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An Unexpected Encounter with Alonso Darlington

Last week I told you that I’ve been thinking a lot about Alonso Darlington recently as he waltzes back into the Medusa stories, never being far off the written page anyway. I never imagined when I wrote the story of how he and Reese Chambers became lovers that he would figure into so much more than a simple M/M romance novella. As it turned out, Alonso and Reese’s tale was only the beginning.

 

Before I understood who he really was, who he worked for and where his tale would lead me, I was invited for a strange visit to his home in the remote part of the Lakeland fells, where he warned me to hold on to my hat. The ride was about to get wild. Enjoy the second entry in my encounter with Alonso Darlington.

 

 

2nd Entry

 

I remember only one time in my life when I woke up with no memory of what had happened to me, and that was in the recovery room following a major surgery. This time, I woke battling a heavy duvet and found myself in a … tent? It was winter. Why would I possibly be in a tent? By then I’d regained enough of my wits that I realized I was in a bed, a heavy antique bed with velvet curtains pulled around it to shut out the light, and the tight little space around me smelled of strange spices laced with a musky outdoorsy scent I couldn’t quite place. A peek outside the curtain revealed sharply-angled sunlight falling anemically across stone floors and Turkish carpets. The heavy wardrobe and bureau in the room matched the dark wood of the bed. I appeared to be alone.

 

It was then that the memories flooded back to me, and my heart battered my ribs as I grabbed for my throat, cursing in spastic breathless whispers. With trembling fingers, I examined the place where Alonso Darlington’s lips had been, where his tongue had been, but there were no bite marks I could feel. Christ! Surely he wouldn’t bite me. Why the hell would he bite me? The Alonso Darlington I knew – well the one I’d written about at least – would not have brought me to his own home and bit me against my will. But then until last night, I thought Darlington nothing but a character I’d dreamed up for a story.

 

I stumbled from the bed, caught my foot in the duvet and fell on my arse. A frantic look around showed an open door through which I could see the dark blue tiles of a bathroom. When I couldn’t find my clothes, I wrapped myself in the duvet and stumbled to the sink. A close inspection in the mirror showed no evidence of bite marks. Then I remembered that the neck wasn’t the only place that Alonso bite people. I dropped the duvet, then twisting and turning like a contortionist, I checked every part of me I could see in the mirror. Then I plopped down on the edge of the claw foot tub to check my legs and groin.

 

‘Don’t worry, K D, he didn’t bite you.’

 

I yelped and nearly upended myself in the tub as I looked up to find Talia standing in the door dressed in a red cashmere sweater and black jeans. I quickly grabbed for the duvet to cover myself.

 

She shook her head and offered me a wicked smile. ‘If he had bitten you, he’d have wanted you to know in detail exactly what it felt like.’ She leaned closer and the smile became dangerous. ‘He’d have wanted you to enjoy the experience completely.’

 

She looked me up and down. ‘Me, I wouldn’t have cared if you’d known what I was doing to you, but just for your peace of mind,’ she leaned closer still, and once again I nearly fell into the tub trying to avoid her touch, ‘I was otherwise occupied last night.’

 

I stood up clutching the duvet tightly around me. ‘Then what happened?’ I managed to sound almost calm. ‘Because I don’t remember anything after he …’

 

Her lips quirked into something that wasn’t a smile exactly, and I felt a chill snake down my spine. ‘You’ll have to ask Alonso.’ She nodded back to the room. ‘Cook has made breakfast,’ she chuckled, ‘though you’ve slept half the day away. You’ll find your bag has been unpacked and your clothes hung in the wardrobe. I’ll take you to Alonso when you’re ready. In the meantime make yourself at home.’ She turned and left.

 

I ate like a starving woman, like someone who had been … kept up all night. But surely I would have remembered if that had been the case.  After a quick shower, I discovered that my make-up bag and toiletries were on the dressing table near the big window but my shoulder bag and my mobile were nowhere to be found. That left me with an uneasy feeling. Though Raymond had known I was coming to Cumbria, he would be worried if he didn’t hear from me.

 

Once dressed, I was surprised to find the door to the room not locked. I thought about making a run for it, but one look out the window at the frozen landscape with the heavy cloudbank rolling in over the fells, and the fact that I also couldn’t find the heavy coat from last night made me reconsider.  On top of that, I was reminded again that I had no idea where I was, nor had I recognized the route by which I’d arrived last night. I thought I’d recognized the hulking shape of Scafell Pike from the window, but even that was lost behind the cloudbank. I was completely turned around.

 

There was no time for a Plan B. Talia shoved open the door without a knock, inspected me with a gaze that made my knees weak, then she smiled. ‘Come on. Alonso’s waiting for you.’ What choice did I have? I followed her into an unadorned stone corridor that smelled dusty and muddy with the scent of heavy renovations in progress rather than the scent of age. She led me down a steep stone staircase claustrophobic in its tight twists and turns, and treacherous in its smoothly warm steps. The deeper the stairs descended, the closer the walls became. I’m not fond of tight places, and by the time the space opened out into a pleasant well-renovated sub-basement, I was having a bit of trouble breathing.

 

‘It’s several hours till dusk,’ Talia said, noticing my distress. ‘That being the case, this is where you’ll have to meet Alonso.’ She offered a throaty giggle. ‘You were right in your written accounts, hon, no coffins, not for Alonso at least.’ Without preamble, she opened a heavy wooden door that screeched against the stone floor, stepped back and nodded me in. I stumbled and nearly ran into Reese who was leaving in a hurry. He didn’t seem pleased.

 

He grabbed me by the shoulders to keep me from stumbling. ‘I’m very sorry about this, Ms Grace,’ he offered Alonso a hard glare, ‘but he’s a pigheaded prick at times.’ Then he glared at Talia and shoved his way past. I could hear the clumping of his heavy boots receding as he ascended the stairs. Then I turned to see Alonso fighting back a smile.

 

‘I’m afraid Reese is right, K D,’ he said, giving me the same once-over Talia had only minutes before. ‘I am a pigheaded prick at times, and until I get to the bottom of how you uncovered even my existence let alone such a … vivid view into my private life, I shall continue to be so.’ He nodded to a wingback leather chairs in front of the huge desk behind which he now sat. I settled reluctantly, more than happy for the comforting expanse of the desk between us.

 

For a long moment, he studied me without speaking, then he leaned over his desk and offered a genuine smile. ‘Did you sleep well, K D?’

 

Strangely enough I realized I had slept very well, or at least I certainly felt very well rested. Before I could answer, he shot Talia a quick glance and continued. ‘Did you have … pleasant dreams.’

 

The skin on my arms rippled with gooseflesh. I shivered in spite the warmth of the room, which looked more like the library of a wealthy English manor house than a room in the sub basement of a crumbling ruin. ‘I don’t remember dreaming at all,’ I said, glancing over my shoulder as Talia came forward and settled into the chair next to mine.

 

Alonso made no response, and neither did Talia, but I could feel all eyes on me. I forced myself to sit perfectly still as though I wasn’t bothered by the gaze of two alpha predators who could, and might have already, done anything they wanted to me, who now were staring at me like I was lunch. Of course I couldn’t do anything about my galloping heart nor my sweaty palms.

 

At last Alonso heaved a sigh, and I found myself wondering if vampires breathed. I’d read conflicting stories, and in all honesty, I couldn’t remember if the Alonso in my account breathed or not. Christ, if I’d had any idea I’d be meeting him in person I’d have paid more attention. My thoughts were quickly refocused completely on his person when I realized he had somehow, in a heartbeat, come from behind the desk to lean over me, and I definitely felt his breath on my face, warm and sort of spicy, a scent that brought with it intimations of wild remote places. I froze. It wasn’t like I could have done anything else. He mantled me as though he were a bird of prey and I was a fresh kill.

 

‘You’re telling the truth,’ he said, smoothing my hair behind my ears and cupping my face so I had no choice but to meet his gaze, an act which in and of itself felt like falling off a cliff on the high fells. ‘You honestly believe the story you’ve written about Reese and me is just that, just a work of fiction.’

 

I fought for breath. ‘I would never violate anyone by putting their private life into my stories. Ever.’ There was no keeping my voice steady. In truth, there was no keeping my body steady. I was shaking like a leaf.

 

‘No. Of course you wouldn’t,’ he said, his thumb gently raking across my bottom lip, which did nothing to ease my breathing. His dark eyes flashed over to Talia. ‘Which brings us back to the question at hand. How could you have possibly known the truth of what you wrote?’

 

Talia only shrugged and held his gaze. ‘Interrogate me if you want. I told you it wasn’t me. If I’d visited her bed and shared with her, I’d have taken a great deal of pleasure in sharing it with you, Alonso.’

 

What happened next I still can’t believe, and it’s not easy for me to write about. I’m used to writing sex and violence in fiction because I’m always safely removed from those acts that evolve in my imagination. But this … this was an encounter in which I found myself the accidental voyeur, way more up close and personal than I ever hope to be again.

 

In a heartbeat, Alonso pulled Talia up from her chair. I heard her breath catch, heard the bones in her neck pop in the violence of his efforts. Then with a single tug of his fist, he ripped open the front of her sweater and shoved it aside. I think I might have yelped. Not that anyone noticed. Talia gasped, but in that gasp I heard no surprise. She was naked beneath the torn cashmere, and in less than a heartbeat, Alonso pulled her into a back-breaking embrace, cupped her right breast and … brought his mouth down onto the swell of it high above her heavy nipple.

 

One of them, maybe both of them growled, and as he jerked her closer, I could see the garnet welling up of her blood just before his tongue slid over it, just before his mouth closed around it in a sound that was not unlike a lover’s passionate kiss. And then, I swear, the color of her eyes changed just before she closed them and fisted one well-manicured hand into his hair effectively holding him to her in an act no less intimate and no less violent than his own. Her other hand snaked around his waist and burrowed beneath his tailored black shirt and up his spine.

 

His response to her touch on his bare flesh was a quick, but violent convulsing of muscles until I feared he’d break bones. Then he groaned and shivered. I remember wondering at that moment if her touch had made him orgasm. I remember thinking I should look away, that I should leave them to whatever strange disturbing intimacy this was, but I couldn’t look away. I knew at that moment that to do so was physically impossibly. Then, to my horror, I felt as though I were the third party in the joining. No, that’s not really a good explanation. I felt as though I wasn’t there at all. I felt as though one second I was Talia being bled by Alonso’s powerful predatory kiss, being nursed upon by his warm lips; and the next I was Alonso being touched, in far deeper places than his bare flesh, being taken over by the succubus. And when I was sure I would pass out from that strange sense of terror and arousal that I couldn’t quite imagine existing in the same instant, Alonso pulled away, stumbled backward against his desk, his eyes still locked on the succubus,  and Talia fell back into the chair with a little sigh.

 

Wiping his mouth and bracing himself on the edge of the desk, he moved back to his own chair. Talia sat straight and square shouldered next to me catching her breath. She made no effort to cover herself and I could see the bite marks bruised blue and bright red above her nipple. ‘Are you satisfied now?’ she asked, sounding as though she’d just been out fell running.

 

He scrubbed a hand over his face, then looked from her to me and back again. ‘If not you, then who, Talia? How the hell did she know?’

‘Don’t be daft, Alonso. You know how. You just don’t want to admit it.’ Then she stood and exited the room with way more dignity that someone who had had her shirt ripped off by a vampire should have been able to manage. It was only with the door screaking closed across the stone floor that I suddenly remembered, I was alone with Alonso Darlington.

 

FREE! Besotted by Madison Michaels

 

The Beguiling Bachelors, Book 4

By Madison Michael

 

♥♥♥ ~ Free June 19th – June 21st Only ~ ♥♥♥

 

About Besotted:

He Promised Forever, then Walked Away. Now he wants her back.

 

Tyler’s Winthrop, rich, handsome, elusive sees his moment to win Regan Howe slipping through his fingers. He has remained on the outskirts of Regan’s life since high school, reluctant to reveal his true past and expose her to danger. Despite their obvious attraction, Tyler has remained her friend and protector, keeping Regan at arm’s length for her own safety,

 

Regan Howe, won her coveted CEO position through hard work and a willingness to buck family tradition. Now, Brandon Hockney, a handsome US Senator with his eye on the White House, wants her to give it up, along with her home, friends and family for a move to DC and marriage to him.

 

Regan wants a family but is she prepared to leave all she loves, including the alluring Tyler Winthrop. Regan has waited twenty years for Tyler to commit. He once promised her forever, then he destroyed her trust and her hopes for a future together. Still, she cannot break the ties between them.

 

When Regan tests the waters with Brandon, Tyler is tapped as acting CEO, throwing the pair together, and forcing both to make a choice. Is this the end or their one last chance at love? Battling overwhelming odds and a racing clock, will Tyler be forced to release his one true love to find happiness with another man? How can he when he’s besotted?

 

As the danger mounts for Tyler, can he wrestle free of his past and lure Regan away from her Senator? Join our handsome hero as he attempts to win back his love in this exciting and steamy page turner, the fourth of the sexy, contemporary Beguiling Bachelor romance series.

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from Besotted:

 

Regan was just too damn alluring in that dress for him to accept that he couldn’t have her if he wanted her.

He was an idiot. He should have told her years ago. He should have told everyone. Despite the tongue- lashing he was silently giving himself, Tyler was certainly no fool. “The professor” to his friends, he was generally serious and professional. He had the smarts necessary to obtain both an MBA and a law degree, and he was now CEO of LHRE and on hiatus from one of the fastest growing tech companies in the country. He kept his cool in general, but again and again he behaved like an idiot around Regan.

Since that damn frog almost thirty years ago, he had loved no one but Regan. Sometimes they made it work together, like in high school, but most times not. His feelings were unchanged, but something always stopped him from declaring his love and asking her to do the same. This time it was something insurmountable.

And yet Tyler couldn’t stay away. He was the proverbial moth to the flame, flirting with disaster every time he flirted with her. He had promised to stay away, to keep her safe,but the attraction was undeniable. Yep, prize idiot.

Returning to the ballroom after the latest threats, Tyler briefly considered sharing the conversation, coming clean with Regan and perhaps moving their relationship forward. He was at a fork in the road but remained silent, Tyler knew he was on the wrong path but couldn’t summon the will to fix it. Not only were his problems unsolvable, but she was involved with Brandon. Tyler felt hopeless.

He was preoccupied just as Regan accused, but Tyler tried to give Regan the attention she deserved. He failed miserably until Regan suggested they just leave. That got his attention. Who knew when he would hold her in his arms again.

“Come dance with me again. It would be a crime to waste that dress.”

Encircling Regan in his arms, his body responded to her nearness, even as his mind worried over the earlier texts. He was unaware of his hand stroking her back, fingers lightly skimming over her bare skin. He wasn’t thinking clearly when he pulled her close or when he dropped kisses on her hair. He wasn’t paying attention, just acting on instinct, Regan was responding, her breath growing uneven, her hands clinging to his shoulders.

 

 

About the Author:

 

Madison Michael is an indie publisher, blogger and the author of the Beguiling Bachelor Series as well as the novella Desire & Dessert, from her sizzling B&B Billionaire Bachelor series.

 

A Chicago native and hopeless romantic, Maddy was raised on Chicago culture, fairy tales, great literature and swashbuckling movies. Maddy employs that history, writing steamy contemporary romance novels set against the sumptuous backdrop of Chicago’s elite society.

 

After receiving a BA in Journalism from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Loyola University of Chicago, Madison abandoned her writing to find her way in the corporate business world. Daughter of a librarian, it was inevitable that she would return to the world of books.

 

Maddy writes from high above Chicago where she can stare at its gorgeous skyline or the shores of Lake Michigan surrounded by feline assistants. When she is not writing,, Maddy can be found lost in a book, fighting for the rights of the mentally iil or dining on Chicago’s famous cuisine. Hot dogs and pizza, anyone?

 

Social Links:

 

 

 

The Bet: Part 5 Finale

 

While I’ve been away in China,  I’ve had the pleasure of sharing with you a five part story, never been read, never been published before, from the Medusa Consortium Series. If you’ve ever wonder how our fallen angel, Michael Weller, once lover of the Guardian, now Susan Ennis’s lover, and long time friend to and member of Magda Gardener’s consortium lost his angel hood, well wonder no more. Hope you’ve been enjoying an inside look at Michael and Magda.

Part Five is the grand finale of The Bet, but only the beginning of Michael’s story. Although he doesn’t know it at the time, Magda Gardener/AKA Medusa, has big plans for her fallen angel. I hope you enjoy this final episode.

 

 

PART FIVE

“Yes. He comes for everyone.” She smiled up at Graves. “But more than likely when it’s your time he’ll just invite you back to Buried Pleasures for one last bet before you take the boat across the river.”

“The boat across the river.”

“A bit more elegant than being shoved in a hole in the ground to rot, don’t you think?”

“And my innocence? How can I possibly give you that?”

“You already have, Michael. If you’re lucky the symptoms will come upon you gradually, but occasionally, they can all come at once and thoroughly kick you in the ass, like a really bad case of the flu, only worse.”

“I’ve never had the flu,” he said.

“Something else to look forward to then, I suppose.”

There had never been much color in Michael’s face, but what little there was leached away with each passing second. The face that had somehow seemed carved from warm alabaster now was no less beautiful, but showed signs of exhaustion, regret, understanding even, all overlaid by bone-crushing fear. No help was coming from above, of that he was certain. What he would never again be certain of was whether there would be retribution. But then that was part of the human condition as well, wasn’t it? He stared down at his hands. “I don’t feel so well. Do you think I’m getting the flu already?”

“It’s just human frailty, Michael. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.”

“Is it always like this?”

“I suspect so, but then I’ve never been human, so I can only guess.”

That didn’t seem to surprise him too much. “Are you like, his angel?” he asked nodding up to Graves.

She smiled. “Interesting thought, but no. I suppose you could say I’m here to collect debts.”

“ And Mr. Graves owes you?”

“Not Graves so much. His brother does, though, big time.”

“But I don’t owe anything,” he said, looking back down at his hands.

“Oh you will. Eventually you will.” She leaned forward, very close to him, the tresses of her hair slithering and writhing. For the first time, she allowed him to see her true form, but she kept the glasses pressed tightly against the bridge of her nose. With his immortality laid aside, he was now so very fragile. She didn’t want to hurt him. She was not his enemy. In fact, she was just what he would need one day. She spoke softly, a near whisper against his ear, only a breath away from the desperate hammering of his pulse setting a cadence, which she felt up through her spine. The life force there was so sweet, so finite, exposed as it had never been before. “When that time comes, when you’re wondering how you’ll ever pay those debts, you’ll be needing an ally.”

It spoke of how frightened he already was that her little reveal elicited only a raised eyebrow and a catch of breath, recognition of what shouldn’t exist. But then what shouldn’t exist could hardly be much of a challenge for an ex angel.

“So now you’ll kill me, was that the plan all along?” He asked watching her hair warily.

“Of course that’s not the plan.” She didn’t bother to tell him what the plan was, and when he didn’t ask, she figured he had enough to take in at the moment. Shock made everything else fuzzy and distant, that much she remembered very well. It offered comfort in the cataclysm of change, always the place where one longed to linger when faced with the true consequences of loss and anguish. It would depart far sooner than he’d be ready. She was happy to let him linger awhile. It wouldn’t hurt.

He sat looking like a man who was lost, which was exactly what he was. “What do I do now?” he asked at last.

She shrugged. Now wasn’t really her concern. “Go home to your lover, I suppose. It’s up to you. Do whatever you want.”

When he still didn’t move, she asked, “do you have a place to stay? Is your lover in Vegas with you?”

He looked up at her as though he’d only just realized she was there, and didn’t know what to make of her. Oh he was an impetuous lad, she thought.

“Your lover doesn’t know that you’ve done this?”

He blinked as though the light in the casino had become too much for his eyes. “No, I’m here alone. All alone.”

“But you did this with your lover in mind?”

He only nodded, still blinking as though he had something in his eye.

“What a nice surprise it’ll be then.”

When the thundering of his pulse against his throat grew to a rapid staccato, she said softly. “At least you hope it will be.”

He swallowed hard, as though he were trying not to vomit.

“Can I drop you at your hotel, maybe?” She asked.

“Hotel? I didn’t think about that. I flew here.”

“With your angel wings, yes I know, and now you can’t get back without a plane ticket or a car. I suppose you don’t drive though, do you?”

His lack of response was response enough. Shell shock didn’t begin to cover it, she was certain. Knocking over a teetering stack of chips, she reached out and stroked his arm. “Who you are now depends entirely on you and your decisions, Michael. Well, that and everything that happens to you from now on. Loss of innocence is as much about having no one who can protect you or make decisions for you as it is about being naked. It’s all up to you.” She lifted her head toward the ceiling. “No more control from upstairs.”

When his breathing became so rapid that she feared he’d hyperventilate, she shoved several stacks of chips in his direction. “Here, This’ll pay for a hotel room for a couple of nights, some clothes that halfway fit and a plane ticket back to wherever your lover is. Then you can make a plan, get used to your new life.”

When the only movement was still the jerking of his pulse, she stood and offered him her hand. “Come on, I’ll help you get settled in, help you learn the ropes.”

“Thank you. I didn’t think. I didn’t have a plan. I guess … I thought it would be different somehow.” His voice trailed off and his hand, clenched tightly around hers, was icy cold.

“It’s all right. One can hardly know what to expect at times like these.” She motioned him toward the exit. “Transitions are never easy.” As they turned to leave, she caught Jack Graves’ eye and gave him a nod, which he returned with a slight inclination of his head. “You’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of you, Michael, but you’ll be all right. Don’t worry.”

“Thank you.” His reply was slightly breathless. “I won’t forget how you helped me.”

She offered him an easy half smile and allowed the glasses to slip ever so slightly. “Of course you’ll forget. But don’t you worry, when the time comes, I’ll remind you.”

 

The Bet: Part 4 of a Grand New Medusa Consortium Story

 

While I’m away in China, I have a very special treat for you lovely lot. I’m sharing with you a five part story, never been read, never been published before, from the Medusa Consortium Series. Ever wonder how our fallen angel, Michael Weller, once lover of the Guardian, now Susan Ennis’s lover, and long time friend and member of Magda Gardener’s consortium lost his angel hood? Well wonder no more. This is a little peek into Michael’s backstory, taking place while Michael is with the Guardian and wants very much to give his lover a very special gift.

The Bet is complete in five parts, all of which will be posted here during the next two weeks. While I’m in China, I’ll have no access to my blog, nor email, nor Facebook, nor Twitter, so this is my gift for you to enjoy until I get back.

 

 

PART FOUR

He blinked, then blinked again. “What? You think because of what I am, I’m innocent?”

“Oh I know you are.”

This time, he did look away, but not before she saw the desperation drawn tight across his face. When he spoke it was little more than a whisper. Anyone else might have missed it, but Magda never missed anything. “I have a lover, and it’s … well it’s complicated.” He drew a shaky breath and struggled to meet her gaze again. “I’m … I have no innocence to bet.”

She managed not to laugh this time. She understood innocence well enough to be just a little bit empathetic, but she would allow herself only that little bit. Empathy was not her strong suit. She tried hard not to sound condescending, not when this was the moment she’d been waiting for, the moment that the true wager would happen. “You think having a lover, having sex means you’re not innocent? The leaving of Eden wasn’t predicated upon two people having sex, was it?”

When he didn’t answer, she continued. “Being naked and understanding that we really are naked and alone in our own skin, that’s what leaving Eden is all about, and you, my dear Michael, are nowhere near naked yet.”

“What about you?” He raked her with a look that was anything but sexual, and yet he blushed. “You’re not naked, are you?”

She finished the whisky in a quick gulp and ordered another with a nod of her head. “I cover myself, like all of us who were forced from Eden, hoping no one will notice just how naked I really am. Though I probably needn’t worry. Everyone else is too concerned about covering their own nakedness to notice mine.”

The fine muscles along his jaw tensed and relaxed. He clenched a fist on the top of the table. “And you want to see me naked?”

“It isn’t about me seeing you naked. It’s about you seeing yourself that way. You waltz in here out-glitzing a Vegas showgirl all clothed in your shiny immortality and the protection of your maker and expect to get what you want by just losing a few hands of poker.” When he opened his mouth to protest, she pointed to her Ray-Bans. “Oh I see a lot more than most, Michael, and the owner of this place, well if anything he sees even more than I do. Hell, you might as well have your maker’s signature stamped across your forehead. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself, and the gods, well they like it that way just fine. But if you want to play the game in Buried Pleasures, you place your bet. Otherwise, don’t waste my time.”

He sat for a long moment studying her as though she were trying to trick him. He needn’t have worried. There were no tricks at Buried Pleasures, and everyone there ended up as naked and exposed as everyone else. Well, everyone but her and Jack Graves, but they’d both paid their dues a long time ago. They both knew that the breath of eternity blowing in your face always smells of death.

“And if I lose?” His gaze darted from her to the deck of sealed cards then to Graves standing with his arms crossed looking down on them from the mezzanine.

“If you lose, you get what you came for.” She nodded up to Graves. “He’ll sort the details with your maker and then you’re all his.”

“Wait a minute.” Michael shot another glance at Graves. “He’s not …”

This time she didn’t even try not to laugh. “Of course he’s not Satan. Granted, I suppose the storm tunnels might be mistaken for hell, what with the scorpions and the rats, but it suits Graves. He’s the only one who deals in mortality, and that is what you want, isn’t it, to be finite, to have a beginning and an end, to be a real boy?”

He bit his lower lip and gave a barely perceptible nod. Then he glanced over at the dealer as though he were afraid she might rat him out to his boss. Magda couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for him.

“Then trust me, this is the only place you have any chance of that happening. You are sure that’s what you want?” She quirked her head to the dealer, who gave him a questioning look.

“More than I’ve ever wanted anything,” he whispered blinking back emotion.

“And consequences be damned?”

He nodded his response as though he had suddenly lost the power of speech. Then he motioned to the dealer. She opened the deck and shuffled. Michael carefully took each card dealt him as though he feared one of them might explode. She watched him rather than her own cards. The last few seconds of eternity was something she’d never seen on anyone’s face before. While this might have been exactly what Michael had wanted, she could almost taste his fear. Before he could turn over his last card, she placed her hand over his. “It’s not too late to change your mind. I’ll completely understand if you want to back out, and so will Mr. Graves.”

“I won’t … change my mind.” He tried to pull his hand free, but she held it. “Once it’s done, it’s done. There’s no going back. You know that?”

“I understand.” He took a deep breath and pulled free.

It only took one hand. One hand and the angel, Michael, lost spectacularly. Then Magda sat back and watched him change. Oh there were no feathers dropping to the floor from the wings that no one could see, no tinkle of a golden halo hitting the marble beside his chair. There was no crash of thunder or strike of lightening, no roaring voice from heaven and no flaming sword guarding the way back to paradise. His hands shook a little as he pushed the mountain of chips to Magda’s side of the table. He sank back into his chair in a motion that was more one of a weight settling than a weight being lifted. Magda knew the difference very well. A thin sheen of sweat broke on his high forehead and slowly his attention shifted to Graves, who only smiled down at him and lifted a glass in salute. At last he found his voice. “He’ll come for me now?”

 

Out Now—Fluffy by Julia Kent (@jkentauthor) #romance #romcom

FLUFFY

Author: Julia Kent

Release date:  April 30, 2019

Genre: Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance

Cover Designer:  Hang Le

Editor: Elisa Reed

Audiobook narrator: Erin Mallon

 

Description:

An all-new STANDALONE from New York Times bestselling author Julia Kent

It all started with the wrong Help Wanted ad. Of course it did.

I’m a professional fluffer. It’s NOT what you think. I stage homes for a living. Real estate agents love me, and my work stands on its own merits.

Sigh. Get your mind out of the gutter. Go ahead. Laugh. I’ll wait.

See? That’s the problem. My career has used the term “fluffer” for decades. I didn’t even know there was a more… lascivious definition of the term.

Until it was too late.

The ad for a “professional fluffer” on Craigslist seemed like divine intervention. My last unemployment check was in the bank. I was desperate. Rent was due. The ad said cash paid at the end of the day.

The perfect job!

Staging homes means showing your best angle. The same principle applies in making a certain kind of movie. Turns out a “fluffer” doesn’t arrange decorative pillows on a couch.

They arrange other soft, round-ish objects.

The job isn’t hard. Er, I mean, it is — it’s about being hard. Or, well… helping other people to be hard.

Oh, man…

And that’s the other problem. A man. No, not one of the stars on the movie set. Will Lotham – my high school crush. The owner of the house where we’re filming. Illegally. In a vacation rental.

By the time the cops show up, what I thought was just a great house staging gig turned into a nightmare involving pictures of me with an undressed naked star, Will rescuing me from an arrest, and a humiliating lesson in my own naivete.

My job turned out to be so much harder than I expected. But you know what’s easier than I ever imagined?

Having all my dreams come true.

Buy links:

AmazonUS: http://mybook.to/fluffy

AmazonUK: http://smarturl.it/fluffyAMZuk

AmazonCA: http://smarturl.it/fluffyAMZca

AmazonAU: http://smarturl.it/fluffyAMZau

Nook/BN: http://bit.ly/2CGtnBE

Apple Books: https://apple.co/2RmE159

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2BjWvxL

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2COKLmQ

Audible: https://adbl.co/2KRgFGR

Print: http://mybook.to/fluffy

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2TjDjqS

Bookbub: http://bit.ly/2ThoLrZ

*****

Excerpt:

“You’re changing the subject.”

“How do you know that’s what I’m doing?”

“Because you have this thing you do when you get nervous. You did it in high school and you’re doing it now.”

“What’s that?”

“You start cracking your knuckles. One by one.”

He halts mid-crack on his ring finger. His bare ring finger.

Will looks down. A slow smile pulls at his lips. “You’re right. I do.” Our eyes meet. “How did you know?”

“I sat behind you in nearly every honors class, Will. I’ve watched you answer countless questions from teachers. And every time you didn’t know the answer, you cracked your knuckles. One”–I crack my index finger–“by”–I crack my middle finger–“one.” My ring finger won’t snap.

He waits.

“You spent a lot of time paying attention to me, Mallory.”

“I sat behind you. It’s not like I could stare at your ass all day. I had to have something else to look at.”

“You stared at my ass?”

“It was two feet in front of me! Four classes a day!” I start to sweat. The memory of him in football uniform pants. Oh, sweet ice cream fairy, deliver me from evil.

“You okay? You look,” he says, stepping closer, “a little disturbed.”

“I’m fine.”

“Hot, even.” The rise and fall of his chest pauses after those words, as if he’s holding his breath, too.

*****

Author Bio:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men’s room toilet (and he isn’t a billionaire). She lives in New England with her husband and three sons in a household where the toilet seat is never, ever, down

Social Media Links:

Website:  http://jkentauthor.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/jkentauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/jkentauthor

Newsletter:  http://bit.ly/2PIBi9n

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jkentauthor/

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-kent

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3238619.Julia_Kent

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Julia-Kent/e/B00A99V268/

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The Romance Reviews

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