AuThursday – Diane Zhivago

Please welcome author Diane Zhivago to The Clog Blog.  Diane, tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a Gemini.  I’m also a Canadian.  I live in Newfoundland, Canada in a quaint little seaside town with my husband, our 20-year-old daughter who’s still in college, and our 12-year-old son.  I’m also stepmom to my husband’s eldest daughter and step-grandma to two beautiful little boys, 8 and 6. I’m a veterinary assistant by trade, though I’ve worked at everything from postal delivery to heavy equipment operator for Canadian National Railway.    I’ve been writing stories since childhood. My mother was a lover of books and reading and passed on that love to me, so when I ran out of reading material I would sit down and make up my own stories and then read them to my family or friends. I wrote my very first manuscript when I was about 12 or 13.  It’ was over 400 pages handwritten—a romance story involving a boy I had a crush on at the time and with all of my friends as characters.

How do you make time to write?

At the moment I am not working so I usually write during the day when everyone is at school or work.  I carry around a notebook everywhere I go (like to my son’s football games) so that I can jot down any ideas I have for stories or scenes and conversations that might pop into my head.  

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Definitely!  But I find that the best cure is to just sit and read…get absorbed into a story that’s not your own making.  Us writers usually start out as avid readers and reading really does kickstart your imagination so when the words aren’t flowing, I’ll usually take a break for a day and just read.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it?

I write steamy romance.  Mostly paranormal though I don’t consider myself locked into that category.  I do enjoy it though! My favorite books to read are paranormal…vampires, werewolves, ghosts, witches; I love all of it!  And it’s so fun to write! You can really let your imagination soar when you write paranormal. My family is of Irish descent, so I grew up with stories about shapeshifters, witches, fairies and such.  I think that played a huge part in why I love to read and write paranormal romance. And who doesn’t love great sex in a romance book, right? My paranormal romance stories have it all!

How are you publishing your recent book and why?

I have five books published as an Indy author.  I had submitted in the past to a publishing company but the rules and regulations of word length, descriptive language allowances, etc. just made it so hard to get my style of writing to pass all the checkmarks, though I came very close a few times.  As an Indy author, I get to write MY story, MY way, and I like that. I like having the freedom of being an Indy author.  

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?  How does this affect your work?

I’m an Introvert mostly…though, being a Gemini I can’t truly lay claim to it wholeheartedly.  I’m very at ease with my own self and my own thoughts. I can live happily inside my head and I don’t really long for the company of the human variety.  In a crowd I’m never at the center of attention—I hate attention—and yet I can work a room if I have to but it’s an act…not the real me. I like watching people, studying them.  I’m good at conversation when I have to be, but I abhor small talk.  

I’m a very private person.  That’s been the hardest part of being a published author.  Talking about myself and my writing isn’t something I’m used to doing and I haven’t figured out a character to be when I’m doing it, so I’m still in my learning curve. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

My Grandmother used to always tell me,

“As long as you believe in the faeries, there’s always a possibility you’ll see one someday.”

I think that’s motivated me throughout the years to always look for the wonder and joy in the world…to see the magic in every day.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up.  Don’t worry about the critics.  Reviews are only opinions so take them with a grain of salt.  And the most important thing…write the whole story first! Before you fix it.  Before you go back and re-edit that chapter for the tenth time…finish the story!  The mistakes will wait. It’s more important to get the story out of your head and onto the paper first.  You can get lost in editing…write the whole story!

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I’m on Facebook,  www.facebook.com/dianezhivagoauthor

My web page is, www.dianezhivago.webnode.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/dianezhivago

AllAuthor.com: www.dianezhivago.allauthor.com

And you can find me on Amazon under my Author Central profile at www.amazon.com/author/dianezhivago 

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

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I’d love to share a little peek of my latest release with you.  Pride & Predator is the fourth book in my Therion Beast series of Paranormal romance.  It’s available on Amazon. The excerpt is from Chapter 2.

Inside, the seedy Montreal bar was a welcome relief from the sleet and snow of the Eastern Canadian winter.  Gregor moved through the bodies of people packed tightly together in the club, his gaze locked onto his target while his companion, Aurora, followed closely behind; her mate, Matthew, waited in the black SUV just outside in the alley behind the dive.

At least Leanna had the sense to take a table far enough away from the crowd of people dancing.  He grimaced, wondering why such meetings had to take place in such unsavory settings. What was wrong with an elegant restaurant as the backdrop for such matters?  He cast a sideways glance at Aurora who was still diligently scanning the crowds, her senses on alert for anything that might indicate a threat. Even as she perused her surroundings, though, he couldn’t help but notice how her body seemed to move to the music blaring from the extra-large speakers on either side of the DJ’s table.  Aurora was young, barely into her twenties. She fit into this crowd with her leather jacket, multiple piercings, and colorful hair. He, however, was decades past his one-hundredth birthday—though still quite young for his kind—not that he actually felt young at the moment. He sighed, his thoughts needing to be put on hold as he approached the table where the middle-aged blonde woman was seated, waiting for him.

Leanna smiled as he took the seat next to her, leaning in to kiss her softly aging cheek.  He introduced Aurora as his niece, though he was certain Leanna knew she was nothing of the kind.  The older woman accepted the presence of the younger woman without question, as he knew she would. Leanna was—along with other things—trustworthy at the least.  She refrained from asking too many questions, another reason why he had reached out to her for this particular job. There were very few humans whom Gregor trusted.  But Leanna was one of them.

Her eyes sparkled as she gazed at him now.  “It is so good to see you, Bastian,” she said, in her careful English, the accent of her Acadian heritage still thick on her tongue.  “You have not changed one bit in the years since we last met. Unlike me.”

Gregor inclined his head.  He knew that she was ribbing him in the way she normally did.  She was aware that he was not human—not exactly human, at least.  But that was as far as her knowledge went.  She had been a young child when he’d first met her.  Lost in the woods where he’d been hunting. He had carried her out, brought her to an area where the men searching could easily find her.  And he’d waited, albeit hidden from their view until she’d been discovered and returned safely to her distraught mother. She had told no one that it had been he who saved her, as he’d asked.  A child who was capable of keeping a secret was a special child indeed, and so Gregor had kept in contact with her, unbeknownst to her family. He had watched her grow into a beautiful woman who was still capable of keeping secrets.  

“I must say, I like this…”

She reached out toward him and stroked the side of his face where the full beard he had worn for decades was now shaved, trimmed, and tightened into a well-formed, goatee that managed to make him look as though he were in his early thirties.  

“You look younger, without the beard.  I suspect you would barely pass for thirty without this.”  She gave the hair at his chin a slight tug, her lips curving suggestively.

Gregor grasped her hand and gently kissed her fingers before placing it meaningfully on the table.  Their time together was in the past. Where it should be. What affair they may have had was long over.

She smiled at him ruefully.  Her gaze drifted over to Aurora.  “Your uncle is a man of singular determination, no?”  She chuckled to herself, not waiting for Aurora to answer.  “Here is the information you were seeking. I assume I will find my bank account has been sufficiently updated?”  She chuckled again.  

Leanna would gladly offer her services for free; Gregor had been the one to insist on payment… especially now that they were no longer involved intimately.  He did not believe in using women. Both parties should gain from the relationship. And so, when their short-lived affair ended, Gregor saw to it that Leanna was well taken care of.  She would always be important to him. A dear friend. He was not a man who took that lightly.    

He looked down at the large brown envelope she was sliding toward him on the table.  He reached for it, extracting the 8 by 10 black and white photograph inside.

“This was taken a few weeks ago in North Sydney, Nova Scotia.  The woman in the picture was going by the name of Eve Radcliff.  She purchased a pass for the ferry to Argentia and was checked in as a passenger in a domestic vehicle.”

Gregor stared at the photo.  In it, the woman was wearing a white baseball-style cap, her long, pure white hair was pulled through the back.  She wore a matching white hoody, dark jeans, and sneakers. Dark glasses hid her eyes from view, but nothing could erase those eyes from where they had burned into his memory.  Electric blue—unnatural, even without any sign of her beast. She looked young, beautiful, and human—the latter of which she was definitely not.

Leanna was looking at him.  “Is she a friend of yours?”  

Gregor pressed his lips together and slid the picture back into the envelope.   “You will mention this to no one,” he said by way of an answer to her question.

“Of course not.”  Leanna was a smart woman.  A man who did not age in the forty-plus years she had known him was not a man one should defy.  She accepted another kiss on her cheek then watched him as he stood. “It was wonderful to see you again, Bastian,” she said, sincerely.

“And you, Leanna.  You will take care of yourself?”

She smiled, her eyes warm if a little misty.  “As always, old friend.” Her gaze followed him as he moved away from her, his niece falling into step just beside him.  

Aurora looked up at Gregor as they walked away, her pierced eyebrow lifted in question.  “Bastian?”

Gregor gave an uncomfortable shrug.  “It is my given name.” He did not like talking about himself.  Ever.

“Bastian Gregor.  That’s your name?”   He heard Aurora give a low whistle.  “You can live with someone all these years and not know a single thing about them.”  She shook her head.

“Gregor Savage, is my name.”  It was his badge of honor as well.  Captain of the Alpha guard, bodyguard to the Alpha.  His name signified his exalted rank within the clan, something he was proud of.

“Wait.”  Aurora’s eyes were narrowing as her brain was busily dissecting this new information.  Gregor had to resist rolling his eyes at her, the young pup was exasperating at times. Had she not been one of his best assassins and a damn good guard, he’d have probably strung her up by her ears long ago.  “Nicolai’s middle name is Sebastian, is he—”

Gregor sighed heavily, knowing she would not stop until she had her answers.  “I am his godfather; his second name was given to honor that.” There. Now she knew.  His connection to the Alaskan Alpha was deeper than mere rank. Which was why failing Nikolai, as he had, was not something he could live with.  The intense need to find the woman in the photograph, Eve Radcliff, was more than a deep sense of duty…it was a matter of deep pride for Gregor. As long as she was free, the knowledge that he had failed his Alpha would eat him up alive.

They left the bar and headed out into the blustery Montreal night, turning onto the street and making their way toward Matthew and in the black Chevy Tahoe.  

“What now?”  Aurora wanted to know, pulling the hood of her jacket up to warm her ears.

“Now you go back to Raven Falls,” he told her, “and I go to Newfoundland.”

“Alone?”

He could hear the doubt in her voice.  “You are needed in Raven Falls, Aurora.  This has nothing to do with you.”

“But you might need me!”  She stopped walking, forcing him to stop as well and turn to her.  He was aware of Matthew’s gaze watching them from inside the SUV. Her sielos draugus mate was rightfully protective of her, though, being only a half-blood Therion, he was strongly outmatched against any of his own kind.  That fact never seemed to enter Matthew’s mind, however, especially when defending Aurora was on the table and, even without an ability to change, he had been proving his inner beast—though unable to manifest—was a powerful one.

“I get it, Gregor,” she was saying to him now, “I understand you think you somehow let Niko down by letting Eve get away.  I feel the same way. I met her first, remember?” She was shaking her head, her moonlight blue gaze beseeching him. “We—none of us—had any idea what she was at the time.  For all we knew, she was an innocent prisoner, like so many of our kind. We had no idea of what she was capable of… what she’d done…”

Gregor found he couldn’t meet her gaze.  What she was saying might have been true for her, but… “She told me she was the one they sent to lure us in… the one they sent to destroy us when they were done…”  even now, saying the words out loud, his stomach twisted with his deep sense of failure. He had been given an opportunity to stop Eve, and he’d let her slip from his grasp… mesmerized by her beauty, even his beast had been unable to do what was necessary.

“We were in the middle of a war!”  Aurora exclaimed. She held a hand up to stave off Matthew when he would have gotten out of the SUV.  “You were in fight-mode, Gregor. Defending your life and the Alpha. She was nothing more than a prisoner trying to escape.  How were any of us to know that she was one of Radcliff’s experiments? That she’d been born and raised in captivity like an animal?”

“She is an abomination!  I should have destroyed her when I had the chance!”

Aurora’s eyes widened at his angry outburst and he felt ashamed at his loss of control.  He was a creature who prided himself on control. “And what of Matthew?” Aurora was asking now, the hurt his word had caused evident in her soft voice.  “He was an experiment of Radcliff’s—while not raised in captivity, he was created there… experimented on all those years without his knowledge or consent.  Is he an abomination too?”

He couldn’t bring himself to respond.  He felt Aurora’s small hand in his and looked down at her.  She was the smallest in their clan in stature only; her bravery and personality seemed too much for such a tiny creature.  Her eyes searched his, probing and earnest. “We are Therion, Gregor. One blood, one race, whether we are all or some, as the sielos draugus whom we cherish and protect… you taught me that, old man.  Perhaps now is the time for you to listen to your teachings—old, wise, and ancient one.”  

Gregor couldn’t help the twitch in his lips that threatened to turn into a smirk as he listened to Aurora’s little speech.  But she was right, of course. Eve was Therion, no matter what Radcliff had managed to do to her. But it was still his responsibility to find her and bring her in.  Therion Law was absolute. Her crimes against her own kind were punishable by death. At the very least, the Dominai sought to learn from Eve… to find out exactly what it was that Radcliff had done to her.  They expected her capture. Planned to glean as much information they possibly could from her. And then she would be destroyed—her dept for her crimes would be paid with her life. 

 

 

AuThursday – Alice Grime’s book The Revenge Game

the revenge game banner

Alice GainesAbout the Author

Alice Gaines lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in a fixer-upper house she never fixed up. Aside from writing and reading hot, hot romance, she loves cooking, knitting and crocheting, and her church. She has a pet corn snake named Casper and she’s insanely passionate about the funky soul band, Tower of Power.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads 

Author Links

Website: https://alicegainesbooks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alice-Gaines-Romance-Author-141294779233454 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alicegaines

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/alice-gaines

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Gaines/e/B003ZO8D70

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/212024.Alice_Gaines

The Revenge GameThe Revenge Game

by Alice Gaines 

Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Print Length: 156 pages

Publisher: Entangled: Indulgence 

Publication Date: September 23, 2019

Adam Morrow is a self-made millionaire. But one night with her could ruin everything…

I’ve worked my ass off for what I have, and I’m damn proud of it. I started off with nothing and now I’m filthy rich. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like revenge to help you get your ass in gear. And that’s what I’m taking, with every exclusive resort I open—sweet, sweet revenge…on her.

Nicole Westmore was my first love. The poor little rich girl stole my heart with her sweet smile, hot body, and irresistible innocence. The summer I worked for her father was the best time of my life…until he drove me away. Even then, I thought Nicole would wait for me. She didn’t.

And so, I decided to get even, opening rival hotels, slowly driving them out of business. The old man is gone now, but Nicole is still running the company that’s about to collapse. All my hard work will soon pay off.

And then I catch sight of her at a wedding, and all those feelings come rushing back–for both of us. Still, she doesn’t know what I’ve done—yet—and she seems more than willing. What will one night in her bed hurt?

The sex is hotter than ever, and I can’t help wondering if I’ve made a mistake. Until I get up the next morning…and realize I’ve been kidnapped!

r- excerpt

Adam sat at the table in their cottage on the cove and watched Nicole prepare dinner. It was exactly the sort of scene he’d fantasized about when he’d been young and in love. And for once in a very long time, he faced an inner struggle.

Did he still hate her? No. Did he still hate her father? Sure, but what was the point? The man was dead, and Adam was having sex with his daughter again. That in itself would have the bastard spinning in his grave.

Did he still want to sink Westmore Hotels? Getting rid of the competition was a good business move, revenge or not.

But the most important issue involved his own emotions. If he was having honeymoon sex, would he be able to walk away when he’d had enough? Hell, would he ever have enough of this woman? Sometime soon, he’d have to return to the office. And she’d have to go back to work. They’d leave here, and then what? Could he do without her, or was he already in too deep?

He’d tried just about everything one body could do with sex, and it had all been fantastic for him and for all his partners. But none of it compared with being with this woman, even in the most ordinary of ways. Emotion—feelings—had to account for the difference. You had honeymoon sex with someone you loved. Grant hadn’t said that, but he’d implied it. Was he falling in love with Nicole all over again? Good God in heaven.

She glanced over her shoulder at him. “You look pensive.”

“I was only wondering if you’ve become domesticated,” he lied.

She laughed. “Not likely. I love to cook, but I’m happy to have someone else clean up.”

“Spoiled little rich girl.”

“There are some good things about being spoiled and rich.” She picked up a colander full of greens and a bowl and approached the table.

“Here,” she said as she put both in front of him. “How good are you at tearing up lettuce for a salad?”

“I promise you, I can tear up anything you want.”

She laughed again. She seemed to do it easily, quite in contrast with the tense woman who’d confronted him at Grant’s sister’s wedding. They were getting along now…more or less. As long as she didn’t find out about Vivian.

She went back to work near the sink, shelling shrimp for a Cajun dish. An array of spices and fresh herbs stood all around her cutting board. This promised to be quite a feast.

He had to end the honeymoon before he lost control of his emotions completely. They were competitors, and he might still end up taking over Westmore Hotels. If he did, she’d hate him, and they’d end up back at square one. No. He had to get back to New York and get some distance from her so he could clear his head and figure out where to go from here.

But first, he had a little treat in store for her, if she liked that kind of thing. He’d made a detour to the resort gift shop and had liberated a few silk scarves. Long ones. Long enough to tie wrists and ankles to the posts at the corners of their bed.

She was wearing shorts that snuggled against her butt in a particularly tempting way. They weren’t super tight, allowing movement, but they still showed off her curves. He’d cupped her buttocks with his palms as he drove himself into her, so the mere act of staring at her aroused him. She might not go for the silk, but he’d definitely have sex with her. One last indulgence before he got her to agree the time had come to return to the real world.

“Why don’t you take a break and come over here?” he said.

She turned and cocked her head, staring at the lettuce she’d put in front of him. “You haven’t touched that.”

“I don’t feel like cooking right now.”

“But dinner…”

“It can wait for a while,” he said.

She put down her knife, turned, and rested her backside against the counter. “What on earth could you possibly have in mind?”

He gave her a grin—that came more easily now, too—and he turned in his chair and patted his knee. “Why don’t you come over here and find out?”

She sauntered toward him. “You’re a sex fiend, you know?”

“I’ve been called worse.”

She sat on his knee and draped her arms around his shoulders. Being this close to her, he could get lost in the emerald gleam of her eyes. They definitely held a wicked twinkle.

“I had a really nasty thought as I watched you on the elliptical today,” he said.

“You were watching me?”

“You know I can’t take my eyes off you,” he said.

“That’s nice.” She pressed her lips against his, just long enough to give him a taste of her. “Really nice.”

With her butt on his thigh, her legs sat near his crotch. Her kisses and the scent of her perfume had already warmed his libido, and his sex thickened and hardened in anticipation of having her yet again. If she’d been a drug, he would have been addicted long before now. This was exactly why he needed some distance. But not quite yet.

“So, anyway…my wicked thought,” he said.

She moved her mouth to his ear and blew into it. “Do tell.”

He shuddered as a bolt of lightning slashed through him. Holy crap, she could turn him on. “A little exotic play, maybe. But only if it excites you.”

She straightened. “Exotic? How?”

“Trust. I’m going to prove to you that I trust you completely.” For now, they’d leave aside the question of whether she could trust him.

She leaned back and looked at him out of the corners of her eyes. “You’re not going to fall backward and trust me to catch you, are you?”

“Nothing quite that innocent,” he said. “I’m going to let you tie me up.”

She hooted. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Only if you want to. It’s your call.”

She stared into his eyes. “You’re serious.”

“There’s a bag from the hotel gift shop in the bedroom. It has enough silk scarves to tie me pretty securely to the bed.”

“I did see that bag.” She bit her lip. “Silk scarves, huh?”

“You wouldn’t hurt me, of course,” he said.

“But I could tie you up, and…”

“Do whatever you want to me.” The more he thought about this plan, the hotter he got. Imagine, her crawling all over him. Getting naked but not allowing him to touch her. He couldn’t do anything for his own pleasure unless she allowed it. If she toyed with him for a good, long while and then finally allowed him to climax, the orgasm would tear him apart. What a way to go.

“Would that really turn you on?” she asked.

“It already has. Touch me if you want proof.”

Add to Goodreads 

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47813699-the-revenge-game

Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Game-Alice-Gaines-ebook/dp/B07WH8SB41

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-revenge-game/id1477064373

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-revenge-game-alice-gaines/1133011593

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=OdipDwAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-revenge-game

r- giveawayGiveaway

$25 gift card from the winner’s retailer of choice 

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

https://www.silverdaggertours.com/sdsxx-tours/the-revenge-game-book-tour-and-giveaway

 

 

 

Cover Reveal – Everything’s Better with Lisa by Lucy Eden

Everything's Better With Lisa_cover reveal bannerTitle: Everything’s Better With Lisa

Series: Everything’s Better

Author: Lucy Eden

Release: November 25, 2019

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Cover Design: Maria of Steamy Designs

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48139328-everything-s-better-with-lisa

Blurb:

When I first noticed Lisa Betancourt, she threatened me with a baseball bat.

To be fair, I deserved it. 

But none of that mattered when I found out I had a baby brother—a brother who is now left to my care. Too bad I don’t know the first thing about parenting. If I have any hope of not ruining this poor kid’s life, I need Lisa’s help. She quickly becomes my salvation, my heart. And even though our timing is all wrong, I can’t help but wonder how I can convince her to stay with me—with us—forever. 

Cole Simmons is just my insensitive jerk of a neighbor.

Or, that’s all he used to be. 

Now he’s in completely over his head, taking care of an adorable child that I’m getting way too attached to way too fast. And the scary part? I’m starting to get attached to Cole, too. After my nasty divorce, I was sure I’d never risk falling in love again—but Cole has me questioning my resolve at every turn. Frankly, I’m starting to wonder if Cole isn’t the only one who is in completely over his head.

 Neither of them was looking for love or a ready-made family. But what will they do when they realize they’ve stumbled head-long into both?

she’s the best thing BOOK COVER EBWL (2)PreOrder:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2WoEIz2

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2WfKKlk

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2opDXZW

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/32SvAoO

Kobo: http://bit.ly/344jlpe

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/32PQWmL

iTunes: https://apple.co/2NgKhLB

Read Chapter 3 Today:

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/ce0gxgju0i

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In the Series (Standalone)

Everything’s Better With You

Everything’s Better With Kimberly

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2BOcVyg

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/31QagyO

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2JpzAoW

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2Pm3rlW

Author Bio: 

Lucy Eden is the nom de plume of a romance-obsessed author who writes the kind of romance she loves to read. She’s a sucker for alphas with a soft gooey center, over the top romantic gestures, strong & smart MCs, humor, love at first sight (or pretty damn close), happily ever afters & of course, dirty & steamy love scenes. 

 When Lucy isn’t writing, she’s busy reading—or listening to—every book she can get her hands on— romance or otherwise.

 She lives & loves in New York with her husband, two children, a turtle & a Yorkshire Terrier.

Social Media Links:

Website: lucyeden.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lucyedenauthor/ 

Twitter.com/lucyedenauthor

Instagram.com/lucyedenauthor

Pinterest.com/lucyedenromance

https://www.facebook.com/lucyedenauthor/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lucy-eden

https://www.goodreads.com/lucyedenauthor

 

EBWL JS CoverExcerpt:

“Lisa,” he whispered.

“Yes, Cole?” I blinked up at him and took a step closer, his hand still resting on mine.

“I wanna kiss you. Can I kiss you?” he asked.

I giggled causing him to pull away.

I’d never been asked for a kiss before. It was adorable, silly but also somehow incredibly sexy.

“What?” he asked. I could see the look of apprehension on his face.

“Are you as good at seducing as you are at apologizing?” I reached up and stroked his cheek. I was suddenly wide awake. I swore I meant to say kissing but the word seducing came out instead. I would have been happy with a kiss but seduction sounded so much better. I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d been seduced.

“I’m very good at seducing.” He scooped me under my thighs and lifted me onto the kitchen island like I was a doll, making his lips more accessible. “I’m a little out of practice.” He swept my hair over my shoulder, exposing my neck, and gently pressing his lips to the soft skin below my ear. I moaned, though I wasn’t sure I meant to and Cole’s body, at least one part of his body, responded. 

“Good,” I sighed. “I’m a little out practice, too.” I wrapped my legs around his waist and pressed my body into his. He was rock hard and I found myself was grinding my hips into his erection. The fact that we were both wearing thin pajamas made me feel every contour of his dick and I was flashing back to my thoughts upon seeing him earlier today pushing the stroller. Why were men with babies so fucking sexy?

 He kissed his way down my neck and gently lowered me onto the countertop until I was fully reclining with my hair hanging over the other side. He lifted the hem of my shirt and pressed his lips into my soft belly and swirled his tongue into and her around my navel. 

His head traveled below my belly button and I gasped.

“Cole, what are you doing?” I asked as his lips traveled to places no one’s lips had been before.

“I told you I wanted to kiss you.” He shot me a mischievous smile and slowly stroked the skin under the elastic of my pajama pants, soothing the indentation marks of the waistband. “I didn’t say where I wanted to kiss you.”

“Oh,” I whispered. “I thought you meant…” I trailed off and tucked my bottom lip between my teeth. He smiled, leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine. Then he planted a kiss on my nose, then my cheek before tenderly sucking my earlobe between his teeth and nibbling. I moaned again. 

“Well, now that you know what I meant, do you want me to stop?” he whispered in my ear. My body was pulsating heat in a current that traveled up and down my arms before settled in place where Cole was eager to visit.

“No,” I half sighed, half moaned while shaking my head, causing his lips to brush the shell of my ear. “Don’t stop.”

“Good.” He let out a soft chuckle and began to make his way down my body, again hooking his fingers into the waistband of my pajamas and my panties, slowly pulling them over my thighs, ghosting a kiss or a lick on every inch of newly revealed flesh. “Because I’m just getting started.”

Giveaway: (run through tour)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/81aa78942138

Saturday Spotlight – Alec by Giulia Lagomarsino

Alec BannerTitle: Alec 

Series: Reed Security Series

Author: Giulia Lagomarsino

Release Date: September 25, 2019

Genre: Contemporary Security Romance

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47945712-alec

Blurb: 

Alec

I’ve been chasing this damn woman for three years. Our relationship is finally out in the open and I’m not letting this chance slip past me. I will make her mine, and there won’t be any room for arguments. There’s the slight problem of Craig, our other teammate. He knows what we do in the other rooms at night, or during the day, and that leaves us in a bit of a predicament. But we’ll work it out. I always get my woman, and Florrie is all mine.

Florrie

It took me by surprise when I fell for Alec. I hadn’t intended to ever sleep with my teammate, but then one day, he was there and so damn sexy. It was just supposed to be sex, nothing more. But he kept pushing and then one day, it was out in the open. Everyone knew and there was no way for me to stop what was happening. Except, there’s just one problem, I’ve got a secret that ensures we’ll never be together in the way he wants. Now I just have to find a way to tell him.

Buy Links (Kindle Unlimited):

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2kqDPrd

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2kyRI6s

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2kBcuCt

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2kmrmVr

Alec Teaser Banner

Book Trailer:

https://youtu.be/B1s4sjT5xAI

Giveaway:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/81aa78942106

Also Available: (Kindle Unlimited)

Sinner (Reed Security Series #1)

Cap (Reed Security Series #2)

Cazzo (Reed Security Series #3)

Knight (Reed Security Series #4)

Irish (Reed Security Series #5)

Hunter (Reed Security Series #6)

Whiskey (Reed Security Series #7)

Lola (Reed Security Series #8)

Ice (Reed Security Series #9)

Burg (Reed Security Series #10)

Gabe (Reed Security Series #11)

Jules (Reed Security Series #12)

Sniper (Reed Security Series – Book 1 of a 3 Book ARC)

Jackson (Reed Security Series – Book 2 of a 3 Book ARC)

Chance (Reed Security Series – Book 3 of a 3 Book ARC)

Phoenix Rising (Reed Security Series #16)

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2SAImCX

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2Lecq7e

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2TmbIVK

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2L9s1oD

Copy of 2 (1) (1)Excerpt:

“Who is he?” Hunter asked. “Just tell me and I’ll kick his ass.”

“I think I can do my own ass-kicking.”

“No. Whoever this asshole is, just tell us and we’ll take care of things. We’ll make sure you never see him again. If you know what I mean,” he continued.

“I know exactly what you mean, and no, you don’t need to make him disappear.”

“But, that’s what we do. We don’t know how to solve any other problems,” Gabe said, almost in confusion. 

Rocco groaned and held up a hand to ward off the guys. “I didn’t want to get involved, but it looks like I’m gonna have to. Why don’t you tell us about this guy? What’s he like?”

“Smart, strong, capable…”

“Sexy?”

“Of course,” I huffed. “But he’s confusing. I thought that he was into me, but then nothing happened. Is it me? Am I not pretty enough?”

“No,” Sinner said, shaking his head sharply.

“Of course not-” Hunter snorted uncomfortably.

“You’re beautiful,” Rocco said firmly, and the other guys joined in.

“Sexy as hell.”

“Nice rack.”

“Good ass. Nice and firm.”

“You have nice elbows,” Sinner said.

“What?” I asked in confusion. Hunter smacked him upside the head.

“I panicked,” Sinner said. “You all said nice rack, good ass. What else was left?”

“You could have gone with beautiful eyes,” I snapped. “Or even nice legs, but nice elbows? Who the fuck says that?”

“Obviously not this guy you’re seeing or he’d already be dead,” Rocco muttered.

“Did you fuck him?” Hunter asked. “Guys always lose interest after you fuck them.”

“No,” I sneered. “It’s not like I just spread my legs for any guy I come across.”

“Did you come right out and tell him you like him?” Rocco asked. “Some guys are fucking stupid and can’t take a hint.”

“Actually, I wrote him a note and told him that I really liked him and asked if he liked me too.”

“Like in the song?” Sinner asked.

“Yeah,” I snarked. “Just like in the song. I even drew boxes and asked him to check yes or no.”

“Did he answer?” 

“No, you idiot! I didn’t actually do that. I’m not in second grade.”

“Maybe you should,” Sinner shot back. “With all your sarcasm, he probably doesn’t know if you want to kiss him or kick him in the balls.”

Author Bio:

I’m a stay at home mom that loves to read. Some of my favorite titles are Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Horatio Hornblower. I started writing when I was trying to come up with suggestions on ways I could help bring in some extra money. I came up with the idea that I could donate plasma because you could earn an extra $500/month. My husband responded with, “No. Find something else. Write a blog. Write a book.” I didn’t think I had anything to share on blog that a thousand other mothers hadn’t already thought of. I decided to take his challenge seriously and sat down to write my first book, Jack. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed writing. From there, the stories continued to flow and I haven’t been able to stop. I hope my readers enjoy my books as much as I enjoy writing them. Between reading, writing, and taking care of three small kids, my days are quite full.

Social Media Links: 

website: https://sites.google.com/view/giulianalagomarsino/home

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crazybookladylover/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17110361.Giulia_Lagomarsino

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/crzybookladyluv

The Duchess in His Bed by Lorraine Heath

the duchess in his bed bannerThe Duchess in His Bed 

Sins For All Seasons Book 4

by Lorraine Heath 

Genre: Historical Romance 

d- about the book

For a duchess with practical desires, falling in love is an inconceivable part of her plan…

 As owner of the Elysium Club which caters to women’s fantasies, Aiden Trewlove is accustomed to introducing adventurous ladies to sin and vice. But he is uncharacteristically intrigued by the mysterious beauty who visits his club one night, yearning to indulge in the forbidden—with him. Drawn to her indomitable spirit, he breaks his rule of never becoming personally involved with his clientele and is determined to fully awaken her desires.

A recent widow, Selena Sheffield, Duchess of Lushing, has never known passion, not until Aiden’s slow, sensual seduction leads her on a journey of discovery and incredible pleasure. But her reasons for visiting the notorious club are not all that they seem.

As Selena’s motives become complicated by love, she finds herself with a most unexpected choice: forge ahead with a secret plan that could secure her future—or follow her heart which could prove ruinous.

Add to Goodreads 

Amazon * Apple * B&N * Google * Harper Collins 

Goodreads: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41745477-the-duchess-in-his-bed 

Buy Links
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Unti-Historical-Romance-Lorraine-Heath-ebook/dp/B07H52P91L
Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-duchess-in-his-bed/id1447806174?ign-mpt=uo%3D4
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Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Lorraine_Heath_The_Duchess_in_His_Bed?id=QziBDwAAQBAJ
Harper Collins: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062676078/the-duchess-in-his-bed

d- about the author

Lorraine Heath author photo_271x400New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lorraine Heath always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals, press releases for a publicist, articles, and computer code, but something was always missing. When she read a romance novel, she became not only hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She’s been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards including RWA’s RITA(R). 

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads 

Author Links

Website: https://www.lorraineheath.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LorraineHeathBooks  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lorraine_Heath 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/LorraineHeathAuthor

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lorraine-heath    

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lorraine-Heath/e/B000APAQ54 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/104926.Lorraine_Heath   

d- giveaway

$25 Amazon 

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!

https://www.silverdaggertours.com/sdsxx-tours/the-duchess-in-his-bed-book-tour-and-giveaway

DuchessinhisBed mm c_380x600Excerpt

“I am here to be bedded.”

The bluntness of her words took him off guard.

He didn’t like at all the singular purpose for which she’d come to his club, and the irony was not lost on him. He reveled in sin, enjoyed his role in introducing people to vice. What the devil was the matter with him?

“If you look closely, you’ll see that some of the gents wear a red button on their left lapel. They will provide that service for you.”

“I’m not interested in them. You intrigue me, Mr. Trewlove. You are the one I want.”

“I do not involve myself with my clientele.”

“I’m not asking you to involve yourself. I’m asking you to bed me.”

Was it even possible to bed her without involving himself?

“We can stand here and debate or we can waltz and debate.” Bowing slightly, mockingly, if truth be told, he waved toward the dance floor. “Shall we?”

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

sapphire flames bannerSapphire Flames

A Hidden Legacy Novel, Book 4

by Ilona Andrews 

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 

s- about the bookFrom #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrew comes an enthralling new trilogy set in the Hidden Legacy world, where magic means power, and family bloodlines are the new currency of society…

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes, powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

Add to Goodreads

Amazon * Apple * B&N * Google * Harper Collins 

Goodreads: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41088576-sapphire-flames 

Buy Links
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sapphire-Flames-Hidden-Legacy-Novel-ebook/dp/B07G141J8W
Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/sapphire-flames/id1444702340
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sapphire-flames-ilona-andrews/1129965255?ean=9780062878335#
Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Ilona_Andrews_Sapphire_Flames?id=DAV8DwAAQBAJ
Harper Collins: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062878342/sapphire-flames

s- about the authorIlona Andrews author photo_266x400“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.

They have co-authored several NYT and USAT bestselling series. They are currently working on urban fantasy of Kate Daniels, the paranormal romance of Hidden Legacy, and their independently published series, Innkeeper Chronicles.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads 

Author Links

Website: https://ilona-andrews.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ilona.andrews 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ilona_andrews 

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ilona-andrews   

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ilona-Andrews/e/B001RXSCKY 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21748.Ilona_Andrews   

s- giveaway (1)$25 Amazon 

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!

https://www.silverdaggertours.com/sdsxx-tours/sapphire-flames-book-tour-and-giveaway

s- excerptSapphireFlames_FinFlt_Art_cmyk_372x600Chapter One

I was swimming through the warm water of the Gulf when someone knocked on the sky. The bright little fishes following me scattered, the crystal-clear water vanished, and I landed on the sand.

The sky above me shuddered. Boom, boom, boom.

The dream tore like wet tissue, and for a disorienting moment, I didn’t know where I was. Slowly the familiar contours of my bedroom came into focus through the gloom. The alarm clock on my nightstand glowed with bright red. 2:07 a.m.

Someone was pounding on my door.

“Catalina!” my sister yelled. “Get up!”

Panic pierced me. I jumped out the bed, sprinted across the bedroom, and flung the door open. “Did the plane go down?”

“What? No!”

I sagged against the door frame in relief. Our older sister, Nevada; her husband; and her mother-in-law were flying to Spain for a funeral. Over the ocean. It caused me no end of anxiety.

“The plane is fine,” Arabella told me.

“Then what is it?”

Arabella’s face was flushed, and her blond hair stuck out from her head in weird directions. She wore an old, stained Sailor Moon T-shirt, and her basketball shorts were on backward.

“Augustine is downstairs.”

“Augustine who? Augustine Montgomery?”

“Yes!”

I snapped out of my relief back to full alert. “Why?” Why in the world would the Head of House Montgomery be downstairs, in the middle of the night?

“He wants to see you. He says it’s an emergency. Hurry up before Mom shoots him.”

She turned around and ran down the stairs leading from my loft suite to the rest of the warehouse we used as our home and place of business.

Augustine was absolutely the last person I expected at two o’clock in the morning. Something terrible had happened.

I looked at myself. I wore an oversized grey T-shirt that came to my knees and said, “I ♥ Sleep.” No time to change. I took the stairs barefoot and followed my sister into a wide hallway. The light in the media room was on, casting a warm electric glow and illuminating the way just enough to see.

The hallway led to a door on the left where a small section of the warehouse was designated as the Baylor Agency’s office. The entire family congregated in front of the door, all except Mom.

Grandma Frida, thin, tan, with a halo of platinum curls, looked worried. Bern, my oldest cousin, resembled a bear awakened halfway through his hibernation—big, muscular, his dark blond hair disheveled, holding a tablet that looked too small for his hands. Next to him, Leon, his younger half brother, and complete opposite leaned on the wall, totally awake. Lean and dark-haired, Leon was a ball of wiry energy. And he still wore the jeans and T-shirt I had seen him in last night. Either he fell asleep in his clothes, or he felt the need to be fully dressed at two o’clock in the morning for some nefarious reason. Leon didn’t have any other kind of reasons.

Ahead of me, Arabella darted up the stairs and into her bedroom and emerged with a huge Texas A&M sweatshirt. She threw it at me. “Boobs.”

Bern woke up enough to roll his eyes.

“Thanks.” I pulled the sweatshirt on, hiding the fact that I wasn’t wearing a bra. “How did Augustine get here?”

At night, access to the warehouse was blocked by concrete barriers. Only one road remained open, guarded by a checkpoint staffed with our security people, who were supposed to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. Augustine was ruthless. He could have killed us all in our sleep.

“Did our guards let him in? Did anyone call and say he was coming?”

“Funny thing,” Leon said. “We have this lovely footage.”

Bern turned the tablet toward me. A view from the surveillance camera inside the security booth showed two guards, a Hispanic female in her forties and a white man in his mid-twenties with dark hair. Lopez and Walton. A silver Bentley Bentayga pulled up to the booth. The passenger window of the car rolled down, revealing me.

“Hello, Ms. Baylor,” Walton said.

The fake Catalina nodded.

“Check the log, check the log . . .” Leon sang out.

The log of arrivals and departures lay right there, on the counter. It would show that I was already home.

The guard reached over, his hand passed above the log to the switch attached to the barrier mechanism.

“Epic fail!” Leon announced.

Walton flipped the switch and a heavy metal clang announced the spiked barrier retracting. The window rolled back up and the armored vehicle slid forward and out of view.

I couldn’t even. My ability to even was severely compromised.

Lopez frowned. “When did they get a Bentley?”

The male guard shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe it was a birthday present.”

“Dumbass,” Arabella said.

Augustine Montgomery was an illusion Prime. He could look like anyone, he could sound like anyone, and he could pass both fingerprint and retinal scanners. And he just breezed past our security like it was nothing.

“We’re in trouble,” I said.

“No shit,” Leon said.

“Catalina,” Grandma Frida said, “your mother is in the conference room with that ass and a Desert Eagle. Get in there before she puts a .50 round between his eyes.”

I opened the door, walked into the office hallway, and shut the door behind me. This part of the warehouse with its high-traffic beige carpet, a drop ceiling, and glass walls looked just like any regular workspace. The three offices on my right and the break room with a kitchenette on my left lay shrouded in gloom. Only the conference room, just past the break room, was brightly lit, and the electric light shone through the glass into the hallway.

I took a step and stopped. As of three days ago, when I officially turned twenty-one, I also became the Head of House Baylor. We were a brand-new House, formed only three years ago. Our grace period, a reprieve which shielded us from attacks by other Houses, was about to expire. I had dealt with magical heavy hitters before in the course of our business, but this would be my first interaction with another Prime as the Head of a House. And Augustine was a shark in a four-thousand-dollar suit, a sleek, deadly great white with razor-sharp teeth.

I had to do this right. I couldn’t just barge in there. Emergency or not, I had to act the part.

My stomach fluttered.

Think Prime, Head of the House, Victoria Tremaine’s granddaughter, confident, dangerous, not afraid, woken up in the middle of the night . . . annoyed. Definitely annoyed.

I walked into the conference room with a slightly irritated expression.

Augustine pivoted toward me in his chair. Louis Auchincloss, who wrote novels about polite society and old money, once famously said, “Perfection irritates as well as it attracts, in fiction as in life.” Augustine was deeply irritating.

Being an illusion Prime, Augustine crafted his appearance the way one would paint a masterpiece. His face was beautifully sculpted with defined cheekbones, a square jaw that communicated masculinity without implying brutishness, a straight nose, and a broad forehead. His cheeks were slightly concave, just enough to communicate maturity. A virtuoso barber had turned his blond, nearly platinum hair into a masterpiece. A thin pair of glasses was the only imperfection Augustine allowed himself and it wasn’t enough. There was something ageless and cold about him. He was about as alive as a marble statue.

At the other end of the table, my mother sat watching him like a coiled cobra. Her right hand stayed under the table, most likely touching the Desert Eagle .50, the largest legal caliber for a handgun in the US. It was the closest thing to handheld artillery Mom could conceal under the table. It could send a round through a full refrigerator and kill a person on the other side.

My mother spent almost ten years as a sniper and her magic guaranteed that she didn’t miss. If she killed Augustine, Montgomery International Investigations, the firm Augustine owed, would crush us. If he miraculously survived, he would kill her. As happened often in life, there were no good options. I had to get him out of here.

I made my tone cold and annoyed. “Mr. Montgomery, while you’re always welcome in our home, it’s the middle of the night.”

“I apologize,” he said. “It’s an emergency.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a phone, and showed it to me.

On the screen, an adolescent boy smiled into the camera. Bright red hair cut short, grey eyes, pale skin, and the smug grin of a teenage boy who has just gotten away with mischief. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I saw him before.

“This is Ragnar,” Augustine said. “He’s fifteen. He has a dog named Tank. He likes detective books and the Sherlock Holmes show. He plays a Ranger in Hero Tournament. Two days ago, his mother and sister died in a fire.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Right now he’s standing on the roof of Memorial Hermann Hospital. He’s thinking of jumping and he’s a Prime, so nobody can get to him. If we don’t hurry, his broken body will be the leading story on the morning news.”

Alarm rolled through me in an electric rush.

“Augustine, you know that’s not what I do. I’ve never pulled someone off a roof before. If I fail, I’ll be responsible for his death . . .”

“But you can do it. It’s within your power.” He looked straight at me. “Your sister asked me for a favor once. I’m now asking you for assistance, one Head of House to another. He has one sister left. Right now, she’s at the hospital praying he doesn’t fall to his death.”

And if I tried and failed, there would be a grief-stricken Prime who could turn all of her agony and rage onto me. This was beyond reckless.

“I don’t know if I can help you. I may make this worse.”

Augustine’s composure cracked, and a human being looked back at me through his eyes. “He’s just a child, Catalina. He already lost so much. He’s in the worst pain of his short life and he has no idea how to contain it. He just wants to stop hurting. Please try.”

I opened my mouth to tell him no and thought of a boy standing on a ledge, all alone in the dark. So desperate and hurt that he was willing to end it in the most painful way possible.

My father had stood on a ledge like that, except his ledge was cancer. We had tried so hard to pull him from it. We fought for every minute. We sold the house and moved here, into the warehouse, to pay for his medical bills. Then we mortgaged our business to Augustine to pay for experimental treatments. My dad had built Baylor Investigative Agency from the ground up. He viewed it as his legacy, a business that would feed and clothe us, and we had used it as collateral to borrow money. It felt like a betrayal, and we hid it from my father, because it would have killed him faster than any cancer. In the end, we only delayed the inevitable by a few months, but it was worth it. I would give anything for one more day with my dad. Anything.

Ragnar was only fifteen years old.

“Yes. I’ll try.”

“Are you sure?” my mother asked.

“Yes.”

“Take Leon with you,” she said.

“No.” If this situation turned ugly, I didn’t want him getting hurt.

“I’ll bring her back safe and sound,” Augustine promised.

My mother gave him her sniper stare. “You do that.”

Augustine’s silver Bentley sped south on Gessner Road. It was after 2:00 a.m. and even the Houston roads lay empty. The chauffer squeezed every drop of speed out of the heavy armored car. Normally, the trip to Memorial Hermann would’ve taken at least fifteen minutes. We would make it in less than half of that.

Augustine rode in the front passenger seat, presenting me with a view of his blond head. I really wanted to reach over and smack it. If someone told me this morning that I would end up in the backseat of Augustine’s car in the middle of the night wearing a sweatshirt over my sleep T-shirt and a pair of sneakers without socks, I would’ve asked them what they were smoking and told them to seek professional help.

I missed my weapons. It made me feel naked.

Augustine was right though. Nevada did owe him a favor.

My father was born into House Tremaine, a small House consisting only of him and my grandmother Victoria. A truthseeker like Nevada, Victoria could wrench information from a person’s mind against their will. My father had no magic and Victoria was a terrible mother, so when he turned eighteen, he had escaped and started a new life under an assumed name. In her search for him, my grandmother had rampaged through the Houses all across the continent. Just mentioning her name made powerful Primes back off.

Three years ago, before we became a House, Victoria came looking for us. Augustine knew Nevada’s identity. He could’ve shared it with my grandmother and benefited from it, but instead, he had allowed Nevada to mess with his mind, so Victoria left empty-handed. I hated debts of any kind. It would be good to get this one over with.

It didn’t change the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.

“How do you know the family?” I asked.

“Ragnar’s sister contacted MII in regard to her mother’s and sister’s deaths. She doesn’t think the fire was an accident.”

“Was it?”

“I’m not at liberty to discuss the details.”

Right. “Did you take the case?”

“She knows our rates.”

“You turned her down. Augustine! She came to you and you turned her down, and now her brother is going to kill himself.”

He looked in the rearview mirror, his expression iced over. “If I’m going to put my people in danger, I have to properly compensate them. I’m not running a charity, Catalina. You of all people should know how much can be at stake when one looks into a Prime’s death.”

Oh, I knew. When a team of hired killers stormed your home, sending tornados of fire and summoning monsters into the slaughter, it tended to leave a lasting impression.

I glanced out the windshield and saw the futuristic crown on top of the Memorial Hermann Tower, outlined with glowing red, white, and blue triangles shining against the ink-black sky from the height of thirty-three floors. Almost there.

“Did you at least tell his sister what to expect if I have to use my magic?”

“I told her the boy would have to be sedated.”

The car pulled into the parking lot. A Hispanic man, his face frantic, ran to the car and swung my door open. A blast of January air hit me. Winter in Houston tended to be mild, but a cold front had come through and the temperature had dropped to below thirty. My bare knees shook.

“Did he jump?” Augustine barked.

“No, sir.”

“Come on.” Augustine jumped out of the car.

I scrambled out of the vehicle. Wind tore at me with icy teeth.

Augustine and I hurried at a near run to the doorway. The glass doors slid open, letting us pass, and the warm air of the hallway bathed me. A group of people waited by the bank of elevators, some in scrubs, others in professional clothes, and all wearing the same panicked expression. They saw us and scurried out of the way, leaving behind a young woman with red hair. She turned. Recognition punched me.

“Runa? Runa Etterson?”

Her tear-stained eyes widened in recognition. “Catalina?”

Three years ago, at Nevada’s wedding, an enemy of House Rogan poisoned the wedding cake. The only reason any of us were alive now, Augustine included, was because Runa purged the toxins before the cake was served. She was a Prime Venenata, a poison mage. She could kill everyone in this room in seconds. And the boy on the roof was her brother. Oh my God.

Augustine strode past me into the open elevator. “Catalina, there is no time.”

I had come this far. Poison mage or no, Ragnar was still a fifteen-year-old boy on the edge of a skyscraper’s roof. If I didn’t try to save him, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

I hurried into the elevator. The doors slid shut. The last thing I saw was Runa looking at me like I was the answer to all her problems.

The elevator hummed, carrying us upward, brightly lit and perfectly normal. I caught my reflection in the mirrored wall. I looked like I had just rolled out of bed. There was a touch of surreal in it all: me in my sweatshirt, standing next to impossibly perfect Augustine in an elevator of mirrors and electric lights and soft music. Maybe I was dreaming.

Runa’s mother and sister were dead. And Augustine must have quoted her an impossible price. I had planned to simply walk away if I managed to get the boy to safety, but this changed everything.

“You didn’t tell me he was Prime Venenata.”

“I told you he wouldn’t let anybody on the roof.”

Dread washed over me. “Did he kill anyone?”

Augustine sighed. “He’s a gentle child. He made them sick enough to turn back, but he didn’t inflict permanent damage.”

“What did he do?”

“Don’t worry. You’ll smell it.”

The numbers in the elevator’s digital display crawled up.

“When the doors open, turn left,” Augustine said. “Go to the door marked exit, and up one flight of stairs. There will be a metal door that will give you access to the roof.”

“That’s a terrible plan,” I told him.

“Ragnar will hesitate to hurt you. If he does, I’ll be there, and I’ll help.”

“If he sees you . . .”

“He won’t see me.”

The elevator doors swung open with a soft chime. I made a left and followed the hallway to the exit door and up the stairs. My hands shook.

The air stank like acid and vomit. A trail of chunky stains marked the steps. I didn’t want to look too closely at it.

The ice-cold metal door handle burned my fingertips. I pushed it and stepped onto the roof. The dark sky unfolded above me, impossibly huge and black, with the crown glowing against it. The frigid wind pierced my body, going straight through me all the way to the bone.

Ragnar stood on the very edge of the roof, a thin figure in faded jeans and a hoodie, balancing on a concrete ledge. He seemed so very small against the night, like an ant on a skyscraper.

He turned and looked at me, his face lit by the neon glow of the crown. I saw certainty and relief in his eyes. He wasn’t relieved to see me. He was relieved because he’d made up his mind and decided to jump. I had no time.

“Tell Runa I’m sorry—”

I hit him with everything I had.

When the Keeper of Records named my magic, he called me siren, which fit me well, because like the sirens of legend, I called people to me and they couldn’t resist. And like ancient sirens, I had wings, beautiful magic wings nobody could see unless I let them. They snapped open behind my back now, as the focused torrent of magic-drenched Ragnar.

He froze. His heels protruded an inch over the ledge. One slip and he would die.

“Ragnar,” I called him, turning his name into a singsong lure.

He licked his lips nervously. “Hi.”

“Hello. I’m Catalina.” Magic stretched from me to him and I wove more and more of it around him with every syllable.

“You’re so pretty,” he said.

“Thank you. It’s cold and dark. Do you think we could go inside?”

He nodded, fascinated.

I held out my hand. “It’s scary up here. Will you hold my hand?”

He moved, stumbled, teetering on the edge, his arms waving . . . My heart jerked, trying to leap out of my chest.

Augustine materialized out of thin air next to Ragnar, grabbed a handful of his hoodie, and yanked him back. Runa’s brother landed on the concrete roof.

Holy crap. My knees almost gave out.

Ragnar righted himself, walked over, took my hand, and offered me a shy smile.

I smiled back. “Let’s go inside.”

We went through the door and down the stairs with Augustine bringing up the rear. I scanned him. Clean. None of my magic had hit him. I had focused all of it in a laser-tight beam on Ragnar. Augustine could turn himself invisible. Nevada would lose her mind when I told her.

We boarded the elevator. Sweat glistened on Augustine’s flawless forehead. He was breathing like he’d run up all thirty-three floors to the roof. Ragnar held my hand very gently as if my fingers were made of glass. It wouldn’t last.

Most magic users had to put some effort into doing magic. I was the opposite. I had to hold mine in. When I was born, a nurse tried to kidnap me. She paid for it with her career. In the years that followed, before I learned to control my power, perfectly normal people did insane things to hold on to me. My elementary teacher attempted to smuggle me out of her classroom and into her car. My classmates tore out chunks of my hair so they could keep a piece of me.

Other kids were encouraged to be cute, to perform for adults. If I smiled, the adults became mesmerized, and if I wanted them to like me, they would love me with obsessive intensity. Their children would cry hysterically when I left the playground.

Right now, Ragnar loved me, madly, beyond all reason. Soon touching me wouldn’t be enough. He would want to hold me, crush me to him, rip out a lock of my hair to smell and taste. He’d want a piece of me to stroke and to bite.

The Keeper might as well have called me Orpheus. Sooner or later those who tasted my magic would want to tear me apart and they would love and worship every precious drop of my blood and shred of my flesh as they killed me. Only my doctor was immune; we didn’t know why. And my family. I didn’t need to magic them. They already loved me.

The elevator stopped. The doors swung open and Runa lunged to hug her brother. Her arms closed around him, breaking Ragnar’s hold on me.

Ragnar screamed as if cut. It was a raw animal sound. His sister let go, stunned, and he dived at me and clamped my hand in his.

A man shouldered his way through the crowd, carrying a small medical case.

“Ragnar,” I called.

He gazed at me with adoration in his eyes. I knew it was temporary, but even so, it made me cringe.

“That gentleman is going to give you a shot. I’m scared of shots. Are you?”

“No.” He shook his head. “No, I’m brave.”

“Will you show me how to be brave, Ragnar?”

He held his arm out, his gaze fixed on me. Runa hugged him. I watched the needle go in. “You’ll feel a little sleepy in a minute. It’s okay to fall asleep.”

“Don’t leave!”

“I won’t leave,” I promised. “I’ll stay here and hold your hand.”

Ragnar’s hold on my hand slipped. He sighed happily, closed his eyes, and sagged in his sister’s arms.

I turned to Augustine. “I need you to transport him back to the warehouse.”

“He needs to be under observation,” Augustine said.

“No, he needs to be back at the warehouse, so I can purge my magic from him. If he wakes up and I’m not here, he may escape and try to find me. And this time, people will die.”

Augustine turned to Runa. “It’s your call.”

I met her gaze. “You know me. You’ve seen what I can do. Please trust me on this.”

“Let’s go,” she said.

The trip home was taking considerably longer. The chauffeur seemed in no hurry, and the Bentley all but crawled up the dark street. Runa’s rented Nissan Rogue had no trouble keeping up. She had insisted on following us with Ragnar in her car.

I sat on the backseat next to Augustine. The adrenaline had worn off, leaving behind a soft fatigue. If I wasn’t in the vehicle of a dangerous Prime, I would have closed my eyes and gone to sleep.

“Well done,” Augustine said.

I didn’t need his approval. “Nevada’s debt to you is paid in full. We’re even.”

“Agreed. Although technically it was a favor to House Etterson.”

“Your dealings with House Etterson are between you and Runa. I’m surprised you cared enough to get involved tonight.”

“I know what it’s like to be responsible for a younger brother.”

Oh. Humanity from Augustine. Unexpected.

Augustine tilted his head. “House Etterson may prove a valuable ally for you, if they survive. They now owe you a favor they can’t refuse. You need allies, Catalina. The reprieve granted to your House is about to expire. People will be coming for you and yours. You’re powerful but inexperienced, and because of your sealed records, you are an unknown. Unfortunately, being an unknown isn’t enough of a deterrent.”

“What are the terms?” I asked.

Augustine raised his eyebrows.

I counted off on my fingers. “You separated me from my family. You’re aware that my older sister and my brother-in-law are out of the country and are unable to advise me at the moment. It’s the middle of the night and I’m tired from expending magic. You’ve complimented me, you’ve mentioned the danger facing my House, and we are driving at barely fifty miles per hour. You have an offer for me. Let’s hear it.”

Augustine cleared his throat. “Good. Skipping extended explanations and hand-holding makes things easier.”

I waited.

“I offer a strategic alliance between House Montgomery and House Baylor. Occasionally, cases which are uniquely suited to the talents of your family cross my desk. I’d like you to handle them. In return, I offer generous financial compensation, access to MII’s resources within the scope of those particular investigations, and the benefits of an association with my House.”

He was offering protection and guaranteed income. More, he offered contacts and data. The MII maintained an extensive network of informants and observers. Very little took place in Houston without Augustine knowing about it. He hoarded sensitive information, holding on to it until someone paid or threatened him. Access to that database was truly priceless.

Augustine was also a master at determining precisely what people needed most. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that our most urgent need was security.

I had to make a decision.

“House Baylor is flattered by your generosity. However, at this time, we must regretfully decline.”

Augustine chewed on it for half a minute.

“Why?”

“You have made a similar offer to Nevada three times. I’m aware that she declined, and I share her reasons for it.”

“Indulge me,” Augustine said.

“Very well. The real value of this partnership for us wouldn’t be in money.” Although we could certainly use it. “It would be in the connections and the elevated profile that comes from working with a Prime clientele. A way for us to enter Prime society and forge relationships and alliances that would anchor our House.”

And of course, the database and access to the MII surveillance agents, who were legendary. We both understood that, so there was no need to mention it.

I kept going. “I want to underscore that I fully understand the value of your offer. However, currently, there is a massive power imbalance between House Montgomery and House Baylor. I have seen how MII operates. If we agree to your proposal, you’ll expect us to abide by your contract, which may require us to compromise our ethics. We’re a family business. All we have is our name and our reputation. We follow only three rules. First, we try not to do anything illegal. Second, once bought, we stay loyal to the client. And third, at the end of the day, we have to be able to look our reflection in the eye. Those are the principles my father laid out for us, they are the rules my older sister followed, and I will follow them as well. If we have an alliance with House Montgomery, we’ll enter this alliance as equals, not as vassals or subcontractors, and we will adhere to our own norms of behavior.”

The silence stretched out between us.

Augustine opened his mouth. “We’re not equals.”

“Exactly. House Montgomery is a behemoth and we’re small and new. As you have said, we may or may not survive. But we must stand on our own. We worked very hard to move out of House Rogan’s shadow and I won’t trade that independence for an easy paycheck.”

Augustine’s face was impassive. “Thank you for your honesty.”

“There may be a time I’ll come to ask for your help,” I told him. “If I do that, I’ll be sure to bring information of equal or greater value.”

The Bentley turned onto our street.

“Then I’ll leave you with this piece of advice,” Augustine said. “It’s free. Do not become involved in the Etterson case. I know exactly what you’re up against, and the price I quoted her was a gift. Sometimes when you search the night, you’ll find monsters in the dark. You’re not ready.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” I told him.

silver dagger logo (1)

 

Author Interview – Alice Gilmore

Tourbanner_Alice A MemoirHave you ever had an imaginary friend?

No. Except that I have often borrowed famous people into my imagination to have an argument with or even a gentle discussion.

Do you have any phobias?

I am getting worse about heights, especially, and speed as I grow older. Slimy things. Much as I admire spiders and know that they are mostly goodies in their tiny worlds they still give me the creeps. 

Do you listen to music when you’re writing?

I often have radio 3 on in another room so that I can barely hear it but can feel it in the house. The same for jazz or popular music pre-Beatles. Never rock ‘n’ roll or modern pop.

Do you ever read your stories out loud?

I haven’t read this book (my first) out loud but used to invent bedtime stories to tell my children and then write them down afterwards. 

Tell us about your main character and who inspired him/her.

Well, it is me (or I, whichever you prefer). What can I say about me? It is all in the memoir. Who inspired me? My mother and father I suppose (glib answer).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GENRE: Non-fiction

BLURB:

Few, if anyone, could have had a life like Alice Gilmore. It was almost unbelievable yet carried on under the cover of a respectable middle-class existence.

You might strongly disapprove of what she did, but Alice was determined. She overcame insurmountable obstacles to keep the love she longed for.

Her single-minded fight to live out her love makes a gripping, riveting story that one eminent literary person called ‘staggeringly readable’. It is shocking. Her methods will upset some, but are you with her or against her? Your decision.

This is no misery memoir. It’s a story told with joy, wit, and fervor – the astonishing story of the overwhelming love Alice Gilmour was determined to live out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alice Gilmore v3Excerpt:

I am going to tell you our story, my darlings. It is really only for you three and one other (you know who) but I can’t help hoping that the world will read it, which is why I shall probably publish it. But not for some years. When you’re fully grown up and have flown the nest. God knows what they will make of it, the world I mean, whoever they are, but I am not suggesting that any rules or taboos should be changed by our story or new rules made. Leave all that alone. Our story, perhaps I should say my story, just is. You could tritely call it the exception that proves the rule. Perhaps that is just what it is: unique. I doubt that but it is certainly extraordinary. I have carefully chosen those words. Any old event of yawning banality is called ‘amazing’, ‘fantastic’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘fabulous’ in our current jargon. Whatever else people may call my story it is certainly extraordinary. 

It is, above all, a love story, an all-consuming love story, though I have never felt consumed by love, rather continually renewed. But isn’t that what love should do to you? Consume you and renew you constantly like the phoenix. And it brought with it another constant emotion: fear. And pain. The fear of pain. The fear of the pain of losing it, this wonderful state. The word love doesn’t fully express what I/we felt. Another word that is more or less totally debased.