It was difficult, the incredulity she feigned, for Callm to speak, clearly at that. But he need only consider her poor bastard lover lying dead at her feet for him to find his voice. “Stay exactly where you are.”
Actually, to be truthful? What iced his brain? He had retreated to some place beyond that. Because this was his life, wasn’t it? To stand here looking hard. The defender of the glen. Whatever the cost. Whatever the consequence. And it was always going to be that now, so long as the tinker chief sat on Lochalpin’s doorstep. Peace? Jesus Christ.
He dragged the back of his hand across his nose. A crowd, armed with whatever they could lay their hands on, had swelled from nearby doorways. People were used to him and his men chasing raiders down this end of the glen. They weren’t used to him killing his own.
“It’s all right, Maisie. Go back indoors.” He huffed out a breath. “He’s not a McDunnagh. And that… Hell that…” That he could fix. “That’s not even a man.”
He’d waited for this. For four damn days he’d waited for this. Discovering her bedecked in a McDunnagh plaid and half his bed pelts, only added to the fury storming through his veins. He’d feel calmer when he’d dealt with that aspect of things at least.
She stepped back against the door frame, lifting her chin, as he strode crisply through the crimsoning snow toward her. The devious creature was used to being without clothes, although the flinch as he snatched what covered her, the flinch was masterful. Christ. He’d never seen a flinch like it. What did she think? She could throw her arms around his neck and he would forgive her?
“It’s a woman.” He flung pelts and plaid to Wee Murdie. “Now isn’t that so, Princess?”
Other books in this genre:
I was in an accident right after high school. The Saturday after graduation, my best friend Clarissa was driving us to an end of school year party at a classmate’s house. We never made it. I don’t know what caused the accident. I was in a coma for over a month. When I woke up my parents were the first faces I saw. I was so out of it. At first I was disoriented and confused. I didn’t know where I was or how I ended up there. No one would tell me anything. I wasn’t allowed to watch television or listen to the radio. I guess they didn’t want to overexert me and send me into panic mode. I remained in the hospital for a week after I woke. The doctors put me through a series of extensive tests during the week. Physically I was fine with the exception of a few scars from cuts and bruises caused by the accident. Mentally...I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. When I was released and my parents took me home. That’s when they decided it was time I learned what happened; or at least what they knew from the accident reports. I sat quietly and stunned listening to them recount the events that happened after the accident. The reports said our car was found off a curve down in a ravine. There was no indication of foul play and our blood alcohol levels were clean. They couldn’t conclusively say what exactly could have caused it. I was found unconscious and immediately taken to the hospital. Clarissa was pronounced dead at the scene.
The adrenaline-racing second book in The Imprint Series
Fugitives from Startech, Jade and Aric follow their map to Dieter Copeland's house in the backwoods of Rutherford. While in hiding, Dieter teaches them how to connect with their alien metal. But their teacher is keeping his own deep, dark secret--a secret that could affect both their lives.
Aric and Jade grow closer, falling more in love, but being on the run has its drawbacks. When it becomes apparent that Startech will stop at nothing to recover their technology, the pair comes face to face with imminent danger, their fears and the truth behind the company that threatens their existence.
Ultimately, as Jade and Aric fight for their lives, they discover there is only one place they can go...
She asked the driver to turn around. Her cabbie could not drive fast enough to suit her. When she walked through the lobby of the Cinema 18, everyone was buzzing. She ran toward the crime scene but authorities had closed the hallway where she had been attacked. Her superhero had vanished.
Too late. Now what? Brandi’s hands were still shaking. Her palm felt cold against her forehead. Then, deep in thought, she was startled to hear a raspy male voice behind her.
“Brandi? Hi, my name’s Cody.”
She turned around. Her stomach, still in knots, leaped into her throat. His chiseled face was handsome in a home-on-the-range sort of way. His sculpted cheeks were partially masked by a rough-hewn beard — the obvious cover-up for scars visible through his whiskers. His nose had been broken at least once. This guy had been in some fights.
The Pirates cap he had worn earlier was now in his back pocket and his sandy blond hair wet around the sides. Did he know that his shirt had turned pink on the front? The blood spatters had faded together, partially washed off by heavy rains.
Was she face-to-face with a superhero? He was not as tall as she remembered. His fiery eyes that could have intimidated Lucifer earlier were now softer, like quiet blue waters. He offered his hand, but his shallow, forced smile told her he was not certain how she would respond. Was his shyness just an act?
Whew! His extended hand was attached to a massive forearm. His neck was wide and muscular, his body built to last, rough-cut from head to toe — a description that would make good print in her eyewitness report for the Gazette.
“I wanted to thank you,” Cody told her, “for savin’ my life earlier.”
She could hardly believe her ears. Was it a come-on? Was his voice naturally that raspy, or just a poor attempt to imitate Batman?
“You want to thank me? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
She extended her hand. It was cold and unsteady. Would he notice? His handshake was warm, ardent, but gentle — the same paw that had just mauled three professional tough guys. She tried to swallow her stomach back down into place but her mouth was too dry.
“Well, I would’ve been a sittin’ duck if you hadn’t deflected that guy’s arm. You showed presence of mind and courage.”
“Presence of mind and courage?” She snickered. “You mean for a girl?”
An unexpected encounter with a creature of song may have the power to change his fate.
Tribesman Misha is in search of a deer, hopeful of winning the hand of Tiva--next in line for leadership--and determined to secure his family’s prominence. When he finds a small song-bird-woman, who he names Raven, he’s sure fate is on his side. The creature can’t speak, yet her song captures his heart.
But is Raven the gift he thinks she is?
The end of the day nears, and he must bring home a gift for Tiva or risk losing her to the lowly fisherman, Rokkoo, a fate that would undo everything he's worked so hard for.
Fans of Chanda Hahn will enjoy this dark fantasy short story that transports YA readers to an enchanting alternate Earth where wonders are not always as fantastic as they seem.
“I don’t want you in jeopardy. Is that so hard for you to understand?”
“We’re in a war. I’m a criminal. Is that so hard for you to understand?
We’re fresh out of those bubbles you like to put me in.”
“You don’t have to help them hurt you, Lareina. You don’t.”
“No. I can get to them first.”
“That’s what I’m for.”
There was nothing to say to that. They were silent.
Silas knocked once and let himself in. If he cared what they thought of his intrusion, it didn’t show. “I’m here to interrupt your little powwow.” He directed his conversation to Christian. “I know you’re a big man, all scary and shit. But that don’t mean a damned thing around here.” He slapped two pills down on Lareina’s nightstand. “Your antidote. You better take it within the hour.” He ignored her raised eyebrows, keeping his focus on Christian. “You’ll need one of those every night for at least a week. Here are your choices…You can be a part of the solution, or you can wake up and start chasing us again. But I have to say you really are shit at it. You ain’t that hard to elude. So give it a good think.” He turned to leave.
“Silas!” Lareina wanted to laugh. She sooo wanted to laugh. She put a restraining hand on Christian. “You drugged us?”
Silas glanced back, unrepentive. “My way is effective, decisive and keeps you out of the mix. You can’t think straight with him around, anyway. Maybe you need to be asleep.”
“Boy, I’m going to beat the snot out of you.” Her uncontrolled grin nixed the threat.
“When I’m in the market for a mosquito bite, I’ll let you know.” He let himself out.
Silas was Silas. Lareina knew that when she collected him. She created him. Damn, he was good.
Christian was another matter altogether. He hadn’t said a word. That was never a good thing. “Christian?”
It took a minute before he responded. When he did, it was devoid of emotion. He snapped his eyes at her, deeply sincere with his intent. “You might want to start getting unattached and resign yourself to knowing I’m going to kill him. I’m informing you now, so when it happens you will be able to recall I warned you.”
Lareina felt a chill.
Taking the stairs two at a time, Kayla nearly tripped. The world tilted, her vision blurred, and her stomach lurched. She grabbed the handrail. Icy coldness stung her fingers and she jerked free. A miasma enveloped her senses. The smell of lavender and kelp drifted like a heavy mist through the open glass doors from the moonlit deck outside. Light fixtures shaped like seashells flickered, illuminating gold carpet and avocado green walls. She clutched a folded note between gloved fingers…
I’m not wearing gloves! Kayla thought and shuddered. A loud “ding” announced the arrival of the elevator. Expecting to see the Lady standing inside, Kayla tried to run but stood frozen in place. The doors slid open and her mouth felt too dry to swallow. Her vision blurred—and cheerful passengers walked lazily from the elevator to the sunny deck outside. A balmy breeze filled the corridor and a shaft of golden sunshine gleamed across salmon-colored carpet and coral walls.
Kayla’s knees buckled. She gripped the solid wood handrail to steady wobbly legs and gulped deep breaths. What happened to me? Glancing at her shaking bare hands, Kayla wished she’d read the note before it disappeared.
“A simple vow for a complicated fate. Life and love proven through blood and flame. Choices changing destinies on a dime.”
After slaying the dragon and “rescuing” Olivia, Crown Prince Magnus will settle for no one but her as his bride - his final challenge to overcome before becoming King Magnus, Dragon Slayer.
Through trials of blood, fire, and death, Kaden has broken the curse confining him to a dragon’s form for over a century. With fire brewing inside him, he struggles to reach his beloved Olivia in time to save her - and his own sanity.
Unsure of the fate of her dragon, Olivia is consumed with grief. She consents to wed the prince in order to save the lives of her family. His advances push her to take her destiny into her own hands.
But deep in the woods trouble stirs, as an old enemy seeks to rectify a curse broken. The prize of a life earned must be stripped away again… permanently.
Hours later, Ophelia stood in front of her kitchen counter, cursing a blue streak. “Shit, fuck, son of a bitch! This fucking hurts like hell!”
Her front door slammed open, and suddenly she was in Daniel’s arms, sitting in his lap in the nearest chair, his hands running up and down her arms in jerking, frantic movements.
“Phia! Are you okay? Who hurt you? What’s wrong?”
Ophelia laughed weakly, but didn’t unwrap her right hand from her left. Instead, she took a chance and held both hands up—showing him the blood seeping out from between her fingers. Daniel gritted his teeth, but he made no move to attack, and Ophelia’s respect for him raised another notch. He pulled out a handkerchief from the pocket of his shirt and gently pried her hands apart, clucking his tongue over the two-inch-long cut that was still oozing blood.
“How in the world did you accomplish this, Phia?” he asked, his ministrations tender as he blotted the wound.
“I cut myself trying to cook,” Ophelia mumbled, “obviously not my most graceful moment.”
Daniel chuckled. “At least you didn’t sever a digit, so it’s not that bad.”
Ophelia sniffed, tears brimming. “Yeah, but it freaking hurts! It might even be deep enough for stitches, and I really don’t like needles.”
Daniel pressed a kiss to her cheek. “I may have a solution, if you’d trust me.”
“Does it involve your fangs?”
He shook his head. “No–” his eyes gleamed mischievously– “but it does mean I’d get to taste you.”
Ophelia wiggled in her seat, and Daniel groaned. “On second thought,” he said with a wicked grin, “keep moving like that, and I’ll have a different way to distract you.”
Eyes wide, Ophelia jerked to a stop, but not before the damage had been done, and the physical proof of his desire poked the side of her leg. She flushed. “Uh...” She licked her lips. “the pain. What about...the pain?”
Daniel laughed and pressed a kiss just below her ear. He took the handkerchief away from her wound. She hissed in pain as it stuck. “I’m sorry,” he murmured as he pulled it free. “I really can help, but you might rather put a bandage on it and let me drive you to the clinic.”
Ophelia bit her lip. He looked so uncomfortable, and even though his remedy had to do with him being a vampire, she wasn’t nearly as put off by the notion as she would have been a few days prior. She looked into his eyes and shook her head.
“What do you need to do?”
He sighed with relief. “Vampire saliva can either stop bleeding, or make a person bleed more, depending on whether we’re drinking or ending the feeding. Unfortunately for you, to stop the bleeding and trigger the numbing agent that will help with your pain, the fangs must be triggered, which means a drink has to be taken. However, that doesn’t mean I need to bite you–” he paused and winked– “unless you want me to, of course.”
Ophelia swatted his shoulder with her good hand. “I thought your saliva is what makes a person a vampire?”
“It is, but it’s…complicated. Mortal blood is designed to fight the infection, so to speak. I would have to consciously force it into your bloodstream for a minute or more for there to be any chance of it taking hold. For this, and for any pleasure feeding–” he gave her a wicked grin that made her laugh– “my saliva merely interacts with the skin around the wound, preventing it from trying to close until I’m ready to stop. Are you okay with this?”
Ophelia bit her bottom lip. “You won’t bite me?”
He shook his head. “I won’t. My fangs will descend, but I won’t bite, I promise. I’ll only drink for a moment, and then close it.”
Taking a deep breath, Ophelia nodded, emitting a startled squeak when his eyes glowed bright blue and his fangs shot out. With his golden hair, and lightly stubbled jaw, he was sexy beyond belief, and the look on his face had her nearly giving in to the urge to tilt her head to the side and offer him everything. Taken aback by the direction her thoughts were headed, Ophelia blinked rapidly, and raised her hand.
He took her wrist in one of his, and her fingers in the other, turning her hand until the cut along the side was near his mouth. “Last chance to change your mind,” he whispered.
Ophelia gulped, her body tingling beneath his heated gaze. “Do it, Daniel, please.” The last word came out on a whisper as she subconsciously flipped her long hair behind her back, exposing the smooth column of her throat. Daniel’s eyes darkened, and keeping his eyes on hers, he pressed his hot mouth to her skin, sucking gently at the wound.
The tingling in her body intensified as he laved his tongue over the cut, raising his head a few seconds later. Ophelia’s breath came in short pants as moisture pooled between her legs. She’d never felt like this, and she wondered if it was part of the saliva interacting with her skin. Ever logical, she cleared her throat.
“Am I—uh—is this because of…?”
Daniel smiled, fangs flashing. “No, Phia. I would never use power on you like that.”
Ophelia sucked in a breath. It was because of him. /For heaven’s sake, take for once. Take without question. Love./ Her eyes widened at her own thoughts, and she made a split-second decision—he was her vampire, after all. Adjusting her position, she straddled him, the proof of his desire a hard spear aimed straight at her core. Cupping his face in her hands, she kissed him, relishing when his breath caught in shock. His hands gripped her hips, rocking her against him as she deepened the kiss, her tongue exploring his mouth, uncaring of the fangs he possessed.
With a moan, she nipped his bottom lip. “Do you want to bite me, Daniel?”
“Yes,” he groaned.
Ophelia pressed a hand to the back of his neck, pulling him forward until his mouth rested above the pulse at her throat. “Then do it.”
His lips grazed her heated skin, his fangs scraping lightly. “Are you sure?”
She moaned, the pleasure building as she continued to move against him. “Yes!” Without another word, he plunged his fangs deep, and she shattered, realizing the absolute truth:
She was in love with a vampire.
Setting aside her fear of the motorcycle, Luna embraced Nico, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist as if to prevent him from unraveling. When he pulled to a stop, she dismounted too quickly, and Nico caught the bike as it became unstable. Instantly, his eyes blazed and she noticed the momentary glare of admonition, but uncharacteristically, he didn’t scold her. Killing the engine, he inhaled deeply and his body uncoiled with the sound of the waves. Luna took off her helmet, releasing her hair into the cool mist blowing off the ocean. Closing her eyes, she could taste the salt on her tongue. All her previous attempts to get through to him had been abruptly curtailed. Ranting, he had called her an idiot and crazy, or he’d just hung up on her. Alone with him now, she hoped he would confide in her.
Holding hands, they walked silently along the deserted beach until Nico began to speak. His words spilled out like a confession, the way they did when he was in church with her. “I did a lot of shit, Luna, and I’ve distorted myself…I don’t even recognize who I am anymore. I’m more depressed than ever.”
“Please, Nico. You are a medicine man. A shaman. Great healers are often wounded. This is who you are, but you don’t have to destroy yourself.”
“Luna, I let everyone down. I fucked up. But I’ll get myself back together…and I will earn their respect back.”
Luna kissed the back of his hand, knowing the intimacy of an embrace would make him uncomfortable. “I’m here for you, Nico—whatever you need.”
When he turned to face her, there were tears in his eyes. “Luna, she’s a liar and she played me…she broke my heart.”
Luna understood he meant Élodie, and she could feel the weight of his sadness. There weren’t any words to say that would make it better. This time, she held him close, her cold nose against the warm skin of his neck.
Drew wrung his hands. Something else was wrong. Mitch had never seen Drew visibly upset. Even during those first days after Kendra’s death and throughout counseling, he had never displayed much emotion beyond sadness, loneliness, and the inevitable questions. But tonight, the young man’s discomfort was painfully evident as his eyes darted about the room and he pulled the coat tighter around him.
“This isn’t just about chapel, is it?” Mitch asked.
Long seconds of silence passed. Then, finally, “I crossed the line,” he mumbled.
Mitch froze. “What line?”
Drew’s hand scraped through his hair again. “With a student. I … I hugged her.”
Mitch barely heard Drew’s whispered words.
“She was upset … and about to cry—” He jumped up and retreated to a dark corner of the room. “I—I could be in trouble with my job. They fire men for this. It’s…it’s sexual harassment! She could press charges!”
Mitch followed Drew, his heart accelerating. “Take it easy. Don’t panic. Explain slowly what happened.”
Drew backed against the wall, his arms stiff at his sides, hands fisted. “I don’t remember most of it…just hugging her. I’m not even sure what we were talking about before.”
“Where did this happen? Who was it?”
Drew stared at the floor. “My office. I didn’t do it on purpose and the door was wide open.” He shook his head. “I can’t tell you who… I don’t want to get her in trouble.”
Mitch released the question, but he already knew the answer. “Was it Allison Bennett?”
Drew’s head snapped up, fear-filled eyes wide.
Mitch placed a firm hand on Drew’s forearm afraid his friend would run out of the house. “Relax. I know you. It wasn’t sexual harassment, and I’m sure Allison realizes that, too.”
He steered Drew back to the couch. “You didn’t cross the line. You aren’t her professor. You aren’t her dean. You aren’t her direct supervisor. You’re both university employees and you’re both responsible and single adults.”
Drew twisted his ring. “I feel like I cheated on Kendra.”
“That’s a natural feeling. But it’s OK to move on, Drew, as hard as it seems right now. The bigger problem is you’ve been holding your emotions in too long and someday they’ll come out.” Mitch chuckled. “Actually, I think they leaked out this afternoon.”
Drew groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “This can’t be happening. It’s not right.”
“What do you think of Allison?” Mitch wondered.
His friend opened his mouth then closed it again. Was he even breathing? Finally, “I like her.”
“Obviously,” Mitch snickered. “Why?”
Drew looked up as if searching the sky. The silence stretched on and Mitch gave him a gentle pat on the back.
He inhaled deeply. “She’s genuine and honest. She doesn’t try to impress you or turn the attention on herself. She’s a bit negative at times, yet she’s also warm and supportive. But this afternoon, she was hurting, and I wanted to stop the hurt.”
“Do you find her attractive?”
Longing replaced the fear in Drew’s eyes. “Most men would.”
“I’m not asking other men. I’m asking you.”
“Yes. She’s pretty.” Drew picked at the top button on his coat. “She’s also confident, intelligent, pretty, and articulate.”
Mitch tucked his laughter away. “You said ‘pretty’ twice.”
Drew catapulted off the couch, brushed past Mitch, and headed for the door.
“Would you like to be in a relationship?” Mitch asked, catching up with him.
“No! It’s too soon.” Drew stared at the floor. “I knew Kendra since we were freshmen in college. That’s a third of my life. How can I toss her aside so quickly?” Drew tugged at his wedding ring, and seeing his distress jerked Mitch’s heart.
“Kendra’s death has affected every area of your life: your job, your health, your faith, your hope for the future. She will always have a special place in your heart, which is where she belongs.”
“I don’t want to forget her.” His hand reached for his head.
Mitch gently grasped Drew’s wrist. “Liking a woman—being attracted to a woman is not going to make you forget Kendra. But that embrace was a decision, Drew. You made a subconscious decision to reach out to someone you care about. You’re moving on so let God do the leading. Don’t freak out when feelings emerge. Don’t run from them. You’re a vital young man with a broken heart that’s finally starting to heal.”
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