In The Flesh Part 23: Dark Paranormal Romance in Progress. Enjoy!

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It’s Friday and time for Episode 23 of In The Flesh, in which much is revealed about Magda Gardener, but Susan’s discoveries only deepen the mystery behind the woman and her relationship with Michael and the Guardian.

 

In the Flesh  is very dark paranormal erotica. 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.

 

 

To read the story in its entirety up to this point, follow these links to  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4 Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15Part 16, Part 17Part 18Part 19Part 20Part 21, Part 22.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

In The Flesh Chapter 23

“This is where I leave you, Hon.” Talia laid a gentle hand on mine, and there was a tingle that felt a greatS6302008 deal like sympathy. “She won’t welcome a spectator, and I’m not all that keen on being one.” She squeezed my hand and turned back toward the tunnel. I stood for a second gathering my courage. The rain had stopped, but the forest was shrouded in mist and though there were bright bursts of light coming from inside the bothy, the surrounding fell side was sunk in false twilight.

I could smell heat, almost like a forge before I approached the bothy, but the place was icy cold. There was no smoke rising from the roof. In fact, the place felt deserted, in spite of the trail in the high grass which, to my surprise, was littered on each side with a complete menagerie of stone garden sculptures – woodland creatures of all sorts from mice and voles, to rabbits, rats, even a fallow deer, many nearly lost in the high grass, and all so realistic that the deer and the fox both startled me before I realized the grey in which they slunk was not shadow, but the stone from which they were carved. Walking softly through the wet, recently flattened grass, perhaps on some unconscious level fearing I’d startle the stone creatures, but more than likely because, no matter how much I wanted to clear the air with Magda Gardener, I really wasn’t looking forward to the woman’s company – especially after my conversation with Talia.

The closer I got to the door of the bothy, the colder I got. Though the ice I felt in the pit of my stomach had nothing to do with the temperature, which was rather mild under the circumstances, the temperature around the bothy, however, appeared to be its own little microclimate, for which I knew the Lake District was famous, but this was no valley, no dale, this was a place of magic. My breath came in icy clouds as I drew nearer and, in spite of the scent of heat and the flashes of pale light from within, the grass and the stone creatures nearest the entrance were coated in hoarfrost, hoarfrost that I felt coating my lungs as I breathed, chilling me in places that had never known cold before. In spite of the chill, the bothy door was wide open. In fact there was no door at all and, yet, I had the very distinct feeling if I were not invited to enter, the lack of a door would not have mattered. I would have been forced to wait outside for eternity.

“Come in, Susan.” As though she had read my thoughts, I heard Magda’s voice before I actually P1020199saw her. But as I stepped across the threshold, my whole body shivered as though I’d just walked through a very large spider web and, though the room was icy cold, the smell of hot metal grew stronger as did the dance and glare of bright light.

Magda Gardener stood with her back to me in the company of dozens more stone carvings so realistic it was as though she had somehow frozen the toad in mid leap, the wood pigeon in mid preen, the hare in mid hop. There were birds, mice, even several butterflies with stone wings so thin, I wondered at the skill of the artist. They all looked as though the stone from which they were carved would suddenly warm to flesh, and they would all go on about their business oblivious of their recent stone prisons.

“These are amazing,” I said, reaching out to touch a badger that looked as though he would startle at my movement and scurry away.

“They’re just stone,” she said, her voice nearly as cold as the room. For a moment, I thought the woman was welding. She stood with her back to me, bathed in bright flashes of light from which I raised a shielding hand to my eyes. But there was no hiss of acetylene, no sparks from the torch, and she wore no welding mask. She was hunched over a wooden workbench strewn with stone chips and sculpting tools. I could hear the chink, chink of metal against stone, and the smell of heat was acrid enough to make my eyes water, in spite of the cold. I pulled the succubus’ jacket tighter around me, surprised that Magda worked in a loose-fitting shift that appeared to be made of unbleached cotton. It hung mid-calf, moving and flowing with her efforts. As I stepped closer I saw she was barefoot.

“I had forgotten you’re a sculptor,” with a chill, I remembered the life-like sculpture of Michael in the tangled garden at Chapel House.

“It’s an interest of mine,” she replied without turning around. “Something I fell into quite by accident a very long time ago. These days, I use it most often for sympathetic magic, sculpting what I wish to manifest.”

“And these,” I opened my arms to include the stone menagerie on the dirt floor of the bothy, “whatSt Martha's Hill 3 kind of magic are they?”

“Those are magic uncontrolled,” came her reply. “Mistakes with which I now have to live.”

“Mistakes? They’re perfect, so realistic, I half expected them all to scurry away the minute they saw me.”

“Would that they could.” She said, and the light around her flashed so bright, I closed my eyes and looked away. “Stop,” she commanded, as I stepped toward her. “Stay where you are. Let me finish this first.”

I did as she said. It was hard to imagine anyone not doing as Magda Gardener said in that voice of authority that you could feel right where all the blood flows in and out of your heart and right where the hips shelter your center of gravity.

“Magic?” I asked, standing on my tiptoes in an effort to see what she was doing.

“It is.” The smell of molten metal intensified, and the dance and arc of light reminded me again of an acetylene torch. “It’s to help your friend rest and to guard her dreams. I said stay put,” she commanded again as I pressed forward, “unless you want to end up like the animals on the floor.”

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped.

“It means I’m working with powerful magic and unless you want me to make a mistake and lose control, you will shut up and stay still until I’m finished.” The tone of her voice hadn’t altered. There was no anger, no frustration. In fact, she could have been giving me her grocery list, but the light over the worktable flared, and for a second, the air was virtually toxic with the smell of burning. For a second I felt as though my skin was freezing solid on my flesh and my lungs were solidifying in my chest. But before I could choke or gag, certainly before I could make a move for the door, the light dissipated, the air cleared to the point that I could smell nothing but the fresh fell breeze, and the room was suddenly warmer.

I only noticed her dark glasses laying on the end of the workbench because she reached for them.
2015-09-04 16.17.13When she turned to face me, she was wearing them again. “Here, put this on.” Before I could respond, she slipped a black chord around my neck on which hung a heart carved from what looked to be the local stone. I drew it up into my hand and ran a thumb over the perfectly detailed feather etched on its surface.

“It’s a protection spell,” she said before I could ask. “No one is to touch it but you. Well, your angel can touch it, of course, but only because the two of you have been physically joined anyway and he’s given you his own protection spell. The heart represents your heart. The quill is a symbol of your craft. A scribe’s magic lives through symbol, therefore it’s you, not I, who will empower it with what’s needed when the time comes. You may not know it yet, but your craft is the most powerful magic you have with which to fight the Guardian.”

I settled the heart between my breasts. “And that’s why you want to steal me?” I hadn’t meant to be so abrupt, nor to sound so ungrateful, but I didn’t like having choices taken out of my hands.

If she were upset by my lack of gratitude, she didn’t show it. “You undid my efforts, Susan, and now the Guardian is free once again to wreak havoc. Anyone who can do what you did, I want as an ally.”

“An ally is not a possession,” I said.

“On the contrary, I’ve found that it’s usually best when your allies are your possessions.”

I barely heard her words as my gaze came to rest on the object she’d been working on. When I reached for it, she slapped my hand away. “I told you the magic is for your friend. Don’t touch magic that belongs to someone else.”

I was cold again, cold to the core as I studied the tiny image on the table resting among stone chips and dust. It could have been Annie asleep in miniature, just as I’d left her a few hours ago – the body too thin beneath the duvet, the face racked with exhaustion. Even the details of the bedding and her tiny hand gripping the headboard were identical. Once again I was certain the piece was carved from local stone, but it was polished shone as though it were somehow lit from within. “Jesus,” I whispered, bending to look closer. “It could be her, living and breathing in miniature.”

“In truth, it does contain a tiny bit of her essence – a strand of hair, a clipping of a fingernail, but 2015-06-30 11.27.42
it’s only stone, Susan, taken from that cave, in fact.” She nodded to the cave I’d just come out of. ‘After you’re little visit, I was forced to redo the magic,” she said, picking up the piece, which was no bigger than a small chess pawn and turning it over in her hand. “Your unauthorized contact with her raised unconscious longings, made her restless. I’ve had to strengthen the magic to protects her, and to protect all of us.”

I recalled the butcher knife incident with a shudder. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but she’s my best friend, and I — ”

“And you don’t trust me with her. I understand that. But not trusting me is exactly what the Guardian is counting on. He’ll make you doubt everything you know to be true. Knowing that to be the case, knowing that the moment will come when you’ll want desperately, need with every fiber of your being to believe him, I will tell you the truth now, Susan, listen to me now, in this place of magic and know I speak truth. I rescued you, with Michael’s help, when no one else knew you even needed rescuing. I took a ridiculous risk and rescued your friend as well, though I’m still not sure what I can do for her. I am the only one who has ever fought the Guardian and won, and even though your fantasies of him are sweeter than any romance you’ve ever written or read, the truth is that in a few months you’d have ended up just like your friend, and the Guardian would be seeking yet another to devour. This would have been your fate had I not rescued you. You know this to be true. And you must also know that Michael fights the same battle, the same desires, but he is already allied with me. He won’t fight his battle alone, and neither shall you.” Her gaze locked on me from beneath the glasses, and she slipped the image of the sleeping Annie into a small leather pouch that hung around her neck and tucked it back inside her shift. Then she turned for the door and motioned me to follow her back to the cave.

“Rescue is not the same as stealing,” I said, scrambling to keep up.

“I believe the Guardian would beg to differ.”

“That doesn’t mean I’ll belong to you. If we all live through this,” I added.

She stopped in the middle of the cave, deep enough that the natural light had dissipated to dusk, and still she wore the glasses. As she held me in her gaze, no – it was more than that, for a moment I wasGraveyard angel 2da8f31cc622c5a47d15ff0c4f1e114ab certain she held me in her thrall – but as she held me there, I was suddenly, irrationally very glad for the barrier the glasses provided. “No one belongs to anyone, my darling girl, but what you will come to understand if, as you say, we survive this little adventure, is that some debts can never be repaid.
Therefore the loyalty we feel, the sense of gratitude, goes much deeper than simply belonging to someone. I have stolen you from the Guardian, but at the end of the day, it will be you who will steal yourself for my purposes and give yourself over willingly.”

“You’re purposes? What the hell are your purposes?” I asked.

“Why to write, of course. You are a Scribe, after all. Come now.” She found a Mag Light at the entrance to the tunnel and nodded me to follow. “The others will be waiting. It’s time we return to Alonso’s drawing room to finish your little story.”

 

Rebecca Black Talks about Her New Release, LET’S RIDE!

Hello!

Thanks for having me today so I can give my new book Let’s Ride a shout out.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I really love a good, quick read. Busy lives often don’t leave as much time as we’d like for reading, do they? I’m not always so bothered about the backstory, I just want to live vicariously for a moment through the characters as they experience that first rush of lust and desire in a new relationship – I want to get a little hot and tingly 😉

Well Evernight’s Romance on the Go range is all about fulfilling this reading need and my new release Let’s Ride is a part of that.

 

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Let’s Ride started life as an erotic short that I wrote for Masturbation Monday (a meme that I write for most weeks). I saw a black and white photograph of this gorgeous, androgynous woman sat on a kick ass motorbike in just a pair of knickers and this piece of flash fiction just fired out of me. Talk about inspiration!

She looked like she wouldn’t take any crap and she looked very capable of sweeping someone off their feet. It got a lot of great feedback so I decided to extend it and lucky for me, Evernight liked it too.

I’ve read some great books with well written dominant male characters, both straight and gay, but I really wanted to write a recognisable archetype with a twist. There isn’t one good reason on this earth why the hero has to be male. Let’s Ride completely rejects that assumption. Jo is confident, self-assured and has a dominant streak a mile wide, but she’s also a beautiful woman, inside and out. She rides into town and sweeps Mary-Beth right off her feet and into her bed. I love her (I know I’m not supposed to say that because I wrote her, but I really do!) and I hope you do too.

 

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Let’s Ride Blurb:

“I would do just about anything to be on the back of that bike when she leaves this place.”

Trapped in a small town life, Mary-Beth always knew there was something better out there. Then Jo rides into town and walks straight into the diner where she works. Sexy, dominant and self-assured, Jo is everything Mary-Beth wishes she could be. Their hot, intense meeting crashes through Mary-Beth’s small world and offers her the promise of a new start.

Will Mary-Beth leave everything behind and ride with Jo towards the chance of a new life?

 

Let’s Ride Excerpt:

Standing by the window, I’m trying to take a lunch time customer’s order but my attention is caught by a bike riding into the gas pump out front.

I hold my breath. She is pretty much everything that I wish I could be. Tall and lean. Enough fuck you attitude to tame a horde of marauding Vikings. She straddles that bike like she was born to it, like she never rode a trike. Like she just stepped right onto all that horsepower and with a flick of her wrists rode off into the sunset, giving everyone the finger as she went.

I would do just about anything to be on the back of that bike when she leaves this place.

She kicks the stand and moves the bike smoothly into its stationary position, slinging her long leg over the back wheel.

I jump a little when our eyes meet through the window. I’m supposed to be taking this guy’s order but I got distracted, seriously distracted. She smirks when her eyes roam over the redness in my cheeks.

Heat has suffused my body; a fine sweat has broken out on my skin and I know I’m in trouble. So much trouble.

I manage to scramble my brain sufficiently to take his order and drop it off at the kitchen. Moving around the bar, I grab the coffee pot to do refills. I can’t stop looking at the door.

Will she come in? Or has she just come for gas?

Please let her come in.

I want to see her up close—I want to see her eyes—that flawless skin. I want to run my fingers over the black shaved hair on the sides of her head, run them through the longer top that she has greased back. I want to watch her eyes close with the pleasure of it.

I hold my nerve when I hear the bell ring over the door. I’m pouring coffee—it really wouldn’t do to spill it and burn a customer. I’m bent over slightly to reach the cup, and my skirt brushes against the back of my legs when she walks past me.

I smile distractedly as the customer thanks me, turning my head to see she has taken a seat at the bar.

Walking over on shaky legs, I smooth my damp palms down the front of my uniform apron.

She sits tall, resting her elbows on the counter. Her legs are open, one heel of her heavy black boots hooked higher on the stool than the other. Her jeans are tight, riding low on slim hips, well worn with a small rip over one knee. A tight white t-shirt stops a few inches from the waistband of her jeans, showing smooth lightly tanned skin that I desperately want to touch.

Her knowing gaze follows me as I move around the bar to face her. I can almost feel a pressure on my skin where it touches me.

“What can I get for you?”

“What have you got?” she asks in a low, husky voice. Her eyes lock on mine. Her eyebrows are like a raven’s wings, perfectly shaped, drawing my attention across her arresting face.

“Pretty much anything, as long as it’s deep fried and unhealthy,” I say wryly.

She laughs. The sound is low and rough and strokes over my nipples.

“Always tastes good, though, don’t it?” she replies. That smirk plays across her mouth again as her gaze drops to my lips. “I’ll just take a coffee for now. Think I’ll get something sweet in a little while…”

 

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Thanks for reading!

Purchase Let’s Ride Here:

Evernight | Amazon | All Romance | Bookstrand

 

About Rebecca Black:

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Rebecca Black is a Yorkshire girl born and bred. She is first and foremost a voracious reader and lately an author of erotica and erotic romance. She believes that the hottest sex scenes are the ones where emotions are involved (plus lots of dirty talk, lots of spanking, licking and sucking and well… you get the idea). She is the author of A Taste For Three (m/m/f) from Evernight and has several short stories due to be released in erotic anthologies. Rebecca is a regular contributor to the fantastic Cliterati magazine.

 

Find Rebecca here:

Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Tumblr | Goodreads |

 

 

 

Victoria Blisse Soon to release Something Brave

“You can call me Sir.” Something Brave Cover Reveal

 

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Victoria Blisse’s newest BDSM novella is available for Pre-order at Totally Bound now. It’s the story of a shy vanilla woman and how she meets the only man she’s ever wanted to submit to. Felicity discovers her kinky side with the help of a Man she only knows as ‘Sir.’

 

Blurb:

Blushing, hesitant Felicity does something incredibly brave and submits to a man she only knows as Sir, but will his demands push her beyond her limits?

Felicity attends the local burlesque fair just to sell her Quietly Cute jewelry. A handsome stranger offers to spank her, and she surprises herself by submitting. Sir makes her choose the implement he will use to take her spanking virginity—and uses it to great effect.

She finds herself becoming the sexy, self-made billionaire’s sub, who is punished with bondage, forced into exhibitionism, hot wax and other delicious tortures. Felicity submits willingly, becoming braver with every interaction. But when Samuel offers her the means to establish her business and pulls her out of the poverty she lives in, she snaps, seeing it as an insult to her pride and possibly even a payment for her sexual services.

Can Samuel convince her otherwise, or will she walk out of his life forever?

General Release Date: 17th November 2015

 

somethingbrave_800_2Excerpt:

 

“Oh, I think of you all the time, Felicity. When I’m meant to be concentrating on the figures, one…” She felt an explosion of heat just above her belly button a second after he paused, and she gasped and pulled her stomach in.

“Two.” Another drop landed a little higher, between her ribs, and she felt the two hot impact spots melting together into a river of warmth.

“Well, you get the idea.”

She heard the mirth in his voice. He was enjoying watching her squirm. Another drop of wax splashed between her breasts. The impact burned, and she writhed against her bonds. It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t pleasant, but the warmth and the condensing pull of the cooling wax was strangely sensual. She wanted more as much as she wanted it to stop.

“I think of you over breakfast, whenever I see a pretty item of jewelery, when I look out of my office window, when I touch my desk. I see you there, stretched out and eager for your spanking. I think about you when I pick up my briefcase, when I loosen my tie. All the time, Felicity. You’re always on my mind.”

She heard a rasp, sensed movement beside her. Had he put the candle down?

“I get overwhelmed by thoughts of you all the time.”

Another dribble landed at the top of her left breast and the drop turned into a stream that burned a trail down to just before her nipple. She clenched her teeth, expecting the burning to explode on her sensitive nub, but it didn’t. She relaxed.

“Another confession, Felicity. When I think of you, I get turned on.”

 

You can Pre-order Something Brave from Totally Bound now, Early download will be available on the 20th October exclusively at my publisher’s site and general release is the 17th November.

 

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About Victoria:

Victoria Blisse is a mother, wife, Christian, Manchester United fan and award winning erotica author. She is also the editor of several Bigger Briefs collections, and the co-editor of the fabulous Smut Alfresco, Smut in the City and Smut by the Sea Anthologies.

Victoria is also one of the brains behind the fabulous Smut events, days and nights dedicated to erotica, fun and prizes. Check out http://ilovesmut.uk for more details.

She is equally at home behind a laptop or a cooker and she loves to create stories, poems, cakes and biscuits that make people happy. She was born near Manchester, England and her northern English quirkiness shows through in all of her stories.

Passion, love and laughter fill her works, just as they fill her busy life.

You can find often find Victoria procrastinating on Facebook http://facebook.com/victoriablisse , Twitter http://twitter.com/victoriablisse and Pinterest http://pinterest.com/victoriablisse

To find out more check out http://victoriablisse.co.uk

 

In The Flesh Part 22: Dark Paranormal Romance in Progress. Enjoy!

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In episode 22 of In The Flesh, Susan discovers the chilling truth about what Magda Gardener and Michael were trying to steal from Chapel House.

 

In the Flesh  is very dark paranormal erotica. 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.

 

 

 

 

To read the story in its entirety up to this point, follow these links to  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4 Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15Part 16, Part 17Part 18Part 19Part 20, Part 21.

 

In The Flesh Chapter 22

“I really need to go.” Michael kissed my ear and cupped my breast, thumbing the nipple that was just peeking from the cloud of geranium scented bubbles. After we’d made love, we slipped down the stone staircase to my room, which, I discovered to my delight, was just below his. He’d requested it that way. For my protection, he said, so he could get to me quickly if the need arose. And since High View was in the process of renovations, this was the best Alonso could do. Once we were back in my room, Michael had filled up the big bathtub and undressed me at his leisure, pausing to kiss and caress as necessary. Then he guided me down into the warm sudsy water and crawled in with me, to bathe me, he said — an act that was accomplished after another, less frantic, reinforcement of his mark. Warm, clean and sated, I leaned back against the humid rise and fall of his chest half dozing, trying hard to pretend that we were simply two lovers enjoying a little wet afternoon delight.

“I may be borrowing trouble,” he said, “but something doesn’t feel right. It shouldn’t have taken Magda so long to reconvene our little … reading group.” I felt his shrug against my back. “Though she’s not the kind who thinks to inform anyone of a change of plans. Still. I don’t like it. I suppose a delay could be a good sign, but I’m not an optimist when it comes to working with Magda, and certainly not where the Guardian is concerned.” Over my mild protests he stood, causing a mini tsunami of scented water, and offered me his hand.

When we were both dried and dressed, I reeled him in for a lingering kiss. “You don’t have to sleep all St Martha's Hill 3alone up there in that cold little tower, you know.”

He caught my hand and pulled it to his lips. “Are you inviting me to share your bed, Ms Innes?”

“Well I was just thinking that the mark could probably use a bit more reinforcing. Just to be sure. And, just in case you might need to get to me in a hurry or something. You understand.”

“You have a good point.” He nodded in mock seriousness.

“You have a better one.” I rubbed against him.

He groaned into my mouth in a deep lazy kiss. “As much as I’d love to discuss my point with you and give you another demonstration, I really need to find out what’s going on.” He kissed me again, giving my arse a good kneading as he shifted up tight against me, then he nipped my lower lip. “I promise we’ll continue this discussion later.” He turned to leave, then turned back to me. “I need you to stay put in your room until I com back for you. After everything that’s happened, the protective spells around this space have been reinforced to keep you safe when you’re alone. I’ll be back for you, or someone else will, shortly.” He waited until I nodded a reluctant agreement, then he left me leaning breathlessly against the edge of the door as I watched him disappear down the corridor.

As soon as he was gone, the world came rushing back. There was no more pretending that we were just ordinary lovers, there was no way to pretend anything was ordinary anymore. Fighting off the rising panic, my first thought was to boot up my laptop and document the events of the past twenty-four hours. Writing things down always helped me focus and see things more clearly – often things that had completely escaped me in the midst of the action, and I very much needed to see things more clearly right now. Then I remembered that the laptop was still in the study, where we’d all been titillated by my encounter with the Guardian. My stomach knotted at the memory. Well I fucking needed it! I couldn’t just sit around and fret. I needed to do something, anything to keep from going nuts, to keep from convincing myself that the Guardian was the love of my life and I needed to hurry back to Him. Ignoring Michael’s request, I took a deep breath, flung open the door and headed for the study. After all, the study was surely safe from the Guardian, deep in Alonso’s vampire friendly basement. I was sure I’d be fine there. The problem was I’d only been there once, and that was following Alonso’s lead. High View was a complicated maze of ruins and renovations one could easily get lost in and never be heard from again. It was the perfect hangout for a vampire and his pet succubus, I thought. Not so great for a confused writer though.

After two wrong turns and a dead end that led to a fairly creepy tunnel, I was just beginning to get dark moon image_xl_6338206seriously concerned that I might really be lost when I turned a blind corner and nearly ran into Talia. I gave a little yelp, and she responded with an amused chuckle. She was dressed in faded jeans, riding boots and a black leather jacket that hugged her perfect curves. Even in the dim light of the passage she looked terrifyingly beautiful – not like an angel. I knew very well what an angel looked like, felt like. Talia wasn’t like that at all with her waves of dark hair and red lips, with her blue eyes that looked right through you. Talia was like everything beautiful, everything desirable, everything dangerous and forbidden rolled into one breathtaking package. Christ, whatever happened to just normal everyday, sexual attraction between two ordinary human beings? I was out of my depth at every turn, and this was the safe place! I was about to apologize for being so jumpy and ask directions when she brought me up short.

“Are you looking for Magda?”

“As a matter of fact, I am.” At least I was now, now that perhaps I had someone to help me hunt her down. I asked innocently, “do you know where I can find her?” I had a few things to say to the woman and if Michael was overly protective of her, perhaps someone else could point me in the right direction.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” she said, folding her arm over mine and turning me down the hall toward the dodgy-looking tunnel. As she grabbed a Mag Light from a shelf near the entrance, I felt a tingle at the base of my spine, but I wasn’t sure if it was from the idea of entering the maw of the tunnel with a succubus I didn’t totally trust or just the fact that her hand against my bare forearm made me slightly giddy. “I would imagine you have a lot of questions for her,” she called over her shoulder as the tunnel began to narrow and she took the lead. “Not that I would expect too many answers if I were you. The bitch isn’t exactly known for her open door policy.”

“You don’t like her,” I said, scurrying to keep up with the pace of someone who was clearly familiar with the tunnel.

“I like her just fine. In fact I admire the hell out of her. But I don’t expect straight answers from her, and when she does get around to straight answers, usually I wish the hell she would have lied, but then that’s just Magda Gardener for you. Can’t say that I really blame her for trusting no one and using every resource at her disposal, and believe me, she’s got ‘em. Resources, I mean.”

“She certainly seems to have Michael by the shorthairs,” I said, stooping slightly as the tunnel narrowed still further and my heart rate accelerated accordingly.

“Hon, she has everyone by the shorthairs, even if they don’t know it.”

“Are you sure you know where she’s at?” I asked, shivering as a gossamer strand of spider web raked across my cheek.

Her chuckle was low and throaty. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to seduce you in some dark musty corner, if that’s what you’re afraid of and, as I said earlier, Alonso doesn’t feed on his guests, even uninvited ones.”

“Very happy to hear that, on both counts,” I said, raking my elbow on a rough outcropping of rock I rose imageshadn’t noticed in the wavering illumination of the Mag Light. Then I added quickly. “Michael tells me you’re his familiar – Alonso’s, I mean.”

The chuckle came again. “Oh, indeed. I’m very familiar with Alonso. I offer him blood and he reciprocates, when my energies are drained in his service. I’m his eyes in the daylight, and his flesh when he needs me to be. I add that … feminine touch to his household. I’m not his lover, though. Not now anyway. He’s head over heels for Reese, and that’s fine with me. I prefer human lovers. Their dreams are really quite … twisted, surprisingly. I know, right? Wouldn’t you think the dreams of a vampire, certainly a vampire who has been through what Alonso has would be far more exciting? But,” she turned and I suddenly found myself nose to nose with her, breathing in her cinnamon and peaches breath, “vampires and succubi and things that go bump in the night are born of the human psyche, you know. The veil between the dream world and the real world is so much thinner than anyone who hasn’t walked both could easily imagine.” She reached out and brushed a spider web from my hair. “I would think a Scribe would know that.” Then she turned and continued on.

Born of the human psyche? I wondered how that could be when Talia, Alonso, even Michael were as real and as physical as I was, but I’d save that question for later. There were more pressing ones at the moment. “So let me get this straight, you gain strength from his blood when you’ve done stuff for him, and he … feeds on you?”

She laughed out loud. “Oh honey, it’s way more than strength I gain from his blood. Taking a vampire’s blood is better than the best drug or alcohol high you can imagine. There’s nothing else like it, unless it’s to reciprocate and offer your own blood to one of their kind. Me,” she shrugged, “Well, I get my kicks mostly in other ways, and though I enjoy the exchange of blood, even need it from time to time when I’m weakened, I feed on an entirely different kind of energy.” Her gaze raked me like a physical touch and I felt my nipples harden. I caught my breath and stepped back. She just winked, then turned and walked on.

For a long time we walked on in silence, then I had to ask. “You can’t feed on the Guardian?”

“No. I have to have flesh, just as Alonso does, though for him the flesh and blood are a very physical need – different from my own. There’s a biochemical reaction that takes place in the body, in the brain when I feed, when a person dreams, when a person is aroused, when a person eats or fucks or gets excited or nervous or frightened or is satisfied in some other way. That’s just biology. I feed on that energy. Whatever it is that the Guardian may be, it’s not physical. There’s no biology where he is concerned. That’s the one thing denied him and the one thing he desires most, that physical experience, that biochemical reaction that happens when flesh meets flesh. That’s why everyone here but Alonso and Magda are vulnerable to him. Alonso is technically dead and Magda, well who the hell knows with Magda?”

“So, you can’t feed on Magda?”

Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500The tunnel suddenly opened into a small amphitheater-like cave, and we picked our way across the rock-strewn floor, slick with dripping water and moss. At the entrance, which was well hidden from the outside by a thicket of heather and hawthorn, we looked out onto the rainy fells. “I’ve never tried to feed on Magda. Though I have to admit, she’s sexy enough; the thought of entering that woman’s dreams scares the hell out of me. Now your angel, well he’s another matter. He gave up his angelhood ages ago. Technically he’s as human as you are now, though he’s … well I suppose you could say he’s enhanced. But, as I’m sure you know, the biochemistry is all there in spades. Him I could feast on quite happily, and the two of you together, oh well, that thought positively makes me wet with anticipation. If ever you’re open for a little ménage, Hon, I promise I’ll make it well worth your while.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I hated to admit it, but after my experience with the succubus, the thought made me wet too. I quickly changed the subject. “So, Magda is flesh and blood, then, and the … biochemistry is all there, but for whatever reason, you’re scared of her and the Guardian wants nothing to do with her?”

“That’s pretty much it, yes. Not sure why the Guardian doesn’t like her, but I have a feeling that one taste of her energy would fry my circuits permanently. Might well be worth the risk, but I’m not that fucking brave. As for the whys of it all, well I’m not sure even she fully understands, and if you’re brave enough to ask, well go for it, chick, that’s all I can say.”

I would be brave enough to ask, I thought. I needed to understand who the hell this woman was if my life and the life of my best friend and my lover were in her hands. I needed to know if I could trust her. But even if I couldn’t, it really didn’t matter at this point. She was all we had. “Is she really a thief?” I asked.

“A thief?” The resulting belly laugh surprised me, and I waited impatiently while Talia regained control, wiping tears from the corner of her eyes, still chuckling when she was finally able to respond. “ I suppose now that you mention it, that’s exactly what she is, but on a scale that would take your breath away little Scribe.” She nodded to what looked like a ramshackle shepherd’s bothy half hidden in a wooded copse. “She’s in there.” She slipped out of her jacket and handed it to me. “Trust me. You’re gonna need this. Magda isn’t big on creature comforts when she’s practicing her magic.”

I shivered from something other than cold as I shoved my way into the black leather jacket warm from the succubus’ body and redolent with her musky, peachy, cinnamon scent. “So what did she send Michael to Chapel House to steal? I mean seriously, wasn’t she afraid something like this might happen with the Guardian if they started mucking about?”

I suddenly found myself in the woman’s hard blue gaze. She looked at me as though I were some new life form she was only seeing for the first time. “The Guardian was already released when she sent Michael to play cat burglar. Didn’t you know?”

“Me? How the hell would I know? I knew nothing about any of this until Michael rescued me from my butcher-knife wielding best friend.”

“Sweetie,” she stepped closer and pushed the hair back behind my ears in a gesture that sent tingles down my spine, her gaze suddenly softened to something that resembled sympathy. “Didn’t you know?”

“Know what?” The tingle became an icy chill. “Know what?”

Talia gave a quick glance out at the bothy and then squared her shoulders as though she had just made a major decision. “Magda commissioned Michael to … to steal you.”

“What?” I suddenly felt as insubstantial as the spider webs clinging to the ceiling. “What the fuck’s that supposed to mean, she hired Michael to steal me. I’m a person, not an object. She can’t steal me. And neither can he,” I added trying to keep the hurt from my voice.

“Oh she can, and she will. She has stolen more people than you can easily imagine, Hon. Michael’s one of them. And Michael, well he’ll happily aid her because he wants you almost as badly as she does. Maybe more so considering the power of his mark on your body. I can feel it from anywhere in High View. Shouldn’t doubt that I could still feel it all the way to Penrith.”

“Why?’ The word came out sounding entirely too much like a sob.

“What do you mean why? You’re a Scribe. Do you have any idea how rare that is? No one else could have P1020199

released the Guardian but a Scribe and not even every Scribe could have done what you did. That’s the only explanation for his return to the world of the living. It didn’t take Magda and Michael long to put two and two together. They knew your friend wasn’t a Scribe, and they knew that the Guardian was already feasting on her. Remember Magda rescued Michael from the Guardian, and together they imprisoned him. They both understand the way it is with him. You’re what he’s after. Your friend is just a little snack. He knows what you are as well as they do. You hold his future in your hands, and he knows it. That makes you far too valuable for them not to steal you away.”

 

Happy Release Day! Shopping for a CEO (Shopping for a Billionaire series Book 7) by Julia Kent now available

Shopping for a CEOBlurb

I’m thrilled to be the maid of honor in my friend’s wedding, but the best man, Andrew McCormick, is a chauvinistic pig with a God complex.

And I can’t stop kissing him in closets.

(Don’t ask.)

He’s the brother of the groom and the CEO of my biggest mystery shopping account, but suddenly he’s refusing to be in the wedding. He won’t talk about it. Won’t see reason.

He’s such a man.

And he still won’t stop kissing me in random closets.

(Thank goodness.)

I’m a fixer. That’s what I do. I can fix anything if given the chance. But when the game is fixed there’s only so much I can do.

The ball’s in his court now.

Game on.

* * *

Shopping for a CEO is the 7th book in the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Shopping series. When CEO Andrew McCormick and mystery shopper Amanda Warrick find themselves in the unlikely position as maid of honor and best man in the Boston society wedding of the year, an undeniable attraction and dual stubborn streaks add fuel to the fire in this romantic comedy from Julia Kent.

 

Buy links

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1MyMNVv
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1HDYXsO
iBooks: http://apple.co/1BTcs5l
Amazon Canada: http://amzn.to/1IaHf5I
Print: http://amzn.to/1M1Zc3W
BN: http://bit.ly/1fR0CV9
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1OkyPaX
Google Play: http://bit.ly/1J5zEV6

 

Excerpt

“Will the guys go commando?” Marie calls out. “True highlanders don’t wear underwear.”

“The wedding is in July, Mom,” Amy calls back. “In Massachusetts. If you’re going to make all those men wear wool kilts and socks, they’ll probably gratefully go without underwear just to prevent heat exhaustion.”

Marie nods. “Good point.”

“But then there’s the issue of ball sweat,” Amy adds.

Marie frowns and jots down notes on a sticky pad. “Ball sweat? That’s a real thing?”

Amy nods. “They make a special product for it.”

“There’s a product to cure ball sweat? Balls have sweat glands? Where do they hide the pores? And how do you know this?”

“Venture capital project at my internship. They’re coming out with a new product for breast sweat.”

“Now that I know about first hand,” Marie says with a knowing nod. “Breasts do more work than people appreciate. The Girls work up a sweat on a regular basis.”

Considering the fact that Marie hasn’t been pregnant or breastfed in well over two decades, I don’t really want to know what kind of ‘work’ her chest girls have been up to.

Shannon walks in. Chuckles runs to cuddle with her ankles, then rubs his butthole all over her calf.

“Hi to you too, Chuckles. That’s exactly how Declan greets me most nights.”

“Ewwwww,” Amy says, plugging her ears. “I hear enough about Mom’s sex life. Don’t need to know more about yours.”

“Honey, does Declan have a problem with ball sweat?”

“Huh?” Shannon gives Amy an evil look. “What have you been telling her?”

“Amy says the groom and groomsmen will need testicle powder if I ask them to go commando for the wedding.”

“Testicle powder? Is that going to be a wedding favor?”

“Do they make such a thing?” Marie asks, interest piqued.

“Sure,” Amy says. “Personalized bottles and everything. Think of the possibilities. Shannon and Declan, Dry Forever, with the date stamped on there and a logo of a dove. People will forever associate your wedding with smooth sacs.”

 

releaseblitzbutton_shoppingforaceoAuthor bio and web/social media links

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge, and new adult books that push contemporary boundaries. From billionaires to BBWs to rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every book she writes, but unlike Trevor from Random Acts of Crazy, she has never kissed a chicken.

She loves to hear from her readers by email at jkentauthor@gmail.com, on Twitter @jkentauthor, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jkentauthor . Visit her website at JKentAuthor.com.

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The Romance Reviews

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