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The Lady with the Hair & the Sunglasses. What the Hell does She Want from Me?

As you know by now, encounters with Magda Gardener, though never invited and quite often disturbing, have been a part of my life for the past five years now. I work for her. Whether I like to admit it or not, I’m as much a part of her collection as Alonso Darlington and Jack Graves. The role I play, however, is not nearly so dangerous, but it’s every bit as demanding. The thing is with Magda Gardener, I never know when she’s going to show up and check in on me. But whenever she does, she always leaves me a little wrong-footed and with a story to tell.

 

With the release of Buried Pleasures, the third Medusa’s Consortium novel, and the first set in Vegas, I’m reminded again of an encounter I had with her awhile ago while on holiday in the Lake District with my husband.

 

 

Somehow I suspect that the situation isn’t normal. I suspect that I’m either dreaming or having some sort of weird out of body experience, but for the life of me, I don’t know how, or when I decided to take this brief holiday from the flesh, or even if that’s what it really is.

 

But I go on about my business like everything is normal, nothing out of the ordinary. And in truth, I’ve often gone to the Twa Dogs Pub in Keswick and ordered a pint. But this time I’ve come alone, which is something I’ve never done before, and I know when I see her sitting at a table in the back of the snooker room that she’s waiting for me. It’s late afternoon, an overcast day, typical Lakeland weather, and yet she’s still wearing sunglasses. But then she was wearing sunglasses that night in Vegas, even in the tunnels.

 

I sit down across from her and she looks me up and down. Though I can’t see her eyes, I can certainly feel her gaze, like she’s looking right through me, like I’m sitting there naked. I resist the urge to fold my arms across my chest, and she gives a little smirk as though she knows exactly what’s going on in my mind.

 

My throat’s desert-dry, and I take a good solid sip of my Sneck Lifter and wonder at the wisdom of alcohol on an empty stomach. ‘What do you want from me?’ I ask.

 

I can see a golden eyebrow raise above the edge of the glasses. ‘I should have thought that would be obvious. You’re a writer, aren’t you?’

 

‘So? I reply.

 

 

But before I can say anything else, I catch a flash of bright eyes over the edge of the glasses and feel as though I’m suddenly glued to the chair unable to move. ‘You’re a storyteller, that’s what you do. You get into peoples’ heads and tell their secrets.’

 

‘It’s fiction. I make it up,’ I manage. My throat is no longer just dry, but it feels as though it’s constricting, closing, strangling me as I speak.

 

‘I’m sure that’s what you tell yourself,’ she says. My pulse ratchets up in panic, and I feel like my body is closing in on me, turning into a solid prison from which there is no escape. And just when I think I’ll hyperventilate, she offers me a quirk of a smile, and lowers her eyes to her own drink – whiskey, I observe. ‘Where do you think those stories come from?’ she asks.

 

‘I make them up, they come from my imagination, like they do with all writers.’

 

This time she throws back her head and laughs out loud, and I’m stunned by the bell-like sound of it. I’m even more stunned that no one notices. The pub’s not crowded, but it’s not empty either. How could anyone not notice her sitting there. She’s exquisite in a scary sort of way, and yet no one seems to be aware that we’re even there. I remind myself that it’s still quite likely I’m only dreaming.

 

Then she leans across the table and takes my hand in hers, and as frightened as I was only a moment ago, I suddenly find myself wanting to kiss her. Another indication that none of this is real, I tell myself.

 

‘Who do you think gives you those stories, Ms. Grace?’ Her breath is sweet against my face, like an open field with just a hint of the single malt whiskey she’s been sipping. ‘Oh, I have so many stories I want you to tell, and you’re perfect for the job, darling, because you are so open to going where I want you to go.’ And then she stands, leans over the table and kisses me.

 

For a split second I have sense enough to worry about what the rest of the people in the pub will think of the girl-girl lip-lock in which I find myself. A split second more and I realize no one even notices. ‘You,’ she whispers against my mouth, ‘have been writing stories for me for a long time.’ She pulls away just enough to look at me over the top of her glasses, and I suddenly feel as though my very heart is freezing solid in my chest. ‘‘I figure it’s time you know what I expect of you. Things are about to get complicated Ms. Grace, and you are about to become a very, very busy woman.’

 

 

 

 

She kisses me again, and I feel like the floor to the pub has just caved in beneath me. Behind my closed eyes, I see familiar flashes of a ritual in a mirrored room, couples having sex all around me, candles on an altar, a mirror that contains a monster, a ghost who has been hung for a murder she didn’t commit, a succubus devouring thought and ego and giving it back in exchange for the blood of a vampire. Death walking in Vegas, enthralled by a siren, whose voice can calm or kill. I see, in strobe-like flashes of light, an exquisite woman in a ruined garden walking among statues, statues that look so lifelike and so disturbing in their poses that I feel goose flesh climb my spine. That same woman walking the endless halls of a library filled from ceiling to floor with books bound in the flesh of the stories they contain, shelf after shelf of books, stories I’ve written, written at this woman’s command. And as she touches each of those books in turn, I realize the stories I’ve written give her power over the people in those pages, and she, in turn, gives me power to write the next story, and the next and the next.

 

Then suddenly I’m back in the Twa Dogs with her voice a soft vibration low in my chest. ‘You work for me, K D. You always have. You just didn’t know it,’ she whispers against my ear. Then she inspects me with another brief glance over the top of her dark glasses and brushes my icy cheek with her warm palm. ‘I thought it was time you knew the truth. That knowledge could serve you well in the near future.’

 

And when she removes her hand, when I can no longer glimpse the bright glint of her eyes behind her glasses, I fall with a jerk back into my chair, like I’ve had one of those falling dreams. I open my eyes to find my husband staring at me across the table. ‘You alright?’ He asks.

 

I nod, for a moment unable to place where I am.

 

‘You want another pint of Sneck Lifter?’ He nods at my empty glass. ‘You sucked that one back in nothing flat.’

 

A crack of a cue against a ball on the snooker table and a half-laughed curse in a soft Cumbrian lilt and the world comes back into focus. I am indeed in the Twa Dogs, and my husband and I have come to the Lake District on a holiday. As he heads to the bar for another pint, I rub my eyes and breathe deeply while the world around me comes back into focus.

 

‘I think you dozed off there for a minute, Sweetie,’ he says when he settles back across from me, raising his pint in salute. ‘Were you dreaming?’

 

I nod and gulp back a hefty drink from my pint. ‘Must have been.’

 

‘You look a little pale. Her again?’ he asks.

 

I only nod my response, my eyes locked on the half empty shot glass sitting on the table next to ours, rimmed in icy pink lipstick. ‘She says I work for her.’

 

‘Yeah? Did she give her name,’ he asks.

 

‘No.’ It surprises me to find how relieved I am that she didn’t, and yet, as I sip my beer and stare over at the whiskey glass, I’m sure I already know her name. I’ve known it for a long time. I just never expected to meet her in person. And I certainly never expected to work for her.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget In The Flesh, book 1 of Medusa’s Consortium

is on sale through January for 99c/p

 

January Sales and Kindle Unlimited

January is such a dreary month here in the UK, but one good thing about it is the January sales. Are you surprised? You know me well enough by now to know what a hermit and a curmudgeon I am. I’d rather have my eyebrows shaved and my kneecaps sanded rather than go shopping in a crowd. It’s all wasted on me. Well … almost all of it. I am in absolute heaven when January sales come around and those sales happen to involve books. Oh the ecstasy! And what better to spend a dreary January day than curled up with a hot cup of your fave and a good book.

 

Yup, January sales can result in escapism at its finest. If I can’t be in the warm sunshine somewhere, at least I can read about someone else who is. And even if the characters in my book of choice are not in the warm sunshine, I can still partake of their adventures vicariously from the safety of a comfy recliner. I’m convinced books are the last truly great escape. Whether I’m writing one or reading one, what happens between me and a book is an intimate thing, and it’s different for every person who reads that book. Books are the original interactive experience, just the book, the reader and her imagination. Absolute heaven. So here’s some news to brighten your January.

 

In The Flesh is only 99 p/c through the end of January

 

 

 

 

Of course I have ulterior motives. I want to seduce all of you Medusa’s Consortium virgins and get you hooked on the series. Book three, Buried Pleasures, is just now out and takes the tale of Magda Gardener and her Consortium on to Vegas. So of course I want to get you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Flesh is now available on Kindle Unlimited

 

 

 

What’s that I hear? You don’t want to pay 99 p/c when you can get books from the Kindle Unlimited library to read for FREE? Well you’re in luck then, because In The Flesh is now available on Kindle Unlimited for your reading pleasure.

 

 

 

 

In The Flesh: Book one in the Medusa’s Consortium series 

 

(Click Here for Book Two | Book Three)

 

Blurb:

 

When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.

 

 

 

 

So cheer up this January! Read and be happy. And to tease and titillate you just a little bit, here is an all-new excerpt from In The Flesh. Enjoy.

 

 

In The Flesh Excerpt – Orgy of Death & the Capture of a Demon:

 

And we did. We slept, or at least I thought I slept. I thought I dreamed. I thought surely it must be Talia’s doing. I drifted for a long time, aware of the foreign presence inside me, aware that it was only Magda’s talisman that kept just enough of me safe and focused. Without it I would be easily taken over by that presence.

 

It was the champagne bubble effervescence coursing over my entire body that roused me from deep sleep to the place almost of waking, but not quite. The feel of a feather touch raised the fine hairs on my forearms, up my spine, on the back of my neck, goose fleshing the tops of my breasts and tightening my nipples to points.

 

“I’m here now, my darling girl. Don’t be afraid. It will hurt but a little, and then you will feel nothing but pleasure.”

 

I felt myself being lifted, cradled like a child in strong, hard arms. Then I inhaled the cold wild scent of the high fells and below it earth, solid and warmed by moss and fallen leaves, and I could have wept with relief, even as fear shot along all my nerve endings.

 

“Scribe, why is the vampire here with us?” The Guardian’s voice was more curious than upset.

 

“We’re dreaming,” I mumbled. “A dream brought on by our self-pleasure, no doubt.”

 

“How so?”

 

“Perhaps you don’t crave the flesh of a vampire, but I assure you, we mortals do.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because vampires have what we don’t—eternal life.”

 

“But they are dead,” He said.

 

“We mortals don’t see them that way. To us they’re powerful, beautiful, because they symbolize lust and virility, and we fantasize about being taken by them.”

 

There was a soft chuckle next to my ear and cool fingers against my bare nape, pushing my hair aside. “I did not know,” the Guardian said. “It seems very real.”

 

“Powerful dreams always do. Sometimes when we’re in them, it’s very difficult to tell if they’re real or not.”

 

 

“Then how do you know that this dream is not real?”

 

“A vampire would have no more use for you than you do for him,” I replied. “And it was he who sent me here, remember?”

 

“Of course.” The Guardian didn’t question my logic further, for which I was grateful.

 

“We shall begin now, my darling girl,” came the voice next to my ear. “You have only to let me take you, and when I am finished, when I have emptied you completely and hold your life force within me, then I shall give it back to you, only changed.”

 

“Is this not the vampire from High View, scribe—the one who grovels before Magda Gardener?”

 

I felt a vibration against my neck that might have been a growl, might have been a purr. “It is, yes.”

 

“And you find him attractive?”

 

“It’s a dream,” I said. “Go back to sleep.”

 

“Careful, my darling girl, you’ll hurt my feelings.”

 

“I suppose he’s comely enough,” The Guardian observed. “A pity his flesh is not living. I might enjoy inhabiting such a fine, strong body.”

 

“Good heavens, He is irritating, isn’t He?” Alonso’s voice was soft against my ear and with a start, I realized the Guardian couldn’t hear what Alonso said to me.

 

“He’s dreaming, Susan. You, however, are not. You must tell me now if you do not wish me to continue, for once I have tasted you, especially in your lust and your vulnerability, there will be no turning back, and I do not wish for you to despise me for what I have done.”

 

With an effort that seemed colossal, I slid my arm around his neck, amazed at how soft and dark his hair was. As I pulled him to me, he stayed my efforts, but only for a moment. He kissed my cheek then held my gaze, only for a second longer, and his eyes were darker than midnight. Then he lowered his mouth to my nape, to the vein pulsing like a driving drum beat. His lips were deliciously warm, and it came as a surprise when he ran the flat of his tongue along the length of the vein, pressing, lapping like a cat tasting milk, then pressing again with the tip as though he were probing for just the right spot.

 

The intake of his breath was like the sigh of a summer breeze. He kissed me once, on the spot where my pulse beat the strongest, and then again.

 

My hand in his hair tightened to a fist. I caught my breath and held it, waiting in his embrace. It was a sharp pain, precise and doubled—just two pinpoints of pain, like a surgeon’s twin incision against the side of my throat. I had barely time to notice it before blinding pain took my breath away. The world flashed white hot around me and I panicked and began to struggle, but he held me tightly.

 

As the skin gave beneath his bite, as I felt my blood flooding to his lips, I heard his voice inside my head. “That is the worst of it done, my darling girl. Now you need only relax and let me take you.”

 

 

“Ouch!” came the other voice in my head, reminding me I wasn’t alone with Alonso and surprising me how badly I suddenly wanted to be. “That was not pleasant. Susan, are dreams usually so physical?”

 

“Talia, can you not silence him?” Alonso spoke inside my head again and, for the first time, I noticed the succubus sat at my feet, gently stroking my ankle.

 

She said nothing, but the Guardian gave a soft moan of contentment, or rather I did, but I knew it was His. And for the first time since He had deceived His way into my life, I was relieved that He was silent, that He couldn’t touch me, even though I felt the fullness of Him pressing gently against the inside of my chest. I needed Him to sleep and to leave me alone for a little while longer. It was with that thought I realized I was clinging to Alonso’s strong, well muscled frame and I wanted him like I had never wanted before. Christ! I wanted him to devour me, to take me completely into himself. I had never imagined it would be like this. Somehow I’d thought it would be more macabre, more solemn.

 

I would have writhed if I could have. I would have pulled him closer, but I was lost, drowning in the swift flowing river of my blood that he drew into his mouth in deep, thirsty gulps. That I couldn’t move, that my body was completely held in thrall to the flow of my own blood into his mouth mattered less than the fact that he fed from me, an act so powerful, so incredibly intimate, that I felt shy, awkward.

 

“It is all right that you feel this way, my darling Susan, for so we all feel at our making.” He spoke as though he’d read my thoughts, though in truth what I experienced was far too primal to actually be thoughts. “There is no act more intimate, no connection deeper than the taking and giving of blood. What I take now is meant to give me life, to give me your life, but only so I may give you back my own. In this act, we shall both find pleasure, and you will be more than my familiar. You will be the child of my own heart’s blood.”

 

There was a sudden thrashing behind my breastbone. Though I knew it wasn’t physical, it was no less real.

 

“Susan, you have deceived me. I shall punish you very severely for this duplicity. Do you really think a dead creature can keep me from what is mine?”

 

The Guardian’s voice was not raised, but in it was an edge of disquiet I’d not heard before. “For your impertinence, vampire, I shall take your succubus and use her long and hard, even if she does reek of your death.”

 

“You can try.” The voice that responded was different, and in my groggy, giddy state, a blurred apparition of Magda Gardener pushed aside the makeshift curtain that separated the mattress from the rest of the area. Even with her glasses still in place, her hair seemed to writhe and dance around her face, as though it lived and breathed anger and fury. “I won’t hesitate to turn the scribe and the vampire if that’s what it takes, and well you know this.”

 

I felt as though my whole body jerked and struggled around the still point at which Alonso’s mouth pressed against my vein, but in truth I had not physically moved. I was incapable of movement, completely enthralled by the ebb and flow of my blood and the kiss and bite of the vampire at my throat.

 

“That won’t be necessary, Magda,” Talia said, still caressing my ankle and my calf. “We’ve got this.”

 

“You shall all suffer for this deception!” The words came from Talia’s throat, but the Guardian spoke them from inside my body.

 

“Oh, I doubt it,” the succubus managed in the next breath, her grip secure on my leg.

 

 

Stanalei Fletcher’s January Blowout Sale Blog Tour & Giveaway

 

 

All 5 Northstar Security Series books are on sale for only

$.99 during the tour only!

 

GiveAway: Stanalei is offering some fabulous prizes during this tour. One Lucky winner will have the chance to choose an ebook from her backlist, another lucky winner will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate, and one lucky winner will have the chance to choose a print book from Stanalei’s backlist. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember to follow along with the tour to increase your chances of winning. You may find the other tour locations here.

 

Northstar Security Series Blurb:

Northstar Security Firm is an elite private security agency whose mission statement: GUIDED BY THE TRUTH, is the guiding principle to provide justice for those who have been wronged. Founded by former CIA agents Byron O’Neal, Katherine O’Neal, and Sean Malone, Northstar Security has a ninety-nine percent success rate. That one percent is a still open case involving Katherine’s murder and Sean Malone’s career-ending gunshot wound. Nothing is a hundred percent guaranteed, and angst over one unsolved case doesn’t stop good men and women from fulfilling their duty.

 

 

 

 


Proving Ground

Northstar Security Series Book #1

A screw-up, a wild fire, and a bio-terrorist. What could go wrong?

Proving Ground introduces the high stakes world of The Northstar Security Firm. Caitlin Malone’s only hope of saving her town, maybe even the entire country, is pinned on the one man who broke her heart.

Screw-ups don’t get second chances. That’s what Caitlin Malone believes when she returns to Oregon after failing her first Northstar Security assignment. When she inadvertently stumbles across a plot to steal deadly pathogens from the bio-lab near her hometown, she sees a chance at redemption.

USDA Forest Ranger, John ‘Mac’ MacAlistair, doesn’t want to babysit the motorcycle club holding their annual rally in his national forest. To make matters worse, Caitlin is attending the rally with Mac’s estranged uncle. Having her home again brings up feelings that are better left buried.

It’s early September. Any spark will send the dry timber into a raging fire. The terrorists are counting on that distraction to work in their favor. When Caitlin is trapped by the wildfire, her only hope of rescue is pinned on Mac, the man she’s tried two years to forget. Before they can share their feelings, Mac and Caitlin must first escape the burning forest and stop the terrorists from releasing the deadly pathogens.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon | The Wild Rose Press

 

Excerpt:

…he couldn’t reach the knife. Although handy in most situations, it would be useless against a gun. His only chance of coming out unscathed in this encounter would be quick reflexes and luck. Mostly luck.

Breathing slowly, he cleared his mind, took a cautious step forward—and froze when he heard the click of the gun’s safety release.

The time it took to consider alternatives should’ve been spent backing out the door. However, in his nearly thirty years, he’d only run away from one situation, which, although dangerous to his emotional well-being, hadn’t been life threatening. He wasn’t backing down now.

The gun didn’t waver. The person behind it remained shadowed, but steady hands indicated someone other than a fly-by-night burglar. Had one of Sean’s old nemeses come after him for some long overdue retribution?

“I don’t know who you are.” Mac kept his voice calm, soothing. “But I’m pretty sure I’m not the person you want to shoot.”

The snick of a switch and a blaze of overhead light prevented more talk. Blinded by the sudden brightness, Mac stood rooted to the floor, hands in the air, not daring to make any sudden moves.

“Damn it, Mac, I could’ve killed you!”

Caitlin Malone.

Mac’s heart stirred to life. Blood surged through his veins as his breath released on a whoosh. He lowered his hands, but his body refused to budge. His reaction had nothing to do with the fact Caitlin had greeted him with a shotgun, and everything to do with the woman herself.

 

 

 

 

Dead Reckoning

Northstar Security Series Book #2

Byron O’Neal, Northstar Security Firm’s director didn’t always run an elite private investigation firm. His early CIA years were spent chasing Soviet spies. Now his past is catching up, and Kellee, Bryon’s daughter is caught in the middle of a game of Russian Roulette. Northstar agent and former Navy SEAL, Egan Maddox, is tasked to save Kellee from the Russian mafia before it’s too late, a task that puts not only his life, but his heart on the line.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon | The Wild Rose Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Duty

Northstar Security Series Book #3

When Northstar Security Firm investigates the blackmail of a U.S. Senator, agents Riley O’Neal and Mary “Chip” Anderson don the unwelcome cover of newlyweds to find two kidnapped women and stop the blackmail – and posing as newlyweds to avert a national security crisis is a lot harder than it seems.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon | The Wild Rose Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Honor Code

Northstar Security Series Book #4

Cyber-terrorism brings even the most powerful companies to their knees. When Northstar Security Firm discovers a breach inside their computer firewall, agent Sloan Cartland will do anything to help the firm’s brilliant computer tech, Allison Richards, find the culprit—even after he learns that all evidence of the hack points back to Allison.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon | The Wild Rose Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell It Like It Is

Northstar Security Series Book #5

FBI agent, Nelson Kane’s Aunt Rosalee has a story to tell. Someone wants her stopped. When Northstar Security’s unconventional bodyguard, Justine Shelby, is assigned as Aunt Rosalee’s protection, Shelby learns she’s as welcome as a wiretap at the annual J. Edgar Hoover Christmas party. Ornaments start to fly when Shelby informs by-the-book, Agent Kane to stay out of the way while she helps his aunt complete her tell-all memoirs.

Buy Links:

Amazon | The Wild Rose Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Stanalei:

Stanalei’s love of writing romance stems from reading favorites such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Barbara Cartland, and
Alistair MacLean. She has over twenty years of training in the martial arts and holds the rank of Sandan, a third-degree black belt, in Aikido.

 

After a taste of life on both U.S. coasts, she now resides near the beautiful Wasatch Mountain Range with her hero, who just happens to be her best friend and husband. Together they enjoy backcountry dirt trails on a RZR, visiting our National Parks, or exploring museums and ghost towns. You may visit Stanalei at:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads | Newsletter | Amazon | Pinterest| Google | LinkedIn | Instagram

 

 

 

Don’t miss out on Stanalei’s giveaway!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

Buried Pleasures Launch Day

 

It’s launch day for Buried Pleasures, book three of Medusa’s Consortium. Buried Pleasures takes us away from the Big Apple and sets is smack dab in Sin City, or should I say underneath Sin City. Magda Gardener’s network is expansive and worldwide, and not all of the members of her consortium are monsters. Some of them come from seriously powerful families, and the head of the Las Vegas consortium is none other than the God of Death himself.

As I have mentioned before, while the events in Blindside are unfolding in NYC, Las Vegas is seeing some scary-assed action of its own. Same time, different city, same gorgon in charge. Today’s post and the next one will introduce you to the hero, the heroin and then the villain of this first novel in the Las Vegas timeline. When siren, Samantha Black, meets Death up close and personal, it’s not at all what she expected.

Enjoy the excerpt and follow the links to the book page and it’s buy links.

Buried Pleasures Blurb:

Blurb:

When Samantha Black shares her sandwich with a dog, his owner, Jon—a homeless man living in the Las Vegas storm tunnels—gives her a poker chip worth a fortune from the exclusive casino, Buried Pleasures. All Sam has to do is cash it in. Sam is in Vegas for one reason only—to get her friend, Evie Holt, away from sinister magician, Darian Fox, who holds her prisoner in an effort to force Sam to perform at his club, Illusions. A neon circus tent of strange and mystical acts, Illusions is one of the biggest draws in Vegas, and he’s hell-bent on including Sam in his disturbing plans.

The shadowy Magda Gardener will do anything to keep Sam from cashing in that chip. She knows that Buried Pleasures is the gate to Hades and cashing in the chip is a one-way ticket across the River Styx, which runs beneath the storm tunnels of Vegas. Jon is really Jack Graves, owner of Buried Pleasures, and Graves is really the god of death, himself, and if things aren’t already confusing enough, he and Magda know what Sam doesn’t. Sam is the last siren. That her song can kill is only the beginning of her story. Jon wants her safe on his side of the River, protected from Fox’s hideous magic. But even Death fears Magda Gardener, who is none other than Medusa, and the gorgon has her own agenda. If Sam is to understand her heritage and win the battle against Darian Fox, not only will she have to trust her heart to Death, but they’ll both have to work for the gorgon, whose connection with Sam runs deeper than any of them could imagine.

Buried Pleasures Excerpt: The Hero and the Heroine

“I always heard that when you die, you’re supposed to go toward the light, not away from it,” Sam said as they entered the gloom of the storm tunnel. “Does this mean I’m going to the bad place?”

“You don’t believe in all that rubbish, do you?” the man asked in a soft voice.

“I don’t know. I guess I figured you die and that’s the end. You know, all your bits get broken down into smaller bits and you get recycled. I never really thought about it much. I wasn’t planning on dying any time soon, though.” But she was dead. There was no doubt. Had to be. She was looking down on her body from near the ceiling, and frankly, it wasn’t a pretty sight—lots of blood and trauma and stuff that would probably make her throw up if she wasn’t dead. But she followed along, feeling no pain and no stress, looking down on the dog and the man, as he carried her into the tunnel, beyond the light, beyond the outside world.

Though she was talking quite conversationally, her mouth wasn’t moving. She figured that was a sure symptom of being dead. She wasn’t moving at all actually. There was no heartbeat, no breath. She didn’t know how she knew that, but she did. Strange, but now that the initial anger, the initial shock, was over, she felt pretty indifferent about the whole thing.

Dead or not, the man heard her and replied. Perhaps he saw dead people, like that kid in the movie. “You don’t need to worry. This is just the storm tunnel,” he said. “You’re not going to a bad place. You’re going to a very good place, Samantha.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” she replied. “I mean, I don’t mind being recycled. I’ve never liked waste, but I’m not too keen on being tortured for eternity. I think that’s rather unfair, actually. I mean, I’m not that bad, am I?”

“I’d say your balance tips considerably toward the good side.”

She took note of a man in baggy shorts and a T-shirt. On the concrete walls, he was delicately painting a particularly rude, if rather well executed, enormous cock, complete with hairy balls. The artist in residence tipped his baseball cap and the headlamp strapped to it made the tunnel dance in light and shadow. “Jon, Gus. Delivering this one personally, are you?” He nodded to her body. “She must be pretty important.”

“Samantha’s special,” Jon answered.

So, his name was Jon. At least now she knew what to call him. She tried to remember when she had told him her name. Surely she wouldn’t tell some stranger who she was without damn good reason, cool dog notwithstanding.

“Looks like she had the crap beat out of her,” the man observed.

That was not very polite, Sam thought. It was a bit like someone saying you look like shit without your makeup.

“You should see the other guys,” Jon replied.

“Good for her! If you’re gonna get beaten to death, might as well get in a few good licks on the way out, I say.”

“I broke my neck, actually,” she said matter of factly. “The rest is pretty superficial.”

The man looked her over, but didn’t respond.

“Nice work,” she called over her shoulder as they continued on down the tunnel. The guy’s comment was enough to get him back in her good graces. Sadly, she didn’t think he heard her. Then she turned her attention back to Jon. “I’m really glad to hear that. I mean, glad that I’m not going to the bad place. For a minute there I thought I’d have to stay in Vegas.”

The man chuckled and, in spite of the fact that she was very clearly floating above his head, she felt the rumble of his laughter against her cheek coming from deep in his chest like the comforting purr of a cat.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked.

“Home.”

“Good. I’ve been gone too long.” Then she added as an afterthought, “Are you an angel?”

“Hardly.” This time Jon laughed out loud and she felt the whoosh of his breath warm against her cheek, and the muscles of his belly tensed and relaxed against the body she was no longer in. “If you want to get technical, I suppose you could say the angels work for me.”

It was her turn to laugh. “You don’t look anything like I expected God to look, though I do love it that God has a dog.”

“Our perception of things often varies from their realities,” he said. “As for Gus, well I guess you could say he’s the angel. He doesn’t actually belong to me. We just work together.”

“An angel with a taste for peanut butter sandwiches. That’s nice.”

Gus offered a soft woof as though he understood every bit of the conversation. Of course, if he were an angel, he no doubt did.

“Oh, he’s not picky. The mutt’ll eat anything,” Jon said.

Sam recalled the ripping and tearing of flesh and the blood of her assailants outside, and she shivered.

The three fell into a comfortable silence, with the dog flanking Jon while she hovered above them. She didn’t know how long they walked. Time seemed a bit of a fuzzy concept. She supposed that had something to do with being dead. There was far more activity in the tunnel than she would have expected. She’d have figured Jon would want to keep a dead body secret if possible, but if the tunnels had a main street, he seemed to be walking right down the middle of it. And Sam had to admit, the place was fascinating. They moved through sections of the tunnel that could have passed as living rooms or kitchens in any above-ground house, other than the twilight gloom relieved only by camping lanterns, flashlights and candles—that and the furniture was set up on bricks and wooden pallets to keep it out of the endemic water. In some places it stood only in puddles, in other places it slicked the whole floor of the tunnel like a lake of glass that splashed and trickled beneath Jon’s heavy boots and reflected the strange world around them.

The smell of damp and mildew permeated the air and disappeared only as olfactory fatigue set in. Sam took note again that she could smell all the smells in spite of being dead, and a fair few of them she didn’t think she’d miss too much if she couldn’t.

There were spaces staked out along the walls with nothing more than a sleeping bag and a couple of black jumbo trashcan liners filled with belongings. There were paintings and family photos and banners for favorite football or baseball teams hung on the walls.

Above one rather Spartan space with an army cot and several plastic crates, a battered American flag hung upside down. Beaded curtains, pieces of plywood, even heavy rugs draped over strung rope, separated individual living areas.

Somewhere farther down the tunnel, the driving beat of hip hop echoed back on itself. Closer to them, Sam could make out the soft buzz and twitter of conversation among the residents. There were knickknacks and books tucked away in stacked plastic milk crates and on shelves of cinderblock and ply board.

One very attractive blond in a red satin dress perched in front of a vanity mirror, putting on makeup in the light of a Coalman lantern. She eyed Jon hungrily. He ignored her, but Gus growled a soft warning as they moved on. They passed a couple lounging on a bed that looked like it might have come straight from a hotel suite—right down to the wood-framed mirror above the headboard. They shared a bucket of KFC and passed a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke back and forth. Calling out greetings to Jon, they offered Gus an unidentifiable chunk of chicken, which he downed in a single gulp with a quick sweep of his tail in thanks.

Sam tried to imagine the place, which almost had the feel of an underground neighborhood, all washing away in heavy rains. Again and again. She knew it did periodically, but it all seemed so permanent at the moment.

As they moved away from Main Street and deeper into the unoccupied areas of the tunnels, she realized that she saw just fine even in the thick darkness. She supposed that was just a part of being dead. As far as she could tell, Jon carried no source of light. But then God would hardly need it, would he?

 

A Free Snog in the Snow

 

 

 

It’s a double whammy today here on a Hopeless Romantic. It’s not only the last day of Blissemas and another chance to win the fab Blisemas grand prize with a Snog in the Snow, but this sizzling, snowy snog is from my MM paranormal, novella, Landscapes, which is free at the moment along with a lot of other fab MM reads for the Love Under the Mistletoe MM Christmas Frolic. Follow either of the above links for your copy.

 

Comment on any of the Snog in the Snow blog posts offered up today for another chance to win a fully-loaded Kindle Fire 7! 

Landscapes Blurb:

Alonso Darlington has a disturbing method of keeping landscaper, Reese Chambers, both safe from and oblivious to his dangerous lust for the man. But Reese isn’t easy to keep secrets from, and Alonso wants way more than to admire the man from afar. Can he risk a real relationship without risking Reese’s life?

Note: Landscapes has been previously released as part of the Brit Boys: On Boys boxed set.

 

Landscapes Snog in the Snow Excerpt — Heart’s Blood:

‘You could have told me.’ The sound of his voice clenched my heart. For a moment I was certain I was dreaming. Reese constantly tortured me from the dream world. But I was awake, wide awake, and as the breeze shifted I could smell his sweet blood. ‘You could have come to me in the beginning. I’m not that unapproachable.’

With difficulty I found my voice, as though it were something long lost from me. ‘Perhaps you were too approachable.’ I gathered my wits, what little were left to me, and turned to face him. His hair was a bit longer, blown by the wind, and the stubble of a long day caressed his cheeks, and God, he was as beautiful as I remembered. Then I smelled Talia on him, felt her magic tingling over his skin. ‘She shouldn’t have come to you. If you’re back here because you feel sorry for the poor vampire, then maybe I’ll rip your throat out and drain you and you can see where your sympathy gets you.’

He moved to stand next to me, knee-deep in the snow that buried the half-finished garden. ‘You won’t get any sympathy from me. You were a complete twat. You should be damn glad I’m not wearing garlic and sporting a stake. You didn’t ask for what happened to you, Alonso. I get that. And even if you did, we play with the hand we’re dealt. All of us.’

There was a hitch in his breath and I could almost taste the heat of his blood in the soft spot at his throat. In a wave of dizziness I stepped away. ‘Afraid I’m not very good at cards. What did you come for Reese?’

‘I came to say I’m sorry, to say that I forgive you and to ask your forgivness.’

I dropped onto the bench as though I were suddenly boneless. To my distress, he sat down next to me and pulled the wool scarf away from his exquisitely tender throat. His pulse was rapid with excitement. With fear. ‘You need to feed, Alonso, you look like hell.’ He pulled open the collar of his shirt. ‘Take from me.’

‘Christ, Reese,’ I shoved off the bench, back-pedaling until I nearly tripped over a pile of stones buried under the snow. ‘You can’t make that offer, not now.’

‘I … I don’t understand. You still want me. I saw that. Talia showed me, and God knows I want you.’

‘Of course I want you. Like I’ve never wanted anything in my life, but I’m not safe Reese. I haven’t fed in … too long. The very scent of you is driving me mad. If I take from you, I won’t be able to stop.’

‘I don’t believe that,’ he said. ‘I’m willing to risk it.’

‘Well I’m not. Your death may mean nothing to you, but it’s not a risk I’m willing to take, and believe me the risk is very real.’

I smelled the sharpening of fear, as he scrambled off the bench. The night was icy cold and heavy with the threat of snow. I could sense him shivering even through his coat. He squared his shoulders and spoke between chattering teeth. ‘What do you want me to do, Alonso. Tell me, and I’ll do it.’

I took a deep breath, struggling to clear my head. ‘Go to the house – to the kitchen. Cook is asleep but there’ll be food. Eat.’

‘I already ate, Talia insisted.’

‘Eat again,’ I commanded, turning to face him just to make sure he was really there and not something my desperate imagination had conjured. ‘Because when I return,’ I held his gaze ‘you’ll need all of your strength. We both will. Go! Now!’

 

Reese paced Alonso’s study while Talia sat on the Cordovan leather sofa pretending to read a novel. ‘It’s almost dawn,’ he said, for the third time in ten minutes. ‘Where the hell is he?’ The snow had set in soon after Alonso had left. How well a vampire could cope with a blizzard, Reece didn’t know.

‘It’s not like going down to the pub.’ Talia sat the book down and gazed up at the monitor above his desk, the one that showed what Alonso would see if there had been a window there. ‘He’s careful when he feeds, never leaving any trace. Besides, he knows the Lakes like the back of his hand. He won’t get caught out. High View is honeycombed with caves. There are also a few old slate quarries, as you know.’ She motioned him into the rough stone corridor and led him down to the Day Room. There, the only space that wasn’t filled with monitors and controls was a worktable to one side spread with a large, laminated map of the area. She ran her finger along a bright red line leading from the house out to the backside of the fell. ‘There.’ She circled a spot on the map with a grease marker. ‘Pull up camera eight.’

At first the display on the big monitor looked blank, then the night cameras kicked in and they could see the rocky walls in monotone shades of green and gray. Reese recognized the cave he’d discovered Alonso in with the walker. At first they could see nothing, but suddenly there was a flash of movement across the screen, and then it was gone.

‘There,’ they both said at the same time.

‘Is there any way of adjusting that camera?’ Reese asked.

‘Not from here, but that cave opens into a tunnel that leads to the wine cellar. It’s wired to send a signal if anyone but Alonso or a designated person is there.’

‘Show me where it’s at. It could be that he’s in there and he’s hurt. Look,’ he said when she raised a skeptical eyebrow, ‘I can’t lose him before I get the chance to properly make things right between us, so where’s the damned wine cellar?’

She gave him directions, then stayed near the monitors to watch. The fell tops were already tinged with gray from the coming sunrise, and Reese could barely keep back his rising panic.

He was down the steps and halfway across the cavernous wine cellar, when a door at the back burst open, and Alonso pushed his way in, dark hair glistening beneath the bare light bulb with a generous dusting of snow. For a moment neither man spoke, but only stood gazing at the other. And then Reese found his voice. ‘I was worried. The sun’s coming up.’

‘It was the sheep,’ Alonso said. ‘They slowed me down a bit.’

‘Sheep?’

He brushed snow from the shoulders of his black wool coat, then offered Reese an embarrassed grin. ‘If I’d gone straight for the shepherd without an appetizer, I’m afraid he wouldn’t be home shagging his wife senseless right now.’

‘You had … sheep … for an appetizer?’

‘Well their blood at least. It’s a poor substitute, but it was necessary this time.’ The shepherd had managed to get all but three into the barn against the weather, which was bad enough that he had to hole up there until it passed. Good thing for me.’ He’ll think the sheep were lost in the storm, and when the weather clears enough that I can arrange it, he’ll find a nice fat wad of £20 notes stuffed in the seat of his Land Rover.’

‘You’re OK, then?’ Reese stepped closer, relief flooding his senses and making him weak.

Alonso held his ground. ‘That depends on you.’

The next step forward was uncertain. The one after that wasn’t, as Reese moved into Alonso’s arms, feeling the chill of the wet snow, smelling the scent of Cumbrian winter and beneath that the spicy, earthy scent of the man. For a long time they stood in each other’s arms, until Reese began to shiver, and Alonso opened his coat and pulled him in to his body, warm from feeding.

‘You’re well fed then?

He lowered his mouth to Reese’s throat and kissed the shudder of his pulse. ‘I am. Now all I’m hungry for is you.’ The rocking of his hips alerted Reese to the erection nestled in his trousers. That and the careful rake of his canines against Reese’ throat made his own cock rise to attention.

Much later, Alonso lay with Reese pulled into a spoon position in his big four-poster bed, his hand absently cupping first Reese’s cock, then his sac until, in spite of the whirlwind of sex they’d already had, Reese rocked his hips slowly back and forth into his grip. ‘I know you have questions,’ Alonso said. He rose up on one elbow and kissed Reese’ ear. ‘Don’t be afraid to ask. I’ll try very hard to give you answers. But there may be times when I won’t be able to. There may be times when I’ll have to work on it. But know this,’ he said,’ moving his hand over Reese’s hips to cup his arse and stroke the cleft in between. ‘I won’t lie to you, even though there’ll be answers you won’t like, answers that may shock you.’

‘I was with the succubus, remember? You’ll find I’m not so easy to shock anymore.’ With a contortionist twist of his upper body, he curled his fingers in Alonso’s mussed hair and guided his mouth down to meet his, kissing him hard leaving them both breathless as he pulled away. ‘I know your heart, Alonso. That’s why I came back. That’s what will hold me here.’

 

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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