Wicked and Wanton: She wanted just one naughty carriage ride…
Beth McConnell has a secret. Sometimes in the afternoons, she escapes the drudgery of her family’s shop and seduces wealthy gentlemen. One encounter is all Beth allows. She must leave them burning.
When she boldly seduces Grey Sexton, a powerful shipping magnate, Beth finds his ice-over-fire combination of ironclad self-control and sensual indulgence too tempting to resist. Surely, one or two more clandestine trysts wouldn’t hurt?
But Grey Sexton demands more. His possessive determination to own her, body and soul, threatens to expose her
erotic life. To give into his demands means losing her good name and her place in her brother’s home…everything she holds dear. She must turn away, for she knows that a poor girl can never afford to trust her heart to a gentleman.
White Lace and Promises: New York Merchant Prince Grey Sexton loves the audacious, spirited young temptress who seduced him in a Philadelphia bookseller’s and made passionate love to him in his carriage. Her fiery nature broke through his cold self-protection.
Beth McConnell loves her husband-to-be very much, yet she wonders if she will ever be able to present herself as the respectable lady he needs for his wife.
What started out as a secret, tumultuous affair has blossomed into something neither of them can live without. But under the strains created by the differences in their social rank, they begin to have serious doubts about the future. And dark secrets from their past threaten to tear them apart.
Can their love prevail?
Alex’s Angel: In the wake of a devastating epidemic, sheltered Emily Eliot finds herself alone, making her own decisions for the first time. When desperation leads her to sell her virtue, she walks straight into trouble.
Enter one gorgeous, golden haired gentleman bent on protecting her.
Alexander Dalton came to the Blue Duck Tavern seeking to lose himself in sexual pleasure. But when he saw the delicate and vulnerable young woman, he couldn’t turn away.
Emily is alarmed by her own intense responses as this charismatic and carnal man introduces her to erotic pleasure. Having lived as a virtual prisoner of her grandmother’s suffocating manipulation, Emily bridles under Alex’s possessive, protectiveness. And Alex’s charming smile hides a dark secret that could destroy their chance at happiness.
Emily’s Seduction: Love is the most seductive sacrifice of all. Before he can share his deepest, darkest secrets with her, he has to show her what seduction truly means.
For the first time in a long time, Alex is genuinely happy. He’s found a woman he can love. Now he wants only to enjoy his life. But the past won’t let him go. His dark secrets threaten to engulf him. Yet how can he tell his innocent fiancée about the horrific things he’s experienced?
Emily finds herself locked in a battle with the darkness that appears to hold Alex captive.
Natasha Blackthorne writes hot & sensual Erotic Historical Romance where deeply flawed characters find love & trust. Her stories are most frequently about the intimate journey of the characters as they learn to open their hearts to love. Natasha’s heroines are not perfect ladies. They are wildflowers and wallflowers who flirt with the forbidden. Whether they are bold or shy, these heroines’ strong desires and deep emotions drive the plot and drive their heroes to the point of no return. Natasha’s heroes are strong and dominant and live their lives with strength and purpose. They support their women in everything. Natasha holds a B.A. in History, loves reading, cats and music. Readers are welcomed to Friend her on Facebook where she is most socially active online.
*** 9 tales of dark desire from your favorite NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY Bestselling Authors! ***
Delicious dark romance, toe-curling suspense, and sinful pleasure, all packed into one boxed set. We’ve gathered all your favorite Dark Romance and Suspense stories and combined them into one scorching bundle. These possessive alphas, sexy bad-boys, and savage heroes will claim your heart and leave you begging for mercy.
Owned: (M. Never): “I like you collared, baby. I like you naked, I like you mine.” Ellie Stevens has lusted over Kayne Roberts since he first walked into the import/export company she works for a little over a year ago. She kept a safe distance from the man with the majestic blue eyes – until temptation finally gets the better of her.
Breathe: (C.D. Reiss): He was the dream I never knew I had until he claimed me. The kinky billionaire who wanted to give pain as much as I wanted to receive it. He’d marked me as his own and I accepted him. I trust him completely. I swear I do. But, now things are getting complicated. I have a career, and he has his claim. How far is he going to go to mark me? And am I going to run or stay?
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About the authors and where to find them:
Lili St. Germain: Lili writes dark, disturbing romance. Her USA Today bestselling Gypsy Brothers series focuses on a morally bankrupt biker gang and the girl who seeks her vengeance upon them. The Cartel series is a prequel trilogy of full-length novels that explores the beginnings of the club, to be released worldwide in print and ebook in 2015 by HarperCollins.
Lili quit corporate life to focus on writing and so far is loving every minute of it. Her other loves in life include her gorgeous husband and beautiful daughter, good coffee, Tarantino movies and spending hours on Pinterest.
She loves to read almost as much as she loves to write.
Nashoda Rose: Nashoda Rose is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She writes contemporary romance with a splash of darkness, or maybe it’s a tidal wave. When she isn’t writing, she can be found sitting in a field reading with her dog at her side, while her horses graze nearby. She loves interacting with her readers and chatting about her addiction–books.
Gemma James: Gemma James is a USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of a blend of genres, from new adult suspense to dark erotic romance. She loves to explore the darker side of human nature in her fiction, and she’s morbidly curious about anything dark and edgy, from deviant sex to serial killers. Readers have described her stories as being “not for the faint of heart.”
She warns you to heed their words! Her playground isn’t full of rainbows and kittens, though she likes both. She lives in Oregon with her husband and their four children–three rambunctious UFC/wrestling-loving boys and one girl who steals everyone’s attention.
Vanessa Waltz: My name is Vanessa and steamy, bad boy romances with headstrong alpha males are my trade. Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join my newsletter here for discounts, information on new releases, and more!
Skye Warren: Skye Warren is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of dark romance. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely tender. For those new to her work, consider the bestseller Wanderlust, Prisoner or the Dark Nights series starting with Trust in Me.
Skye Callahan: Skye Callahan is the bestselling author of Irrevocable a dark romance that ran away with her emotions and led her on a whole new writing journey. She enjoys exploring the darker sides of life through her fiction, whether through paranormal creatures or the depraved underbelly of human nature. Her other works include the follow up to Irrevocable, Bend Don’t Break, The Redline Series, The Fractured Legacy Series, and Bound and Unbroken.
Her love of reading and writing started at a young age and she has been blessed with a family that continues to support her dreams to be a full-time writer. She has lived in Ohio all of her life, where she enjoys taking long walks through cemeteries with her husband (when the insane Ohio weather permits), studying local history, and trying to make peace with the neighbor’s cats.
Lovers reunite, and are torn apart. Bloodthirsty fiends battle for control of an army of the undead. With the community of Talbot frozen under layers of ice and snow, the domination of the vampire coven seems certain, but in the eye of the storm, the witches and the vampire hunters search desperately for the means to bring an end to the violence that threatens to take over more than one small, sleepy town. Will Rayvin and Charlotte be able to work together, combining their skills in magick, to prevent the loss of more innocent lives?
The third and final installment of The Talbot Trilogy opens in the aftermath of the huge magical event caused by Charlotte and Rayvin. Though their magic was able to temporarily stop the wave of violence brought on by Jason, de Sade, and the newly created army of the undead the fight is far from over and Talbot is on the brink of total destruction.
Army of the undead sucks (see what I did there?) but it is really Jason that Charlotte and Rayvin have the most to fear from. Jason is pure evil and even de Sade couldn’t predict how vampirism would affect him. Jason has little to no impulse control, a deep-seated hatred of Rayvin, and a strong desire to take over more than just Talbot. Thankfully, the girls aren’t quite alone in their fight against evil. Joining Charlotte and Rayvin are Marcy, the wood nymph, her partner and lover, Siobhan, the gargoyle, Grant, the beautiful (in both forms!) arctic wolf, and Pike, Charlotte’s husband. Six against an army isn’t the greatest of odds and things are about to get worse.
Charlotte has rarely ever used her magic and is just now, in the time of crisis, learning to harness her power. Rayvin is hurt and bleeding a lot (I won’t reveal why!!) which is weakening her ability to perform magic. Pike is mid-change and trying to avoid drinking blood until his sire can be cured and he can be rid of the vampiric virus. Marcy and Siobhan are exhausted from the strain of using their gifts so much, and Grant is constantly shifting between his forms which is causing exhaustion as well. Their exhaustion and the rapidly disintegrating weather conditions are not conducive to fighting but if the group has proved anything over the course of the series, they are resilient.
Jason’s evil and de Sade’s constantly fluctuating allegiance are also in play and the group struggles to stay alive and fight on divided fronts. True to form, Ridgewood doesn’t offer any quarter or safe haven to her characters but pounds them with obstacle after obstacle and casualties are sustained. Also true to form, Ridgewood balances the awful with some goodness and provides the group with help from some most unlikely sources. The good and the help are few and far between but when the chips are down, Talbot belongs to the humans and the group intends to keep it that way or go down swinging. From start to finish, there is very, very, very little downtime for the characters (and the reader) to regroup and catch their breath. The variety of awful Ridgewood has concocted is as creative as it is wretched. There are stabbings, falls from cliffs, being chained to a cliff, burnings, cracked skulls, loads of deaths, and explosions. Seriously, this thing is balls to the wall full of action with some crazy twists and turns and surprises along the way.
The Bottom Line: In all, I liked this final installment of The Talbot Trilogy but there are a few things that sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Charlotte! Until the very end (again, I won’t tell you why!), Charlotte is a seriously annoying character and it got old having to have everyone constantly prop her up and convince her of her ability. The group needed her to pull her weight not whine. Next, the constant reminder of Rayvin’s bleeding and condition. I have no issue with how she got into the situation, it is the constant reminders of her bleeding that rankled. Finally, the sense of time is very much lost in this read. There are few moments when one of the characters mentions how little time has passed and it feels wrong (disorienting?) given how much action has occurred. One of the highlights of the read is the epilogue. Have I mentioned how much I love it when an author adds an epilogue and uses it well? Crystal and Wand’s epilogue isn’t just a great what happens after all the awful, it is also quite the little teaser. While I firmly believe The Talbot Trilogy has come to an end, I don’t get the sense Ridgewood is done with this particular cast of characters. There is still a lot that can be done with the Talbot group and it will be interesting to see where Ridgewood takes them in the future.
After her first heartbreak, Tori found solace in two things: reading romance novels and listening to an after-dark radio program called Lovers and Other Strangers. Throughout the summer and fall of 1990, the new kid in town found reading fiction and writing her own short stories gave her a much needed creative outlet. Determined to become a published author, Tori amassed stacks of notebooks and boxes of filed-away stories, most only half-finished before another idea would overtake her and demand to be written down. Then, while on parental leave with her second baby, one story formed and refused to be packed away. Between teaching full-time, parenting, and life in general, it would take almost seven years before the first novel in her first trilogy would be completed. In the process, Tori finally found her stride as a writer.
At present, on her off-time, Tori not only enjoys reading, but also listening to an eclectic mix of music as she walks the family dog (Skittles), attempts to turn her thumb green, or makes needlework gifts for her friends and family members. She loves to travel, collect and make miniature furniture, and a good cup of tea during a thunderstorm or a blizzard. Under it all, she is always intrigued by history, the supernatural, vampire and shapeshifter mythology, romance, and other dangers.
VERY BAD THINGS (Amazon Top 5 Book and #1 in New Adult and College Age Romance): Leaving behind her mansion and Jimmy Choos, Nora Blakely becomes a girl hell-bent on pushing the limits with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex. Then she meets her soulmate, but he doesn’t want her. Sexy gym owner Leo Tate has one rule: never fall in love…until Nora shows up with her list of bad things. He resists the pull of their sizzling connection, hung up on their age difference. Welcome to Briarcrest Academy, where the best things in life are VERY BAD THINGS.
VERY WICKED BEGINNINGS (Prequel Novella: Amazon Top 100 Book and #1 in Urban Fiction): When wicked ballerina Dovey Beckham meets football star Cuba Hudson, she didn’t plan on having her heart shattered into a million pieces. He’s the bad boy with a dark past and when he falls for Dovey, he knows she can’t be part of his future. Welcome to VERY WICKED BEGINNGINGS.
VERY WICKED THINGS (Amazon Top 100 Book and #1 in Urban Fiction): Dovey Beckham is a ballerina from the wrong side of the tracks with a scholarship to prestigious Briarcrest Academy. She gives her body but never her heart. Cuba “Hollywood” Hudson is a wealthy football player with fast cars and even faster girlfriends. Until the day he meets her, and she offers him something he’s never tasted: true love . Their passion is electric, their connection deep, but once in a lifetime kind of love doesn’t come easy, especially when dirty money, past sins, and old flames come calling. Welcome to Briarcrest Academy…where the best things in life are VERY WICKED THINGS.
VERY TWISTED THINGS (Amazon Top 100 and #1 Urban Fiction):
Violet St. Johns is a talented violinist hiding out in a Hollywood mansion, struggling to forget the devastation of her parent’s sudden death. Vital Rejects front man Sebastian Tate never imagined his music video would go viral, skyrocketing him to instant fame. Okay, maybe he did. He’s a cocky dude, and he knew his name would be in lights someday. When he sees the elusive girl in the mansion next door playing her violin nude, they begin an erotic game of spying.
When they finally come face-to-face, sparks fly and clothes comes off. But giving his heart to a girl isn’t Sebastian’s plan; falling for a guy who craves attention isn’t Violet’s. Welcome to Briarcrest Academy….Hollywood style….where the best things in life are VERY TWISTED THINGS.
“I’d like to sleep for a hundred years, wake up and try again.” – Nora Blakely
“Drop the paint and turn around slowly with your hands in the air.” The loud command was said with a deep voice. “I’ve got a gun, asshole, so move nice and slow.”
I bent over and placed the can on the pavement. I started to turn when— “I said put your hands in the air!” he yelled.
I yanked my hands up and eased around to face the owner of the voice.
He was about ten feet away from me, standing six feet and then some. He was missing a shirt but wearing a pair of black athletic shorts and flip-flops. Judging by his disheveled dirty blond hair and bloodthirsty eyes, I’d have to guess this might be the owner of the Escalade.
And I’d just woken him up.
He came closer to me, and my eyes were immediately drawn to his green-and-blue dragon tattoo. Like a giant snake, the scaled body of the dragon wrapped around his forearm and bicep with the neck coming down from his shoulder and the head resting on his broad chest. Red flames poured from its mouth, between laser sharp teeth.
This guy looked medieval.
I pictured him as a rugged Viking, wearing a horned helmet and gripping a spear instead of a gun. Maybe holding a shield instead of his flashlight and definitely wearing some of those laced-up leather boots. The word berserker (from round two of the famous spelling bee) came to mind, and I rolled the syllables around my tongue . . . ber-serk-er. Yep, that was him alright: one pissed off Norse warrior.
I grinned at my amazing analogy because, well, I was trashed.
“You think this is funny, son?” he snapped.
I shook my head, suddenly aware that this was really happening, that I’d been caught, and an angry car owner was pointing a gun at me. And he thought I was a boy.
“That’s what I thought. Now, what the hell are you doing out here messing with my car?” he said, biting out the words through clenched teeth.
I said nothing.
“You’ve got twenty seconds before I call the cops,” he said, stepping closer.
And then it happened.
Everything clicked in my head, and I knew him. He was the one, the gorgeous guy from the open house whose gaze had been the glue that held me together in the parking lot. I forgot about the gun and got tangled up in my thoughts, remembering the countless times I’d played out the memory of our eyes clinging to each other, how I’d wanted to jump out of my car, get into his and just drive away. I flicked my eyes back at the Escalade, dimly remembering he’d driven a black car. I really hadn’t paid much attention to it that day because all I’d seen had been him.
“Ten seconds,” he yelled, blasting his light full in my face until bright spots were floating in front of my eyes.
“Get that off me,” I snapped, swaying a little.
He lowered the light a miniscule bit. “Drunk and disorderly plus vandalism are two misdemeanors. Looks like you’re going to jail.”
“S’kay with me. Put me in jail,” I said weakly. But even as I said the words, I knew I was lying. I wasn’t a minor anymore, and I could kiss Princeton goodbye if I got arrested.
Nausea reared its ugly head and my stomach began to roll.
“Five seconds,” he retorted.
I bent over and hurled, missing my shirt but not my adored cowboy boots. After that, I dry heaved, and the force made my legs buckle, making me take a header straight on the concrete, the side of my face slamming into the wet pavement. My ball cap fell off in the craziness, my long hair spilling out over the wet ground.
“Holy shit,” he muttered, easing the gun down, “you’re a fucking girl.”
“Last time I looked,” I whispered, running my tongue across my teeth to check for chips. I scooted myself away from the mess I’d made and reached up to touch my face to see if I was bleeding. There wasn’t any blood, but I could feel my temple swelling. I put a hand on the car and pulled myself up. My knees were on fire, and when I looked down, I saw the concrete had ripped through my jeans and blood was dripping down my legs.
He cursed, pulled a phone from his pocket and dialed a number. “Sebastian, it’s all good. No, no cops. Yeah, come on out here. I might need some help.”
A door slammed, and a younger version of the man, probably around my age, came around the corner, his long legs striding briskly. He stopped in front of the graffiti I’d drawn and whistled loudly. “Oh baby, those pretty hearts and flowers are rocking your ride, Leo.” He chuckled and then stopped when his eyes took me in. “Whoa, she’s bleeding. Did you beat her up?”
The guy called Leo rubbed his scruffy jaw. “I don’t hit girls. She fell.”
“She’s hurt,” the young guy stated, frowning. He stared at me with a puzzled expression and then grinned and slapped his leg. “Hot damn. It’s her,” he said in a loud whisper. “You know? Nora? From registration?”
“Yeah. I see that,” Leo said, his eyes searching my face.
“I see no official introductions are necessary. Everyone knows me now as the girl with the potty mouth,” I said, leaning completely against the car, smearing the yellow paint everywhere.
The younger one came to my side. “You okay?”
I focused on him and decided I liked him. He had an open face that made me think he laughed a lot, so when I felt myself swaying again, I reached out to him.
“Watch it,” he said gently and grabbed my shoulders to steady me.
Leo walked over and loomed beside me, a disapproving look on his face as he watched us. I shifted closer to the one he’d called Sebastian, but stumbled and lost my balance, falling down again on my knees. Shit. This night had gone downhill fast.
Sebastian kneeled down next to me and looked over at Leo. “Hey, how ’bout I carry her inside so she can get cleaned up?”
Leo let out an exasperated breath. “Ridiculous,” he muttered. “She ruins my car, and you want to invite her inside? You’d feel different if it had been your Beamer, Sebastian.”
Sebastian gave my shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “She’s my classmate, bro, and I think she’d just drunk.”
Leo let out a grunt. “Whatever. Fine, I’ll get her, and you get the backpack. And don’t forget the spray paint.” He walked over and glared down at me. “If I call the police later, we’ll need the evidence.”
Then, without any effort at all, he swept me up, his hard arms slipping under my knees and around my back as he scooped me off the ground.
And just like that, the night caught up with me, and I nestled into his bare chest, feeling like I had come home. He smelled so good, like—
“Butterscotch,” I mumbled, turning my nose into him.
“What?” he grumbled, carrying me inside the glass doors.
I didn’t answer because I was too busy laying my cheek against his hot skin and staring into the crystalline eyes of his dragon.
He took me down a long hall with several doors on each side and past a large workout room with treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights. “Hold on,” he said and adjusted his grip on my legs and started up a wide staircase that opened to a spacious loft area. He carried me past a den area and a kitchen and into a large white-tiled bathroom. I suppose I was too wet for any other room. And I wasn’t exactly a welcome guest.
He sat me on the toilet seat, made sure I was steady, and eased away from me. Maybe he wanted me to sit, but I didn’t. I jumped up, went over to the sink and turned the water on. He stood there, his broad shoulders tense, watching me as I splashed cool water on my face and rinsed out my mouth. I grabbed a hand towel and dried off, wishing I wasn’t intoxicated.
“Tell me why you vandalized my car,” he stated, crossing his muscled arms and spreading his legs, his stance making it obvious he was pissed. The tension heightened in the small room as we stared at each other, and I tore my eyes from his to sit back down on the toilet seat, not knowing how to answer him. I would only sound crazy.
He tapped his fingers against his legs. “What’s your parent’s phone number? And don’t think of lying because I can always look it up online. I know who you are.”
“There’s no point in calling them. They aren’t home. They never are,” I said, grabbing a wad of toilet paper and cleaning off my boots. My throat tightened painfully at the thought of my parents, and I soothed myself by counting the tiles on the floor.
He didn’t speak and several seconds passed, and I tensed up more, fearing that like Mother, he excelled in using silence. But no one was better than Mother, who’d once refused to speak to me for an entire month when I’d come in second at a debate competition. During the first week of that horribly quiet time, I’d followed her around, begging her to talk to me. She’d ignore me and say to my dad, “Silence is golden.” As the weeks had progressed, I’d learned her silence was her speech, her way of saying I was worthless.
“Please don’t call my parents,” I added, hiding my shaking hands behind my back.
He tightened his mouth. “Fine, who can I call to come get you?”
“Don’t hold it against Portia from the bakery across the street, but she’s my aunt. I’m staying with her.” I dug my phone out of my wet jeans, scrolled down to her number, and handed it to him.
Our fingers brushed when he took my phone, and I jerked, shocked at the unexpected sizzle of heat sweeping over my body. He pocketed my phone and then opened the medicine cabinet, gazing into it for a long time without moving, like he was considering what to do next. I watched him warily, wondering what he had planned for me. Finally, he sighed and pulled out hydrogen peroxide and a handful of gauze.
“Sebastian has a change of clothes you can borrow, and you’ll need an ice pack for your face. It’s going to leave a bruise,” he told me as he bent down to touch my temple with his long fingers. He cleaned my face with cold water and then dabbed it with the hydrogen peroxide, his touch surprisingly gentle even though I could sense his anger just under the surface.
In the bright lights of the bathroom, I let my gaze run over him freely, taking him in, not missing how beautiful he was. He had an unyielding face, with a jaw line that looked like it could chisel granite, matching his well-built, defined body. Yet even with all the hotness in front of me, the one thing that made my heart fly was his icy pale-blue eyes. This close up I could see how the light, almost transparent color contrasted with his tan face, making his eyes glow like the precious opals I’d studied about in science. And right now they were focused entirely on me as he scrutinized my bruise.
“Is this your gym?” I asked, trying not to wince as he patted my temple.
“Yes,” he said, tossing the used gauze into the trash, his arm muscles rippling. He stood up and raked a hand through his wavy blond hair, holding it there as he studied me with those piercing eyes. I returned his look, my breath kicking up a notch at how sexy his naked chest was, how his dragon tattoo seemed to slither and slide over his chest as he moved. My eyes moved down to his taut abs and the way his shorts barely hung to his lean waist, hinting at what was underneath.
Of course, while I’m buzzing, I remembered my bad list and grew curious about having sex with him. Would he be gentle or demanding? Would he like me on top or would he get behind me? Would I enjoy it?
But it didn’t matter if I got off as long as he made me forget.
Forgetting was the important part.
It had been months since I’d had sex with someone. Not since that wild weekend in New York with Drew. Even though our relationship had ended badly, I still remembered the sex and how good it had felt to be held by someone. Like I wasn’t alone, like someone cared about me.
I needed a night like that again, to lose myself in sex. I wanted this Viking.
I gave him a fake smile. “Leo’s a great name. Guess you know it means lion. It also means bold one. Are you bold?” I said in a low tone, reaching out to stroke his arm.
He jerked away from me, like I’d scalded him, but it didn’t deter me. True, I was a little younger than him, but what guy would turn down a no-strings-attached night? Drew hadn’t.
I stood up and toed my boots off. “How old are you?” I asked.
“Too old for you,” he quickly retorted.
“I’m not a virgin, you know. I’ve been with other guys, some good at fucking, some not.” I let my eyes run over him slowly. “You’re older which means more experienced. I bet you’d blow them right out of the water,” I said, putting it all out there and letting bad Nora take over completely.
“I don’t care how many douchebags you’ve fucked,” he said with a hard face, his eyes gleaming with distaste.
I felt some of my false bravado slip away, but not enough to stop. He was what I needed tonight. I began unbuttoning my shirt, and his eyes followed my progress. “You tell me your age and I’ll tell you mine,” I said in the best teasing voice I could muster.
I undid the last button and shrugged out of my shirt, relieved I’d worn the black lace bra. “You like?”
He yanked a towel from the shelf near the door and tossed it in my face. “Cover up, Nora. I don’t do spoiled, rich girls.”
I caught the towel and held it against me, ignoring that remark. Those types of insults never affected me.
Not when you hear them every day.
“If you won’t tell me your age, I’ll just have to figure it out on my own. And I’m guessing you’re at least twenty-five, maybe twenty-six?” I said.
He shook his head and clenched his fists, not answering me.
I took a deep breath, dropped the towel to the floor and unclasped my bra, letting my size C breasts fall out. Even though I’d been a pudgy most of my life, I’d blossomed into a girl with generous curves. He seemed to like what he saw because he didn’t look away. I glanced down at my erect nipples and lightly touched one with my fingertip, surprised by the desire I felt. I brought my eyes back to his face, imagining his tongue on me.
A muscle jerked in his tight jaw.
I dropped my hand and steeled myself to keep on toward the goal. “Of course, it’s getting harder to tell someone’s age now because people take better care of themselves, like you with your tight abs. But, if you study someone long enough, you’ll find out their secrets.”
“I don’t have any,” he ground out, tearing his eyes from my body.
“We all do.”
He rubbed his hand across his mouth as his eyes swept over my breasts again. “You don’t know jack about me.”
I studied him, my brain picking through what I’d observed tonight. “Well, you own your own business, so you’re a responsible person. And, I bet you a new pair of boots you’re the guardian of the young man out there, who has to be your brother because he looks just like you. I think your parents are out of the picture.”
I unsnapped my jeans, shimmied them pass my skinned knees, and tossed them in the trash. “You’ve also shown self-control tonight that’s impressive. Someone less in control might have shot me on sight. In a nutshell,” I said, taking off my black panties, “you’re well-off, take care of a younger brother, and keep your emotions on a tight leash. Am I right?”
He glared at me, his entire body frozen up, like a tiger poised to pounce. Like he was going to jump on me and devour me. I wondered if he’d eat me the way I wanted.
I couldn’t stop talking. “I’m good at observing people: body language, mannerisms, how they talk, style of clothing, everything. It’s a puzzle I like to put together. It’s better than Facebook stalking,” I said with a forced shrug, trying to be casual when inside I was freaking the hell out. What was I doing?
Why was I trying to seduce this guy?
He didn’t want me.
No one did.
His eyes burned like blue flames. “What kind of girl strips for a guy she just met?”
A girl with no self-respect, I thought.
I shrugged. “I need a shower, which involves me taking my clothes off.”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “You could have waited until I left.”
I flicked my eyes at his crotch. “You’re hard for me. You’re bigger than a tree trunk in those shorts,” I said. “And you haven’t walked out of this bathroom. I think you’re a little fascinated with me. I think you like watching me take my—”
“Fuck!” he barked out and spun around to go.
“Wait, wait,” I called out, reaching out to make him stop, needing him. Please stay, I wanted to say.
He turned back with his fists held tight by his side and spat out his words. “You’re a naked girl, and I’m a grown-ass man. I’m walking out of this room while I still can.”
But he made no move to leave, and it gave me a tiny bit of hope.
“I . . . I just wanted to know how old you are.”
“Twenty-five. I’m twenty-five,” he muttered, “and you’re jailbait and not my type.”
“What type is that?” I asked.
“Girls who aren’t in high school. In other words—not you.”
And as we stood there, facing each other, I waited for him to make his move, to snatch me up and take me to his bed like I wanted.
But he didn’t, because I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough.
I was never enough.
I cleared my throat and powered on. “Eighteen isn’t jailbait.”
We stared at each other and the longer our eyes held, the more I knew my boundaries were gone. It seemed like there was nothing I wouldn’t say to him. Even though my insides were quaking with nerves, I went over to him until our bare chests were only inches apart. I was five feet ten inches, and he was at least six inches taller, making him the tallest guy I’d ever stood next to. Not only that, but his body was built like an NFL football player, with lethal yet lickable muscles. I liked being near him. I felt safe, like no one would ever hurt me again.
My eyes caressed the dragon on his chest, and I wanted to trace it with my tongue. I thought about how warm his skin would be, how it would feel to have his strong arms wrap around me as I kissed his sensuous lips. When his breathing accelerated along with mine, I knew I wasn’t completely alone in my feelings. I searched his eyes, surprised at the new sensations coursing through me.
I pressed myself against him completely, and he hissed at the contact. “Don’t you want to touch me?” I whispered, rubbing my breasts against his chest to get some friction.
He gripped my arms and shoved me away from him. “You’re playing with fire. You think you want this?” He laughed darkly. “Buttercup, you can’t handle me.”
And with those words, he pivoted around and stomped out of the room, slamming the door hard behind him.
New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap. She’s addicted to all things fantasy, including unicorns and sword-wielding heroes in books. Other fascinations include frothy coffee beverages, dark chocolate, Instagram, Ian Somerhalder (seriously hot), astronomy (she’s a Gemini), Sephora make-up, and tattoos. She has a degree in English and a Master’s in Education. When she’s not pecking away on her computer, she shops for cool magnets, paints old furniture, and eats her weight in sushi.
My name is Blair, and I just moved to California for my new job as a lawyer. I would be competing with another guy for the full-time position. The only problem was when I went in for my first day I found out that my competition was none other than Aiden. He was my best friend in high school… But now he was different.
He wasn’t the skinny boy I once knew.
He wasn’t the kind sweet boy I once knew.
He was muscular and tattooed and had a mouth on him like no other… He was the biggest distraction to my determination of getting the full-time lawyer position. But I can only ignore so much, especially when all he wanted to do was screw me. It was tempting…
Hold on tight, stick to the racing line, and watch for the corners. Four years after making the decision to leave his home town behind, all of Declan Reede’s dreams have come true. Unapologetically foul-mouthed and well known for his off-track antics, his success seems unstoppable. At least until Queensland Raceway and a chance sighting of the girl who once held his heart. Now, getting around the track seems an impossible battle as he struggles to return to his previous form. With his career racing downhill faster than his V8 on Mount Panorama, there’s more than just his reputation on the line. What will it take to put the brakes on his decline?
**Due to strong language and sexual content not intended for anyone under age of 18**
Eden had been right about the track. By the ninth lap of my second stint, the bitumen was bone dry and the teams that had gambled on the rain staying were scrambling to the pits to change back onto slicks. I used the time to push even further ahead. Eden’s voice squawked over the radio, telling me that I had just achieved the fastest lap time of the day. If I didn’t have to keep both hands on the wheel, I would have given a fist pump in celebration. Things were finally going my way.
I was celebrating the small victories when I came across the top of the mountain again, across Skyline. The glare from the sun reflected in the top corner of my windscreen and I was blinded. Not by the light, but by the vision which the sun called to mind.
My heart stopped and my eyes slammed closed.
Smiles and laughs; the sun glinting off her watch as we kept an eye on the time.
I could almost hear her voice bouncing around the car, laughing over some ridiculous shit we’d done during the day. We’d been so happy. So innocent. So fucking naive and stupid.
The memory was from one of the days we’d ditched school to hide out in our park. With a gasp, I swallowed oxygen down into protesting lungs. My hands shook and tremors raced through my fingers and into the wheel.
My stomach clenched as I remembered just how beautiful she’d been. She didn’t have supermodel looks, she had something better. An honest to goodness girl-next-door quality that shone through from within and made her ten times sexier than any over glossed supermodel could ever be. The truth was, as bad as the visions of Alyssa’s red-rimmed eyes were, the happy ones were worse. They became tangible reminders of how much she’d once meant to me, and I almost didn’t want to suppress them.
With two more gulping breaths, I forced my eyes open and pushed the thought away. My grip tightened on the steering wheel, but it was already too late.
Though it’d been mere seconds, I’d been in my own world—my past—for too long and hadn’t prepared to take the turn before falling into the Esses. I had no time to do anything but adjust the angle of my car as it smashed into the concrete barrier with a teeth-rattling bang. I prepared myself in the only way I could for a second crash as the car ricocheted off the wall, spun across the track, and then smashed into the side of a passing car. The sound of crunching metal and squealing rubber filled the space around me, but I could do nothing but hold on and hope for the best. My car lurched sickeningly toward the wall again, shunting hard into the concrete and rocking me into the hard surface of the door.
By the time I came to a rest, I was angled nose into the wall in a stationary car.
Unable to move, I panted as I struggled to comprehend just what had happened, aside from the fact that I’d crashed—that part I got loud and fucking clear. Closing my eyes, I mentally ran through my body to ensure I wasn’t too badly injured. I wiggled my fingers and my toes and was relieved when everything did what it was supposed to. Except for my heart racing at a million miles a minute, and the fact that I couldn’t breathe down nearly enough air to stay in control, I was okay.
My eyes snapped to the rear-view mirror when I heard the sound of protesting tyres.
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Michelle Irwin has been many things in her life: a hobbit taking a precious item to a fiery mountain; a young child stepping through the back of a wardrobe into another land; the last human stranded not-quite-alone in space three million years in the future; a young girl willing to fight for the love of a vampire; and a time-travelling madman in a box. She achieved all of these feats and many more through her voracious reading habit. Eventually, so much reading had to have an effect and the cast of characters inside her mind took over and spilled out onto the page. Michelle lives in sunny Queensland in the land down under with her surprisingly patient husband and ever-intriguing daughter, carving out precious moments of writing and reading time around her accounts-based day job. A lover of love and overcoming the odds, she primarily writes paranormal and fantasy romance.
MARION, MISSING by Rachel Caine: Valentine is a detective with two major problems: he’s been offered a kidnapping case that will probably get him killed, and his partner won’t let him turn it down. He owes her that much … since his partner’s a ghost, and he blames himself for her death. A dark, haunting noir mystery of love, hate and loss.
FEMME FATALE by Cynthia Eden: PI Mick Swayne has seen it all—his clients have included liars, thieves, and even killers. He thinks he can handle anything and anyone. Then she walks into his office. Savannah Moreau is beautiful, seductive, and…a vampire? The gorgeous vamp hires Mick to help her track down a killer who is hunting in Chicago, but as Mick slips deeper into Savannah’s paranormal world, he wonders if he can really trust his new client…
DANCE WITH THE DEVIL by Megan Hart: When the devil starts the music, you’d better get ready to dance. Kathleen Murphy has sold her soul to the devil. Fame, fortune, success…everything she’s ever dreamed of is hers, and all she has to do is the devil’s bidding. When love comes knocking, the last thing in the world she wants to do is involve Jake in her twisted world, but the devil’s started up the jukebox and Kathleen has no choice but to learn the steps
THE CONSORT by Suzanne Johnson: Faulkner Hearne, the captain of the ruthless Fae Hunters, finds his duty at odds with his heart when he’s ordered to capture the consort of Faerie’s cruel Prince of Summer when she flees across the veil into modern New Orleans. Can Faulk turn Liandra over to a certain death at the hands of the prince, or will he risk a war with Faerie in order to save her? An all-new novella set in the Sentinels of New Orleans multiverse.
HEART’S BLOOD by Jeffe Kennedy, a Twelve Kingdoms novella: A dark fairytale retelling of a princess robbed of rank, husband and even her name. Nix is nothing. The Princess Natilde—her former waiting woman—attacked her on the journey to wed Prince Cavan, stripping her of everything and taking her place. With no serving skills, Nix becomes a goose girl. Perhaps if Nix keeps her promise never to reveal who she really is, Natilde won’t carry out her vile threats. Prince Cavan entered his arranged marriage determined to have a congenial, if not loving relationship with his future queen—for the sake of both their kingdoms. But, his wife repels him more each day and he finds himself absurdly drawn to the lovely Nix.
THE DJINN IN THE MIRROR by Mina Khan, a Djinn World novella: A paranormal Cinderella story with a young witch as the heroine and a wicked, sexy djinn instead of a fairy godmother.
Dahlia, the step-daughter of a power hungry wizard, promises to free a djinn trapped in a mirror if he rescues her from impending death. But Ashmael the djinn has his own agenda: to trick & seduce his way to freedom. The only problem is he ends up falling for Dahlia. Can he win his freedom and save the girl?
Nix knew how to do many things. She could dance and speak several languages, able to make charming conversation in all of them with diplomatic skill. She rode with a perfect seat, understood how to feed a village, the political status of all the known kingdoms—the Twelve, Kooncelund and beyond—along with who stood to be an ally or an enemy. Not to mention all those small spells to please and divert the faeries, to ensure continued good luck. Nothing like her mother’s sorcery. She’d never managed that, something of a disappointment in that arena. Which made her all the better to be sent off to be a foreign bride.She’d trained to be a queen—skills not at all useful in a servant.Under Mrs. Crocker’s gentle, but insistent questioning, Nix found herself as wanting as the housekeeper clearly did. She dared not risk revealing her true nature. Couldn’t even contemplate what Natilde would visit upon her. Not again. To protect Falada and herself, she must be forever nothing more than the serving maid she appeared to be. One who’d somehow never done a useful chore in her life.“You cannot cook or sew,” Mrs. Crocker recapped with some exasperation. “You’ve never done laundry, scrubbed a floor or served at dinner. What on earth did you do at your previous home?”Flailing for an answer, she cast about the warm kitchen, empty of other servants in this lull before supper preparation, hoping for inspiration. Then gasped aloud when her gaze fell on Prince Cavan, darkly imposing, standing in the doorway and staring hard at her, anger in the line of his jaw.For a panicked moment, she imagined he’d somehow found her out and, flinging herself back in an instinctive need to hide, she nearly toppled over the rude bench, saved only by the rung she’d tucked her feet behind, scraping her shins painfully. Mrs. Crocker followed the direction of her gaze, but seemed unsurprised to see the prince standing there. Or, rather, not taken aback by it.“Your Highness,” she nodded, but did not rise. “What can I do for you that you could not send for?”His gaze lingered over Nix, taking her measure in a way she recognized, a way she herself had been taught, to weigh the value of a person, their relative worth and usefulness. But with no glimmer of any other knowledge. He believed her a servant, which meant Natilde would have no reason to make good her threats. Easing her breath, she watched him through her lashes. She’d spotted him before, standing in the tower window, warm light framing his lean body, face shadowed. This close, he looked no less brooding, body lean and lethal as the sword he was reputed to wield so well, gray eyes like granite framed by lashes as black as his coal-dark hair. For his part, he looked away, dismissing her as beneath further notice and turning his attention to the housekeeper.“My bride requires a maid or two to assist her. I’m sure you know the best choices. Send whoever you choose up along with a hot bath, soap and so forth. Anything she requests, of course.” His words, all graciously chosen, nevertheless seemed barbed with displeasure.“Of course, Your Highness.” Mrs. Crocker folded her hands around her tea cup. “And for you?”He hesitated, an almost palpable pause that tempted Nix to glance up, though she managed to tame the impulse. “Have you any of that Branlian whiskey?” he asked quietly.With a knowing sigh, Mrs. Crocker, heaved herself up. “Don’t be telling your father I gave it to you is all. And don’t drink so much that you can’t do your duty by Princess Natilde, hear?”“I want it so that I can do it.” He sounded wry, a hint of a laugh behind it.Fortunately neither he nor Mrs. Crocker appeared to notice Nix’s reflexive start at the sound of her name. Not anymore. Not ever again. Nix studied her hands, fervently wishing to fade into the floor.“Is she so terrible, then?” Mrs. Crocker sounded as if she gossiped with the royal family on a daily basis. “She looked lovely enough. Does her disposition not match her pretty face? Sorry, Nix, if you have an affection for your mistress and we offend you.”“I bear no affection for her, no,” Nix whispered. She sensed the prince’s eyes upon her again. Then his bootsteps sounded on the scrubbed stone floor, pausing next to her. His fingers on her chin, raising her face to meet his penetrating stare. He held the bottle of whiskey in his other hand and took a long drink as he studied her. “Your mistress would have had us send you out into the winter.”It sounded like a dare. A statement he clearly expected her to answer, though he didn’t pose it as a question.“I should go then,” she managed, though her voice quavered at the prospect. Leave Falada? It would be the severest of blows, but not unexpected. But he did not release her. Instead those strangely hypnotic eyes held her fast, even as he took another swig of whiskey.“Your people must be heartless, to accept such barbarity. I would no more abandon the infant heir I hope to get on your mistress to a blizzard than have you sent away in this season. You barely made it here in time. Winter is setting in firmly.”“Nix and I have been discussing what she might do.” Mrs. Crocker had a soothing tone. Why should the prince need soothing and why would the housekeeper be the one to do it? “No one will be sent away.”“Good.” The prince grunted the word, then took another pull of whiskey, still holding her chin, but gentling his grip, stroking the bones of her jaw, not unlike she’d settle Falada. “What have you hit upon?”“We’ve yet to decide on the perfect place,” Mrs. Crocker tempered with a diplomacy that surprised Nix. “She’s not been here long and is still recovering from her journeys.”“Ah.” The prince seemed to recall himself and released her. “Of course. I’ll leave you to your duties and attend to my own.” That wry tone again. He turned away, took a step, then spun back with such liquid grace she imagined he could have run her through before she knew it, had he a sword in his hand. “Your mistress—has she more of that perfume in her belongings?”Impossible, given her nerves and despair, but Nix nearly laughed at the consternation on his face. Superstitious of bathing, the newly minted Princess Natilde had instead doused herself with the perfume she’d bought from a lady of Duranor they met at an inn, using Nix’s coin. Nix would have warned her from using too much, even owing her only enmity, had the woman been inclined to listen at all. Suppressing the urge to smile at him, she shook her head. “I believe she used it…all. There is none left.”“This explains a great deal,” he muttered, and drank of the whiskey yet again, gaze lingering on Nix.“I’ll take that liquor away from you, young buck,” Mrs. Crocker scolded, “lest your whiskey dick leave you unable to perform.”Her face hot with scandalized shock, Nix goggled at the housekeeper, terrified that the prince would strike her down for her insolence. Instead he laughed, losing the brooding mien and sounding carefree, and suddenly much younger. Even more astonishing, he kissed the woman on the cheek and pinched her ample hip. “Aw, Brenna. Don’t be jealous. You’ll always be my first love.”Mrs. Crocker actually giggled, then made a swipe for the bottle, but he held it away from her, took one more long pull, then set it in front of Nix. “Here. What was it—Nix? You have the rest. You need some color and spirit. No more cringing like a ghost haunting our kitchens. You’re not the one facing a burdensome fate, after all.”He’d gone back to mean and wry. Had he been forced into this marriage? Nix had thought him willing all along. At least as willing as she, with the hope they’d build something together. For the first time she considered her dire circumstances with a sense of reprieve. How would it have been to be the woman waiting upstairs as he sneered about her in the kitchen, fortifying himself for the dreaded duty of divesting her of her virginity? Perhaps he and Princess Natilde deserved each other.The prince must have read some of it in her face because he shrugged and gave her a self-deprecating twist of his mouth. “Don’t look so shocked, little ghost. With your mistress I shall be all that is gallant and noble. She’ll never guess what’s said of her in the kitchens. You’ll keep my secrets, won’t you?”Unable to muster an answer, oddly flustered by his trust in her, she nodded. He ran a hand over her hair, then kissed her forehead with the same affection he’d shown Mrs. Crocker. Then, with a wink, slipped the whiskey from her hands and took one more drink before handing it back. “We who are about to fuck, salute you.”“Oh, go on with you now!” Mrs. Crocker plopped aggrieved fists on her hips, but laughter sparkled in her eyes.The prince held up his hands as if surrendering and headed to the doorway. Just before exiting, he turned back and pinned Nix with a discomfiting stare. “She likes horses,” he said. “Something in the stables, perhaps.”
RACHEL CAINE: Rachel Caine is the New York Times, USA Today, and #1 internationally bestselling author of more than 45 novels that span the categories of horror, suspense, urban fantasy, science fiction, media tie-in, historical, and young adult. She’s also the author of more than 100 short stories. Rachel began her publishing career in 1991 under the name Roxanne Longstreet with her first novel, Stormriders, a media tie-in novel for the role-playing game Shadow World. In 2003, she began writing as Rachel Caine with the launch of the bestselling Weather Warden series in urban fantasy, followed by spinoff series Outcast Season, the Red Letter Days duology, and the Revivalist series. In 2006, she began her career in young adult novels with the 15-book Morganville Vampires series. In 2014 she published her first stand-alone YA novel, Prince of Shadows, and in 2015, the start of the new Great Library series, Ink and Bone. She has two further novels in the series coming in 2016 and 2017, as well as a new three-book series beginning in Fall 2016. The Morganville Vampires will see a resurrection in March 2016 with Midnight Bites, a collection of short fiction. Rachel graduated with a business degree from Texas Tech University, and had a number of careers in the business world, including accounting, tax preparation, payroll administration, insurance investigation, web design, technical writing, and corporate communications. She is a full time writer.
CYNTHIA EDEN: Award-winning author Cynthia Eden writes dark tales of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. She is a New York Times, USA Today, Digital Book World, and IndieReader best-seller. Cynthia is also a three-time finalist for the prestigious RITA® award . Since she began writing full-time in 2005, Cynthia has written over fifty novels and novellas.
MEGAN HART: Megan Hart is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of romance, erotic fiction, mainstream fiction, science fiction and horror, as well as young adult fiction under the name Em Garner. Hart began writing short horror and science fiction stories in elementary school, then added writing romance in the late nineties. Her first novel, An Exaltation of Larks, was published in 2002, followed by more than thirty novels and dozens of short stories in multiple genres. Hart writes full time in the deep, dark woods of Pennsylvania and on the sandy shores of Delaware. She can’t stand the feeling of corduroy or the smell of Stargazer lilies, but she loves zombies, rainbows, the internet and the ocean.
SUZANNE JOHNSON: Suzanne Johnson is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series for Tor Books, including the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award-winning Elysian Fields. Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is author of the award-winning Penton Legacy paranormal romance series for Montlake Romance, including 2013 Holt Medallion Winner for paranormal romance Absolution, as well as The Collectors romantic suspense series, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner for romantic suspense. She starts a new romantic suspense series about Louisiana game wardens, beginning with WILD MAN’S BLUFF in early 2016. Susannah was a finalist for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Awards in both 2014 and 2015. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama, and claims an affinity for SEC football, fried gator on a stick, redneck reality TV, and Prince Christof’s best friend, undead New Orleans pirate Jean Lafitte.
JEFFE KENNEDY: is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. 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 essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. Her most recent 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, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under in July. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
MINA KHAN: Award-winning author Mina Khan grew up in Bangladesh on stories of djinns, ghosts and monsters. These childhood fancies now color her fiction. She daydreams of hunky heroes, magic, mayhem and mischief and writes them down as paranormal and fantasy stories. Between stories, she teaches culinary classes and writes for about food for her local newspaper. Other than that, she’s raising a family of two children, three cats, three dogs and a husband. Her first published work, The Djinn’s Dilemma, won the novella category of the 2012 Romance Through The Ages (published) contest. A Tale of Two Djinns won the 2013 Readers’ Crown for best paranormal romance. Wildfire, her female dragon shifter, won the 2014 Prism for Best First Novel. A Christmas Wish won the Novella division of the 2015 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.