SEVEN BOOKS FOR SEVEN LOVERS By Stephanie Haefner, Liora Blake, Gabra Zackman, Andrea Laurence, Molly Harper, Colette Auclair, Victoria Van Tiem, Lindsay Roth, Rachel Goodman, Kate Meader and Jessica Sim
Get more bang for your buck with this sexy collection of seven irresistible full-length novels written by seven rising stars of contemporary romance!
We’re excited to feature 2 Pocket Star ebooks today and offer a chance for a few of our readers to win an ebook copy and try them out. TEMPT ME ETERNALLY by Gena Showalter and 1001 EROTIC NIGHTS: PART II: BARBARIAN’S CONCUBINE by Lisa Cach are featured below. I’ve read Tempt Me Eternally by Gena Showalter and it’s awesome. I haven’t read 1001 Erotic Nights: Part II: Barbarian’s Concubine by Lisa Cach, but I have it on my TBR list after reading the excerpt. Check them out both below and then go to our Facebook page and enter to win an ebook copy.
The huntress becomes the hunted in this sizzling paranormal romance from New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Gena Showalter, previously published as part of the Deep Kiss of Winter anthology with #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole, now available as a stand-alone ebook!
With only skin-to-skin contact, Aleaha Love can change her appearance, assuming any identity. As an AIR (Alien Investigation and Removal) agent, her newest mission is to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. So imagine her surprise when the hunter becomes the hunted, and she’s taken captive by dangerously seductive Breean, a golden-skinned, iron-willed commander, who threatens everything Aleaha stands for—and makes her want to be only herself, for the first time in her life.
They were coming.
Warriors unlike any other. Monsters of unimaginable power. Otherworlders. Fierce creatures with the ability to look inside your soul, glimpse your greatest fear, and present it to you with an unrepentant smile.
Should’ve stayed home, Aleaha Love thought. ’Cause we’re gonna get spanked. Hard. And not in a good way. Instead, she’d answered her cell and her captain’s call to action, and now found herself crouched in the middle of a gnarled forest, staring into a snow-laden clearing, moonlight shooting bright amber rays in every direction as flakes wafted in the breeze like fairy dust.
Though she wore white from head to toe, had a pyre-gun stretched forward, and was burrowed in a drift as cover, she felt exposed. Vulnerable. And yeah, damn cold.
What in the hell did I get myself into?
“Everyone in position?” a voice whispered from her headset.
A whisper, yeah, but it startled her. She managed to cut off a yelp, but couldn’t stop tremors from sweeping through her. Steady. She’d never hear the end of it if she accidentally fired her weapon before the fight had even begun.
“Premature weapon ejaculation,” they’d say with a chuckle, and she wouldn’t be able to deny it.
One by one, twenty teammates uttered their assent. They had wicked cool nicknames like Hawk Eye and Ghost. Her turn, she said, “Lollipop, in place.”
She rolled her eyes. “Dress her up and watch her play bad alien, delicious cop,” the boys had laughed before giving her the stupid moniker her first day on the job. “Naughty lawbreakers will want to taste her, not outrun her.”
That had been, what? Five weeks ago, she realized with a jolt. Oh, how life had changed since then. From hiding in the shadows, afraid of what she was, to working cases with New Chicago’s elite team of smart-asses, content with her somewhat pampered existence. A pampered existence she didn’t deserve and hadn’t earned, but whatever. No guilt for her. Really.
“Need someone to snuggle against, Lolli?” a quiet, amused male voice asked. Devyn, supposedly a king of some sort and a self-proclaimed collector of women. He wasn’t really a member of Alien Investigation and Removal but was a special contractor, as well as the man who’d once wired her gun to blow bubbles rather than fire at target practice.
Word on the street, he was more powerful than God and deadlier than the devil, though no one would tell her outright what he could do. He was an otherworlder, that much she knew. That, and most of AIR’s flunkies kept their distance from him. They feared him, which only heightened Aleaha’s need to keep her own secrets.
She, too, was different.
She didn’t know whether she was human or alien. Or both. She didn’t know whether there were others like her or not. She didn’t know who her parents were or why they’d abandoned her on the dirty streets of the Southern District—a.k.a Whore’s Corner—of New Chicago, and she didn’t care. Not anymore. All she knew was that she could assume anyone’s identity with only a touch. That person’s face became hers; their height became hers; their body became hers.
For years, she’d lived in fear of being found out, of being hunted and tortured for her unnatural ability, afraid that everyone who looked at her saw the truth and knew she wasn’t who she claimed to be. But she couldn’t drop the mask. As herself, she was wanted for theft, assault against a police officer, and more theft. And then maybe kinda sorta murder. Not that she was culpable. He’d deserved it.
She’d rather lose a limb than spend any more time in jail.
Her fear of discovery was waning, though, and she was settling comfortably into her newest life as Macy Briggs. Maybe one day I’ll even be worthy of it. Again, not that she felt guilty. Really.
But with Christmas only a few weeks away . . . ugh. Worst. Holiday. Ever. Her “friends” would bake Macy’s favorite foods, not Aleaha’s. They would give her gifts meant for Macy, and reminisce fondly about good ole days she knew nothing about, and she would have to smile through every minute of it. And yeah, okay. Fine. Then she would feel guilty.
“What, ignoring me?” Devyn said with another of those snarky laughs. “Wasn’t like I was going to ask to feel you up or anything. I mean, I was just gonna surprise you with my handsiness.”
God, she was on the job, yet she’d lost track of her thoughts. Mortifying. “Can you take nothing
“Hello, have you met me? I take making out very seriously.”
All the men on the line snorted in their attempts to muffle their laughter. They might be wary of him, but they couldn’t help but enjoy his perverted sense of humor.
“Fuck you, Chuckles,” she said, trying not to reveal her amusement. Irreverent bastard.
“Excellent. We’re on the same page, because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do to you.”
Give herself to Devyn? Not in this lifetime, and not because he wasn’t attractive. If anything, he was too attractive. Hell, he was total screw-like-ananimal perfection. Tall, with dark hair, wide amber eyes, and skin that glittered like a jewel; there was no one else like him. There was a recipe for his smile, though: wicked desire dipped in acid, wrapped in steel and sprinkled with candy. The recipe for his laughter? Well, that was wicked desire tossed in the gutter, wrung out in a whorehouse, and slathered with scented body lotion. Women threw themselves at him constantly, and he ate it up like they were his own personal smorgasbord.
They probably were. Thank God she wasn’t in the market for a boyfriend. Or, rather, a lover, since that’s all someone as fickle as Devyn could ever amount to. Macy—the real Macy—had been dating a piece of scum Aleaha was still trying to lose and she didn’t have the time or patience to throw anyone else into the mix.
“Temper, temper,” Jaxon Tremain chided. He was one of two agents who hung out with the sexy otherworlder, and the resident smoother. There was something unnaturally calming about his presence, as if he could slink inside a person’s psyche and wash away her fears. “Would you kiss me with that mouth?”
“Funny,” she said dryly.
She could hear the others chortling and snorting with more surprised amusement. Someone said,
“Soliciting kisses from women, Jaxon? Mishka will kill you for that.”
“If by kill you mean seduce, then yeah,” Jaxon replied. “You’re right.”
Mishka was Jaxon’s wife and a hired killer who possessed a robotic arm. Aleaha had only seen her once, but that had been enough to scare ten years off her life. Never had she seen eyes so cold or heard a voice so uncaring. Of course, the moment Mishka spied Jaxon, her entire demeanor had changed. So had Jaxon’s, for that matter. Usually he was as con- servative as a priest. One glance at Mishka, though, and he’d morphed into gutter man.
Aleaha had marveled at the change in him, a change she was witnessing once again. Empathetic as he was, perhaps he was veering onto the perverted track now to get her mind off the bloody massacre sure to begin. Apparently, though, she didn’t need help today. She couldn’t concentrate worth a damn. What was wrong with her?
“Well,” Devyn said, drawing the spotlight back to him. As always. “Be a good lollipop and answer the man. Will you kiss him or not?”
“I could give you a list of all the things I’ll never do to you with my mouth,” she muttered. “How ’bout that?”
Devyn laughed, and, yep. It was wicked desire. “She reminds me of Mia when she talks like that. Tell us, Lolli, is that list for everyone or just Jaxon?”
“All right, team,” Mia Snow herself interjected before Aleaha could reply. “Save it. You know I only want you to stun these men. Do not burn them. I repeat, do not burn them. An open wound will bleed and that will spread their infection. And believe me, I will kill every single one of you myself if that happens.”
There was a moment of frightening silence. Infection. What a delightful reminder. Not only were the warriors coming here vicious, there was a possibility that they were bringing the plague with them.
“Good,” Mia continued. “I’ve got your attention. Solar flare approaching in ten.” She was inside a van about a mile away, watching the action on a night- vision monitor with a handful of backup agents. “Nine.”
Aleaha tensed. A few months ago, a big case had busted wide open and AIR had learned that otherworlders were traveling to Earth through interworld wormholes that initiated with solar flares. Then, a few weeks after that, another case had come to light. Members of a race of aliens known as the Schön had descended, their bodies carriers of a virus that passed to humans through their blood and ejaculate. This virus turned men and women into cannibals. Their queen—or living host of this sickness—was on her way here, due to arrive in the near future.
Tonight, ten members of her horde were supposed to utilize one of those wormholes. Their purpose: to smooth the way for her. Which meant, destroying AIR.
Shit. The countdown. Despite the frigid temperatures, sweat beaded on Aleaha’s brow, dripping from the brim of the white cap she wore. Stay calm. You have to stay calm.
Though her résumé claimed she’d worked as a cop for more than two years, this was actually Aleaha’s first mission.
What seemed forever ago but had only been a few months, she’d stumbled upon the body of a woman who’d been raped and killed in a back alley—a woman she’d recognized as Miss New Chicago’s Finest in Uniform calendar girl, Macy Briggs.
She’d almost walked away. The higher the public profile, the more scrutiny she received. But . . .
Already tired of the adult-toy-store clerk identity she’d previously stolen, Aleaha had seized the chance to better herself, hiding the body and shifting so that she was an exact match to Macy’s appearance, thereby claiming the woman’s life as her own.
Only later had she learned that Macy had applied to AIR and been accepted. To back out would have looked suspicious and changing identities yet again hadn’t appealed. So she’d done it. She’d attended that first day, then the next. And the next. They’d watched her suspiciously, as if they knew the truth, but they had never accused her and she’d realized she was probably paranoid. Soon they’d even relaxed, accepting her as one of their own. Now, here she was, done with trials and on mission one.
“—was actually your warm-up,” Mia said, cutting into her thoughts. “Ten. Nine.”
Shit. She’d missed the end of the first countdown? She was practically begging to be killed tonight.
Oh, God. What if she did, in fact, die out here? What if she lost everything she’d worked so hard to gain? Her gun hand shook. You have to stay calm, damn it.
With bouts of extreme emotion, she shifted from one identity to another without any control. “Four. Remember, guns set to stun and only stun.”
Her pyre-gun was already dialed to the proper setting, so she curled her index finger around the trigger and swallowed the hard lump in her throat. Breathe in, breathe out. You do know how to fire a weapon, at least. A skill she’d learned from her only true friend, Bride McKells. A vampire, and her champion. They’d been separated more than a decade ago, chased apart by cops who’d caught them breaking into homes for food, and Aleaha hadn’t been able to find her since. She’d never stop looking, though.
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark:
After Clovis becomes king of his tribe of Salian Franks he reunites with Nimia. He soon realizes how useful her Phannic gifts will be, and with her help, plots to take down Soissons. She is in love with Clovis, however, and while he says he loves her, too… there is a calculating coldness in his eyes sometimes that makes her wonder if he knows what love is.
Sygarius, meanwhile, is outraged that Nimia fled, and he too has realized that she has useful powers. He wants her back. And he is prepared to fight for what’s his.
Terix heaved a put-upon sigh. We’d had this same argument a hundred times over the past month and a half as we fled from Sygarius and toward . . . toward . . . Well, that was the issue. Toward what? The only answer that had any meaning—to me, at least—was to find my lost people, the Phanne. And the only clue I had to finding them was the story that a tattooed man named Maerlin had once met my onetime lover (and only one time, gods rot his betraying heart), the Frankish prince Clovis, on the shore of the channel. Maerlin had told Clovis that he was of the Phanne and going to Britannia, and that Clovis must remember this fact, for someday it would give him what he sought.
An annoyingly mysterious statement, that.
“He’ll want more from you once we’re on his boat. You’ll have to give it to him, too,” Terix tried.
I hoped so.
Hades, what had come over me? This was not the Nimia I was familiar with, for most of her life untouchable and untouched, the consecrated sexual-toy-to-be of Sygarius.
Or maybe I was the same Nimia: I had spent those untouched years lusting for the feel of another’s hand on my skin. Perhaps it should be no surprise to anyone, least of all myself, that once my virginity was gone I would seek to gorge myself on that which I had so long been denied.
Jax was the first attractive opportunity to do so. How convenient for me that we needed his help.
“Better a cock rubber . . .” I said, reviving an old joke between us.
“Than a pot scrubber,” Terix answered, but then made a face. “That was only funny when we were slaves with no choice.”
“There’s never a choice for the likes of us. Not here in Gaul, anyway, with Sygarius hunting us. We have to get beyond his reach.”
Terix threw up his hands. He knew I wasn’t going to be dissuaded. “It’s your cunny.”
“My cunny isn’t part of the deal, you know that.” At least, not yet it wasn’t. One look at my tattoos, and no matter how horny Jax was for me, he’d be a lot hornier for the ten-soldi reward. “It’s the only way, Terix.”
Terix turned his shoulder to me, and made grumbling comments to his cup of mead that I chose not to decipher.
I slid my gaze to Jax, and sent him my answer in a small smile and a nod.
Jax rose at once, leaving his friends to their dice and drink. He wove through the crowd, coming toward me with an easy, natural confidence, his arms relaxed, his narrow hips and sinewy frame moving without hurry, but with purpose. A sudden certainty came to me that a man who moved through a crowd like that, with no sign of either arrogance or caution, was a man who didn’t blink at killing anyone who got in his way.
A shiver ran down my spine and landed in my loins. I was a fool if I thought I was in control of this situation.
My cunny pulsed in response to the thought.
“All is agreed?” Jax asked when he reached me. His Latin had an accent I couldn’t place; I guessed that he’d not grown up amid Romans. How old he might be, I couldn’t say: deep crow’s-feet spread from his eyes, and grooves ran from the edge of his nose to the corners of his mouth, but a life on the water would do that to even a young man. His hair hung thick and dark brown, and his teeth flashed white in his tanned skin.
He took my elbow in a gentle grip and guided me from the tavern into the scorching heat of the day. The sun felt like flames on my skin. My stomach fluttered as I realized this was happening; I was going alone with Jax to the stables. I had agreed to suck his cock in exchange for his agreeing to take us on as paying passengers, and he was not a man who would let me change my mind.
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:
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Today we’re featuring two Pocket Star Romance titles and giving away some promotional codes from Pocket Star so that y’all can try them out too. Check out the titles and then go to our Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/ReadingInPajamas for a chance to win copies of the ebooks. – Cori
Chris, a sexy tattoo artist, tries to win the heart of Sarah, a grad student with little interest in him, in this second e-short and follow-up to Helena Hunting’s gripping love story, Clipped Wings—“twisted, dark, incredibly erotic…a love story like no other” (USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton).
Part owner of the Chicago tattoo shop Inked Armor, Chris Zelter is a talented artist who decorates skin with gorgeous designs. He might look the part of the typical jacked-up, inked-up bad-boy, but underneath is a fiercely loyal, complicated man. Kicked out at sixteen, Chris has had to fend for himself for the last twelve years, making his Inked Armor crew as much family as they are business partners. For him, it’s enough—until he meets Sarah Adamson.
A grad student waitressing at the local strip club, Sarah is used to propositions and crude comments. The job is a means to an end—finish her MBA, pay off the tuition loans, and get a good job. Then she won’t have to rely on anyone to take care of her. So when brawny, tatted up Chris begins hanging out at the club, she rebuffs his advances. At first. But Chris isn’t like her usual clientele: despite his hard exterior, he’s almost…sweet.
Sometimes, the people with the roughest edges have the biggest hearts.
At the end of my shift I changed out of my slut attire and back into my jeans and T-shirt, then headed out the back door. The security guard had changed. He was one of the ones I didn’t know. Or trust.
He gave me a sidelong glance. “You want me to walk you to your car?”
“I’m right there.” I pointed to my Tercel.
His eyes narrowed. “That’s your ride?”
It wasn’t much of a ride, compared to some of the flashy cars parked out here. The girls who performed the best also got the best perks, leased cars being one of them. I was perfectly happy not to be among the privileged few. “Yeah. Have a good night.”
“I think I should walk you over.”
I was parked under one of the lights. If he was looking for a little end-of-night action, it wasn’t the most covert place to have it happen. He must have read the skepticism in my expression.
“One of the guys on camera detail warned me that some dude was out here fucking around by the cars. It was during shift change, so there wasn’t anyone here. I’d feel better if you let me check things out.”
I glanced nervously at my car and shrugged. “Yeah. Okay.”
I trailed behind him as he stalked across the lot. He walked around the vehicle, looking for . . . signs of forced entry maybe? When he didn’t find anything sinister, I pulled on the handle to find that it was locked.
“Huh, that’s odd.”
His shoulders rolled back and his eyes shot around the dark lot. “What?” His hand went behind him, as if he was getting ready to go for a piece. It wasn’t the first time I suspected the security was armed with more than brass knuckles and walkies.
“I don’t lock my doors.”
“What?” He looked at me like I was crazy.
“Do you see this?” I gestured to the Tercel and then motioned around the lot. “Of all the cars here, who would choose mine to steal?” I peered into the backseat. All the doors had been locked. Only one person would do that.
I rummaged around in my purse until I found my keys. After unlocking the door, I bent down and felt around under the front seat until my fingers closed around a keychain. I bit my lip to stop the stupid grin from breaking out. Though it would be more convenient to have my own key, there was satisfaction in knowing he’d drop one off for me because he wanted to see me. “It’s cool. My b— friend was just leaving me a key.” I almost stumbled over the word.
“Next time, tell your friend to leave it with one of us instead of sneaking around back here. We’ll get it to you.”
“Yeah, sure. Thanks.”
Chris would never leave his key with one of these beefcakes. I slid into the driver’s seat and let the bouncer shut my door. He waited until I pulled out of the spot before he ambled back to his post. He was a lot nicer than some of the other guys who worked for Xander, surprisingly.
I checked my phone at the first red light. There were several texts from Chris—the most recent were admonishments for not locking my doors. The ones before and after contained an invitation to stay the night and a message about the key he left under the driver’s seat. Tonight hadn’t been bad, so I wasn’t about to pass up the offer. I was glad I’d packed an overnight bag, as I always did.
I pulled into the parking spot reserved for Chris’s bike. He’d angled it at the top of the space so there would be enough room for my car. He was always thoughtful like that. It made me feel like a bitch for not inviting him over to my place more often, where parking wasn’t an issue.
It had been too long since I’d spent any real time with him. I didn’t like how much that bothered me, or how excited I’d been about the text and key. That I constantly packed a bag in advance was a red flag I chose to ignore.
I was quiet as I made the trek up the stairs to his apartment and unlocked the door. The light above the ancient, avocado-green stove was on, casting a pale glow over the dated kitchen. There was a note propped up on the counter with my name written across the front in Chris’s elegant cursive. I always teased him that he wrote like a girl.
I set my bag down quietly, though a bomb could go off and Chris would sleep right through it. I left my shoes on, because Chris insisted I never walk barefoot around his place, and crossed over to the counter. There were little doodles in the corners of the note he left me. Designs that reminded me of the tattoos he put on other people. Ones he refused to put on me.
I hope you had a decent night. There are fresh towels in the
bathroom and a sandwich in the fridge. Give me a kiss before you
I folded it and put it carefully inside my bag. I had a little box of notes like these from him in my bedroom. I kept every single one.
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark:
Girl, Interrupted meet Beautiful Disaster in this thrilling and sexy debut novel, in which a college student learns her perfect life is a lie and finds new love where she least expects it—a mental institution.
Freaks, misfits, and psychopaths. Those are the kinds of people found at Newton Heights Psychiatric Hospital, and high-society girl Lucy White’s new home.
Freaks, misfits, and Jayden McCray. Jayden has his own set of rules for life at Newton Heights, and in this enigma, Lucy finds a way to live with the events that left her cheating boyfriend and best friend dead—and Lucy in the middle of the investigation into their demise.
The problem? Jayden makes her want things she’s not supposed to have, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality and making Lucy feel more at home in Newton Heights than she ever did at home. But this isn’t how her life is supposed to be.
“AFTER I PRESSED the accelerator, things get a little fuzzy,” I said.
“Hmm . . .” The lawyer twirled his monogrammed pen between his fingers and scribbled something into his notebook. “The same thing’s written in the police report.”
I tried to move my hands, but remembered they were strapped to the bed. After I ripped all the lifesaving tubes out of my arms last night, the hospital staff wanted to make sure I didn’t do anything so stupid again.
“Does it look as bad as the papers are suggesting?” My father pushed his fingers through his hair, which had turned more salt than pepper since I had gone to college.
The lawyer slapped his notebook shut and slid it into his leather briefcase. “You know the media will exaggerate anything to get a story. Although I have to admit, an attempted suicide one week after the accident won’t help her defense.” He clicked the briefcase shut with a loud, purposeful snap and smoothed his designer suit. “The jury will think she has a guilty conscience.”
“Come on, honey. Think.” My mother drew her neatly trimmed brows together, bringing attention to her large, round eyes. Normally my mother’s baby blues were her best feature, but the clumpy mascara and bronze eye shadow she’d chosen that morning made her look tired and worn out.
“There must be something else you remember. Some little bit of information that could help the police drop the charges.” She took my hand with her long, manicured fingers. People said that we looked alike, but besides the raven-colored hair and blue eyes, I didn’t see very much in common. It was almost as if we came from two different worlds. Hers was stoic and orderly. Mine was a neurotic mess.
I shook my head and turned to the lawyer. “There’s nothing more.” My voice sounded hoarse and strained.
Probably because of all the tubes they had to jam down my throat while trying to keep me alive.
My father swore and started pacing the hospital room. Even tired he looked magnificent, like some great stallion in an Armani suit. His angular features, tanned skin and outgoing personality drew people to him and made him an outstanding lobbyist. It was a damn shame that it was for show. Only my mom and I knew that the charismatic lobbyist waged an inner war with himself every night, armed with his trusty bottle of bourbon and a Cuban cigar.
“Your friend was right. You shouldn’t have been driving that night.” The lawyer leaned against the bottom of the bed and arched his brow. “None of you should have.” The highhanded tone grated on my nerves. All my life I had been trying to live up to my parents’ impossibly high standards.
The last thing I needed was this greasy-looking rent-a-lawyer talking to me in such a condescending tone. I opened my mouth to tell him this, but was cut off by my father.
“They can’t prove she was driving,” he said. “The car flipped over and no one was wearing a seat belt.”
“He’s right.” My mother dropped my hand and stood. “The other two were thrown from the car.”
“I know, and that’s why there’s still a chance of overturning the manslaughter charges.” The lawyer studied me for a long moment with his beady, green eyes. From day one, I didn’t like this guy. It wasn’t just that he was conceited or condescending, it was how he always seemed to be calculating his next step, as if life was this massive board game and he was playing to win. While I had no doubt that his decisions were the best for him and his law practice, I wondered if they were the best for me.
My mother certainly seemed to think so. She hung on his every word.
“What if we send her away to live with extended family for a while?” she asked. “It will keep her out of the press until things calm down.”
“No,” my father said. “We can’t send her out of state while she’s facing charges.”
“You have no relatives close by?” the lawyer asked.
“We moved away from them to be closer to work,” my mother explained.
I didn’t like how these people were discussing my future as if I wasn’t in the room. “I don’t need to hide from the press.”
“Don’t be silly, Lucy,” my mother said. “You know we can’t afford the negative publicity right now. If you stay with us, then reporters will set up tents on our lawn, waiting for
some crumb of information that they could use to tear us down.”
“She’s right, unfortunately,” my father said. “We have to find a way to keep her in state, but out of the public eye until this all blows over.”
“I’m twenty-two. I can handle myself.”
“Of course you can, dear,” my mother soothed. “Now hush, we’re thinking.”
The lawyer studied my face. Uneasiness crawled over my skin as his beady eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. “I’ve got it.”
“What?” my parents both asked at the same time.
The lawyer’s gaze never left mine as he addressed my parents. “Is there any history of mental illness in the family?”
“Of what?” My mother stiffened and exchanged glances with my father.
“Of mental illness,” the lawyer repeated, turning toward her. “If there is, I could talk to her doctor about arranging an evaluation while we wait for a court date.” He straightened away from the bed railing and began to pace. “If we can prove she’s mentally unstable, it would help with the defense.” He drummed his fingers together as he walked, as if closing a steel trap.
“You want to put my daughter in a loony bin?” My mother swayed and grabbed the bed railing.
“Not a loony bin—a mental hospital. And only if she needs it.” The lawyer cracked his knuckles. The loud noise reminded me of how both of Bethany’s legs had been broken in the crash. “Yes, putting her in an upscale institution like Newton Heights until the investigation is over will help gain sympathy for our cause.”
“Newton Heights. That’s where that celebrity went last year when she announced she was being treated for depression, isn’t it?” my father asked.
“Yes, but . . .” My mother waved her hand in the air, as if struggling to find the right words.
“It’s expensive, but for those who can afford the high costs, it offers a sanctuary from the outside world.” The lawyer waved his hands to the sides and flashed his slick smile. “There’s also a teaching hospital on site, so if she should need physical treatment . . .” The implication was clear. If I was ever to try to kill myself again, emergency personnel would be on site to save my life.
Fear sliced through me at the thought of going to Newton Heights. I didn’t want to be locked away with all of the crazy people, like some reject in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I wasn’t sure what they did to patients at Newton Heights, but if it was anything like that movie, I wanted no part of it.
“I’m not going.” My voice sounded small and weak to my ears.
“You might not have a choice in the matter, kid,” the lawyer said. “Not if you want to beat these charges.”
My father bowed his head and ran his hand over his face. “I can’t believe this is happening to us again . . .”
My father lowered his arm and nodded to me. “She’s turning out just like him.”
“Who?” I asked.
The air became thick with tension. I switched my focus from my father to my mother, but neither was willing to expand on my father’s mutterings. Instead they stood there, staring at each other, and I couldn’t help but think that some silent war was being waged in front of me.
“Mom, what’s Dad talking about? I’m turning out like who?” Hair fell into my eyes. I shook my head, trying to remove the offending strands from my field of vision.
“Whom,” my mother corrected, her gaze still fixed on my father.
“I was so convinced Lucy would turn out differently . . .”
The vein in my father’s temple pulsed, but otherwise his face remained an expressionless mask.
My mother let go of the bed railing and put her hand on my father’s arm. “Clark, she is different—”
“Would someone tell me what’s going on?” I raised my voice, desperate for some answers.
“We can’t keep up appearances under so much scrutiny.”
My father unfolded his arms and placed his hand over hers. “No.”
I tried to sit up, but the restraints forced me back on the pillows. “Mom, what’s he talking about?”
My mother moved to my side. “Not now, Lucy.” She swiped the hair from my face and smiled reassuringly. “To answer your question, Mr. Jameson, yes, there’s a history of mental illness in the family, but I will die before that information is leaked to the press.” Her voice was a sharp contrast to the gentleness of her touch.
“There’s no need to tell the press,” the lawyer reassured her. “Just the doctor. All we need is an evaluation.” He glanced at me. “Since she’s technically not a minor, we’ll also need her signature.”
“Leave that to me,” my father said.
A disoriented feeling settled into my core as I mentally flipped through all of my extended family members. “Who was mentally unstable?” I whispered to my mother. “Was it
Aunt Heather? Cousin Paul?”
“Not now, Lucy.” My mother turned to the lawyer. Her face became a cool, expressionless mask. “Will that be all, Mr. Jameson?”
The lawyer shifted his gaze between the three of us, as if weighing his options. “For now, yes. The police are still going through evidence at the crime scene. They’ll probably want to question her again at some point.”
“What happens if Lucy’s found guilty?” my father asked.
“Vehicular manslaughter is a serious crime. It would most likely involve prison time.”
My mouth went dry. Prison?
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Today we’re featuring KNIGHT OF LOVE by Catherine LaRoche, a Historical Romance with Pocket Star. It sounds awesome and I have it on my TBR list. Check it out and go to our FACEBOOK Page for a chance to win a pomotional code for a free ebook copy of Knight of Love. /Cori
In this saucy romance, an English lady turns the damsel-in-distress tale on its head as she escapes her malicious fiancé and fights for both her life and that of the lustful rebel that has become her protector.
Lady Lenora Trevelyan, a naïve yet stubborn young lady born to the highest noble houses of England and Germany, finds herself betrothed to the brutal Prince Kurt von Rotenburg-Gruselstadt. But after she is cruelly bruised and flogged by her fiancé, she decides to take the reins of her fate. In the midst of a German revolution, Lenora escapes Kurt’s iron fist and embarks home to England. She quickly finds herself in the hands of a rebel group and their robust, gentle, and handsome leader, Wolfram von Wolfsbach und Ravensworth, the English Earl of Ravensworth.
Lenora struggles to deny the passion she feels towards the frustratingly chivalrous Earl but her desire for him continues to bloom. Wolfram hungers nothing other than to fight for democracy and civil rights in uniting Germany and to protect what he assumes is his damsel in distress. Through nights of immeasurable pleasure, Lenora and Wolfram learn that their passion is no match for the revolutionary chaos that ensues. And when Lenora discovers that her protector’s life is threatened, she must risk everything to save her Knight of Love.
The German Confederation
The first lash robbed her of breath.
The second granted her freedom.
If he’d go so far as to have her publicly flogged, she owed him no further loyalty. Any obligation remaining from their betrothal contact ended here, in this moment, with this lash.
Morally, she was free.
Now all she had to do was escape the bastard and make him pay.
As the second stroke landed, fire replaced the shock, and a hot slick of pain bloomed across her back. The coarse linen shift that a spying maid had forced her into provided no protection. It offered little modesty, either, from the uneasy crowd Kurt had gathered inside the castle gates to witness her punishment. She gritted her teeth and refused to cry out. A rough rope bound her wrists above her head to the flogging post. As her knees buckled, the binding made her perversely glad; she doubted she could stand upright on her own.
Before arriving at this godforsaken pile of German stone, she—Lady Lenora Trevelyan, eldest child to the Duke and Duchess of Sherbrooke, third cousin to Queen Victoria’s German consort, His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha—had never been struck in her life. Now, in her three months at Schloss Rotenburg, she’d lost count of her bruises.
At first, before her parents had returned home to England, Kurt hadn’t hit her—or “corrected her,” as it pleased that smug worm to call his slaps and blows. He claimed it was for her own good, of course, to teach and prepare her for her life as his Prinzessin and mistress of Rotenburg.
She must carry out her duties perfectly, he’d hiss, tightening a grip on her arm until she knew she’d wear a band of purple bruises for a week. Or he’d strike out in sudden fury at some perceived failure of hers—she’d forgotten the name of one of his sainted ancestors in the castle’s gloomy portrait gallery, or made a minor grammatical mistake in her German, or not shown proper courtesy to a visiting Bürgermeister.
Tied now to the flogging post, she lost count after the third blow. She’d seen the long leather strap when the stable master, shamefaced, had bound her with muttered apologies and handed the lash to a muscled groom more accustomed to cracking it around stubborn horses than using it to beat highborn ladies. Now she could barely feel the individual strokes as they landed, only the waves of hot agony clenching her back and shoulders in a vise grip of pain.
Through the red haze blurring her vision, she saw Kurt standing nearby. Next to him, his sanctimonious toady minister prattled the Bible proverb of the virtuous wife whose price was far above rubies. The gleeful, twisted pleasure Kurt took in her pain radiated off his stork-like form like a sickening stench. She bit down on her lip and gathered her hatred of her fiancé like a babe to her breast.
It was all she had left to get her out of this hell.
When Kurt finally held up a hand to signal the groom to cease, her labored breath echoed in the silent crowd. She knew the townspeople didn’t approve of the public beating their prince had commanded for his foreign betrothed. No more than they believed his story that she’d agreed to a religious flagellation in humble preparation for becoming his pious and obedient wife. But Prince Kurt von Rotenburg-Gruselstadt ruled the castle and town with an iron fist. None would risk their lord’s wrath to stand up for her.
Kurt stepped to the front of the dais. “Lady Lenora bears her trial most nobly,” he announced to the crowd. “Her embrace of her suffering does honor to a bloodline that unites the highest noble houses of England and Germany.”
That bloodline, she knew well, was why he’d chosen her. The prig made no secret of his disdain for any born below the upper aristocracy. The Holy Roman emperor himself, Kurt often delighted to inform her, had conferred the title of Prinz upon the House of Rotenburg-Gruselstadt in the previous century. Her own background had led the matchmakers to judge them a perfect pair: her father’s ancient ducal title intermingled, like that of so many English peers these days, with noble blood from her Prussian princess mother.
No one had thought to mention that her fiancé had the temperament of a petulant demon on a bad day in hell.
As Kurt stalked toward her, she forced her knees to straighten. She was done being afraid of this man. He pulled back the torn linen shift to inspect her back. Despite her resolve not to cry out, she gasped as the frayed edges stuck to her skin.
“Beautiful work,” he murmured into her ear. “This is what a woman should look like. Chastised to a man’s authority, marked to her proper place.”
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Devastated by Rebecca’s death, Mark is facing the chaos of the press and the police investigation alone, his reputation, his business, and even his freedom under threat. When a family emergency sends him back east to New York, he puts Crystal—who’s as capable as she is challenging—in charge of his San Francisco art gallery. A Master, all about control, right now he feels that he has none. With his secret sex club and his relationships of the past in the spotlight, Mark finds sanctuary in the one place he promised he would never be again—but cannot seem to resist. Crystal’s arms.
If you’ve been following the Inside Out series, you will love this novella. Mr. Control shares his inner turmoil and guilt over things that have transpired and Crystal is the one woman strong enough to meet him head on. A short and sexy story that truly leaves you wanting more. I do wish it wasn’t so dark and emotional but there is no way around it at this point in the saga. I also get frustrated with cliffhanger endings unless the next installment is ready to be read.
*Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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“Hi,” she says softly, almost timidly, and this part of her is as much who she is as the one who screamed more at me. The contrast appeals to me. She appeals to me.
“Hello, Ms. Smith,” I reply.
“Make up your mind,” she insists. “Is it Crystal or Ms. Smith?”
My lips curve. “I find I’m surprisingly willing to keep my options open where you’re concerned. Let me help you with your coat.” I step behind her, my hands settling on her shoulders, my actions making my words a command rather than a question. I do not intend to ask Crystal Smith for anything.
“Thank you,” she murmurs, shrugging out of the trench coat.
Testing the tension between us, I drag it down her arms, letting my hands caress the sheer red chiffon sleeves of her dress, and she shivers. The attraction between us is a simmering heat ready to boil over, and no matter how absolutely wrong she is for me, or me for her, we aren’t through with each
The waiter appears and I’m handing off Crystal’s coat when she whirls around and intercepts it. “I’ll keep it here,” she says quickly.
The way she holds it close tells me she’s preparing for a fast retreat, which means I’d been right. She ran from my hotel room.
I motion to the seat, silently suggesting we sit, but she doesn’t immediately move. Of course not. That would suggest a hint of submission, and she doesn’t intend to submit. And since I don’t intend to ever convert another woman who isn’t already living the lifestyle, we have no options. We cannot fuck again, no matter how much tension is in the air.
So we stand there, the seconds ticking by, and I arch a brow. Her sweet little pink tongue flicks over her lush, red-painted lips, and I think of how close I’d been to having that tongue and mouth on my cock. I slide into the booth, noticing how Crystal sits far from the center, where lovers might gravitate. We, though, are not lovers. We are “just a fuck.” Not even two.
The waiter returns and offers us menus. Crystal accepts hers, opening it, and glances across the table at me. “Do you have a recommendation?”
“We’re both virgins tonight,” I say.
She laughs, mischief in her eyes. “I’m pretty sure you weren’t a virgin even when you were born, Mark Compton.” The waiter chokes and Crystal flushes, as if she’d forgotten he was there.
I cut a look at the college-age waiter, who is looking like a deer in the headlights, not sure if he should go or stay. “Do you have a recommendation?”
Looking relieved, he quickly replies, “Best burger and fries in New York City.”
“Just fries for me,” Crystal says. “And a Diet Coke.” She slides her menu across the table. “The diet drink makes up for the grease.”
This somehow perfectly fits the logic I’m coming to expect from her. “I’ll take the burger with my fries,” I say, also offering my menu to the waiter. “Well done, with bacon and cheddar cheese.” My lips quirk. “And a Diet Coke to combat the grease.”
He snatches up our menus and departs. Crystal smiles at me. “I’m a good influence on your diet.”
“Had I known Diet Coke killed grease, I’d have given up my gym routine and healthy eating for burgers and fries a long time ago.”
She sighs, and the tension I’d sensed in her seems to be fading. “Truthfully, I normally force myself to order a salad, but I’m just too exhausted to care tonight.”
“I trust you had our contracted courier handle the delivery of the auction items?”
“Yes. They should arrive tomorrow.”
“And I’ll head back to San Francisco tomorrow. They hope to release my mother from the hospital on Thursday, so if all goes well I’ll be back by then.”
“Don’t worry about Riptide. I’ll take care of the auction house and let you know if I have a problem I need help with.” Her tone sobers. “You can count on me, Mark. Nothing is going to change that, and I’m very attached to your mother.”
“As she is to you.” My curiosity about why she doesn’t work for her family’s computer empire gets the best of me. “Are you close to your mother, as well?”
“I love her very much, but we’re very different. I think I bond with your mother because we’re so alike.”
“Driven and hard-headed,” I comment. “I’d have to agree. And your mother is . . . ?”
She seems to consider her choice of words before saying, “Submissive.”
“Submissive,” I repeat, reminded of a few other comments that make me wonder if she’s more familiar with the BDSM world than she’s let on. “To your father?”
“To him and to everything. It’s her personality.”
“Then you inherited the dominant gene from your father, I assume.”
“I’m adopted, so what I inherited are overly protective, loving parents and two brothers. If they all had their way, I’d work for the family business and I’d live in a luxury apartment I didn’t earn myself. They’d examine the resumes of any men wishing to date me and ask for a medical report on anyone I slept with, and in general my world would be those roses and chocolates I mentioned.”
Her words seem playful, but there’s something dark in her eyes, something vulnerable—and if I’m right, there’s pain. “How old were you when you were adopted?” I ask, choosing my questions cautiously.
“Fourteen, and yes, it’s an old age to get adopted.”
I know what it’s like to bury something that hurts that you don’t want to be known, and I know when I see it in someone else, as I do now with her. Suddenly there’s so much more to Crystal Smith than there was before, an explanation for why I’m drawn to her.
About to ask where she was before the adoption, I silently curse when the waiter appears and places our drinks on the table.
“So,” Crystal says the instant we’re alone, as if she’s trying to direct the conversation away from whatever I might ask next. “You mentioned wanting to talk to me about something. What is it?”
Seeing no point in waiting, I reply, “I assume you know what happened with my gallery back in San Francisco?”
“I know your sales rep Mary was arrested for trying to move counterfeit art through Riptide, and shockingly Ricco Alvarez was involved. I’m not sure what makes a famous artist worth millions do such a thing.”
Jealousy over Rebecca. “The important thing is that you’re prepared for customers who might have read about it and have questions.”
“Your mother and I discussed how to handle press inquiries and customer concerns.”
There’s one problem solved. “Do you know about Rebecca?”
“The last I heard, she was on a leave of absence.”
A band seems to tighten around my chest. “She was.”
Brow furrowing, Crystal asks, “Was? She’s back or . . .” Her eyes go wide. “Oh no. Was she involved in the counterfeit situation, too? Your mother seemed to think so much of her. That would destroy her.”
She’s right. My mother was fond of Rebecca, much like she is of Crystal. “She wasn’t involved. She’s dead.”