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Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter Warm-Up Blog Hop: Whispers (Holiday flash fiction) Giveaway!

Winter Warm-up Blog Hop
There was a stillness to the night that no longer frightened her. In the darkness, she'd found a light that had never been visible in the sunlit days. Smiling, she looked upward, absently counting the stars that sparkled in the velvety black sky. It was well after midnight now, and the crisp air was fresh and cool with frost. She held her position at the window for a few moments longer, then shivered when she felt a subtle ripple in the air, a barely discernible disturbance that meant he was near. She turned away from the wide pane of glass and reached out to pick up the heavy swath of dark wool that was her cape. A quick look around the spacious cabin assured her no one was awake, then she headed for the door, and slipped into the night.

The crunch of snow under her feet made her heart lift, and excitement began to pulse within her as a growing timpani of anticipation. She could taste the frost that coated the night air, and the icy breath of it on her skin was a caress that she loved almost as much as his touch. The scent of snow was thick, and the promise of a storm murmured to her, carried on the fluttering breeze. She pulled her cape closer and changed her direction, instinct guiding her footsteps.

She could feel his heart beating within her, knew he was as eager as she was to steal this precious time together.

She arrived near the frozen lake, and sat on the wide ridge that overlooked the sprawling valley. The stone was frigid, sparks of diamond-ice cast pinpoints of white fire into the darkness, bringing the rock to life with iridescent light. She shivered as the cold rose from the surface and wrapped around her, crawling over her limbs, then reaching inward. Yet she waited, allowing the warmth of her passion to burn deep inside her, it's furious heat stronger than any chill would ever be.

In the distance the song of a lone wolf pierced the silence, the slow, sonorous howl a dirge of sorrow. It struck her heart as a dagger, burrowing into her psyche, making her bleed with shared agony. She closed her eyes, let the tears trickle down her cheeks. She had listened to his loneliness for a long time, had shared it so intimately it was part of her.

She slid off the rock and looked toward the endless line of the forest. Moments later a shadow separated from the deeper shades of the towering trees. Her breath caught in her throat and the roar of her heartbeat was deafening. She dragged in a ragged breath, and bowed her head as he came to a halt mere inches in front of her.

She lifted her gaze and was snared by the lure of his eyes. Light shone deep within them, a trapped ray of purest sunshine that radiated a fire so intense, it could give life or take it away, as he chose. He was tall, flowing hair tinted with the silver haze of the rising moon, and the sharp angles of his sculpted features were cast in pale relief and shadows, making his expression fluid. Dark tendrils of silken hair lifted with the breeze, caressing his face with a lover's touch. Power and passion resonated from within him.

I brought you a gift, bella mia.

You are my gift.

He smiled. As you are mine.

He drew her close, and for a time, they were all that existed of life. The ethereal light of the moon's glow was being smothered by the blackness that preceded dawn when the howl of the distant wolf sounded again. She listened intently, then turned to her love.

They know I am gone.

Then it is time for you to go back, bella.

The pain brought tears to her eyes and she swallowed hard to remain silent.

When… He touched her lips with his finger, and smiled.

I will come to you again. When your heart needs me.

Then you will never leave me.

He nodded.

I am with you always.

He took a small box from his jacket pocket and placed it in her hands.

Merry Christmas, bella.

I have no gift for you.

Again, he smiled.

Your blood runs through my veins, bella mia, there is no greater gift–you have given me life.

She opened the small box and lifted a fine gold chain from the satin case, dangling from the intricate links was a crystal shaped like a seashell, its heart stained with a drop of blood. She looked up to thank him, and discovered she was alone again. Disappointment surged through her, followed instantly by loss.

Listen closely, bella, and I will never be far from you.

She looked at the shell and on impulsive, put it next to her ear. She smiled when the whisper of his voice murmured softly to her: I will never be far from you.

She put the gift back in the box and glanced at the sky. The inky darkness was fading, giving way to the relentless power of the rising sun. Movement drew her gaze to the edge of the lake, and she saw the wolf watching her. She turned to head back to her home, and the great white wolf came to her side. Her other guardian.

"Did he send you?"

The only reply, as always, was a low growl…


* GIVEAWAY *

Leave a comment, and you'll be entered to win a $10 Gift Card from Coffeetime Romance Book Store.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

FREE best-selling books in time for the Holiday!

Just in time for the Holidays, some of my best-selling books are being offered to you for FREE - and in whatever format your reader prefers! Drop by ARe and check things out - we have pirates, vampires, cowboys and more! Indulge your wild side!!

Also, if you have a question you'd like to ask, you can post it here on my author page and I'll be happy to answer you. Drop by my GOODREADS Author Page, and post your query HERE

Now, to the books I was talking about:


Three stories, one kind of hero, hot and sexy pirates anyone? Includes the short, erotic tales Angel-Fire, Storm-Singer, and The Phantom’s Lair… Historical adventure, and the darker mystery of an ageless vampire who keeps a witch at his side, his protector and his lover through eternity...


When Dylan Coulter rides into Sparkling Springs, he discovers the woman who runs the local saloon is worth the risk of facing the hangman. Things get ugly fast when Dylan is accused of killing the only son of the richest rancher in the area. Unwilling to leave her behind, he takes Maggie along as he tries to dodge bounty hunters and a determined Pinkerton agent who just happens to be her old flame...


Cindi Lancourte is the illegitimate daughter of a powerful businessman and a lovely woman who worked for him. Acknowledged when his wife died, she was quickly relegated to the role of servant by his new wife and step-daughters, but an invitation to a Masquerade gives this Cinderella a new shot at happiness with a handsome Prince Charming.


Randall Stone is the stuff of heroes, a mercenary given a discharge from the army he has served with his life. But the government is still interested in using the skills they've taught Major Rand Stone, and he continues to work with his hand-picked team. Into his shadowy world a light has come, and in her love, Stone discovers unhoped for joy, and, perhaps, unbearable sorrow?


In modern Toronto, two vampires stalk the night, their hunting a game that is seductive and deadly. In a darkly compelling Goth Club, they find the prey they seek for their pleasures, and the night runs crimson with blood and unquenchable thirsts...


When work brings Deluna Jordan face to face with a man who knows her better than she knows herself, she soon discovers he shares everything with his boss, including lovers…and a thirst for blood…and she is about to become the lucky recipient of all their desires…


Shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean, two men vie for the affection and favors of the lone surviving woman, Giselle Jordan. Stranded with the two men she loves, how long will it be before passion take them into the dangerous realm that is the uncharted territory of the heart?


Chase Jordan is a man with half his life missing since his return from the war in Iraq. He arrives back in Texas, a drifter looking for home. When he arrives at the Double D ranch, the owners know him, even if he can’t remember them. Cheyenne’s been infatuated with Chase since her high school days, but Deke MacKenzie’s already made it clear to Chase that his kid sister is off limits.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Goddess Fish Presents: Christmas With The Marquis


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. A randomly drawn winner will receive $15 PayPal cash. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

When an arrogant Marquis’s seduction fails, he plans a Xmas celebration at his country estate. Inviting the one girl who not only rejects him but seems to hate him is part of his plan to win her. His scheming soon turns to much more than decorating the house for Xmas. Abigail’s beauty incites a plan for revenge on the Marquis by his most depraved enemy, who is bent on kidnapping and raping Abigail. Can the Marquis save her and make this a merry Christmas after all?

Enjoy an excerpt:

Abigail called after them. “Galoshes are by the back door. Gloves and scarves also. You don’t want to wear your best clothes on an expedition like this, gentlemen”

She leaned back in her chair and watched them go. Startled, but pleased, she hurried to her own rooms to change into riding clothes and tall boots. She adored tramping in the woods and how could she not join in the search for the perfect Yule log? After scarcely a thought she pulled on the breeches she wore when she was riding at home with no one caring what she did. She pulled on her riding boots, although she picked her second-best pair. Who knew what such wonderful snow would do to good boots?

She ran lightly down the steps to the back door. A small screech escaped her when the felt herself hauled against a strong chest, and looked up in astonishment at a livid Jason glaring down at her. Maybe not Jason, right now. No, definitely the Marquis. An irate Marquis, giving her a good swat on her rear and glaring at her.

“Don’t you even think of trying to escape me, you little fool. You’re not at your country home. You’re at mine, with some of the most licentious noblemen in London who’d be delighted to see you so scantily clothed. Do you want them to line up at your door tonight, you vexatious idiot?”

Abigail simply stared at him for a moment, her temper ready to boil over, when he suddenly softened, ran his hands over her hips and around her waist and pulled her against him. His kiss was hot and blazing, lingering at her lips with his tongue pushing into her mouth in a dizzying display of passion that had her clinging to his coat lapels.

“My god, Abigail, how am I going to stay away from you?”

He lay his forehead softly against her hair and softly caressed her well rounded bottom.

Stunned, she couldn’t think of a thing to say. She wrenched herself away and fled back to her room. She’d simply not thought of anything but her own comfort and that wonderful snow. Of course a woman didn’t appear in breeches at a house party for London aristocrats! Not unless there was a hunt scheduled or good riding was available.

She was an idiot.

How could she face Jason, and indeed her grandmother? And she herself was supposed to be chaperoning Bettina?

Burying her face in her hands, she tried to shut out her regretful thoughts. The fact that her every thought centered on Jason and his reactions didn’t even occur to her.

She didn’t see the lascivious face of Lord Wilcombe, earl of Wilmington, watching them from a corner of the hallway.

About the Author:

Jean feels she’s very much a Californian although she was born in Ohio. California has been home for a good many years. Life changed drastically for her when she was six and her father died incredibly from an errant golf ball. A dishonest insurance agent forced her sheltered mother to seek work, and she became a teacher. Her hours required Jean to be alone in the house in the afternoon, and since she was forbidden to leave till her mother got home, she became an avid reader. The local library supplied most of the books and she developed early her two of main interests, Jane Austen and King Arthur.

Reading is still one of her favorite activities, although she sometimes has to push it aside to make room for her enduring love of writing. Her journalism degree was used infrequently until recently. Marriage and raising two children pleasantly got in the way. After twenty years of being a real estate broker and with the kids raised she finally could devote her time to writing, her first love.

Jean's enchantment with the lore and legends of Druids and, therefore, delving into their history led to fascinating research that inspired her popular Garland of Druids Series for Cerridwen Press. She's now enjoying writing stories filled with magic and romance for her Songs of the Mages Series, also for Cerridwen Press.

Few things in her life have been so satisfying, especially when all her books have a happy ending. Wonderful to make happen. It only gets more interesting when a secondary character demands his very own book. Who would want to deny him? Not Jean!


Buy the book at Amazon or MuseItUp Publishing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

@SensuousPromos presents: Murder Most Foul


 Welcome to Sensuous Promos Book Tour for 
Murder Most Foul by JoAnne Myers!

When two dismembered torsos wash up on the banks of the local river in the small industrial town of Pleasant Valley, residents are horrified. Between contradicting statements, police ineptitude, lust, lies, manipulation, incest, the motorcycle gang The Devil’s Disciples, crooked cops, and a botched crime scene, everyone becomes a suspect.

The young beautiful Jackie Reeves, a registered nurse, believes the killer is a man from her past. She contacts the dangerously handsome FBI Agent Walker Harmon. An arrest is made, but Harmon and Jackie believe an innocent man is being railroaded by local cops. Determined to find the truth, before anymore killings, Agent Harmon and Jackie are forced to run a gauntlet of deep trouble and turmoil, which marks them for death.



Excerpt: 


As dusk turned to night the two men raced down a dark alley, stinking of rancid garbage, then through the cluttered yard of an out-of-business welding company. They stirred up a flurry of stray cats rummaging trash cans and a number of barking dogs that diligently notified their owners of the chase, until Harmon outran the transient.

“You've been bird-dogging me for two days, now. Who are you, and what do you want?” he demanded

The scrawny man with dope-hungry eyes, said, “My name is Greg Ferris. I think drug dealers killed them kids.”

“Oh, yeah,” Harmon sneered. “What do you know?”

“Well, I party with the men livin' under the bridge. Weeks before the murders, me and Fred Layman seen people sellin' drugs in the cornfield. Now I know every drug dealer in town, but I never saw them afore. Then, the evenin' those kid's wuz killed, me, and the Bush Brothers, heard shots comin' from the cornfield, but we wuz too drunk to check it out. Days later, when the bodies wuz found, we figured the murders went on in the cornfield.”

“Any proof?” Harmon asked, releasing Ferris.

“Fred said the dead girl's underwear and a knife, found under the bridge, wuz confiscated by cops. Then Captain Malloy showed Fred a picture of Vernon James, and Fred told Malloy the man he saw on the riverbank, wuz not Vernon James.”

Surprised, Harmon asked, “Did Malloy show anyone else a photograph of Mr. James?”

“The Bush Brothers,” said Ferris. “Then after the murders, they changed. I think they know who the killer is and got scared; that's why they took off. I tried talkin' to ‘em about that evenin' by gettin' ‘em drunk, but either they passed out or I did. Then I told ‘em to talk to the cops, but, since Sheriff Brown laughed at Fred when he told him what he saw, the brothers didn't think anybody will believe them either. Plus, there's this weird guy who sometimes lives in the cornfield. He eats cats he catches in traps, and collects guns and knives.”

Realizing the creep had some good information, Harmon asked, “What caliber guns?”

“I know he had two handguns, a .22 and a .44.”

“And can you describe his knives?” Harmon asked.

“He had two Bowie-types and a third knife, even larger, strapped to his side. The big one was his favorite. He kept it real sharp.”

Catching his breath, Harmon nodded. “Maybe so, but people said Vernon James carried a knife until the murders. Do you know anything about the dead girl?”

“I heard she talked to a Jane Doe, who -” A shot fired from the nearby darkness silenced Greg Ferris forever. He dropped to the ground–dead!

Yanking out his gun, Harmon whirled around. The sounds of moving bushes gave him his only lead, and another chase began.

The agent ran through the brush and along the railroad track with only star shine for light. Solely the sound of fading footsteps and an occasional glimpse of a distorted silhouette kept him going. “Stop! F.B.I.!” he shouted, periodically, between gulps for air.

The killer darted into a backyard. Harmon, stopping at the edge of the lawn, crept forward, gun extended. Abruptly, he was clubbed from behind and knocked to the round, losing his weapon.

Kicking the agent in the ribs, his attacker had the upper hand, until Harmon grabbed up a rock and clobbered the sniper's kneecap.

“Ahhhhh!” the killer screamed.

Leaping to his feet, Harmon punched the guy...but again was hit from behind. After regaining his senses, he found himself blinded by a police searchlight, his assailant long-gone.

Connect with JoAnne on the world wide web:



Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Ship of Dreams @RebeccaHeflin @GoddessFish


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. A randomly drawn commenter will receive a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Advertising Diva, Laura Armstrong is after Imperial Cruise Lines, the biggest account of her career and the one that will lead to the next step in her Life Plan of becoming one of the most powerful women in advertising. That winning the account will also prove her father wrong is a bonus.

Sexy Southern Gentleman, Nathan Maxwell, is after that very same account, but for completely different reasons. Landing the account means a sizeable bonus just in time to save his family’s farm, and the only stable home his sister’s ever known, from foreclosure.

When the two end up on the same ship in the middle of the Mediterranean for a clandestine reconnaissance mission, Mt. Vesuvius isn’t the only thing that could erupt.

Will Nathan sink her ship of dreams before it ever leaves port, or will the way to love be smooth sailing?

Enjoy an excerpt:

Laura Armstrong strode toward the building housing the New York offices of Imperial Cruise Lines. Her stiletto heels clicked a staccato on the sidewalk as she tested the limits of her snug pencil skirt.

Tapping out a message on her smart phone, her mind five steps ahead, she nearly took a header when the heel of her shoe plunged into a sidewalk seam. The text message all but forgotten, she twisted and turned, unable to dislodge the stubborn heel.

Risking a tear in the cherry red patent leather of her sky-high Louboutin ankle-straps – the ones with the plunging vamp revealing her sexy toe cleavage – wasn't an option. But between the ankle strap and her figure-hugging skirt, she couldn't slip out of the shoe, nor could bend over and unfasten it either.

Perfect. She'd be late for her meeting with Imperial's CEO.

Daddy Dearest thought Giddings-Rose couldn't handle an account the size of Imperial. Check that. He thought she couldn't win an account the size of Imperial.

Determined to prove her father wrong, she'd get the account and the corner office. That is if she could pry her heel out of the sidewalk.

Bustling New Yorkers in suits and skirts just stepped around her, dodging her like an out-of-place trashcan. “Well, sh–”

“Hold still, Sugar, or you'll break the heel.” The masculine voice called to mind the mellow sweetness of the fine Kentucky Bourbon she'd once sipped at the Derby. Rich and mellifluous, with a hint of Southern graciousness. Even so, there was no denying the authoritative tone. “And that would be a damn shame.” The hand that wrapped around her ankle from behind was broad and masculine, but well-manicured, topped with an elegant Cartier watch.

Not her type. She preferred her men with a little more grit than polish. So why did tantalizing warmth spread up her leg?

With adept fingers, he unbuckled the ankle strap and lifted her foot from the still-lodged shoe. Having no other choice to avoid either resting her bare foot on the filthy Manhattan sidewalk or the humiliation of falling on her face, she reached back and grabbed his shoulder.

Hmm. No padding there. Nothing but muscle beneath that expensive tropical weight wool suit. She caught a glimpse of charcoal gray fabric, dark hair, and Italian shoes in rich mahogany leather.

But she'd yet to lay eyes on her rescuer's face.

Nathan Maxwell took advantage of the up-close and personal view. Trim ankles met shapely, muscular calves, and judging from the fit of her skirt, a firm derriere topped off those swimsuit-model legs. Beneath his touch, soft skin beckoned further exploration. Long honey-blond hair hung almost to her waist in a sleek ponytail. The fragrance of her haute couture perfume drifted over him, reminding him of magnolia-scented summer nights.

Focusing on the task at hand, he gently pried the heel from the sidewalk seam and examined it. “No harm done.” He grasped her ankle and settled her foot back into the shoe and fastened the strap, but not before noticing the firecracker red nail polish. He laughed. “Here you go Cinderella.”

About the Author:
Rebecca Heflin is an award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister snuck a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women's fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job as a practicing attorney.

Rebecca is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, and Florida Writers Association. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in sunny Florida.

Awards:

2014 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award Finalist (Dreams of Perfection)
2013 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award Winner (Rescuing Lacey)
2013 Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence Winner (Rescuing Lacey)
2013 Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award of Merit (Rescuing Lacey)
2013 Georgia Romance Writers Published Maggie Finalist (Rescuing Lacey)
2013 Shooting Star Award (Rescuing Lacey)
2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist (Rescuing Lacey)
2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers' Awards Finalist (The Promise of Change)
2011 Royal Palm Literary Awards Finalist (The Promise of Change)


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thoughts about the public's "right to know" and social media

I’ve been dodging my social media a lot lately, and it’s starting to be noticed by a lot of people who normally interact with me on a daily basis. “Why?” is the first question I’m asked, and for the most part, I merely tell friends I’m tired and want to concentrate on writing without the distraction of the internet. The truth is really even more simple, unfortunately. I’m just tired of the anti-socialness of social media, and the constant stream of negative posts and ignorance on many issues that really don’t even belong on social sites.

When I first began using Facebook years ago, it was pleasant, fun chatter with friends from all over the world. These days, more and more I find myself hitting “unfollow” and “hide this post” from my newsfeed. There are topics that are beat to death, resurrected, then battered into the ground again–repeatedly! People go nuts and report if a naked breast appears, or a butt curve, but it’s apparently social to post pictures of women, children, and animals beaten half to death. Post rants about wanting politicians lynched, hate mongering over whatever is the trending target of choice. Go for it, it’s your social media–but it’s also my social media, and I’m not feeling the love, believe me.

My inbox security is as tight as it can be made on Facebook, if I could shut it down to all but a handful of people, I’d do it. Recently, I have been asked the most amazing, intrusive, rude questions I’ve seen in a long time, and people are angry when I tell them I will not discuss the topics they wish to chat about. Frankly, the public does NOT have the right to know my personal business, or my personal views. If I choose to share them, you will see them, otherwise, don’t be surprised when I tell you politely that I won’t discuss my views and opinions. That IS my right, after all.

Public figures owe their audience the best their talent can produce, and their gratitude for those who invest their time and money into any artist’s talent, be it books, acting, singing, painting–or any other art form. What they do not owe their audience is their personal lives, and their personal thoughts. I see so many of my fellow authors popping off about subjects that are guaranteed to incite controversy and confrontational anger. They jump on the trending headlines, and everyone gets in on the act. The internet never forgets, and that is a phrase all public people need to remember. If you have aspirations, and goals you hope to meet, be circumspect at all times.

Ironically, this social issue is a laugh in many ways for me, because people close to me don’t know my views on many things. I am a private person, and I don’t generally voice my opinions on things I’ve been asked about recently. Why does it matter what I think about anything? Frankly, in many cases, I am a foreign entity who is not affected by US political decisions. My views on gun control, abortion, celebrities behaving badly… none of this matters. And, again, the public is not entitled to anything of this sort unless I choose to put my foot in my mouth–and it has been known to happen, rather too often in the past. In this age of entitlement, what you are entitled to is polite interaction on a social level. You are not entitled to anything else unless it’s volunteered. I recently had some idiot attempt to draw me into his childish snit because I asked him to remove a tag from a photo, when he was blocked, he took his crap to another social media site–why? I refused to engage, and that’s my choice, isn’t it?

I write. That is my public obligation to readers who choose to trust me to entertain them with a good story. Beyond that, why does anyone think they have the right to invade my privacy and then get pissed off when I won’t discuss their hot topics? You have the right to ask–but I have the right to say no. That simple, isn’t it? This is social media, not the halls of justice, or a debate.


Friday, November 21, 2014

FREE for a limited time on Amazon the ARe Best-seller PIRATES!

PIRATES
(Formerly called ROGUES, revised and re-edited)


Three stories, one kind of hero, pirates anyone? Includes the short stories:

Angel-Fire: A short intro to the world of Captain Jack Stanton, an honourable man with a tarnished reputation. Stranded in Nassau, caught up in a pleasant interlude with a barmaid, Jack has a vision that will lead him to his past and his future, if he can survive to get back Tortuga to discover what it all means…

Storm-Singer: The Isle of Nyx has become the dread of all sailors who must dare the waters surrounding the mythical island. Local legends say a vampire prince resides in the ancient castle that can be seen from the harbor of the island. At his side is a powerful sorceress whose song can control and summon storms.
In a desperate attempt to end the eternal threat looming over them, the people of the Aurora Islands sacrifice their greatest treasure, the princess Sarita, entrusting her with the task of seducing and destroying the dark prince who has been plundering their wealth and their people for centuries?

The Phantom’s Lair: Upon her arrival in the pirate port of Tortuga where her father is acting as Governor, Katheryn Hollinsworth is determined to choose her own path, and follow her heart wherever it may take her. On the streets of Puerta de la Plata, she encounters the mythical buccaneer known as The Phantom, and very quickly loses her heart to the handsome rogue.

Jack Stanton is a man who has never fully come to terms with his past, and in the Governor's pretty daughter he finds a most unlikely champion. But when his past threatens her life, and any chance of a respectable future, The Phantom must face the demons of his past, and accept the dictates of his own reawakened heart...

EXCERPTS:

Angel-Fire:

“Relax, Jacques,” she purred softly as she rained kisses over his face and chest. “Let your mind accept the gift I have given you.”

Swept along on a tidal wave of sensuous excitement, Stanton struggled despite her pleas. He made a half-hearted grab for her when her soft lips trekked further downward, and she effortlessly slapped aside his attempt at restraint.

Jack’s hips rose from the bed, the reaction totally beyond his ability to control, if indeed he had truly wanted to stop the barrage of sexual delight pounding through his veins. He twisted, tried to pin her, but laughter met the awkward movement of his sluggish limbs.

Angelique pressed the expanse of his naked chest and pushing him onto his back as she straddled his hips and grinned down at him.

Stanton opened his mouth, but no coherent words passed his lips.

She lowered herself onto his straining erection and his body convulsed with new euphoria. When the surge of sensory pleasure threatened to suffocate him, his mind finally rose and found freedom.

Through a haze of smoke and mist, Jack’s beloved ship, The Scarlet Thorn, sailed away as he shouted obscenities and anything else his fertile imagination offered him. On Thorn’s quarterdeck, the newly appointed Captain DeBeaupre’s laughter rang out and taunted him. Gold, spinning wildly, glittering wickedly, always out of reach. Blood tinged the brilliance of the shining metal and Jack drew back from it. Engulfed in crimson, a skull grinned from the golden surface.
Was this part of the notorious curse that he’d been hearing about for years?

As quickly as the thought crystallized in his mind, it was lost to swirling mist again.

Slowly, the fog cleared and the Thorn, under attack and badly damaged, shrieked rage into his brain, echoing into a darkness that obscured everything.

“Breathe deeply, my love,” Angelique whispered, riding his bucking hips wildly as she held his wavering gaze. “Let my angel-fire bring forth your destiny,” she moaned, losing her hold on his gaze as her desire peaked and exploded.

The Phantom’s Lair:

Stanton stopped a few feet from the two people squared off against each other. The girl’s sword moved like a shimmering sliver of moonlight as she parried and feinted with careless grace, easily deflecting the less disciplined thrusts of her opponent’s blade. She was dressed like a buccaneer, but he sensed she was anything but what she appeared to be. She slipped on wet ground. The drunkard gained an advantage and made to deliver a fatal strike.

Cutlass drawn, Jack intercepted the other man’s sword on its downward arc. Sparks flew as the blades clashed, and Stanton circled until he stood between the woman and her attacker.

“Taking advantage of a lady when she’s down.” Jack shook his head in mock despair, while his mouth curved into a roguish smile. “That’s hardly fair play.”

“Stay outta this.” The sailor snarled in reckless fury. “It’s between me and the lady.” He tried to shove Stanton aside.

Jack pushed back and waited. The stumbling man to recovered and had a new target, as Jack had anticipated. He raised his weapon and edged closer to Stanton.

“Do you really think this wise, mate?” Jack smiled, enjoying himself now.

His opponent lunged.

Jack sidestepped and the other man hit the building and staggered. Jack tapped his shoulder with his sword. The man whirled, growling his fury, and attacked like a madman. Jack hadn’t calculated the ferocity of the other man’s anger, and he was nearly run through.

The swordplay began in earnest, and Stanton had no time to consider if he should have left this situation to the people involved. A few well-chosen steps gave him the advantage and he parried awkward thrusts with more ease as he drove the fellow backward. When he struck the man across the face with the hilt of his cutlass, he thought the contest over. Until a slash of fire tore up his arm and he had scant seconds to realize he’d been struck. Stanton’s annoyance went up another notch and he spun around, intent on ending the impromptu confrontation. The woman spared him further effort when she slammed the back of the sailor’s head with the butt of a pistol and he went down with a groan.

Jack looked at her, a quizzical tilt to his head.

“I didn’t think it necessary to kill a man simply for being stupid,” she explained with a flash of pearly-white teeth. “But I thank you for your assistance, sir.” She stepped closer and peered at her rescuer. He stepped back, sheathing his cutlass, with suspicion in his pale eyes.

“Do I know you?”

“I think not, m’lady.” Jack smiled.

Now that he could see her clearly in the torchlight, Jack knew they had never met. He wouldn’t have forgotten a woman as lovely as this one. The flicker of the torch flames found responding tongues of color in her long, tumbling mane, presently slipping from the leather thong she’d tied at her nape. The cloak she wore was open, and his sharp gaze took rapid stock of her clothes. His earlier opinion was confirmed in his sweeping appraisal as he inventoried silk shirt, close-fitting pants of heavy cotton, polished leather boots reaching her knees, and a wide belt from which hung the scabbard for her handcrafted sword.

“Jack Stanton.” She positioned the pistol at her hip. “You’re Captain Jack Stanton, aren’t you? The one they call The Phantom.”

Jack’s head tilted as he met her bold brown stare. What he saw there amused him. She was curious, and faintly excited by her discovery of his identity. “And you are?” 

Storm-Singer:

Magic thrummed in the icy pitch of the night air. Sorcery and song combined to create a powerful and potent spell, one that promised to be all Jaden had demanded.

Arrah contained her wrath, pushed it into the darkest corner of her soul, as she concentrated on the binding harmony she was weaving with the winds. Power surged within her, and she breathed in the sweet, pure essence of earth-force, captivated now by the mystical rapture that the music stirred and sent spiraling into the night.

Waves rose and battered the ebony shores of the Isle of Nyx, their crashing voice another rhythm of power in the enchantment. The winds coalesced, added their resonant wail to the sounds filling the air, and she shuddered, savage spirit attuned to the maelstrom of forces engulfing her. She shifted the tone of her song, weaving greater torrents of madness into the music, and the night darkened further.

With the blackness came vision.

And Jaden.

She caught his unique scent, heard the whisper of silk moving rhythmically with each step he took toward her. She felt the power of his very presence long before his graceful hand came to rest at her shoulder.

“The Spectre is ready for launch.”

Jaden’s smooth, sensual voice caressed her, as silken and alluring as the power that vibrated within her body. His arms glided around her waist, and the soft, evocative stroke of his tongue on her neck made her tremble. His hands roamed freely over her, everywhere at once, lighting fire and hunger in her veins as he touched and explored familiar curves. She arched away from him, and he pulled her back against the solid steel of his body. When his mouth covered the throbbing pulse at her neck, her voice reached a new crescendo of furious power. She felt the sharp piercing of her skin then their thoughts merged and reached outward as he sought beyond the storm she’d conjured for him.

Long minutes later, he released his hold on her and turned her to face him, dark eyes glittering. He smiled, tenderness in the shift of his perfect features. She kissed his cheek, then bent her forehead to his chest, faintly aware of the stolen heartbeat that was hers, hearing the even cadence that was a flawless echo of each thump of life within her.

“How long will you need?” she asked, her earlier anger faded for the moment.

“We will return before dawn,” he replied with faint laughter in his rich tone.

“Is this treasure worth the risk you take, Jaden?” She wasn’t as certain as he appeared to be. An indefinable and worrisome element that remained out of her reach nagged at her.

“This treasure is far more than gold and jewels, Arrah,” he purred.

Startled, she met his gaze. “What did you see?”

“Betrayal.”

Her eyes grew huge as he smiled down at her.

“Have faith.” He kissed her lips, a slow, erotic caress tasting faintly of blood and magic. “Wait for me.” He winked then vanished in an inky swirl of mist and silken cloak.

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