Weekly Release List (7/1 – 7/6)

Releasing This Week:
Monday, July 1, 2013
*When Somebody Loves You by Cindy Gerard (Reading In Pajamas/Cori 3.5 Stars)
*The Right Temptation by Diane Escalera (Reading In Pajamas/Cori 3.5 Stars)
*High Risk Love (New Adult Romance) by Shannon Mayer

Tuesday, July 2, 2013
*MacRieve (Immortals After Dark) by Kresley Cole
*Forgotten Sins by Rebecca Zanetti (Reading In Pajamas/Cori 4.5 Stars)
*Guardian by Nancy Northcott (Reading In Pajamas/Cori 4 Stars)
*Hungry Like a Wolf (Others) by Christine Warren (Reading In Pajamas/Cori 4 Stars)
*Midnight’s Captive (Dark Warriors) -by Donna Grant
*Enthralled by Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day, Meljean Brook, Lucy Monroe
*Fangs for Nothing by Erin McCarthy, Kathy Love
*The Devil of Clan Sinclair by Karen Ranney
*Officer and the Secret by Jeanette Murray
*I Dream of Danger : A Ghost Ops Novel by Lisa Marie Rice
*Out Of Breath (The Breathing Series, #3) by Rebecca Donovan
*Werewolf in Alaska: A Wild About You Novel by Vicki Lewis Thompson
*Spy to Die For by Kris DeLake
*The Wicked (A Novella of the Elder Races) by Thea Harrison
*Forsaken By the Others (H&W Investigations) by Jess Haines
*Inked Destiny ( Inked Magic World #2) by Jory Strong
*The Entity Within by Cat Devon
*The Outcast Prince by Shona Husk
*Dire Desires: A Novel of the Eternal Wolf Clan by Stephanie Tyler
*Vicious Moon: A Novel of the Earth Witches by Lee Roland
*Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) by Laurell K. Hamilton
*Blurred (Kissed by Death) by Tara Fuller

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Officer and the Secret by Jeanette Murray

Officer and the Secret (Semper Fidelis. Always Faithful.) by Jeanette Murray
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Reviewed by: Reading In Pajamas/ Cori
Rated: 4 Stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

If There’s One Thing He Hates, It’s a Secret…

Coming home after a rough deployment, Captain Dwayne Robertson wants some stability in his life, and finds it in the friendship he’s forged with Veronica Gibson while he was away. But her past is a well-guarded mystery, and Dwayne doesn’t know if he can deal with a woman who has something to hide…

And She’s Filled with Them…

Veronica Gibson doesn’t want anyone to know about her bizarre upbringing. She’s finally escaped her missionary parents and would be enjoying her independence if she didn’t feel so insecure about fitting in. She can easily envision a glorious future with Dwayne—but can she build a new life on a web of lies?

REVIEW:

I loved The Officer and the Secret! It is the third book of the Semper Fi Series, but can be read as a stand alone. I really want to read the first two books in the series now so I can read how the other couples got together though. I loved Dwayne even though I wanted to smack him at times. He is a sexy marine home from deployment and suffering from PTSD. Veronica has been sheltered her whole life and is just coming out of shell. They have great chemistry together and Veronica really seems to be the person to help Dwayne with his PTSD. Their story is a steamy romance that held my interest from beginning to end and had me laughing and smiling. The Officer and the Secret has a great plot and characters! This is the first book I have read by Jeannette Murray and will not be the last. I recommend this book for romance lovers that love a military hero!

Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Guardian (The Protectors Series) by Nancy Northcott

Guardian (The Protectors Series) by Nancy Northcott
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Reviewed by: Reading In Pajamas/ Cori
Rated: 4 Stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A POWER TO KILL

FBI agent Camellia “Mel” Wray is no stranger to violence but when an old friend is brutally murdered, she takes it personally. The case hits even closer to her heart when the best person to help with the investigation is Dr. Stefan Harper, the only man she ever loved-and lost. One look at the gorgeous medical expert and Mel realizes he’s still impossible to resist-and still harboring a secret after all these years . . .

A POWER TO LOVE

Afraid Mel wouldn’t accept him, Stefan never revealed his study of magical medicine or his abilities, instead allowing her to believe he’d been unfaithful. Now she’s back in his life-and their mutual attraction burns hotter than ever. But when something dark and otherworldly threatens humans, Stefan must summon his mage powers to keep everyone safe. Will Mel be able to trust him again? Or will their love cost him even more than it did the first time?

REVIEW:

I really loved this book! This is the second book in Nancy Northcott’s The Protector Series, but it can be read as a stand alone. The author drew me into the story with her writing and the I loved the characters. Stefan and Camellia have a past and are brought back together when Camellia’s friend and mentor is killed under mysterious circumstances. Camellia is an FBI agent and allowed to work the case and Stefan is brought in as a local consultant by the local law enforcement. They ended badly when Camellia suspected Stefan cheated in their relationship. He is actually protecting his secret and his people’s and didn’t tell Camellia because she hates all things mystical. They have instant chemistry when they are brought back into each others lives. I loved Stefan and I liked Camellia as a strong female FBI agent even though she frustrated me at times. Their story is full of action, intrigue, mystery, suspense and steamy romance! I look forward to going back and reading the first book in The Protector series and the next story when it comes out. Guardian is a great paranormal romantic suspense!

Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Buy links:
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When Somebody Loves You by Cindy Gerard

When Somebody Loves You by Cindy Gerard
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Reviewed by: Reading In Pajamas/ Cori
Rated: 3.5 Stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Now available as an eBook, a sizzling two-book collection of previously published classic romances, Temptation from the Past and Slow Burn, by New York Times bestselling author Cindy Gerard.
Temptation from the Past: Intrigued by the enigmatic lawyer who defended abused children with passion but who seemed untouched by his charm, Michael Hayward wanted to thaw January Stewart’s cool demeanor and rouse the heat he suspected lay underneath.

Michael was the sexiest man January had ever seen, but she knew the renowned journalist was trouble. Was this man her worst nightmare come back to haunt her—or the one who would break down the defenses of a lifetime and cast away her pain?

Slow Burn: He was a wanderer whose troubled gaze barely hid his anger and despair, but Joanna Taylor knew she’d offer Adam Dursky the handyman job at her Minnesota lodge. Drawn to a loneliness in him that echoed her own, she couldn’t fight the desire his touch awakened in her.

Adam had battled his ghosts and shadows for months, but only Joanna’s touch kept the terrible memories at bay. Determined to convince her that forgiveness was better than regret, Adam insisted she make peace with her own past. Could a redheaded rebel who’d given up on love heal the pain of a hero who thought he’d lost his courage?

REVIEW:

You get two of Cindy Gerard’s previously reviewed books in one with this release of When Somebody Loves You.

The first book is Temptation from the Past, which is January and Michael’s story. January has recreated herself with a new name and is now an attorney who fights for women and children’s rights. Michael is a journalist and wants to do a story on January after hearing her speach about her work with abused women and children. He doesn’t remember her from 18 years ago, but January remembers him from the darkest time of her life and the past she wants to keep buried. Michael has a way of getting under her skin and making her want to open up though. I loved their story!

The second part of the book is Slow Burn and Adam and Joanna’s story. Both Adam and Joanna have a past they are trying to get over and when they come together find love and passion together. Slow Burn was a good romance read.

Overall I liked both books and recommend them for romance lovers.

Review copy provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Buy Links:
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Forgotten Sins by Rebecca Zanetti

Forgotten Sins by Rebecca Zanetti
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Reviewed by: Reading In Pajamas/ Cori
Rated: 4.5 Stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

His Secrets Can Destroy Her

From the moment Josie laid eyes on sexy, mysterious Shane Dean, she was in love. Their desire ignited a passionate affair, and within weeks, Shane had slipped a ring on her finger. It seemed her every fantasy was coming true . . . until her new husband disappeared without a trace. Now, two years and one broken heart later, Josie is shocked when the hospital calls: Shane has been found . . . at a crime scene with no memory of how he got there.

Her Love Can Save Him

Shane can’t remember the blue-eyed angel at his bedside-or who he even is-but he knows something isn’t right. His hearing is razor sharp, his physical strength incredible, and the urge to protect Josie overwhelming. For powerful enemies are hunting him, and Josie is the key to discovering why. As Shane struggles to unravel his past, dangerous new truths come to light. Can he protect the only woman he’s ever loved? And can Josie trust a man she thought she knew-one who carries such a deadly secret?

REVIEW:

I was blown away by Forgotten Sins! It hooked me from page one and kept me on edge through out the entire story. Forgotten Sins is filled with action, danger, mystery, drama and steamy romance. Rebecca Zanetti pulls the reader into the story with her characters. I not only loved the main characters, Shane and Josie, but Shane’s brothers as well and can not wait for their story. Shane wakes up in the hospital with no memory of his life and a wife at his bedside that he left 2 years ago with no warning or explanation. He has no memory of Josie, but instantly feels his connection and his need to protect her. Their story will take the reader on an emotional adventure. I loved this book and cannot wait for the next book In the series! I highly recommend this story for all romance lovers!

Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Buy Links:
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FORGED IN STEELE by Maya Banks

FORGED IN STEELE by Maya Banks
PUBLICATION DATE: June 25, 2013
REVIEW BY: Reading In Pajamas/Donna
RATED: 5 Stars

DESCRIPTION:
The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super-elite, top secret, family-run business.
Qualifications: High intelligence, rock-hard body, military background.
Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the U.S. government can’t…

Steele, a KGI team leader, is an enigma not even his teammates understand. His emotions are tightly locked down and nothing can break that icy exterior. Nothing except Maren Scofield, a doctor on a mission, a woman who has gotten under Steele’s skin and threatens to crack that unflappable cool he’s legendary for.

Steele is determined not to allow Maren past his carefully guarded defenses. But when she’s in danger, there’s no way he’ll allow anyone else to protect her.

Maren’s hiding something. He’s sure of it. But he isn’t prepared for the shocking discovery her secrets reveal. Or how they will forever alter the course of his destiny. He has a decision to make. Hold tight and shut her out. Or take a chance on something more powerful than he’s ever faced: Love.

REVIEW:
The KGI Team is more than a random group of people, they are a real team and I enjoy how they interact with one another. They crack me up and I love how they support each other through everything. I enjoyed how Steele, the ice-man, gives in to his emotions with Maren. Their romance melted my heart as it was real, strong and heated. It was a very nice counterpoint to the drama and danger which kept me on the edge of my chair. I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting. My favorite KGI story so far!

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Buy links:
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Quotes: Sherrilyn Kenyon

“It’s easy to look at people and make quick judgments about them, their present and their past, but you’d be amazed at the pain and tears a single smile hides. What a person shows to the world is only one tiny facet of the iceberg hidden from sight. And more often then not, it’s lined with cracks and scars that go all the way to the foundation of their soul.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron

“Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Born of Shadows

“Don’t let those people steal your day”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron

“My father used to say that life is what you make it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You can’t change the past, but the future isn’t set in stone. You can effect a change there. Move forward not with hatred or love. Move forward with purpose. (Simone)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dream Chaser

“How could one sentence uttered in anger cause so much damage? But then words were the most powerful thing in the universe. Cuts and bruises always healed, but words spoken in anger were most often permanent. They didn’t damage the body, they destroyed the spirit. (Acheron)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron

“It actually dawned on me that I don’t fight. I just kill whatever annoys me, and it’s over. (Savitar)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dark Side of the Moon

“Sometimes things have to go wrong in order to go right.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon

“Nothing is ever truly set by fate. In one blink, everything changes. Even though it should be a clear, sunny day, the softest whisper into the wind can become a hurricane that destroys everything it touches. (Acheron)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Sins of the Night

“Baby, it’s either laugh or cry and crying takes way too much energy. If you can’t find humor in the shit life heaps on you, you really will grow miserable.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Born of Night

“Everyone suffers at least one bad betrayal in their lifetime. It’s what unites us. The trick is not to let it destroy your trust in others when that happens. Don’t let them take that from you.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Invincible

“And I flunked anger management the moment I put the counselor through a stone wall. You might want to keep that in mind. (Thorn)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Bad Moon Rising

“You know, it’s amazing to me the wounds we carry for eternity. But what has fascinated me most these last few years is how the right person can heal them. I remember a wise man once said to me that everyone deserves to be loved. Even you. (Zarek)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron

“People destroy beauty when they find it. (Acheron)
How so? (Artemis)
By nature, people are petty and jealous. They envy what they lack and because they don’t know how to acquire something, they try to destroy anyone who has it. Beauty is one of those things they hate most in others. (Acheron)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron

“Life is a tapestry woven by the decisions we make.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kiss of the Night

“I learned a long time ago not to judge people by what they look like, sound like, or by the clothes they wear. Just because a house is nice and shiny out front doesn’t mean it’s not rotting on the inside. (Kyrian)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Infinity

“You’ll never see the moments coming that will for ever mutilate your life-at least not until after they’ve mowed you down. -Savitar”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron

“I think infatuation is like a garden. If tended and cared for, it grows into love. If neglected or abused it dies. The only way to have eternal love is to never let your heart forget what it’s like to live without it. (Vane)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Night Play

“People aren’t just ants rushing around over a crust of bread. Every life, no matter how isolated, touches hundreds of others. It’s up to us to decide if those micro connections are positive or negative. But whichever we decide, it does impact the ones we deal with. One word can give someone the strength they needed at that moment or it can shred them down to nothing. A single smile can turn a bad moment good. And one wrong outburst or word could be the tiny push that causes someone to slip over the edge into destruction.”
— Sherrilyn Kenyon, Infamous (Chronicles of Nick, #3)

“If you muster that courage to stand under fire and not go down, you will amass an inner strength that no one can touch. You won’t be another faceless, nameless, forgotten human in a long historical line of the defeated. You will be a steeled warrior, and a force to be forever reckoned with. And beneath the pain that lingers, you will have the comfort of knowing that you are strongest of all. That when others caved and broke, you kept fighting even against hopeless odds.” (Caleb)
— Sherrilyn Kenyon (Inferno (Chronicles of Nick, #4))

“The depth and strength of our character is defined by our moral code. People only reveal themselves when they’re thrown out of the usual conditions of their lives. That’s when the truth of who they are is revealed…”
— Sherrilyn Kenyon, Born of Shadows (The League, #4)

“Strength through adversity. The strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell. It is pounded and struck repeatedly before it’s plunged back into the molten fire. The fire gives it power and flexibility, and the blows give it strength. Those two things make the metal pliable and able to withstand every battle it’s called upon to fight. (Savitar)”
— Sherrilyn Kenyon, Devil May Cry (Dark-Hunter, #12)

“Acheron always says that our scars are there to remind us of out pasts, of where we’ve been and what we’ve gone through. But that pain doesn’t have to drive or determine our future. We can rise above it if we let ourselves. It’s not easy, but nothing in life ever is.” (Sundown)
— Sherrilyn Kenyon (Retribution (Dark-Hunter, #20; Were-Hunter, #7)

“Life is gamble, It’s harsh and painful most of the time, and it’s not for the timid. Spoils go to the victor, not to the one who doesn’t even show up for the battle.” (Acheron)
— Sherrilyn Kenyon, Night Play (Dark-Hunter, #6; Were-Hunter, #2)

“There are some pains that run too deep for anything to absolve them. The best we can do is pick up the pieces and hope for the strength we need to keep going. (Acheron)
Is that what you do? (Tory)
No, I beat shit up – that helps even more. (Acheron)”
— Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron (Dark-Hunter, #15)

“The worst wounds, the deadliest of them, aren’t the ones people see on the outside. They’re the ones that make us bleed internally.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Infamous

“No one can ever make you feel inferior without your permission, Tory. Don’t give it to them. Realize that it’s their own insecurities that make them attack you and others. They’re so unhappy with themselves that the only way they can feel better is by making everyone as unhappy as they are. Don’t let those people steal your day, baby. You hold your head high and know that you have the one thing they can never take away from you. (Theo)
What’s that, Papa? (Tory)
My love. Your mother’s love and the love of your family and true friends. Your own self-respect and sense of purpose. Look at me, Torimou, people laugh at me all the time and say that I’m chasing rainbows. They told George Lucas that he was a fool for making Star Wars – they used to even call it Lucas’s Folly. Did he listen? No. And if he’d listened to them you wouldn’t have had your favorite movie made and think of how many people would never have heard the phrase ‘May the Force be With You.’ (Theo)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron

“I see time away hasn’t made you any more charming. (Fang)
Oh, I can be charming. I just choose not to. People start to think you like them, then when you stab them in the back, they take it so personally. Really pisses me off. (Thorn)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Bad Moon Rising

“I can tell we’re going to get along like Batman and the Joker. (Fang)
Just remember one thing, world. I’m the best friend you’ll ever have or the last enemy you’ll ever make. (Thorn)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Bad Moon Rising

“Watch your back, wolf. There’s a pall over this place and the bears are racking up enemies faster than Wal-Mart rakes in sales. When the time comes, it’s going to get bloody. (Thorn)
I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Fang)
Don’t be so arrogant. Long before I was the debonair sophisticate standing in front of you, I was a warlord. I put more blood on my blade than Madame la Guillotine. The one thing all that battle taught me is that no one walks away without scars. No one. (Thorn)”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Bad Moon Rising

“Our lives are marked and shaped by our regrets. Things we all want to take back and can’t. In a perfect world, we would never hurt the ones we love or cause hurt to befall them. But the world isn’t perfect and neither are we.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Styxx

“People make their own reality. That was what Praxis had taught him years ago. A hundred people can witness the exact same event, and give two hundred and three different accountings of it.”
― Sherrilyn Kenyon, Styxx

 

 

 

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Weekly Releases (6/24 – 6/25)

Monday, June 24, 2013
Luck of the Dragon (Entangled Covet) by Susannah Scott (Reading in Pajamas/ Cori Rated 4 Stars)
Shadow of Hope by Tina Pollick (Reading in Pajamas/ Donna – Rated 3.5 Stars)
Witch Bound by Eleri Stone
Bite Me by PJ Schnyder
Secrets and Sins: Gabriel by Naima Simone (Reading in Pajamas/ Cori Rated 4.5 Stars)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Forged in Steele (A KGI NOVEL) by Maya Banks
After Dark: The Darkest Angel\Shadow Hunter – Gena Showalter, Kait Ballenger
A Kiss of Blood: A Vamp City Novel – Pamela Palmer
Dare to Be Tempted by Eden Davis
The Hunter (paper original): A Highland Guard Novel by Monica McCarty
The Loner by Lindsay McKenna – (Reading In Pajamas/ Donna 4 Stars)
Exposed (Tracers) by Laura Griffin
Two of a Kind by Susan Mallery

REBURN by Anne Marsh

REBURN by Anne Marsh
PUBLISHED: July 18, 2013
REVIEW BY: Reading in Pajamas/Donna
RATED: 4 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

He Battles The Flames. . .

Nobody messes with Sam Clayton–or his territory. The big bruising ranger is the last line of defense in forest infernos and he’ll go up against anyone who gets in the way of putting them out. Even the FBI tracking a terrorist through the heart of a blaze. But when Sam discovers the agent is ex-lover Olivia Albert, saving himself will be more dangerous than any fire he’s faced before. . .

She Lives For The Heat. . .

Olivia needs Sam’s help to survive the heat, but when it comes to keeping her quarry from detonating a major strike, this Bureau agent is calling the shots. Except when Sam’s hard body and expert hands are reigniting a second chance that could be hot enough to burn forever. . .

REVIEW:

A well written quick-paced story where the author seamlessly introduced the backstory on Sam and Olivia. I enjoyed the Hotshot firefighter angle and the fact that Olivia was a strong successful woman who could meet him step by step. The romance was warm and heartfelt without taking away from the action. An enjoyable read.

*ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Buy Links:
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Luck of the Dragon (Entangled Covet) by Susannah Scott

Luck of the Dragon (Entangled Covet) by Susannah Scott
Publication Date: June 24, 2013
Reviewed by: Reading In Pajamas/ Cori
Rated: 4 Stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Luciana de Luca has a PhD in sass and gemology–and a problem. Her twin brother’s gambling debts have gotten out of hand, and a mob enforcer is blackmailing her to rob the latest, greatest mega-casino on the Strip. Although Lucy has worked her whole life to get away from her family’s grifter past, to save her brother, she dons three-inch heels and a sluts-r-us dress and struts into Alec’s Gerald’s casino, determined to put her long-forgotten thieving ways to the test again.

Alec Gerald, a shape-shifting dragon, has built the Crown Jewel casino to provide sanctuary for his people amongst the flash and awe of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the sexy little thief trying to rob his gem exhibit turns out to be his mate, and he must woo her before he loses his dragon form forever. With enemies in every corner, and the all-important mating ceremony looming, Alec and Lucy must learn to trust each other, before time runs out for Alec and the rest of the dragons.

REVIEW:
I love books with dragons! I’ve always rooted for the dragon over the white knight. I’d rather have the dragon! This was a gripping story! Alec, the Black Dragon, created a haven for dragons in Las Vegas. Dragons can hide in plain view and the audience thinks it’s an illusion and part of the show. A lot of the dragons are in danger of losing their dragon if they don’t find their mate and no dragon has ever found their mate in a human. When Luciana steps into Alec’s casino he is surprised to discover his mate is human. Alec has hired Luciana to appraise his gem collection and Gio, a local criminal, is blackmailing her into helping him steal the gems by threatening her brother who is in debt due to a gambling addiction. Alec has to convince Luciana he’s the one for her while trying to stop his gems from being stolen, and protecting Luciana from whatever trouble she is in. I loved the characters and the plot was gripping. The author set up the ending to leave room for a series and I’m looking forward to reading the next book. Luck of the Dragon is a fun and romantic paranormal read!

*A review copy was provided by Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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Buy links:
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Excerpt
© 2013 Susannah Scott

Lucy’s head pounded right between her eyebrows. She pulled in a deliberate breath, held it, and blew it out. The action made her cleavage look downright Betty Boopish.

Good Lord. What was she doing here?

She was Luciana De Luca, Ph.D—the world-renowned gemologist—casing a hundred-million-dollar joint like it was an unprotected street vendor…

She surveyed the crowd outside the Crown Jewel Casino, waiting for the promised grand opening welcome from Alec Gerald. The crowd was typical Vegas eclectic. Show girls with nipple pasties stood next to grannies in jogging pants and comfy bingo shoes. Families held hands with their kids next to decked-out call girls and high-rollers.

Lucy moved her trained eye over the wrists, necks, and ears of the well-plumed assemblage and picked out the authentic jewels from the fakes. There were a few nice stones. A reasonable haul could be made from the crowd alone, but then Gino, the mob’s enforcer and number one creep, wasn’t interested in ordinary jewelry.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” A barrel-chested emcee wielded a microphone from the elevated stage about fifty feet to her left. “Welcome to the grand opening of the Crown Jewel Casino, where your greatest fears can become your greatest pleasures.” The call girls giggled, and the moms and dads glanced at each other and pulled their kids closer.

“It is my pleasure to introduce you to the legend, the casino maker, the King of Las Vegas…Mr. Aleeee-eeec Gerrr-aaaald!”

The crowd members swiveled their heads, scanning for the first sign of the Casino King. A low drum roll began, picking up speed until it seemed the drummer’s arms would give out. But the stage remained empty. The King of Las Vegas was late to his own party.

Miss Manners would have a conniption.

Suddenly, the scent of burning embers swirled over the courtyard and the wind settled, blowing Lucy’s loose hair around her face. A ground-vibrating roar followed, making every human eye search the sky for the source.

What was it?

Lucy’s well-honed survival instincts went on high alert just as a large SUV-sized black object careened through the air and landed on the raised stage with a thud.

Grannies, kids, and call girls hit the ground screaming.

Heart pounding, Lucy crouched with the crowd. The acrid scent of smoldering intensified. Pounding from the stage rattled Lucy’s eardrums. Whatever had landed there was moving and alive. On the platform, clawed feet stomped, and the creature’s matte black skin stretched over powerful muscles and bones. Black wings unfurled across the stage, and the animal roared again at the crowd, baring razor-sharp white fangs.

A dragon.

Holy Mary, Joseph, and Peter. A freakin’ dragon.

Suddenly, a burst of smoke covered the dragon, and the creature disappeared.

A dark-haired man in an elegant tuxedo stepped through the gray fog and approached the microphone. “I am Alec Gerald.” His voice was deep, and his accent was hard to place but suggested the upper class. “I’d like to welcome you to my newest casino, the Crown Jewel.” Gerald spread an open palm to the frightened crowd. “I hope you enjoyed our first show of the evening.” He gave a devious, knowing smile. “It was all just a costume. Don’t be frightened.”

After a few seconds, the stunned audience stood and broke into applause and catcalls.

Gerald obviously liked games.

Lucy stood, glaring at the casino owner. She had researched him, of course, studying his athletic image in hundreds of Internet pictures. The man was good-looking, apparently brilliant, and ruthless in his business deals. Watching the mesmerized crowd lean toward the stage, she had to admit he had that something else too—the showmanship of a champion con man—a magnetism she knew could draw people like lemmings off a cliff.

The man was flat-out people-genic.