Saturday, July 31, 2010
Have a great Saturday!
All rights are the intellectual property of the author. No part may be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author.
***Warning. The following story contains erotic elements, explicit language and violence. Read at your own risk.***
Ursus needed to touch her, protect her. When she’d blamed herself for the damage to her face, it was all he could do not to find those responsible and slaughter them. “You’re not at fault.”
Tesza moved away, hugging her body, shivering in the steamy room.
Ursus couldn’t fight the pull. He needed to touch her, breaking contact was painful. In three strides he crossed the room and tugged her into his arms, cradling her against his chest. Tesza began to cry. Silent sobs, picking up intensity the longer her held her, until she shook in his arms.
He reached up and patted her head, unsure what else she needed. “Stop. Stop crying.” He’d never dealt with a crying female and never an enemy female. Comfort was not in his nature.
Tesza was different. He couldn’t get her out of his head. She’d become an addiction, an obsession. He never waited to see if those he hunted could feel or react. He’d always shot them, never looked them in the eyes or spoke a word. Ursus had always been unfeeling, uncaring that they were gone, exterminated. They were one less rodent to hunt. Why had she been different? Was it truly her energy that called like a siren’s song, or something more? Had her evil possessed him?
Tezsa wasn’t a rodent and she wasn’t evil. “You’re not one of them.”
She stiffened under his hold. “One of what, Ursus?” She yanked away and backed into a corner. “Don’t touch me. I’m not a pet.”
Ursus closed in. “No, no you’re not.”
“Then don’t pat my head, don’t touch me.”
“I can’t stop myself. I need to touch you, taste you, climb inside you and merge with you flesh and bone. I can’t get close enough. I can’t think. You’ve possessed me.”
Her gaze riveted to his. “Possessed?” The word came out in a hoarse whisper.
“You haunt me even as you stand there. Please. Please don’t push me away. I can’t take it.” He stepped closer and she pressed back into the corner, eyes wide, her chest rising and falling.
“It hurts.” Ursus took another step forward.
“No.” She sank to her heels, staring up at him like a wounded animal. The look in her eyes ripped his heart to shreds. “Don’t come any closer.”
Ursus balled his hands and fought the urge to snag her off the floor. “Don’t play innocent. I can taste your lust in the air. You desire me as much as I need you. No games, Tezsa.”
She shook her head and dropped her gaze to the floor. “It’s not that I don’t want you. I can’t do this.”
"I would never hurt you.”
"Can you say the same for the others of my kind?”
No. He’d hurt them before and would do it again. Who was she to question him? Ursus snarled and spun around. “Everything you require is here. I’ll be back with food and medicine for your wound. Don’t try to leave this room. If you attempt to escape, I’ll tie you down.”
He stormed out, letting the metal panel slam shut with a bang behind him. Inside his body felt like it burned, sharp pains raced through his chest and his teeth hurt where he’d nearly pulverized them by clenching down. He’d make her see she needed him as much as he needed her. Tesza was his.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Available 8/2/2010 at Liquid Silver Books
Etah Dane is finally free and she is hell-bent on vengeance.
Cursed by a witch, she spent twenty-five intolerable years locked in her rock hard shell—aware of everything. Etah is Stonegar, a statue created using pieces from mythical Stonehenge. Like all of her kind, she’s proud of her constant state of arousal and her insatiable sexual appetite. One man who mysteriously watched, and sometimes caressed her stony form, set her blood on fire. Etah’s body aches to know him intimately.
Slander Weldon is a sculptor who experiences a frightening and life changing event. He’d unwittingly created a monster. Even his male lover, Grant Rawlins, didn’t believe him. Then he met Etah Dane. Not only does she know the truth, she stirs a latent and uncontrollable desire in him. Slander wants to have Etah—and he wants Grant to watch.
Facing the spot she had emerged from, she formed an O with her lips, and sucked the dust into her living body. Etah watched the sparkling stream of material, making sure she had every last bit. Like a fairy’s dust, she needed it all to remain whole in the form of a person, needed it to return to her statue.
“Come with me.”
“Uh, miss,” Teetering from side to side, eyes barely focused, the bum stared drunkenly up and down her body. “You’re naked.”
“I’ll fix that. Follow me.”
She strode down the street dragging him in her wake. At the store, Etah yanked the door open and stepped in. A lady waiting to be cashed out dropped a loaf of bread and ran past crossing herself. “Whore,” she yelled before disappearing out the door.
Over two hundred pounds of store clerk leered at her from behind the counter licking his lips. “Well now, honey, how can I help you?”
At least he’s clean.
“Give me your shirt.”
“I’m speaking English, I said give me your shirt.” Reaching over, she took hold of a handful of his top and hauled his ass across the counter, dropping him to the floor.
He glared at her, dumbfounded, from his knees. “Lady, you’re crazy.”
“I’m naked, I’m hungry as hell, and I’m not asking again. Shirt. Now.”
He unbuttoned it, shrugged it off his meaty shoulders and handed it over. Etah pulled the soft, warm material on and began to button it up. From his position on the floor, the clerk grabbed her around the knees and tried to take her down.
“You don’t want to do that.” Since he no longer had a top on, she grasped his thick forearms, and pulling him up, she settled his ass on the counter.
“What kind of freak are you? You on drugs or something?”
“I’m not a freak.”
But she was. To humans her kind would always be freaks. Abominations.
Etah was Stonegar, an ancient race of statues with the ability to come alive and take a human form. They were created unknowingly by sculptors who’d over the years ransacked and stole bits and pieces of stone from the site at Stonehenge and incorporated them in the completion process of their stone and statue creations.
Stonehenge was rumored to have mythical powers.
It was true.
There were millions of Gar, even cats and dogs, with hair the color of their creators. Hers was a Dane, big and blond.
One thing all Stonegar had in common was gray eyes.
Often when working with the coarse rasps or rifflers in the end stages of refining the hair or other detailed parts, sculptors cut themselves or an old wound would open allowing blood to seep into their material and from this the statues gained life.
Extraordinarily strong, Gar could best ten or more humans in a fight. They could assume their stony form instantly, preventing any damage to their living bodies. The only way to destroy one was to literally smash it to smithereens and scatter the dust to the four corners of the world.
Her kind had remained hidden for thousands of years because they were peace loving and stayed to themselves. A smile curled her lips at the thought of how many humans reported their precious stone works of art missing each year.
Often made in groups for sculpture gardens, they were also sold or stolen, in groups, so Gar were usually surrounded by family. Etah had two brothers and she knew exactly where one would be.
Once she got her bearings, she was heading for the bitch who cursed them. The first thought in her mind--make sure her family was safe. The second--kill the witch who ensconced them in stone for twenty-five fucking years. And any relatives she had. Make them suffer as Etah had, bound in her statue.
“See the guy over there,” she asked the frowning man she held immobile on the counter. She pointed to the drunk who tried to hide by wedging his slight frame between two soda dispensers. “Whenever he comes in here to piss, you let him. And feed him every day.” Grabbing the beefy clerk’s balls, she gave a hard twist. “That way I don’t have to come back.”
“Oww! I got it, lady.”
“Good.” She ignored the sound of the door swishing open behind her. “I’d really hate to hurt the family jewels.”
“Easy, miss, I think you’ve made your point.”
Etah swept around ready to attack. She met amber pools of light that held a hint of humor. His cheekbones were high in a hauntingly handsome face, and he had the complexion of well used porcelain, soft and creamy. A blue-black ponytail hung over one shoulder to his chest and was tied off with a red ribbon!
Goody, a present just for me.
Growl and roar-it's okay to let the beast out.-© J. Hali Steele
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I sit in the dark in silence with nothing but my thoughts. I think of you. Of the times you lied to me. Of the times you said you cared and said you loved me.Of the times I said it back.You're still with him. You flaunt your relationship in front of me with careless disregard for my feelings. You come to me after you’ve just had sex with him and confess your desires for me because you think it will placate me.It works.I sit in the dark, alone, and secretly wonder why I don't hate you.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I am so excited! Other than writing, and family, the planned vacation we have this year has got me all worked up. Why? Because my best friend of 10+ years is coming to visit us. As in, we pick her up from the airport tomorrow! *Dancing*
I met my best friend online, in a role playing channel she was running on IRC. At first, it was the usual friendship. She was my ST, our characters crossed paths, there was little to it.
I’m not sure how it happened, but soon, we were talking and sharing problems with one another. We commiserated together and shared joys.
We became friends.
Even after she had to put the channel on hiatus and there was no role playing, we stayed friends.
Then, she and her daughter flew out to visit us for vacation one year. It was the first time we’d met in person. I was a nervous wreck!
The first couple of days was still a bit nerve wracking, but after that, we had so much fun!
My first vacation, and my first long distance plane ride alone, was a couple of years later, and it was to visit my friend in Virginia, where she lives. She calls it Deliverance Revisited, but it wasn’t all that bad! Between Roanoke and Lynchburg, the area was peaceful, beautiful, and I loved it.
Of course, the humidity in the summer there was “OMIGAWD, BREATHE!” and I had to make sure I drank plenty of water down there as we were on the go from morning to late afternoon. Drinking water isn’t all that necessary up here in western Washington, not as much as you need it down there! LOL.
After a couple of days though, the humidity was no problem. Then again, I spent much of my early life in Taiwan, where Mom’s from, so I adjust well and quickly.
When she was out here last, we took her to a couple of cemeteries. None of which were as fantastic or as old as the cemeteries where she lives. I wish I had taken a digital voice recorder with me when I went down there.
Why, you ask? Because I record EVPs. That’s Electronic Voice Phenomena. If you’re a Ghost Hunters fan, or a fan of the hundreds other paranormal investigation shows, you know what it means. For those still confused, it’s when you record voices on an electronic medium you do not hear with your own ears.
It doesn’t have to be a cemetery, I’ve recorded EVPs in my own home. It’s a fascinating hobby. I have a couple of “vids” where you can hear some of the stronger EVPs on my YouTube site. (http://www.youtube.com/user/Isobael). Feel free to take a gander.
The next time I go to visit her, I’m taking my digital voice recorders and hitting the Civil War sites and cemeteries!
This time, however, we’re taking her to Lakeview Cemetery, in Seattle. This is where Bruce and Brandon Lee are buried. It’s one of the largest and oldest in Seattle and has amazing headstones and monuments.
She arrives tomorrow for her vacation. I’m so excited! It’s been three years since I’ve seen her and I have so much planned. Of course, writing will be slow, if nonexistent, during the week she’s visiting.
This year, so far, has been a wonderful year for me. My debut novel, “Moonlight and Magick”, was released in May, and I’ve received awesome reviews and many requests for a sequel. Giving in, I put aside a couple of other WIPs in order to begin the second of the “Moonlight” series. I hope to finish it by the end of this year. Add in the fact I hit a couple of bestsellers lists in June, and July seems to be going just as strong, it doesn’t look like the pace will be slowing in August!
I’ll sign off with a blurb from “Moonlight and Magick”…
All she wanted was a quiet, normal life...but you don't always get what you want.
Lilian Quinn came to this remote town to start a new life. No one knew she had escaped from Custodes Secreti, a secret organization dedicated to using people with strange abilities for their own ends. All she wanted was a quiet, normal existence. Even if it meant living a lie.
Matthias Romulus was content to be the Alpha werewolf of the local pack, until he bumped into Lilian. Powerfully drawn to her, he stepped in to help her when the Custodes Secreti tracked her down. He didn't know she was trained in much more than waiting tables.
With Lilian's murderous ex-boyfriend coming after her and secret agents on her trail, the strange dreams she's been having are only the beginning. Matthias has problems of his own with his pack giving ultimatums. Can a psychic woman and an alpha wolf come together to resolve the issues of their hearts -- and the issues of their continued survival?
You can find me on the world wild web at:
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Most readers also have the tbr pile of doom to deal with and it's often hard to figure out where to start. Book challenges help and sites like Goodreads and their groups, Shelfari and themed blogs help you figure what to read and where. There's everything from Harlequin category themed challenges, young adult, historical, new to you author challenges and challenge to help connect readers to authors and books about people of color.
There's even one for Sci-Fi Romance. Yep! This year commences the first, and hopefully not last, book challenge centered around romances featured primarily and secondary to Sci-Fi.
If you're a paranormal lover, this is your official invitation to the sci-fi romance section of the bookshelf. Come on down and check out the SFR or SF/RE (sci-fi with romantic elements also called RSF) genre.
Just to get your bookshelf hopping, here are some SFR/RSF book titles from my TBR pile:
Beyond the Shadows by Jess Granger
Sequel to Beyond the Rain
A man of deception. A woman of justice. Can their fragile trust be strong enough to prevent a war?
Commander Yara knows perfect leadership ...more A man of deception. A woman of justice. Can their fragile trust be strong enough to prevent a war?
Commander Yara knows perfect leadership requires perfect control and discipline. She has spent years living without the distraction of caring for anything—or anyone. It’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make. Yara has honed herself into the perfect heir to the Azralen throne, but a bloody coup could destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. She must return home to prevent war. Unfortunately the only ship available belongs to an Earthlen trader with no regard for authority—especially hers.
Cyn is a rebel, driven to protect those suffering at the hands of the Elite leaders of Azra. Using his alias to manipulate the lovely but icy commander onto his ship, he has to keep her from Azra long enough to ignite the revolution. But when he awakens a vibrant and feeling woman beneath that icy exterior, he gets more than he bargained for—love. He must find a way to convince Yara to join him, before they get caught in a web of deception that could tear their world apart.
Darkscape: The Rebel Lord by R. Garland Grey
Lord Lachlan de Douglas, heir to a Clan of Ancient Earth, constantly defends his people from annihilation. When a sudden horror alters his being, he is condemned to a world of private anguish and torment. Lt. Kimberly Kinsale, a diplomat's daughter, serves in an elite combat group aboard a war ship. In a moment of lunacy and folly, she is forced to decide between remaining loyal or betraying her clan for a Douglas enemy lord. Fighting the sinister legacy of the matrix robots, Kimberly must now trust her enemy with her life, her heart, and her very soul. But as time slowly runs out, she realizes even an exquisite love may not be enough for salvation
Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy
Trained since childhood in advanced biocyph seed technology by the all-powerful Crib empire, Edie's mission is to terraform alien worlds while her masters bleed the outlawed Fringe populations dry. When renegade mercenaries kidnap Edie, she's not entirely sure it's a bad thing . . . until they leash her to a bodyguard, Finn—a former freedom fighter-turned-slave, beaten down but never broken. If Edie strays from Finn's side, he dies. If she doesn't cooperate, the pirates will kill them both.
But Edie's abilities far surpass anything her enemies imagine. And now, with Finn as her only ally as the merciless Crib closes in, she'll have to prove it or die on the site of her only failure . . . a world called Scarabaeus.
Monday, July 26, 2010
They don't bother me. I take them as a sign that my brain is firing on all cylinders, which has to be a good thing. So I don't resist the creativity. I just take a short break from the WIP (for me, it never needs more than a day) and empty my brain about the new idea into a new file. Once that's done, I close the file and return to my WIP. It works every time for me.
First is the list site TopTenz. The list that attracted my attention is Top 10 Bizarre & Controversial Archeological Discoveries http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-bizarre-archeological-discoveries.php . I had to drag myself away from that page before it forced me to take a more than temporary leave of my WIP.
Next comes The Retronaut, and this delicious photo series of London in February 1944, during the Blackout: http://www.howtobearetronaut.com/2010/06/london-blackout-february-1944/
Finally, here is the hilarious Texts From Last Night, a new and guilty pleasure that threatens to become a serious timesuck: http://textsfromlastnight.com/
• Rode a jet ski for the first time three days after I lost my virginity. Hell of a week for my vagina.
• That still doesn't explain why you thought it was a good idea to paint a cow on my guitar
David Bridger and his wife settled with their three daughters and two monstrous hounds in England's West Country after twenty years of ocean-based fun, during which he worked at various times as a lifeguard, a sailor, an intelligence gatherer and an investigator. He writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
It's kinda funny that this is releasing so soon after The Willow since it was written only months ago. While working on The Blue Blood series, the idea for this series grabbed me, and it grabbed me hard. I had to put everything aside to write it and in two weeks I had the novel completed, edits and all! The biggest difference is this novel is done in the third-person. The novels from The Magical Sword Series are all done in the first-person. Gotta say, third-person is by far my favorite! I LOVE the way I can show both the heroin and the hero's POV. For me, it really strengthened my writing and deepened the story line. Especially the sexy scenes. :)
As much as I love The Magical Sword series since it was my first, I can't deny that this series is one of my favorites. Five novels are planned, all from different POV's and I can hardly wait to dig back in. The next will be started in September.
Knox, the Seeker, has waited two hundred years for his Watcher and now he’s found her. Paxtyn, however, is unwilling to join him. The more he tries to prove himself to her, the more she pushes him away.
Paxtyn has spent a lifetime keeping her secret hidden from the world, but now, she must confront these deadly visions head on. When a string of murders brings her into New Orleans, she must come to terms with her personal demons and use her gift to communicate with spirits to discover who has ended their lives.
There was nothing odd about the woman in her late twenties. Her look was exactly what you’d expect in downtown Cincinnati―chic. Her clothing looked more like something off the runways in New York than around here. Her high stilettos were fantastically matched with her cute rose cocktail dress. The black lace shawl wrapped around her shoulders indicated it was chilly, but being that it was June, Paxtyn knew it was more for show than anything else.
And she could appreciate the look. But at the same time, she wished the woman had decided on different footwear. Then, those fantastic heels wouldn’t be about to go to waste.
Paxtyn’s hands closed around the chair as she prepared herself for what she was about to see. Her visions of the past always came the same. She knew what would be the outcome and it wouldn’t be a good one.
Normally, watching the moment a life was lost was hard for her to watch, but tonight, it was more than that, it was gut-wrenching. And the reason being was the woman looked so much like her―athletic. Even her shoulder-length curly hair was the same, except were hers was jet black; Paxtyn’s was strawberry blonde. But the one thing this woman didn’t have was Paxtyn’s turquoise eyes.
How many times had she heard “you have the most beautiful eyes”? The line had run its course and she was sick to death of hearing it. The woman stopped at the curb, digging into her last season’s Gucci handbag and pulled out a cell phone as the street light beamed down. A smile grazed her face as she apparently received a text of interest. She raised her head, looking quickly, waiting for a moment to cross. When the cars cleared, she stepped off the curb, not bothering to look up as she continued to dawdle on her cell phone.
Paxtyn wanted to stand up from her chair, yell to this woman to stop, bang on the window for her to not move, but it was pointless. There was nothing she could do for her.
And it was within three steps that the life of this woman forever changed.
With a loud screech, the woman discovered that those Christian Louboutin heels were going to be the only thing left of her.
She really didn’t have a chance. The car was going too fast for her to survive.
And the moment the tires locked, the woman’s ghost stood next to her broken body, shocked, scared and confused. The man who’d hit her jumped out of the car and, when he saw her body, smiled gloriously.
Paxtyn shuddered. Who smiled at such a thing?
Dying wasn’t how everyone thought it was. There wasn’t a flash of golden light with the soul drifting off to heaven. Most times, the spirit stayed, lingered. Couldn’t comprehend what had happened to them. And she had witnessed moments of the past just like this a thousand times over.
“Earth to Pax,” Tate said loudly, snapping his fingers, completely unaware of what Paxtyn had just witnessed.
She glanced away from the window, but before she met his gaze, she did what she always did, found the smile to hide it all. “Sorry.” She laughed, but even to her it sounded shaky. The name was Paxtyn really, but Tate opted for the shorter form and she never minded.
“If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were a nut,” Tate said.
She laughed in agreement. He was right, if he did know her better, he’d believe such a thing. But he probably knew her the best out of anyone. Brought together at a welcoming party in their early days at the University of Cincinnati, and they’d immediately hit it off.
A guy like Tate wasn’t to be passed over, and she hadn’t hesitated to try to snatch him up. It wasn’t his all-star bod, or his captivating baby blues, even those luscious lips that presently smiled at her that first caught her eye. It was his kind heart and loyalty. He was about as damn solid of a guy as she’d ever met.
They’d gone a round of it once after a blasted drunken night at a sorority shindig, but the next day, they’d woke up in bed, naked, and laughed. That was the end to anything romantic between them.
But what they had was better. Stronger. She could count on Tate for just about anything and there was no one else in the world who loved her more. Now, their relationship had blossomed into something found in a brother and sister. That was Tate, her protector.
Who just so happened to give her ear a flick. “Fuck, girl! Maybe you shouldn’t drink anymore.”
“I’m fine,” she said, grimacing from the throb of her ear lobe and shot him a look. It usually didn’t take this long to snap out of one of her horror moments.
She took a big gulp just to drink away the sight of what she’d witnessed and kept drinking till the buzz settled in. Wasn’t ever a gift to see such horrible things, but one she saw often. Mom and Pa, back in Wyoming, had spent thousands on her as a child on testing and treatments to find out what was wrong with her. Why, as a child, she’d say that she was watching people die. She still couldn’t imagine what was going through their heads, knowing their child had this disability.
But by the time she reached twelve, she realized it was best to just keep her mouth shut. It ended the doctor appointments and saved her from being medicated or institutionalized.
Now, it was just something she lived with―suffered through. So, she put on her normal face and glanced around the pub. The crowd tonight was loud as was the band blasting out the soft rock around them.
The O’Bryons Irish Pub had been their life while they’d bunkered down at University, and she guessed it stuck with them, because they still came here every Friday night. Of course, it had only been two years since they’d completed their degrees so they really hadn’t had much time to grow and move on.
Tate with his BS in Criminal Justice had found a job right out of college with the Cincinnati Police Department. Paxtyn majored in Business. Basically, because she liked the idea of being locked in an office where she could stare at blank walls and not have to look out windows or be anywhere she might have a vision.
When she’d seen the ad for Financial Specialist at the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, she’d jumped on it and, with some luck, she’d actually gotten it. Now, she spent her days glued to a computer, lost in numbers. As much as the job got to her, became a total bore, she couldn’t really complain―it paid well.
Tate worked three times as hard as she did and his pay was nowhere in the numbers as hers.
“Looks like you have an admirer,” Tate said, drawing her back from her thoughts.
Paxtyn followed his gaze to see that she was in fact being watched, and the moment she met the man’s gaze she was locked in. He sat off to the far side of the bar with a glass of brandy in front of him. He was older than the others in the pub, but it didn’t make him look out of place―it made him look distinguished. He wore a black dress shirt rolled up at the sleeves with the front unbuttoned showing a bit of smooth chest. His finger slowly rimmed the edge of the glass as his gaze was glued with hers. And those eyes were mesmerizing. Grey with a dark-steeled edge to them. But that seemed to be his thing. He was all edge―hard and extreme. His features were made up of straight lines, including the squared jaw, high predominant cheek bones, perfectly shaped lips and even his mocha hair was slicked back with a hard look.
Tate knocked Paxtyn’s arm a good one. “Drool much.”
“Over him?” She nodded toward the hunk. “Doubt it.”
“Sure you weren’t.”
Changing the subject she asked, “Where’s Barbie?” Tate’s latest love interest, or fuck interest she should say. One thing Tate wasn’t was monogamous. His view on women was you should have them―lots of them.
Never could she blame him. When men looked like Tate they had the option to be picky and choosy. And he knew better than to be an ass about it, since she’d rip him a new one if he was, but his interests weren’t ever in the soul mate department.
Paxtyn’s love life was null and void. Probably due to the fact that Tate tended to scare them off before anything could even begin. She was usually better off as her choices in men weren’t her strong point.
“Jane,” Tate corrected her, “has decided she is looking for more of the Mr. Right type.”
“And you weren’t it?”
“Not for her, I wasn’t.”
She could only shake her head. Poor girl was probably giving him an ultimatum, hoping he’d take the bait. Boy was she wrong. Tate would commit to a relationship as much as he’d commit a crime. It just wasn’t in his nature.
Tate drained his drink and shoved his chair back. “Gotta take a leak.”
“Thanks for the update,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Makes you think of my dick doesn’t it?” he responded with a sly smile.
“Please,” she grumbled. “Had it once before and it didn’t make me want to come back.”
He placed his hand over his heart. “Oh, how you wound me.” Then, he grinned and went off to the can.
Paxtyn leaned back in her chair, giving her legs a good stretch and took another big swig of her beer. A beer on a warm day was about as satisfying as anything she’d ever known. Refreshed the senses, calmed the nerves, and with the little buzz that came with it, it was simply heaven. And lord how she was enjoying it now.
She lowered the bottle, gave her mouth a wipe and when she did her gaze hit the man in the corner. He still stared intently. There was something about him, but what it was, she couldn’t quite place. He seemed familiar in a way, although she was sure she’d never met him before. She would remember a man such as him.
He wasn’t smiling, looking for a way in to come and talk to her, he was just staring. Looking almost through her and she began to feel uncomfortable. So, instead of having some ridiculous staring contest with the man, she glanced back to the bottle and spun it in her hands.
Only a short moment passed when Tate’s chair pulled out. “That was…” Paxtyn started, glancing away from her hands. But quite quickly, her words drifted away as she drank in the deliciousness of the man before her.
He was handsome from a distance. Up close, he was perfection, and he smelled so delicious. A mix of strength combined with a tantalizing cologne she’d never witnessed before this moment.
“Hello,” he said. His voice, deep and smooth, and seemed to pool right down to her stomach.
“Hi,” she responded, hoping it came out calmer than the nerves rattling her.
He glanced around the pub, looking slightly appalled. “You like this place?”
Paxtyn was instantly put off. Hot or not, no one insulted her pub. “What, not rich enough for you?” This man came from money, that was apparent immediately.
The side of his mouth lifted as if he held back a grin. “Are you implying I think I am too good to be seen at this club?”
“Aren’t you implying that?”
He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “No.” What the hell was he implying then? But before she could snap out the question he said, “I am just ascertaining your character is all.”
“My character?” That wasn’t the answer she was expecting. Why was he interested in her character? Now, she was just flat out confused and that only seemed to spark interest. Maybe this guy had pick up lines down to an art.
He nodded, leaning back and crossing his arms across his strong chest. “That’s right.”
Paxtyn tried to not notice but couldn’t help herself. Beneath that dress shirt laid one hell of a chest and by the tightness around the arms, some serious muscles rested beneath. An urge to explore those muscles for herself rose, but she quickly ignored it. “That’s a first.”
He arched a brow. “A first?”
“Your pick up line―never heard that one before.”
He leaned in now, very close to her face and her breath froze from the nearness of this man. The smell of him, the feel of his breath on her face, the penetrating gaze that locked in on hers―oh my.
“I am not like anyone you have ever met,” he said softly.
His gaze was so penetrating, searching, and what she saw in those eyes told her he was right. She’d never met anyone like him before. No one with this sense of the sureness he portrayed―this amount of confidence. He was entirely different than most twenty-four year olds like her, and she could only guess that was because of his age. He appeared to be in his early thirties.
“Seat’s taken,” Tate’s annoyed voice came loud.
Paxtyn glanced toward him and she had to smile. His focus was on the hunky guy sitting in front of her and he looked about as happy as a man told he could never have sex again.
When she glanced back to Mr. Mysterious, he slowly turned toward Tate and cocked his head. “There are three other seats, take one.”
Her eyes went a little wide. Tate wasn’t a wimpy. He was a tough nougat and his temper was always his downfall. This wasn’t going to end well.
Tate’s eyes squinted into nothing and he leaned down, placing his hands on the table coming nose to nose with the man. “You are in my seat. I will only ask once for you to get out.”
She rolled her eyes. Now, they were in a full blown testosterone contest and by the challenging look in the guys’ eyes, she was about to witness some fists flying. Did she want to witness such a thing? No. Had she witnessed scenes like this numerous times? Yes. Hence, her lacking a love life. But tonight, she just wasn’t in the mood. She pushed her seat back and stood. “Here, Tate. Take my seat. I’m leaving.”
Both men shot their gazes to hers. Annoyance was so heavy on their faces that she burst out laughing. “You wanna date,” she glanced between them, “there you go. You were made for each other.”
* * * * *
After a long soak in the tub, Paxtyn was snuggled up in her cotton jams and her lap quilt on the couch reading the latest novel from Katie MacAlister. Books were her saviour. Sometimes drifting into someone else’s life was better than experiencing her own. Allowed her to forget her worries, concerns and live a tantalizing dream for a little while. And it was exactly what she needed at the moment.
“Comfortable?” Tate’s aggravated voice blasted through the living room.
She glanced up from the book to see that she hadn’t mistaken the tone. His expression was equally as pissed. “Very much, thank you,” she responded.
His eyes squinted. “What was that about back there?”
“You annoying me,” she answered simply .
“So, you just up and left me?”
“Looks like that is exactly what I did.”
He huffed then strode toward the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge. . They had spent so much time together it had actually made sense when he mentioned that she move in with him. Saved them both on rent and downtown Cincinnati rent didn’t come cheap. It also allowed them to move into a sweet condo―new with all the trimmings. A chef’s dream kitchen, a splendid balcony overlooking downtown Cincinnati, two large bedrooms and a wicked bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. Yeah, it was worth the guy garbage she had to put up. Tate’s idea of cleaning meant shoving garbage into a cabinet and wiping dust off with his hand. But overall it worked between them.
She finished the last paragraph of her book, folded the page and placed it on the coffee table. “So, you going to tell me what happened?”
Tate snorted. “Nothing happened. Your playboy picked up and left after you did.”
That surprised her. “He didn’t say anything to you?”
He shook his head. “No, not a damn thing.”
Weird! “What did you do after?” She glanced to the clock. It was one in the morning. “I left an hour ago.”
“Chatted up the ladies.”
“Of course you did,” she replied. “But here you are…alone.”
He shrugged. “Nothing of interest.”
“Oh the poor ladies, all they have missed out on,” she said sarcastically as she stood and headed for the bedroom. Now that the book wasn’t stealing her attention, she realized just how tired she was.
Tate smacked her ass as she walked by. “I seem to remember you screaming out in glory when you went for a test drive.”
“Must you remind me of that constantly?”
He nodded, grinning.
She rolled her eyes at him. So, he was good and she couldn’t deny that night he probably gave her the best orgasm of her life (a few times over), but now it was just maddening. He was too proud of himself about it and liked to mention it on a weekly―if not, daily basis. “You know, being a pompous ass isn’t becoming.”
“You love it.” He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Sweet dreams, buttercup.”
She smiled as his lips connected with her cheek. “You too, jackass.” He backed away and headed off to his room while she made her way to hers. He was right, she did love it. Tate was just Tate, bad flaws and all, but he was her Tate and she loved him just the way he was.
Her room was in the state it was always in, a complete disaster. The rest of the house always needed to be neat and tidy, but her room was a whole ‘nother story. Clothes were scattered everywhere, the bed was ruffled with the duvet half off and the only way to the bed was a path made by kicking stuff out of the way as she walked.
But that was how she liked it.
Life was always organized, set, planned. Her days the same―wake up, work, come home. Her room was the one place where it could be a mess and no one could say a damn thing about it. She loved this mess―it gave her that sense of freedom to just not give a shit about.
On her way to the bed, she kicked her earlier clothes from the evening out of way then jumped in. She fluffed the pillow, pulled the blankets back up around her and closed her eyes.
Sleep was needed, but apparently sleep she wasn’t going to get, since all she could think of were those damn captivating eyes. Didn’t matter how many times she tossed, turned, within the darkness of her lids was that face, those lips, that strong chest, those forearms that clenched when his finger rimmed his glass.
Finally, she groaned and opened her eyes, glancing to the clock. It read 4:03 a.m. She’d been lying there for three hours. She forced her eyes closed again and began counting sheep. One…twenty…fifty…
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Yeah, I have another that waits, that I know my publisher wants, but sometimes the right side of the brain needs to work on something different. Call it a neural vacation and I'm definitely sitting on that beach.
Will it be a comic romance--a contemporary? You ever feel like switching gears and changing it up with something very different from the normal?
Yeah, that's where I'm at. Something different. Sometimes all it takes is a suggestion from a friend for me to swap out the muse. (You know who you are.) So, I've swapped the muse and I'm sinking my teeth into some comedy.
Here's something to sink your teeth into.
All rights are the intellectual property of the author. No part may be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author.
***Warning. The following story contains erotic elements, explicit language and violence. Read at your own risk.***
Ursus stared at the door to secure containment. They never needed cells before. The enemy had always been exterminated in the field. The old city’s cells were refurbished for this one prisoner.
Pilot’s gut told him she held the key and he’d yet to be wrong. Ursus pressed his hand into the pad and the door slid open. A soldier standing at the entrance directed him to a visual scanner on the wall. Ursus braced his face against the device and waited while a nano-beam measured the patterns in his eyes.
“ID confirmed,” the computer chirped and a second set of doors opened leading to the cells.
“I’ll go alone from here,” Ursus said. The soldier saluted and stepped back, allowing him access. Ursus walked through and the door shut behind him. He blinked to let his eyes adjust to the dim light.
Tesza sat up and rubbed her eyes. The ringing on the metal flooring signaled someone’s approach. Since yesterday when they’d brought her in, nothing but quiet. Not a single Kori showed their face. She’d begun to wonder if they’d locked her in and left her, to starve or drown when the city flooded.
The door to her cell swung open and the outline of a tall man filled the frame. His form, backlit from the lights, darkened his countenance. Tesza narrowed her eyes, squinting. She scooted back on the bunk until she wedged her back firmly in the corner.
Her heart pounded, threatening to break her ribs. What did the man want? She’d remembered the woman in the courtyard. They didn’t just kill them anymore. The Kori were getting bold.
He took two steps into the room and kicked the door shut behind him. She jumped and her breath hitched. Gods. Ursus.
“I thought I told you to get out of the city.”
Tesza burst into tears. She swallowed hard, unable to speak.
He strode over to her and grabbed her arms, hauling her to her feet, yanking her closer. “Do you have any idea what kind of mess you’re in?”
Tesza nodded. She knew when she saw him again it would be at the cost of her life, but what did it matter? Without her people and that she’d been cast out into the wilderness, she’d have died anyway.
He let her go, tipping her face up. “What am I going to do with you?” His touch felt soft, bordering on gentle. Strong hands that looked as if they could crush upon contact, handled her as though she’d fracture. So contradictory, her Ursus.
Her Ursus? He wasn’t anything to her but an enemy. Tesza yanked away.
“Don’t turn from me.” He grabbed her chin and moved her face to his. His eyes took on a hard edge. “Ever.”
He eyed the wound on the side of her face. Tesza instinctively reached to cover it, and he grabbed her wrist, stopping her.
“Who did this?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes,” he growled. Ursus touched the wound lightly, then turned her head to the light to examine it closer. “Did they do this because of me?”
“Your people are barbarians.”
“As are yours.”
Ursus dropped his hand and stepped back. “Gather your things, you’re coming with me.”
He nodded, opened the door and gestured for her to walk through ahead of him. “That will change.”
“They will execute you for helping me.”
“Who said I was helping you?”
Was he helping her? Tesza stepped past him and into a corridor. “If you’re not helping me, then what are you doing?”
“I need information, Tesza.”
The words stung her heart. Tesza’s spirit sank. How could she be so foolish to believe he cared about her, wanted her?
“My feelings for you haven’t changed.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I am bound by duty to interrogate you. To retrieve the information I seek by any means necessary.”
He grabbed her arm and directed her toward the next door. “Don’t say anything and keep your eyes down.”
The door opened and Ursus shoved her through.
“Sir, you cannot take the prisoner from here.”
“Don’t question my tactics.”
“Stand down soldier or your ass will be in the brig.”
The soldier saluted and stepped back. Tesza kept her eyes averted, but could feel the disgust in the man as she passed. They all felt that way. Except Ursus.
“I have to call the General to confirm your orders.” The soldier let the door to outside shut, prohibiting their exit. Tesza could hear the rise and falls of his tones as he spoke through his headset. Ursus developed a tick in his jaw as he stared at the soldier. The soldier’s eyes flitted from Tesza to Ursus. When she made eye contact, the soldier raised his weapon.
Ursus reached over and pushed the barrel away. “Leave her.” Tesza dropped her eyes.
“Yes sir.” The soldier pressed his palm into the pad and the door opened. “I was protecting you. They can suck your soul through their eyes.”
“They are as humanoid as you or I. Do I look as though she’s sucked my soul?”
“No sir. The prisoner is yours. General Pilot asked me to relay a message. Storms are approaching from the east. You have less time.”
Ursus nodded and snagged Tesza’s arm, pushing her through the door.
As soon as the door shut, Ursus barked. “I told you to keep your eyes down. They’ll shoot you. The men are afraid of your people.”
“Why should they be afraid of us? We’re not the ones slaughtering others because of their race.”
“People are afraid of what they don’t understand. No matter what my people do to extinguish yours, you magically survive. The soldiers are a superstitious lot, raised from childhood to believe the Kalos are evil. Beliefs ingrained from birth are not easily dismissed.”
“We’re not evil.” Accept for the gift she held.
“The Kori know nothing different. To them, you’re beasts,” he said. “Enough talk.” Ursus urged her forward. “Be quiet. Keep your eyes down or next time I might not be able to stop them.”
Tesza kept her mouth shut. Everywhere they went she could feel eyes on her. The urge to look up and see who, was almost overwhelming, but Ursus’s warning stopped her. There was no question they’d shoot her.
He opened a door and shoved her through. As soon as it shut, he spun her around and pushed her back against the wall. Both hands went to the sides of her face. “I’ve mourned you every day since you left.” His mouth connected and he worked his lips softly over hers, coaxing her mouth open.
Bolts of heat quickened her blood. Lust, undeniable lust. Tesza grabbed his hips and pulled him into her. No matter that he wanted information that could locate her people, that he would kill them, that she could kill him, desire blossomed in the pit of her stomach and worked through her in an intense heat. Gods she wanted him. Needed him.
He groaned and deepened the kiss.
He missed her?
For the moment she’d forgotten the injury on her face. But when his hand grazed it, sharp pains shot from around the wound. Tezsa flinched.
Ursus stepped back and tipped her head to the side. “We need to get some ointment on that.”
“Don’t bother. I’m nothing without it.”
“It will scar or the infection could spread.”
But the infection hadn’t spread, not the one he was talking about. Not yet. If she had anything to do about it, never. “Why do I care? I’m already dead.”
“Because you’re not going to die. Not while you’re in my custody.”
“You don’t understand. I want to die.” Tezsa twisted away from him. “I have to die. I can’t hurt you and I can’t betray my people if I do.”
“You still claim them. Even if they did this to you?” He turned her around and lightly touched her cheek next to the cut.
“I did that to myself.”
“You cut the mark from your face?”
“No. My actions caused this. I’m a traitor.”
Friday, July 23, 2010
Another thing I miss is my time to surf YouTube. I do that the way some people surf the internet. They have the funny videos, there are movie and book trailers...everything! I listen to tracks of music to see if I can find anything to pique my eclectic interest. Though I have an iPhone, there's no music on it--not a single song. I'm still stuck on CDs and the last one I bought not long ago was by Enigma. It's old, but somehow I'd missed it until I stumbled across a tune on YouTube.
One of the latest discoveries I made there after listening to an old song by Otis Redding, was a cover of it by a person who blew me away with his rendition. So without further ado, I'm going to share the song with you via 3 video clips from YouTube. I always find something that strikes me in each rendition.
The song I'm speaking of is Try a Little Tenderness. Enjoy!
This is the version by Otis Redding.
Then there's the one by Three Dog Night, great for so many reasons. Not to mention this is one of my all time favorite groups. And this even has the psychedelic thing happening, lol.
Last but not least is one I only discovered recently from the movie Duets featuring Paul Giamatti. Now, this was one of those movies I caught a long time ago on cable and I'm still wondering how I missed this part. I would have never thought Giamatti could have pulled this off but damn if he didn't do an awesome job.
Until next Friday: Growl and roar-it's okay to let the beast out.-© J. Hali Steele
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I lifted my head to see why I couldn't move. To my horror, I saw an oversized steel clamp suspended from the ceiling on thick black iron links. The clamp tongs flared out wide from the bottom link and speared into my sides. If I shifted my weight slightly, I could feel myself pivoting on points that met somewhere deep inside of me. My healing abilities kept me alive despite the hook and I realized every time I moved, I reopened the wounds. Each time I took a breath, my weight on the suspended hook shifted and I had my explanation as to why I felt as if the pain would never go away.The pale blue cotton t-shirt I'd been wearing was now a dark red color. My arms and hands were coated with streaks of dried blood as well and I could only imagine what the rest of me looked like. I felt as if I'd stepped into a bad horror movie or some freak show exhibit.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
First, I want to say thank you to Sandi for allowing me this time to blog with her.
I am a newbie. Yes, you heard me correctly, new. I have only been published for a year and in that year I have learned many things. I have learned to never limit myself and if I can’t figure something out, pull it apart and see the inner workings.
I love Paranormals, I love Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Can I write them all? I don’t know. I’m giving it a shot though.
Writing a blog, for me, is hard. I have to be serious for about five hundred to a thousand words. I can’t be serious, it’s not in me. Paranormal is the non-serious realm of writing. I know what you’re going to say, that’s blasphemy! Is it really though? Think about it, what other genre can you write from that you don’t have to follow the rules? You can make a vampire get pregnant and have kids. Or you can change up how a werewolf is made. The rules are free and far stretching. It’s all about using that imagination you used so well as a kid, and blowing it up.
I never thought I would be able to write about vampires or Gods or even about mermaids and sea creatures. It’s like waking up on Christmas morning and finding everything in your imagination is real and they want to play…with you. So you put your little hat on, your snow boots and you head out and play. You put the mermaid with the vampire and bam; there’s an interesting story. Or you can put a God with an assassin and bam, another story worth telling. Build a world of werewolves who can breathe underwater and who fight alongside the mighty Kraken to defeat the Leviathan. Can they get it done, who knows. It’s your story!
Or, why not a spirit, who haunts the house of a Vampire? Could you imagine? They would be like the Twenty-first century Odd Couple. Think about it, the spirit could be like Felix—wants everything clean and orderly. The Vamp like Oscar—leaves everything lying around including his blood covered weapons after a night of fighting rouges. And start scene!
I guess my point is, unlike other genres where the rules are stricter, Paranormal writing and reading is for the free spirit in you. So pull up a chair, grab a keyboard and let’s get to work. I got an idea floating around and it’s time to play.
My name is Ashley Blade, I love Paranormals and thinking outside the box. Who are you?
Ashley Blade, the alter ego for Amanda Boyd came to be after several months driving across the country in an eighteen-wheeler. Most days she can be found behind the computer pumping out some grand adventure, but when it’s family night you can find her on the soccer field rooting her daughter on to certain victory or snuggled up with her better half and a good book.
Books Available and Coming Soon:
A Dangerous Game: Out Now
Murder 4 Hire: The many adventures of Ike the assassin: Coming October 2010
Darkest Night: Coming October 2010
Murder 4 Hire: The Gods must be crazy: Coming December 2010
Once Bitten: Winter 2010/2011
Find me on the web here:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Late yesterday, I was thrilled to have my book “Simon’s Fate” release with Liquid Silver Books.
Simon’s Fate is a novel of the Strange Hollow.
Moira has lived in Strange Hollow for almost a year, unable to touch anyone, lest she should see their future. Moira is a former Fate who chose to leave her job, not liking the competitive, outlandish destinies the Fates were bestowing on humanity. Always nervous, she is accepted but lonely. That is, until she stumbles upon Simon who is hiding in the basement of the Strange Hollow Visitor’s Center. A vampire, Simon is on the run from his brothers, but hampered by his blood phobia, which makes him pass out at either the sight or smell of it--a difficult situation for a vampire to find himself in.
Together, the two will discover that with just a little help from the person you love, anything is possible--especially in Strange Hollow.
Here is a small excerpt to wet your appetite.
“Simon…” She stood, her hands on her hips. “I’ve been thinking about this all day. How do you live if you can’t stand to look at blood?”
“Technically, I don’t live.”
She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “Fine, let’s not debate semantics here. You know what I asked you.”
He ran his hands through his hair. For a second he wished he was just a regular guy and she was a regular woman, and they could talk about normal things such as the weather or candlelight dinners instead of his blood problem.
“I’ve always lost consciousness at the sight of blood. I did before I died and it didn’t go away afterward.” Standing, he stretched his arms toward the ceiling for a second before putting them down. His vampire senses made him notice Moira’s pupils dilated at the sight. Was she attracted to him? Was it possible?
“Then how did you survive your first year?” She walked to him, standing only a foot away from him.
Yes, he could now smell her arousal. He would have given any amount of money for a discreet way to reach down and loosen his pants. He was afraid she could see exactly what she did to him. He needed to keep the conversation going. “There are very few ways one can die again after you already have. Don’t you read Stoker? Direct exposure to sunlight, cut off my head, burn me, I don’t enjoy garlic ... the whole nine yards.”
“Come on. Let’s talk and walk.” She motioned toward the stairs. “You can come home with me. Tomorrow, you can spend the day in my basement. I’ll blacken out the windows.”
He’d already decided he would be leaving tonight. If this place was as wonderful as she said it was, he couldn’t risk exposing it to the kind of evil tracking him. Sometime tonight he would find another way out of town. For now, however, he’d follow her to the moon if she wanted.
As they walked together up the stairs, he was struck by a thought. Moira was attracted to him and she’d just invited him home. Did she want to... no, he dismissed the idea; it was one thing to be aroused by him, another thing to actually go to bed with a vampire.
Moira might be a Fate but she was also one incredible woman. No way would she have a vampire fetish.
If you’re interested, I hope you will check out Simon’s Fate. It can be purchased here.
Thanks for visiting Paranormal Romantics today!
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
In Carson City, Nevada a tragic car accident has claimed the lives of Nexi Jones’ adoptive parents. Now, without them, her reason to live has vanished and she is determined to end her pain.
The problem with that, it’s not heaven she wakes up to, it’s the Otherworld. Nexi must reconcile the truth about her past, and her heritage as part guardian/part witch, while she begins to train to join the Council’s guard. But it’s not the combat training that has her worried, its attempting to keep her cool around the luscious guardian, Kyden that’s her biggest concern.
Before long, Nexi’s skills are put to the test as she begins to fight against the supernatural who have taken a human life. But nothing can prepare her for the journey ahead. Soon, she will find herself lost in a mystery and fighting to keep all she’s gained, as Lazarus, a vampire, threatens to take it all away.
A bird singing in the distance stirred me from my sleep. My eyes fluttered open to a perfect warm summer evening in Carson City, Nevada. The night was so clear, every star in the dark sky was visible. There was forest laid out around me with plush grass resting below. A light breeze wrapped around my body and goose bumps rose across my skin, but suddenly, that peace was interrupted by gripping pain.
Where am I?
When I glanced toward the source of the pain, confusion swept through me—my wrists were slit and bleeding out tremendously. My vision blurred, but I blinked hard, forcing it to remain when, a tickle came from overhead. My gaze slowly glanced up toward it and the moment the weeping willow came into focus, my memory came with it.
Yes, I was badly hurt, but this, I had done to myself. And why that was is really quite simple—I’ve always been a little different. An outsider, never quite fit in anywhere, never felt right in my own skin. But having my adoptive parents Gloria and Frank Jones kept me strong enough to deal with it—strong enough to fight against the sense of alienation. Plus, I’d become an expert at hiding this little secret and blatantly ignoring it. My life had been full of happiness for twenty-four years.
But all of that joy was ripped away by the Carson City Sheriff’s Department. At first, all I heard was, “accident on Interstate 50”. It took another half an hour to come to terms with the rest, “your parents have been killed”.
With those few simple words, my hopes and dreams were shattered. The only two people in the world I loved left me. Deserted me in a place I didn’t belong. Now, there was nothing here for me anymore. No reason to stay. Which is why I was here resting beneath my willow, bleeding out.
The leaves dangled down again, trailed along my body almost in a way to comfort me. Located deep in the Carson City wilderness area, this tree is my home away from home—my own little piece of paradise.
Truthfully, I came here hoping it would save me from my own thoughts. But the moment I arrived, it only seemed to reassure me that the choice I was making was the only one. The life I had now was no life at all.
As a tear fell down my cheek, the pain consuming me began to withdraw and a chill set deep into my bones. My eyes began to droop, and my limbs were numb and heavy.
Someone once told me, when you die you see your entire life flash before your eyes, containing all of your happiest moments. Apparently, they lied. Nothing but ice ran through my blood equaled by the sense of being dreadfully alone.
Just as the pain threatened to raise a scream from my throat, a twig cracked beside me. Startled, I glanced toward it, a man stood, watching intently. Annoyance immediately filled me. A savior is not what I wanted, but when my mouth parted, nothing came out. Dammit!
He started toward me, his walk smooth, but strong. Was I dead? Was this my guardian angel? He looked the part well enough. Heaven isn’t called Heaven for nothing, especially if it’s filled with men like this. He was handsome enough to put George Clooney to shame. Looked a lot like him too—same soft eyes, dark hair, even his shape—strong without being overwhelming. The best part was his clothing, or lack thereof, which only consisted of a sword strapped to his back and a kilt made of armor.
Unexpectedly, a rush of the ickies sneaked up. Apparently, it was wrong that I was ogling him. Guess God had a sense of humor, fill Heaven with gorgeous men, but strictly enforce a hands-off rule. Just my luck!
When he reached me, he leaned down, and put his hand on the top of my head. There was something to his touch—something so familiar. “I have found you, my darling, Nexi,” he said. “Sleep now. You are safe and it’s time for you to come home.”
A wave of peace washed over me and the last thing I saw before the world faded away to darkness was my willow swaying in the wind.
When I awoke next, nothing made sense. A Cathedral or something like it was surrounding me. From wall to wall, it was an endless display of Gothic architecture. Pointed arches, large rose stain-glassed windows, heavily detailed pillars, immaculate stone sculptures, and even a hammer-beam roof to boot.
The hard floor was doing nasty things to my back. Pushing against it, I sat up and came face-to-face with a wolf. “Whoa, weird dream.” I drew in a deep breath, and gave my eyes a hard rub. Then, I lowered my hands.
One second passed, then another, and another.
Then, my brain caught up with me. I wasn’t a dreaming. “What the…” I screamed, scrambling back.
Confusion hit hard.
The wolf wasn’t alone—there were four other people here too. One, in fact, was the man from the woods. “Do you know who I am?” he asked, softly.
This couldn’t be? Did it work? Am I dead?
But wait, I didn’t feel dead. “Where am I?” My stomach tightened as I prepared for the blow. My views always leaned toward the theory when you die, your dead—plain and simple. None of this afterlife nonsense, but now, I began to doubt that theory. And past sins began to swarm my mind, equaled by questions. Does honor the mother and father mean listen to them always? And really, how bad is it if you use the Lord’s name in vain? Oh, Jesus fucking Christ, I’m going straight to hell.
Interrupting my thoughts, the only woman in the room said, “I am Zia, Master of Witches.”
“Master of the who, what?” I stumbled, mainly in shock, but also because this strawberry blonde, blue eyed, bombshell shouldn’t belong in Heaven—no angel should look this sexy.
Instead of answering, she took my hand in hers and grasped it firmly. Seconds later, a bright flash of light forced my eyes closed and when they opened, a room sat before me, but not the room I was just in, a different one. And that wasn’t the shocking part, it was the people in front of me that had me stunned silly.
“Hello,” I called out, but no one responded. “Can you hear me?” But again, I was completely ignored.
Apparently, this was a vision I could see but not interact with. Resigned, I kept quiet and just watched.
“Drake, have you ever seen anything so beautiful?” A woman sat on a wooden bed, cradling a baby in her arms. Her long dirty blonde hair reached the middle of her back, her face made up of strong lines, and her eyes, a soft blue that shined with utter joy.
“Yes, Tyrianna,” Drake answered, joining her on the bed. “She is stunning. A true treasure.”
“She is special.”
“A little Guardian, a little witch—a perfect beauty.”
Releasing a deep breath, I stared in total disbelief. It was undeniable, she’s my birth mother. The resemblance was uncanny. Our athletic features, high cheekbones, plump lips, even our dirty blonde hair matched right down to the length. And yes, that baby was me. My freckle sat directly under the corner of my left eye like it always had.
That wasn’t the only kicker, the man from the woods wasn’t just any man, he was my father. They’re my birth parents, and the implication of what I was being shown here was insanity at its best.
Without a chance to fully process, another bright flash blasted me into the next vision.
“By the Gods, I will gut Lazarus for this,” Drake roared, holding Tryianna in his arms.
“Drake,” Zia whispered. “Nexi needs you.”
He lowered Tryianna’s empty body, stood, and took the baby from her arms. “I promise you, Nexi, you will not suffer the fate that has been brought upon your mother.”
“What is it you wish me to do, Drake?” Zia asked.
“Call a meeting with the Council. We cannot delay. It is of grave importance.”
Another bright flash snapped me out of this vision and into the next. The cathedral I’d awoke to was now laid before me, surrounded by all the same people.
“We must send her away,” Drake said. “As much as I hate to lose her, it is the only way.”
“Are you sure this is what you want?” a man wearing the same kilt and sword get up asked. “If Nexi leaves the Otherworld you will never see her again.”
Drake nodded firmly. “She must be kept safe, Talon. Tryianna would ask this much of me. The Otherworld is not safe anymore.”
“We have all felt the potential within this youngling,” a strikingly tall handsome man said. “It would be a waste to send her away. She can only strengthen our home.”
“If she stays here she could die,” Drake deplored.
The room fell silent for a few moments, then Talon finally said, “If this is what you wish, we will not refuse you. I can only hope that you have made the right decision.”
“It may not be the right decision, but it is the only one,” Drake responded then he glanced to Zia. “I would ask that you provide her with protection? If this danger follows her, I need to be able to act if she is threatened.”
“What you ask of me, Drake, is a small task.” A tear fell down her rosy cheek. “I will do whatever I can to help you and Nexi.”
Another flash brought me back to the present, glancing into the face of the man I thought I’d never meet. Now faced with it, I could see the resemblance. We had the same eyes, not only in the almond shape, but in the color too. The same deep green with brown flecks surrounding the iris.
Closing my eyes tight, I gave my arm a pinch. I’m dreaming. This isn’t real. Daringly, I opened them again, but I was still here. Shit!
“You are not dreaming, Nexi.” Drake chuckled, as did the others.
My lips parted, but only air escaped. Closing it again, a second passed before for reality set in. My chin tingled then I busted into tears.
Drake lunged forward, snapping me up into his arms. “Hush now, I have you.”
Surprisingly, nothing about this was awkward. And it felt good—right. After longing for a familiar touch, this was soothing. He was family. I’m not alone.
Disputing any of this was impossible. Those visions showed me the truth of my past and the relief of knowing who and what I was overwhelmed me. To finally have a reason for it all came with such emotion, I could barely breathe.
Nevertheless, just because that part had been explained, didn’t mean the loss of Gloria and Frank was any less painful. Reconciling all this was hard. The pain was so intense before, intense enough that I couldn’t fight against it. I was expecting to be dead, not having to face it head on, plus deal with a whole slew of other craziness.
Drake’s voice broke through my moment of hysteria, “I have longed to hold you like this.”
Backing away from his chest, I met his gaze and said, “I wish I could say the same.” When his expression filled with confusion, I continued, “Growing up—I never once thought of whom my birth parents were and why they had given me up.”
“It should sadden me to hear that, but I am relieved you were treated you so well you did not need to think of such things.”
“Gone?” he repeated.
“They were killed a week ago in a car accident.”
“Ah, I see.” He brushed his hand across my cheek wiping away a tear. “That is why you were in the forest then?”
I nodded, gulping deeply. “I…I.” Great, now I was going to have to explain myself. Just what I wanted to do—explain why I was so pathetic I needed to off myself.
“You do not need to explain yourself,” he interjected. “When I placed you in the Earthworld, I hoped you would be able to adjust, that you would not know any different if the truth was kept from you.” He sighed deeply. “Quite a shame to hear the Jones’ have passed.”
Huh? “You knew them?”
“When Tryianna was killed and the decision was made for you to stay in the Earthworld. I searched out families looking to adopt. We needed to find a family who was small—one with little ties, so you would not be greatly exposed.”
He wasn’t wrong here. Gloria and Frank had no siblings, and their parents had passed when they were in the forties. Any other family was over in England, and they were distant. We never talked to or about them—ever. Our family consisted of just the three of us.
“It kept you hidden well,” he continued. “When we discovered the Jones’, Zia and I both agreed they were the perfect choice. Were we right?”
“Yes, they were so wonderful to me.” They’d been perfect in every way. The word adopted just held no meaning in our home. Gloria said God sent them an angel, but I never saw it that way, I was the lucky one.
They’d never once complained that I didn’t move out. Lame right—a twenty-four year old woman still living with her parents? But without them I couldn’t have survived. They fueled the empty vessel that was my body and kept me whole.
Now, looking back, maybe they knew how much I needed them. Maybe they knew if I left I would’ve fallen apart. Maybe they knew what took place beneath my willow was inevitable.
“I came to you once,” Drake said, brushing the hair away from my face.
“When the threat of danger in the Otherworld was gone, I came to get you and bring you home.” He smiled softly. “You were so young then, only around ten, and I saw you planting flowers with Gloria in the back garden. I stayed that day for hours and watched you.”
“But you never came up to the house?”
“No, you are right, I didn’t.”
“You looked so happy. The smile I saw on your face that day showed me that I made the right decision for you. You were safe, in a world without danger, and loved deeply.” He cupped my cheek and I leaned against it. “I could not separate you from her. No matter how much I wanted you to myself.”
Christ, he looked tormented. And the sight of it unsettled me. I held no anger toward him. How could I? The visions made it clear enough—he only wanted to keep me safe. Besides, I wouldn’t have changed a moment of my life spent with Gloria and Frank. And in order for me to move past all this, he couldn’t continue to carry that guilt and sadness in his eyes. It would be a constant reminder. “You know one thing about Gloria,” I sniffed loudly, collecting myself. “One thing she would be saying to us right now.”
”What would she say?” Drake asked, curiously.
“She’d say what the hell are you two doing here when you have a life to live? She’d be right ripping mad that we were mulling over things we couldn’t change, and that the only one worrying about the past is us. She lived a life filled with great memories, that time means nothing, and she had everything she ever wanted. She’d say that if we didn’t shape up and pull ourselves together, she’d pull out the wooden spoon.”
Now, it seemed comical. Why had I been so afraid of that damn spoon? She never laid a hand on me, but just the sound of the drawer opening had me shaking in my boots and apologizing quickly.
“Wise woman.” He laughed. “Best we listen to her then.”
Rubbing my hands along my face, I sent the rest of the sadness away to store in that part of myself that I’d never go back to. A place I knew all too well. One thing Gloria taught me was to take life as it came. Could I change this situation, no. So, why mull over it. Better just step up and find out what I landed myself into. “So, what happened to my mother exactly?”
“Tryianna was a powerful witch, and because of that, she was killed by a vampire, Lazarus who was raging war against the Otherworld.”
“And you sent me away because of that?”
He nodded. “It was safer for you not to be here, and not discover your powers. Tryianna would have wanted you to be safe.”
This came with a whole mess of emotions. I was glad for the time spent with Gloria and Frank, but to know my birth mother, a little longing did filter through. I stuffed it away. “So, he’s been caught, right?”
“No,” he responded through gritted teeth. “He has long been in hiding. As I told you earlier, the threat from him has been gone for many years, and we haven’t heard or seen him since that night.”
The pain running across his face was heartbreaking. More than just an ache over her death, it was not having a resolution for it all—a means to end his pain. Undeniably, the wound was still very raw. So, I said the only thing that came to mind, “I am sorry you lost her.”
“My darling,” his voice was soft and full of despair, “I am sorrier that you will not have the chance to know her.”
Questions about my mother swirled in my mind. How did they meet? What was she like? But seeing the utter torment running through him at the mention her, as if I’d ask more. So, a change in conversation was in order. “Let me get this straight, I’m a...” I couldn’t even think the words let alone say it.
“Witch and Guardian,” he said concisely.
“And you’re telling me I’m going to have magical abilities?” This was just all types of ridiculous.
“Indeed you will. We will not know the level of witch magic you hold until it comes in, and I am afraid I cannot tell you when that will be. However, your Guardian powers are not so difficult to discover.”
Before I could ask what the hell any of that meant, Zia said, “The Council welcomes you to the Otherworld, Nexi.”
Startled, I chuckled at the absurdity that I had totally forgotten we weren’t alone. Then, I repeated. “The Council?”
She nodded toward the others. “We are the governing body of the Otherworld.”
As if to prove that thought, the wolf began to vibrate. Then, he wasn’t a wolf anymore. He was a man.
My hand flew to my mouth. “Holy shit!” I said beneath it.
Zia adamantly ignored my shock and continued, “Brax, Master of Weres.”
I’d consider him a softy with his sweet soft features and long dark hair. That is, if the two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle on his body didn’t put him into the category of scary as hell.
“Talon, Master of Guardians,” she said next.
He stepped forward and bowed his head. When his gaze rose to mine, it’s a surprise I wasn’t blushing. His short brown hair, bright green eyes, and hard jaw only added to the rest of his handsome features. He wore gear similar to Drake’s—just a little more extravagant, which sat deliciously against one rock hard bod. Pretty obvious, Guardians were warriors of some sort, but warriors against what was the question?
“Zade, Master of Vampires,” she finished.
He was the tall guy from the vision, and he indeed towered over me, but that was the least of my concerns. His black sinful eyes couldn’t pull a fast one on me. He was a vampire.
I began to tremble. My breath coming out in short gasps as fear instantly consumed me.
“You have nothing to fear from me, child,” Zade said, reassuringly.
Yeah right, trust a vampire—sounds like a brilliant idea. One had killed my mother, for flippin’ sakes.
“Not to worry, Sweetie.” Zia interjected as she took my hand. “Here this will help.”
The moment her hand closed around mine, a surge similar to an electric current tore through me. “Bah,” I gasped, snapping my hand away. “What the hell was that?”
“I used my magic to release the block I had put on you to hide your Guardian power. You will feel more settled now.”
“Right, used your magic.” I rolled my eyes. “What is the Leaky Cauldron around here somewhere?” When scared shitless make jokes—Frank’s number one rule.
“Wish it was.” Zia laughed. “Those Harry Potter movies are fabulous.”
But as my mind cleared of thought, it was apparent that something had changed within me. I took a few deeps breaths trying to understand it. Then, the realization hit. My reason for living, my purpose had suddenly been answered. For the first time in my life, I felt at home.
And that wasn’t all it fixed. Zade wasn’t so scary. In fact, why had he been so scary? After a moment of contemplation, I came up blank. “This is…wow…I.” Yup, that was me stumbling all over the place.
“This has been a long day for you,” Zia said. “I think it’s best for you to get some rest. Everything will be easier to process after that.”
“Zia is right, come Nexi,” Drake said, raising his hand toward the door.
The moment we exited, I gasped a deep surprised breath at the room before me. Essentially a long rectangular room made up of pure white stone walls that seeped into a ribbed vault. On the left sat a large wooden door with wrought iron handles. To the right were four tremendously large windows with intricate stone carvings decorating the sides.
“This is the Council’s Foyer,” Zia said. “Quite remarkable isn’t it?”
“Very.” Hand me a goblet of ale, call me wench, and I’d fit right in. “What’s that room called?” I asked, nodding behind me.
“The Council’s Hall.”
“Wow.” I laughed. “Someone busted a vein coming up with those names.”
She grinned. “It is what it is.”
We passed through an arched doorway and the word Guardian was etched into the stone wall. Before I could voice my question, Zia said, “The Otherworld is home to many of us. We each have a part of the castle that is ours. This is the Guardian’s House. Since you will be training among the Guardians, it is only right for you to stay with them.”
“Training to do what?”
“Baby steps.” She smiled softly, patting my shoulder. “Let’s get you settled first.”
As we went through another doorway, a giggle escaped me. What was this a medieval hotel? The hall was lined with thick wooden doors on the left and pointed arched windows on the right. Each door we passed had a name written in pretty gold calligraphy on it. Keir, Drake, Nexi.
I skidded to a halt. “Why is my name on this door?”
“Because this is now your home.” Zia answered, opening the door.
Don’t know what I expected, but it definitely wasn’t this. Matching beige sofas were huddled around a stone fireplace that reached from the top of the ceiling to the bottom of the floor and in between them was a thick dark oak table with a vase full of yellow tulips on top.
The kitchen was just off to the side—a rustic oak island matched the large cabinets with brass decorative handles, and a thick pine country table rested in the corner.
On the other side of the living room sat the bedroom, which fit the country charm perfectly. Centered against the back wall was a huge white iron king size bed with a frilly white duvet on top. Two aged wooden tables sat on either side of the bed, which held pretty, decorative lamps, and to the left was a walk in closet that happened to be stocked full of clothes. Beside it, was the bathroom.
“Is this to your taste?” Drake asked. “Your mother liked this look. I thought...”
“It’s perfect.” And it was—the country motif was just my thing.
His body softened from the tense one it had been in and a grin rose to his face. “I’m sure you need a moment. Join us when you are ready.”
After they left, I made my way to the bathroom. When I entered, I grinned myself. A huge—perfect for two bodies huge—claw foot bathtub sat against the wall with a toilet and pedestal sink off to the side. An antique bookcase rested beneath an oval mirror, filled with washcloths, thick white towels, and bath products.
This room, I was sure to enjoy. Baths and me got along real well.
Meeting the sink, a complete and total meltdown threatened to rise. I was sure as shit entitled as far as I was concerned. The question weighed heavily for a moment, but I eventually gave up. It wouldn’t get me anywhere. I’d still be here and have to deal with this. So, I quickly washed up and went back out to join them.
As I drew closer, Zia was preparing some toasted sandwiches with a spinach salad. I was beyond delighted. Who knew what they ate here? Very relieved, it wasn’t something with a heartbeat.
“I hope you are hungry,” Zia asked as I sat.
“Starving,” I responded, grabbing the sandwich and took a bite. After I swallowed I asked, “Out of curiosity, what happened after I disappeared from Carson City? I mean, did anyone notice?”
“The police were contacted by a neighbor who hadn’t seen you in awhile,” Drake responded.
Probably Mrs. Taylor, the wife of my former employer, Dr. Taylor. Days answering phones and filing documents was a cushy job. I could never complain. And the Taylors’ are wonderful souls. At the funeral, they told me to take off as much time as I needed, and my job would be waiting for me when I was ready to return. But they also fed me and let me shower at their house. Going back to the home I shared with Gloria and Frank wasn’t an option, and it was a need they understood. Completely kind and sweet people they are, and nothing felt good about having them worried sick right now.
“The search for you continues,” Drake continued. “But it will likely end soon, and they will declare you a missing person.”
After trying to imagine my face on the back of a milk carton, awkwardness began to sink in as silence filled the air. I hadn’t expected to meet my birth father, and wasn’t prepared for it. I had no idea what to say.
Bless Zia for stepping in. "Tell us a little about yourself, Nexi.
And that was the beginning of an hour conversation as we learned every little detail of each other's lives. Amazing to see how much I was like him—his voice, gestures, even in his smile.
When the conversation had run its course, Drake stood. “It is time for us to be off, you need your rest.”
I held back a laugh. As if that was going to happen—sleep was pretty much written off until I got a better grasp of this insane situation. Of course, as I followed them to the door, I didn’t voice the thought.
Just as Zia stepped out, she took my hand and smiled. “Sleep well.”
Suddenly, a wave of relaxation washed over me, my eyes drooped heavy with sleep, my body felt a thousand pounds and as the door closed, Zia’s laugh came loud.
Quickly, I made my way to the bedroom, threw on pajamas and climbed into bed. I was dead to the world before I even hit the pillow.