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CONTENTS

| BTS Book Reviews | January 2014 | On the Cover

This Month’s Featured Books and Reviews CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL Featuring: Libby Waterford Joao Cerqueira

21

Book Reviews

EROTIC Featuring: Kate Deveaux Shiloh Saddler Karyn Gerrard

45

Book Reviews

PARANORMAL & SUSPENSE Featuring: Caris Roane Erin Quinn T.J. Blake Ella Grey

79

Book Reviews Sneak Peak from Alexandra Ivy’s Bestseller Born in Blood

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13

YOUNG & NEW ADULT Book Reviews

99


COLUMNS

SHORT STORIES & SERIALS

The Lowdown with Laurie 11 Free Books and Cheap E-book Pricing Chic Trends in Romance 39 Your Favorite Authors’ 2014 Resolutions and Predictions The Heat Diva 47 Otherwordly Interaction The Scrying Eye 81 Mysteries and Mayhem

Romance Story

CONVENTIONS

31

Erotic Story

61

Sci-Fi Story

71

YA Story

103

7

Erotic Serial

65

16 PLUS Mr. BTS Contest 760 Blog Beat 110

Suspense Story

95

January 2014 | 5


Introducing the new

BTS Promotion Campagins Campaigns are good for established authors and novice authors to build sales and name recognition. We can do a mix of not only tours, but also ads, features, and blog posts to meet your needs. Campaigns can be customized with different types of tours from BTS Virtual Tours. Bloggers who participate in the Blog Post Campaigns are paid to guarantee postings. Visit our website at btsemag.com for details or to schedule your campaign. While we cannot guarantee success for individual authors, we can extrapolate that campaigns will work based on the success of authors who have toured with us, and those with features and ads who reported increased sales and/or name branding.

Beyond Triathlon - $975 6-month campaign Tours, ads, feature, interviews & blog posts Triathlon - $750 6-month campaign Tours, ads & blog posts Marathon - $550 6-month campaign Tours, ads, feature, interviews & blog posts Marathon Budget - $355 6-month campaign Tour, ads, interview & blog posts Marathon Budget Buster - $270 3-month campaign Tour, ads, interview & blog posts

Sprint Premium - $200 1-month campaign Ad, tours, interviews Sprint Budget - $150 1-month campaign Ad, feature, tour, interview Sprint Budget Buster - $115 1-month campaign Ad, feature, & tour 100 Yard Dash - $135 3-month campaign Blog Posts Campaign Long Jump - $55 1-month campaign Blog Posts Campaign


Upcoming

2014 Conventions Feb 26 - Mar 1, 2014 Seattle, Washington

Workshop The Novel, Pitch the House Mar. 27-30, 2014

February 14-17, 2014

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These BTS staff members help authors with editing, publicity and as an author assistant.

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From the Desk of

Myra Nour BTS CEO

BTS

Book Reviews

Executive Coordinator Myra Nour

Due to the holidays, I’m in the mood to share a bit of personal info. A lot of folks were involved in the Christmas season and my family enjoyed it too. We love decorating our tree every year and driving to see what people create for their outside decorations. In December, we attended the annual Christmas Singing Tree at our church; a gorgeous, almost small broad way like production.

Promotions Director Babs Hightower

We both had surgery in November and are doing well. It was tough having our surgeries 2 weeks apart, but Simon took care of me first, and now I’m helping my hubby of 32 years.

Designer/ Review Team Assistant Nikki McCarver

I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Stay safe but have fun. We’ll be doing our annual drinking eggnog with the fireplace on if the weather in South Carolina is cool enough. And watching the ball drop on TV.

Designer Mike Milliken

BTS Business Update: We have exciting new Promotion Campaign programs for authors. Now we offer 10 different types of Promotion Campaigns to meet individual author needs and budget. Campaigns are good for established authors and novice authors to build sales and name recognition. We can do a mix of not only tours, but also ads, features, interviews and blog posts to meet your needs. Campaigns are one month, 3 month and 6 month in length. Prices range from $55 to $975. See all details at: http://btsemag.com/bts-promotioncampaigns/#6. More information about our campaigns on page 6 of this issue. Here is an example of one of our 3-month campaigns. Tour, ads, interview & blog posts - $270 • Three half-page standard ads in BTS Book Reviews • Reviews Tour • Online radio interview on Bab’s Book Bistro • Blog Posts The Blog Posts portion of the campaigns is an idea I came up with and work closely with Babs our Promotions Director to achieve successful results. Blog posts work like this: Blog posts are scheduled once a week for duration of campaign, on blogs with an average following of 1,500 or more. Bloggers also post on Facebook, Google+ & Twitter, with many having thousands of followers on their social media. Posts are short excerpts and interview questions, mixed throughout the weeks so material stays “fresh”. Bloggers are not required to review author’s book but we ask if they would like to review it. Bloggers are paid so that the posts are guaranteed.

Executive Designer Dawn Seewer

Editor Sheri Kraft Associate Editor Kellyann Zuzulo Review Coordinator Annette Stone Author Liaison Leslie Ferdinand Yahoo Promotions/ Ad Coordinator Simon Nour Scheduler/ Promotions Assistant Christy Wilhelm

Book & Trailer Showcase

REVIEWERS: Annette Stone, Nikki McCarver, Tim Davis, Drue DePompei-Hoffman, Francine Alli, Leslie Ferdinand, Lynda K. Frazier, Marie Haney, Kimberly Klemm, Niina Cord Rachel Flash, Rhonda Dennis Stephanie Phillips, Susan Frances, Michele Biring-Pani, Sally Manson, Krissy Malott, Shelly Schulz, Priyanka U. Patel, Nila Bi, Shan McKinney, Shelly Hammond, Beckey White, Iris Montalvo Pross, Patricia Costa Melo, Gypsie Holley, Anita Rivers, Cassandra G., Dave Franklin, Savannah Mae, Abbie Foxton, Nicky Peacock, Michelle Willms, Dianne Solberg, Julie L Canfield, Michele Page, Tobyann Aparisi, Adeshr, Danielle S., Babs Hightower, Taunya Wells, Crystal Guidroz, Ioana Giju, Christina Torretta, Udita Banerjee, Namrata Parakh, Colleen Cook, Joss Landry, Jake Trauberman, Michele Boylan, Steve Liddick, Karen Fainges, Satarupa-Biswas, Emma Mullins, Geri, Nancy Levine, Janice Ross, C. S. Johnson, Dm. L. Carter, SharaLee Podolecki,Brenda Lang, Elaine White, SharaLee Topnik, Kristy Nowinsky

COLUMNISTS: Sandra Bunino, Christy English, Laurie Garrison, Kelly Hudson, Nikki McCarver, Nicole Morgan

BTSeMag.com info@BTSeMag.com facebook.com/BtsBookReviews No material in this magazine can be used or copied without BTS or the author’s permission. © Copyright 2014. BTSeMag, BTS Book Reviews, All Rights Reserved. By submitting material to BTS Book Reviews or its affiliates, authors certify they own the rights to all published information.

January 2014 | 9


The Lowdown with Laurie Laurie Garrison

Free Books and Cheap E-book Pricing With this being my last column for BTS, I wanted to share my heart with the authors I love, to let them know how much money they are losing by giveaways and by pricing their e-books for so cheap. Free and $0.99 books are everywhere, and it’s making readers want only free or $0.99 books, and it’s time this crazy pricing stops so you, the author, can start making some money. I walked in Books-A-Million the other day. I was looking at all of the books priced over $0.99, and I wondered how are places like this going to make it as authors keep pricing box sets and novels for $0.99 or giving their books away. Bookstores are closing daily, and you can blame it on e-books all you want, but you, as an author, need to take a look at your pricing before you lay all the blame on e-books. Let’s crunch some numbers, and give you some real food for thought. Just a little over two years ago, there weren’t mass amounts of free e-books on places like Amazon nor were there so many giveaways out there. I had no other choice: it was either buy the books I wanted to read or not get to read them. As of right now, I have over 1,000 free books on my Kindle; therefore, I have enough to last me a lifetime. And I hear other readers saying this too, “Why do I have to buy books when I can just get them for free?” You know what? They are right. Why should we go buy a book when we can go to Amazon and download more than five daily for free? So, if I quit buying books because I get them for free, you lose my $20 a week. That is $1,040 a year, and if you add, let’s say, forty other readers

January 2014 | 11


| Lowdown with Laurie |

who only download free books, that will add up to $41,600 a year that you, the authors, are losing. Wow! Again, remember bookstores are losing too because you’re giving away so many books for free. Look, I totally get it, you think by offering your book for free that you will gain readers as they read your book, but here is the key—they have to read that book first, and when they are already so overloaded with free books, they will never get to your book. I know I have tons of books I can’t get to. Yes, I do see a need to give some away every now and then because your readers do deserve this. But do it randomly, so they’re not expecting it. I have seen some readers wait because they know the author will give out a book for free. Giveaways and free books are a good thing and a bad thing, so be cautious about doing this. My suggestion is to giveaway other things like swag, mugs, etc., instead of books. We can also do it this way. A reader will read on average one book a week, so let’s take your averagepriced book at $7.99 and multiply this by four; that is $31.96. But with you pricing your eight-book box set at $0.99, they can buy one set and only spend $0.99, and heck, they have seven more books for free. Therefore, they don’t have to buy any more that month or the next month, making you, the authors, lose $62.93. I know you’re thinking they will buy more than just one because they are only paying $0.99. But you have to keep in mind, some won’t because of the simple fact they don’t like having more than they can read. I know I am one of them. Look at it this way, if you’re in a store with over twenty different options of chips to buy, you can get too overwhelmed looking at all of the different brands and leave without buying one. So you have to keep in mind, some people like to keep it simple.

professionally done right. To any authors out there who think they can only sell their books for $0.99, you really need to look at the older authors who are selling for more. You can say well they are already established, and yes, I agree they are, but they didn’t give away or discount their books at crazy prices to get there. Nope, they got out there by working their butts off, selling themselves to the bloggers and readers. It all comes

down to marketing the right way. During our 2013 Indie Romance Convention, I asked my friend/editor WildAboutBones to host a workshop on pricing e-books. I have to admit I, myself, was shocked at how many $0.99 books Indie authors have to sell to make their money back on novels or box sets. I highly recommend all authors read the short version of WildAboutBones pricing at our website, indieromancecon.com, under Resources. It’s time you set the market straight and start making some money back.

I saw an author post on Facebook that no reader will pay more than $0.99 for a book. I am here to tell that author and others like her: that is a lie. I, as a reader, will pay more than $0.99 for a book that I know is

Hello, my name is Laurie. I’m a mom who found the love for reading again late in life. I opened a book review blog a few years back and have been nonstop since. My review blog has led me to do different things in the writing world, such as the opening of the Indie Romance Convention and this column. I live in Tennessee with my hubby, daughter, and lots of fur babies. bittenbyparanormalromance.com

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AUTHOR SHOWCASE

COVER feature

ALEXANDRA IVY January 2014 | 13


| Cover Feature |

BORN IN BLOOD In a stunning new series, Alexandra Ivy lures readers into the dark, seductive world of the Sentinels--humans outcast by their hidden abilities, treading the line between life and death, good and evil, pleasure and pain. . . In The Heart Of Darkness Sergeant Duncan O’Conner has seen it all before. Beautiful erotic dancer, murdered at home, no suspect, no motive. But there’s one clue: she’s missing her heart. It’s enough to make the hard-bitten Kansas City cop enlist the help of a necro--one of the dead-channelling freaks who live in the domed city of nearby Valhalla. It’s a long shot, but desperate crimes call for desparate measures. Lies The Kiss Of Death Unlike the other “high-bloods” in Valhalla, Callie Brown considers her abilities a gift, not a curse. But when she reads the dancer’s final thoughts, she senses a powerful presence blocking her vision. This is no ordinary homicide. This is the work of a legendary necromancer who controls souls. A ravenous force that will put Callie’s skills to the test, O’Conner’s career at risk, and both their hearts on the line. . .literally.

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An Excerpt

Valhalla had always been shrouded in mystery. Named for the home of the Norse gods, the leaders of the sprawling compound claimed that it was a safe-house for those people too unique to live among normal society.

Buy Born in Blood Amazon.com Barnes & Noble

Of course, everyone knew that was just a polite way of saying that it was a home for freaks. Witches, psychics, necromancers, Sentinels and God only knew what else roamed the grounds protected by a layer of powerful spells. For the past century, Valhalla had been a source of fear and fascination throughout the entire world, but most especially for the citizens of the small, Midwest town that could see the shimmer of blue reflecting off the protective dome that hid the buildings from view. Not surprisingly, there were citizens who called for the entire place to be nuked. The freaks were dangerous, they insisted, with powers that none of them truly understood. Who knew what the monsters would do if someone pissed them off? Then there were others that said they should be locked away and studied like lab rats. Perhaps their mutations could be used to help normal people. Most, however, preferred to ignore Valhalla and the high-bloods...as they preferred to be called...living behind the dome. Until, of course, they needed them.

Alexandra Ivy is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Guardians of Eternity series, as well as the Sentinels and Bayou Heat. After majoring in theatre she decided she prefers to bring her characters to life on paper rather than stage. She lives in Missouri with her family. Visit her at AlexandraIvy.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Join us for a convention experience you will not soon forget! Authors & Reader Cons are for authors and readers to meet one another during a fun and carefree weekend. The focus is on the reader author relationship. I want you to have the chance to meet your favorite authors in person and to be introduced to new authors that you will now want to add to your TBR pile ( I know you have one ;) Readers and authors alike are encouraged to let their hair down and get to know each other and talk about the one thing that really brings us all together: BOOKS! There are many convention options available to you the authors and readers to take advantage of, so with this in mind I have made every effort to provide a quality event with many bonus features at an affordable price. In these hard economic times, you don’t have to break the bank to attend an amazing event! Join us for 2014 where the books are hot and cover models are swoon worthy!!!! 16 | www.BTSeMag.com


A little about who I am: My earliest reading memories are from grade school. I had a major fixation with horses, and the Black Stallion was a favorite. Then junior high came along and teenage hormones kicked in, and it was all about the Harlequin Romances. I have been hooked on books ever since. I have a degree in Marketing and Business along with years of sales and customer service experience. I believe my greatest talent is thinking outside the box to find tools and ideas to improve a product’s market place position. I have taken this degree, experience and tenacity and focused it on the publishing industry to assist authors in becoming as successful as possible. I created Innovative Online Book Tours in 2012, and I utilize that knowledge and the company’s many connections and resources in tandem with Author & Reader Con’s. The two companies mesh so well together, much like PB&J. In a nutshell, I organize online book tours; I do a variety of publicist activities for authors and I also Organize 2 national author conventions. I have designed the conventions to emulate what I experience as the best parts of conventions I have attended, from both the authors and readers points of view. I am open to all suggestions and willing to make adjustments as we go so that we have the best convention possible. I would like to offer panels at the conventions that appeal to both readers and authors. There are also nightly socials events so we can mingle and kick our heels up. Of course much of this evolves as the convention is built and authors and publisher join in and request events that they would like to be involved in. Publishers: If you are interested in talking with authors and taking pitches, I offer a boardroom style setting for sponsors to use and schedule as they see fit for an hour to be scheduled into the itinerary. January 2014 | 17


ARC 2014 NOLA August 14-17 New Orleans, LA Are you ready for an awesome fun time? 3 days for authors and readers to interact face-to-face and have a great time!

A.L. Jackson & Heather Graham KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

• Badges • Swag Goody • Programs • Thursday Meet up Social • Breakfast • Lunch with Keynote Speaker and • Daily Raffles • Evening Event *Available Sponsorship for all these great items and more!

See full schedule of events here!

ACCOMMODATIONS Marriott New Orleans $125.00 Reservations can be made here.

REGISTRATION

A.L. Jackson

Heather Graham

ATTENDING AUTHORS: Shannan Albright Zoey Derrick Kris Austen Radcliffe Seraphina Donavan ML Guida Sylvia McDaniel Donna Michaels JT Schutz DN Simmons Barb Han Tonya Kappes BTSeMag will be providing all press coverage for this event! We hope to see you there!

Full Details at AuthorReaderCon.com

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Reader - $225.00 Includes: Friday & Saturday Events, Panels, Book Signing, Intimate Chats and Evening activities. You are also eligible to participate in all raffles, games & door prizes! You will receive a free swag bag full of goodies provided by your favorite authors and publishers upon arrival. Additional Sponsored events may be added. Author /Industry Professional - $250.00 You will enjoy everything the Readers receive as well as the opportunity to join panels and intimate chats. Exhibitor / New author Table $ 225.00 You will be in the center of the action with 1/2 of a 6 foot table to display your items. If you are registering as an author you do not need this option. This is for authors who want to offer their swag and books to the readers all weekend OR if you have items to sell.

For more information or to register click here!


ARC 2014 Phoenix October 10-14 Phoeniz, AZ Are you ready for an awesome fun time? 3 days for authors and readers to interact face-to-face and have a great time! • Badges • Swag Goody • Programs • Thursday Meet up Social • Breakfast • Lunch with Keynote Speaker and • Daily Raffles • Evening Event *Available Sponsorship for all these great items and more!

Jennifer L. Armentrout/ J Lynn & Quinn Loftis KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

See full schedule of events here!

ACCOMMODATIONS Crowne Plaza Phoenix $95.00

Reservations can be made here.

REGISTRATION Reader - $140.00 Includes: Thursday, Friday & Saturday Events, Panels, Book Signing, and Intimate Chats. You are also eligible to participate in all raffles, games & door prizes! You will receive a free swag bag full of goodies provided by your favorite authors and publishers upon arrival. Additional Sponsored events may be added. Author/Industry Professional - $175.00 You will enjoy everything the Readers receive as well as the opportunity to join panels and intimate chats. New author /Exhibitor table - $150.00 You will be in the center of the action with half of a six-foot table to display your items. This is for authors who want to offer their swag and books to the readers all weekend OR if you have items to sell. Exhibitor with books and swag will be located in the center of all the action in the atrium area of the convention.

For more information or to register click here!

Jennifer L. Armentrout/J Lynn

Quinn Loftis

ATTENDING AUTHORS: Kimberly Knight Kristen Strassel Lizzy Ford Andrea Heltsley Cambria Hebert Suzie Ivy Cameo Renae Courtney Farrell Valerie Eva Pohler King Caris Roane Kris Austen Radcliffe JD Shéa MacLeod Nelson D’Elen McClain Dawn Pendleton Elle Chardou Tish Thawer Zoey Derrick Donna Michaels JT Schultz Full Details at AuthorReaderCon.com

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CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL

the HAPPILY ever AFTER

Featured Authors,

REVIEWS and more

BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

January 2014 | 21


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CONTEMPORARY

& HISTORICAL | book reviews |

Marine of Plenty

A Candle for a Marine

Captain Charlie Sparks faces an impossible task—assigned to a security detail for the sister of a fallen Marine. The last thing Charlie wants is this beautiful woman in the middle of a base in Afghanistan no matter what holiday she plans to help them celebrate. But no one asked for his opinion, and worse, she’s everything he adores in a woman and more…

Tormented by the question of ‘what if...’

REVIEW: This is the second book I have read in the series and I enjoyed it as well as the first. I loved that Jana was in Afghanistan to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for marines deployed there who couldn’t be with their families. Her issues with her brother, a marine’s, death were clear and made me root for her even more.

A chance meeting at Temple brings Zehava Elbaz face-to-face with the first and only man she’s ever loved. She sees a deep and hidden pain in him, one she blames herself for...

Heather Long Contemporary Romance Heat Rating: 5

Charlie was so kind and considerate, and I enjoyed reading about all of the marines who helped her prepare the meal. The love scenes between Jana and Charlie were very nicely done. I felt for Jana when she had to go back to the states, but I liked the way everything fell into place for her and Charlie. | Reviewer: Nancy Goldberg Levine |

Heather Long Contemporary Romance Heat Rating: 4

Home for Hanukkah, Sergeant Isaac Janko has never forgotten the baby his girlfriend gave up for adoption years ago. But he didn’t realize how angry he still was.... More than time separates them....

An invitation to Hanukkah brings them together.... The two must confront their pain and loss. They have only eight days to face their past, and win each other’s trust, but it is a time for healing, reconciliation and miracles…. REVIEW: I had read other reviews of the books in this series, and was anxious to review this book. Since I am Jewish, I always look forward to reading books about the holiday of Chanukah since there aren’t very many. I was pleasantly surprised to read a novella with a Chanukah theme. I loved the characters of Zehava and lsaac. Although l did not read all of the books in the series (yet), there were references to other characters, but l didn’t feel lost when l read about them, and liked the interplay of the hero and heroine with them. lsaac’s nona and Zehava’s mother—the support system

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| CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL book reviews | for each of them. I loved the description of the synagogue in Dallas and the scenes on Chanukah in the community center. For me, it brought back many memories and connected me to lsaac and Zehava even more. The scene when Zehava shared photos of the baby she’d given up for adoption and the lead in to the love scenes between her and lsaac were very emotional and well-written. The love scenes were fiery but tasteful. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by the author. | Reviewer: Nancy Goldberg Levine |

With Men for Pieces Sophie Meredith Contemporary Historical Heat Rating: 3

It is the Fab Fifties, precursor to the Swinging Sixties. Our heroine, a newly-qualified teacher by day, a Soho Boho by night, sets off on the night ferry to France with the Coffee Bar Crowd for a weekend in Paris. Many moons later she is still in Paris, her life dramatically changed by a chance encounter on the rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré. She metamorphoses into a fashion model then a businesswoman, but her real ambition has always been to be an author. Thus her own story is interspersed with her writings as she, and they, develop and mature; pointing up her personal experiences, both blissful and tragic. The book is also an exploration of Friendship in its many and varied forms. REVIEW: Told with great sophistication, With Men for Pieces is a classic story of self-discovery and the impact of friendship. Soho Boho is the main character of the book. She is ambitious, tenacious and strong, and her colorful and eclectic journey throughout the book is inspiring and beautiful. With a romantic Paris setting and a well written story line, this book is a perfect example of a rich life with well-developed characters that stick with you. This is a definite must read! | Reviewer: Marie Haney |

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Falling Stars

Sadie Grubor Contemporary Romance Heat Rating: 3

“The haunting pools of dark chocolate drew me in and made my skin crackle. She was beautiful, breathtakingly so. Before this moment, I don’t think I truly realized just how beautiful she is. A new ache formed in my chest.” Christopher Mason, front man of the band The Forgotten. He’s hot, he’s famous and everything a famous rock star can be. But despite his fame and bad boy look, inside he battles demons. Demons so powerful they may destroy him. All hope seems lost. Slowly, his star is falling. Mia Ryder, lead vocalist of the band Hushed Mentality, enters his life. Energetic, fun, and laid-back, Mia is just about


| CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL book reviews | everything Christopher isn’t. And he definitely doesn’t want her on his tour. But one night changes everything. For the first time in his life, Christopher Mason becomes sure of one thing, and it’s the one thing he’s tried so hard to push away. REVIEW: This can be considered a contemporary romance between a rock star and an up & coming rock star that hated each other and fell in love. The relationship between Christopher & Mia was definitely not your ordinary girl meets boy, hates boy, they find a common bond and fall in love. Christopher was a troubled soul who is tormented by a childhood trauma and he discovered by being with Mia that his fears slowly dissipated, and slowly his defenses came down and they fell in love. This is not your typical love story, there are twists and a crisis that tests their love for each other. There were times that I felt the story dragged, but made up for it in different intervals of their relationship. I found myself hating Christopher, but understanding him as he tried different ways to get Mia to hate him and leave the tour they were on together, but strangely she grew to understand him and his issues and this led to them getting closer and being together.

hounds than concede he is enchanted by Elisande’s caramelcolored locks and feisty manner. After all, she is intended for his volatile older brother. Besides, Elisande’s unusual ideas and strange convictions are dangerous and he doesn’t need more trouble. REVIEW: Lady Elisande escapes her family home after she’s accused of witchcraft by her step mother and her forced upon betrothed. Both are truly evil and deserve whatever they get in revenge. Help comes in the form of Aeden who was sent by her Aunt Onora. All’s well until she’s forced to deal with Aeden’s brother Addis and the return of the ones she thought she’d escape from. It was a good read. The people you need to like, you liked. And the ones you despised, you despised whole-heartedly. It had a little bit of everything and definitely a good read and you won’t be disappointed. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

This is a edgy love story and there is a sequel, Stellar Evolution. It is a story worth reading. | Reviewer: Anita Rivers |

Charming the Chieftain Deanie Roman Contemporary Historical Heat Rating: 3

Accused of witchery, Lady Elisande Cadby must submit to the Rite of Purification before wedding Baron Warford the Brutal. On the eve of her union, she flees Cadby Hall armed with an arsenal of Pagan-rooted curatives and her ever-present comfort-stone. With grudging assistance from a formidable chieftain who unsettles her senses, she embarks on a harrowing escape across the Borders in search of sanctuary. Chieftain Aeden Maxwell would rather bed down with the

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JoĂŁo Cerqueira has a PhD in the History of Art from the University of Oporto. He had a four-year research sponsorship grant awarded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), within the field of the history of art. He covered the Porto 2001 European Capital of Culture for Arte IbĂŠrica magazine. He is the author of seven books.

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| CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL book reviews | The Gift of Love

Eris Field Contemporary Romance

Laurel, a 26 year old slightly impulsive pediatric nurse who spent her early years in foster care, dreams of having a family of her own—six children, no men in the dream. Laurel doesn’t just dream, she has a plan --stop her step-sister’s compulsive hoarding, clear out the mountains of paper engulfing every room, and sell the old house that is pushing her toward bankruptcy. As a last resort, she raids her retirement fund to go to a conference on the newest treatments for compulsive hoarding. Andrew, a 39 year old psychiatrist, is never impulsive. A reticent, somewhat austere man, he limits his interactions with people to his work. About to leave for the conference where he has agreed to fill in for a colleague, he suddenly finds himself the reluctant caretaker of a two and a half year old boy, Jamie, who is mute. Laurel views Andrew as arrogant, rude, but disturbingly attractive and Andrew views Laurel as a dangerous distraction to be avoided. Faced with saving Jamie, they are forced to work together but will they be able to put aside their protective armor and trust each other enough to let love in? REVIEW: Wholesomely sweet, The Gift of Love shows the readers a budding romance in the world of Health Care. Jaded psychologist Andrew met financially burdened Nurse Laura and, due to some surprising incidents, ended up being in each other’s company for the whole seminar. Eris Field creates memorable characters and twists the plot to endear them to the readers more while steadily tightening the rising action of the storyline. The inclusion of some pediatric and psychiatric ailments makes story both interesting and informative. Concluding the plot in a neat and with a happy ever after, Field delivers a strong, solid, and entertaining story. | Reviewer: Francine Alli |

Dancing On Air

Nicole Hurley-Moore Victorian Romance

Cinderella meets Swan Lake in this Victorian-era set story about a ballet dancer, an aristocrat, and their classcrossing romance... Lisette yearns for freedom, security and love, but none are offered on the run-down stage of The Imperial Theatre. Instead she has hard work, a tyrannical aunt, and the hope of one day becoming a prima ballerina. Dancing on the stage she catches the attention of two powerful men: Lord Gainsworth and Lord De Vale. Lord Evander Gainswith never expected to fall in love, let alone with a woman so wholly unacceptable to his family and his peers. The sinister Lord De Vale covets Lisette’s youth and

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| CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL book reviews |

strength, and is willing to pay well for it. Lisette may dance roles in fairy tales and fantasies, but the real world is about to intrude, bringing with it the harsh realities of life for a young girl with dreams of rising above the demimonde. REVIEW: Themes like illusion vs. reality and being a star on the stage vs. being a pedestrian in the street are addressed in Moore’s historical romance about a ballerina who falls in love with an English lord. Lisette Devore strives to follow in her deceased mother’s footsteps to become a prima ballerina and make good on the debt she owes her Aunt Marie for taking care of her. Lisette is tugged in various directions as three men vie for her attention while her aunt, the consummate slave driver, pushes her career on stage. Moore’s expressive language gives readers a feel for Lisette’s conflict. As a star on stage, she fosters the audiences illusions about her but as a pedestrian, she feels like an unloved and unwanted orphan. Undercurrents of deception and manipulation behind the scenes of the performances personalize the characters and move audiences to become enamored of Lisette.

emulates a cunning strategist. The dynamics of the characters relationships are true to the Regency period but told in more graphic language than what 19th century writers had used and audiences had been accustomed to hear. Censorship is eschewed in this romantic tale and modulated for contemporary mindsets, though the lesson that home is what’s in the heart remains the same one communicated in Bronte’s classic works. The author’s use of descriptive settings is on par with John Steinbeck, and the language employed in the dialogue has period expressions accented by modern phrasing. | Reviewer: Marie Haney |

Alex’s Destiny

Amy Gregory Contemporary/New Adult Heat Rating: 4

| Reviewer: Susan Frances |

Josette

Danielle Thorne Historical Romance Heat Rating: 4

Nothing would make Josette happier than to see her sister and herself settled within the palings of Beddingfield. But dark, brooding Captain Carter rides into their lives with news that ruins everything: Brother George has been lost at sea. Only Captain Carter and his delightfully spinsterish relatives can stop the Price girls from making a choice that would be the greatest tragedy of all. REVIEW: The story shares parallels with Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, an independent heroine bound by honor and a noble hero who means to dissuade her from making an irreparable mistake. It’s not a rehashing of any story from the annals of 19th century women’s fiction but rather has a modern perspective with a malevolent antagonist whose character

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Alex Sterling has devoted her life to teaching the racers at her family’s motocross racing school, and to the one man she’s been in love with since she was four. Alex is brains and innocence wrapped up in one beautiful package every man wants, but only one man can have. Dallas Hunter is a pro-racer on the motocross circuit, following in the footsteps of his father Eli. For Dallas it has always been Alex, but he’s determined not to hurt his family, even if it means letting her go. Alex finds herself caught up in a disturbing game of cat and mouse and is too terrified to tell anyone. Dallas knows something is wrong and races back home, but what he finds almost kills him. Fixing Alex’s pain is all he cares about and suddenly he must decide if his love for her is greater than his love for racing. Dallas knows he has to help his best friend, the woman he loves, and do it without tearing his family apart. REVIEW: Amy Gregory taps into the unconditional love that first-time sweethearts have no fear of expressing. She channels the voice of a young woman who knows what her heart wants; and yet, nagging insecurities continue to block her from the one man that her heart beckons her to pursue. The author has a perceptive voice and a visceral understanding of a young woman who is torn between allowing her desire to lead the way and doubting the accuracy of her compass.


| CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL book reviews |

Conversely, Gregory also channels the emotional turmoil of a young man ready to commit himself to a life-time partner but unsure of himself as a faithful partner. He is torn between devoting his time to his work and giving his undivided attention to the one woman who gives him solace. Gregory shows that she knows lover’s hearts and the insecurities that drive them apart, and she guides them back. | Reviewer: Susan Frances |

Love Unlocked

Libby Waterford Contemporary Romance Heat Rating: 3

All she wants is a fresh start… Retired art thief Eve Caplin traveled all the way from Paris to California looking for a fresh start in a small town. When she locks herself out of her home, she gets much more than she bargained for in Hudson Cleary, parttime locksmith and world famous artist. She wants to resist Hudson’s seductive pull, but can’t refuse his help when a man from her past blackmails her into stealing a ten million dollar painting. Not only does Hudson have access to the painting, he may hold the key to her damaged heart. All he wants is her… Hudson hasn’t picked up a paintbrush in two years. When he unlocks Eve Caplin’s door, the mysterious beauty arouses much more than just his creative impulses. He needs Eve in his studio and wants her in his bed. When he discovers danger closing in, he must decide how far over the line he’s willing to go to protect her. Will he lose his heart, his muse, and his freedom all in one unforgettable night? REVIEW: A good looking guy meets a woman who is easy on his eyes in this romantic tale. Although Thompson’s narration is concise and the description of her characters response to one another is instinctual and precise, the reader does not acquire a feel for their connection or their respective situations. Eve Caplin is re-inventing herself parlaying her skills as an art thief into a legitimate profession while Hudson Cleary wants to return to painting abstract artwork. Their situations are explained to the reader rather than shown. The same is true for their romantic liaison which is said rather than felt. There are long stretches of lulls where little action is happening and then the reader is overloaded with a scene changing rapidly. Eve and Hudson’s bond is mainly based on their raging hormones. They look good on paper but feel shallow to the reader. | Reviewer: Susan Frances |

January 2014 | 29


“Why can’t men be like that?” Madison Parker gestured to the television screen. “Because,” Sara murmured as she stepped into Madison’s apartment, picking her way through the clutter of empty takeout that littered the floor. “We don’t live in a movie.” Madison ignored her best friend as she turned up the sound on the television, trying to drown out Sara’s tsks of disappointment. “It’s been a week, Maddie. Don’t you think you should take off that sweatshirt?” Madison glanced down at Jeff’s rumpled NYU sweatshirt. It had been one of his favorites. One of the few things he had left behind when he had gone back to his wife. It still smelled like him, and she needed that.

January 2014 | 31


| The Flower and the Flame By Lexi Adair | From the corner of her eye, she saw Sara cross to the answering machine. “You have twentythree messages.” Sara punched her finger into the button on the machine. Jeff’s voice filtered through the room and made Madison’s heart ache painfully. “Are these all from him?” her friend asked. “I can’t believe that jerk is still calling you. You need to delete them.” “No!” Madison jumped up from the couch, nearly tripping over a pizza box as Sara’s finger inched towards the delete button. “I need those!” Sara cocked an eyebrow and then hit the delete key anyway.

to devour her. She felt Sara’s hands slip over her, gathering the folds of her sweatshirt. “Take this thing off.” Madison shot up, slapping her friend’s hand away. “Leave me alone.” Sara drew back and cocked a brow as if daring her. “You’re going to make me get out the big guns, aren’t you?” Madison let out a whimper as she flopped back down, this time drawing the blankets over the top of her, hiding beneath them. She felt Sara’s weight shift off the bed.

“I can’t believe you did that.”

“All right, girl, you asked for it.”

“I did it for your own good.” Sara waved a finger at her. “There’s nothing he could say to make up for what he did, and you are only torturing yourself by keeping them.”

Madison blew out a heavy breath beneath the blankets as she heard Sara’s footsteps fade off into the distance, and the front door slam moments later. Oh, she was in for it all right. In for a lifetime of loneliness.

“I can’t believe you did that,” Madison murmured again as a new wash of tears streamed down her face. She had shed so many over the last week it was a wonder she had any left. But her tears, like the ache in her heart, seemed a bottomless well from which she could never escape. She stormed past Sara, turned into her bedroom room, and flopped helplessly on the bed. She heard Sara’s footsteps drawing up behind her. She turned her face into the pillow, muttering into the cotton case. “I should have known he’d go back to her.” “I told you that you were playing with fire, getting involved with a married man. They always go back.” She knew Sara was right, but that knowledge didn’t help soothe the emptiness that threatened

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*** A knock on the door drew Matt away from the stack of papers upon his desk. He blew out a heavy breath at the interruption. He certainly didn’t have time for whatever awaited him beyond the door. He still had five depositions to go through before they went to court next week. He pushed himself away from the desk and stormed across his apartment to the door. He opened it to find Sara standing on the other side, a hard line drawn across her face and her hands propped up on her hips. “Whatever it is, it’ll have to wait.” Sara scoffed as she pushed past him and stepped inside without invitation. “Something has got to be done,” she huffed as she turned about on her heels to face him.


Matt cocked a brow, but there was no doubt in his mind to what Sara was referring. Madison and her married-man drama had been the topic of conversation for over a week now, and quite frankly, it was getting old. Not that it was at all surprising that Jeff had gone back to his wife. He could have told Madison they always go back, but she wouldn’t have listened. “Is she still in that sweatshirt?” “Yes, and it’s time we did something about it.” How did he get roped into this? “What’s this we business?” Sara narrowed her gaze on her brother, a warning tone that he had heard so many times in his youth vibrated through her words. “Matthew Daniel Stratford, you march your butt right on over to that apartment and help me do something with that girl.” Matt stifled a laugh. “God, you sound like Mom.” “March.” She pointed to the front door. He knew when he was licked. No one said no to his baby sister . . . no one. He turned through the open door and stormed across the hall. Sara followed silently behind him as he shoved his way into Madison’s apartment. “Run a bath,” he said as he headed for the bedroom. Sara swept past him and disappeared into the adjoining bathroom. “Maddie, you’ve got to come out of there.” When she gave no response, he gathered the comforter in his hands and yanked it clean from the bed, letting it pool at his feet. His gaze swept up the length of her. Over the rumpled sweatshirt to her mass of blonde locks to the dark smudges of makeup beneath her eyes. “I gotta tell ya, hun. This emo thing you got going on ain’t exactly a turn on.”

“Go away,” Madison grumbled as she buried her head beneath the pillow. “Not happening.” He took hold of one of her ankles. “We’re not going anywhere ’til you get out of that awful thing.” She tried to kick his hand away, but Matt refused to release his grip. She wasn’t getting away that easily . . . not again. “You going to take that thing off or am I going to have to do it for you?” Madison peeked at him from beneath the pillow, her emerald eyes alight with a wicked fire. “You wouldn’t dare.” Matt let out a muffled laugh. Oh wouldn’t he? He scooped her into his arms. Her small frame and that ridiculous oversized sweatshirt that smelled of another man’s musk cuddled against his chest. “Put me down, you big brute!” she screamed as she struggled against him. “Gladly.” Matt tightened his grip on her even as she fought him. He stormed past Sara into the bathroom and held Madison over the full tub. “You wouldn’t dare,” she warned again, eyeing the bathtub wearily. “Oh, I think you know me better than that.” Without giving her a chance for further protest, he plopped her down into the water. Madison flailed about in the tub, splashing water over the ledge and soaking the rug beneath his feet. “You jerk!” she cursed as she drew herself upright, wiping away the droplets on her face. Matt picked up the bar of soap on the ledge and tossed it into the bath water. “Why don’t you give yourself a scrub while you are in there? You smell like three-day-old Chinese.”

January 2014 | 33


| The Flower and the Flame By Lexi Adair |

Sara giggled softly from behind him, and as he turned about, he met her in the doorway. “Need anything else?”

“No,” Madison murmured, trembling beneath the onslaught of chilled air that wafted over her naked body. “Just throw it away.”

“I think I got it from here,” she smiled, resting her hand on his arm. “Thanks.”

“You sure?”

“You sure? Might need some help peeling that thing off her now.” A slow smile crept over his lips. He wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone, but he would have been more than happy to see Madison out of that sweatshirt. Not just because he longed to see those pale curves hidden beneath, although there was that. But because he couldn’t stand the reminder that she had given her heart to someone else. It had once belonged to him, so long ago. She had forgotten that now. He tucked all that inside, like he tucked away everything else, masking his own heartache beneath the cocky bite of his words. “I’m thinking it might take a crowbar and a blow torch.” Sara gave him a playful shove out the door. “Oh, I think we can handle it. Now scoot.” *** Madison dropped her hands angrily into the water. “You are so dead to me.” Sara simply smiled as she pulled a towel off the rack and held it out for her. Madison shook her head and looked down at the sweatshirt. She sucked in a shaky breath and turned her watery gaze on her friend. It was as much the heartache as the humiliation that brought tears to her eyes. “Help me out of this, will ya?” Sara helped her peel the heavy fabric from her body. She pulled the dripping sweatshirt away, water cascading off of it to flood Madison’s bathroom floor. “I’ll hang it up to dry.”

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“Yeah,” she whispered then pulled the shower curtain shut. No, she wasn’t sure, so she hoped Sara was quick about it before she changed her mind. Though she knew she should put it behind her, it was the last tangible memory she had of her affair with Jeff, and she wasn’t sure she could bear to see it go. She slipped back down into the tub and closed her eyes as the warm water chased away the chill. If she couldn’t wish the humiliation away, maybe she could wash it down the drain. *** Madison was curled up on the couch with one of her favorite romance novels with the afghan she had crocheted over the last few weeks lying across her lap. A knock reverberated through her apartment, drawing her attention from the page. Setting the book down, she cast a glance at the couple entwined upon the cover. Oh, why couldn’t real men be that romantic? The last romantic gesture anyone had made for her was the box of generic chocolates Jeff had given her on Valentine’s Day . . . right before he had taken his wife to the opera. She threw back the afghan as the knock thudded against the door again. “Yeah, yeah,” she muttered. “I’m coming.” She padded across the apartment and yanked open the front door. Sara shoved her way inside, a huge grin turning up the corners of her mouth. “Get dressed, we’re going out.” Madison blew out a heavy breath as she shut the


door quietly behind her friend. “I don’t feel like going out.” “You haven’t left your apartment in weeks,” Sara scolded. “It’s a beautiful spring day, and we’re going to enjoy it.” “I hate spring.” Madison groaned as Sara made a beeline for her bedroom. Reluctantly she followed and found her friend digging through her closet. “What are you doing?” “Finding you something to wear,” Sara called from the closet. “You certainly can’t go out like that.” Madison glanced down at her faded, tattered T-shirt and dingy gray sweats. So what, she looked like a bum. Who was going to see her anyway? She flopped down on the bed as Sara came out of the closet with a cotton halter dress in a pale pink floral pattern. “I told you I don’t feel up to going out.” “The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and we’re going to enjoy it.” She held the dress out for Madison. “You march right into that bathroom, put this on, and do something with that mop you call hair.” Madison opened her mouth to protest, but Sara nudged the dress at her again, her voice dropping to that distinctly motherly tone. “March.” Madison blew out a breath as she rose from the bed and snatched the dress from Sara’s hand. She grumbled all the way to the bathroom, but Sara didn’t bat an eye at her mumbled curses. Madison slipped out of her sweats, pulled the dress over her head, and then raked the brush through her tangled hair. Deciding she wasn’t going to be able to do a thing with it, she twisted it up and secured it with a clip, leaving several wayward tendrils to frame her face. She looked in the mirror. Yep, that was as good as it got. She found Sara standing at the open front door,

her purse in her friend’s hand. Madison eyed her cautiously as she crossed the living room and snatched her purse. “Are we in a hurry?” “No sense in wasting a beautiful day.” Sara beamed at her. Madison followed her friend out of the apartment, stopping short to lock her door. As she turned down the hall, she cast a glance at Matt’s door. She wondered where he had been. She hadn’t seen him since the bathtub incident, and it certainly wasn’t like him to stay away. Sure after their breakup years ago, it had taken some time for them to adjust to the idea of just being friends. But since then Matt had always been the rock in her life. He had always been there, through the ups and the downs as well as the break-ups and the romances. Why had he made himself scarce now? She swallowed against the lump in her throat as she walked past his door and tried not to think about the hole Matt’s disappearance had left in her heart. It was a sudden and shocking realization that even her whirlwind affair and recent breakup with Jeff hadn’t left her as empty as Matt’s absence had. What was she supposed to say about that? As they stepped into the elevator and rode the five flights down, she couldn’t help but ask about him. “Haven’t seen Matt around. What’s he been up to?” Sara flashed her an oddly suspicious smile. “Working I guess. You miss him?” Madison shrugged it off as though it weren’t important, but in truth it was. More important than she cared to admit. *** Outside the sky was a pale robin’s egg blue. A few sparse pillows of white clouds drifted aimlessly overhead. The sun was bright though there was a

January 2014 | 35


| The Flower and the Flame By Lexi Adair | slight chill to the air, the last fingers of winter trying to hang on as the season slipped away. Madison gave a little shiver as she sat down at the sidewalk table outside the corner café. She wished she had thought to bring a sweater. She wrapped her hands around her warm latte then sipped, letting it chase the chill away. “You know what your problem is?” Sara asked before sipping from her own coffee. “No,” Madison murmured between sips. “But I’m sure you’re going to tell me.” “You don’t wait for things to bloom.” Oh, this was going to be good. She just knew it. “What things?” “Well,” Sara said as she slipped a rose from the vase on the table. “Take this flower for instance. How do you think it got to be a flower?” Madison’s brow furrowed as she studied the yellow rose. “What do you mean, how did it get to be a flower? It just grew.” “It was once a tiny seed. It needed soil to nourish it, water to strengthen it, and sunlight to make it bloom.” Sara drew her fingertip softly over one of the petals before she slipped it back into the vase. Madison smiled playfully. “Have you gone off your meds?” Sara huffed out a laugh. “I just mean love is like a flower. It doesn’t bloom overnight.” “Ah.” Madison toyed with the sleeve on her coffee cup. “And you think I didn’t let things bloom with Jeff.” “I’m not talking about Jeff. There was never a chance that things were going to bloom with him. His seed was already planted in someone else’s garden.”

Madison laughed then sipped from her coffee. So maybe her affair with Jeff hadn’t been perfect, after all he belonged to another woman—not that she had known that when they started seeing other. But it had been passionate. Wasn’t that how love was supposed to be? Wild and passionate, a whirlwind of romance. “Passion is like a match.” Sara leaned across the table, her gaze settling on Madison’s down-turned face. “I thought you said it was like a flower.” Madison brought her gaze to rest on her friend’s face. “No, I said love was like a flower. But passion, that sweep-you-off-your-feet sensation is fleeting. Like a match. It burns hot, it burns bright, and it burns up quick.” “I’m not following.” “That’s what you had with Jeff. It was hot, it was bright, but it was fleeting. Aside from the fact that he was married, it would have never lasted because that kind of heat will eventually burn itself out.” “So you’re saying I need to quit playing with fire?” Madison cocked a smile. “I’m saying that you should look for the flower.” *** Even as Madison turned down the hallway of her building, she still had no idea what exactly Sara had been talking about. Flowers and fire, love and passion. They weren’t so different in her mind. What was love without passion? Sure, maybe passion was fleeting, but fleeting was better than nothing. No matter how disastrous her affair with Jeff had been, she had had it, at least for a moment. She slipped her key into the door and found it was


already unlocked. She had locked the door, hadn’t she?

It had been her who had taken that first step away all those years ago.

She slowly inched the door open, pushing past it and stepping into a garden. Madison drew in a sharp breath as her gaze swept across the dozens of spring bouquets dotting her apartment. A smile crept over her lips as she crossed to the bouquet on the entry table. Between the stems a little white envelope was tucked inside.

It would have to be her to take that first step now and bridge the distance between them. She stepped closer as she breathed his name upon her breath. “Matt.”

Her gaze trailed down the card to the signature beneath. Matt.

He leaned forward then, burying his hands in her hair as he dragged her mouth to his. His kiss deepened, hot, passionate . . . like a flame. Madison’s hands grabbed at his arms, bunching up his T-shirt in her fists, and hanging on as the overwhelming sensation flamed over her. She had missed this, the feel of his mouth against hers, the strength and comfort of his arms. It was so much more than it had ever been with Jeff because there was a familiarity here—a comfort with Matt that she had never had with Jeff.

Before her mind could process what her feet were doing, she was across the hall and pounding on his door. “Matt? Matt? Are you home?”

He pulled back then, nuzzling along her neck, nipping at her ear. “I’m sorry. I know I should have waited.”

She drew in a breath as the door creaked open and she met his darkened gaze. A silent moment drew out between them as he raked a hand anxiously through his hair.

“I think we’ve waited long enough,” she whispered.

She pulled it out, slipping her fingernail beneath the flap as her heart thudded excitedly within her chest. She pulled out the note and read the words scribbled across it. Roses are red, Madison was blue. I hear love is like a flower, so here’s a dozen for you.

“I . . . um . . .” Her words had escaped her. There was nothing she could say. Nothing that would convey the warmth spreading through her or the thump of her heart as her gaze settled over him. He was so handsome. How could she have forgotten? All these years, how could she not have noticed the desire that still burned in his eyes? She wanted to be in his arms again, to know that that was where she belonged. Perhaps where she had always belonged. Like a flower, her love had bloomed. Slow and patient until it resembled this beautiful bud between them. But she was scared. Scared to make that first step, to close the distance that seemed to loom between them.

Matt pulled back and fanned kisses over her face that took her breath away. He swept her into his arms then, kicking the door shut behind him. A slow, soft smile bloomed on his lips. With his free hand, he brushed back the tendrils of her hair. “I missed you,” he whispered softly. Madison drew in a sedated breath, the passion still flaming over her skin as love bloomed warmly within her chest. “Who says you can’t have the flower and the flame?” Lexi Adair has always been a hopeless romantic. She is an avid reader, having cut her teeth on her mother’s Harlequin romances. Her stories stem from a deep love affair with the happily ever after, although the road taken is sometimes steeped in heartache and deception.Visit her at LexiAdair.com January 2014 | 37


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Chic Trends in Romance Sandra Bunino

Your Favorite Authors’ 2014 Resolutions and Predictions Happy 2014! I love the beginning of a year. It’s like flipping open the cover of a new writing journal. It’s a clean slate of sky’s the limit! The first thing to add to that blank page is a resolution or two. To get you started, I asked five of my favorite authors about their writing resolutions. Since the name of my column is Chic Trends in Romance, I also asked them to make a prediction for hot 2014 romantic fiction trends. Here’s what they came up with . . .

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| Chic Trends in Romance |

Lynda Chance Resolutions: I’m not going to call them resolutions, because that’s a strong word and it would stress me out and I need peace and tranquility and good karma to be able to write. But I do have goals for 2014. I plan on finishing up my Redwood Falls series. They are stand alone books, but they are all centered around two ranching families in Redwood Falls, Texas. Trends: In 2014, I believe that romantic fiction will follow what the reader wants. With the explosion of digital publishing, the readers have become the gatekeepers and that’s as it should be. I think we will continue to see a lot more serials and anthologies. I also believe that in 2014, characters will come to life in social media and fans will be able to interact with their favorites. Josh and Hannah by Lynda Chance (Redwood Falls, #1, Indie Book—available now) An Alpha-Male in the making . . . Josh Turner wants Hannah more than life itself. She’s perfect and new . . . but she’s a McIntyre. She’s from the richest family in the county, and he’s a Turner, from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks. And to make matters worse, there’s no love lost between their families.

Desiree Holt Resolutions: Absolutely. I always make resolutions, although they don’t always work out. I have a new writing program, thanks to wonderful Joey Hill, called Storyist. It will allow me to fully develop my characters and my scenes and the structure of the story. I have always been a pantser but I think it’s time to add in a little of the plotter. Trends: They are so hard to predict. And trends have a way of tripping over themselves. The problem is, by the time you figure it out, they’ve already disappeared. I think if you write a really good book and work the promo scene you will have success. Some more than other, of course, but then, you can trend, promote, whatever. In the end at least fifty percent of it is luck. Branded by Lust by Desiree Holt (Night Seekers, #4, Ellora’s Cave—available now)

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Book four in the Night Seekers series. Logan Tanner is on a mission to track down the legendary Chupacabra. Part of Night Seekers, a group of former law enforcement members who’ve lost loved ones to the terrifying devil beast, Logan will stop at nothing to find and eliminate the threat. Until a complication arises—a sexy complication by the name of Rebecca Black, a recent addition to the team, equally determined to kill the monster wreaking havoc in the Montana wilderness. Bound by purpose, neither Logan nor Rebecca are prepared for the red-hot chemistry between them; the lust that’s turning into love. But hunting the Chupacabra is dangerous work . . . perhaps a task too dangerous for their passion to endure.

Mari Carr Resolutions: Actually I already have my writing “to-do” list planned through summer 2014, so I know what I’ll be writing. As for resolution, my goal is the same every year. To continue to grow and improve as an author. With every book I write and every round of edits I do, I learn something new that I apply to the next story. I’m only ever as good as my last book! Trends: I know what I hope it will be. I’d like to see more stories about mature heroines. I’m 44 years old and weary of the young, timid, “I live only to love this hunky, alpha hero” virgins. Give me a book with a strong woman who speaks her mind and knows what she wants. Status Update by Mari Carr (Second Chances, #3, Samhain Publishing—available now)

the Blue Moon bar, he wonders how the hell he failed to notice her beauty and vitality all those years ago. Laura’s confession that she plans to experience lost opportunities tempts him into joining her on the journey. Together they make up for lost time, in and out of the bedroom. But there’s one area in which Laura has no plans to change the status quo—her heart. And Bryan has his work cut out convincing her to take another chance. On him. On forever.

Some things never change. Others never stay the same. Thank God. Second Chances, Book 3 Laura Sanders thought post-divorce life would be simple. What a rude awakening to realize that after too many years as a wife and mother, she’s stuck in a rut so deep she’s forgotten how to have fun. Determined that this year will be different, she sets a New Year’s goal to rediscover the woman she used to be—the one who loved to dance, to laugh, to kiss. When Bryan Sinclair spots his best friend from high school in January 2014 | 41


| Chic Trends in Romance |

Grace Burrowes Resolution: Write the very best books I can. Trend: Scottish contemporary romances, and Patience Jackson is the author who will get the trend off to a terrific start. Gareth: Lord of Rakes by Grace Burrowes (Lonely Lords, #6, Sourcebooks Casablanca—available now) She’s caught between a rake and certain ruin . . . Felicity Worthington’s only hope of avoiding poverty—or worse— is to accept her distant cousin’s dubious bequest ...a thriving, high-class brothel. Felicity has 90 days to convince her cousin’s solicitors that Gareth Alexander has taught her the art of pleasing a man, though she’s more interested in the gentleman she glimpses beneath Gareth’s debauched airs, than in the rake he’s become. In the business of love... How much should he teach her? Gareth Alexander, Marquis of Heathgate, has little incentive to help a spinster learn to manage a brothel—except that the alternatives for the prim, pretty Miss Worthington are even worse. His resistance to teaching Felicity how to be a madam leaves Gareth wondering if the honor he’d thought long dead still survives, and if that honor allows him to yield to the lady’s ruinous scheme... and to their shared desires.

Lisa Renee Jones Resolution: To take one day a week off and remember that helps feed my writing success. Trend: I think lighter, funnier romance are coming back. We have already seen hits happening in this genre. I think the dark trend has left people craving some lighter escapes. Revealing Us by Lisa Renee Jones (Inside Out, #3, Gallery Books—available now) You’ve discovered Rebecca’s secrets. You’ve discovered Sara’s secrets. Now Sara will discover “his” deepest, darkest secrets... but will those secrets bind them together—or tear them apart?

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As far as my writing resolution, I plan to be more structured and scheduled, which means spending less time ogling pretty shoes (em, smexy men) pictures on Pinterest and more time writing. My 2014 romantic fiction trend prediction is we’ll see more cybersexy stories. From sweet stories of couples meeting on a dating site to online relationships where the couple may or may not actually meet in the flesh. Cyberspace has become part of our everyday life, so it’s just a matter of time before it spills into our romance. Cheers!

Sandra Bunino began a love of romance stories while penning a creative writing assignment in high school. The story ended with the heroine receiving a long-stemmed red rose in her locker on Valentine’s Day. Since then, all of her stories feature the hero presenting the heroine with roses. Sandra is constantly searching for different ways to achieve a heart-pumping, stomach-flipping, breath-catching reaction from her readers.

SandraBunino.com

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Be on the lookout for Dark Warrior, my new medieval erotic romance being released on January 15.


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BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

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SAIL AWAY WITH ME by Kate Deveaux

Jody knew she was in trouble the minute she stepped on board the gleaming cruise ship and into the arms of the sexy celebrity guest, Taggart Keith. For just one week, Jody gives into the seductive flames of desire. Throwing caution to the wind, she lets go of her inhibitions and indulges in one magnificent week of pleasure. Passions surge, lovers tangle and two lives will never be the same again.

A Featured Sneak Peek

“We really have to stop meeting like this.” He smiled and walked towards her down the narrow hall dotted with luggage. She laughed nervously at the cliché that was proving all too true if she was to keep her sanity. “I guess so. Well, this is my room.” She fidgeted with her keycard as he came up beside her. “Mine’s just down the hall.” Taggart pointed behind him, but he just stood there, his tall frame close to her. She looked up at him, overly aware of the scent of sandalwood, one of her favorites. Very masculine. “Mmm...coincidence,” she said, the hallway becoming smaller by the minute when he flashed that boyish smile, with one corner of his mouth raised. Cocky, but undeniably sexy at the same time. Unable to break the gaze, she tried to insert the keycard into the lock, not paying attention to what she was doing. The card grazed the slot and she forced her eyes away from his. “I guess you didn’t find your friends after all?” he inquired, leaning casually against the wall, as

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she slid the keycard all the way in the lock. Caught red handed at her own lie, she smiled down at her shoes. “No, I didn’t.” “So you can have that drink with me after all,” he stated flatly, placing his hand over hers as she held the key in the lock. Her heart pounded in her chest. She couldn’t move a muscle. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said. He frowned but left his hand on hers. “Because?” Kate Deveaux is a contemporary erotic romance writer and die-hard romantic. A former wedding planner, she has always been “in love” with love! Kate is currently working on several fictional stories – each filled with sexy romance, heroines who are no shrinking violets and heroes who make your heart skip a beat. She is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and their erotic romance chapter, Passionate Ink. Kate currently resides with her husband in Arizona.

KateDeveaux.com


The Heat Diva Nikki McCarver

Otherwordly Interaction

Sci Fi has long been a favorite of mine. The thought of other planets filled to the brim with warriors of old primed and ready to fulfill all your needs? Yes, please. I will take several. These lovely ladies have taken aliens and made them doable . . . to the extreme. Join me as we take a jaunt throughout space in search of Diva-level heat.

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| The Heat Diva |

Heat Level Destiny’s Shift by Carly Fall (Six Saviors, #4, Westward Publishing—available now) Our first stop is an alien race that was sent to Earth to protect humans. The bad part of their society was freed, and they set a course for Earth. Warriors were sent after them, and Earth became a battleground. Things really heat up when Jovan discovers his mate in the most unlikely of places. Things heat up extremely once they get down to it! Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey (Ly-San-Ter Family, #1, Avon Books—available now) I hear the confusion prevalent in reading the author’s name. Johanna Lindsey put out this amazing series about a planet full of yummy, dripping sex alpha males. All I can say to this is . . . yes, please. I would like one non-refundable one-way ticket there! Starfire by Imogene Nix (Warrior of the Elector, #3, Secret Cravings Publishing—available now) In this one, we have a very bitter human (Jemma) who I wasn’t fond of at all in the beginning of this series. These books can be read as stand-alones. The sex scenes aren’t abundant, but the ones in there are hot, and story is jumping. A must-read for sci-fi fans who like their books with some romantic heat elements.

Heat Level Mercenary Abduction by Eve Langalis (Alien Abduction, #4, Indie Book—available now) Purple Passion anyone? It is definitely one of my favorite drinks! We have an alien species that is purple but, other than that, a lot like humans. This sexy mercenary knows how to throw it down and leave you wanting your very own piece of purple heaven. Black and Blue by Gena Showalter (Otherworld Assassin, #2, Pocket Books—available now) Gena’s new series is a hit in my opinion! We have uber-sexy Blue,

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who is the resident playboy of his profession, and no-nonsense Black, who was my favorite character. When these two get together, sparks fly and the bedroom action is panty melting. This is Earthbased, but lots of alien intrigue is involved!

Heat Level The Triaxen by Ciara Lake (Siren Publishing—available now) A yummy tale about a betrayed predatorial alien who wants nothing to do with women but finds himself stuck with one anyway. This book takes place on a harsh planet, and both the hero and heroine are damaged. End result? Explosion in the bedroom when they finally come together! Dangerously Hers by A.M. Griffin (Loving Dangerously, #3, Ellora’s Cave—available now) This one jumps right into the action... literally. You start reading all about our smoking hot alien having a threesome and get the gist of the kind of lover he is. The little Earthling he ends up with is emotionally damaged, and he brings her to life... literally. It is amazing just what some smoking hot sex can do when laid down right! Ha! ....................................................... Well my otherwordly naughties, that’s a wrap! I hope you’ll give these enticing divas a second look and check out their yumminess! Until next time... Stay Naughty!

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and erotica has brought my favorite pasttime to a whole new level. After the birth of my daughter, I started learning about blogging and all the wonderful ways to share my passion for reading and dived right in. I created my own blog to share my love of paranormal, historical, dark, and erotic books. I have had the opportunity to work with many great authors and look forward to working with many more. Come Closer and look me up at: http://closeencountersofthenightkind.blogspot.com

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EROTIC | book reviews |

Break Me

Decadent Deceptions

Running is always easier.

Desperate to win Morgan’s love, Olivia Breedlove embarks on a reckless folly of cat and mouse. Morgan stays one step ahead of the woman he’s loved for years, more so when he discovers the road Olivia travels is strewn with duplicity and murder.

Jo-Anna Walker Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Tori McLeod moved to the big city to get away from her mother— and her past. Her new routine is destroyed when she meets a mysterious stranger who won’t take no for an answer. Sebastian intrigues her, but his eyes hold secrets she would rather avoid. Sebastian Chelios, a hard as nails enforcer, is a new-in-town loner. Sebastian has to have her. Control her. Possess her. But he can’t—won’t lose control, even though Tori’s innocence fascinates him. The last thing he’s going to do is love her, even after he gets her in his bed. Losing control is dangerous, especially when someone from Sebastian’s past covets Tori, putting more than just her heart in danger. How can Sebastian protect Tori from Jose’s sadistic obsession? If he gets his hands on her, will she make it out in one piece? REVIEW: Break Me captured my attention from the very first page. The twist and turns as well the story line for this erotica was amazing. When Tori McLeod meets Sebastian Chelios at the coffee shop she was drawn to the mysterious stranger. Since their very first encounter Tori and Sebastian couldn’t be torn apart until they run in an old friend. While at a night club they meet Sebastian old friend Jose and the events take a turn for the worst ever since. When Jose wants Sebastian to return to his old life style and wants Tori all to himself where would that leave the mysterious couple?

Keta Diablo Historical Erotica Heat Rating: 4

A decade ago, Morgan was a heartbeat away from taking Olivia’s virginity. Her father, Thaddeus, intervened and threatened to meet him over pistols if he ever looked at his daughter again. Thaddeus is dead now, and Morgan will not ignore the ravenous hunger he’s harbored for the woman. One way or the other, he will quench this burning desire and make Olivia his forever. REVIEW: Sizzling HOT HOT HOT! Keta Diablo’s Decadent Deceptions overflows with sensual scenes and tempting situations. Utilizing drool-worthy and unique characters Keta has managed to bring forth a deliciously sexy and compelling story by throwing together two individualistic and independent individuals and tying them together through unrequited lust and love. Amusing and hilarious confrontations with distinctive side characters, livens up the story and further twists the twisted plot. It is interesting to note that this undoubtedly alluring novel concluded in a wholesome, happy ever after note. WARNING: Some voyeurism, bondage, anal sex, and slight BDSM have been included in the storyline. | Reviewer: Francine Alli |

| Reviewer: Brenda Lang | January 2014 | 51


| EROTIC book reviews | Come Tame Me Tonya Kinzer Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Cassandra’s sharp shooting skills surpass even the men who compete and those same skills come in handy when she’s presented with the challenge of taking back her father’s ranch. She’s been gone ten years and they’re in for a surprise when she starts giving the orders and takes back what belongs to her! She also worries about the relationship she’d had with Gabe ten years ago. Can she forgive him and re-establish what they had? Or will she hire a new manager for the ranch? REVIEW: When Cassie is summoned to meet her father in Wyoming she’s not too happy about it. After all she’d not seen

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him in over 10 years. When they arrive at the lawyer’s office, Cassie and her friend Dani, actually learn that her father had passed away and left her a tiny fortune with a stipulation she wasn’t happy about and a somewhat forced reunion with the guy who was once the love of her life and part of the stipulation package her father had set up. It’s been awhile since she’d seen him, but when she goes to the ranch, he isn’t there. When Gabe came back, even he didn’t know how their reunion would go. She could just as easily have him fired and told never to come back or have a really good reunion, which it turned out to be. He even learns about the stipulation after a series of incidents. Initially, he wasn’t supposed to know about it otherwise he’d forfeit his portion of the stipulation, but after the incidents Cassi told him anyway. It had charm, suspense, shady lawyers, and vengeful former ranch hands. Good friends that cared and made you laugh, charming cowboys. Definitely a very good read and you’ll like Cassie’s friend Dani a lot and hope she gets her own story. Hopefully, it’ll be with Jess. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |


| EROTIC book reviews | Chelsea’s Somebody

Yvette Hines Contemporary Erotic Romance Heat Rating: 5

Chelsea McDaniel’s somebody was Rick Forrester. One of Lucky Valley’s sexy ranchers; if not the sexiest man that walked down main street. Ever since she realized the difference between boys and girls she wanted Rick. However, word around town was that Rick had desires that were just as dark as they were passionate. But that didn’t scare Chelsea and she was back in town and ready for him to see her as more than just the little girl he used to swim with in the lake after school. Well, times have changed. After her best friend aids her in connecting with the 1 Night Stand service, the wheels are set in motion for Chelsea to have her man. Even if she had to saddle up with two of them. Everything rides on her belief that if she can get Rick between

the sheets for just one night, he’d see her for the woman she has become: somebody that’s his. However, when she finds herself caught up in her own masquerade, she may lose him for good. REVIEW: This is another short story in the Madame Eve N1S series… Chelsea has had a crush on Rick for as long as she can remember but Rick doesn’t seem to notice her or so it may seem… Rick and his buddy, Stem, are known around town for their more risqué passions… but neither of them has even had something with Chelsea. Chelsea is encouraged by her best friend to sign up N1S, what happens when they meet up? What will happen afterwards? This was an enjoyable story that I really like the ending, it will have some saying awe how sweet… | Reviewer: Beckey White |

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Who are your favorite female and male characters from your books and why?

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| EROTIC book reviews | Misled

Kathryn Kelly Erotic Heat Rating: 5

He deals in a world of violence, sex, drugs, and crudity. As president of the Death Dwellers’ Motorcycle Club, Christopher “Outlaw” Caldwell presides over a club in chaos after the death of their longtime president and his mentor, Joseph “Boss” Foy. Megan Foy runs from her abusive stepfather, hoping for her daddy’s intervention to save her and get her terrified mother away before it’s too late. Only problem is, she soon discovers her beloved daddy is dead and the man who killed him is the man she’s falling in love with.

REVIEW: This is one of those books that you’ll either hate or love. Christopher “Outlaw” Caldwell is more of anti-hero than a hero. He’s rough around the edges and he did some despicable things towards other people. Megan Foy suffered a great deal in the hands of her stepfather. She went to find her father, her protector, only to find out he can’t protect her, too. Outlaw and Megan had to learn how to trust each other which is a little problematic since Outlaw did kill Megan’s father. I liked how it was slowly revealed why Outlaw killed Megan’s father. I also liked how Megan grew from victim to a stronger individual. The amount of violence in this book is staggering but since the whole story is set in an outlaw motorcycle club, the violence is expected. Despite that there are some light-hearted moments in the book which I loved. | Reviewer: Geri Anne Ejosa |

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| EROTIC book reviews | Loved by Wolves Diane Leyne Erotic Romance Heat Rating: 5

Penelope and her wolves have known all their lives they were destined to be together. So why won’t the Mating Ceremony work? Failure after failure is driving them apart. Then there’s Oliver, the new doctor in town and a human. Why does Penelope find herself attracted to him? Does this mean it’s time to give up on love with her wolves and move on? REVIEW: The first two chapters the author gives the reader a

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glimpse at the history/background of Penelope and her shifters at the failure of attempts to have a “True Mating” four years earlier. Chapter three reads as present day… Oliver a human comes to town…As you read it you can sense something is gonna happen or will happen… But what? This was a unique ménage paranormal story with twist and turns some expected and other not so much. Some lines in the book were humorous to read. Quirky characters that will have you wanting to devour the story… The only thing I wished was an epilogue of the story… A bit more to the ending but other than the overall story was great | Reviewer: Beckey White |


| EROTIC book reviews | Rock the Wolfe Karen Gerrard Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Close to the breaking point after a difficult year in the classroom, elementary teacher Kerri Coleson is looking forward to the summer to regroup and refresh. Staying alone at the old family homestead, she meets a man who may be as burnt out as she is. Rock star Wolfe Phalen’s world has unraveled, culminating in the bust-up of his group and the dissolution of his marriage. Even though he laments the loss of his guys more, the last thing he is looking for is an entanglement with another woman.

Though Wolfe is intrigued by Kerri’s lush curves, nurturing personality, and sensual response to his touch, his denial of what exists between them seems the only option. Could she be the woman he’s been hoping to find? Could this be the love he has yearned for and written songs about? Kerri may rock Wolfe’s world, but will she rock his heart and soul? REVIEW: Wolfe, a tormented rock star recovering at his parents place meets Kerrie who is vacationing at her family’s place. They get to know each other really well and separate for a bit so he can concentrate on his issues, but he calls her and they get back together at his apartment. It was really good, but far too short and just as you started to know more about Wolfe, it ended. They were an interesting couple and to learn more about them would be great. But Kerrie and Wolfe fit nicely. If you have a rock star moment and want a quick read this will do nicely. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

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| EROTIC book reviews |

At Last

Kathryn Kelly Erotic Heat Rating: 4

The Pirate’s Lady

Tyler James is getting married and leaving her job as Dr. Hoyt McKee’s nurse. Hoyt can’t allow Tyler to just walk out of his life and they find themselves in each other’s arms. At last.

Samantha Howard is appalled when her father tells her of her impending marriage to Britmore MacDonald, especially since she must travel from England to the Carolinas for it to happen. How can she possibly give up her lover, Tommy, the stable boy?

REVIEW: It was definitely steamy and they kind of had a complicated relationship. Because he was married and apparently in a loveless marriage, and she engaged to someone else and both basically realizing on her last day at the office that she couldn’t really walk away and he coming to terms with the fact he was in love with her and had known for some time but denied it until he couldn’t.

Brittmore MacDonald, known as Capt’n B while he is at sea, is horrified when his mother tells him of the arrangements that have been made for his marriage to Samantha Howard. When his pirate ship raids the Spanish ship she is sailing on, Samantha becomes his to take. Once he has tasted the honey of her lips, he must find a way to get her to his parents’ plantation so that she can become his wife, without letting his parents know what he does once the Merry Lady is out of sight of land.

They were good conflicted and slightly tormented characters. She the good girl, wanting to please family and him, holding on to his marriage because of his wife, who was actually jealous of her and her fiancée who was jealous of her boss. They’ll be fine once the air clears and everything is settled. It was a good read. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

Shari Dare Historical Erotic Heat Rating: 5

REVIEW: Samantha Howard has to set sail for the Americas, because out of his 12 children, she is the sixth daughter and her father could not afford a dowry for her. She doesn’t count on her ship being captured, however, by a pirate she will eventually starts fall for, and that said pirate turns out to be her fiancé who is living a secret double life on the high seas. He realizes, who she is the moment he captures her and she reveals her name, but he has to keep it a secret from his crew and also from her until the time is right to reveal all. They eventually get along rather nicely and she finally manages to get to the Carolinas. And he has to find a way once he gets home to come to terms with the fact that he’d actually kidnapped his fiancé. It had adventure, some action and fun. A feisty English heroine and a dashing pirate who tried to conceal his two separate lives. Even his first mat was funny and got a girl in the bargain. If you want fun on the high seas you’ll definitely enjoy this little adventure. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

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| EROTIC book reviews |

Buried Threads

Ariel’s Song

A disturbing prophecy sends a treasure hunting duo on an urgent race to rescue a country in Kaylin McFarren’s heart pounding new novel, Buried Threads. Full of erotic suspense and wild adventures, this is one trip that readers will never forget! Rachel Lyons and Chase Cohen work together as the successful owners of a treasure hunting company. But a seemingly simple assignment – to track down a priceless gem that is believed to buried in a shipwreck deep within the Sea of Japan – takes a starling, and dangerous, turn. Faced with a monk’s dark prophecy that a natural disaster will soon strike Japan, killing millions, Rachel and Chase must embark on the mission of a lifetime in order to uncover the three cursed samurai swords that can avert the catastrophe. Chaos ensues as their adventure takes them from shark infested waters and creepy caves to haunted hidden tombs and a confrontation with Yakuza gang members. Time is running out as the prophecy’s day of reckoning draws near. Will Rachel and Chase succeed before disaster strikes?

Colin Hoskins, famous classical violinist, is tainted by his past. Angry at life, unable to move beyond the betrayal of his dead fiancé, he’s sworn off performing or falling in love ever again. All Colin wants is to be left alone, except no one listens. Especially the pretty little assistant he can’t fire and his body burns to claim.

REVIEW: An action packed adventure, Buried Threads puts the reader in the middle of the conflict as opposed to playing the static role of observer. Every mysterious clue revealed and every leap into danger is described in poetic detail and felt by the audience. The author incorporates Japanese folklore and legends into the plot which adds layers to the treasure hunt embarked on by the main characters. After articulating the groundwork, the story evolves at a rapid pace which stimulates the reader’s senses as circumstances unfold into new situations and secrets are uncovered. Unpredictable, McFarren’s story kindles the reader’s questions about lost relics and bridges the past with the present. Elements embraced by eastern cultures like reincarnation and superstitions are brought into the story giving it depth and awareness of philosophies rooted in ancient history. A cross between Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, Buried Threads is an engrossing romantic thriller.

His friend and agent, Logan puts an ad in the paper for an assistant to help Colin… Logan want to re-launch Colin’s career…

Kaylin McFarren Erotic Suspense Heat Rating: 4

| Reviewer: Susan Frances |

Evie Knight Erotic Romance Heat Rating: 4

Stranded in a foreign country, bankrupted heiress Ariel Parks needs a job to fund her way home. Assistant of sorts to the musician she’s fantasized about for years sounds like a dream job. She never imagined the gorgeous genius would be a reclusive beast. But the real problem is the way every nerve in her body tingles at the mention of his name. REVIEW: Colin has a past that has made him the recluse that he is today… His name was sullied by the death of his exfiancée which lead to him ending his music career. He was later cleared off the charges but the mystery was never solved…

Ariel is the one that answers the ad but Colin quickly dismisses her but it is Logan who ends up hiring her… Ariel is in search of her brother and figuring out what has happened to the financial accounts … Ariel is the one that help Colin out of his self-imposed solitude. But at what costs? This was an enjoyable story to a point… There was some sections that seemed drawn out while others were rushed and too short. My favorite scene was the dinner table were everyone was sing musical songs to name, that was unique. Epilogue was a nice touch but the ending was a bit abrupt and seems clipped too short… | Reviewer: Beckey White |

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Alexis Winters rolled her eyes. Yet another polyester-bearded Santa Claus gawked at her bare legs. The straps of her what-thehell-was-I-thinking high-heeled pumps dug into her ankles as she snaked through the crowds toward Grand Central Station. Slipping the phone from her purse’s outside pocket, she glanced at the time. 7:34. Damn. She had eleven minutes to catch her train or she’d be stuck in the city for another hour. A soggy chill that only a New York City December evening could produce found its way to her toes. It wasn’t comfortable, but she sure as hell didn’t regret shimmying out of her pantyhose in the ladies room before leaving the office. The cold air swirling around her calves felt like heaven compared to the past ten hours spent in a stagnant office. Kicking up her pace to power-walk mode, Alexis pushed through the revolving doors into the station and headed toward Track 17. She took a split second to appreciate the vaulted ceilings and massive windows of one of the city’s treasures. Climbing the

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| The Train Ride By Sandra Bunino | platform’s stairs two at a time, she slipped into the closest train car with just a minute to spare. A deep breath filled her lungs as Alexis glanced around the crowded car. She was used to the regular crowd of business people on the New Haven bound route, but there was a different buzz on the train that day. It was Christmas time, which meant throngs of suburbanites flooded the city for their annual shopping and Rockefeller Center tree viewing day. She rolled her eyes at the couples and families tittering happily as she passed rows of passenger-filled seats. Scarcely an empty seat could be found in the first few train cars. The thought of listening to kids shrieking Christmas carols for the next hour made her skin crawl anyway. It wasn’t as though she hated Christmas. She only hated the preholiday frenzy. If she saw one more candy cane, reindeer or tacky Santa, she was sure she’d lose it. The sugary-sweet-make-your-teeth-hurt part of Christmas bugged her. It was one big nuisance and unless you were ten or had a ten year-old kid, what was the point? Really. A smile teased at her lips as she remembered the events from her past few Christmas holidays. Alexis scanned the rows and rows of occupied seats. Her feet ached as she continued from car to car through the seemingly never ending train. Hope of having a peaceful ride home dwindled with every steel door that slammed in back of her. She lowered her hopes to just finding a seat within a five-foot non-screaming kid radius. Pushing onward, she figured there were just a few more cars until the end of the train. Despite her frayed nerves, the gentle rocking eased her into a sleepy haze, and she was determined to find a seat in the last car. A loud clang of the handle echoed before she pulled on the heavy door. Then . . . pure silence. Her ears perked. Surely, the car wasn’t empty. She stepped into the compartment and looked around. An attendant looked up from his reading.

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“This is the quiet car, Miss,” he whispered. The quiet car? She’d never ventured far enough into the train to find the quiet car. Glancing around the compartment, she spotted only an older couple in the third row. She was about to collapse into a seat a few rows from the pair when a single overhead light switched on. Her gaze was drawn to the back of the car and directly into a set of dark eyes staring right back at her. *** Glancing over the top of the seat in front of him, his eyes washed over the beautiful woman entering the cabin. Long hair partially covered one eye and swept over her shoulder like black silk. The tails of her corporate style blouse hung loose, and the first few buttons below her neck were undone revealing the hint of something lacey underneath. She stopped to brush the hair from her face and scan the cabin. It took her all of three seconds to lock onto his stare. The racing train matched the uptick of his heartbeat as she walked up the aisle. Her eyes never wavered from his. She continued her slow procession to the back of the train until she stood directly next to his row. “Is that seat taken?” she asked, nodding her head once to the unoccupied seat to his right. “I don’t believe it is,” he said after clearing his throat. He detected a slight smile from her full lips as she hoisted the leather briefcase that hung from her arm up and slid it into the overhead compartment. A wave of heat hit his cheek, and he stole an appreciative glance at the strip of warm skin peeking between the top of her skirt’s waistband and the bottom of her untucked blouse as she stretched to adjust her stowed case.


A deep inhale was rewarded by the heady combination of lavender mixed with cinnamon. “May I?” she whispered. The breathy request pulled at the muscles in his stomach. He carefully folded the newspaper in his hand and tucked it into the seat in front of him. His gaze blazed a trail up her body as he stood. She squared her shoulders but remained within an intimate distance while he stepped around her body to allow her access into the row. He extended his hand as an invitation to the seat next to his. “My pleasure, Miss . . .” She smiled and slid past him, gently brushing her fingertips on his jacket sleeve as she moved into the row. “Dahlia,” she said while settling herself into the middle seat. Her eyes sparkled through a thick veil of eyelashes as she glanced up. “And your name, sir?”

Sandra Bunino began a love of romance stories while penning a creative writing assignment in high school. The story ended with the heroine receiving a longstemmed red rose in her locker on Valentine’s Day. Since then, all of her stories feature the hero presenting the heroine with roses. Sandra is constantly searching for different ways to achieve a heart-pumping, stomach-flipping, breathcatching reaction from her readers..Visit her at SandraBunino.com

“Tristan.” The hint of pine, musk, and pure man tickled her nose as she drank in the sight of his well-defined body wrapped handsomely in a dark suit. His red power tie was like the cherry on top of a decadent and sinful ice cream sundae. She pegged him for a financial market tycoon or perhaps a commercial real estate broker or maybe even a movie producer. The only thing she knew for sure was it would be a train ride he’d never forget. Read the rest of the story here... Please note this story contains adult content.

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Nicole Morgan

I opened my eyes when the warm breeze caressed my face. The morning sun was bright, much brighter than my head was ready to contend with. I rolled over and covered my head in an effort to try and steal thirty more minutes of rest. “Wake up, beautiful.” Jack’s deep voice came from behind me. “Ugh . . . do I have to wake up? Isn’t this supposed to be a vacation?” I protested. He chuckled and came to sit next to me on the bed. “It is. But, I think you’ve slept in long enough. It’s already past eleven, and daylight is wasting away.” I uncovered my eyes and looked up at him. “After eleven? Really?” “I think someone may have had a few too many glasses of wine last night. Which, don’t get me wrong, was sure fun while it lasted. You were giddy and frisky for hours. I didn’t think I’d ever get you to just settle down, but once we got back to the room you ran out of gas and fell asleep on the terrace. I carried you into bed.” “You are too good to me.” I smiled. “That, my dear, is my job.” He winked and smacked my bottom. “Now, get up and hop in the shower. I hear they serve an amazing lunch out on the beach.”

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| Sex and the Single Woman | “Okay. But, no wine tonight. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was drinking some sort of alcohol-laced cough medicine.” “Deal. No wine. Just hurry. I want to get out of this room and enjoy the weather. I’m going to run down to the front desk and make sure we don’t need reservations for the cabanas. I’ll be back up shortly.” I waved him off, all the while smiling as he left. The past twenty-four hours since we arrived on the tropical island paradise had been filled with nothing but carefree fun and romance. It was exactly what I needed to regain my footing and balance.

I set my small beach bag down in the cabana and stepped inside to test the soft mattress that sat just a foot off the ground. “Oooh, Jack, feel this. This feels like a cloud.” I was bouncing on it when he came to sit beside me. He was laughing when he leaned over and kissed the tip of my nose. “What’s so funny?” “Not funny, sweetheart. I was thinking more along the lines of beautiful, adorable, absolutely enchanting.”

Hopping in the shower, I washed away the day before, allowing the wine hangover haze to pour down the drain along with the water and bubbles. Since we had arrived yesterday morning, Jack and I had taken a long and romantic walk on the beach. The sand was so soft, so white, that it almost seemed unreal.

“Jack.” I shied away, trying to hide my blush.

I’d seen beaches that looked just as pretty in the movies, but never in real life. I could still feel the way my feet just sunk into the fine granules as I scrunched my toes on the warm surface. We had held hands, kissed, and for a short while, he’d even given me a piggyback ride through the shallow water.

He was doing it again—making me melt with nothing more than his words. He had a knack for making me putty in his hands. It was a fact I wasn’t entirely sure bothered me. In fact, I rather enjoyed the way he made my body feel.

We shared a light lunch on the private terrace of our villa and treated ourselves to a refreshing dip in the main pool. We’d enjoyed decadent fruit drinks embellished with fancy little umbrellas and feasted on exotic fruits until the sun got the better of us, and we took a nap in one another’s arms. With the craziness we’d faced recently with his work schedule, his delusional ex-wife, and my own insecurities, this trip was proving to be the perfect fix to an otherwise imperfect existence. Twenty minutes later, I was walking hand-in-hand with Jack on our way down to the beach. He’d reserved a private cabana for us in case the tropical sun became too much and we needed to escape. He’d also already ordered our lunch, telling me that I should trust his choice. A part of me had wanted to at least make an attempt at seeming disappointed, but the truth of the matter was I loved all of his traditionally romantic gestures. More independent-minded women might have protested, insisting to order their own meals. I wasn’t most women though, and it was nice knowing that Jack realized that as well. | www.BTSeMag.com 66 66 | www.BTSeMag.com

With his index finger and thumb, he lifted my chin and raised my face until I was looking into his eyes. “You are quite amazing. When I look at you . . . there is no end to the fantasies that flash before my mind.”

“I watched you last night as you slept. The way your chest rose and fell with every breath as the sweetest sounds escaped you while you dreamt. I wanted you so badly. It took every amount of restraint I had to not wake you up and kiss every inch of your body.” “Jack . . .” I whispered his name just as I felt the warm feel of his tongue glide against my lower lip. He kissed my neck, nibbling and slowly sucking along the column all the way to my ears. I fell back against the soft bed willingly, dropping my head back and moaning as his hands roamed my body, touching all of the spots that turned me from a shy girl into a needy woman. I knew we were out on the beach. I knew the only thing keeping others from seeing us was a thin layer of fabric which surrounded us, occasionally blowing in the wind. Any other time I might have protested. But, this wasn’t any other time. And Jack made everything extraordinary. Seconds passed and then minutes until finally he rid


me of my swimsuit. Hovering over me, I could feel his power over me, the way he breathed life into me. I opened my eyes and looked up at him just as he took me. My body became alive, and the two of us became one. In that moment I wasn’t just being loved by him, I was being claimed. I was Jack’s. It was as simple as that.

Nicole Morgan is an author of erotic romance novels, which more often than not, have a suspenseful back story. While she’s written everything from contemporary to paranormal, her leading men will more than likely be wearing a uniform of some kind. From military to police officers, she has a love for writing about those who protect and serve. From her very first novel (which turned into a four-book series) about Navy SEALs to her more recent releases, you will be sure to find a few twists and turns you were not expecting. She is a proud member of the wonderful group of gals known as Four Seduced Muses and is honored to be a part of Romance Books 4 Us Gold Authors. Find out more about Nicole and her books by visiting her website, blog, Google+ Page, Twitter, Facebook and her Yahoo Group, Nicole’s Think Tank.

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SCI FI & FANTASY

OUT of this WORLD

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January 2014 | 69


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“Come on, just a little bit closer!” Trave Macom clutched the trigger of the phase cannon as he watched the Drakon starfighter break from space and thunder into the planet’s atmosphere. The faulty navigation system had sent him deep into enemy territory. He had been hoping to escape without alerting the Drakons when two fighters had closed in on him. One he’d managed to out maneuver and bring into firing range, but the other ran hot and heavy on his tail. The Drakon ship banked right, desperate to shake him. “Just a little closer!” Trave piloted the ship with an expert hand, weaving in and out, following the vapor trails left behind by the fleeing Drakon ship. The crosshairs of the cannon narrowed on the ship ahead of him. He squeezed slowly on the trigger, enjoying each and every click as it eased back to fire with a heavy thud, thud, thud. Four neon green streaks sprung forth from the side of his ship. They ripped through the sky, slipped up inside between the fuel cells and exploded from within. A second explosion thundered around him. His ship gave a violent shiver then jerked, slamming him back in his seat.

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His gaze slipped over the warning lights on the flight panels out the casement to the skies beyond. Instead of a pink horizon choked with smoke, he saw the planet’s surface fill his view. “Kia-me,” he swore. He took hold of the column and pulled back, fighting not only the downward descent of the ship, but the weight of his own body that wanted to tumble after it. Beyond the casement the ruddy ground approached, the roar of ripping winds beyond the haul drowned out the alarms alerting him to the impending impact. The ship pummeled into the unforgiving rocky terrain, the underbelly skidding across the surface of the planet like a child’s plaything. The ship collided with the tower of red stone. Trave was thrown forward against his restraints. His head smacked the cockpit hatch; the sickening thud that reverberated in his mind was drowned out by the cries of crushing metals. Smoke billowed out from the ship’s panels. The ship gave one long, last shudder before losing all power and falling silent. The smoke rose up, clogging his nostrils, closing his throat, suffocating him with its hot, ashen breath. He fumbled blindly for the release on his restraints. Smoke continued to gather in the small cockpit as the release finally gave and he struggled with the hatch. He drew in another smokefilled breath, felt the darkness creeping in on him as he heard the sweet click of the hatch. *** Low in the mountains, the cool winds lapped at her face, stirring her midnight hair. The moonlight cast down upon her, highlighting the cobalt overtones that framed her face and making them shimmer like streaks of cerulean against a velvet canvas. Satal tucked the wayward tendrils behind her ear as she rested one boot-clad foot upon the

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rocky face of the ledge. She cast her gaze skyward. The purplish hues of the late night sky were blackened with the funnels of billowing smoke that rose from the smoldering starcraft. Below she caught movement as a body emerged from the ship. Her heart lurched in her chest . . . a survivor. Her pulse quickened as the possibilities pricked in her mind. They were here, within her reach. One part of her, perhaps the smartest part of her, told her to turn about and forget what she’d seen. Yet another part of her, a familiar voice inside her, begging for help, refused to yield. This is our chance, sister. *** Trave drew in a sharp breath, fresh air filling his chest and making his lungs burn. His head lolled back as he slumped down the charred side of his broken ship. Though his watery vision, she appeared as if from a dream. Her skin was pale, the china white a startling contrast to the multi-toned dark mass of curls that cascaded down her back. Shimmering blue locks of hair stirred about her face, framing it in a soft shadow. Was he dead? Was this heaven? Perhaps he hadn’t escaped after all. Perhaps his body was lying battered and broken in a pool of his own blood while his spirit and his mind travel heavenward, leading him to eternal rest. As she reached out to lay a soft, pale hand to his temple, his apparition became painfully real. Despite the warmth and tenderness of her touch, he was forced to shrink away from her hand as a raw ache exploded through his head. It flared behind his eyes making his vision darken and blurred. She breathed out a heavy sigh before letting her hand slip away, “Kes de sha,” she whispered softly.


He closed his eyes and could hear a clattering in the distance. I must be dead, he thought before he finally succumbed to the darkness suffocating him. ***

against a tower of cases. Her eyes were closed, her head tipped down so that her multi-colored hair covered most of her face. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, and her arms folded over her chest as she dozed.

The human lay like a broken thing on the cold metal floor. His chest rose and fell with each labored breath, but his eyes remained closed. Satal counted the hours restlessly as they past. She had managed to drag his unconscious body to a nearby storage locker before a team of Drakon soldiers arrived to inspect the wreckage.

Trave shifted slightly, reaching for the Charger at his waist.

Conflicting loyalties, those to her people and those to her family, whirled about inside her. What other choice had she? Her own people had denied her, refusing to help her. Family was all that she had left. He was her only option.

“Such a clumsy weapon,” she mused as she turned it over in her hand. “So big and bulky.”

His dark hair fell across his eyes so that all she could see was the stubble across his cheek, fanning over his chin. His skin was soft and warm and very pink, like the flowers that bloomed in the summer valley. He wore a black uniform, a flying horse stitched in the upper corner of his chest. They told her the humans were savages, but this pretty, pink, flesh and blood man looked more like an angel than the devil she had been warned of. Perhaps he was her angel, sent here by the Goddess to protect those she loved. If it had been fate that had sent him to her, then she knew what she had to do. ***

She held up his weapon, “Looking for this?” Trave shifted uneasily as she turned the Charger on him.

From this distance he could see that the safety was still on, the telltale glow of the light casting a red hue across her thumb. She smiled and with a nudge of her finger switched it active. “And armed.” Trave lifted his hands, his right arm groaning in protest. “Wait a minute . . .” She clicked the safety back on and lowered the weapon. “Don’t worry. If I wanted you dead, I would have left you for the soldiers to find.” That was probably true enough. Still, it made him nervous to have his Charger in her hands. “What do you want?” “What is your name?”

Trave opened his eyes, blinking against the fog penetrating his vision as he tried to focus on the high ceiling above him. Metal, a stunning triangulation of reflective and dull sheens rose like a temple before him. He blinked several times trying to clear his vision, the casement overhead coming slowly into focus.

“Captain Trave Macom,” he said, his voice hoarse and scratchy. “Twenty-fifth Command, United Intergalactic Fleet, and you are?”

Next to him, she was resting with her back up

She looked away, toying with the Charger in her

“Satal, Imperium cargo pilot.” “Why did you bring me here?”

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hand as if it were a plaything. “You prefer I left you to the soldiers?” “No, I . . . I just don’t understand.” Satal shrugged her shoulders. “If I left you, they would kill you. So I brought you here.” Trave blew out a heavy breath and leaned his head back against the metal wall. His head hurt, and it made his thoughts cloudy. “What now?” “We get you home.” He cast a cautious glance at her. Could he trust her? What were the chances that a Drakon would actually help him when their people had spent the last five years killing each other? “Why?” She drew in a shaky breath, “Because sometimes the Fates have other plans.” *** “This is never going to work.” Trave eyed the busy port from the shadows. More than a dozen Drakons wove in and out of a sea of grounded spacecrafts. Satal smiled at him weakly from behind one of the large pillars. “You’re not claustrophobic, are you?”

“This is never going to work,” he said again. “Trust me,” she flashed him a dazzling smile “When I give you the signal, you climb into that crate right there. You see the one marked with the Drakon seal?” He started to protest, but Satal was already walking toward one of the fighters. He moved deeper into the shadows and considered the lunacy of what he was about to do. Hide in a crate and sneak onto a Drakon ship. It was insane, but it was also the only way off this godforsaken rock. She moved with ease and confidence, casting sweet smiles at every Drakon she passed. They returned her smile but didn’t seem to give her sudden appearance in the hangar a second thought. She crossed to a tall, dark-skinned Drakon in uniform and greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Trave’s stomach tightened as the uniformed Drakon put his hand over hers. She cast a glance over her shoulder and gave him a nod. Trave took that as the signal, drew in a deep breath, and told himself it was now or never. Quietly and quickly he made his way to the crate, lifted the lid, and climbed inside. It was dark and cramped and didn’t appear to have any air holes. He prayed Satal would return, and he wouldn’t suffocate in this dark and empty box. ***

“No, why?”

Trave groaned. “You’ve got to be kidding me?”

Trave had no idea how long he had been in the crate before he finally heard voices. It could have been minutes or hours for time seemed to stand still in the darkness.

Her brow furrowed, “What is kidding?”

“Da kasta emplem ehana tu,” he heard Satal say.

“It means you can’t be serious.”

“En tu,” came the reply.

“Oh yes,” she beamed. “I am serious.”

The crate lifted, and Trave shifted with it. He couldn’t discern which way he was moving, but moments later, he and the crate fell to the floor

She nodded to one of the large crates just a few feet in front of them.

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with a heavy thud.

Her gaze narrowed on him. “Why not?”

“Anyana!” He heard Satal yell. He hoped that meant careful.

He huffed out a laugh that sent the aching to flame to life once more in his head. “We can’t take a Drakon ship to the UIF. We’d be blown out of the black.”

Moments later, he heard the engines of a ship roar to life, and he prayed to God that it was Satal at the helm. The ship shivered and shook, whirling and churning as it throttled forward and finally lifted into the air. Trave counted the moments, ticking by slowly for what seemed an eternity before the lid of the crate finally lifted. He blinked against the light, her face finally coming into focus as his eyes adjusted to the bright light of the Drakon cockpit. “You survived.” “Apparently,” Trave replied as he dragged himself from the box. He crossed the small cockpit and dropped down into one of the two chairs before the casement. Outside, the vast emptiness of space stretch out before him. He shook his head, “I can’t believe that worked.” Satal sat in the chair next to him, flipping switches and pushing buttons on the console. “I have my ways.”

“You have authorization commands, do you not?” “Well, yes, but I doubt we’d get close enough for me to relay them.” Satal withdrew his Charger from her hip and narrowed it expertly on his head. The little green light pulsed with the active charge. He blinked, staring at the end of his own weapon. He shook his head. “Should have known better than to trust a Drakon.” “It’s not what you think.” “Oh really?” He huffed out a breath and dragged his hand through his hair. “What do I think?” “That I want the coordinates of the UIF station to relay to the Imperium.”

“You are full of surprises.”

He nodded. That’s exactly what he thought.

“Now, where are we going?”

“I could, but that’s not why we’re here.”

“Milon sector, 24 mark 2.5.”

“Then what do you want?”

Her brow furrowed as her hand hovered over the controls. “That is the location of Eden Prime.”

“My sister was working at the Trian research facility on Cartilian Five when the last raid hit. I have not heard from her since. I have made repeated appeals to my Council for assistance, but they would not help me. They called her a ‘casualty of war.’ I saved your life, and in exchange, you will help me find her.”

Trave nodded. When they landed on the neutral planet, he could contact the United Intergalactic Fleet, relay the details of his failed mission, and request transport back to the main station. “I will take you to your station,” she insisted. Trave shook his head. “I’m afraid we can’t do that.”

“Even if I knew where your sister was, I wouldn’t have the clearance to take you to her.” She raised the Charger, her finger hovering over January 2014 | 75


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the trigger as a tear rolled down her cheek. “If you will not take me to her, then you are of no use to me.” “Do it then,” he urged. “Pull the trigger because even if I wanted to help you, I couldn’t.” The Charger wavered in her hand, and then she dropped it to her lap, bowed her head, and sobbed quietly. He watched her for a moment, her shoulders shaking slightly, a small whimper slipping out from between her lips. He wanted to reach out for her, to rest his hand on her shoulder, even to draw her into his embrace to comfort her. “Maybe there is something I can do,” he said at last. She lifted her head, her watery eyes searching his face. “You will help me?” “There are some people I could contact but not from here. We have to get to Eden Prime.” She nodded and punched the coordinates into the console. She lowered the Charger and slipped it into the holster at her side. *** Her Drakon authorization code granted them immediate docking clearance. She did not want to think about what would happen to her when she returned to Drakon, and the Council discovered what she had done. Whatever the price, it would be worth finding her sister. She released the hatch and climbed from the ship, Trave falling in step behind her. They headed from the adjacent hanger, wound their way through the port halls, and stepped into the sunlit city beneath the protective glass dome. “I’ll have to go to the Federation embassy,” Trave said, nodding to the towering building off the main

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thoroughfare. She followed him, stopping short of the glass doors framing the embassy. “Wait here,” he instructed. She nodded and watched as he swept through the doors, flashing his badge at the desk attendant and then disappearing beyond a set of unmarked doors. Satal watched the people of Eden Prime wander in and out of the shops and buildings that ringed the huge stone courtyard. They all seemed oblivious to the harsh realities in the black beyond their own world. A twinge of jealousy stabbed at her heart. How easy life here must be, no death, no destruction, no causalities of war. “Satal?” She turned at the mention of her name to find a uniformed human crossing the distance to her. “If you’ll come with me, Captain Macon is waiting.” She reached for the Charger at her hip, only to find the holster empty. It lay on the console of her ship following Eden Prime’s strict rules on weaponry. She nodded at last and stepped through the doors of the human embassy. She followed her escort down a long and twisted hallway, unmarked doors flanking either side. Finally he paused, opened one of the doors and she followed him inside. She cast a glance around the empty room. “Where is Trave?” Her escort said nothing as he turned, stepped into the hallway, and slammed the door shut behind him. Satal jerked on the door handle and found it


locked. She pulled and pulled, but still it would not budge. “En Yu Kian!” she swore as she beat on the door with her fists. Tears welled in her eyes. I trusted him, she thought as her throbbing fists gave way, and she ran her hands helplessly down the cold metal door. *** “You can’t do this!” Trave bellowed as he slammed his fist on the Admiral’s desk. “We appreciate your assistance Captain Macom. The Federation will take it from here.” The Admiral’s voice was cool and distant, his gaze never lifting from the datapad in his hands. “Eden Prime is neutral territory. You cannot hold her prisoner. She has done nothing wrong, and you are violating the Eden Directive!” “That will be all, Captain!” At the Admiral’s harsh bark, Trave turned and stormed out of the office. That wouldn’t be all, not if he had anything to say about it. *** Satal had no idea how long she had been locked inside the cold and sterile room. She guessed it had been hours, judging by the number of UIF personnel who had come and gone. They had interrogated her with question after question. She had remained rigid and silent, refusing to show them the slightest hint of weakness despite the tears that wanted to fall. They had left her alone again, nothing but her and these four blank walls. She slumped down onto the floor, curled up, and wrapped her arms about her knees, hugging them to her. *** Trave watched the parade of UIF personnel come

and go from the isolation cell. It had taken him nearly an hour to find her, even longer to work his sources to get the information he desired. He waited for the last round of officials to disappear down the hallway before he approached the door. He didn’t have clearance to access the control panel, so he was going to have to do this the oldfashioned way. If he got caught, it would mean the end of his career, possibly the end of his life as he served his remaining years behind bars. But he had to do it. He owed her that much. She had risked her life to save him, and now it was his turn to return the favor. He slipped the knife from his pocket and carefully unscrewed the door control panel. Finding the red wire, he slipped the knife underneath it and sent up a silent prayer before slicing it in half. With any luck, it would register as a malfunction on the system, and they would have several minutes before anyone arrived to investigate it. He pushed open the door and found Satal huddled in the corner. She didn’t bother to look at him, her head only slowly rising at the sound of his voice. “Satal.” Her watery eyes narrowed on him and she huffed out a harsh whisper, “I trusted you.” “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” It was the only apology he could offer. “Please,” he said, holding out his hand for her. “We only have a few minutes before they get here.” “I’m not going anywhere with you.” “Satal, please,” he begged. “I have the information about your sister. If we can just get you out of here, you can go to her.” “Why should I believe you?” He slipped the bag he’d been carrying off his shoulder and tossed it across the room to her. “Put these on, we have to get you out of here.” January 2014 | 77


| Escaping Eden By Danielle Devon | Reluctantly she reached for the bag, opened it, and pulled out a UIF flight suit. “Hurry, we haven’t much time.” “Tell me where my sister is.”

on him in unison. “Go, now!” “I can’t leave you to them,” she cried. “I’ll be fine. Now go, before it’s too late.”

“She is in the Derium sector on a small planet called Jadren. Hurry, please.”

Satal cast a glance at the Chargers narrowed on them. “Thank you,” she whispered as she slipped into the cockpit and lowered the hatch.

She seemed to consider this, taking longer than was safe. He knew they would be coming for them any minute. Finally, she rose and slipped into the flight suit, zipping it up over her clothes.

A barrage of Charger fire exploded in the air around them. Trave dropped to the ground and watched the Drakon ship whirl to life and explode from the hanger.

“Come on,” he urged, taking her by the hand and drawing her out the door.

As the Charger fire ceased, useless against the well-armored ship, a UIF guard dragged him to his feet. “Captain Macon, you are under arrest.”

They rushed down the hallways, she ducking her head and avoiding the gaze of every UIF personnel they passed. As they broke free from the building, the whine of the alarms ringing out through the courtyard sent every head turning in their direction. “Run!” he yelled as they thundered through the crowd. He could hear the shouts of the UIF guards echoing down the hallway behind them as they fled across the hanger to the waiting Drakon ship. Satal scrambled up into the cockpit, Trave hesitated on the ground behind her. She turned, offering him her hand. He slipped a piece of paper into her awaiting palm. “Those are the coordinates. Your sister is well. In fact, she is working for a private sector organization.” Satal glanced down at the coordinates on the paper. “Come with me,” she whispered. Trave shook his head. “You know I can’t.” The UIF stormed into the hanger. A dozen Chargers drew

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Trave drew his hands behind his back, the heavy restraints locking around his wrist. “Why did you help her?” “Because.” He smiled. “Sometimes the Fates have other plans.”

Danielle Devon is a multi-published author who has settled comfortably into her unique realm of science fiction and fantasy romance. Her writing has been hailed by reviewers as “darkly poetic”, her stories “vividly painted with a colorful canvas which comes to life before your eyes.” She lives in the beautiful Northwest with her husband and children. Visit her on her website at authordanielledevon.com


PARANORMAL & SUSPENSE

BEYOND the EXPECTED

Featured Authors,

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BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

January 2014 | 79


The Scrying Eye Kelly Hudson

Mysteries and Mayhem Winter spreads its wings and flaps its cold winds upon us. So come inside, warm yourselves by the fire, and prepare your mind and soul for what The Scrying Eye has to reveal on this visit.

Fantasy/Science Fiction The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard (Strange Chemistry— available January 7, 2014) is the story of a young girl named Riven, who comes from a warravaged world. Tough as nails and a Legion General, she has rank and privilege. And then she is sent on a mission by Prince Cale to find his long-lost brother, Caden. This journey will take her to modern-day Earth, and this is where her real troubles begin. Family betrayals, royal coups, and reanimated Vector soldiers sent to kill her are but some of the obstacles she must face in her race to return Caden to his proper place. Will Riven succeed or will she fall victim to the dark forces around her? The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #1, Tor January 2014 | 81


| The Scrying Eye | Books—available January 14, 2014) is the tale of the children of the Emperor of Annur and how they deal with the murder of their father. Kaden, the apparent heir, has been gone for eight years, learning the discipline of the monks of the Blank God. His sister, Adare, Minister of Finance, encounters a religious conspiracy that may be behind her father’s death. Brother Valyn is training to be a Kettral warrior when a series of “accidents” nearly kill him. Convinced he is next on the hit list, he seeks the aid of his family. Will the children of the Emperor get to the bottom of this mystery, or will the mystery consume them as it did their father?

Crime/Mystery

Horror!

Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke (Minotaur Books—available February 11, 2014) is the story of two police investigators, Felicia Stone from Richmond, Virginia, and Odd Singsaker from Trondheim, Norway. In Virginia, the corpse of a flayed museum curator is discovered. In Norway, the archivist of a library is found murdered. Both murders seem to be somehow connected, even though they are half a world away from each other. A sixteenth-century journal of a serial murderer in Norway is the link, a journal bound in human skin. Can the two investigators find the truth about the killings or will their investigations lead to them become future victims?

The Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand by Jim Algie (Tuttle Publishing—available February 4, 2014) is a collection of horror stories centered on the country of Thailand. A photojournalist is haunted by every person he used to climb to the top of his profession. An executioner explores deplorable violence in order to find kindness. And a former drug trafficker confronts an old partner in crime. These characters will confront demons, both literal and figurative, in their attempts to free themselves from the trials that surround them. Add to it the lush background of Thailand, and you have several tales of unique and unsettling horror.

The Ascendant: A Thriller by Drew Chapman (Simon & Schuster—available January 7, 2014) is the tale of Garrett Reilly, a man with a knack for numbers. He sees patterns that no one else can see. And when he notices that two hundred billion dollars’ worth of US Treasury bonds being sold off at a fantastic rate, he finds himself the most wanted man alive. America is in danger from a merciless enemy that no one can stop except Garrett Reilly. But is Garrett strong enough and fortunate enough to be able to get the job done, or will the enemy take him down and with him, all of America?

The Summer Job by Adam Cesare (Samhain Publishing—available January 7, 2014) features Claire, an alternative girl looking for an alternative to the boring world she lives in. She’s looking for a new job, a new life, and a new way of being. She finds a summer job at a hotel where she thinks she finds all the answers to her needs, only to realize that the hotel has evil motives. To top it off, she gets mixed up with a group of local young people and runs afoul of a sinister cult. Now the two worlds are colliding, and Claire must figure out not only how to stay alive but also how to solve the mystery of the hotel and the cult.

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And there we have it, dear followers! Several books across several genres guaranteed to thrill you, amaze you, and maybe even scare you. The Scrying Eye closes in need of rest and to comb the cosmos, its ever-roving eye looking into every dark corner, behind every bright sun, and under every rock to find only the best for you. Time to bundle up and head out into the world, to face the icy winds and the annoying consequences of winter. But soon, the Eye will open again, and all your needs will be met. Good night and farewell!

Kelly M Hudson is the author of two horror novels and dozens of short stories, including a piece in the recent D.O.A. II collection by Blood Bound Books. You can find links to all of his works by visiting www.kellymhudson.com if you dare!

Until the next

Scrying Eye...

January 2014 | 83


EMBRACE THE MYSTERY by Caris Roane

As ruler of his realm, Master Vampire Quinlan shuns permanent relationships. But when his lust takes him to Batya’s bedroom and an ancient fae attacks, he launches into protector mode and finds himself embroiled -- body, soul, and fangs -- with a woman he’d only meant to conquer then leave.

The Inside Scoop

Why I Wrote the Blood Rose Series: Vampires fascinate… Vampires fascinate me, their strength, heightened abilities, aversion to sunlight, and deep, perpetual need for the blood of others to survive. In writing the Blood Rose Series, I tapped into the idea that paranormal entities are essentially beings with exaggerated qualities that we all have as humans, which for me makes vampires relatable. And the thrill comes from the correlation between what it is to be vampire and what it is to be human – being strong enough to survive, developing a variety of skills to do well in life, managing the hard truths of existence and mortality, and being interdependent with each other without suffocating or abandoning the ones we love.

from the vampire world of the Nine Realms. She has no interest in returning to her birth realm. The last thing she wants to be is a blood rose. As for the hero, he’s never had a long-term relationship in his entire life and now he’s supposed to be tied to one woman forever? Neither wants this commitment-fraught relationship, yet they just can’t seem to stay away from each other. And the moment she chooses to fulfill his critical need, the earth trembles and the heavens part. Vampires forever… Vampires have been part of our culture for decades and will continue to enthrall us with their fangs, strength, and at times absolute sexiness. Let the Blood Rose Series become a new journey for you!

Vampires use their fangs… In the Blood Rose Series, of which EMBRACE THE MYSTERY is the third installment, I asked the questions: what if only one woman could take care of the chronic blood-starvation needs of a master vampire? How would this woman feel about being the ‘only one’ who could end the suffering of a vampire? Would she despise the job or really take to it? And what of the vampire? Would he resent that such a woman, by definition, could have power over him? That he might crave her, sacrifice for her, battle for her?

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Caris Roane has published fourteen paranormal romance books, both as an Indie author and with St. Martin’s Press. She has also published over fifty Regency romances with Kensington Publishing and is currently re-issuing her backlist. Be sure to sign up for her newsletter at www. carisroane.com.

Vampires have critical needs… The heroine of EMBRACE THE MYSTERY enjoys the life she built for herself as an artist completely apart

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CarisRoane.com


PARANORMAL

& SUSPENSE | book reviews |

The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love Erin Quinn Paranormal Romance Heat Rating: 4

Roxanne Love’s near-death experiences have put her on the radar of a Reaper determined to uncover the secret of her immortality and cut it at the source. Disguised as a human, the Reaper isn’t prepared for the emotion that comes with the body. Now he finds that the woman he came to kill is the one person he’s willing to die to protect. REVIEW: There is only one word to describe this first book in a new series – amazing! Proving that love knows no bounds, the romance of Santos and Roxanne is beautiful. From the darkness of evil to the revelation of humanity and the power of emotion, their journey to happiness is met with seemingly impossible obstacles. It’s their faith in one another, however, that keeps them alive, together, and thriving. Dark, passionate and moving, this story is more than just a book – it’s a well written emotional adventure that’s well worth taking. | Reviewer: Marie Haney |

Darkness Rises

Dianne Duvall Paranormal Romance Heat Rating: 3

Krysta is used to getting the drop on vampires. Her “special abilities” aren’t much, but the plan is simple — she plays helpless pretty young thing to lure them in. Then her shoto swords come out and it’s bye-bye, bloodsucker. Until one night she finds herself with an unexpected ally. He’s a vampire, all right, but different. Mysterious. Handsome. And more interested in saving her skin than draining it. Étienne has been an Immortal Guardian for two hundred years — long enough to know that Krysta is special. He can’t stop thinking about her long legs, even more than her short swords. Then he discovers the vamps she’s exterminating have friends in high places, and the Guardians are in danger, too. He’ll have to accept Krysta’s help to save them. The stakes for a mortal are high. But the cost to his heart might be higher . . . REVIEW: This book was absolutely brilliant. I enjoyed it immensely, and I am absolutely chuffed that I got to review it. The story line is about vampires, but like all good books it has a unique twist. However, the twists don’t always work out in some books, but in this case I have to say that it was perfection and it worked wonderfully. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series…as soon as I get the chance. Brilliant!! I love the characters, some more than others but I do adore them. I’m keen to learn more about the other characters they do intrigue me. I’m a massive vampire fan ever since I was 9 and I watched blade so I am hard to please when it comes to this genre, and this book did not disappoint. I really do recommend this to vamp lovers around the world. Enough LOVE! | Reviewer: Nila Bi |

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THE FIVE DEATHS OF ROXANNE LOVE by Erin Quinn

Roxanne Love’s ability to defy death has drawn the attention of the darkest creatures of the Beyond, including the Reaper determined to destroy her. On the run, her only ally a compelling, dangerous detective hiding secrets of his own, Roxanne finds she’s drawn to his quiet strength and heated touch. But can she trust him? Incognito as guilt-ridden cop, Santo Castillo, the Reaper’s plan is simple: get close to Roxanne, uncover the secret of her immortality and cut it at the source. Yet with his borrowed body come emotions the Reaper hadn’t expected. Now nothing is clear but his conflicted desire to protect the woman he came to kill. As destiny forces them to face an enemy hell-bent on using Roxanne to wipe out all of mankind, she and Santo must choose between love....and salvation.

A Featured Sneak Peek

Something flickered in the black depths of Santo’s eyes and then it was gone, leaving Roxanne feeling oddly cheated. He caught a strand of her hair between his fingers and his thumb and rubbed it with a look of absorption that echoed through her body. Then his hand was on her throat, then her jaw, cupping her head as he pulled her in. There were a thousand reasons she should resist him, a million why she should scramble off the bed and put as much distance between them as possible. But before his lashes lowered, she’d seen something raw and aching in his eyes. Something that reflected the loneliness inside of her. A part of her had given up on intimacy long ago. She scared most men for reasons she didn’t understand and thus couldn’t change. Something they sensed in her, about her, that sent them on their way before they ever got close. But Santo seemed immune to whatever it was that frightened the others. More than that, he seemed captivated by it. He searched her face, giving her time to back out. Common sense urged her to take it, but his touch had lit a fuse that hissed and sparked. It took forever for him to close the distance between their lips. Forever, while her heart thumped excitedly and her breath caught with anticipation. Then his mouth touched hers. His kiss felt like fire in the middle of the darkest winter. Hot and welcoming, it burned in her blood and flared with her pulse. She couldn’t get close enough, and it seemed that neither could he. The blankets had tangled around her hips,

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and they both tried to free her without breaking the kiss, fumbling. Clumsy. So desperate that each failed attempt added to the spice. The taste of him set off a chain of reactions she’d never known. It made her ravenous for more. She wrapped her arms around his neck, wanting to shed clothes and press her skin to his. From somewhere in the distance, an eerie sound rose up and banked against the window, piercing the sexual haze that drove her. A cross between a bay and a shout, it howled like a northern wind. Immediately, Santo stiffened and his eyes narrowed as he listened. “What is that?” she asked. He closed his eyes and his shoulders slumped. “You better get dressed.”

Erin Quinn is an award winning author who writes haunting romance for the thinking reader. Her books have been called “riveting,” “brilliantly plotted” and “beautifully written” and have won, placed or showed in the Booksellers Best, WILLA Award for Historical fiction, the Orange Rose, Readers Crown, Golden Quill, Best Books, and Award of Excellence. Look for Erin’s latest release from Pocket Books, THE FIVE DEATHS OF ROXANNE LOVE, available now. Go to www. erinquinnbooks.com for more information.

ErinQuinnBooks.com


| PARANORMAL & SUSPENSE book reviews | An Unlucky Moon Carrie Ann Ryan Paranormal Romance Heat Rating: 4

Hunter’s spent the past 4 years in hell as a wolf battling for his life. Now he’s free and found his mate, Becca. Between the Pack’s council and strangers who could take everything away from them, Becca and Hunter have more to fight and everything to fight for. REVIEW: Despite having not read anything of the rest of the series, I found myself swept up in the characters remarkably quickly. Two Fated lovers, one a werewolf eager to do anything to join with his mate and keep her safe, and a (mostly) human

woman, trying to work out who she is now that she has been caught up in world of the paranormal. Previous books seem to have covered the stories of others of the lightning struck, women brought together when they were hit by lightning and survived. Now it is Becca Quinn’s turn. An interesting woman, she is terrified by a spider but handles drunk patrons of the bar where she works with ease and verve. Totally believable and with more story to tell, I quite liked this character and found her reluctance to dive right in to this completely different world, believable and best of all, she was not hard as nails nor a complete walk over. Hunter Brooks (an appropriate name for a werewolf) is also believable with definite animalistic instincts held in check by his concern for Becca. Although the words to describe body parts were frequent and a bit earthy for me, the love scenes were just that, loving. They had humour and delight, and I found myself looking up the past books and looking forward to the next ones. | Reviewer: Karen Fainges |

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ENDURANCE

by T. J. Blake

London is silent. What once was a lively city is now a murderous grave, enclosed in smoke and ash. The cause of the destruction is unknown. Left haunted and terrified, survivor Tom confronts the mutilated streets fighting to uncover the truth. Could he be the last hope to restore normality?

A Featured Sneak Peek

A man sat slumped with his back against the wall, injured and staring at the last flickering light, at a vandalised station on the London Underground; the bricks and tiles scattered across the floor. The bloodstained walls have made it unrecognisable. No one else was around. He sat in the corner of the stop, deeply hidden within the shadows. The entrance was barricaded with collapsed concrete and bricks. Specks of dust floated down from the ceiling onto the ground and covered the man in a sheen of white. Complete silence was occasionally interrupted by loud screams from above, mostly from women and children. As the screaming stopped, murmuring and deep roars began. The sounds were not completely clear, but resembled a heavy smoker clearing his throat. The man emptied his pockets; a wallet was all he had; it contained only a bank card and driving licence. Tom was thirty-years old, with roughed-up black hair and stubble on his face. He wore a suit that had seen better days. His shirt was covered in blood and there was a deep gash on his shoulder, with blood trickling slowly down and further staining it. As he stared at his driving licence, he inhaled and exhaled wearily, and mentally went over the events leading to his current circumstances... Today’s been hard. How could a day go from being so good to so fucked up so fast? I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. How am I going to get help?

his injured leg, fell into the wall and slid onto the ground. Blood dribbled from a wound on his leg; it had been oozing blood for some time now. Trying to shake off the pain, he slowly and carefully pushed himself upright… He placed his palms on the grimy wall and pulled himself to his feet. He stepped away from the wall and stood upright, facing the tunnel. Clenching his shaking fists, he began to walk toward the tunnel. As he stumbled past the corpse, the shadows wrapped around him; dragging him in. He disappeared into the darkness…

T. J. Blake was born in Guildford, England in 1993. He currently lives in Surrey and studies at Kingston University. ‘Writing is a powerful tool especially Creative Writing. It gives you the freedom to create a whole new world inside your mind and your readers.’

Tom slowly rose. Dust fell from him, creating a smoky atmosphere. He choked. In pain, he clutched

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tjblakeauthor.wordpress.com


| PARANORMAL & SUSPENSE book reviews |

Saving Kat

Ella Grey Paranormal Romance Heat Rating: 3

Adam Reece, Alpha of The Black Paw Pack, follows all the rules but he can’t resist teasing Katherine Moon. Pack law frowns on wolves and witches mating so the resident Earth Witch has become his friend and confidant, nothing more. Life is good. Kat’s blessed by the Goddess who connects her to the earth and the wolf pack she watches over, even the Alpha who only seems happy when he’s pestering her. But she wants more—namely the forbidden attention of a certain steadfast Alpha with a boyish grin. Too bad crossing that line

isn’t an option. When a tragic accident threatens to steal her from him forever, Adam must make the hard decision—save Kat or lose her forever, even if she never forgives him. REVIEW: So I found this book a little hard to get into, it took me a while to get adjusted to what I was reading. It started off a little boring but then I began to enjoy the short read. This is full of a teasing romance which makes you smile as you read. Which isn’t a bad thing right? I just wish the book had started a little bit more upbeat and captured me straight away, which it failed to do as I kept getting distracted by other things and was kind of glad that it wasn’t such a long read. Some books I look forward to reading after page one, this wasn’t one of them. I’m glad I finished it though, it was a nice read and I finally began to love the main characters and I’m looking forward to reading more installments in this series. | Reviewer: Nila Bi |

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SAVING KAT

by Ella Grey

Adam loves teasing the Pack’s witch, but when a tragic accident nearly takes Katherine’s life, he realizes the true depth of his feelings. Now he must make a difficult decision: change everything and save Kat or lose her forever, even if she never forgives him.

A Featured Character Interview

Interview with Adam Reece

I’m the current Alpha to the Black Paw Pack. We’re based in the Rocky Mountains.

own and even if she can’t shift, Katherine is one of us, especially after her mother died and she took over her role. I usually see her every morning; my day isn’t complete without teasing her, at least a little. One day she’s going to follow-through on her threat to change my fur pink.

2. How does someone become an Alpha?

5. It sounds like you like her?

There are two ways, in the Black Paw Pack the role is passed down through the family. The role belonged to my father. The other way is the Alpha being challenged for the position. This is what actually happened. A Shifter called Carlos Rivet challenged and murdered my father. I killed Carlos. It isn’t something I’m proud of. I slipped into the berserkers rage and when it finished, well there wasn’t much of him left.

I do, Katherine is unique, beautiful and smart but if you tell her that I’ll deny it. The thing is relationships between witches and wolves, well it’s forbidden. In the end, she’s my confident. The one person I can truly be myself with. It makes it complicated, since even if she felt the same, well we can’t do anything about it. Not without consequences.

1. What can you tell me about yourself?

3. Are you close to anyone in the Pack? My sister Jesse. My best friend William, unfortunately he hasn’t been well for a while. There’s also Katherine Moon, she’s the resident pack Earth witch. The truth is as the Alpha I’m close to everyone. It’s the sign of a good Alpha to be able to listen to the worries of his Pack.

Ella Grey likes to tell stories which feature very human characters, even if those characters sprout fur or who can conjure fire with a click of their fingers. She currently lives in the UK with her son, partner and a demonic cat.

4. Have you guys known each other long? Yeah, we were both born into the Pack. Besides her mother, she was the only witch. We look after our

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CarisRoane.com


| PARANORMAL & SUSPENSE book reviews |

Darkness Bound

Lorienne Walk Paranormal Romance Heat Rating: 4

Sarah’s twenty-fourth birthday looks like it’s going to be a washout, until she receives an inheritance from the parents she can barely remember. There are strings attached, however. The huge family estate holds secrets as well as memories, and then there’s Grimalkin, a sexy vampire who claims to be her slave. But is Sarah fit to be his master? While they play games of dominance outside forces are at work, seeking to deny Sarah her birthright, and her very life. And the creature she commands might very well be her downfall. REVIEW: Sarah Berkley was a “faded woman in a faded life”. She has just turned 24 and despite chiding by her friends, she is feeling like nothing is worth doing except keeping up her shooting skills. Then she gets a letter saying she had inherited a great deal more. Told in the third person, a welcome change in vampire books, Sarah is led by fate, maybe a little too strongly. It works for her though and she meets all comers with aplomb. The other main character is the only other character that comes into hard focus as if the whole world centers around those two. This book would lend itself well to an action series not dissimilar to Buffy, though in its later series as it is a little raunchy, though not out of character. At seventy five pages, it isn’t deep and meaningful, but it is a good read for an afternoon. | Reviewer: Karen Fainges |

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You are cordially invited to a Valentine’s Day Party February 14, 1913 Eight o’clock in the evening At the beach home of Jeb and Shelby McAlister In St. Augustine, Florida Priscilla squealed with excitement as she danced in circles, delighted to receive the coveted Valentine’s Day party invitation hosted by her friends, twins Jeb and Shelby. Priscilla, along with everyone else fortunate enough to attend, looked forward to this annual party of the season. The tradition started several years ago when Jeb and Shelby’s parents wanted society to mingle with their teenage children on Valentine’s Day in hopes of finding good matches for their twins among the children of their wealthy friends. Everyone anticipated an engagement between Priscilla and Jeb. In fact Priscilla let Jeb kiss her on the beach at last year’s Valentine’s Day party. Although she’d hoped for a proposal last year, she understood the delay since he and his twin sister, along with their parents, departed for Europe a few days after last year’s party. Priscilla worried why he never wrote to her during this last year. She feared Jeb’s parents would try to marry him off to a lady of nobility during their Grand Tour. She read the social pages every day and felt thankful to hear no news of him. Her heart would break if she learned Jeb got engaged to another woman. It didn’t surprise her to not see him since last year. The McAlisters lived in Philadelphia, while Priscilla and her family lived in New York. But like most wealthy families, they spent their winters in Florida. They took the Florida East Coast railroad to St. Augustine, Florida and stayed in the luxurious Ponce De Leon Hotel. Since the beaches in Florida were so beautiful, many wealthy families built their winter homes here, including

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| Silicon By Terri Talley Venters | the McAlister family.

your beautiful red gown,” Madeline said.

Valentine’s Day finally arrived, and Priscilla arrived at the McAlisters’ enormous beach home located on the inlet leading into St. Augustine. Her full-length red satin gown would normally appear inappropriate on an unmarried woman, but her mother acquiesced and allowed Priscilla to borrow it for this special evening.

“Madeline and I were just discussing how the tragedy of so many lost souls on the Titanic increased my business last year,” Matthew said.

Priscilla walked up the steps to the party and felt breathless at the sight of everyone wearing their finery—the women in beautiful gowns and jewels and the men in coats with tails and top hats. She entered the beautiful home and fantasized about her future with Jeb. She pictured herself wearing the latest fashions from Paris, adorned with diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires, depending on which gown she chose. But the best part about her fantasy life was the title of Mrs. Jeb McAlister. She entered the enormous ballroom and immediately searched for Jeb. She took the glass of champagne handed to her by a servant but ignored the scrumptious buffet meticulously laid out in the formal dining room of the mansion. She knew eating like a field hand repulsed most gentlemen, along with her waistline. She saw many of her friends which delighted her, but she saw no sign of any of the McAlisters. “Priscilla, darling, how wonderful to see you. Have you met Matthew Oxford of Boston?” Madeline asked, kissing her cheeks to greet her friend since childhood. “Of course, I remember Mr. Oxford. How do you do?” Priscilla asked. She raised her gloved hand and allowed him to kiss the silken fabric protecting her delicate fingers. “How do you do, Priscilla? How wonderful to see you again. I was just telling Madeline how sorry I was to hear about her husband who went down on the Titanic last April,” Matthew said. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Madeline. And how unfortunate I must again compete with the beautiful Madeline Astor. How can I possibly land a fine husband when every eye is on you tonight?” Priscilla said. “Thank you, Priscilla. But I’m afraid you outshine me in

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“How interesting. It’s good to hear something positive derived from such a tragedy,” Priscilla said. She tried to hide her shock to hear a man discussing business in front of ladies. But his breach of etiquette reminded her of Matthew’s nouveau riche status. “Mr. Oxford makes headstones for a living, and his father owns a granite quarry,” Madeline said, catching Priscilla up on the conversation while sharing her misery of the dreadful tale. “You see, tombstones are made from granite, although granite is composed 65 percent of silicon dioxide,” Matthew said. Priscilla forced her eyes not to close with boredom from this dreadful conversation. She needed to find Jeb without appearing rude. “Sounds fascinating, Matthew. Although I don’t care to ever see another tombstone again, I’d love to hear more about the tombstonemaking business. But if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to search for our host, young Mr. McAlister,” Priscilla said. Priscilla walked out to the beach and stood in the same spot where Jeb had kissed her one year ago tonight. She missed him terribly and felt disappointed she hadn’t seen him at his own party. She understood his duties as a host, but she thought it rather odd that no one saw either Jeb or Shelby at tonight’s party. In fact, no one had seen or heard from the McAlisters since last year’s party. She looked out at the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and thought of all the lost people who perished when the Titanic sank last spring. Priscilla prayed to see her beloved again. “Oh, Jeb, I miss you terribly. I love you, and I want to be your wife more than anything in the world. Please come back to me.” Priscilla couldn’t believe her eyes at the sight before her. As her vision watched the circling lights of the lighthouse across the bay, she saw a figure standing on the rocks. He looked like Jeb. She blinked her eyes and


thought her prayers were finally answered. Her heart knew the image she craved to see again belonged to her beloved, Jeb McAlister. She walked toward him and yelled, “Jeb.” He looked at her without saying a word. He started walking toward the house, and Priscilla followed him. Although it thrilled her to see him again, it concerned her when he didn’t come to her now. After an entire year apart, she felt disappointed at his lack of response. She’d expected Jeb to take her into his arms because he missed her as much as she missed him. She watched Jeb head to the house and couldn’t keep up with his fast pace. She watched him walk through the open front door, almost knocking over a late arriving guest. He didn’t even stop to greet the man. What happened to his manners?

“Hurrah!” the party guests cheered in unison as they headed out the back of the house. “Where is he? I don’t see him,” everyone asked. “He’s right there. How can you not see him? Everyone, follow me,” Priscilla said. She led the party outside, and everyone screamed in horror at the sight before them. Four new granite gravestones now occupied the backyard. Priscilla immediately read the engraving on the third marker. She now knew why she never heard from Jeb again. Here lies Jeb McAlister Beloved Son and Brother Born Jan 18, 1888 Lost at sea on the RMS Titanic April 15, 1912

Priscilla ran into the house and screamed “Jeb, Jeb, please wait, it’s me, Priscilla.” “Did you see Jeb?” someone asked. “Yes, he walked right through the front door a few seconds ago. Didn’t you see him too?” Priscilla asked as she looked through the crowded party to search for Jeb. “No, in fact no one has seen Jeb, Shelby, or their parents tonight,” the other guest said. “Look, there he is. Jeb is so tall; I can easily spot his top hat from here. But what’s the white thing around his neck? It looks like a life jacket,” Priscilla asked. “Wouldn’t surprise me if Jeb decided to take a midnight sail by the Castillo de San Marco. But I don’t see him. Where is he?” Matthew asked. “Look, he’s right there going out the back door. He’s probably headed toward his boat. It’s docked at the rear of the property,” Priscilla said, pointing toward Jeb.

Terri received her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Master’s degree in Taxation from the University of Florida. She is a licensed CPA and a Second Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. She lives in St. Augustine, Florida, with her husband, Garrison, and their two sons.

“Hey, everyone, Jeb is taking us on a midnight sail in the harbor. Follow the man in a top hat and life preserver and grab bottle of champagne,” Matthew said.

Terri is the daughter of Leslie S. Talley, author of Make Old Bones and Bred in the Bone, which are also available from Wild Child Publishing. Be sure to visit her website, www.ElementsOfMystery.com.

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YOUNG & NEW ADULT

BEYOND the fairy TALE

Featured Authors,

REVIEWS and more

BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

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YOUNG &

NEW ADULT

| book reviews | Definitely, Maybe in Love Ophelia London New Adult Heat Rating: 4

Her theory of attraction is about to get a new angle... Spring Honeycutt wants two things: to ace her sustainable living thesis and to save the environment. Both seem hopelessly unobtainable until her college professor suggests that with a new angle, her paper could be published. Spring swears she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that happens. “Whatever it takes,” however, means forming a partnership with the very hot, very privileged, very conceited Henry Knightly. Henry is Spring’s only hope at publication, but he’s also the über-rich son of a land developer and cash-strapped Spring’s polar opposite. Too bad she can’t help being attracted to the way he pushes her buttons, both politically and physically. As they work on her thesis, Spring finds there’s more to Henry than his old money and argyle sweaters…but can she drop the loud-and-proud act long enough to let him in? Suddenly, choosing between what she wants and what she needs puts Spring at odds with everything she believes in. Definitely, Maybe in Love is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice that proves true love is worth risking a little pride. REVIEW: I have to admit I have never read Jane Austen but I can tell you now if this is anything like what she writes I need to go to the store immediately and buy all of her stuff! The characters are simply amazing. I fell for them straight away. Even Knightly who at the beginning is nothing short of a huge nincompoop! He fowls things up straight away and even though he’s super sexy Spring wants absolutely nothing to do with him, and neither would I! But, he slowly gets into Spring’s good graces and it’s these tiny things that just start making my heart pound (and Spring’s). But there’s so much drama between them, especially since they are on complete

political opposites. But instead of those opposites attracting and creating passion it’s creating drama, of the worst kind! The plot was fascinating and my mind was reeling with wanting to know what was going to happen. And that’s where I felt a little frustrated. I was literally on the edge of my seat but there was so much back story. I do admit quite a bit of it was needed but some of it was superfluous and made me just want to skim to get to the good stuff! But fortunately there wasn’t much of this and the plot was amazing and the drama that happens is fabulous, even the bad stuff! When all the threads start to come together I was flying through the pages like a mad woman! Lovely new adult, contemporary romance! I definitely recommend to anyone that wants a little spice in their reading. | Reviewer: Christina Torretta |

Firebolt

Adrienne Woods Young Adult Fantasy Heat Rating: 2

Dragons. Right. Teenage girls don’t believe in fairy tales, and sixteenyear old Elena Watkins was no different. Until the night a fairy tale killed her father. Now Elena’s in a new world, and a new school. The cutest guy around may be an evil dragon, a Prince wants Elena’s heart, and a long dead sorcerer may be waking up to kill her. Oh. And the only way Elena’s going to graduate is on the back of a dragon of her own. Teenage girls don’t believe in fairy tales. Now it’s time for Elena to believe – in herself.

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| YOUNG & NEW ADULT book reviews |

REVIEW: Firebolt by Adrienne Woods is an inventive and interesting read for young adults or even older readers. We follow Elena Watkins from our world to that of Paegeia, where she is enrolled at Dragonia, an elite academy for dragons and their riders reminiscent of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books. The political climate and elements of Paegeian history are excellently woven into the story without becoming boring, and Elena’s journey of self-discovery is well laid out, her character development increasingly satisfying. Woods does an excellent job of creating the world of Paegeia itself, but the brief time spent in our world is what I found most lacking. One is instantly immersed in the story’s action, and the reader does not get a chance to connect emotionally with either Elena or her father before they are on the run and attacked. Because of this, I found the first two chapters in particular more bewildering than riveting, though Elena’s character is fleshed out much better throughout the rest of the book. Also, despite citing two proofreaders in her acknowledgements, Woods’ grammar and spelling are poor to the extent that they distract from the story itself, which is unfortunate as the plot itself is well-constructed. That said, the reader is left identifying with and wanting to read more about Elena in the end. An engaging read with excellent potential if it were only more polished, I look forward to seeing more from Adrienne Woods. | Reviewer: SharaLee Podolecki |

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BEFORE Not one day had passed that I didn’t think about him. It was odd, really, considering that I’d last seen him in middle school, nearly five years before. And there he was. His appearance was so unexpected that I almost forgot the spasm of pain in my back that had made me gasp and stop walking. Forgot the telltale pearling of cold sweat on my forehead. I straightened and removed my hand from the rough brick where I had propped myself up. Kevin Spinelli, my childhood crush, stood across the street from me, a patient set to his lips as he gazed up at the stoplight, as though he had all the time in the world. I stared at him, wishing that time would stop, wishing that I had all the time in the world. His hair was still as black, still swooping over his left eye in a stubborn cowlick descent that was both mischievous and endearing. He was taller, my height now. No longer was he the slight thirteen year old with his slender neck poking from the plastic-lined shoulders of his football uniform like a twig on a sand dune. I was taller

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| Woven by Kellyann Zuzulo | than all the boys back then. Kevin was the only one who didn’t call me beanpole. Is that why I loved him with my fraught, juvenile perception of romantic love? Even back then, through my scratched glasses and heavy bangs that let me peek at the world unnoticed, I saw that Kevin Spinelli was everything I wanted. Straight and considerate, with a twinkle in his cobalt blue eyes. When he told me a new knock-knock joke every Monday, no matter how corny, I always giggled. Then his family had moved away the summer after eighth grade, and I never heard from him again. He continued to stand there, across narrow Sansom Street, hands thrust into the pockets of a dove gray barn jacket. We stood five years and five yards apart. In the settling shadows of dusk, he appeared transparent, a figment of the past. In a sense, he was. My heart clutched. For an instant, I was twelve, gangly, and tingly all over again. I glanced behind me. Snow sparkled on the sidewalk, held in suspension by the dropping temperatures. My breath clouded around my mouth in a heavy sigh. I could turn and walk away. It was the cowardly, but safe, route. He hadn’t seen me yet. We wouldn’t have to be forcefully polite and ask all the right questions: Where do you live now? Where do you go to school? Do you see anybody from the old neighborhood? But, really, it was only one question that made me want to run: What if he doesn’t remember me? Snow began to fall in earnest when I looked back across the street at Kevin. He had tilted his head upward as though to feel the flakes on his face. It was a magical moment. He appeared ageless, innocent. The face of the boy I once watched sprint past my bedroom window in full football regalia, heading home from practice, chin tucked in, cradling an invisible football, a Homeric warrior of intramural sports.

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I don’t know why I did it. Maybe it was that image of a resolute Kevin running across green lawns that stretched for suburban miles. Maybe it was the prompting chirp of the pedestrian signal. On impulse, I hoisted my fatigue green messenger bag onto my shoulder and stepped from the curb toward him. Black tar shone beneath my feet like onyx, frosted by the first flurry of the season. One heel of my brown leather combat boots slipped sideways as I pressed down for traction. It crossed my mind that, were I to actually talk to Kevin, I hoped he would glance down at some point and see the knee-high splurge I had allowed myself. The sleek wraps of leather were mod and sassy. Wearing these boots, I felt like someone who had somewhere fabulous to be. At the blare of a car horn, I jerked back the foot that was still poised in midair. One arm flailed. I clutched my bag and stumbled back just as a blue sports car whooshed past me, trailing a loud wail. A yellow metal newspaper box broke my fall, but a hard corner cut into my hip. Shaking, I looked down to inspect myself. Sharp burning prickles radiated up my left thigh into my lower back. My beautiful brown boots were splattered with dark flecks. My tablet slipped from the bag into a mound of slush. I peeked back toward Kevin. There would be no escape now. Kevin was rushing across the street toward me. A sweep of black hair had fallen across his brow, and he pushed it back with a flick of his fingers. He smiled, revealing that—except for the charcoal dusting of a late-day beard across a square chin— he looked very much the same. Seeing him like this—a man—made me a little sad. “Why?” The thought niggled at the back of my brain. I exhaled. Perhaps it was merely the passage of time. The spry, impish charmer had grown up.


“My God, it’s Maggie Murphy, isn’t it?” His outstretched arm was on my elbow, and the warm pressure of his hand steadied me on my feet. Confused, I glanced behind me. He said the name so clearly and with such devoted attention to each consonant that, for an instant, the sound of it was unfamiliar. My own name, on his lips. I stammered, “Y-yes.” “Are you all right? That car was going far too fast on such a small street.” He shook his head, and the blue-black line of his thick eyebrows pinched toward each other over a long, straight nose. Kevin had remembered me. The expression of concern injected a dose of much-needed warmth to my very core, jolting me to the realization that I was shivering. “You just never know when to expect something like that.” He scooped my tablet from the slush at the same time that his strong arm wrapped around my waist. “Here, let me help you.” “I’m fine, really.” But I gripped the brushed softness of his jacket sleeve for support. Embarrassed, I dropped my gaze before it could meet his, seeking the source of the burning pain in my flank. I sensed his eyes following the track of my own. I gasped to see a single rivulet of maroon blood traveling like a locomotive from the hem of my black-and-green plaid skirt, down the ripped track of my tights, to the top of my boot. My head buzzed. A sense of being disembodied crackled heat through my system, as though I’d been popped from a toaster. I’d fainted before and knew how it felt. It was as though a body bag made of cotton balls was being pulled over me. But before the descent into oblivion could commence, strong fingers held my chin. Suddenly, I was gazing into cobalt blue eyes so close I could see where flecks like black

coal gave his irises the appearance of being large slices of lapis, imperfect and priceless. He smiled with the slightest upturn to his mouth that was at once soothing and seductive. “Maggie, stay with me.” His breath was sweet with just a trace of mint, as though he’d recently chewed on a fresh spearmint leaf. “I live right here. You’ll be okay.” His large hand eased from the small of my back to grip my waist. His touch sent ripples of electricity up my spine. We turned away from the street and a waft of cold February air shot a charge of awareness up my nostrils. I pulled my wool scarf tighter against my chin and shook my head. I had knitted the scarf during the long nights when I’d been unable to sleep. My mother had bought me skeins of soft alpaca wool, even though she couldn’t afford it. Blended shades of white, cream, and pale blue reminded me of wisps of cloud across an April sky. The touch of it—like soft marshmallows in hot cocoa—reassured me. “No, no. It’s fine,” I said. “I’m fine.” I attempted to pull away but discovered that the muffling had gone further than I realized, and my muscles were unwilling to play nicely with the commands coming from my brain. Mortification seeped into my consciousness—so much for being cosmopolitan and engaging. At least he got a good look at my boots. I inhaled through my nose the way my physical therapist always insisted, long and deep. I straightened but was not yet willing to pull away from the luxury of his forearm against my waist. “I’m sorry I’m such a wimp.” I pressed my fingers against his chest, firm like memory foam through his jacket. “I don’t want to keep you. Really, I’ll be fine.” But the truth was, I wouldn’t be fine. I’d known for months that I wouldn’t be fine. There would be no university for me next fall. “Hey, come on. I haven’t seen you in what, five January 2014 | 105


| Woven by Kellyann Zuzulo | years? I’m not letting you out of my sight.” His words pleased me even as the muffled feeling began to press into my forehead once more. His face was inches from mine. I tilted my head back to gaze into eyes like sapphires. Inexplicably, I wanted to stay like that forever. We seemed to both hold our breaths. The air between us was clear, as though not even the winter chill could keep our mouths from merging. My lips parted. “Kevin,” I whispered, suddenly self-conscious. I forced a laugh that came out sounding halfway between a sob and a hacking cough. I tried to pull away. “I’m fine.” I gestured in the opposite direction. “I don’t live far. I can call my mom.” “But I live closer.” He pointed at the building behind us. Turning my head, I glimpsed a shiny black door with an arched window at the top and a large round brass knob at the center. A sudden spasm in my back took my breath away. I stretched out an arm to find support and found the solid cord of his forearm steadying me. And just in time, because the familiar shaky pain trembled into my chest. The muffle of unconsciousness slid completely over my head, down my shoulders, and wrapped my legs, easing me into oblivion. AFTER Buttery biscuit was the scent that welcomed me back to consciousness. Toasty and comforting, the smell evoked aprons and steamy kitchen windows. My eyes fluttered open as I raised myself to a sitting position. I’d been arranged beneath a massive and unbelievably soft blanket on a leather sofa. A window wall filled one side of the sparsely furnished room with the turquoise light of a city nightscape. The Schuylkill River glimmered far

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below. Pinpricks of twinkling car lights on the distant expressway indicated an upper-floor apartment. The encounter with Kevin flew back into my mind. I jumped to my feet and tossed aside the blanket, fully expecting to see it marred by the rust trail of my blood. There was something familiar about the blanket. My brow puckered as I ran a thumb along the edge of it, but before I could grasp what it was about the blanket that captured me, I realized that my clothes were gone. My tights had been removed and replaced with a pair of lavender silk palazzo pants. Too expensive to be anything I could afford. My heart sank with the options that Kevin either was living with a gorgeous college co-ed or was a cross-dresser. I puzzled over the transformation and what it meant in terms of modesty and whether I should be outraged or grateful. The lumbar area of my back and along my thigh no longer burned. I was tracing my fingers over my thigh, seeking evidence of my injury when Kevin pushed through an oak-paneled swinging door. Beyond him, I glimpsed sleek black cabinets and white marble counters. From my glimpse, it was a very masculine décor. Perhaps he lived alone after all. My heart lightened considerably. “Hi, sleepyhead.” Kevin carried a silver tray that he set on a raft-sized glass cocktail table in front of me. A wedge of brie nestled beneath a cluster of grapes. “Wow, I really went out.” I rubbed the back of my neck not because it ached, but because I didn’t know what else to do with my hands. In fact, I felt fine. I felt wonderful. My senses were clear and invigorated, like I could run a marathon, hear through walls, or fly. I scanned the apartment, trying to decide if it was sinister or romantic that a guy I hadn’t seen since middle school brought me to his apartment and


took off my tights. Kevin laughed. The sound was robust and captivating. “Don’t worry. I was a perfect gentleman.” I arched a brow. “Says you.”

was white and cream and light blue. So much whiter than my scarf but the same. I was sure of it. All of those stitches had distracted me from the spikes of pain that coursed through my blood on those long, dark nights. I traced my forefinger over a knot where I had pulled the skein too tightly as a spasm had taken hold of me.

Kevin laughed again, a deep, rich laugh that vibrated into my chest and turned into sparks that traveled to the tips of my toes. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I should be uneasy with the way I ended up in the apartment of a boy I hadn’t seen in years. And now, he was a man. But one look at the solid line of his chest as he stood before me and the adorable tilt of his head and I didn’t care.

How was this possible? This was my scarf, but it was huge now, the size of a blanket. There were so many more stitches woven into the pattern that I had created. My gaze jerked to Kevin’s face. He watched me steadily, a hint of concern tightening his brow.

He moved to perch on the arm of the sofa. Our gazes held. I had the sudden sense of being wellliked by this man. The wonder of it infused my chest with warmth. I didn’t even care about the boots anymore. “You remembered me.”

I turned to face him. His hand moved reflexively to settle on my shoulder. Warmth flooded my neck and chest. I whispered, “What happened?”

“Of course. You’re still the same Maggie I always knew.” I held his gaze as though in a trance. “Where’ve you been all these years? And why are you back? Are you studying at the University of Pennsylvania?” For just an instant, his smile fell away, and I spied a flash of wistfulness. He stretched his arm toward me, and I thought he was going to touch my leg. My heart rate ratcheted. But he kept bending till he grabbed the blanket from the floor. With a swoosh of his arms, he stretched out the blanket so that it drifted over my legs. A strange lightness coursed through me, as though I were a windsock filling with the night breeze. The fabric of the blanket was soft, like marshmallows in hot cocoa. I was vaguely aware that I shook my head even as I rubbed the woven knit between my thumb and forefinger. The color

“It’s okay, Maggie.” He lowered himself to sit on the couch next to me.

“Maggie.” So patient and gentle, the same as when he was nine years old. “You already know.” “Tell me, Kevin.” The words were a sob. “You died.” A cavalcade of emotion erupted in my chest and rose inside me until it pushed tears from my eyes. I found it difficult to breathe. Absurdly, I scanned the apartment, picking out the things I hadn’t noticed before, mesmerized by the glamour. The expanse between this apartment and the lights below could only be accommodated by a building some sixty stories up. There were no buildings like that overlooking the river. The haze of beautiful blue light that suffused the room, cerulean and soothing, came from some unseen source. There were no chandeliers, floor lamps, or bulbs of any kind in the room. Paintings hung on the wall that might have been priceless French impressionists but were three-dimensional masterpieces seen without special glasses. It was January 2014 | 107


| Woven by Kellyann Zuzulo | true then. The cancer had taken me. So soon. I thought I had time.

I felt alive. I turned my face to Kevin. He was so close that my vision filled with the blue of his eyes.

I shifted my gaze back to Kevin. “But-but . . . Why am I here?”

“You are alive.” As though to prove it, he tilted his head and kissed me.

He cocked his head. “I think you know that, too.”

A thrill shot through me. His lips were firm and pliant, soft and moist. My heartbeat pounded straight down to a warm spot deep in my belly. I wound my arm around his back and up to his neck. My fingers played with the silky curls on his collar. I certainly felt alive . . . and about to explode with a new excitement that I’d never felt before.

I felt giddy and odd and confused. But I wasn’t afraid. I wanted to laugh. “Are you haunting me?” A strange sense of resignation, like exhaustion after a hard workout, settled over me. “Not haunting, Maggie. I came to meet you.” I swept my hand across my brow. It was cool. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel nauseated or sweaty, only bewildered. The pain in my back was most definitely gone. I looked down where our thighs touched. At some point, my hand had found his. Our fingers were entwined. I looked up to find Kevin’s gaze. “What about the white light? The tunnel?” I’d been so enchanted by his eyes that I hadn’t noticed before how smooth his skin was, alabaster in texture, without the blemish of a pore or the shading of a beard. He appeared as flawless as a marble bust of himself, yet alive. I exhaled, wondering at the robust sound of my heavy sigh. “Why am I still breathing?” Kevin’s hand that had been on my shoulder moved to rub my back. I leaned into him. “It’s like muscle memory. You’re not actually breathing. Your mind is restructuring an imitation of what it is to breathe, to give you time to catch up to what’s actually happened. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to get you inside quickly. Your breath was no longer clouding in the air. You might have noticed.” I puckered my lips and blew out, pushing and then pulling air from my lungs. My chest rose and fell.

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He pulled back from me, smiling. “It’s just a different type of living. You’ve moved on to the next level of your existence.” I played with the soft nest of wool in my lap. “And the blanket. How—” “It represents the life you wove for yourself, but it holds a promise, too. That what you find here will be bigger and better. That you will find peace.” I peered up at him through the shadow of his lashes. “And you? You’re—” “With you.” He bent his neck so that his lips were by my ear. “I’ve thought about you often in the time that I’ve been here.” I eased back to stare at him. He smiled again. “A car accident, two years ago. It was instant. Like you, I didn’t know anyone who had died, so there was nobody who I knew to meet me. But there were others. And they made me feel welcome. But when I realized what was happening to you, I asked to be the one.” “To meet me?” “Yes. And to stay with you. For a while . . . if you want.”


I hesitated. I had stepped off a curb into new territory. I didn’t know what was expected of me or what I expected back. I’d always assumed that death would be the end of decisions. But it wasn’t. I never knew that, just as Kevin Spinelli had touched my life, I had touched his. He rubbed my back, and the touch was comforting. Another sensation bloomed beneath it. A feeling that filled me up until it was the only feeling. It was desire. And it was love. His was a touch, I suddenly realized, that I never wanted to give up. “I won’t rush you,” he said. “We have all the time in the world.” He kissed me again, warmer and deeper than the last. I pressed against him, winding my arms around his shoulders, stoking Kellyann Zuzulo is an editor and writer. Her novel, The Genie Ignites, was a finalist in the Abalone Awards for “outstanding ethno-cultural romance.” With two young teens, she has a built-in YA reading group. She’s a member of the Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Backspace Writers Group. Visit her at http://kfzuzulo.com

January 2014 | 109


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