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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

Posted in Reviews

Review of King Henrys choice

Title:  King Henry’s Choice

 

by:  Emily-Jane Hills Orford

 

Genre:  Historical Fantasy

 

Blurb:  There are powers at play that continue to seek amalgamating Scotland to England – powers from the past and powers from the future. It’s the late 1800s and Queen Victoria wants more than mere access to the Scottish retreat at Balmoral Castle. But King Henry I of Scotland, direct descendent of Queen Mary Elizabeth I, the time traveling royal daughter of Mary Queen of Scots, is determined to keep Scotland free and independent and a powerful, progressive nation in its own right. The struggle to protect what is his by birthright becomes a battle that must be fought in the past, the present and the future and in other parts of the world. And, in the midst of each battle, there are choices to be made. Very difficult choices.

 

 

Excerpts:  Henry caught the piercing gaze and held it with one of his own, equally piercing. “I do dare, Madam!” He snapped back. “This is my realm. Not yours. And it never shall be yours!” He almost spat out the last few words. He was adamant to make his point: Scotland, his country, would remain free and independent, for now and forever, as his countryman’s rallying cry firmly stated.

 

“Then Isabel comes home to London with me.” The English queen sniffed in a deep breath, feigning a sense of pride being wounded. “It’s where she belongs.”

 

“I think not!” Henry held his ground, glancing first at his wife then at the English queen.

 

“Why ever not, Henry?” Bertie gently challenged Henry. “She is obviously not wanted here.”

 

“Bertie’s right, Henry.” Isabel finally spoke between sniffles and catching little coughs, feigning an upset constitution. “I should return with my English cousins. London is my home. It always has been. Not this barren, cold north land.”

 

“No!” He glared at both women, then at Bertie who had moved closer to his mother during the interchange. “The last time a Scottish queen sought refuge in England under the protection of the English queen, the Scottish queen lost her head.”

 

 

Review:  I am going to give this novel 4.0 stars.  This novel is centered on Scottish history and its battle to remain free from the English.  We meet Henry I whom travels from the 16th, 17th and 20th centuries in order to influence events that will keep Scotland free throughout history.

 

We get to meet some of the most influential people in Scottish and English history.  Such as Queen Victoria, Queen Mary, Isobel Queen of Scots, Edmund Prince of Scots, Prince Albert, Queen Mary Elizabeth, King James of Scotland and King James I of England, Henry is a strong man who does everything in his power to make sure to help his beloved country flourish.  This is helped by his ability to go into the future, and the help of the rest of the Stewart family.

 

He has a lot to think about and battle as he had uncovered a plot to kidnap his son and was forced to spirit him away to the future North America.  The reason was the fact he found that his wife and Queen Victoria were conspiring to raise his son in England and marring an English princess to combine the two countries. His fury when he finds out that his wife and Queen Victoria were plotting under his nose was horrible to see. What makes the traitors behavior worse is how James 1 tried to amalgam England and Scotland as he was both King of Scotland and England.

 

As he finds out that many of the people, he trusted are part of the plot the sadness is obvious.  The time travel is confusing at times, especially at the beginning when you are not sure what is going on.    The shift from present to past is confusing but plays a major part in the story line.

 

The characters are well developed and once you get the hand of the jumping around it’s an interesting plot line.  If the steward family can’t band together and use their time traveling abilities right, Scotland’s history would be completely wiped out.

 

An interesting book with unique

Title:  King Henry’s Choice

 

by:  Emily-Jane Hills Orford

 

Genre:  Historical Fantasy

 

Blurb:  There are powers at play that continue to seek amalgamating Scotland to England – powers from the past and powers from the future. It’s the late 1800s and Queen Victoria wants more than mere access to the Scottish retreat at Balmoral Castle. But King Henry I of Scotland, direct descendent of Queen Mary Elizabeth I, the time traveling royal daughter of Mary Queen of Scots, is determined to keep Scotland free and independent and a powerful, progressive nation in its own right. The struggle to protect what is his by birthright becomes a battle that must be fought in the past, the present and the future and in other parts of the world. And, in the midst of each battle, there are choices to be made. Very difficult choices.

 

 

Excerpts:  Henry caught the piercing gaze and held it with one of his own, equally piercing. “I do dare, Madam!” He snapped back. “This is my realm. Not yours. And it never shall be yours!” He almost spat out the last few words. He was adamant to make his point: Scotland, his country, would remain free and independent, for now and forever, as his countryman’s rallying cry firmly stated.

 

“Then Isabel comes home to London with me.” The English queen sniffed in a deep breath, feigning a sense of pride being wounded. “It’s where she belongs.”

 

“I think not!” Henry held his ground, glancing first at his wife then at the English queen.

 

“Why ever not, Henry?” Bertie gently challenged Henry. “She is obviously not wanted here.”

 

“Bertie’s right, Henry.” Isabel finally spoke between sniffles and catching little coughs, feigning an upset constitution. “I should return with my English cousins. London is my home. It always has been. Not this barren, cold north land.”

 

“No!” He glared at both women, then at Bertie who had moved closer to his mother during the interchange. “The last time a Scottish queen sought refuge in England under the protection of the English queen, the Scottish queen lost her head.”

 

 

Review:  I am going to give this novel 4.0 stars.  This novel is centered on Scottish history and its battle to remain free from the English.  We meet Henry I whom travels from the 16th, 17th and 20th centuries in order to influence events that will keep Scotland free throughout history.

 

We get to meet some of the most influential people in Scottish and English history.  Such as Queen Victoria, Queen Mary, Isobel Queen of Scots, Edmund Prince of Scots, Prince Albert, Queen Mary Elizabeth, King James of Scotland and King James I of England, Henry is a strong man who does everything in his power to make sure to help his beloved country flourish.  This is helped by his ability to go into the future, and the help of the rest of the Stewart family.

 

He has a lot to think about and battle as he had uncovered a plot to kidnap his son and was forced to spirit him away to the future North America.  The reason was the fact he found that his wife and Queen Victoria were conspiring to raise his son in England and marring an English princess to combine the two countries. His fury when he finds out that his wife and Queen Victoria were plotting under his nose was horrible to see. What makes the traitors behavior worse is how James 1 tried to amalgam England and Scotland as he was both King of Scotland and England.

 

As he finds out that many of the people, he trusted are part of the plot the sadness is obvious.  The time travel is confusing at times, especially at the beginning when you are not sure what is going on.    The shift from present to past is confusing but plays a major part in the story line.

 

The characters are well developed and once you get the hand of the jumping around it’s an interesting plot line.  If the steward family can’t band together and use their time traveling abilities right, Scotland’s history would be completely wiped out.

 

An interesting book with unique characters and a complex plot.  If you enjoy history and time travel, this is a book for you.ee

characters and a complex plot.  If you enjoy history and time travel, this is a book for you.

Posted in Blog

World Building With Disabled Characters

World Building With Disabled Characters
A circle containing images of symbols depicting various disabilities. At 2 o'clock is a wheelchair, at 3 o'clock is a full Braille cell, at 6 o'clock is the ASL sign for interpreter, at 9 o'clock is an eye and at 11 o'clock is an ear.
This is a great topic to start off the new year. Partially because it’s something that’s been on my mind for months and partially because I’ve actually been asked by some readers about how I write disabled characters.
Number one is research. I’ve done a lot, even for my own disability, because there isn’t one right way to be visually impaired or even blind. Does light perception count as blind or partly sighted? Does seeing shapes moving through blurry space count? Does every blind or visually impaired person use braille, a white cane, or a guide dog?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. For example, when I created a visually impaired half werewolf, I had to decide where his disability affected him and where he could ignore it completely. He can see better in the dark than most visually impaired people but that’s because of his half wolf nature. He can sense the shape of a traffic jam but still needs his white cane to help him get up and down the stairs in an unfamiliar place. And of course, like some of us legally blind people, he carries the cane to identify his disability.
So, research it. Discuss it with forums on FB or do research other places online or in the library.
Number two is balance. No one is only one aspect of themselves. I’m not my disability. But it is certainly part of who I am.
For example, I’m not single because I’m blind; do not ever make that assumption. I’m single for many reasons, and, yes, some people have rejected me out of hand because of my impairment. However, these are the exception to the rule. Assuming my blindness is the cause of my singlehood assumes all other people are assholes who can’t see past the surface. That doesn’t do justice to the great diversity out there.
Number three is please, oh please, don’t cure your disabled character at the end of the story unless you have a damn good reason. And their wanting to be “normal” or whatever you want to call it is not a good enough reason. I’ll never forget the author who healed the blind hero’s eyesight miraculously at the end of a Regency novel. I have never picked up another book of theirs, nor will I do so.
And, number four is, quite simply, don’t treat your disabled characters as either “inspirations” for the ease of that trope or as “victims” for a similar reason. Not all blind people are nice, kind, responsible, brilliant, or beautiful. And certainly not all of us are brave beyond measure. We CAN be those things, and I’ll never deny that side of the coin either. I’m moved by the bravery of Helen Keller, but I remember also that she had unpopular political views and that she was, supposedly, a brat as a child.
If you want to learn more about disabled characters, seek out books where they are the hero or heroine. Here are some of mine:
Wanderer’s Rest/Wanderer’s Haven: A duet about a hawk shifter who has prosthetic legs and has to use a wheelchair when one of his legs is crushed by a car. Wanderer’s Rest
Hunter’s Claim, A Very (Psychic) Christmas, My Two Front Fangs: These three novels star my first-ever disabled werewolf, Charlie McLaughlin. He’s visually impaired and is a great role model for anyone going through hard times. Not because he’s disabled…but not ignoring his impairment either.
Hunter’s Claim
A Very (Psychic) Vampire Christmas
My Two Front Fangs

Heartwood 1-3: Coming out in 2020, the gay contemporary romance about a sheltered nineteen year old and the world-wise, and slightly jaded, nineteen-year-old blind guy who loves him. Aidan grew up away from home, at a school for the blind. When he’s forced to come home and finish his schooling there, he learns all sorts of secrets about the hometown in which he was born and never lived.

Posted in Books

Beyond Justice–Spotlight on Bianca Sommerland and Tibby Armstrong

Today, features best-selling, author Bianca Sommerland, sharing her latest release, Beyond Justice, which has been co-authored by Tibby Armstrong. This is book 2 in The Asylum Fight Cub series. Please enjoy the excerpt below, and you ‘ll find a promo for what’s next in the series, and a link to Bianca’s website. Happy Holidays to all readers and fans!

Excerpt:
Curtis’s expression darkened, flattening the peaks of his upper lip. He leaned in, to brush his thumb over Reed’s lower lip and examined the sticky residue. Brought it to his mouth and sucked it from his skin. Pushing away from the breakfast bar he went to flip his pancake onto his plate and returned. Tapped two fingers under Reed’s chin to close his mouth. “Eat up.”
Eat. Yeah. He should eat. Then his brain might start working again. He cut another big piece and focused on finishing his breakfast.
“So…” Considering his fork, Curtis chewed and swallowed. “You like the hardcore stuff, or you think it’s the only way to give up control?”
Blinking at the other man, Reed almost choked on the piece of pancake in his mouth. He ducked his head as his cheeks flamed. “Dude, me and you…we don’t talk about this stuff.”
Curtis frowned, head canted, seeming to rifle through his brain for some piece of information, then nodded when he found it. “No, I guess we haven’t. But if you want to, I don’t recall being told I’d be gelded for crossing that particular line.”
“I…” Reed set the tines of his fork against his lips, touching his tongue to it as he stared at the wall over Curtis’s shoulder. “I like letting the Dom decide. Once he does, the rest is easy. Never lasts long enough though.”
“Sounds like the headspace you’re after has very little to do with pain and everything to do with how long you’ve negotiated to give that control over.” Curtis met his stare, unflinching, pushed back his plate and leaned in on his forearm. “It’s not as easy as you’d think to maintain, but when done right it can be pretty amazing.”
Reed nodded slowly. “In case you missed it, I’m more trouble than any Dom wants to take on. But it’s better that way.” He shrugged, picked up his plate and Curtis’s, and brought them both to the sink. “I get to enjoy a bit of everything. And no one’s gotta deal with me being…too much.”
“Is that what’s rolling around in that pretty head of yours? That you’re either not enough or you’re too much?” Curtis had moved behind him. Close behind him. “From where I stand, you’re the Goldilocks of submissives, Reed, and anyone who makes you feel any less isn’t half the Dom you think they are.”
Curving his hands over the edge of the sink, Reed shook his head. He should not be having this conversation. Not with Curtis, of all people. He was still too messed up from the scene which had left him wide open and vulnerable. He’d gotten away from Kovit and Lawson without letting his issues bleed out all over them.
He had to find a way to do the same with Curtis.
His throat tightened as he let out a soft laugh. “I’m the perfect sub. For one night. That’s how I like it. You gotta stop seeing me as some poor…kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’m a big boy, Curtis.”
Curtis’s hand encircled Reed’s upper arm, tugging him around. “You think that’s what I’m thinking about right now? That you’re a kid? If so, I need to go to jail.”
“For what? You’ve been the perfect ‘Daddy’.” Reed really needed to shut up, but he’d already stepped over the clear line Curtis had drawn long ago. He couldn’t seem to retreat back to the place he’d been assigned that night he’d been dragged home. Covered in glitter, still feeling the rush from the eyes of the crowd on him as he’d danced. The heat that spilled through him when Curtis gave him that look brought him even higher. As though Reed had given those strangers what belonged to him. Reed’s jaw tensed. “If you’re talking about that one time that shall-not-be-discussed, it was a punishment. One Noah should’ve probably given me so you didn’t have it hanging on your conscience.”
Curtis’s eyes had closed partway through Reed’s speech, but they opened now. “I assure you, the pleasure was all mine, brat. And if you had a lick of sense, you’d stop baiting me to do it again now—because I’m certain you’d like to be able to sit in the next decade.” He lowered his lips to Reed’s ear. “I suggest you rethink some things about me, and about you. Because the next time you come to me wanting to be taken in hand, I will gladly oblige.”
Pushing away from the counter, he stepped back, giving Reed room to breathe.
Damn it, why did Curtis have to go and say…all of that today? Today, when Reed had no idea what to do with the implication of his words. Eyes burning, he hugged himself. The very thing he’d wanted more than anything, right there, while the marks from another man still covered him.
“Shit.” Curtis swore softly, reached for him and pulled him in. Cheek resting on Reed’s head, he sighed. “I don’t know how it is I keep fucking up with you but trust me when I say that I don’t want to hurt you.” He laughed, a rough sound. “Not like that. I miss you and me. So, yeah. You name what you want—what you need—and I’ll try to be that for you. But…” Leaning back, he brushed Reed’s forehead with his lips. “Try to remember, I’m fighting with one hand tied behind my back.”
He really didn’t get it. But maybe that was Reed’s fault too.
Tracing his tongue over his bottom lip, he tipped his head back. Despite the pain, having Curtis’s arms around him felt good. Like all the broken pieces were being held together by the other man’s strength, so he didn’t have to cling to them alone.
His lips curved slightly. “You might wanna figure out how to untie it then, ‘cause I’m not gonna ask.” He met Curtis’s eyes. “You’ll know.”
Curtis’s gaze dipped, his attention fixating on Reed’s mouth. Unwrapping his arms from Reed’s body, he brought one hand to the lip of the counter and the other to cup Reed’s face. Lowered his mouth with excruciating care and whispered, “I’m going to hell” against Reed’s lips.
Reed grinned, flicking his tongue over Curtis’s bottom lip. “Not quite yet.”

Excited? Like what you’ve read? Here is the promo for the next novel in the series, Flawed Justice.

More from Bianca Sommerland: http://www.asylumfightclub.com/

Posted in Interviews

World Building With MD Stewart

What Follows is an interview conducted by Emily Carrington with Sci-Fi/Romance author, MD Stewart.

Emily: the Internet is flooded with world building techniques. What we are here to find out today is how specific authors create their universes.
Emily: what is your main genre?

MD Stewart: I primarily write Science-Fiction romance and Paranormal romance. I have a few unfinished books in my files that are contemporary romance, but my imagination just won’t let me have a “normal” universe! I write all types of romantic partners too; male/female, male/female/male, male/male/female and most recently all male/gay romance.

Emily: what do readers expect from this genre?

MD Stewart: Well, from Sci-Fi romance, I think they want to see aliens, space travel and of course love between races. They want the couple to overcome differences between cultures or issues of prejudice against “aliens”.
In paranormal romance, I think readers want to see magic or strange creatures and how every day humans deal with finding out another world exists beyond what they’ve known their entire lives. Do we see movies and read about vampires? Sure, but do we really think they exist? No. So what happens when someone is confronted not only with the knowledge that they are not only real, but they are attracted to one? Shapeshifters are another enigma that I love to explore. In my Paranormal B&B series I try to bring in different types of supernatural creatures. Ghosts, Psychic Vampires, Incubus, Angels, Demons, Hellhound Shifters, Trolls, the list goes on.
In both genres I think readers want characters they can relate to and care about.

Emily: in terms of world building, what do you bring to this genre that is different or the same as readers’ expectations?

MD Stewart: I love to reimagine the backstories of creatures we all have read about; change it up. We all know about vampires, they’ve been written about forever. But what about Psychic Vampires? Creatures who need the emotional energy of others? They aren’t “created” like Sanguine Vampires where they’re turned by a bite and take in blood of a vamp. Psychic Vampires are born like any other human but they are born with a hole in their aura and need to syphon excess energy from humans to refill their own drained soul. Without that recharging, they’ll wither away and die. That is different and that is my character Killian in Born an Empty Soul. I’d like to think my imagination builds a Universe that has unique characters with unique abilities. I hope it gives the reader something different they can enjoy.

Emily: what world building went in to your latest release?

MD Stewart: My latest release, Born a Halfling, is the fourth book in my Paranormal B&B series. Along with characters I hope my readers have come to care about, I introduce a former Marine who was injured in Afghanistan and found his healing through Drag. Since it’s my first MMM romance, I needed to build a relationship between my three guys that was believable. One man is a security guard that met Michael when they were serving in the Middle East. One is the title character, a half-demon/half-angel who knew Michael all through childhood into early adulthood through their shared dreams.
I also needed to explore the Cross Roads, the world beyond ours where supernatural creatures live and where humans go to be escorted to heaven (Rest) or hell (Hellfire Lake). I’ve spoken of it and shown small glimpses of it in previous books, but do so more in ‘Halfling’ and even more will be revealed in the next book, Born a Demon.

Emily: please check out the latest release below:


https://barnesandnoble.com/w/1133620135
https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/born-a-halfling
https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1480320615
https://www.changelingpress.com/born-a-halfling-paranormal-b-b-4-b-2923

Posted in Reviews

Carnivora #1

Author Lea Bronsen will be featured today, with a preview of her new crime novel, ‘Carnivora’, which is both socially relevant and a fast-paced thriller. In her own words, Lea explains what draws her to this genre, and how she hopes to affect and satisfy readers.

Hi, and thank you for having me on your blog!

I’ve always been fascinated by dark psychological thrillers that mess with your mind and keep you on the edge of your seat. I toyed with the genre writing my debut novel Wild Hearted, but labeled it a crime drama. Its sequel, Carnivora, evolved over six years to become a full-blown hold-your-breath thriller that deals with grave issues such as kidnapping, child sex trafficking, and self-harm.

Telling five parallel stories with as many voices, it gives you the perspectives of a police informant, a hunted gangster, a mad avenger, an inconsolable girlfriend, and a psychotic kidnapper. I pull no punches weaving these stories, so be prepared for a dark, gritty, and graphic read – a little dirty on the erotic side – that I hope will play with your strings and stick with you for a long time.

Please note that this is part 1 of Carnivora and I am currently working on parts 2 and 3, so if those cliffhangers at the end are killing you, don’t despair. The continuation is right around the corner!

Carnivora Part 1

Excerpt

“Time to change your bandage again,” the nurse mutters, voice cool, and pulls my orange-colored sleeve up to the elbow.
She unrolls the long strip of bandage from my wrist and tugs at one corner of the gauze plastered on my wound. It sticks as if glued to the freshly grown skin, and instead of removing the gauze carefully, she tears if off hard, discharging pain through my arm, wrist-to-shoulder.
I open my eyes and lift my head off the pillow. “What the fuck are ya doing, trying to reopen the wound or something?”
“Like you care.” She stops pulling and glares, gauze between her fingers. “I can see who you are inside. You’re playing tough, aren’t you, bad guy? But you can’t fool me.”
“Shut up.” I lay down again, huffing, and stare at the white ceiling above me with its rows of long neon lights.
“You’re a good man.”
I glance back. “I said, shut the fuck up.”
Her eyes shine. She rips off the remaining gauze, ignoring my grunt of pain, and throws it in a bin. “Look.”
No fuck.
“Look at it,” she insists, voice low and demanding.
No. I know what I’ve done, and I can imagine what it looks like. A six centimeter-long deep, reddish, scratched-up ridge along my artery. Layers of skin, fat, meat, and whatnot must be visible and sweating a pinkish liquid from the reborn pores. I don’t need to see it.
I guess the girl wants me to be so horrified, I’ll never attempt suicide again. That’s right. She wants to shock me into acceptance.
You gotta be fucking kidding me, little thing.
She shakes her head. “I don’t understand why they gave you the life sentence.”
“You mean they shoulda given me the chair?”
Instead of responding to my sarcasm, she pivots to look up at the clock and widens her eyes as if realizing she forgot an appointment. Face tense, she returns to her work, applies some cool, gel-like liquid on the wound, and bandages it with quick routine moves.
What’s up with her? In my three days in this woman’s company, I’ve noted the things that make her tick. Maybe she’s upset because I’m leaving the infirmary soon. Earlier, she said she didn’t know when I’d be ready to go back to my cell. She probably knows now, but doesn’t want to tell me.
The door opens. She jumps.
A uniformed guard pokes his head in, checks the small room, and exits.
She seems frozen in place, features tense. Staring ahead and taking deep breaths as if trying to regain composure.
I cock my head a little. “What’s going on? They gonna transfer me?”
She visibly swallows and fixes her gaze on some point on the wall.
I snicker. “Are you sad ‘cause I’m leaving?”
Ha, I can be so ugly, when the girl clearly likes me.
As she sits there avoiding me, I take the time to check out her tits, and drink in the amazing sight of their pressing against her green blouse with each breath. She doesn’t have a name tag. Come to think of it, none of the personnel do. Evidently, so the inmates can’t identify their ‘caretakers’, and should they by some miracle leave the premises, track them down.
I nod to her blouse. “What’s your name?”
She twists back to me, brows raised, before shaking her head. “I can’t tell you that.”
“C’mon, I’ll never see you again.” I grin, then add with an ironic snicker, teasing her, “They’ll never let me slash my wrists, or hang myself.”
She looks away and busies herself collecting the medical stuff, throwing a quick, almost invisible glance to the door. What the hell is making her so nervous?
Coldness fills my chest. Something’s up.
“Come on, Babe,” I coax with my most gentle, sensual voice, wanting to buy time. “Tell me your name.”
“Why?” she whispers, fidgeting with the roll of bandage.
“’Cause I want a name to your pretty face when I jack off in my cell.”

About the Author

Lea Bronsen likes her reads hot, fast, and edgy, and strives to give her own stories the same intensity. After a deep dive on the unforgiving world of gangsters with her debut novel Wild Hearted, she divides her writing time between romantic suspenses, dark erotic romances, and crime thrillers.

Posted in Reviews

Review of Trail of Secrets

The Tour Banner

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Title: Trail of Secrets

By: Nora LeDuc

Genre: Mystery

Blurb: Who killed the vivacious, Emily McGuire and laid out her body at the water tower? Orderly, rule-follower Mia McGuire is the least likely person to answer this question. Mia’s life has taken a downward spiral with her sister Emily’s murder, the breakup with her boyfriend, and losing her editing position. But when the homicide investigation crawls, Mia can’t stand by doing nothing. She hires the problematic Lucas Davis to help her find the truth.

After suffering trauma from a shooting on the job, Lucas Davis resigns from the local force. Once known as a daredevil in his small Florida town, he has become an embarrassment to his dad, the police chief. When Mia offers him investigative work, he quickly accepts the job to prove he still possesses the skills and guts to solve the case. Together, these two unlikely sleuths form an intimate bond and are determined to beat the odds. They set out to bring a terrifying killer to justice before he targets them next.

EXCERPTS: “Mia?” A deep male voice shouted to her.

She turned to the sound of the voice. Lucas Davis was striding to her. He was here too? The tall, blond-headed man paced to her in a hurried power gait. Mia blinked, trying to adjust to the fact he wasn’t in her imagination.

He stopped a few feet from her. “We meet again. I’d say it’s my lucky day.” His playful tone eased the ache of tension vibrating in her skull. His eyes were warm.

The tightness in her body drained away. She tilted her head. “You don’t have a clone that was at the station earlier, do you?”

“I’m the one and only. It would cause a lot of gossip in Star Pointe if I had a twin.” A hint of mischief curved his mouth slightly upward.

She’d been talking and thinking about him yesterday and today. Now he stood in front of her—a second time. It was like she kept wishing him to appear. Gram’s words floated into her mind. That boy could be the poster child for lack of common sense.

Had “the shooting” changed him? His overgrown hair and cutoff shorts fit the casual look of a perpetual beach boy. He was lean and trim, probably from his training in law enforcement. Although his sturdy six-foot-plus frame reminded her he’d been into lots of sports in school. “Are you here to surf?”

Rating: 5.0 Stars

Review: The McGuire women’s’ life changes forever when Mia takes her dog Zsa Zsa out and Mia sees something by the water tower on their property and dread fills her as she recognizes a body. What shocks and horrifies her is finding out the dead body was her beloved younger sister. The author does a great job of showing the chaos surrounding the scene and how each family member reacts to the news. Her grandmother shuts down and Alana decides to take charge, keeping on the chief of police to find the killer, giving Mia a gun for protection and having a bodyguard driving with her everywhere.

It was enjoyable watching Mia pull herself together and take care of their safety and deciding that it would be better if she investigated the details herself. Especially after the first interview with the Chief, even when she gave him two names of Emily’s recent ex-boyfriends, she got the feeling that he didn’t’ take her seriously. She grew into a strong, opinated woman who learned that being in the background isn’t always the best thing. I enjoyed the interactions between Lucas Davis, the Chief’s son and herself. He takes everything she says and the small clues and hidden witnesses seriously. Mia had always felt safe with him, even when she was young. She has always seen him as a man who could solve problems, for example, when she was young, he would be the one to fix her bike.

It’s obvious he’s a man of action and even though his reputation is in shreds, he takes it upon himself to improve their house security He brought and installed cameras around the house and installed everything and showed Mia how to use it. He would not take any payment, so Mia decided to take him to breakfast.

Their relationship grew even as the case heated up. Lucas could not keep his mind off of her and her safety. She feels incredibly safe around him, wanting to be around him when things become too much. I was suspiciousof Emily’s last boyfriend Chris Green as he acted oddly, he would yell at Mia as he was mad since his name was given to the Chief as a suspect. As he kept coming around, the chief made sure he never came again. Lucas loved how much energy Mia was putting into the case, interviewing but he was framed when Emily’s cell phone case was left in his hotel room. The poor man suffered through a hard interview partly because the police no longer trusted him and it was found out that Emily called him the day she was killed.

Another person that sent shivers down my spine was Alana’s husband as he became combative towards Mia. For example, during the party and cornered her in a room. Things pick up after that since they found out that Emily was poisoned with ketamine, a drug that was used a anesthetize animals. Tit was strange because this was another attempt to frame someone.

The The ending was extremely interesting when we find out who the killer was the author did a great job of hiding who it was, although toward the end with small hints.

I found the plot well done with no places that didn’t make sense. The relationship between everyone was in depth and like life they are messy and tangled. Unlike many mysteries, I had a hard time figuring out which person actually committed the murder until close to the end, with small clues starting to add up. The perpetrator was someone that never crossed their mind.

This is a novel that shows that a family can pull together under horrible circjumentances. It also shows that people can grow and change with each life experience. Love can be found in the strangest places but the support is desperately needed.

Giveaway Information and RaffleCopter Code:
Nora LeDuc will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter to win a $25″ rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Raffle Website

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Nora grew up in rural New England where she currently lives with her family. She enjoys visiting and spending time with her friends, the Winettes, in Florida, where she continues to write. Trail of Secrets is her sixteenth book. Her next story is already in progress.
You can find Nora on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook and her website: Noraleduc.com. She also contributes to the Romance Gems’ Blog every month

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Buy on Amazon

Posted in Books

Coming Soon: Practical Difficulties (Lady Troubles 2)

For today, here is an excerpt from my upcoming novella, ‘Practical Difficulties’. This is installment two in the ‘Lady Troubles’ saga. Below is the novella description and an excerpt for readers to enjoy. When finished, my latest work will be available to buy on www.changelingpress.com

Maxine, a trans male-to-female werewolf, is struggling to get beyond her grief over the losses she suffered in her past. Now her mate, Sonya, is pregnant. When Maxine’s ghosts rise to break the new lovers apart, they have more help than they need from her pack.

Sonya’s starting to wonder whether Maxine’s loyalties lie with the wolf pack she’s been with for decades, or with her new mate. It’s beginning to look like sabotage from all quarters. How can a new couple stay together, especially with pups on the way?

Excerpt:

Practical Difficulties (Lady Troubles 2)
Emily Carrington
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Emily Carrington

Sonya Johnson stared at her clean pad, scowling at its whiteness against the cocoa dark of her thigh and the pale mauve of her panties. Her period should have started four days ago. Granted, she’d stopped taking her birth control after she’d forgotten to take it for three days back in late September. But was it too much to ask that her slip wouldn’t bring on pregnancy? She was a damned doctoral student and working a full-time job.

“Please, God,” she whispered. “Let it just be late. I do not have time for this right now.”

She shivered as a blast of air conditioning rushed across the back of her neck. Maybe it was time to grow her hair out and screw the cuteness of her current kinky-haired bob.

I’m a medical technician. I know enough about the human body to get this message: either stress is delaying my menstrual cycle, or I’m pregnant.

She cursed her mate before she could stop herself.

Sonya sighed, flushed the toilet, and pulled up her panties and shorts. It wasn’t Maxine’s fault, even if she was a trans werewolf and still had a dick. They’d both thought Sonya’s pill would take care of things. They’d briefly discussed using condoms too, but Sonya privately thought at the time that that was overkill. Maxine liked teasing herself with a condom now and then, but as a form of birth control, they were weren’t all that reliable.

They only succeed sixty percent of the time… but maybe I should have banked on that extra sixty percent.

She made an exasperated noise, very quietly.

The only thing that is Maxine’s fault, partially at least, is how infrequently I see her.

She’d long ago stopped tripping over the idea of calling Maxine, a male-to-female transgender werewolf, “she.” Not even thinking of her mate’s cock, as she did often while masturbating, could cause her confusion. Maxine was so utterly female, mind and spirit, that male genitals couldn’t change her essential nature.

Sonya walked into the bedroom she and her mate shared and went to her side of the wall-length closet. She took off the striped shirt she’d been wearing and put on a sweater with a cowl neck. It was a soft orange that complemented her medium brown skin tone and had the added bonus of clinging to her curves in all the right places.

Too bad Maxine isn’t here to appreciate it. She sighed noisily and then covered her mouth and glanced around, almost expecting half a dozen werewolves to pop out of the woodwork and ask her what was wrong. She kept her SearchLight-won shields in place most of the time, and her lips shut almost as much, but she still felt as if the whole darn pack could read her like a book.

Those shields were something she’d picked up at the academy in DC, learning them from the parapsychology teacher. She didn’t use them much at work, at least not when she was relaxed and in her own domain — the medtech department. But with all the psychic powers boasted by the members of her new eros pack, she felt on edge if her mind wasn’t guarded.

Shaking her head, grimacing as she thought of how paranoid she’d gotten over the past two weeks, Sonya headed into the living room to sit at the desk Maxine had bought her as a mating ceremony present back in late September. It was now the first week of October and she did not need to be worrying about pregnancy when her first dissertation defense was happening in less than seven days and she hadn’t seen her mate for more than a few minutes at a time since they consummated their relationship.

And while that was the worst of it, not being with her mate, her third problem was almost as pressing: three of the werewolves in her new pack were openly hostile toward her. Oh, not where Maxine, who outranked all of them, could see, but whenever they caught Sonya alone…

Oh, stop thinking about it all in such negative terms. They’re just pests. And as for Maxine, she sleeps here every night she’s in town, doesn’t she? You’ve made love four times so far. That’s good for two weeks’ worth of living together, isn’t it?

Well, actually, no. Sonya had gotten the impression from listening to her friend, Luke, talk about his early relationship with his husband that sex every day wasn’t uncommon. In fact, the only time her genie and dragon friends hadn’t managed sex at least three or four times a week was when Mark, the dragon half of the pairing, was in crisis.

Was Maxine in crisis?