was dry, of course. She was uncomfortably sticky and the air conditioning chilled her damp skin, making her nipples pebble under the thin lace of her bra. If she got the job, she’d have to invest in some sweaters. The building was cold enough to hang meat.
With one last swipe at her skirt, she left the bathroom and made her way back to the receptionist, but she wasn’t at her desk. She sat down to wait in a plastic chair by the door, taking the time to go over her notes and straighten up her portfolio. Papers had come loose when she’d dropped her bag in the street, but nothing had gotten wet, thank God.
A photo of Andy slid free and she touched his sweet little face. He grinned widely, exposing his new teeth. He looked just like Susan when he smiled. She took out her tablet and opened the case. It didn’t appear damaged, and she set it aside without turning it on.
A door slammed and she stood, readying herself for her meeting. She’d spent the last few days drilling herself on all things McKenna that she could scare up on the library internet as Andy napped in his car seat at her feet. Unfortunately, the one thing she hadn’t been able to find was a picture of Jackson McKenna. Despite being one of the richest men in Ohio, there seemed to be no images of him anywhere.
The receptionist stormed into the entry, her eyes flashing angrily. Siobhan gathered her portfolio and blinked in surprise when the woman stomped up to her and waved a finger in her face.
“Why are you still here? Your interview has been canceled and won’t be rescheduled. You’re a mess and we can’t have someone like you in this office.”
“I beg your pardon?” What the fuck happened to small town manners? Even in Chicago, she’d never been treated so rudely. And she didn’t give a good goddamn how rich McKenna was. There was no excuse for such unprofessionalism.
“You heard me.” The woman gave her a nasty grin, and said, “Don’t let the door hit your fat ass on the way out.”
“Oh honey, you are out of your weight class.” She shoulder checked the woman, making her stumble backward, and strode toward the closed door bearing a brass plate with the name ‘Jackson McKenna’.
“Stop! You can’t go in there!”
“Watch me.” The door hadn’t been latched, and she pushed it the rest of the way open. She glared at the receptionist over her shoulder as she walked in, stopping only when she slammed into a hard, deliciously warm chest.
“I am so sorry…” Siobhan turned to face Mr. McKenna and her mouth fell open in shock as she stared into icy blue eyes. A grin twitched his perfect lips as he rasped a hand over his stubbled chin. “Oh, fuck me. I’m out of here.”