All she can remember is hunger…for him. A year ago, Alexandria Stevens strode through the doors of Wicked Ways and into the arms of a man—a monster, really—who stole everything from her. Her memory. Her life. Now she’s a creature of darkness with only hazy images in her mind of that night and a confusing jumble of emotions. A fierce hate…and an even fiercer desire for Markus Santini. Markus has walked through this world for more than a hundred years, knowing exactly who and what he was, until Alexandria undid it all. Undid him. When a former vampire colleague threatens one of the Enclave’s own, Markus is needed—but only as the dark, powerful creature he once was. And in order to become that, he must find redemption…in the arms of a woman who despises him with every breath she can no longer take.
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
BAH!! It took me three books to get here but I finally made it to Markus and Alex’s story and damn it all if it wasn’t totally worth the wait!
Markus Santini has been hanging around since the first book and from read-to-read he has gone through cycles of evil, something similar to goodness, evil genius, depravity, and warped kindness. He’s been a member of the Enclave, a partner to the sick and twisted Marguerite, and a prisoner of the Enclave. He is also absolutely certain, to his core that Alexandra, the woman he kidnapped and turned against her will, is his mate. If he has any hope of claiming Alex for his own, Markus has a lot of work to do and that work begins with getting out of a silver lined cage.
Over and over again, Alex’s trust has been tested, pushed to the limit, and violated but through it all, she has survived. Not only has Alex survived she has become stronger and though she wouldn’t have chosen a vampire’s life, it’s what she has and she is bound and determined to make the best of it. Alex is beyond tired of being a victim and if she is going to claim her life and become even stronger she is going to have to start with getting some answers. Most in the Enclave think Alex is keeping her distance from Markus because of what he did to her but in truth, she keeps her distance so she can keep her intense attraction to him under control.
There is no denying the sexual chemistry between Alex and Markus but that is about the extent of their relationship. Markus has no desire for Alex to know all of his dirty little secrets and Alex has no desire to be used and/or victimized yet again. However, when Markus begins to take real steps toward healing and making amends with his fellow Enclave members, Alex takes notice. Trusting Markus is a difficult task but every once in a while, Alex sees a glimmer of goodness in Markus and she slowly begins to let her guard down. Markus knows there is a threat to Alex and the Enclave still out in the world in the form of Enrique and it is his intention to protect Alex (and the Enclave if he’s being honest with himself!) from that threat no matter what it may cost him. Enrique is a determined little rat with no scruple or morals; he is desperate to once again have power and getting to Alex and the Enclave is the answer to all his problems.
As the days and weeks go by, Alex and Markus come ever closer to one another but each holds just a bit back from the other. It isn’t until their lives are well and truly threatened that each realizes how tenuous even an immortals life can be. Enrique is one scary dude and when he is able to put all his plans into motion, the entire Enclave is threatened and many among the group some out with more than a few scrapes and bruises. The action and the drama of these intense moments reveals not only Markus’s true character but his affection for Alex. For Alex, these moments allow her to truly become a part of the Enclave and fight for those she now calls family. For what may be the first time in her life, Alex belongs somewhere and she intends to keep Markus with her.
The Bottom Line: Markus is the character you really love to hate and the author has done such a fine job over the course of the series of keeping him that gray area. For me, Markus is very much HBO’s Dexter – I know I’m not supposed to love the serial killer, yet I do. In what I am assuming is the final book of the series, Markus finally gets a chance to right all the wrongs he has done in his life. He wants to be good and if it weren’t for Alex and a very patient Kenric, the chance to be good, his moment of redemption may have never come. I love his struggle in this read and how hard the author really made Markus’s road. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? My only complaint about this read is how very much everyone babies Alex. She has endured and survived more than most and is a strong woman yet it takes huge moments and actions for anyone (other than Markus) to recognize Alex’s strength and ability to care for herself. Becoming Markus’s mate is huge for Alex and like him, she needed to struggle to get to her HEA. The push and pull between the two is pretty fantastic and I found myself really becoming quite attached to these two characters. Though I would certainly like to see the Enclave series continue, the ending to this read seems pretty fixed and final. If the series is done, I can honestly say I am pleased with the outcome and don’t feel like it could have ended any better than it did.
Guerino Lombardi’s world just went to shit. Vampire and second in command of the Warriors of the Enclave, he’s put everything on the line to save his best friend from what has to be the worst blow a man can take. Kenric, his friend and master of the Enclave, has a daughter, something believed impossible in the vampire world, and word has it she wants her father and his Enclave dead. Guerin is determined to protect Kenric, keeping the secret from him until he knows for sure if this daughter really exists and if she wants revenge.
Eve Devonshire is a woman hiding in plain sight. Not completely human, but not quite a vampire, she’s accepted by neither race but is more powerful than either one. Her life has consisted of half-truths and disguises, never belonging or living in one place for any length of time. But now some have heard rumors of her existence and want nothing more than to trap her and dissect her like a lab rat.
To stay alive, Eve can’t trust anyone, including the alpha vampire with midnight eyes and a thirst for pain and submission. With her enemies nipping at her heels, Eve has Guerin cornered, and both are determined to get the answers they’re looking for or die trying…if they can fight their desires long enough.
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
**CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK #2, UNDYING EMBRACE**
Woot! Welcome to round three of the Enclave series and one seriously hot couple! At the end of book two, Undying Embrace, Markus dropped one hell of a bombshell that only Guerino Lombardi was privy too. According to the crazy bastard, Kenric and Marguerite accomplished the impossible, they had a child together. In an effort to understand the madness, Guerino shares the information with Aaran and though both are loathe to keep secrets from Kenric they know they must have proof before blowing up their Master and friend’s world.
With a mind to helping his friend, Guerino takes off for Europe in search of a woman by the name of Eve, a woman who isn’t supposed to exist. Though Guerino knows he is acting on the word of a madman, he finds himself in Nuremberg face to face with the single most stunning woman he has ever encountered. Trouble is, Eve has spent the last 300 years masking her identity and trusts no one, so chaining this new man in a dungeon and beating him in order to get answers really isn’t an issue for her. Trouble is, the man likes the beating and no matter how much pain she offers up, he isn’t talking.
For the better part of 300 years, Eve has been a legend in the vampire world. The offspring of two vampires shouldn’t exist yet she does and her abilities – to day walk, in particular – are coveted and most would do anything to get their hands on her. Of particular note is Seth, a powerful vampire whose lust for Eve’s secret is no secret and once he figures out precisely who she is, he comes in hard and fast which compromises Eve’s dungeon location. Though she isn’t completely sure of Guerino’s interest in her, she knows he isn’t working for Seth and so, she takes him when she flees. As we all know, dangerous situations tend to heighten sexual chemistry and that sure as hell happens with Eve and Guerino. She is wicked powerful and has a penchant for light Domination which makes her the perfect match for Guerino who has an interest in strong women and is willing to submit to them in the bedroom alone.
As I have come to expect, nothing easy for the Enclave and getting Eve to safety is going to be a nightmare of epic proportions. Seth has an even more powerful partner and once Guerino discovers her identity, he knows the showdown is going to get ugly. Facing his past when all he wants to do is protect and possess Eve will test Guerino and push him to the point of breaking. Added to the mix is the totally uncomfortable meeting between Eve and Kenric (aka daddy dearest) and where, exactly Eve fits into Kenric’s and the Enclaves world.
The Bottom Line: Wowsa did I like this book! Eve is some kind of bad ass with her ability to take out vampires with her mind, walk in the sun, and dominate an Alpha male like Guerino Lombardi. Eve has such a hard time trusting others because of her abilities and the lies her mother told her making Guerino, a man who also has a hard time trusting a good match for her. The two, though they go through a ton of crap, are an excellent match for one another both in the bedroom and out of it. The evolution of their relationship is quick and crazy but it fits in perfectly with the pacing and content of the plot. I very much like that there is action mixed in with the drama but there isn’t so much that it drags on. I feel like I’m getting deeper into this series with each read and I still don’t know what’s happened with Alex and Markus . . . on to book four :)
Arran MacLain is a vampire on a suicide mission, driven to kill his former partner who betrayed him and the Enclave they served. But two things stand in his way: Gabrielle, the human female who holds his heart, and the past that won’t let him go. If only death was enough to cleanse his soul. Gabrielle Steven’s sister is missing. Her hunt for clues brings her face to face with the one vampire she can’t forget. Their missions combine and thrust them into the heart of evil. Will their passion be enough to overcome the pain from their past, or will their dark desires destroy them both?
My Rating: 4/5 stars
The Enclave doesn’t take kindly to traitors and Markus is definitely a traitor. After abandoning and betraying the Enclave to be with Marguerite, Markus has spent more than a year in hiding but his former partner, Aaran MacLain is still looking and for the first time in a long time, he has a lead. Aaran is ready to do his duty and once Markus and Marguerite are dead, he can (hopefully) return to the Enclave and his life. The only thing standing in his way is Gabrielle Stevens. Just what in hell is she doing in town?
Gabrielle Stevens has a few loves in her life, Aaran MacLain and her sister, Alex. Aaran has been gone for a year, and now, Alex is missing too. As one of the Enclave’s most trusted human helpers (read: tech goddess!) Gabrielle knows when things are hinky and Alex’s disappearance is definitely hinky. Finding her sister will take all of her skills plus some but she refuses to involve to the Enclave. Thank goodness Aaran MacLain left the Enclave J While trolling Wicked Ways, a dangerous Goth club frequented by vampires, Alex runs into the one man she thought she would never see again, Aaran MacLain and he is so not happy to see her. Just what in hell is Aaran doing in town?
From the moment they reconnect, Aaran and Gabrielle have an intense sexual attraction to one another. Gabrielle is more than ready to give herself to Aaran but he is hesitant – in his head, not in his heart and body. When Gabrielle finally unloads the whole story on Aaran, he agrees to help her on the condition she stay out of harm’s way. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. Gabrielle is more than willing to do anything necessary to get her sister back and once she makes that clear to Aaran, he has no choice but to allow her in and protect her. Let’s hope he can get his body under control because every moment he is in contact with Gabrielle is one moment closer to losing all control and making her his for eternity. Aaran absolutely enjoys the thought of making Gabrielle his but his past is dark and ugly and he is certain once Gabrielle knows the full extent of his dirty deeds, she will want nothing to do with him.
Within just a few nights, Aaran and Gabrielle figure out their missions are overlapping and Gabrielle’s worst nightmare comes true, Markus has her sister and she has been turned. Better than anyone, Aaran knows what Markus and Marguerite are capable of so taking them out has never been more important. With the clues he and Gabrielle have managed to gather, they know where to find the evil duo and are ready to go in guns blazing. Thankfully, Gabrielle has more than one suitor in the Enclave and before she and Aaran can launch their suicide mission, the rest of the crew shows up. Marguerite is bat-shit crazy and Markus is almost completely under her control so when the Enclave shows up it is quite literally a battle to the death. The Enclave intends to take no prisoners but Markus is devious and has a strong sense of self-preservation. To save his own skin, Markus has taken over Gabrielle’s sister’s mind and made her his puppet. In short, if he dies, so does she. Gabrielle isn’t willing to sacrifice her sister and Aaran certainly isn’t willing to sacrifice Gabrielle.
The Bottom Line: There was a spectacularly long time between my reading of this book and the first in the series, Undying Destiny. It was quite easy to fall back into the Enclave series and I immediately knew each of the characters and their drama. Aaran is such a strong character but he lets his past weigh him down and keep him from a truly happy future with both the Enclave and Gabrielle. Gabrielle is one stubborn and highly intelligent woman who, before her time with the Enclave suffered a horrible attack at the hands of a DEAD. She, better than most know what an out of control vampire can do and so, she does her best to save her sister without endangering anyone else. Gabrielle’s stubbornness is matched only by Aaran’s and when the chips are down, the two come together in order to save the other. Though I enjoyed Aaran and Gabrielle’s story, there is a lot of ground covered in this read and I think that kept me from enjoying the overall read as much as I enjoyed Aaran and Gabrielle’s story. With that being said, I’m not going to let one minor issue keep me from the rest of the series. I must know what becomes of Alex and Markus :)
Leah Godfrey has almost everything she could ask for—
She’s got an interior design business with an A-list clientele, a weekly spot on a national morning TV show, and a great daughter—but she doesn’t have a date for her twentieth high school reunion. It wouldn’t be a big deal, but her ex-husband was her high school sweetheart, and now he’s married to the slut Leah caught him with in bed. She won’t let the biggest failure of her life overshadow her success.
When her best friend suggests she hire a date, Leah thinks the idea is scandalous. But for one weekend, she wants to forget her mistakes and pretend she has everything her ex took away from her.
Jagger Holiday makes women’s fantasies come true—
But working as a male escort leaves him feeling empty. He turns to photography to fill the void. When Jagger gets a call from a lonely single mom who needs the same thing he does, he wants more. He wants her.
Leah and Jagger have no problem convincing everyone at the reunion they’re together. She should’ve known better than to think there’d be no strings attached.
After all, he’s a professional.
Excerpt from No Strings Attached (Book #1: The Escort Series):
The doors closed behind us. Jagger backed me up against the wall, and there was nowhere I could look but his eyes. One knee was between my legs, and his hands burned the skin on my stomach underneath my sweater. “You look amazing,” he whispered.
I hadn’t planned anything special for tonight. New underwear, that was all. Maybe I should’ve paid more attention to Kari when she told me about the schedule. I’d worn a sweater, scarf, jeans, and knee-high boots. “So do you,” I murmured back. Jagger was one step ahead of me in black dress pants and a deep blue button down shirt. It perfectly complemented his olive skin and dark hair. The more I thought of Jagger in terms of art, the more beautiful he became.
Jagger cupped my bra as his lips once again found mine. We could barely complete a sentence since he’d come to my room without our mouths crashing against each other. Going to this party was a terrible idea. After a drink or two I’d be begging him to take me on the bar. His fingers drew slow circles, dipping inside my bra, brushing back and forth against my nipples. They pebbled at his touch. I tangled my hands in his long hair, pulling him closer to me as I moaned against his mouth.
I hadn’t even noticed we weren’t moving until the alarm went off. We jumped away from each other. “What did you do?” I asked. “Didn’t you just hit the lobby button?”
“I hit stop.” Jagger had his hands up like he was about to get arrested.
“You can’t do that here.” I slammed my hand repeatedly against the lobby button to make the alarm stop screaming. The elevator started moving. “The fire department is probably already on their way. This is a small town. They’ll be talking about this until the next reunion.”
My stomach tied itself in knots complicated enough to flummox a boy scout as we walked through the lobby. The older woman at the front desk glared at us. “See?” I bumped against Jagger, who smiled and winked at the clerk. She turned bright red as she looked back to the computer. “We were seconds away from thanking the firemen for their commitment to service.”
Every head in the bar turned as we walked in. I made a beeline for the bartender, pulling Jagger along with me. He ordered our drinks. “You didn’t ask me what I wanted.”
“Don’t you want sangria?” He surprised me even more by pulling out his wallet. “You practically purred when you drank it in Washington. I’m not sure what you liked more, me or the sangria. But I know I liked the way it tasted on your lips.”
“How did you even know they had it? Some places throw bar garnish and Sprite into cheap wine and try to pass it off as the nectar of the Gods.” I leaned back against the bar, hooking my boot into the barstool, trying to play this cool. If Jagger had any idea he could knock me over with a feather right now he might stop trying so hard. I wanted to see what else he had in him. “They can’t fool me with that crap.”
“I checked before you got here.” Jagger tapped his glass against mine before taking a long sip of whatever he got.
I knew all along they had it. I’d been here more times than I could count. “And if they didn’t?”
“We’d find someplace that did.” Those hazel eyes smoldered. So many emotions I couldn’t read yet marched through them.
I put the glass down on the bar and turned back to him. It took everything I had to keep my hands to myself. “And if that wasn’t what I was craving?”
Jagger leaned closer to me and I could feel every eye on the room on us. “I will make sure you’re satisfied.”
We took stools at the bar. It was still pretty early. A cover band I’d been going to see since my twenties was setting up in the corner, and only a handful of my classmates had shown up so far. I wondered if we’d see many locals. Getting a babysitter two nights in a row was such a bitch.
“So that’s Eric. He went out to LA to act and he’s had a bunch of bit parts in movies, and it looks like he’s here with…” I squinted to see better, then squealed when he took the hand of someone I didn’t expect. “Michael. Nice. I think he’s still in the Marines. I knew he was stationed at Camp Pendleton, but I didn’t realize they were a couple. It makes total sense, now that I think about it, they’re always together in their Facebook stuff.”
After finding the bottom of my drink, I had no problem openly pointing out the weekend’s players to Jagger. A fresh drink appeared like magic, and I dove right into it. “And that’s Marcy. She was my manager at Design Spot. We used to put wine in our coffee cups to deal with the monotony of that place. Oh, God. You must think I’m a total lush, right?”
“No.” Jagger laughed. “Which one is Karina?”
I had to think about before answering him. “Who’s Karina?”
“Your best friend?” Jagger slid the glass away from me. “The guys at the agency have nothing but good things to say about her.”
“Oh! Kari.” I took it back. “I never think of her like that. Unless I’m giving her a hard time. Her reputation would precede her.” Good for her. “I don’t know. She should be here. She’s technically our host.”
She’d been coy in the last couple weeks, much more concerned with my plans for the reunion than sharing hers. Probably because being here was just as much of a nightmare for her as it was for me, even if our reasons were completely different. She’d definitely bring a date to the battle ground.
The band started, tearing through their nineties set with slightly less fire than they had in the actual nineties, and Jagger started drumming the beat against the bar. “Let’s dance,” he suggested.
“Sounds fantastic.” After the second sangria it easier to join the few other couples on the floor, and I waved to the people I’d pointed out from the bar. So far, we weren’t behind enemy lines. None of those people had shown up yet. I twirled around Jagger, singing the lyrics of the song to him as he put his arms around my waist and pressed my back against his body. We swayed together to the beat, his hair falling into my face as he joined me on the harmonies. I turned into him when the song changed, our hips grinding to the raunchy beat of the song. If this was any indication of what I had to look forward to when we went back upstairs, I had no idea why we were still here.
Jagger’s hands stayed on my hips, directing them, and I hooked my arms around his neck. His forehead rested on mine and I could only look at him. The rest of the room spun on a different axis. I hadn’t had too much to drink, I was drunk off of Jagger.
“Can I have this dance?” Kari managed to wedge herself between the two of us and I grabbed her arms to steady myself from the shock. She swung around, offering a hand to Jagger. “I’m Karina Gomez. Leah’s best friend. And I’m a United States prosecutor, so when I say I know where to hide the bodies…”
“Kari!” I jerked her away from Jagger before she said anything I regretted.
“I’ve heard all about you. Nothing but wonderful things of course.” Jagger ran his fingers under my chin. Kari didn’t release her death grip on my arms. “I’ll meet you over at the bar.”
My new dance partner spun me around. “First of all, he’s insanely gorgeous. I don’t get intimidated by many men, but it’s hard to breathe looking at him.”
“Where have you been?” I asked. I wanted to change the subject before it turned into a lecture.
“Here, for like a half an hour.” Kari rolled her eyes. “You were too busy eye-fucking your escort to notice anyone.”
My head whipped around the room. “Oh God, who else is here?”
“Pretty much everyone, and you are the topic of conversation.”
“Why?” Another quick scan of the room, but I didn’t spot Rich or Shelley.
“Because the two of you look like you’re going to crawl inside of each other. We’re all choking off the pheromones. Would you please go upstairs and fuck his brains out before some of the single ladies in the crowd abduct him?”
Nobody had to tell me twice. “Yes, ma’am.” I headed off the dance floor, but Kari still had my hand.
“Don’t ever call me ma’am.” Kari yanked me back into her. “Leah, please be careful tonight.”
“I will, ma’am.” I laughed when Kari looked like she might puke. “I brought protection.”
She squeezed my hand. “That’s not what I’m talking about, and you know it.”
About the author and where to find her:
Kristen Strassel writes books about rock stars and vampires. After all, they tell you to write what you know. She is a passionate music fan who also loves football games and diner food. Kristen works as a makeup artist on film and TV shows when she’s not writing, and loves being behind the scenes. A former resident of Las Vegas, Kristen now lives in the Boston area.
Being born into slavery, I never thought my owner, my very mother, would sell me. And she didn’t. Until Matteo. I was tormented, struggling to come to terms with my new life then he narrowed it down to two things. Pleasure. Pain. The man confused me at every turn with his unexpected and unattainable desires. If only he’d speak to me. If only he’d tell me how to avoid upsetting him. If only I could please him.
**Disclaimer: This is a DARK erotic Italian Mafia story. There are twisted behaviors in this book not everyone will be able to handle. Explicit, violent, and sexual scenes are involved. Not for the wary of heart.**
Excerpt from Matteo (Book #1: Rossi Family Series):
A shiver ran through me. I was chained up in his basement. I’d never been restrained in such a way before. Madam never resorted to such means since she knew I never would’ve run. I had no desire to live free of enslavement. It was all I knew and all I wanted. However, feeling the cool breeze in the room and the even colder restraints on my skin made me wonder if maybe I had thought wrong all along.
“I can see from the look on your face that you’ve never been locked up before, and I see that’s where Madam went wrong with you. No, you didn’t want to escape, but you don’t know how to behave. No, you don’t truly know the extent to which a punishment can go. Don’t worry, that is going to change starting now. This will throw a wrench in my initial plans for you, but I refuse to let you go now. You are mine and will be forever, so get used to the idea.” Matteo leaned against the wall in front of me, sliding his hands into his pockets as if we were carrying on a completely normal conversation. He appeared entirely at ease while I struggled with all the new emotions flooding me. After a moment of staring at me, he pushed off the wall and stood close enough I could feel his body heat.
He reached down to pull his erection from his dress slacks. Sliding his hand over it slowly, he dragged the tip over my mouth.
“Suck it. Get me off and I’ll leave you alone for the remainder of the night. Fail to do so and I will start your punishment now,” he said as he shoved the hot, hard, musky flesh into my mouth.
I wanted to cry out that I thought the lashings from the belt had been my punishment. Instead, I sucked him down my throat and bobbed my head along his length the way he’d shown me he liked it done. The longer I sucked, the more my lips became numb and the more I realized that I really had no idea what being a slave was like.
Finally, he groaned and his release filled my mouth and throat before he pulled back. As he tucked himself into his pants again he yanked my hair so I was forced to look him in the eye.
“Welcome to the Italian Mafia way of life, bella.”
About the author and where to find her:
Mother by day. Writer by night. I spend a majority of my day with my children and reading while my nights are filled with the sound of the keyboard as I work on my next work. I have written in nearly every LBGT category as well as the traditional erotic romance category. I love to try new things and learn from every piece of work I write. I’ll write just about anything once to learn from it. I’ve even ventured out of my normal erotica genre into Monster Erotica. Doubt you’ll find me writing anything not erotic as you can barely get me to even read something out of that category, but then again, you never know what I might try next. Never stop learning. Try everything at least once.
Cover Reveal, Excerpt, and Sweepstakes: Leaving Yesterday (Book #1: Laurel Falls Series) by Zoe Dawson
Laurel Falls, Montana
Where big sky meets small town
Nestled in the Northeast corner of the spectacular Flathead Valley lies a community which boasts Montana hospitality and strong family ties. A tight knit community just minutes away from Glacier National Park where glaciers hang onto high altitude peaks and wildlife clings to craggy points. Named for the spectacular Laurel Falls, fed by underground springs, the city has been declining for years, buildings falling into disrepair, townsfolk leaving, and the economy depressing. But all that’s about to change….
Don’t look back…you’ll miss what’s in front of you.
On her way to scout out property for a new Montana resort, Rafferty Hamilton’s brand new convertible breaks down right outside of Laurel Falls. Burned by her ex-husband and his womanizing, she’s bottled up her emotions so tight, she has nothing left inside her except for work. When the tow truck shows up, the town’s mechanic, charmer Trace Black, a slow pokin’ handsome cowboy with a battered Stetson on his head and grease everywhere else, is adamant that he can fix anything, even a temperamental, overpriced British sports car.
Trace has more than enough to handle. He had his family to take care of and his youngest brother has only begun to face his convalescence after returning from Afghanistan. He has no time to entertain a fancy woman from the city who brings with her nothing but change. Changing the town, changing perceptions, and…changing him. This woman was too much like his high-class mother, and like his mother, no way would she ever consider a grease monkey worth her time.
Rafferty went to Laurel Falls to escape her pain, but stranded there, as rundown as the town seems to be, it’s the warmth of the people and the town’s potential to be something spectacular that draws Rafferty in more everyday she’s there. But she can’t stay, even if a small town man opens her eyes to something she hadn’t expected. Will Laurel Falls be not only a place to begin, but where Rafferty can…leave all the pain from her yesterdays behind?
Excerpt from Leaving Yesterday (Book #1: Laurel Falls Series):
It was closer to thirty minutes before a shiny white and chrome tow truck pulled in front of her with Black’s Garage stenciled on the side in black. She had been paying attention to her Angry Birds game on her phone instead, so all she caught was a glimpse of a black Stetson. She did have to think again that Montana or Cowboy Central as she was starting to think of it was chock full of plenty of sexy men to take her mind off how lonely she felt.
The door to the truck opened and a thick jean-clad thigh materialized. He reached down to unsnag the hem that had caught on the top of his well-worn black cowboy boot, the hat obscuring his features, but the glimpse she’d gotten of a hard, clean shaven jaw made her stomach jump and heightened her interest.
She followed his movement back up as he swung out of the truck, giving her the full view of his slim-hipped, broad-shouldered, body, but then he raised his head and the shadow caused by the brim disappeared from his…ohmigod…face.
The sight of him sucked the breath right out of her. Brown hair curled around his ears and tickled his neck, dark brows arched over a set of blue eyes that were a knee-melting deep cobalt. She reached out to set her hand against the windshield as she took in his roman nose, and a mouth with lips that were made to be kissed, the bottom lip fuller than the top.
His blue work shirt stretched over an impressive wide chest. Stitched on his left pocket was his name Trace, and on the other pocket Black’s Garage.
He moved with a sexy, rolling gait filled with confidence. When he saw her, he slowed, his eyes going over her. The way he looked at her made her breath hitch. Even when she looked down and away from that look, she could feel his gaze on her. For the first time since she’d signed those divorce papers and walked out of her lawyer’s office, getting rip roaring drunk, she felt exposed and vulnerable. Those…blue…oh-so-blue eyes. What was she supposed to do about them when all she wanted to do was look back, deeply back and ask questions? His attention had switched to her car and he frowned, taking in the sleek lines.
“Howdy, ma’am,” he said and the closer he got the weaker her knees got. “A foreign car?” His voice was a slow, meandering drawl with all kinds of husky in it.
Tapping the brim, he knocked the Stetson back a bit, rubbing at his chin and jaw with a hand that showed the grease around his fingernails as if he was contemplating a very difficult math problem. Dark hair spiked across his forehead. “British.”
He cocked his hip and stared at it some more.
She found both amusement at his scrutiny and his puzzled look. “Do you stare at your cars until they are intimidated enough to fix themselves?”
As if coming out of a daze, his eyes shifted to hers, then he grinned. Oh God, it knocked her socks off. It should be registered with the local authorities as lethal. The man was carrying a deadly weapon…two deadly weapons with those eyes, maybe three with that voice. A trifecta of dangerous. No doubt about it. He was packing some heat. “No, ma’am. Just not sure whether it’s one with the engine in the front or the back.”
“You don’t know how to fix my car. Do you?”
His eyes flashed. “Never said that. I can fix anything, sure as shootin’.
About the author and where to find her:
It used to be that Zoe’s deepest wish was to be a full time romance writer. Not only did she dislike having to split her time between what she loved to do and her day job, but she hated the damn commute. But with determination, persistence, and a little luck, that dream came true just this year. She’s busily writing all day long in her very own home office and loving it. Oh, and the commute is great! Her new dreams include traveling and seeing some of the world, one day owning a beach house to be close to the beautiful ocean (She believes she was a mermaid in another life.), and seeing her books in movies. When she’s not busy with writing, she’s painting or killing virtual mmorpg monsters in World of Warcraft, where getting armor for her characters is better than jewelry. She lives in North Carolina with her two grown children and one small, furry grey cat. Zoe writes romantic comedy, new adult, contemporary and erotic romance as well as urban fantasy. She believes it’s not about formulas or rules. It’s all about the happily ever afters.
Right now, Zoe has three series starters for free so I am giving away the second book in each series. Three winners, Amazon only, open internationally.
The last time I saw her, she was asleep—and I’d just taken her virginity.
She was my best friend’s little sister. I’d broken the guy code, and the guilt had me running before she woke.
Ten years later, she’s a corporate bad ass negotiating across the table from me—and hotter than ever. I want my second chance, but she’s all grown up and isn’t about to hand it to me.
This time, I’ve got a whole different game plan in mind.
* * *
The last time I saw him, he was balls deep inside me—and I’d just lost my virginity. When I woke up he was gone.
Ten years hasn’t erased the sting of rejection. And now he wants his second chance?
I swore I’d say no … but then he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: when we’re working, we’re strangers, but at night? He’ll make my every dirty fantasy come true.
This time, I’m not going to be the one left wanting more.
About the author and where to find her:
Ava enjoys naughty things. She’s drawn to the forbidden and taboo, and writes kink that makes you think. Raised in Idaho, Ava now lives on the East Coast with her husband, and two dogs.
On her 21st birthday she’s taken. Collected by a rich family as an unpaid debt. Her body sold. Her mind his.
For 21 weeks she carried a burden no girl should ever have to carry. Now she loses her freedom to a man born to destroy her.
His name: Angel DeLuca. His mission: To break her in 21 days before she sees through his lies. But she won’t give up without a fight.
It takes only 21 minutes for their lives to be forever entwined.
21 seconds to spill. Time is running out.
Secrets ruin them … but not all truths are worth the price.
This is a STANDALONE Dark Romance novel. WARNING: contains explicit situations, dubious consent, graphic violence, drug abuse, and other disturbing content.
Excerpt from 21:
Sky: A never-ending darkness shrouds me, the surrounding void like space, swallowing me whole. Eyes open or eyes shut, it doesn’t make a difference to the vast emptiness around me. It seeps into my bones like poison, clouding my mind from the memories that I had.
Where am I?
My body feels cold, and my limbs solid, like they’re not mine. I notice myself breathing, however. The only thing I hear is the steady, rhythmic beating of my heart. The only sound in this dark hole. Thud, thud … thud.
For a moment I doubt my own existence.
Who am I, even?
A drop of water falling onto a surface pulls me back into reality. I’m here, but how?
My fingers tighten and relax in an attempt to regain control. My muscles feel stiff, but slowly the sensation is returning to the tips of my fingers, giving me a small bit of hope that I might find out what happened to me.
With slow movements, I let my hand slide only a few inches, but it’s enough to determine that I’m lying on a concrete floor. My head begins to hurt and every passing second the pain increases. I move my fingers to my head and touch the back of my scalp. The searing pain stops me and tells me I’m wounded.
When I touch my face I gasp. There is a bag over my head with a hole near my mouth and nose through which I can breathe. For a second, I contemplate removing it, but then I realize they might be watching me.
A buzz moves through my body, bringing life back to my limbs. And even though I’m regaining my sense of touch, my vision is still impaired. However, my eyes feel fine as I touch them, so it must be the lack of light.
I push my elbows underneath me and lean up. A sudden queasiness overtakes me, causing me to buckle and heave. I puke on the floor beside me, which surprises me, because I hardly ever puke.
I tally up the sensations that I’m feeling. Nausea, loss of motor skills, buzzing nerves, botched memory … it all leads to one conclusion: I was drugged.
Stabilizing myself on the floor, I focus on regaining control over my body before moving again. This place is unfamiliar to me, and I dig into my mind to find clues as to how I ended up here. The pain that’s slowly creeping to the surface of my skin distracts me, but I still manage to catch a glimpse of a memory in the back of my mind.
Men with black masks and fire weapons dragging me out of a room. A cloth with a sharp odor pushed against my mouth. Drowsiness engulfing me. A big SUV, also black, doors sliding to the side. A blow to the back of my head. All lights went out.
My skin pricks with anxiety, and I shiver to shake off the fear. It doesn’t help, because I know deep down that there is more to come.
There is one question in my mind that can’t help but repeat itself. Why me?
This is the single question every victim of abduction asks.
Except, I already know the answer.
It was only a matter of time before they came for me.
My papa once told me that goodness always comes at a price. Now more than ever, do I realize the truth in his words. However, I don’t regret making the decision for even a second.
Now, I’m here in a darkness so deep it consumes me whole.
And still the light of rebellion sparks inside my heart, fueling a fire I haven’t felt before. An uncontrollable need to defy whoever is keeping me here.
But I will wait. Lying in the cold, harsh, emptiness of this space, I will await my captor’s arrival and take whatever he’s going to give me. Punishment. Pain. I’ll endure it all.
Because that’s what a good person does when they’ve made their choice.
They bear the burden of their choice, because it’s the only thing they can do.
I don’t know how many hours pass before a noise wakes me. I can’t remember when and how I fell asleep, but I must’ve been very tired from the ordeal. A metallic door is slid open, a crack of light splitting through the opening. The burlap bag over my head makes it difficult to see, but when I narrow my eyes and focus I can still determine where I am.
Only now do I see how small my cell really is.
The vast emptiness I thought would overwhelm me, turns out to be not much more than a bedroom-sized cell. A quick look at the walls reveals iron rings of all shapes and sizes, used to hook a chain around and snare whoever needs to be contained and subdued.
In other words; me.
Squinting, I watch as a man steps inside, and I focus solely on his presence. Even though the door is open, and freedom is luring me on the other side, I stay put and watch. No matter how much I’d try, I’d never be able to flee. Not like this, with my muscles weak and my body aching. There are probably a bunch of guards waiting outside, wondering whether I’m going to try anything.
So I won’t. I’ll sit right here on this cold, hard concrete, observing my captor as he walks into the room with a certain aloofness. His feet are bold, his body brawny, his face hiding behind a Guy Fawkes mask. If I weren’t so scared, I would’ve pondered why he chose that specific mask to conceal his identity, but now is not that time.
His footsteps sound more like sand scraping off a harsh surface as he circles around me like a snake ready to attack its prey. The door is left open like a silent seducer, a tool to entice me to run. I look up at my captor, giving him a deadly stare, and even though I can’t see him, I know he can feel the determination in me.
I won’t let myself be tempted to flee like a wounded deer.
Not when I know that this is merely a distraction, like a lollypop being dangled in front of a child while the adult knows full well he’s never going to give it to the child, and the child knows he can never reach far enough to grasp it.
I refuse to be that child.
My captor walks some more, and then returns to the door to close it.
His experiment failed.
I control my emotions.
He doesn’t know who he’s up against.
In the darkness I hear him come closer, the only sound being his steady breath and soft steps. He’s still testing me. Seeing if I’ll give in to the fear. Alone with him, the predator, in a cage filled with blackness. But I’m not afraid of the dark.
My soul has already been tainted and defiled. Nothing he does can hurt me. I already went past the breaking point once … and I survived.
The sound of his voice suddenly breaking through the façade makes me take in a breath. It’s familiar and yet so unknown, the way he speaks to me with full authority, resoluteness resounding in every spoken letter, even if there are few.
I crawl up from the ground, slowly, steadily, maintaining my posture. My aching back and pounding head won’t stop me from attempting to keep my dignity as I stand up straight and stare ahead.
My captor’s steps are everywhere, resounding in the darkness like echoes that disappear into the night. He’s confusing me, and I try not to concentrate on the sound, but on my own heartbeat instead.
Suddenly, he’s right in front of me, and the air is sucked out of my lungs. I struggle not to let my breath come out in short gasps, but I won’t let his tactics work on me.
His breathing sounds like that of a bull, short and loud, as if he’s readying for charge.
But he doesn’t move. He just stands there, gazing at me.
“Do you know where you are?” he asks with a low, gruff voice that brings goose bumps to my body.
I compose myself before I answer. “No.”
I can hear a faint smile behind that word, but the second my eyebrows move, he puts his hands on my chest and shoves me. I fall down backwards on the hard floor, bruising my groin.
After a while, he says. “Do you know why you’re here?”
I don’t answer. I refuse to. Why would I? He is only here to intimidate and hurt me. There’s no benefit for me in answering his questions. As a matter of fact, I think he owes me some answers instead.
“Why am I here?” I ask.
He’s silent for a few seconds, and then a smug laugh is dulled by the mask.
“Bold. I like that.”
“Who are you?” I ask, putting emphasis on every word as if they’re the last that’ll come from my mouth.
He muffles another laugh. “Who am I? I am the man who will break you.”
I shake my head, still lying on the floor as if I’m taunting him. Maybe I am. I want him to speak, and for that to happen, I have to be the one asking the questions, not the other way around.
“Where am I?”
“Where you belong,” he growls, and then he takes a step forward, grabs my arm, and pulls me up from the floor.
Smack. His hand hits my cheek, silencing me.
“You do not talk unless spoken to.”
My head is still to the right, as I refuse to look at him. I will not bow to his violence. If he hits me, my body will remain rigid, unmoving. Not an inch of pain will exude from me.
“You may be wondering why you’re here, but you’re forgetting the most important question. What have you done to be here?”
My lip quivers, so I force it to stop. I can’t show weakness. Not now, not ever.
He grabs my chin. “You don’t seem to remember, so let me refresh your memory,” he says. “You stole something. It’s time to give it back. You have twenty-one days to come up with an answer.” He pulls me closer with a pinch. “Lie and I’ll know. Do you understand?”
I nod while blankly staring at his mask. If I’m to obey to survive, I’ll do just that, but no one can take away my pride.
He let’s go of my chin and pushes me away. “It’s time for you to pay back what you owe.”
Fear ripples through my veins. “Pay what back?” I say, taking a step forward.
He shoves me so hard my back hits the wall and the air is ripped from my chest. I sink to my knees against it.
“Don’t think I will go easy on you. Just because I know about you, doesn’t mean I won’t rip you apart if you don’t tell me the truth.”
“What truth?” I gasp. “What do you know about me?”
He turns around, but waits, standing still in the darkness with only the sound of ragged breaths filling the room.
“You tell me,” he says, his voice softer than before, almost as if he himself doesn’t know the reason.
Frowning, I look up at him, and for some reason the way he cracks his knuckles feels so familiar.
But then the feeling immediately disappears as he starts walking toward the door.
“Wait, you haven’t told me why I’m here yet. How am I supposed to know what to tell you?”
I can hear him knock on the door. Then there’s a pause. “Oh … you’ll now soon enough.”
The forewarning brings chills to my skin.
The door opens with a squeak and in comes the blinding light again. It’s so bright, my captor’s clothes almost look pale as snow. But then I realize that’s only because I haven’t seen light in such a long time … and I won’t be seeing it any time soon.
The last words he speaks remain with me for the rest of the day, echoing in my mind over and over again. “Welcome to your own personal hell.”
About the author and where to find her:
Clarissa Wild is a New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author, best known for the dark Romance novel Mr. X. Her novels include the Fierce Series, the Delirious Series, and Stalker. She is also a writer of erotic romance such as the Blissful Series, The Billionaire’s Bet series, and the Enflamed Series. She is an avid reader and writer of sexy stories about hot men and feisty women. Her other loves include her furry cat friend and learning about different cultures. In her free time she enjoys watching all sorts of movies, reading tons of books and cooking her favorite meals.
Sometimes trust is the toughest lesson to learn. Sophie Shaw is days away from signing a contract that will fulfill her dream of owning a vineyard. For her, it’s a chance to restart her life and put past tragedies to rest. But Duncan Jamieson’s counter offer blows hers out to sea. Duncan still finds Sophie as appealing as he had during boyhood vacations to the lake. Older and wiser now, he has his own reasons for wanting the land. His offer, however, hinges on a zoning change approval. Bribery rumors threaten the deal and make Sophie wary of Duncan, yet she cannot deny his appeal. When her journalistic research uncovers a Jamieson family secret, trust becomes the hardest lesson for them both.
Excerpt from Share the Moon (Book #1: Blue Moon Lake Series):
“Now, gently swirl the wine.” A slight twist of Sophie’s wrist rotated the glass.
Duncan copied her moves, realizing she made the gesture fluid, easier than his attempts.
“This gives the molecules a little nudge to entertain us. I mean, who doesn’t like to be entertained.” She waved a playful brow. “Once you get them moving, stick your nose up close and take a whiff.”
Sophie brought her straight nose close to the rim. Her lids dropped, as if prepared to receive a scent from heaven. She inhaled. Passion-filled concentration dominated her expression, leaving him mesmerized, unable to stop watching even as he lifted his own glass. He copied her movements, contemplating the aroma in a way he’d never done before.
When he opened his eyes, she’d been watching. “Anything stand out?”
He took a second, shorter whiff. “Pepper, I think.”
Her mouth turned into a half-surprised, half-pleased smile. “Very good.”
A sensation fluttered in his gut, her approval an unexpected joy.
“I smelled some kind of berry too. Now take a decent taste. Let the liquid coat your entire mouth. It’ll feel different on your tongue versus the roof of your mouth or the inside of your cheeks. There are all kinds of hidden flavors. Some bold, others more subtle.”
She brought the glass to her lips then stopped, leaned across the counter, and placed her soft palm over the hand where he held the glass. A sweet floral scent drifted from her hair. She dropped her voice, now low and sexy. “A ready guy like you should take your time with this one.” She cocked a loaded brow. “Really work hard and you’ll detect the wine’s secrets.”
Heat crept up his neck again.
The microwave buzzer sounded but she kept her gaze on him as she tipped back her goblet. Her full lips brushed the rim with the delicate touch of a first kiss.
About the author and where to find her:
Sharon Struth is an award-winning author who believes it’s never too late for a second chance in love or life. When she’s not writing, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail. Sharon writes from the small town of Bethel, Connecticut, the friendliest place she’s ever lived.
SHARE THE MOON, book one in the Blue Moon Lake Romances, is a finalist for a RONE Award and a Chatelaine Award for Romantic Fiction!
It started as a deception to catch a killer. It turned into a game of seduction. Will it end when a shocking secret threatens to tear them apart? Sheltered good girl Victoria Raine has always wanted to be a little bad. Tired of living life safely on the sidelines, she summons the courage to forge a new path for herself and applies to the FBI, looking for adventure and something to fulfill her vague longing for something…more. She gets more than she bargained for with her first undercover assignment—posing as the girlfriend of country music’s bad boy, Drake Maddox, a lone wolf with a reputation for having singularly erotic tastes. Hoping to catch a serial killer that’s targeting women close to Drake, Tori’s job is to convince the public, and the killer, that she and the wickedly handsome superstar are an item. Although their relationship is a sham, there’s nothing fake about the hidden desires the sexy as sin cowboy awakens in Tori. As the killer draws closer, Tori finds herself falling for the one man she can’t have.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
**SLIGHTY SPOILERISH FOR BOOKS #1 (FEARLESS) AND #2 (MATCHELESS)**
The third and final installment of the Black Brothers Trilogy starts out awesome and doesn’t let up until the very last second. Victoria (Tori) Raine has always done what is expected of her, right up to the moment she applied for the FBI. Drake Maddox has never done what is expected of him, right up to the moment he agreed to have a pretend girlfriend.
As a celebrated country singer, Drake Maddox (aka Drake Black) is a household name and used to a lot of attention. He is on the front of every magazine, he is the topic of all kinds of gossip, and women line up to share his bed. Drake rarely ever refuses a bed partner and if the rumors are to be believed, he is just like his brothers, Beckett and Griffin and likes to be in control of his women. Having a girlfriend has never really been on Drake’s agenda but woman have been disappearing from his concerts and the FBI has a plan.
When Tori is told she is to be Drake Maddox’s girlfriend in order to help catch a killer, she readily accepts the assignment then asks who Drake Maddox is. Her research is eye-opening, her first meeting with Drake is somewhat awkward, and their first “date” is seen by the public as friendly and far from hot. In private, the heat is definitely turned up but Tori realizes she is in way over her head with Drake. His reputation certainly precedes him and if she is going to convince the public she is really Drake’s girlfriend, she is going to need some instruction. Under the guise of it “being for the case,” Tori asks Drake to teach her how to be edgier, more like the girls he usually “dates.” Knowing an opportunity when he sees it, Drake agrees to teach Tori what it means to be edgier.
Teaching Tori to be edgier is not only exciting but entirely sensual and sexy and certainly no burden for Drake. With Tori’s agreement, Drake takes total control of their relationship from what Tori wears to the things she does both in public and private. Much to both Tori and Drake’s surprise, Tori is not only a willing participant but an enthusiastic one as well. While both are enjoying their time together and clearly convincing the public of their relationship status, they know they situation is temporary and meant to be nothing more than a show. As the deadline to catch the killer draws ever closer, Tori and Drake also become closer and neither are at all prepared for how the whole mess is going to shake out in the end.
The Bottom Line: It is no secret how much I love trilogies and the Black Brothers Trilogy is no exception. From beginning to end, I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and was really sad to come to the end. Drake Maddox is quite the surprise and I liked him from the moment he was introduced in book two. Seriously? It’s kind of hard not to like him after that island scene. . . .but I digress. Tori is spunky and eager to learn but she is also searching for something more for her life. Drake is the perfect fit for Tori and once they actually lay all their cards on the table they are a very good team. The reveal of the big bad is not at all unexpected but getting to that moment is well worth it and I was glad to see the continuation of the theme/characters through all three books. Bush has created a group of characters and a plot line you are glad to see continue. Don’t get me wrong, each book focuses on one of the brothers exclusively but the other brothers (and their respective partners) play a vital role in that character’s book. It is clear, there is a great sense of respect, love, and loyalty among the Black brothers and that is a theme that is carried throughout the series as well. Bush has created an excellent series with solid, well-rounded characters and a plot line that is equal parts naughty and nice. I was quite thrilled to follow the Black brothers through three reads and would gladly do so again.
P.S. Though these books can be read as stand-alones, I highly recommend reading all three of them in order. There is so much crossing over and continuation of certain elements and characters that to read the trilogy out of order would create a far less enjoyable experience.