Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Come back to me …
Luke remembers a few things. Just not his last name, or anyone he ever knew. He knows that he’s a supersoldier, genetically enhanced and loaded up with brain implants. He just escaped from a year-long hell of captivity, and to protect his family and friends from his tormentors, he blocked his memories. Now he needs those memories back, fast … or he and those he loves will die agonizing deaths.
Luke’s dangerous plan to reconnect with his past—and stay alive in the present—has drawn his enemies’ attention to the tough and sexy Dani LaSalle. He’s duty bound to protect the luscious beauty from the evil pursuing them, but he can’t control the scorching desire she awakens in him.
Dani’s strict routine has been trashed by Luke’s explosive arrival. This rock-hard slab of valiant, smoldering manhood appears out of nowhere, saves her life, spirits her away to his mountain lair and bewilders her with tales of sadistic researchers, enhanced assassins. Is this gorgeous, problematic sex god just plain crazy—or is she? But Luke can do things with his mind that are just as wild as what he can do with that body … and she can’t say no.
And there’s no time to wonder. As their passion burns hotter, Obsidian moves closer … and Luke and Dani must place their lives and their hearts on the line just to survive …
He’d gotten inside just in time. The hostiles had showed up moments afterwards. He’d seen four thermal heat signatures slinking around out there. Systematic, professional, moving smoothly into position in the overgrown foliage. No unmod would have seen or heard them. Covering every entrance. Probably listening with modified ears, just like him.
He just hoped they weren’t scanning for thermals. He couldn’t afford to lose the advantage of surprise, outnumbered as he was.
Now if he could just quickly, forcefully convince Dani to get down on the other side of the dryer while he went out to deal with them …
But she wouldn’t. It wasn’t her nature. He needed to calm her down first. Explain that she had to do exactly what he said, this instant, if she wanted to keep breathing.
But he couldn’t get the words out. At least not without scaring her so badly that she started screaming again.
Words wouldn’t come. All those long months of keeping silent, refusing to speak to Mark, then Braxton. Resisting interrogation, beating and torture.
He wanted to howl his frustration, but that wouldn’t help. Her heart was galloping. Stripes of yellow light from the kitchen sliced through the slats in the door and across her eyes. They were wide and brilliant, glittering with angry tears.
“Hold still,” he whispered.
Her body squirmed against his, chest to thigh. She was tall and strong. Her head came all the way up to his nose. Her lush tits pressed against his body armor. The sensation made him want to ditch the damn vest. Feel all those curves for real.
Some other time. He had a job to do. And she absolutely did not deserve the shitstorm that was blowing her way.
“Dani,” he whispered. “Don’t scream.”
He meant it as an order, but it came out rough, hoarse. Pleading.
Slowly, he lifted his hand. Her mouth was slightly open. She was panting. The pink, tender fullness of her lips made him ache down low.
A tear glittered as it flashed down over her cheek. The sight of it hurt him inside.
“Don’t cry,” he begged, in a raw whisper. But he touched his fingertip to the wet tear-track that gleamed on her smooth, beautiful cheek. He wanted to taste it.
She inhaled. Luke sensed the ear-splitting scream that was forming in her mind, and did the only thing he could think of to head it off.
He kissed her.
Shannon McKenna is the NYT bestselling author of seventeen action packed, turbocharged romantic thrillers, among which are the stories of the wildly popular McCloud series and the brand new romantic suspense series, The Obsidian Files. She loves tough and heroic alpha males, heroines with the brains and guts to match them, villains who challenge them to their utmost, adventure, scorching sensuality, and most of all, the redemptive power of true love. Since she was small she has loved abandoning herself to the magic of a good book, and her fond childhood fantasy was that writing would be just like that, but with the added benefit of being able to take credit for the story at the end. Alas, the alchemy of writing turned out to be messier than she’d ever dreamed. But what the hell, she loves it anyway, and hopes that readers enjoy the results of her alchemical experiments. She loves to hear from her readers.
Rule #1: Never get involved with someone who won’t be there for you when the sun comes up. Once bitten, twice shy, and sexy PI Jackie Morrisey wasn’t going there again. Vincent Argeneau may be the hottest guy she’s ever met, living or dead, but she’s here to stop a killer from turning this vampire into dust, not to jump into bed with him. Rule #2: Never kiss a vampire . . . it can be a pain in the neck. Okay, so Vincent’s had four hundred years to perfect his kissing skills, and he does look rather tempting when he runs around the house shirtless. He’s also charming, protective . . . did we mention he can kiss? Jackie needs to be on her guard, or else she’ll have to come up with a new rule: If you’re going to fall in love with a vampire, make sure it’s a bite to remember.
Jackie Morrisey has had to fight for every ounce of respect she’s received. As a woman working in the male-dominated field of private detecting, Jackie has had to work harder, longer, more efficiently, and more successfully than her male counterparts. She takes crap from no one, handles her business discreetly and professionally, and prides herself on her resourcefulness and capabilities. With her partner, Tiny, Jackie has managed to amass an impressive client list, and the Argeneau’s are among them!
Vincent Argeneau is a man of the theater! For four centuries he has worked to build his theatrical empire, his reputation, and a loyal following. For four centuries, with few exceptions, Vincent has little trouble enjoying the life and work he has built for himself. The last several months have been a most decided exception to the four-century rule. In the last few months, Vincent’s productions and people have been plagued by mishaps and misfortunes. From physical accidents to spontaneous abandonment of parts, Vincent has no idea what or who has begun to plague his life, and if he doesn’t find out soon, all he has built is going to be ruined.
Jackie has intention of seeing Vincent Argeneau as anything other than a client. He may be dead sexy, accomplished, and surprisingly nice, but he’s a vampire and she’s had her fill of those blood-sucking bastards! One truly awful and tremendously embarrassing relationship with a vampire is more than enough for a lifetime so Jackie walks in to Vincent’s home and life with nothing more than work on her brain. Until things other than work begin to pop into her brain. With more than a bit of trepidation, and with a serious whack job on the loose and targeting her client, Jackie embarks on a relationship with Vincent.
The Bottom Line: Y’all, I totally adored this book!! Jackie is kickass and sassy with no tolerance for anyone’s bullsh*t!! Though she knows about vampires, her perspective is quite skewed, and she learns so much being in Vincent’s home and life. Accompanying Jackie is Tiny, one of my favorite characters in the entire series! Tiny is steady, calm, quiet, skilled, and a wonderful balance to Jackie. He cares for her as much as Vincent does, but in a very different way. He is, by far one of the most endearing characters in the series. Vincent is a funny character for me, and one the author was able to totally change my opinion about. Vincent first appears in book four, Tall, Dark, and Hungry and comes off as a rather childish character. In this book, we see a much different, much improved Vincent. He is actually quite mature, committed to his work and his employees, and interested in finding his life mate. In fact, Vincent is quite a likeable character and a perfect fit for the feisty and fiery Jackie. What really pushed me over the edge with this book, was the big reveal at the end and the reasons behind all the awful! Though it is a tragic story, I really liked the dark turn that absolutely set this story apart from the rest of the series!
The taste of temptation. Terri had flown from England to help plan her cousin’s wedding, but paying for a New York hotel room was like giving blood! She had an alternative: the new in-laws were offering lodging. Of course, the Argeneaus were a certifiably odd bunch. There was the sometimes chipper, sometimes brooding Lucern – a “vampire romance” writer. There was the wacky stage actor, Vincent. She couldn’t imagine Broadway casting a more ravenous singing-and-dancing Dracula. And then there was Bastien. Of this unique cast of characters, he seemed the tallest, darkest and hungriest – and his effect on Terri was decidedly delicious. Just looking into his eyes made her want to serve up her innocence on a silver platter. And she had a feeling the love feast was about to begin.
Terri is no stranger to life throwing curve balls. Once upon a time, Terri was young and in love, but life threw a whole slew of curve balls that left her widowed and alone in England. With a few good friends and a stable job, Terri has managed to make the most of her life, even feel satisfied with her life, but there is never going to be another great love. As an unattached woman, Terri has the luxury of packing her bags and heading to New York for a couple of weeks to help her cousin, Kate C. Leever, prepare for her impending wedding. As it happens, life isn’t done throwing curve balls at Terri!
When Terri arrives in New York, she isn’t greeted by her cousin, but by a tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome man who whisks her away to his New York penthouse. To be sure, the man explains he is nearly related to Kate and will be sharing his incredibly large home with her, Terri in the weeks preceding the wedding. Oh, and Kate won’t be there because she’s been called out of town for work and all the last-minute wedding details are now in the hands of Terri and the tall, dark stranger. So. Many. Curve. Balls.
Bastien Argeneau is the fix it man for his family. When disaster strikes, call Bastien. When you need blood, call Bastien. When you need transportation, call Bastien. When you need, well, anything, call Bastien! For centuries, Bastien has gladly accepted his role within the family, been glad to help when and where he can, and never complained or taken much for himself in exchange. In fact, Bastien has spent centuries doing nothing but working and he has no plans to do anything different once his future in-law’s cousin is settled into the penthouse. Then, Bastien meets Terri, and suddenly, a few days off doesn’t seem like such a hardship.
Bastien immediately likes Terri and respects her willingness to alter her plans and take on so much responsibility on behalf of her cousin. Despite all the crazy thrown at her, Terri dives right in with zero complaints and a solid can-do attitude. As the days move swiftly by, Bastien finds his time with Terri is the easiest, most comfortable he has had in many, many centuries. She is fun, adventurous, intelligent, funny, and shares so many of Bastien’s own likes and interests. What’s more, Bastien can’t read her!
The Bottom Line: I’m not sure Tall, Dark, and Hungry is ever going to be my favorite book in the series, but it is a solid read. I liked Bastien far, far more than Terri so I think that’s what has me somewhat on the fence with my overall enjoyment of the read. Of all the people to come into the Argeneau family, Terri is by far the most sedate, the most even-keeled, and that didn’t quite work for me. With that being said, I certainly didn’t dislike this book, just wanted that little extra punch I’ve grown accustomed to in the first three books. As the saying goes, onward and upward . . . . . or, in this case, on to book five, A Bite to Remember!
In March of 1603, as she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth of England, Frances Gorges dreams of her parents’ country estate, where she has learned to use flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer. She is happy to stay at home when King James of Scotland succeeds to the throne. His court may be shockingly decadent, but his intolerant Puritanism sees witchcraft in many of the old customs—punishable by death. But when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to the royal palace, she is a ready target for the twisted scheming of the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil. As a dark campaign to destroy both King and Parliament gathers pace, culminating in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Frances is surrounded by danger, finding happiness only with the King’s precocious young daughter, and with Tom Wintour, the one courtier she feels she can trust. But is he all that he seems?
Frances Gorges, though born to a title, land, and money, would much rather spend her time tucked away at her family’s estate than waste her time, title, and money at court. In fact, if Frances were to have her way, she would never leave her family estate. Unfortunately, given her time and place, Frances’s life is more often controlled by powerful men rather than by her own choices.
The court of King James is no place for the bold, daring, or the inquisitive. In fact, the only people safe in the court of King James are those who believe precisely as the King does and flaunt those beliefs openly. Any beliefs and/or practices even a hair outside those of the King are considered heretical, and King James isn’t afraid to kill to “protect” himself and his court. Unfortunately, Frances Gorges is among those most reviled by the King, and thanks to her power-hungry uncle, she has landed herself in the heart of the lion’s den with only her own wits to protect her.
Thanks to years of study, both independently and with a kind mentor, Frances has learned the skills necessary to serve her community as a healer. Plants, herbs, tinctures, lotions, and concoctions are her strength, with healing and good intentions being her only motivation. In her small town, Frances is largely free to practice her skills and help her neighbors; at the court of King James, her skills will get her killed for witchcraft. With no intention of dying, Frances does all she can to hide her abilities, but when the Queen herself comes calling, it’s hard to deny what and who she is in the face of royalty.
What and who Frances Gorges is, is precisely what lands her in trouble and in the thick of a plot she never wanted any part of. As her life spins wildly out of control, Frances often finds herself at the mercy of others and their whims. Through cunning, intelligence, stark bravery, and a commitment to her young, royal ward, Frances manages to navigate life at court through the most dangerous of times. Through physical hardship, torture, blackmail, emotional manipulation, and even the tiniest bit of happiness, Frances lives her life and serves as she has been called forth to do. The end result is nothing like she would have ever predicted!
The Bottom Line: Though this book is a slow starter, I’m exceedingly glad I stuck with it and plowed through the slow parts. Frances Gorges is a terribly interesting character who seems to defy Fate at every turn. Her life at court isn’t at all what she wants, but she finds a way to forge ahead even in the direst of circumstances. Once the plot really picks up, it begins to roll quite nicely through a series of awful, treacherous, and treasonous events that leave Frances absolutely reeling. In so many ways, she is a woman caught up in her time and place, unable to escape a future wrought for her by scheming, cold, and uncaring men. With that in mind, one of my favorite aspects of this read is Frances’s ability to hold her head high and remain largely true to herself, her family, and her abilities as a healer. With the exception of the slow start and some excessive detail (which can easily be skimmed over!) I found this read satisfying. While it doesn’t necessarily have an HEA, it does have a proper ending that answered all the questions and dealt with all the characters, some more satisfactorily than others. In all, a fine piece of historical fiction.
She was raised to be beautiful, nothing more. And then the rules changed…
In icy Dasnaria, rival realm to the Twelve Kingdoms, a woman’s roleis to give pleasure, produce heirs, and question nothing. But a plot to overthrow the emperor depends on the fate of his eldest daughter. And the treachery at its heart will change more than one carefully limited life…
THE GILDED CAGE
Princess Jenna has been raised in supreme luxury—and ignorance. Within the sweet-scented, golden confines of the palace seraglio, she’s never seen the sun, or a man, or even learned her numbers. But she’s been schooled enough in the paths to a woman’s power. When her betrothal is announced, she’s ready to begin the machinations that her mother promises will take Jenna from ornament to queen.
But the man named as Jenna’s husband is no innocent to be cozened or prince to charm. He’s a monster in human form, and the horrors of life under his thumb are clear within moments of her wedding vows. If Jenna is to live, she must somehow break free—and for one born to a soft prison, the way to cold, hard freedom will be a dangerous path indeed…
I grew up in paradise.
Tropically warm, lushly beautiful, replete with luxury, my childhood world was without flaw. My least whim was met with immediate indulgence, served instantly and with smiles of delight. I swam in crystal clear waters, then napped on silk. I chased gorgeously ornamental fish and birds, and enjoyed dozens of perfectly behaved pets of unusual coloring and pedigrees. My siblings and I spent our days in play, nothing ever asked or expected of us.
Until the day everything was demanded—and taken—from me.
Only then did I finally see our paradise for what it was, how deliberately designed to mold and shape us. A breeding ground for luxurious accessories. To create a work of art, you grow her in an environment of elegance and beauty. To make her soft and lusciously accommodating, you surround her with delicacies and everything delightful. And you don’t educate her in anything but being pleasing.
Education leads to critical thinking, not a desirable trait in a princess of Dasnaria, thus I was protected from anything that might taint the virginity of my mind, as well as my body.
Because I’d understood so little of the world outside, when my time came to be plucked from the garden, when the snip of the shears severed me from all I’d known, the injury came as a shock so devastating that I had no ability to even understand what it meant, much less summon the will to resist and overcome. Which, I’ve also come to realize over time, was also a part of the deliberate design.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning.
I grew up in paradise.
And it was all you’d imagine paradise to be. A soft palace of lagoons and lush gardens, of silk bowers and laughter. With little else to do, our mothers and the other ladies played with us, games both simple and extravagantly layered. When we tired, we napped on the velvet soft grass of the banks of the pools, or on the silk pillows scattered everywhere. We’d sleep until we awoke, eat the tidbits served us by watchful servant girls, then play more.
Hestar and I had our own secret games and language. All the ladies called us the royal pair, as we were the emperor’s firstborns and we’d been born less than a month apart.
My mother, first wife, the Empress Hulda, and the most highly ranked woman in the empire, spent much of her day at court. When she was home in the seraglio, she preferred to relax without noisy children to bother her. Hestar’s mother, Jilliya, was second wife and kept getting pregnant, forever having and sometimes losing the babies. So, by unspoken agreement, we kept clear of her apartments, too. Something else I understood much later, that the miasma of misery has its own brand of contagion—and that those who fear contracting the deadly disease stay far away.
Saira, on the other hand, third wife and mother of our half-sister Inga, had a kindness and sweetness to her, so we kids often played in her apartments when we grew bored of games like climbing the palm trees to see who could pluck the most dates while a servant counted the time. Inga, along with my full brother, Kral, were the second oldest pair—the second-borns, also arriving in the same month, to my mother and Saira. Less than a year younger than Hestar and me, they completed our set of four. Our six other brothers and sisters played with us, too, but they were babies still, needing to be watched all the time. Whenever we could, the four of us ditched the babies, exploring the far corners of our world, then making hideouts where no one could find us.
Though, of course, when the least desire took our fancy, someone always appeared instantaneously to satisfy us. Another of the many illusions of my childhood.
Hestar and I, we had a cave we’d made under a clump of ferns. He’d stocked it with a box of sweetmeats and I’d stolen one of my mother’s silk throws for a carpet. Embroidered with fabulous animals, it told tales of a world beyond our corner of paradise. We loved it best of all our purloined treasures, and made up stories about the scenes and creatures, giving them names and convoluted histories.
One day—the kind that stands out with crystalline clarity, each detail incised in my memory—we played as usual. Hestar had been mysteriously gone for a while the day before, or perhaps several days before or for several days in a row. That part fogs in with the timelessness of those days that never ended, but blended one into the next. What I remember is the elephant.
“And the miskagiggle flapped its face tail, saying nooo—”
“It’s called an elephant,” Hestar interrupted me.
“It’s not a miskagiggle. It’s an elephant, and the face tail is a trunk.” Hestar beamed with pride at knowing something I didn’t.
“You’re making that up.”
“No, I’m not! My tutor told me.”
“A teacher. My tutor is named Ser Llornsby.”
“Is that where you went?” Hestar and Kral had been whisked off by servants, and no one would tell me or Inga where they were, just that we’d see them again soon.
Hestar’s blue eyes went wide and he looked around to see if anyone was listening. “Want to know a secret?”
Oh, did I. Even then I understood that secrets were the carefully hoarded and counted currency of the seraglio. “Yes!”
We pulled the silk throw over our heads to make a tent. It was the usual grass beneath, so we didn’t really need the carpet. Having it just made our hideaway more special—and the throw became a blanket, excellent for exchanging secrets.
“We went through the doors!” Hestar told me, whispering but much too loudly.
I hushed him. I didn’t question how I knew, but this secret held power. Most of our secrets had been silly, frivolous things, like how Inga kept candied dates under her pillow. Or ones everyone already knew, like that Jilliya was pregnant again. With the unabashed enthusiasm of children, we absorbed all the murmured gossip and repeated it with equal relish. This, though—I recognized immediately how important it was.
No wonder no one would tell us where they’d gone. Children didn’t go through the doors. Only my mother and some of the women. The rekjabrel and other servants, they went in and out all the time. But a lot of times they came back crying or hurt, so we understood the doors led to a terrible place. And yet Hestar had gone and returned, beaming.
“Was it terrible? Were you scared? Did Kral go, too?”
Hestar nodded, solemnly. “We were brave boys though. And it’s not like here. There aren’t the lagoons and it’s not as warm. They took us to a library and we met Ser Llornsby. We looked at pictures and learned animal names.”
I couldn’t bring myself to ask what a library might be. I wanted to look at pictures and learn animal names. Though I didn’t know the emotion to name it at the time, a jab of envy lanced through my heart. Hestar and I always had everything the same, only I had the better mother, because she was first wife. It wasn’t fair that Hestar got to go through the doors and learn things without me. An elephant. I whispered the exotic word to myself.
“Elephants are huge and people ride on their backs, and the elephants carry things for them in their trunks.” Hestar continued, full of smug pride. “Ser Llornsby is going to teach me everything I need to know to be emperor someday.”
“Why do you get to be emperor? My mother is first wife. Yours is only second wife. Besides, I’m older.”
Hestar wrinkled his nose at me. “Because you’re a girl. Girls can’t be emperor. Only empress.”
That was true. It was the way of things. “Well then you can be emperor and I can be empress like Mother.”
“All right!” Hestar grinned. “We’ll rule the whole empire and have lots of elephants. Kral and Inga can be our servants.”
For the rest of the day we played emperor and empress. Kral and Inga got mad and decided they would be emperor and empress, too, not listening when we said there could only be one of each and we were firstborn so they had to be our servants. They went off to play their own game, but we got Helva to be in our court, and also her little brothers, Leo and Loke. The boys were identical twins and liked any game they could play together. Baby Harlan could barely toddle, so he stayed with his nurse. Ban went off with Inga, of course, as he followed her everywhere, but her full brother, Mykal came to our side.
We didn’t care, because our court was the biggest. Besides, everyone knew the emperor gets to pick his own empress, and Hestar already promised me I’d be first wife and I could pick his other wives, just like Mother did. Which meant Inga wouldn’t get to be one. Maybe not Helva, either, though I told her she would be.
Mother didn’t much care for Saira and Jilliya, so maybe I wouldn’t have other wives at all. I didn’t need them to be empress.
Playing emperor and empress turned out to be terribly fun. Hestar made me a crown of orchids and we took over one of the small eating salons, getting the servants to clear out the table and pillows, instead setting up two big chairs to be our thrones. His Imperial Majesty Emperor Einarr Konyngrr, our father, had a throne. So we’d heard. And we badgered one of the rekjabrel who’d served in the court to tell us what it looked like.
“Huge, Your Imperial Highnesses,” she said, keeping her eyes averted. “It towers above, all platinum and crystal, so bright you can’t look upon it. I can’t say more.”
“What about the Empress’s throne?” I persisted.
“Just the one throne, Your Imperial Highness Princess Jenna.”
“That can’t be right,” I told Hestar, when we let the rekjabrel go. “She must not have seen properly.”
“We don’t have platinum anyway,” he replied.
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award.
Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms. Book one in that series, The Pages of the Mind, has also been nominated for the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and won RWA’s 2017 RITA® Award. The second book, The Edge of the Blade, released December 27, 2016, and is a PRISM finalist, along with The Pages of the Mind. The next in the series, The Shift of the Tide, will be out in August, 2017. A high fantasy trilogy taking place in The Twelve Kingdoms world is forthcoming from Rebel Base books in 2018.
She also introduced a new fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, which includes Lonen’s War, Oria’s Gambit, The Tides of Bàra, and The Forests of Dru. She’s begun releasing a new contemporary erotic romance series, Missed Connections, which started with Last Dance and continues in With a Prince.
In 2019, St. Martins Press will release the first book, The Orchid Throne, in a new fantasy romance series, The Forgotten Empires.
Her other works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.