Posted in Books

Taken by the Beast

Romance cover art
Author: Anya Summers

GENRE: Erotic Paranormal Romance


Gemma’s life was nearly perfect. She’s just graduated from college and is heading off to graduate school in the fall. She and her best friends are taking a trip she’s always dreamed about. Only, nothing goes as planned. After being chased on the streets of Dublin by a freaking monster, they get sucked into a portal and wind up on another world. As in, not Earth. Now she can’t find her friends, but there is this really hot, naked guy who calls himself a king and is offering her aid.

There’s only one teensy little problem: He says she’s his mate and is planning on keeping her—forever. Oh, and there’s one more thing: He’s a beast most of the time. And Gemma has to decide if she’s willing to give up everything for the one man she’s meant to be with in the universe.

Excerpt: Moira’s scream joined Anna’s. It wasn’t a hallucination. It was a fucking monster, its wingspan wider than the street as it hovered above their heads. Great charcoal leathery wings flapped, generating enough wind to power a turbine. Its body was large, at least seven feet tall, its chest wider than a doorframe and completely bare. Its arms were muscular and thickly formed; she could imagine the thing benching tractor trailers as if they were toy cars. Its legs were hewn like tree trunks and covered by some sort of black material. But it was its hands that drew her attention. They were huge and tipped with claws. Its face appeared hard as granite, with two black horns curling at its temples. The thing’s eyes flashed with an inhuman silver.

It wasn’t human.

Well, duh? Score one point for the scientist.

It took every ounce of self-preservation inside Gemma not to upchuck. The Guinness still swimming in her veins, which had been warming her from the inside out, turned to frost. She shook. Fear unlike anything she had ever known settled over her. What the fuck was this thing? Why was it hovering over their heads?

“Run,” Gemma cried. She grabbed Moira’s and Anna’s hands when they didn’t move, too frightened by what they saw. Not that she blamed them. Gemma was terrified. Wanted to pee in her pants, she was so scared. But her survival instinct kicked into overdrive.

Perhaps it was the fact that Gemma had always been on her own. As an orphan, she’d had to rely on herself for the first half of her life. If Anna’s parents hadn’t fostered her and brought her into their home her freshman year of high school, she wouldn’t have known what a real family was supposed to be like.

She gripped her friends’ hands, tugging them with her. Their cries shuddered on weak gasps as they followed. Gemma took the right turn Anna had suggested moments before, hoping it would lead them in the direction of their hotel and safety.

Panic gripped her. The street they’d taken, that she had dragged her best friends down, wasn’t an escape. It was a trap.

Host’s Note: This book sounds *awesome*! Anya Summers, if you want me to review this at a later date, let me know.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Anya grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Anya never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Anya is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance under the name Maggie Mae Gallagher. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

Visit her website here:

Visit her on social media here:
Twitter: @AnyaBSummers
Anya Summers Newsletter
Amazon Author Page

Buy Links:

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Don’t miss these exciting titles by Anya Summers!

Dungeon Fantasy Club Series

Her Highland Master, Book 1
To Master and Defend, Book 2
Two Doms for Kara, Book 3
His Driven Domme, Book 4
Her Country Master, Book 5
Love Me, Master Me, Book 6
Submit To Me, Book 7
Her Wired Dom, Book 8

Pleasure Island Series

Her Master & Commander, Book 1
Her Music Masters, Book 2
Their Shy Submissive, Book 3
Her Lawful Master, Book 4
Her Rockstar Dom, Book 5
Duets & Dominance, Book 6
Her Undercover Dom, Book 7
Ménage In Paradise, Book 8
Her Rodeo Masters, Book 9

Cuffs & Spurs Series

His Scandalous Love
His Unexpected Love
His Wicked Love
His Untamed Love
His Tempting Love releasing September 17, 2018
His Seductive Love releasing November 8, 2018
His Secret Love releasing January 8, 2019
His Cherished Love releasing March 8, 2019

The Alcyran Chronicles

Taken by the Beast
Claimed by the Beast releasing Fall 2018
Loved by the Beast releasing Winter 2019


Anya will be giving away a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn commenter.

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Posted in Books

Priscilla Widows of WIldcat Ridge

Priscilla, Widows of WIldcat Ridge Series, Book One
Author: Charlene Raddon
GENRE: Historical Romance (Western)


After losing her father and husband in a mine disaster, Priscilla Heartsel faces poverty and eviction from her home by a heartless mine owner. Tricked into a bank robbery gone wrong, Braxton Gamble finds himself shot and unconscious in Priscilla’s bed. Can they survive long enough to find a love more precious than gold?

After the disaster, the women had acquired a school bell which they mounted on a pole in the center of town by the jail, with a long rope hanging down so anyone could ring out a warning if trouble showed up, like outlaws or Indians. But the bell was too far away, and her problem less serious than outlaws or Utes.

Or was it? She had no idea who might be in her room. The erratic footprints indicated the intruder was ill or injured. How dangerous could an injured man be?

A dash to her father’s room armed her with his army revolver from his desk. Her husband had taught her to shoot. If the intruder intended to ravage her, he would be disappointed. She’d shoot him before she’d allow that.

A cautious peek inside her room showed nothing, only half the space being visible from where she stood. Taking a deep breath, she slipped around the corner, gun held ready.

A strange man lay on her bed, face-down, asleep or unconscious. His boots, coat and shirt lay crumpled on the floor. A gun-belt encircled his hips, the gun beside his hand. Congealed blood pooled beneath him staining her coverlet. He appeared dead.

A scream rose to her throat. She swallowed it. One did not scream indoors.

She picked up his Walker-Colt six-shooter and deposited it in a drawer of the bedside table and slipped her father’s gun into her skirt pocket.

Standing back from the bed, she prodded him with a cold poker from the small stove in her room. “Mister? Can you hear me?”

He didn’t stir.

“Mister?” She stepped closer and poked him again, terrified he would jump up and grab her.

Nothing. Lord have mercy, she had a dead man in her bed!

She returned the poker to its place by the stove. A blanket. Or a sheet. She needed something to cover him with. A summer blanket from the trunk at the foot of her bed would suffice. As she laid it over him, he moaned.

He was alive!

Unconscious, but alive.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Charlene Raddon’s first serious attempt at writing fiction came in 1980 when a vivid dream drove her to drag out a typewriter and begin writing. Because of her love of romance novels and the Wild West, her primary genre is historical romance. Kensington Books originally published five of her novels. These were later released as eBooks by Tirgearr Publishing. Currently, Charlene is an Indie author with . She also designs book covers, specializing in western historical.



Charlene will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Posted in Books

Powerful Destiny

Title: Powerful Destiny
By: Tricia McGill
Genre: Historical/reincarnation

Blurb: Can love span time?

It is 850 AD and Norse warrior Rolf lands on the shores of East Anglia determined to take revenge on a Celtic clan. Following a fierce battle, where the Celts are savagely killed, Rolf comes face to face with the daughter of the slain Celtic leader. So, stunned by the beauty, along with the courage of Brigid, he is convinced that his Three Fates of Destiny brought them together. Resolved to make this woman his own, he spares the lives of the captured Celtic women and children and takes them back to his homeland across the ocean.

Strangely drawn to the Norseman who is so sure they are destined to be together, Brigid must fight against succumbing to the wishes of the man who killed her father. Nevertheless, to save her fellow Celtic captives from slavery or worse, Brigid must keep a bargain with the Norse leader—a bargain that will see her tied to him forever.

In present day Cornwall, naturally shy Rolf shares his secluded lighthouse with his wolfhound. An artist, he delights in the rugged scenery and ever-changing weather. While in the nearest bookshop one day, he meets a newcomer to town. Brigid’s unusual personality strikes a chord with him. Not only are both convinced they have met before, but their fascination for Viking and Celtic history forges an unusual bond between them. Outspoken and forthright, Brigid sets out to break down the barrier of reserve and caution Rolf has erected over the years. Is it simply whimsy or can lovers across centuries be reunited?

Excerpt: She made a small sound of derision before muttering, “You have already harmed us by taking away my father and our brothers and kin.” The forlorn note in her voice made him want to console her.
But even if he wanted to, Rolf knew that he must not show this woman tenderness in front of his fighting men. “We are men; it is our way to fight. Your men knew this fact also and fought valiantly. And be warned, my men will take what is rightfully theirs if you do not order your women to come out now. I am sure none wish to die, and you will find that Norsemen are not wicked.” Some were, but he was not about to admit to that. The other Celtic women must take what was their fate and make the best of it.

Review: I am going to give this wonderful novel 4.5 stars out of 5. You are drawn into the wonderful, rich history of the Vikings and Celts. The only issue I had with the book was that it was too short and so the love story was hurried.
I enjoyed the strong character of Brigid, who would have rather fallen upon a sword then be captured by Rolf. Her loyalty is clearly shown when she is given a choice to either become Rolf’s woman or her countrywoman would be allowed to become slaves and no longer under his protection. This meant they could be either ravished or sent out as slaves. She is very much surprised on how much her passion is aroused when they make love.
Rolf is portrayed as a different type of a Viking, he cares for what happens to those that are weaker then him. His fascination and love for Brigid is fated to be. He makes sure that she is comfortable and all her needs are met. What he doesn’t know, even though there was an oracle who predicted something would happen, was a woman who tried to poison Brigid. She thought that if Brigid was out of the way, he would marry her daughter.
Hen we are brought to the future to two people who have he same name, and both have a fascination with Viking and Celtic history. When they meet in the book store the author does a great job of showing their attraction to each other and the confusion as to why they should feel like this. Neither one wants to let the other leave their sights, and both feel the pull that is like they knew each other from long ago.
This is full of such romance, loyalty, and history that I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys these topics.
Giveaway and RaffleCopter Code: Tricia McGill will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Author Bio and Links: Award winning author Tricia McGill was born in London, England, and moved to Australia many years ago, settling near Melbourne. The youngest in a large, loving family she was never lonely or alone. Surrounded by avid readers, who encouraged her to read from an early age, is it any wonder she became a writer? The local library was a treasure trove and magical world of discovery through her childhood and growing years. Although her published works cross sub-genres, romance is always at their heart.
Tricia’s love of animals has always shown up in her books. Tricia devotes as much time and money as she can spare to supporting worldwide conservation groups and is passionate about supporting those who do all they can to preserve our wildlife for future generations, especially elephants and orangutans who seem to be getting the raw end of the deal even in this enlightened age. She also volunteers for a local community group that helps disabled adults and children to connect to the internet with provided computer equipment. When people ask what she does in her spare time she is heard to ask, “Spare time, what is that?”
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Giveaway and Rafflecopter Info:
Tricia McGill will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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Posted in Books


Title: Crimson
Author: Tamela Miles

Review by Emily: I am giving this book 4.25 out of five stars. The two main characters and the villain were all believable.

However, I found some of the secondary characters to be lacking motivation. For example, Delilah‘s younger brother is described as a gambler. A compulsive gambler. And yet he gives up his gambling without any qualms or resistance. This seems unbelievable to me.

Also, while the two main characters are believable as I said, they seem to have no life beyond the page. They are not three dimensional. That being said however, if you like fast paced action and a love story that is believable and intense, this is the book for you.

Posted in Books

Another Five Minutes

Title: Another Five Minutes
Author: Destiny Booze
GENRE: Romantic Suspense

Loving him is easy.

Fearing him is necessary.

Trusting him could be a deadly mistake.

Born deaf and living with an anxiety disorder, Brooke Hartley manages life in five-minute intervals. It’s all she can do to get out of bed each morning. She’s hidden inside her sister’s apartment for over a year.

Everything changes when Brooke’s sister goes missing. Her fragile world crashes. She is desperate to find her, and she’ll need help.

Haunted by a past he needs to forget, Scott Derrico keeps to himself until his gallery manager, Autumn Hartley, suddenly disappears. He is forced out of his isolation to help a woman that needs him with a terrifying intensity.

Scott tries to deny his attraction to Brooke. He doesn’t want to get emotionally involved but he craves her like nothing else. And, for her, he is a dark and sexy diversion to overcome her fear.

With a genuinely flawed and relatable heroine and a mysterious and protective hero, you won’t want this love story to end. You’ll beg…for another five minutes…

Scott stopped so he could stare at Autumn’s sister. He’d forgotten—again—that she was coming. Maybe if he’d remembered, he would have been more prepared.

Brooke was absolutely beautiful.

Her eyes met his, and he couldn’t look away. Those large, gorgeous eyes held him in place better than steel bars could have. He could stare at those eyes for the rest of the day, or week, or longer.

He suddenly remembered his manners. He’d told Autumn he would make this easier for her. He forced a polite smile, completely aware his behavior was not going unnoticed.

With a pointed stare, Autumn stepped toward him. “What’s wrong? And don’t answer where she can see you. She reads lips.”

He turned sideways, away from Brooke, opened his mouth to respond, and shrugged instead.

“Did you change your mind about her working here?”

“No, of course not.”

“Okay. So why are you looking at her like that?”

Again, he shrugged. What was he supposed to say? Sorry, but I don’t want to have the hots for your sister. You should have told me she was so beautiful.

“Oh,” she said, her eyebrows lifting.

Oh? What the heck did she mean by that?

“You realize I have a picture of my sister on my desk, right? It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that she’s pretty.”

He hadn’t noticed the picture. Obviously. And, she was way more than pretty.

Her look of surprise suddenly changed. “Scott, don’t you dare make a move on my sister. I mean it. That’s the last thing she needs right now.”

“That won’t happen.”

“Good. Now, please turn back around and say hello. I want her to feel welcome.”

Right. He turned back, shoved his hair away from his face, and instantly went right on staring. “Hey. Welcome to the team.”

Was that his voice? It was much softer than normal. He had to snap out of this.

She gave such a small smile that he wondered if he imagined it.

Had she understood what he’d said? Maybe he hadn’t spoken slowly enough?

He looked back to Autumn to make sure she wasn’t still glaring at him. She was. Oh hell. He walked away to his studio. This day was not going to get any easier.

Review by Emily: No doubt, Five More Minutes deserves five (5) stars. Great depictions of disability (speaking as a disabled person) and debilitating panic. Excellent plot, passion, and character development.
This being said, I have two issues with the story, neither of which is major enough to interfere with the full five-star rating. When the main female protagonist, Brooke, has her ribs injured, she gets over it awfully quickly. Quicker than should happen outside a paranormal story. My second issue is with the stalker, Vicky’s, reaction to being stopped. According to my research, stalkers will *not* stop unless someone stops them and Vicky just gives up.
These are minor issues, however. The rest of the reactions are believable and true-to-life, including the sister accepting her neglectful boyfriend back into her life at the end. I liked that everything wasn’t “happily-ever-after” for everyone. It made the story more authentic.

****Buy link:

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Destiny Booze is an interesting name, true? Destiny’s mom found her first name in a romance book. Her last name was a gift from the man she loves.

She writes novels with intense conflicts, ongoing suspense, romance, and happy endings. She grew up at a campground where she spent her summers working long hours mowing, cleaning bathrooms, lifeguarding, and leading activities.

Destiny resides in Botetourt County, Virginia where she strives to be the best wife, mother, and writer that she can be. Her family is always priority number one. Other things of great importance to her are friends and her readers!

Follow Destiny on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter @destinybooze, or her website Go to her website and sign up for her mailing list for updates on book releases and book giveaways.



Destiny Booze will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Posted in Books

A Match for the Marquess

Title: A Match for the Marquess
Author: Lillian Marek
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Blurb: Decisions, decisions…

Should Lady Anne Milhaven marry the wealthy and handsome young marquess, or should she resign herself to living out her life in poverty and disgrace, exiled from the world she was born to?

Should Philip Tremaine, the new Marquess of Penworth, redeem his honor and marry the proud and beautiful earl’s daughter whom he has unintentionally compromised, or should he prove himself as dissolute as his contemptible family?

They are not fools, but marriage is only the beginning. Now can they learn to work together and thwart the vile plots of their scheming relatives?

A Match for the Marquess is the prequel to the Victorian Adventures series.


Lady Hadlow arrived first. The feline smile she turned on Anne was clearly not intended in friendship.

“My dear child,” she said, “you must be quite overwhelmed with all that is happening. It hardly seems right for such a little innocent to be married off to a man of such wide experience as Penworth. Do feel free to ask if you have any questions about how to please a man.”

Anne started to freeze up so she could allow the comments to slide past without touching her, the technique she had perfected while coping with the Craddocks. Then she realized that she did not have to retreat. Thanks to Penworth, she now had a place of her own, a standing quite as secure as that of Lady Hadlow.

She offered a smile as sincere as Lady Hadlow’s. “Oh thank you so much, Lady Hadlow. Not every older woman is generous enough to offer the fruits of her experience to the next generation. I am sure we could all profit”—here she gestured at her new friends, who were listening avidly to the exchange—“from the lessons of your many years in…society.” She lifted her hand to her breast so that her betrothal ring glittered in the candlelight.

Lady Hadlow had not been expecting any riposte, and since she was staring, mesmerized, at the ring, it took a few moments for the import of Anne’s words to sink in. Her eyes widened, and her fingers curled. “Next generation! Why you little chit…”

Giveaway information and Raffle Copter Code:
Lillian Marek will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Link:″>Enter to win a $20 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Books

With This Heart

Title: With This Heart
Author: Red L. Jameson
GENRE: Paranormal romance (more specifically military/fantasy romance)


Talk about a killer kiss…

Being a former soldier with PTSD takes its toll on Aaron and has wiped him clean of optimism along with having dreams. But he’s no longer sure if he’s living in reality or fantasy after he tries to save a friend and finds his world filled with women who have wings and…Valkyries.

Adala kills. Not on purpose. She’s a Valkyrie—from just one touch, she takes warriors to the afterlife. Oh, but she’d give anything for a break, for normalcy, to have one day of not wearing her legionnaire uniform. When she’s asked to talk to the human Aaron to help him understand just what he’s in for when he tripped into her world, she jumps at the chance, even though she knows Aaron more than she cares to admit, even though she has an insane crush on him, even though she can’t touch him at all. But she gets to wear jeans and talk to a man—a real-life, hero of a man.

From her adorable made-up swearwords to when she wears his clothes, from the fact that she’s hundreds of years old to her pet Pegasus, Aaron falls hard for the shy Valkyrie. Dare he risk his life for a kiss? He’s thinking about it, because already he’s given her his heart.

With This Heart is a standalone story, that’s part of the With These Wings Series—books that mix rock-hard military men with feathered-fantasy femme fatales for a sizzling hot adventure to find love. Join Chanticleer winner, Red L. Jameson, for more of this heart-tugging fairy tale series.

“So…you want to come inside?” He asked. “I’m burning dinner.”

“You’re cooking something?”

“Probably burning something at this rate.”

“You need help?”

He nodded. “Yeah. And, ah, you want to eat with me?” This was so odd, asking a Valkyrie to dinner. Spaghetti because he didn’t know how to make much else. He hadn’t been expecting her. Well, yeah, he had. But he figured the Norns, those little teenagers, would call him first to let him know Adala was on her way. But, nope, she just poofed into the backyard.

The Valkyrie placed a hand on her stomach. “I haven’t eaten all day.”

“You hungry? Do you eat?”

She smiled and his heart lurched to a stop. Jesus, she was gorgeous when she grinned. So beautiful it hurt to look at her. His lungs burned like when he ran flat out for more than thirty seconds. His heart raced, an ache with every beat. That ache spread through his limbs, not sure if he felt too powerful or too weak. Not sure if he wanted to sit down or run to her and pick her up.

“Yes, I eat.”

“So you should be hungry.”

“I am hungry.”

He backed up again, tired of hollering over the backyard. “I got enough for you and me and whoever else might pop in.”

She glanced around. “Are you expecting someone else?”

“Nope.” He turned and hoped she would follow him into the house.

****Review by Emily: I’m giving this story a five (5) star review. It was fabulous, from the deep, intense beginning to the fulfilling, happily-ever-after end. Both main characters, Adala and Aaron, are believable and perfectly flawed. They’re excellent for each other…and learning about their first meeting is heart-breaking.
If you love military, read this. If you love fantasy, do ye likewise. As long as happily-ever-after is your thing, you’ll love this book.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Red L. Jameson lives in the wilds of Montana. While working on a military history master’s degree, she doodled a story that became her bestselling, award-winning romance, Enemy of Mine, part of the Glimpse Time Travel Series. After earning her gigantic master’s—the diploma is just huge, she couldn’t stop doodling stories, more Glimpse stories—because she can’t get enough of hunky Highlanders and buttoned-down Brits—and other stories, a paranormal romance series and contemporary series, which grew into the pen name R. L. Jameson, under which she writes cerebral and spicy erotic romance. She’s currently working on another master’s degree, so who knows what she’ll doodle next!

She loves her readers, so please feel free to contact her at
Or sign up for her sporadic emails at

You can find Red L. Jameson at . . .
Facebook: Page Profile-
Amazon Author Page:

Where you can find With This Heart:
Amazon –
iBooks –
Barnes & Noble –
Kobo –
Smashwords –

The book will be on sale for $0.99 during the tour.


Red L. Jameson will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Rafflecopter Link:

Posted in Books, Teasers

Fiery First Chapter Friday Roosters 3

Host’s Note: Please visit 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

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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Twitter: @Raisa_Greywood

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.
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.”

Posted in Books

Her Cyborg Champion

Title: Her Cyborg Champion
Series Title: (Terras Five – Book Four)
By Anne Kane
Genres: Sci –Fi, Cyborgs, romance
Author Page:
An intergalactic game of hide and seek, with a sexy human female as the prize.

Zoe is five feet, six inches of green-eyed, red-haired militant activist. A deeply ingrained need to help those who can’t help themselves — human and otherwise — motivates her every move. She snuck into the Mailon research facility to investigate rumors of experiments being conducted on a rare and highly intelligent species of sentient mammals. Now she finds herself in need of help to rescue one very sick little battle rat.

Greyson is six and a half feet of ruggedly muscular cyborg with a penchant for violence. He loves to fight, and he fights to win. What he hates is being sent to the Mailon research facility on a petty errand. When he catches a glimpse of a former lover flitting around the facility like an impossibly sexy cat burglar, he is intrigued. What is the saucy little wench up to, and why is she stalking him through the corridors of the alien laboratory?

“So what’s the plan?” Greyson swiveled the command seat to look at his passenger. Passengers, actually. Since bringing the bedraggled little bundle of fur aboard, he’d come to realize that the battle rat was definitely a sentient being, and understood most, if not all of what was being discussed.
She might not look like much, and he certainly didn’t expect the battle rat to be an asset in an actual battle but she was starting to grow on him. Who would have believed he had a compassionate side? Certainly none of his platoon mates in the outer rim battalion!
Zoe let out a long sigh. “I hadn’t actually got past the part where I used your trip to the research facility to facilitate getting her out of there. I’d like to take her back to her home, to her own kind but I have no idea where that is.”
Greyson titled his head to study her. “So how did you find out she was in the facility?”
“Mailon carelessness. They did a news release on some new tech development and she showed up in the background of one of the info shots. One of my contacts sent me a still frame of it, and the location of the facility. They knew I’d find a way to get her out of there.”
“So why didn’t you just go for the usual media route to get her freed?”
Zoe shook her head. “Wouldn’t work. The Mailons have a lot of clout with the big stations and they’d be leery of airing anything that might cut off the gravy train. These little critters might be cute, but they don’t have any hard currency to barter with.”
Greyson reached down to scoop up the battle rat. The little creature cooed at him. She sounded happy, although for all he knew maybe that sound was her battle cry. She batted her eyelids at him, and he chuckled. If he didn’t know better, he’d think she was playing coy.
He looked over at Zoe. “You should give her a name. We can’t keep calling her ‘the thing.’”
Zoe shrugged, her attention on the star chart dancing in the air in front of her. “I would imagine she has a name. We just have no idea of what it is.”
“Well, she needs a name we can pronounce.”
Zoe let go of the star chart and it blinked out of existence. She glided over to his side with a graceful movement that set his libido in gear. It took more than a little self-control to quash the urge to take her in his arms and ravish her.
They’d done little else in the time they’d been cooped up together on his shuttle. In his defense there wasn’t a lot else to do as the ship hurtled through space on auto-pilot. It wasn’t outfitted for entertaining. As a bonus, Zoe seemed to derive as much, or more, satisfaction from their erotic activities as he did.
She cocked her head and studied the creature. “How about Joan? As in Joan of Arc from the stories from Old Earth? I don’t recall the whole story but she was a female warrior of some sort. It seems suitable for a battle rat.”
Greyson still had his doubts about the thing’s ability to defend itself, let alone wage battle but he saw no reason to bring that up. He reached out to ruffle her fur. “Joan it is. What do you think of your new name?”
As if she understood the conversation, the newly named Joan chortled happily and bounced up his arm to drape herself across the back of the command chair.
“I think she’s adopted you.” Zoe grinned at him.
“You might try explaining to her that you were the one who rescued her.” No way was he going to admit that he enjoyed the little fur ball’s company.
“Nope. Too late. She’s bonding with you. Maybe we won’t have to worry about where her home is.”
“Well right now we’re on course to the supply station in the Gliese system. Once we get there we need to figure out where we’re going next. “
“Where were you heading before I interrupted your plans?”
“Terras Five, but I’m not sure you want to go there with me.”
Zoe wrinkled her nose.
Gods. Even that small gesture went straight to his groin.
“Have to say you have a point there. Maybe you could drop me off on one of the human space stations? There must be one in the vicinity.”
“There is, but it’s a military facility. I’m not sure you’d pass their security clearances. I seem to recall you have a bit of a checkered history.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “I have a couple of alternate sets of I.D. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
He arched his brow. “There’s also the other problem with that idea. What if I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave you on a base crowded with testosterone-driven males?”
She laughed. “Are you serious? You think they’d be worse than you? We barely keep our clothes on long enough to eat.”
“On the contrary, I think they’d be exactly like me — which is why I object.” He leaned back in his chair and grinned up at her. “Although they wouldn’t be as proficient at the sensual arts of course. I’m sure you’d be disappointed.”


Changeling Press:
Everywhere else:

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:

Posted in Books, Teasers

Fiery First Chapter Friday The Tiger Queen

Host’s Note: Please check out every Friday for Fiery First Chapter Fridays, where there may be giveaways but there will always be a good time.

Title: The Tiger Queen
Author: Raisa Greywood

I’m the last of the Andreyev tigers. My species is extinct, except for me. Tigers used to be considered royalty. Atlanta is cold and dark now, and no safe haven remains in the once vibrant city. The devastating solar storms a hundred years ago saw to that. There is no prey and no chance for a mate in this poisoned world. Hunger and attrition have no respect for the shifter hierarchy, though. I am empress of a dying empire.
Aliens from a place called Ximera offer safe haven for humans. They want mates, too, and they offer fresh air and green space. It’s very tempting, and my tiger is hungry. My misgivings are put to rest when I go to the Exodus Authority and see the face of my mate. He is arresting. Not human, but his otherness is enticing. Even through a vid screen his fathomless brown eyes bore into my soul, and I want him. He is mine. And I don’t give a rat’s ass about who I have to eat to get him.
Chapter One
Atlanta, Georgia

Sendra closed her book and peered down at me, her brown eyes sharp. She adjusted the fussy lace collar buttoned to her chin and brushed a stray hair from her blue dress. “Did you enjoy the story?”
“Yes, but I still prefer Shakespeare.”
Chuckling, she patted my head. Her patronizing touch made me feel like a cub, as did my uncomfortable position on the floor at her feet.
“It’s important to explore literature, Miss Andreyev. You might find something else you enjoy just as much.” Her smile faded as she took the book and put it on the table next to her chair. “We have to talk.”
I stood and stretched, my back cracking. “What about?”
“I want you to go to the Exodus Authority.”
“I don’t need or want a mate.” I returned her teacup to the kitchen. It hadn’t held tea, of course. It was just filtered and boiled water, but she liked the tiny reminder of life before the storms.
“Have you considered cubs?”
“Why bother?” I left the cup in the sink and went to her bookshelf. “Do you want me to read? I can almost do Gulliver’s Travels.”
I refused to talk about cubs. That wasn’t an option for either of us. Sendra was too old, and I’d never found a male worth a mating bite. Though the few Ximerans I’d seen hadn’t been cruel or unappealing, I had no idea if one of them would make a good mate. Living on Earth wasn’t easy, but I had no idea what Ximera was like. The Ximerans promised a bountiful, healthy environment, but what if they lied? If things didn’t work out with my mate, would they let me stay? I couldn’t come back to Earth. Even if I found someone to take me home, I was slowly starving here.
”Pussy. There will be prey there.”
I ignored my tiger’s caustic comment as Sendra sighed and shook her head. “I’m going to ground. I want you to give a sample and –”
“No.” The book I’d chosen tumbled to the floor, my fingers unable to hold its weight. “I keep you safe here.”
Chuckling, she said, “I’m afraid not even the mighty tiger can protect someone from old age, Renata. My jackal and I have seen too much, and she’s very tired.”
“I said no.” I picked up the book and slammed it into place, making the bookcase shudder. “It’s a stupid idea. I won’t let you do that.”
“You can’t stop death.” She was silent for a moment, then added, “It comes for everyone, sooner or later.”
I shivered at her hollow whisper and replied, “Try me.”
She growled, the low rumble vibrating her thin frame. Without warning, she sprang at me and opened a gash on my face with her claws, leaving me bleeding. I covered the wound with my hand and stared at her in shock.
“Why are you doing this?”
“You are no longer welcome here, Miss Andreyev, and you’re too stubborn to do as you’re told. Leave now, and do as I’ve asked.” Blood dripped from her claws as she crouched and leapt for me again.
I dodged out of the way, upsetting her table and chair. She hissed, her teeth bared.
Tears welled in my eyes, and I backed away from her, shaking my head in denial. “I can’t leave like this.”
Fangs glistened between her thin lips. “I’m over a hundred years old, cub. I’m going to die, and I prefer to do it on my own. You’re going to leave this place and find a mate and have cubs. That is all I want from you.”
“But…” She snarled, and I ducked when she threw a book at my head. I held out both hands as I backed away. “Okay. I just…” I sniffed against the tears thickening behind my eyes. “I’ll miss you, Sendra.”
She didn’t answer and I left her den, my tears falling to mix with the blood on my face. I’d abandoned my best friend, and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. Without Sendra, there was nothing for me on Earth.
I sobbed, the breath tearing in my throat as I ran. A human darted across the street to avoid me, engaging my tiger’s prey drive, but he was too old and sick to provide any sport. I left him alone and kept running, not knowing or caring where I was going.
The cut on my cheek itched as it closed, but I didn’t bother to wipe the blood away. I wondered if Sendra had attacked me in the hope I’d ease her passing. One swipe of a claw across her throat would have done it. I just couldn’t. She would sneer and call me weak and too emotional, but she’d been my only friend for my entire adult life.
Everyone knew the story of Earth’s fall from grace. Seven years of solar storms knocked out our ecosystem almost a hundred years ago. Humans might have handled the resulting ice age, but the collapse of humanity was ultimately caused by such a simple thing. Bees. The honeybee that pollinated most food crops became extinct before the third year. It was humanity’s swan song.
Sendra told me tigers had been considered royalty back then and jackals weren’t considered at all. Before the storms, we wouldn’t have been friends. I’d never felt like royalty, though. The throne of the Andreyev tigers had long been crushed under the weight of poisoned destruction.
I tugged my jacket closer against the frigid breeze. Atlanta used to have hot summer weather, but the few people left in the city were lucky if daytime temperatures reached fifty in August. October would bring several feet of snow. The reek of poison and dying things filled the air and never cleared, even after the spring rains.
I slowed when I reached the carcass of my tree; one of the few bits of organic material left in old Atlanta. I always came to visit her when I was upset about something. I had no idea why I’d always thought of the tree as her. My bench was still there, a piece of stained marble with a chunk of concrete under one broken leg next to a broken statue of a man in a long robe. He had such a peaceful expression on his face, even though half his head was cracked away. The ruins of an old hospital surrounded the tree, its doors and windows long since scavenged, leaving gaping holes in the red brick.
I sat down and patted her lifeless trunk, leaning back to stare into skeletal branches. I tried to imagine what she must have looked like. I wanted to picture her with leaves, but I’d never seen a living plant except in Sendra’s books.
She would stand forever, dead, but a lasting testament to life on Earth. The empty hulks of concrete that had housed businesses and homes were the humans’ mark on the planet, but my tree was true evidence of life that existed beyond the machinations of humans. I closed my eyes, soaking in the peace of this sacred place and tried to remember how to pray.
“Pretty girl. We’ll have some fun and take that nice jacket she’s wearing.”
I heaved out a sigh and rolled my eyes. Though I couldn’t see the four men behind the south wall of the abandoned hospital, the fools thought they were far enough away that I wouldn’t hear them. I patted my tree one last time and left the dead garden, unwilling to foul my private space with a fight.
I had too much on my mind to make much sport of them, so I led them toward a quiet alley away from the clusters of occupied houses. They were either idiots or were new in town. Everyone in this neighborhood knew the only predator allowed in the city was me.
Their evil laughter followed me and I quickened my pace, wanting only to get the task over with and take care of the one thing Sendra had asked of me. The alley widened into a small courtyard, ending at a rusted chain-link fence blocked by abandoned cars on the other side. There was enough room to get behind them and cut off their escape. I could smell their excitement as they hurried toward me.
“Wait up, pretty!” The largest of the four shouted after me as I reached the fence. He was the only one who didn’t look on the brink of starvation, and it marked him as our first kill.
They spread out, thinking they had me trapped. The men wore heavy packs on their backs, bedrolls tied to them. Though I didn’t see a gun, I could smell the acrid scent of oil and metal. Knitted hoods covered their faces. My nose twitched at the stench of violence and hate emanating from them.
“Hey, little girl! Give us that jacket and maybe we won’t hurt you too badly! I’ll even give you a cut on the other side of your face so you’re sym… Sym something.” He grinned, showing blackened teeth as he pulled a worn knife from his pocket. The stupid thing wasn’t even four inches long. My claws were longer. Emboldened by the fence at my back, he moved closer, brandishing his poor weapon.
“I believe symmetrical is the word you’re too stupid to find.”
His face wrinkled into a vicious grimace of hate. “I’m gonna cut you good for that, bitch!”
I ignored him. I held my tiger back as I waited for them to get closer. We would end this threat to our home and distribute their belongings to the needy. There was an elderly couple a few blocks from our den who could use their warm clothes and whatever they carried.
The large one rushed me, his knife held high. I shook my head and allowed the tiger her freedom. We heard the humans’ curses as mist covered us. In the scant second during our shift, I could stare into her fathomless blue eyes, as she could into mine. It was the single moment we had no physical shape and knew each other as separate beings sharing a single body. Then fur popped and flowed, the sensation like ants on my skin. Bones ground against joint as they changed shape and moved, the sharp pain gone within seconds. The leader dropped his knife and took a single step backward. We wrinkled our muzzle into a snarl as we waited, enjoying the moment of shocked silence before the screams.
When our task was done, I pushed the tiger aside and returned to my human form, pulling on the clothes I’d left in a heap when I shifted. I didn’t bother rummaging through their packs as I stripped the bodies and rolled their clothes into a blanket I’d retrieved from one of the bedrolls. They had nothing I wanted, but my elderly neighbors might find something of value once the items were cleaned.
An old woman stood at the alley entrance, her threadbare coat pulled close around her frail body, the hood concealing her hair. I didn’t know her, but recognized her scent. She nodded once and turned to walk away.
“Wait!” I caught up to her and handed her the warm coat the gang leader had been wearing. My neighbors didn’t need so much. Tears filled her eyes, and she gave me a hard hug before hurrying away. I shivered at the sensation of being touched by a stranger as I continued toward my destination. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was… odd. Humans never touched me willingly.
Sendra had wanted me to submit a blood sample to the Exodus Authority. Those had been her last words as she’d chased me from her den. Earth wasn’t much of a tourist destination these days, but men from a system called Ximera had been collecting human women for almost two years, using genetic tests to match potential mates.
I wasn’t interested in a mate. They left you alone when they died. Just like my father had done to my mother. Sendra had been right, though. I couldn’t survive here forever. Though humans managed to grow some food, hoarding heirloom seeds that were worth more than gold had once been, there was no prey, and no chance for a cub.
Would it be so bad to leave a dying planet? Sendra had been after me for months to go. I’d always refused, telling her she was more important than a mate, refusing to admit to myself that sheer age would take her long before I was ready to let her go. Without Sendra, there wasn’t anything stopping me.
“All right, you skinny old bitch. I’m going!” It had to have been my imagination, but I thought I heard her rusty laugh behind me as I made my way to the Exodus Authority.
I crossed the broken pavement leading to the stadium’s main entrance. A human guard let me through the makeshift barricade, and I stood in line behind several other women. I wondered how many would find mates in this Faustian bargain.
When it was my turn, a human nurse drew a blood sample and took my picture, then told me to come back in two days for my results. I wasn’t sure what I wanted the answer to be.
* * *
Darkandian Wormhole

“Does this thing never shut up?” I couldn’t disguise my irritation, and I slapped the comm to silence it. “Increase speed by three percent.”
My co-pilot muttered, but he was too obedient to question my orders. I should have been paying attention to the panel in front of me. Lights flashed and sirens blared as we approached the wormhole leading toward the dying planet that hosted my female. Yet I couldn’t. Her image was all I could see.
The picture submitted with the genetic match revealed a tall, angular woman with wide hips. The rest of her body was concealed by a black jacket. Her hair was gold with dark streaks, and she had blue eyes. She clutched her jacket close in the photo, but she was too thin, and I knew she hadn’t been eating properly. I frowned at the image and tapped the screen to enlarge it. Someone had struck her. My blood boiled at the healing cut on her cheek, and I hoped I would have enough time to track down whoever had marred her pretty face.
It was going to be fourteen Earth days before I could get to her, and it was unconscionable that a branded Ximeran Warlord should have to wait for anything he desired. But wait I must, because the laws of propulsion and gravity would not bow to my will. More’s the pity.
“Commander Rakon, communication from High Council on your comm link.”
I would give my battle commission to silence that damned Council, but I managed to smooth my scowl into a less threatening expression. When the screen loaded, I said, “What can I do for you today, Councilor?”
Councilor Harkon’s pudgy face filled the screen. His thick lips curled into a derisive smirk under muddy brown eyes, and the dome of his bald head gleamed.
“We hear you’re on your way to collect your specimen.”
Renata Andreyev was not a specimen, but I managed to dredge up a bland smile that hid my fury. “Yes, Councilor. It has been determined that she is my genetic mate.”
“Turn your ship around. The human Andreyev has been loaded into a transport and is en route. You are needed elsewhere.”
“I see. May I have the identification of this transport?”
“I don’t know it, and it doesn’t matter. Your specimen will arrive in approximately two Earth weeks as you intended. We require your presence in the seventeenth sector. The mission details should be loaded into your computer already.”
“Yes, Councilor Harkon.” I cut off the comm, ignoring his last few words.
Though every inch of my body wanted to keep going toward my mate, I did as I was ordered and turned my cruiser around toward sector seventeen. That sector was a perpetual thorn in my side, filled with bounty hunters, slavers, and the dregs of interstellar society. If they behaved themselves, we left them alone. No one could say they didn’t serve a purpose. Nearly everyone took advantage of delicacies only available from the smugglers. Wine and spirits, rare foods, and textiles all found their way through sector seventeen for distribution elsewhere.
I didn’t understand why the Council was intruding on my task, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t give a fuck about the black market, or about whoever I would have to kill in sector seventeen. In two weeks, pretty Renata with the white-gold-and-black-striped hair would be in my bed.
Would she like me? It wasn’t necessary to court a genetic mate, but she would have no idea about our ways. I wished my mother was still alive to help me with her, but she’d died of the same wasting disease that took most of our females. Damn Krenions. I wish there was one left so I could kill it, but I’d already killed the last of the pestilential species who had introduced the devastating plague a dozen cycles ago. And good riddance.
Pushing the thoughts away, I checked our location. I’d reach sector seventeen in a few days. That would give me plenty of time to scan my collection of old Earth vids. I loved Golden Girls. Earth females were almost indistinguishable from their Ximeran counterparts, and Blanche reminded me of my mother. Maybe I liked it because I hadn’t seen an aged female in… I couldn’t remember the last time.
The vids became popular when it was discovered that humans could be potential mates. We shared a similar physical appearance, though Ximerans tended to be larger. Humans also had a wide variety of skin and hair coloration, ranging from shimmery black to skin as pale as the blossoms of the orcan tree. Ximerans weren’t lucky enough to enjoy such diversity. Our scientists told us we shared a common ancestor with humans, though it had been many hundreds of thousands of cycles ago.
Most Ximerans watched those old vids to get some idea of Earth culture, along with assistance in learning English. Though humans had a vast number of languages, we’d chosen the one used for telecommunications and transport. Their lives seemed strange, but the vids were a hundred Earth years old. The Ximeran cycle was close enough to a year to make the difference negligible.
Things were different now. I’d seen what was left of Earth. The storms had destroyed nearly everything, and I was shocked anything had survived. Humans must have been a very resourceful species.
Nothing I watched helped me find something to woo the beauty on her way to me. I wondered if I was wasting my time. The vids were ancient and from a time when the planet had been healthy. I turned my attention to the planet’s literature. Unlike the vids, the books had short synopses, allowing me to search by keyword. Mates and joining produced nothing of note, so I tried love and marriage, terms I’d heard before in the humans’ lexicon.
That search produced more titles than I cared to manage, but one caught my eye because it was less than fifty thousand words and would take an hour to read. It had a picture of a couple locked in an embrace, the male’s arms wrapped tightly around his female as she gazed up at him.
When I finished, I closed out the book and chose another of the same type. If the first was to be believed, a male need only be rich and give a female pleasure until she fell gratefully into his arms. I met the first requirement, and was determined to meet the second.
From the two books, I learned the mistakes the males made that hurt or angered their females. Blackmail, confinement, harsh words, and humiliation. Those human males were a cocky bunch and lucky their mates were gentle creatures. None of that would have gone over with Ximeran females. A male would have come back missing parts — if he lived to come back at all.
* * *
Atlanta, Georgia

I was at the Exodus Authority an hour past dawn on the third day after I’d given my sample. I’d spent the last two days watching Sendra’s den in the misguided hope that she would come to her senses and forget her wish to die.
No one answered my knock. No one twitched a curtain or turned on a light. There was no scent or sound of movement. I cried as I walked away, knowing she was already gone. My tiger yowled in a vain attempt to get me to pay attention. In this world, emotion got you dead. I couldn’t afford to show my grief in public.
I hid in the remains of a building to give myself time to calm down. I sat there for hours, watching women walk in and out. I wanted to laugh at their hopeful expressions. One cried as she walked straight into the arms of a human man just a few feet away from my hiding spot.
If I didn’t have my tiger’s hearing, I’d have missed her soft whisper. “I didn’t give them my blood, Seth.”
“Lisa, you promised.” The man took her hand and pressed his lips to her gloved palm. “You promised you’d go if they found a match.”
She stopped walking and looked up into his face. She put her hands on his cheeks and tears streamed from her eyes. “I know. I just… I couldn’t. A life without you is no life at all. Whatever time we have left, I want to spend it with you.”
“Oh, honey.”
I smelled the man’s tears as he took his woman into his arms. My chest ached at what he’d been willing to sacrifice for her, and a sob choked me as it tried to escape my throat. I couldn’t fathom a love so deep. I watched them for a long time after they walked away.
When I couldn’t see them anymore, I shouldered my pack and walked toward the stadium. I didn’t know if I would find that kind of love on Ximera, but I knew I wouldn’t find it on Earth.
The human guard stepped in front of the barricade as I approached. “State your name and business, please.”
“Renata Andreyev. I’m here to find out the results of my blood test.”
The guard’s eyes brightened. “We’ve been waiting for you. Follow me, please.” He led me down a hall into a small room furnished with a metal table and two chairs.
“Have a seat, Miss Andreyev. The magistrate will be with you shortly.”
The door shut behind the guard with a metallic clang. I flinched at the noise. My tiger paced in my head, uncomfortable with the confinement.
Several minutes later, the door opened, revealing a human male followed by a tall figure. I thought it was male, but I wasn’t sure. Even my tiger was confused. We both loathed the creature on sight. It reeked of old blood and violence. My tiger wanted to kill it, and I couldn’t disagree. I soothed her with a single word.
“Soon,” I whispered. The single word calmed her, but she didn’t stand down.
The creature either didn’t notice my reaction, or it didn’t care. I had to force myself to listen to the human’s words.
“I am Magistrate Smith. I am responsible for administering the exchange program between Earth and Ximera. Blood tests have determined that you are the genetic mate of Warlord Rakon of Ximera 8.”
He placed a tablet on the table, bearing a single image of the male my blood told them would be my future mate. My tiger sniffed in derision, but I ignored her. Instead of an unknown alien male, I had a name and a face. And I liked what I saw.
Rakon was bulky with muscle under a skintight black uniform. Weapons were sheathed at his narrow hips, making him look dangerously competent. Unflinchingly, his dark brown eyes met the camera, stern, yet filled with excitement. Black hair fell past his shoulders in an inky trail, and my fingers itched to touch the dark strands.
I’d never seen a more visually appealing male. He stood next to a doorway with marks denoting his height. His head reached well past the two-meter mark. Thick eyebrows curved upwards at the ends, trailing into a point high on his temples. A stylized brand marked the tender skin under his left eye, swirling into an infinity symbol on his jaw. He obviously wasn’t human; he was too damned big for that. Aside from his size, his bone structure was almost catlike, with high cheekbones, square jaw, and tilted eyes. His nose was thin and aquiline, with a small bump in the middle as if it had been broken and poorly set.
“I accept.”
The tiger yowled at me, displeasure evident in every note. I didn’t care. I liked the look of this Rakon and couldn’t understand why she didn’t. He was gloriously male, and the most beautiful being I’d ever seen. I wanted to see him. Smell him. We had to wait until we could catch his scent before we refused him. “Will there be grass and fresh air?”
“Of course. Ximera 8 has a clean and healthy environment.” The human gave me a wide smile and pulled me into a brief hug. I flinched at the touch, reminding my tiger that the Magistrate meant no harm, though I didn’t understand why strangers were so determined to hug me now, when it had never happened before. “I wish you the best of luck, Miss Andreyev. When you’re ready to leave, Mr. Morris will escort you to your shuttle.”
“Thank you.” I shook his hand and turned to face the pale creature. It gave me a sneering smile and claws erupted from my fingertips. I balled my fists to hide them, but wanted nothing more than to remove its face from the front of its head. I soothed the tiger with images of taking half its skull for good measure.
Aggravated chuffing told me she wasn’t appeased. I told her we could kill Rakon and his transport crew if he wasn’t pleasing.
They allowed me an hour to pack, but I didn’t need it. I carried everything I cared about. The creature escorted me through the empty space in the center of the stadium and up a ramp into a waiting ship. I flinched when the ramp slid into the hull and the bulkhead doors slammed, cutting off any chance of escape. A cold hand touched my arm, and I jerked away. How could its hand be so icy through the thick leather of my jacket?
“Don’t touch,” I hissed.
The creature’s face rearranged itself into what I thought was a frown, but it nodded. “Fine, human. Follow me.”
It led me past several others of the same species. They were all pale, almost stick-thin, and all bore the stench of old blood. My nose wrinkled, and I had to stop myself from opening my mouth in the feral grimace Sendra had called a Flehmen Response. It was a weird name for a way to better taste scents. I didn’t want to taste this odor, though. My tiger and I both knew what it was.
We reached an open doorway revealing a miniscule chamber I assumed would be my quarters for the trip. There was a tiny bed that might not be long enough for me, a small metal table, one chair, and a vid screen. It was claustrophobic, but I wouldn’t have to be here for long. In two weeks, I would meet my potential mate.
I walked inside and turned around to thank the creature, but to my surprise and increasing trepidation, he chuckled. The sound burbled wetly in his throat, sickening me as he pressed a button on the wall. The door slid closed with a solid whump, and I tried to quell my rising panic. Maybe they didn’t want me wandering around while the ship escaped Earth’s atmosphere. Maybe they wanted to keep me safe. Maybe…
None of my thoughts helped. I hated being trapped. No cat likes a cage, and I was worse than most. I supposed I could shift, but the room was too small to contain me if I went furry. The chamber was barely two meters square and didn’t even have enough space for pacing. I sat down on the cot, grimacing at the hard surface. I hadn’t thought I’d be traveling in luxury, but this was ridiculous.
I inhaled a calming breath, only then noticing the air had a sweet tinge I’d never encountered. The scent was almost sickening and soon became overwhelming. I opened my mouth, but the odor crossing my sensitive palate made me gag and spit. When my eyes grew heavy, I knew the odor was a drug.
Why would the creatures want me unconscious? It didn’t make any sense. I tried to shift, damning the small space, but the tiger refused to come forth. Black stripes formed on my hands, but I couldn’t finish and collapsed to the hard floor.
I heard laughter as the cadaverous alien returned and tossed me over its shoulder. It carried me down a corridor, its heavy footfalls echoing against metal. When we stopped moving forward, the alien pushed me off its shoulder onto a hard surface. I tried to open my eyes, but nothing worked. It might have been for the best, though. Wherever I’d been taken was so brightly illuminated that it hurt my eyes through the closed lids.
It rolled me to my back and straightened my limbs, chattering in a guttural language I didn’t understand. I heard a slam as something dropped over my head, but I didn’t have enough muscle control to flinch. Even though I couldn’t see, I knew I’d been closed into something. Was it a cage, or a stasis unit? I’d never seen a stasis container, but I knew of their existence.
A stasis unit meant one of two things. The aliens wanted me safely out of the way and contained for the trip, or I was going farther than was convenient without one. I hoped it wasn’t the latter.
Fresh air blew across my face, and I sucked in a lungful of the untainted breeze as the temperature dropped rapidly. The air changed and became thick with the drug the alien had used on me earlier. Holding my breath for just a moment, I had enough presence of mind to thank whatever deity people prayed to that they hadn’t shackled me.
Someone was going to be very sorry when I came out of stasis.