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Out Now! – First Beast by Faye Avalon @faye_avalon #PNR #romance #erotica

First BeastBook Blurb:

To protect his pack, he must guard his heart.

Lost on Bodmin Moor, twelve-year-old Talia Summers was cold, hurt and terrified, before being saved by a black panther that materialized out of the night.

Years later, Talia returns to the moor in search of that magnificent beast, but instead finds a man leading a clan of shape shifters. Yet the connection she remembers is strangely absent. She despairs of ever finding it again—until a stranger steps into her shower.

Back to claim his rightful place, Caleb McLeod’s fierce attraction to his half-brother’s female is tempered by the fact she’s a human. Worse, a journalist. He’ll not have his people’s survival threatened by a human female who continually pushes the boundaries of pack rules.

His solution? Mate with her. Control her. And if his brother doesn’t like it, they’ll simply have to share. For now.

But suspicion and lies threaten the growing bond between Talia and Caleb, and the past has a way of catching up. A way of destroying the bridge built between two worlds…between two hearts.

Beasts of Bodmin Moor, Book 1

Product Warnings

A red-hot panther shifter with an over-the-top possessive streak, a human reporter trying desperately to retain her independence, and enough sexual heat to set fire to the moors of Cornwall.

Buy Links:

Samhain Publishing:  https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5660/first-beast

Amazon:  http://myBook.to/FirstBeast

Nook: http://bit.ly/1PUTE0u

All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/1O0TGhG

 

Excerpt:

Since she’d deliberately gotten home early, Talia headed straight to the kitchen to put lasagna in the oven. She intended to make the evening special, to make up for some of the tension between her and Joshua.

Since the day was hot, unbearably so, she headed to the shower.

She’d expected Josh to be home, but wasn’t overly worried. He’d likely taken himself off to the moor and hadn’t yet gotten her text asking him to join her.

Thinking it might bring them closer if he’d shared that part of himself, Talia had once asked him to shift in front of her, but he’d steadfastly refused. It was his time, he’d said. Something he couldn’t share with anyone, even her.

Many times when she woke in the night he would be gone. On his return, he’d often wake her and they would make love. Lately, he’d come home with a restless energy. She’d feel him slide into bed, turn over and slip into a troubled sleep.

Maybe it was all part of being a shapeshifter. Something to do with the phases of the moon.

She stripped off her work clothes, put the shower on cool, and stepped beneath the spray. Closing her eyes, she enjoyed the feel of the water against her skin and let the tension of the day slide off her shoulders.

Over the spray of water, she heard the click of the back door. Joshua was home. She didn’t call out. He’d hear the shower soon enough, and by the time he reached the bathroom he would have stripped out of his clothes.

How was it that all their problems seemed to fall away when they had sex? Here, they were compatible. Here, they saw eye to eye.

So why did she still crave something that possibly didn’t even exist?

Unbidden, her thoughts slipped back to that night she’d gotten lost on the moor. Why in heaven was she thinking about it so often these days? It was as if something called to her, made her more aware of her longing for what she’d experienced back then. Josh had been a young panther, he’d told her, running solo for the first time. Most of his kind didn’t experience shifting until they reached puberty, and they had to run with more experienced members until they learned the secrets and challenges of the moor.

She’d been so desperate to learn more, to talk to him about that night and how much it had meant to her, but he was always circumspect. Probably because shifters weren’t supposed to talk about their experiences on the moor, especially not with humans.

Pushing the thoughts away, she continued to soap herself, anticipating the moment the bathroom door would open and Joshua would stand there in all his glory and ready to play. With her free hand, she reached out and rubbed at the steamy shower screen, giving herself a clear window through which she would be able to see him. She could hear his footsteps—weird how attuned she was becoming to sound, scent and vision. It was almost as if her own senses had sharpened since she’d mated with a shifter. Perhaps that was a side effect? She’d have to check it out with Joshua. That was, if he’d be willing to discuss it.

The footsteps seemed to wander from room to room, and she speculated as to what particular game Joshua was playing. Had he thought of yet another inventive way to string out the anticipation? To make her wait for him so that she was so hot by the time he reached her that she’d be desperate to jump him?

She’d be damned if she’d call out to him, because that was probably one of his intentions. Instead, she kept her mouth shut and determined to play whatever game they were in the middle of. She unhooked the shower attachment, and held it ready at chest level, so that when he opened the door to the shower cubicle, she’d be in the perfect position to blast him.

She bit down on her bottom lip. Denied the warmth of the shower water, she shivered from both the cool air on her flesh and the thought of what was to come. Knowing Josh, he’d be pissed when she drenched him, but a pissed and aroused Joshua was often a joy to behold.

The footsteps grew louder and seconds later, the slow squeak of the door signaled his arrival. Since her peephole had steamed up again, she couldn’t see him, but smiled as the dark shadow approached the cubicle door. She hummed softly, sashayed a little, so that he’d think she was unaware of his presence and was simply enjoying her shower.

The shadow remained outside the door, perfectly still and strangely menacing. Something niggled, seeming a little off. Did Josh seem taller, broader? She mentally nudged it away as a trick of the light, and possibly her own arousal. But goose-bumps lifted the tiny hairs on her arms and she gripped the showerhead tighter.

Without warning, the cubicle door swung open and Talia had the breath knocked out of her momentarily as the cold snap of air whooshed into the small space. Narrowing her eyes, she raised the showerhead and let the spray hit Josh full in the face.

“What the hell?”

The deep curse that echoed around the bathroom and the strong hand that clasped her wrist belonged not to her husband, but some brute of a man who towered over her while she stood naked and trembling.

“Who…what do you think you’re d-doing?”

With his free hand, he wiped his drenched face. “My question exactly, sweetheart.”

His deep green eyes glared at her, his grip tightening around her wrist so that she dropped the showerhead to the floor. In the process, it sprayed them both with water, soaking his dark gray T-shirt and jeans. It earned her another dark curse.

She tried to scream, but nothing came out. So she did the next best thing. She fought. Kicking, hitting out with her free hand, and meeting nothing but rock-solid muscle.

“Get out!” She lashed out once more, tugging furiously at his grip on her and trying in vain to get free of him. Her breath backed up in her lungs, all her muscles tight and trembling. “Let go of me!”

He wiped his face again, the lower part of it sporting dark stubble. Talia let her gaze skim over him, trying to memorize his features for when she had to give a description to the police. God. He was built like a truck. His neck alone would rival the span of her waist, while his chest rippled and heaved beneath the soaked shirt.

Suddenly aware of her nakedness, she ceased her perusal. “If you don’t let go of me, I’ll scream. So help me, I’ll scream loud enough to wake the dead.”

He only grinned at that, yet there was little humor in it. Feral, she thought dazedly. He reminded her of a determined predator…

Bloody hell. Was he a shifter? A member of a visiting pack? It seemed to happen pretty frequently, but from what she knew, they didn’t engage in breaking and entering.

The thought that this man might be a shifter terrified her. She knew of their strength, of their power. Of their primal charm and charisma…which had to explain the sudden resurgence of arousal that powered through her trembling body.

“Go ahead and scream. There’s nobody around to hear you.”

He was right, of course, and she shivered with alarm. Most of their neighbors were at work, and the house itself was on the edge of the moor, its strategic position giving the pack’s leader both status and tactical strength.

She raised her chin and made herself stare him straight in the eye. “You don’t scare me.”

Another feral grin. “Is that so?” He glanced insolently down at her breasts and the hard, pebbled nipples that rose to attention. “But it sure looks like I do something to you, sweetheart.”

She gasped, and he abruptly released his hold on her and stepped back. Since he was still blocking her exit from the cubicle, Talia couldn’t reach the towel she’d placed on the railing outside without brushing her body against him. She crossed one arm to cover her breasts, then reached down to palm her hand over her center.

When he glanced to where her hands were purposefully placed, she suffered the punch of his assessing gaze and felt more naked than ever.

“If you leave now, I won’t report you,” she stated, thankful that her voice had regained some of its authority. “Just go.”

In answer, he raised his arm over his head and grabbed the back of his sodden shirt. Effortlessly, he shrugged it off and dropped it to the floor.

Eyeing his chest, Talia swallowed. She’d thought Joshua’s chest was ripped, but this man’s was something else. Scars scored the wide expanse of hard, solid muscle, crisscrossing as if someone had planned to create a specific pattern there. But they did little to mar the sheer masculine perfection of his upper body. Down the right side of his torso, a deeper, angrier-looking scar traveled from his ribcage to disappear beneath his jeans.

So lost in her heady examination, she didn’t realize he’d moved closer to her.

She jerked back, flattening herself against the cubicle wall. “Don’t you dare touch me.”

He spared her a glance. “Just undertaking some damage control. If my jeans get any wetter, I’ll need to ditch them, then there’ll be two of us naked in this shower.” He reached around her to turn off the faucet. “From your overreaction so far, I’m not sure you’d be too happy about that.”

“My overreaction?” The absolute nerve of the jerk. “You’ve barged in here, threatened me—”

“Wasn’t aware I’d done anything to you.”

She half expected him to add yet, but he strolled across to the railing and picked up the towel she’d placed there. He tossed it to her, making her almost giddy with relief. If he was going to let her dry herself, surely his intentions weren’t quite as dishonorable as she’d feared.

She wrapped the towel tightly around herself, keeping her gaze firmly on him. He went over to the rack and selected another towel with which he proceeded to dry himself.

Her fears shot into orbit again when he positioned himself in front of the bathroom door, effectively barring her escape the way he had in the cubicle. Gingerly, she stepped out. If she could at least get access to the bathroom cabinet, she might be able to select something to use as a weapon.

“What’s your name?”

The question took her by surprise and she jerked her chin toward him. “I should be asking you that. So I know who to report when I make my statement to the police.”

Perhaps in retrospect, she shouldn’t antagonize him, but the nerve of the man. Breaking into her home, terrorizing her, demanding to know her name as if she were the intruder.

He laughed. “And just how many arrests has old Bill Tucker made recently?”

“You know him?”

“Since I was a kid. And if we’re talking arrests, maybe I should be the one pressing charges.”

“I don’t know what you mean. Now will you please stand aside and let me out of this bathroom?”

He threw the damp towel onto a nearby chair. “You’re not going anywhere, sweetheart. At least not until you answer my question.”

Since he’d planted his feet and crossed his arms over his massive chest, Talia swallowed down fresh tension. “What…what question?”

“Just what the hell are you doing in my house?”

Author Bio:

Faye Avalon enjoys writing sexy stories about strong men and the savvy women who rock their world. She has taken a roundabout journey toward her writing career, working as cabin crew, detouring into property development, public relations and education, before finally finding her passion: writing spicy romantic fiction.

Faye lives with her super-ace husband and one beloved, ridiculously spoiled dog. They regularly expand their family by boarding puppies destined to become guide dogs. Between writing, reading, running around after manic puppies and grabbing some quality time with her husband, Faye enjoys a challenging yoga session or a night at the movies.

Visit her at www.fayeavalon.com or on Twitter and Facebook.

Links:

Website:  http://www.fayeavalon.com

Blog: http://www.fayeavalon.wordpress.com

Twitter: @faye_avalon

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/faye.avalon.1

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/fayeavalon1/

releaseblitzbutton_firstbeast

 

Another Visit to Vegas & a New WIP

S6302679I’m taking you back to Vegas today. Not that you weren’t expecting it, right? I take you there every chance I get. I thought I’d take you there on a warm summer evening, and not to one of the better parts of town, but to someplace a lot more dangerous. My new Work In Progress, Buried Pleasures, follows the adventures of Samantha Black, a woman with a talent everyone is after. Samantha is not in Vegas for the glitz and the glam. Sam has come to get her friend, Evie Holt, out of a very bad situation, a task that could very well get her killed or worse. Enjoy the beginning of this paranormal romance!

Buried Pleasures

He was the biggest damn dog Sam had ever seen, and she’d nearly jumped out of her skin when he slipped out of the growing evening gloom and rubbed up against her hip nudging the remains of her peanut butter sandwich with a cold nose. ‘Hey you! That’s my lunch.’ And her breakfast too, she thought. In fact it would be her last meal until she made enough in tips tonight to buy something else. The dog plopped down on his enormous haunches in front of her, effectively blocking further progress unless she wanted to wrestle him out of the way, which she figured was a losing proposition. He offered a small whine, and what she could have sworn was a smile. Then he licked his chops with an enormous pink tongue, the large golden eyes locked on her sandwich. If this hadn’t been Las Vegas, if she’d been in the wilds of Wyoming of Montana, she would have sworn the beast was a wolf instead of a dog, and that he was about to call out the rest of his pack to help him bring down dinner that involved a whole lot more than a partially eaten peanut butter sandwich. Though she figured said dinner would be a bit on the under-fed side at the moment. But the dog made no threatening moves. She’d seen him before, seen him dozing in the sun next to a homeless man who often settled in the shade near the storm tunnel.

Come to think of it though, it was the man who’d always drawn her attention rather than the dog. He was big enough and looked dangerous, big enough to be a woodsman with a wolf dog. But though it was more than his size that always drew her eye when she walked past the entrances to the tunnel, it wasn’t anything she could really put her finger on. She never looked directly at him, because for some really stupid reason, to do so felt dangerous. Besides, she always felt like he was watching her. Though he never was. If anything he seemed to be watching everything, like he was taking it all in. And she was a part of what he took in. Somehow just being in the man’s vicinity made her feel, well exposed – not like he was a stalking her, but like he knew her, like he could see her secrets. Like he could see everybody’s secrets. She shivered. This whole nasty situation with Darian Fox and Evie had left her suspicious and feeling as though there were threats around every corner. But then there were, weren’t there? Why couldn’t she make Evie see that?

Her stomach growled. The dog whined and licked his chops, and she was brought back to the present moment. Frankly she found the dog’s company the most pleasant she’d experienced since her reluctant arrival in Vegas. Christ! Had it really been two months ago? ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,’ she growled under her breath. She reached out and scratched the animal’s ruff feeling strangely comforted by the feel of thick fir. She wondered how he handled the heat in July and August. It hadn’t entered her mind that he could practically bite her whole arm of in lieu of the peanut butter sandwich if he chose too, though he seemed fairly well mannered at the moment. He’d never shown any inclination to be friendly to her, or any interest in her at all when she’d walked by here before, but then again, she’d not been eating a peanut butter sandwich before. Golden eyes shifted from the sandwich to her face and back. He whined again and offered her an open-mouthed yawn sporting teeth like daggers, then his tongue lolled out the side of his mouth in a relaxed, but attentive pant, and he inched closer, eyes still locked on the sandwich.

She sighed and her stomach growled again. ‘God I’m so gullible! But only with animals,’ she added as he inched his way closer. ‘People, I know better than to trust. Especially in Vegas.’ The dog cocked his head, as though he understood every word, and he very well might, she thought. ‘Well, I suppose I could stand to lose another few pounds.’ She tore a corner off the sandwich, and stuffed it in her mouth savoring the last of her very scant meal. Then, as the dog inched forward again, she handed him the rest of the sandwich. He took it from her almost daintily before it disappeared down his gullet in a single gulp. He offered another whine and a little woof of a bark. ‘Sorry Bud. There isn’t anymore,’ she said, stroking an enormous soft ear. ‘But if tips are good tonight, I’ll bring you a Big Mac tomorrow. How would that be?’

‘Leave off the special sauce if you do. It makes him fart, and I have to sleep with the mutt.’

With a little yelp of her own, she turned to find the dog’s master towering over her. She stepped back, in danger of falling on the dog, who gave an indignant woof, which she wasn’t sure was from her nearly landing on him or from his owner’s lack of discretion in discussing his digestion. Either way if the man hadn’t caught her by the arm with a large hand she would have flattened the poor pooch.

The man was big and rugged like the dog, she thought, as he slid an arm around her waist and pulled her away from the beast, swiftly enough that she realized with a start that he didn’t trust the dog with her. For a second she tensed and her skin prickled. But it wasn’t the dog she feared at all. She trusted him almost instantly and she knew the feeling was mutual, peanut butter or not. She wasn’t keen on being touched by people she knew well, let alone strangers, and this man made her knees weak from a distance, let alone up close and personal. Before she could panic, she was engulfed in the scent of juniper and wood smoke and dry desert heat. Perhaps it was the desire to sniff again that relaxed her, that made her forget that she could be in real danger, but before she had time to really consider her safety, he settled her onto her feet and stepped back. ‘Excuse me. I didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just that Gus isn’t usually great with people.’ The dog scooted forward and sniffed her fingers with a cool nose, then looked up at the man as though he wondered what the hell the problem was.

‘It’s fine. I’m all right,’ she managed without sounding too disconcerted. ‘I just wasn’t expecting company for lunch.’P1010641

The man offered her a smile that made her stomach bottom and, for a tiny moment, made her feel like there was nothing solid beneath her feet. Then everything righted itself and settled around her again. ‘And Gus wasn’t expecting to be invited to lunch with such charming company,’ he said. ‘The mutt’s a bit of a mooch.’

The man wore faded fatigues –patched and threadbare in a couple of places – along with heavy-duty biker boots that were scuffed and well worn. But the clothes didn’t hang on him like clothes often did on the homeless people who sheltered here. He filled them out. In fact he filled them out way too nicely for a man with whom regular meals were not guaranteed.

‘I’m just glad he was happy with peanut butter and didn’t find it necessary to have a bit more protein with his meal.’ She wriggled her fingers, and the man chuckled, and held her gaze with startling eyes that were winter storm grey and not clouded by drugs – not that she would know much about that sort of thing. His hair was dark and mussed and the stubble on his face made him look tragic and romantic, if more than a little bit dangerous. She forced herself not to look away. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t have anything else.’ She flushed in a wave of embarrassment. ‘Believe me, I really don’t.’ She suddenly found herself fighting back tears and lowered her gaze. He had no idea, she thought. There wasn’t even any change left in the bottom of her bag. She’d rounded up all of that and the few pennies she found down behind the cushions of the couch to buy a loaf of bread and the peanut butter. Even if he decided to steal her bag, fat lot of good it would do him. Even the phone was a worthless pay as you go job with barely enough time on it to call 911 in an emergency. Truth was he could easily take from her whatever he wanted. He could even take her if he wanted, and there would be nothing she could do, certainly no one would miss her. She should have been scared, she supposed, after all she knew very well that the storm tunnels could be dangerous places, but she was just too damn tired to care. She could feel his gaze move over her. It made her feel giddy and flushed and … strangely naked, but not like he was leering, more like he could … well just like he could see things.

‘I know,’ he said softly. ‘I know what you have.’ He curled a finger beneath her chin and lifted her head so their eyes met again, and the prickle of her skin returned, but this time she felt as though she were suddenly bathed in champagne bubbles, suddenly falling into the storm blizzard depths of his eyes, suddenly unable to catch enough breath. ‘I have something for you, though.’ He stepped back, sliding his hand down her arm to curl his fingers around her wrist. Then just before the strength of his grip, the power it transmitted could panic her, he took her hand and folded something into her palm. Then he whispered against her ear, ‘Gus’ll be looking forward to his Big Mac.’

She blinked and caught her breath. Did he say that, or did she just imagine it. But he had already turned, given a soft whistle, and the dog followed him into the maw of the tunnel. She watched them for as long as her eyes could see shape and movement before the blackness swallowed them up. Then she looked down in her clenched fist and opened her fingers. There was just enough light left in the evening sky that she could make out the words Buried Pleasures engraved on both sides of a poker chip. How the hell did a homeless man get a poker chip from a place like that, she wondered. She turned it over in her hand a couple of times squinting in the low light, but it seemed genuine enough. Then she shrugged, dropped it in her bag and headed for the casino, picking up her pace so she wouldn’t be late for her shift. It was a helluva walk from her apartment to the 6 Spot, and she always tried to make it before it got too dark. Not only was it a long walk, but it took her through areas that were not the safest places for a stroll. On top of that, she was in danger of being late, thanks to her encounter with Gus and his owner. She’d made enough money busking yesterday to pay the rent, but not enough to put gas in the car.

She didn’t feel good about the busking. Vegas was way too small. It would be too easy for her to draw attention, and she especially didn’t want to draw Darian Fox’s attention again. On the other hand, she didn’t feel good about joining the homeless man and his dog in the tunnels if she got kicked out of her apartment either. If the city were bigger, another day, maybe two of busking and she’d have made enough money to give her at least a bit of a cushion, but she couldn’t risk it. Word got round, even when she downplayed her abilities, which she always did. Not for the first time she resented the hell out of Evie’s little rich girl naiveté, and not for the first time she wondered why she didn’t just call Evie’s father and let him come and sort her out. How the hell did she get mixed up in this mess to begin with? But she was expendable, right? She was a nobody, not an heiress wanting to thumb her nose at daddy by trying out life on the wild side.

S6304352She heaved a sigh and picked up her pace again. She was just feeling sorry for herself. She was just tired. Evie was her friend, and she knew damn well that if the shoe were on the other foot and she were the one acting like an idiot with Darian Fox, Evie would move heaven and hell to get her out of a bad situation.

She picked up her pace yet again, telling herself dryly that she would be able to take up competitive race walking if she went a few more days with no gas money. That would beat the hell out of her job as a cocktail waitress. True, it was a shit job, but right now beggars couldn’t be choosers. While she could make good money busking, even maybe find a job at a piano bar someplace, she knew that wasn’t safe, but she had to have some money if she were going to survive until she could get Evie away from that bastard, Fox. And that meant stuffing herself into the tiny spandex excuse for a uniform and letting the half-drunk partiers at the Black Jack tables ogle her while she delivered their watered-down drinks because, what were friends for, right?

 

Demon Interrupted Holiday Marathon

Demon Interrupted CoverThe Holiday Season is the season for TV and film marathons. Who doesn’t like to sit in front of the telly with a bowl of popcorn, their fave drink and totally veg out over blissful hours of  telly favourites? The holidays are also the time when we love to curl up with a good read. With that in mind, I thought it was an excellent time for a marathon reading of my paranormal erotic novella, Demon Interrupted, which I wrote and ran as a serial on my blog over six months earlier this year. BUT at that time, I could only manage an episode every three weeks, so I thought it would be fun to make it more easily accessible.

For those of you who don’t know, Demon Interrupted is a Lakeland Witches spin-off story set in the fabulous landscape of the Lake District with the witches of the Elemental Coven. With the completion of Elemental Fire, I left my witches with so many stories untold, and they left me with so many mysteries I wanted to know the answer to that I felt compelled to return.

Starting today, for the next nine days I’ll be running a sizzling, chilling instalment of Demon Interrupted for your reading pleasure.  Today I’d like to share with you chapter 1 and 2 of Demon Interrupted.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Thanks for joining for this Work in Progress.  And if you want to know more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy: Body Temperature and RisingRiding the Ether and Elemental Fire. Enjoy!


  Perchance to Dream

Chapter 1

In a room full of people Ferris could remain totally unnoticed. It was almost as though he were invisible. He heard things that way, saw things that others missed. Fiori suspected that was part of his magic. However, at the moment, he was completely and totally the centre of her attention as his warm, wet tongue teased its way down and around the pucker peaks and the rapid rise and fall of her breasts. One splayed hand cupped and fondled her tight pubic curls while the other worried open his fly. What he was doing to her body was also a part of his magic and way more of a surprise, considering the man’s unassuming nature, than his ability to blend in.

She writhed beneath him totally naked, just as she had been when he entered her room, gently easing her out of a bad dream, back into the Waking World, and into his arms. She didn’t know where he’d been before he came to her. The man seldom slept — and him not even a ghost. He might have adjourned to the library after the rest of the house had entered the Dream World, or perhaps he had been in Skye’s bed sharing pleasure with her and Alice. He was generous with his affections. But then he’d hardly fit in at Elemental Cottage if he were otherwise.

How he had known she was having the dream again? How had he known about the dream at all? And yet he did, and she was glad that he came to her. ‘Sh! sh. It’s only a dream, Fiori,’ he whispered. ‘Only a dream.’ He’d brought her a glass of water from the bathroom and had returned with a soft white towel. While she drank as though she had just traversed the desert, he gently wiped the perspiration from her face and her shoulders. Then he took the glass away and moved the soft terrycloth knap in slow lazy circles down her back and her ribs as she slid into his arms, laying her head against his shoulder.

‘Do you want me to stay with you?’ he asked.

She only nodded, tightening her arms around his neck.

His black shirt was open and untucked and his nipples hardened as she slid her arms inside and up his back.

Lakeland Witches 1 BTR‘Do you want me to make love to you?’ He asked it as simply as a parent would ask a child if she would like a bedtime story. He asked it because he knew in a house where sex magic was practiced, healing came in the form of passion, and she nodded again because she knew that too.  His cock was already hard, but then she had noticed that it often was. In those times when he allowed attention to be drawn to himself, in those times when he made his presence known he neither attempted to hide his erection nor did he attempt to flaunt it. It was the ease and the comfort of which he wore his own masculinity that made him seem like a much larger man than he really was. In spite of his chameleon nature, he was not shy by any means, and his stamina and his finesse made him a welcome edition to the beds of all of the Elemental witches and their consorts.

Impatient for the feel of him freed, she shoved at his trousers, the scrape of the zipper seeming unusually loud in the quiet room. He ran his hand down to aid her as she worried his cock free. He was neither large nor small. Even his cock was nothing unusual to draw attention to itself, and yet there was no one at Elemental Cottage who didn’t relish the thought of Ferris between their legs, of Ferris shifting and grinding as though his unassuming penis had a secret magic all its own once properly sheathed in an appreciative pussy or mouth or arsehole.

His breath caught with a grunt as she fisted the length of him and she could almost feel the ripples of lust rising up the vertebrae of his spine. For a second he wrapped his hand around hers and shifted his hips. Then he pulled her fingers free, kissing each one of them, running his tongue in ticklish strokes over the tips, making her hips rock against the mattress. ‘I’m going to taste you now. I can already smell how good you’ll be.’ With a wriggle of his arse and a shove with his feet he shed his trousers as he crawled down between her thighs, nudging her open with the smoothly shaven wedge of his jaw, clearing the way with nose and lips, teeth and tongue. The humidity of his breath blew across her clit, which rose up in anticipation.

‘There,’ he said, his fingers parting her as agiley and exactingly as if he were a pianist and she were his instrument. For an age he studied her, fingered her, arranged her as though there were only one way, the best way to approach her dark, heavy folds, and he would not partake until he knew exactly what would bring all of her focus, all of her energy, all of her arousal to the very centre of his attention. ‘And now –’ his words were little more than a rush of breath ‘–I’ll give you what you need.’ He took her with his whole mouth, hunched over her like a lion at his prey, the muscles of his shoulders flexed tight, dusted and gilded in moonlight. And she felt the bloom of her arousal like a bud swelling, bursting, opening. Then the bloom became an explosion rising up from someplace suspended above the base of her spine. He held her hips, held her steady with strength his body belied as she bucked against his mouth, as she convulsed, as the moon moved in and out amid the undulation of slate clouds.

In the hazy vision of heat he seemed larger than himself, much larger than himself as though his arousal, their arousal together had released something broader of shoulder, deeper of chest, darker of memory and, as the moon disappeared, the power of him rose like a shadow thick and all-consuming and, somehow, other than himself. The hair on the back of her neck rose. Gooseflesh prickled over her breasts, even as she rocked out her orgasm against his mouth.

But before the tingle of uncertainty and the edge of fear could take hold, the moon reappeared and unassuming Ferris gave her clit on last hard tug with his lips and then rose over her, positioning himself, easing her open with his knees and his hips.

‘I need you in me,’ she said, her voice nearly lost in her struggle for oxygen.

Lakeland Witches 2 RTE‘A need which I share,’ came his urgent reply. It took no more than the tucking of his hips and a single thrust and he was in deep. She was slick and ready for him, gripping him as though she hadn’t just come, as though she were desperate for him to take her. With arms much stronger than they looked, he lifted her legs around his hips and positioned himself so that with each thrust he raked her clit, and she could almost swear that in the stark relief of moonlight and shadow his eyes were onyx black and yet bright, so bright. Even in the glow of a nearly full moon, he road her in the light of an after image that made no sense, and she was reminded that not even Ferris understood his own magic. The closer they both came to orgasm the larger and heavier the after image grew. And the larger the after image, the harder they strained for release. When orgasm broke over them, so did the shadow, consuming them for the briefest of moments and then receding behind their own efforts to recover themselves taking with it Fiori’s urge to speak of it, to question it.

‘Shall I stay with you?’ Ferris asked when they had both calmed enough to speak.

‘If you don’t mind, I’d like that.’

‘There’ll be no more dreams tonight.’ He eased his penis free and sought out the towel again as he slid down under the duvet next to her. ‘But it will perhaps ease your journey back into sleep if you’re not alone.’

‘I don’t need to sleep, you know?’ she said as he settled her into the crook of his arm, her head resting against his chest.

‘And yet even with the nightmare, you still choose to visit the Dream World regularly.’

‘I can’t help it.’ She said. ‘I guess I haven’t been dead long enough to not feel the need. Skye says she no longer misses it, but I still do. I still find the long hours until morning … lonely.’

‘The dreams’ll pass, Fiori, and you’ll heal.’ He shifted to kiss the top of her head. ‘Everyone understands what you did, what you did for Tara, for the whole coven. There was no other choice. You know this.’

‘My head knows it. My heart still has trouble with it. What about you, Ferris? You said you don’t dream.’ She spoke as much to change the subject as because she was truly curious about the man in her bed. ‘Are you incapable of dreaming, or do you simply choose not to?’

‘When I made my pact with Lucia, my ability to visit the Dream World was taken from me.’

‘And now that she’s released you?’

‘After so long in her service, I suppose it’s habit no longer to seek out my dreamscape.’

Fiori felt an involuntary shudder as he spoke, and she pulled him closer. ‘But you’re free now. You’re free to remember all that you were before, and yet you haven’t.’

‘No. I have not.’

For a long moment the silence was filled by only their breathing. Then she raised on her elbow and looked down at him. ‘Don’t you want to know?’

He met her gaze in the darkness and, for an instant, the obsidian shine of his eyes made her feel as though she were falling into them. ‘I made a pact with a demon, Fiori. That our agreement left me to care for and watch over one such as our Cassandra, I shall never regret. But that in our agreement, the demon felt it necessary for me to live in the moment with no memories of my past other than the magic I needed to protect the succubus, I would prefer not to know.’ He shrugged as though anticipating her next question. ‘Lucia has made it clear.  All I have to do is want to know my past and it shall come back to me. But it’s my experience that some things are better left where they’re buried. Now sleep, my darling. I know you don’t need it, but it is your habit. I shall be with you when you wake.’ He pulled her back into his arms and stroked her hair.

Lakeland Witches 3 EFFor a long moment she lay listening to the slow even beat of his heart, suddenly reminded that though he had not the muscle nor the height of Anderson or Tim or Kennet, from the moment he entered her room, from the moment he rescued her from the Dream World, he seemed to dwarf them all. Her heart skipped a beat as she remembered the strange after image that formed around him just before their release. Surely it was just a play of light and shadow in the waxing moon. Surely she was just a little raw around the edges from dreaming about once again being forced to take the life of her beloved high priestess. Everyone was still struggling to recover from Deacon’s final assault. It would take some time to find their feet as a coven family again. But one thing was certain; though Ferris had only been with them for a short time, he had become an asset she could no longer imagine the coven being without.

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Chat with a Demon

Chapter Two 

For a long time Ferris held Fiori settled against his chest. She had fallen almost immediately back into a relaxed sleep. There was no rapid eye movement, so she wasn’t dreaming, but then she wouldn’t be. He knew a little bit of magic that made certain of that. He’d used it occasionally on Cassandra when she was younger and her dreams were particularly bad. He didn’t know how he knew it. He didn’t know how he knew anything really. Not for the first time since Deacon had been defeated he found himself wondering why he didn’t want to know, why it didn’t bother him to live in the present and remain oblivious to a past that gave him gooseflesh whenever he considered unlocking the guarded doors and letting the memories flood back into his mind. He had always assumed that the magic he knew was a gift from Lucia, sent only to help him protect Cassandra. But now he wasn’t so sure. Lucia, like most demons, wasn’t so big on giving gifts as she was exploiting the gifts people already had.

BTR FINAL IMAGEThe moon shown brightly through Fiori’s window and, as though she somehow knew it in her sleep, she pulled away from him and turned so that her lovely face was bathed in it. He contemplated staying there with her in the moonlight, in the delicious scent of their lovemaking. He even contemplated settling into sleep with her, but so many things could happen when one allowed oneself the vulnerable pleasure of sleep. For most of Cassandra’s young life Lucia, a lust demon, and one who knew well the most disturbing journeys of the human soul, had kept him in the safe silence of the dreamless dark. For the longest time he’d thought it was her way of making sure he did as he was told, but Lucia knew too much not to know that he would have never done anything to put Cassandra at risk. She was too precious to him. Perhaps, in the beginning, even that sense of Cassandra’s value had been forced upon him by Lucia, but he hadn’t known the young succubus long before he could have done none other but love her and protect her.

He was not Cassandra’s father, nor was she ever his charge, though he had fervently begged Lucia to allow him to care for her rather than for her to be taken to the orphanage where her grandmother discovered her some time later. He was the caretaker of Cassandra’s estate and nothing more. Lucia often reminded him of that fact, and yet they had both known that his role was something more.

He didn’t know how long he had existed before Cassandra came into his life. He sometimes had the sense that he was very old, and at other times he felt as though he was born the first day he held the infant Cassandra in his arms. He now had the key to discover his truth, so why did he still choose to keep the door firmly locked?

Carefully, he slid out from under the duvet and made sure Fiori was well tucked in, even knowing as he did that no harm from the cold would come to her, not really. She hadn’t drawn breath in almost two years now. Strange, he thought, as he pushed into his clothes, his eyes still locked on the sleeping ghost, who still maintained her physicality so that she could endure, even relish, the torture of the Dream World. Strange that one who was dead should seem so much more alive than he. In truth it was as though he were the ghost that haunted the halls of Elemental Cottage when everyone else rested. And in all honesty, his flesh had only begun to matter to him as more than a vessel to serve Cassandra since his arrival at Elemental Cottage. Flesh, at Elemental Cottage, was a grounding in which powerful magic took place. He rested his hand against his cock through his trousers and felt it stretch to his touch. Imagine his surprise when he found, upon his arrival, that his own flesh once again had desires, that food and drink and sex and flesh against flesh burst, ne fairly exploded, into his perpetual present, and his life became three dimensional for the fist time in his memory.

And flesh, it was an anchor to a family that he thought he’d never have. Even when Cassandra had been his soul purpose, he had exerted no control over her and she had sought no closeness in castlerigg_Stone_Circle1their relationship. He thanked the goddess that at least Lucia hadn’t deemed it necessary for him to live with the open-wound that Cassandra’s constant peregrinations could so easily have left him. No, he had gone about his days in a grey haze of duty that bound him deeply and yet he felt with a distance that eased his empathy at the young succubus’s suffering, yet never lessened his loyalty to her, nor his desire to protect her. For that at least he had been grateful.

He slipped out the door and moved down the hall toward his own suite. Here at Elemental Cottage, he was welcomed for no other reason that the fact that he was here. Periodically he made trips into Surry to check on Cassandra’s estate there until a decision could be made as to the best use of the property. But it was always with a sense of anticipation and pleasure that he returned to the Lake District and to the warmth and camaraderie of Elemental Cottage.

When he reached his suite, he stood for a long moment in front of the closed door, then he turned and headed back down the long hallway past the rooms replete with sleepers traversing the Dream World, sleepers who had only a short while ago made love in honour of the waxing of the moon. The power of sex settled over the house like the moonlight did as he made his way to the staircase and down to the library. The fire was laid in the hearth, as it always was, and once it was lit, he perused the massive shelves for something, anything, that might ease his restlessness. He was looking through a section of old texts on alchemy when he became aware that he was no longer alone. The sudden warmth on his back made him feel as though he stood too close to the fire. In spite of the warmth his arms goose-fleshed and his stomach somersaulted.

‘I can assure you, Ferris, there is nothing upon these shelves that can compare to the paths of knowledge you refuse to traverse.’ In spite of the inviting contralto timbre of the voice, Ferris felt a tremor climb his spine.

Riding the Ether cover image Final - Copy - Copy‘And I can assure you, Lucia –’ he said without looking behind him ‘– the most hideous volumes on these shelves I would fear less to peruse, than those places of which you speak.’

The demon moved in so close to him that if the fire of her had been a physical flame, his back would have been a cinder. As she crowded him against the book-lined shelves, for a moment, he resisted, ignoring the futility of such an effort. For a moment. Then he relaxed and let her invade his inner space. It was only as she exploded into those inner realms that he realized in all the years of her presence, in all the years of her on the edges of his consciousness, she had never come fully into him before. The weight of her, though not physical, was terrible, and he stumbled backward feeling his way to the sofa, gasping for breath as though all of the oxygen had gone from the world, feeling his flesh burn beyond cinder even as everything remained as it was, and yet would never again be the same.

‘You gave me a choice,’ he gasped in a voice that would have been a scream if he could have managed more than a whisper. ‘And I made that choice.’

She pushed in even closer, as if that were possible, and behind his tightly clenched eyelids he saw both the beauty and the horror of her poised closer than his own breath. ‘I gave you a gift.’ Her voice roared like the winds on the high fells. ‘I gave you a gift and I expected you to open it, to look at it, to use it.’

‘I didn’t want it! I still don’t want it! I was happy as I was.’

‘You cannot lie to me, Ferris. You were not happy. You were nothing more than a tool for my use.’ It felt as though she leaned into him and whispered in his ear. ‘And you didn’t fight me when I made you the offer.’ He felt the weight of female curves against him, on top of him, pushing him down onto the sofa, and to his horror, he was aroused, even as he was terrified.

‘I’m fighting you now,’ he said, realising to his horror that the more he struggled the more aroused he became.

‘You may fight if you choose, but it will do you no good. Did you not think that I would reward you for a job well done?’ He felt an invisible hand move against the erection he could scarce believe was there. ‘Did you think that I would leave you with no comfort when your job was done?’

He cried out and arched against stroking and caressing. ‘Cassandra was her own reward. I asked nothing else of you.’

Her laughter climbed his spine like ticklish fingers. Hands ripped at his trousers, buttons popped from his shirt. ‘You don’t know what you asked of me, Ferris, and you don’t know what I demanded of you, or what I denied you. Do you not at least want the option to hate me for all that I took from you? Is that not properly yours to claim?’

He was shocked to discover that his trousers were around his knees and that it was his own hand stroking his cock while the other cupped the heavy weight of his balls. He was embarrassed to find her watching him from the winged back chair next to the hearth, clothed in the robe of fire in which he had always seen her.

‘Everyone here has fought demons, Ferris. Everyone here has suffered great loss. But for you it has all been vicarious, has it not? For you the battle for the Elemental Coven was no more personal than the loyalty you pledged to Cassandra. I have kept you safe, I have kept you distant from yourself for all these years for your own protection and for the protection of that which I hold dear. And now you choose to remain in the empty space I created for you because you think it is there that you will remain safe. I tell you now, Ferris, and I tell you honestly, there is no safety in this place you choose to remain, and if you do not move forward and claim the time that was taken from you, you will suffer for it, ne, not only will you suffer for it, but all those who care for you will suffer as well. And they do care for you, Ferris.’ She spoke with a broad sweep of her arm. ‘They all do.’

There was a loud thud and a woman’s startled gasp, and then there was bruising pain.

‘Ferris! Ferris are you alright?’ From his position face down on the floor, Ferris recognized Fiori’s voice. Opening his eyes, he became aware of her kneeling next to him, naked.

‘I’m fine! I’m fine.’ He pushed himself to a sitting position, then took the hand she offered as she pulled him to her feet. ‘I … fell out of bed?’

Fiori’s laugh was sleepy and warm as she tugged him back under the duvet. ‘You sure you weren’t Elemental Fire cover image finaldreaming, because you seemed to have been carrying on a conversation with someone.’ As he settled back into bed next to her, she straddled him, and with a shift of her hips mounted him, her grip on his erection a tight caress. ‘Something tells me it was a sexy dream.’

That he could be aroused after what had happened would have stunned him if his visitation had been from anyone other than Lucia. But she was a lust demon, and there was no denying her mark on his flesh. ‘No dreams,’ he lied, grinding his butt into the mattress and then arching up to bury his cock deeper in her body, cupping the weight of her full breasts in his hands. ‘Just being in bed with you, that’s all.’ Fortunately, as he moved a hand down to rest against her pubis and thumb her hard clit, she seemed to lose her train of thought, and her tight shifting against his penis eased his own mental processing and brought him back to the calm centre of the present in which he existed, though there was now no denying that he might not be allowed to stay there much longer.

Read the third instalment of Demon Interrupted, Enter the Shadow tomorrow!

 

Fall Leaves, Pumpkin Patches and Scary Movies Perfect for Snuggling? by Nancy Corrigan (@Nancy_Corrigan)

thingsthatgohump300x200The month of October is by all means my favorite month. Where I live in Northeastern United States, the trees are dotted with splashes of color from burnt gold to fiery reds. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and I make sure my family and I do everything possible to get outside and enjoy the foliage. We take trips to the pumpkin patch, go on hayrides, visit the corn maze and the haunted house. But one aspect of fall that signifies the change from warmth to those chilly winter days is the cooler, brisker days. I call these “the first movie days” of the season. They’re the days when it’s absolutely heavenly to snuggle on the couch with a blanket, a loved one or pet, and get lost in another world. I rarely indulge in these days because when I’m not with my family or working, I’m writing, but when I do, they’re extra special. And what does this romance writer like to watch the most? Scary movies, especially ones I’ve seen before. Then they’re not so scary 😉 And if I yank the blanket up to my neck or I bury my face against my husband’s chest, that’s okay too. It’s part of the thrill.

So what are my top movies?

  1. The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock
  2. The Exorcist
  3. Halloween (Slasher movies are one of my favorite types!)
  4. Alien
  5. The Silence of the Lambs
  6. The Omen
  7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  8. Jaws
  9. Nightmare on Elm Street
  10. The Shining

What about you? Any personal favorites?

 

Mist UnveiledHunter Betrayed

Nancy Corrigan

Wild Hunt, Book 1

Tainted from birth, Harley lives a life cloaked in darkness and temptation. She resists the lure of her evil legacy by holding the memory of her ghostly savior close. Every night without him is agony. She fantasizes about him and yearns for his body, but he’s not the protector or lover she’s envisioned. He’s a Hunter bred to eliminate her kind. He’s also her only hope of salvation.

Calan, the leader of the Wild Hunt, was created to protect mankind from the Unseelie Court. For a millennium, he’s sacrificed to ensure the horrid creatures remain in the Underworld, but his strength wanes. He must rely on his enemy’s daughter to save him, but he doesn’t expect the intensity of their lust or love. Her touch calms his wild nature and ignites his carnal desires. He’ll risk all to save her, but doing so forces him to make the ultimate sacrifice, one that’ll damn him to suffer forever in his own living hell.

Genre: paranormal

Heat: erotic, explicit sex

Length: 65K

Series: Wild Hunt

Excerpt

“You’re alive.”

The low, gravelly voice of her ghost man caressed her as tangibly as it had all those years ago. She dropped her hands and popped her eyelids open. Hovering inches away were the eyes she’d seen in her dreams every night since.

“Oh, god.” She scrambled back and tripped over her bag, landing on her ass.

“Be calm. You’re safe.”

Peace settled over her as if he’d taken her anxiety away with those words. Still, she inched away from those disembodied eyes. Caution had kept her alive in the face of a lifetime of evil. It didn’t matter if she’d felt as if she’d known him for ages. She’d learned early on nothing was as it seemed. Those with the ability to use glamour could create illusions out of thin air.

She settled on bent legs and studied the apparition for a clue as to whether he was a figment of her imagination or not. The oval surrounding the spectral display showed tan skin, ridiculously long lashes and dark eyebrows. Her pulse kicked up but not in fear. Desire fueled it. It was the same reaction she always had when she conjured his eyes—peace and arousal. She ignored the moisture pooling low and focused on the man she’d never thought she’d see again, not outside of her dreams at least.

“You.” She swallowed hard. “It’s you.”

“Yes. It is.” A long moment passed where they held each other’s gazes. Finally, he released a shaky breath she felt skim over her cheek. She pressed her palm to the sensitive skin to hold the warmth close. “You never returned to me.”

She’d tried. Raul had stopped her. She’d escaped a near rape at his hands by stabbing him but afterwards she hadn’t been quite…right. It was as if his touch had dirtied her.

She wrapped her arms tight around her chest and pushed the memory away. “I ran just like you told me to.”

“I also told you to come back. You promised you would.”

Guilt choked her for breaking her vow too. She looked away.  “Yes, I did.”

The feather light stroke of his fingertips along her cheek quickened her breaths. Her body reacted to the simple caress as if he’d touched her intimately. Her breasts pebbled and warmth pooled low.

“No matter. I’m glad you finally did. I need your help.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You remember all the knowledge I shared with you, correct?”

She remembered. He’d forced information into her brain she hadn’t known what to do with. Within one heartbeat and the next, she’d learned everything she’d needed to know about how to avoid falling victim to the redcaps and sluaghs. He’d also implanted a compulsion to have an obsidian blade made that had become her constant accessory. She never left the house without it. It was the only thing that could kill the fairies’ creatures.

She forced herself to nod. “Yeah, you saved my life.”

“I thank the gods for that, little female. I was right about you. You are the key.”

“The key to what?”

“You will be the one who will unlock me from my prison and allow the Wild Hunt to ride again.”

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Add to your Goodreads TBR list! Hunter Betrayed

 

NancyCorriganLogoSmallforWebAuthor Bio

Nancy Corrigan believes in unending love and epic tales with a paranormal flare. She enjoys transcending the boundaries of reality to take her readers on a passionate, emotional and romantic journey.

She’s also a mother of three and a wife to a very patient husband who doesn’t mind reminding her to eat and sleep. Her other interests include tattoos, animals, classic cars and all things spooky and sexy.

 

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*****

GIVEAWAY!

Please note, there are two separate giveaways on this post – one is Nancy’s own giveaway, and one is an event-wide giveaway.

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The 6th Instalment of Demon Interrupted: A Lakeland Witches Story

Demon Interrupted Image by KevI’m very happy to offer the sixth instalment of  Demon Interrupted, a new story from the Elemental Coven that will be unfolding in its entirety right here on A Hopeful Romantic over the next few months.

The Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy left so many stories untold and so many fun places in the lives of the Elemental Coven yet to be explored, that a serial seemed like the ideal way to share more of the coven’s adventure. With a coven that specialises in sex magic, it’s not only exciting to revisit my witches at Elemental Cottage, but it’s sizzling hot. Here are the links to the previous episodes in case you missed them:

 

Chapter 1 Demon Interrupted: Perchance to Dream.

Chapter 2 Demon Interrupted: A Chat with a Demon

Chapter 3 Demon Interrupted: Enter the Shadows

Chapter 4 Demon Interrupted: Dark Chrysalis

Chapter 5 Demon Interrupted: The Empty Spaces in Between

Enjoy Chapter Six, and thanks for joining the fun with this Work in Progress.  If you want to know more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy: Body Temperature and RisingRiding the Ether and Elemental Fire. Enjoy!

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Chapter 6 Demon Interrupted

Beneath the Weight of Shadow

‘I will go after the shadow and the ghost.’ Anderson helped Cassandra to her feet and moved to cut a door in the circle.

‘Not by yourself,’ Tara ordered. ‘We don’t know what this thing is. And Cassandra, you stay here,’ she called as the succubus joined him. ‘We need someone non-corporeal. Take Fiori.’

Anderson nodded his agreement, paused only long enough to brush a quick kiss across Cassandra’s lips then he and Fiori vanished from the circle.

‘Lucia? What’s going on,’ Tara called out as she scrambled to where Cassandra already knelt next to Ferris with his head in her lap.

‘He’s freezing, Cassandra said, pulling his robe over him and then reaching for a blanket at the foot of the sleeping pallet. She looked up at the coven leader as the others gathered around. ‘He’s not responding at all.’

‘Is he in the Ether,’ Tim asked. ‘Is that possible?’

The succubus shook her head. ‘He has no skills in the Ether, and no ability to go there unconsciously that I know of.’

Skye, who was trained in healing arts and had some skills in first aid, moved to his side and laid her fingers against his throat. ‘His pulse is faint, thready. Whatever that was –’ she nodded toward the cave entrance ‘– it came from inside him. Almost like it belonged there.’

‘Or like it didn’t,’ Tim said.

‘Goddamn it, Lucia, I need you,’ Tara yelled into the empty air, ‘Where’s the damned demon when you want her?’

‘She’s not known for being cooperative,’ Kennet said. He took a bottle of water from one of the rucksacks and handed it to Alice, who hunched trembling in the corner. ‘What happened?’ He sat next to her and pulled a Mackenzie tartan around her shoulders.

‘At first, I thought it was just a shadow,’ Alice said. She took a sip of water and wiped her eyes with a hand that was still none too steady. ‘It was like all of a sudden Ferris got … bigger … all over, and I don’t know why I didn’t think about it. I don’t know why it didn’t seem strange. It was so intense, so solid, nothing at all like shadow. And then when I … when I came, I knew. I could tell that whatever it was, it had taken with it Ferris’s essence.’ She shivered. ‘I’m sorry I panicked.’

‘You have nothing to be sorry for,’ Kennet said. ‘You had good cause.’

‘Cassandra, do you know anything about this? Has anything like this ever happened before,’ Tara asked. ‘You’ve known Ferris most of your life.’

She shook her head. ‘I knew Ferris possessed some magic, but honestly, until we came here, I’d never seen him use any of it. He was always there, but until we came here, I never really noticed him. Until we came here, he was … I don’t know. He was always there when I needed him, but it was almost like he didn’t exist the rest of the time.’

‘Lucia!’ Tara shouted again. ‘Where the hell are you?’ She turned her attention to her man. ‘What is it, Kennet? What’s wrong? I can see it on your face.’

‘Well –’ he moved away from Alice and laid a hand against Ferris’s chest ‘—the way that shadow left him, it reminds me of when Lucia possessed me, the way she left my body, at least when I was aware of her leaving.’

‘But you never lost consciousness when she left you, did you?’ Tara asked. ‘ I never have. Sometimes I don’t even feel it when she leaves, though I usually feel it when she comes back home.’

‘And speaking of the devil,’ Tim said. ‘It’s not like Lucia to stay away when she’s called. She never likes to miss a good party. How long can she be away from you, Tara, before … you know?’

‘Before I die again? I don’t think there’s a sell-by date, Tim. There’s some kind of connection inside whether she’s with me or not. I feel her absence, but not in quite the same way Kennet did, and certainly she never rendered me unconscious when she left, though I reckon she could if she were inclined.’

‘Wait a minute –’ Marie said, ‘– If you’re saying that Ferris is possessed by some kind of demon, we could have just sent Anderson and Fiori into danger.’

Just then Ferris’s body jerked hard, his back arched, and he began to convulse.

*****

It was good that the moon was full. It made following the shadow and the ghost much easier. Anderson felt no threat from either of them. He did not know what the shadow was, though it certainly seemed to him that the thing might have been in possession of Ferris’s body. Because there was much they did not understand of the situation, he preferred as many of the odds in his favour as possible.

‘The shadow –’ Fiori’s disembodied voice filled Anderson’s ear, or what would have been his ear had he had form other than that of thought and will ‘– he was with Ferris the last time he made love to me.’

Anderson glanced at her and continued following the disturbance in the air through which the strange couple had passed. ‘Did you speak to Ferris of this?’

‘At the time I thought I only imagined it. I was groggy from a bad dream and he comforted me. I didn’t feel threatened. It felt only as though Ferris were suddenly a much larger man, different, but still Ferris. I felt full of him, full of his presence. The space around me felt full of his presence. I don’t know, we all have secrets, and none of us really knows Ferris that well.’

‘My dear Fiori, even Cassandra does not know Ferris well, and though it seems that Lucia has released him of his responsibilities to her, he does not wish to know his past. I think that rather odd. It seems to me …’ Anderson’s words died in the throat he did not at this moment have, and he halted their progress with nothing more than an act of will. At the edge of the tarn that glowed silver-black in the moonlight, the strange ghost with the noose around her neck threw herself into the arms of the shadow.

‘I found you. Thank goddess I found you. Oh Ferris, I was so worried. I thought I’d done something wrong. I thought that when you learned what … what I’d done, you were angry and you left.’

‘I didn’t leave you. I swear I didn’t.’ The shadow spoke in a voice that was quite recognisable as Ferris’s. With careful hands, he removed the noose from around her neck and gave it an angry toss. Anderson could see the angry ligature marks on the woman’s delicate throat, and the curse that Fiori uttered told him so did she. ‘I don’t know what happened,’ the shadow said, ‘but I promise I didn’t leave you intentionally.’

‘Ferris?’ Anderson spoke softly, not wanting to startle the couple, and eased himself into a form that was fully visible, but had no substance. He was not yet certain if, indeed, the dark entity was Ferris. But the shadow turned to face him, and he could see the likeness of a man broad of shoulder and clearly several inches taller that Anderson, who was, by no means, a small man.

The shadow, who still held the woman in his arms looked up at Anderson and nodded. ‘I’m sorry.’ His voice was soft, unobtrusive, as Ferris’s voice always was. ‘I don’t know what happened.’

Anderson took a cautious step forward and Fiori followed, her eyes locked on the woman. ‘You are aware that you have left your flesh unattended in the dream cave?’ Anderson asked.

‘So it would appear.’ Ferris looked down at the large hand that was not resting on the woman’s shoulder and released a long breath of which Anderson was fairly certain he had no need in his present form. ‘I … don’t know what happened,’ he repeated. Then he glanced from Anderson to Fiori and back again. ‘Lucia? Is she in the cave?’

‘She was not present when we left,’ Anderson said, ‘But it must be said that we did not linger to take attendance.’

‘Perhaps you might introduce us to your friend.’ Fiori took another step forward, her eyes on the ghost.

‘This is Elaine.’ Ferris did not loosen his hold on her. ‘Elaine these are my friends from the Elemental Coven, Fiori and Anderson.’

‘They’re both … dead,’ the woman said, catching her breath as though the realisation shocked her.

‘As are you, my dear woman,’ Anderson replied. ‘However, Ferris is not, and I cannot think it is healthy for his flesh to have him too long absent from it, so I would humbly request that we all return to the cave as quickly as we may.’ Almost before he finished speaking, the two vanished, and he and Fiori followed suit.

*****

Another image from KevAlice let out a little squeal and crab-walked backward as the shadow-man, who had left Ferris’s body in such a hurry, materialised in the cave with the ghost of a young woman in his arms. Instantly Ferris’s physical body calmed on the floor of the cave.

‘What the fuck?’ Tim said, glancing from the couple to Ferris on the floor and back again. Then Anderson and Fiori materialised next to them.

‘This is Elaine. I am told she is a friend of Ferris’s.’ Anderson spoke as calmly as if he were making introductions at a dinner party. For an instant no one in the cave moved. All eyes were on the couple. Skye still knelt next to Ferris’s body with her hand resting against his throat and Tara and Cassandra knelt next to her. Tim and Marie and Kennet sat near Alice.

With a sharp catch of his breath, the shadow-man, who seemed much more man than shadow now, eased forward and stared down at the flesh that had only recently housed him. He did nothing but stare. The ghost, Elaine, did the same. But hers was a more fearful countenance, and Anderson thought it strange that she held no such fear for the shadow-man as she did for the unpretentious fleshly man now unconscious on the floor of the cave.

‘There’s still no sign of Lucia.’ Marie spoke to Anderson and Fiori.

Kennet growled. ‘Not much nightlife in Keswick on a Wednesday night. I suppose she could have gone to Penrith … or Birmingham.’ He shrugged. ‘Hell she could have gone to Bangkok for all I know.’

‘I’ve never heard of a demon clubbing,’ Marie said. ‘I can’t think it would be much fun without a body.’

‘I don’t know what she gets up to when she’s not at home,’ Tara said. ‘She doesn’t tell me and I don’t ask, but damn it, I hate it when she ignores me, and I know that’s what she’s doing.’

‘I fear it’s me she’s ignoring,’ the shadow-man said. ‘And I can’t say that I long much for her company either, but under the circumstances, I suppose it would be good to know what’s going on.’ He didn’t sound very convinced of it.

‘Are you some kind of demon?’ Tim asked. A ripple of tension passed through the room. Tim had a reputation for being blunt and saying what was on his mind, but the shadow-man did not seem offended. Instead he stood contemplating the idea. And the shape of him was beautiful, Anderson thought, much more like a god than a man, fit to grace the temple of Apollo, fit to kindle the lust of any libido. And yet in the shadow there was no flesh.

‘I can’t truthfully say,’ he replied to Tim, ‘As far as I know, I’m Ferris Ryder, and that –’ he nodded to the body on the ground ‘—is also Ferris Ryder, though I have no idea how that can be. I think that perhaps Elaine –’

Tara raised a hand to silence him. Carefully she came to her feet and moved toward Elaine, who stood just barely inside the entrance of the cave now and seemed to be inching slowly in that direction as the conversation unfolded. ‘Elaine –’ Tara’s voice was only slightly more than a whisper ‘—how is it that you suddenly wear the flesh?’

Instantly all eyes were on the woman, and there was a collective intake of breath, for she was, indeed, in the flesh. A fact that surprised even her.

‘Is it because of you?’ Tara looked up at the Shadow-man, who shook his head.

‘Apparently I can choose to be … corporeal if I want,’ Elaine replied. ‘Though in all honesty, I have no memory of even being a ghost until I met Ferris, who was wearing the flesh of Patrick last night.

‘Who the hell is Patrick,’ Tim asked.

‘He is Patrick,’ she nodded to Ferris’s body. ‘And how he now lives but is not Patrick, I do not know. I killed him myself. Of that I’m certain.’

A harsh choking sound drown out the coven’s murmured response to Elaine’s confession, and all eyes were once again on Ferris’ body, which went rigid, then gasped a desperate breath, and it was as though by doing so, he rendered the shadow-man little more than a wisp of dark smoke, which swirled in the air, then vanished into Ferris’s corporeal chest.

Elaine let out a little cry and her knees gave just as Anderson caught her against his chest.

On the cave floor, Ferris spasmed twice then sat up and looked around the chamber. Cassandra knelt next to him and handed him a bottle of water. He drank deeply and coughed.

For a long moment the only sound in the cave was his effort to catch his breath.

‘Ferris?’ Skye said, at last. ‘Are you back with us?’

He nodded, then his gaze settled on Elaine and held, but he did not speak. He only stared at the ghost in the flesh.

When the silence had stretched beyond the point of uncomfortable, Tara laid a hand on Ferris’s forearm and spoke, ‘How much of what just happened do you remember?’

castlerigg_Stone_Circle1He started to speak, then cleared his throat as though his voice had rusted from disuse. ‘Everything. I remember everything.’ With ease that belied what he had just endured, he stood, holding the blanket to him to fight off the residual chill from his unconscious state, and moved slowly toward Elaine, reaching out his hand.

When she cautiously moved to his side, he spoke, still not taking his eyes off her. ‘At least I remember everything since my arrival in Cumbria a few hours ago.’ He looked back at Tara. ‘Before that …’

‘Before that what,’ Tara prompted.

He released a slow breath that echoed in the chamber like a wind. ‘Before that there are … blank spots.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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