2022 releases

The Traitor's Game
Awaken: Wolves of Timber Falls
Sorrow's Song
Wicked Nights: A TechWitch Futuristic Urban Fantasy Novel
Bite Me, Monster: A Monster Romance
Nightfall University: Midnight Coven: A Reverse Harem Paranormal Romance
Nightworld Academy: Winterfall Witch
Phoenix: The Rise
Fated Wolf
Pray for Mercy
Keeper Of My Desire
Monster's Plaything: A Monster Romance
The Sheikh's Captive Lover (Desert Kings Alliance, #2).
Wolf Fates: Wolf Shifter Romance
Crown of Shadows
Kings of Eden: A Dark Paranormal Romane
Wild Soul: A Rejected Mate Romance
The Girl Sudan Painted like a Gold Ring: Folktales from the Sea Dyaks of Sarawak, Borneo
A Wreath Of Thorns

Monday, 30 April 2012

Magic Thursday Winner

Hi everyone!
Just popping my head up from deep editing to announce the winner of Heart of the Warlord....
Congrats, a copy of the e-book will be coming your way. Thanks everyone who commented, and don't forget to visit my blog jessanastasi.blogspot.com for other competitions and news.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Weekly Overview


Mon 30 April
Winner of Jess' giveaway announced

Tues 1 May

Wed 2
A Bite of... with Eleni Konstantine

Thur 3
MAGIC THURSDAY: to be announced

(where we've been this week)









  •  Jenny will have a steampunk chat on Friday 4th May (or Saturday 5th for those  Down Under) on Twitter. See her blog post for details. 

  • And a huge congratulations to C.T. and her family for the arrival of their newest family member, a baby girl, Aurelia!!! How joyous for you all. It's our first DarkSider baby!!!! And yes, we ARE excited. WooHoo!!!! 

Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Enchanted Orb: Nicole Murphy

Welcome to the Enchanted Orb - a look at the inspiration behind the DarkSider's tales.

Our guest today is Nicole Murphy, author of the gadda series as well as a couple of other publications.


Today, she talks about... well, I'll let her tell you.

Take it away, Nicole!

Making your muse work for you.

Today I want to talk about FORCING inspiration. There can be a view that the muse is a strange, elusive creature and you have to coax and beguile him/her to work.

On that, I call bulls*&t.

You can MAKE the muse work for you. Think of the muse as something like a puppy - all bouncy and all over the place with inspiration. Train it, and then you get a well-behaved beastie that works for you!

Now, this wasn't always my opinion. I thought you had to wait for ideas to come, and they were the only ones worth pursuing. But I was taught the error of my ways by a fabulous writer friend of mine, Ian McHugh.

Ian is a kick-arse writer. So kick-arse that he not only won a quarter of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future (something only a few Australians have done), but he won the entire competition (thus far the only Australian to do so).

Part of the prize is a week in LA with some of the biggest names in speculative fiction teaching you. Part of that was a story generating exercise. Ian enjoyed it so much that last year, he did it at a meeting of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG) of which I am a member.

That night floored me. The story I produced as a result is one of the best stories I've every written, and it was interesting and intriguing and NO WAY would my muse have ever come up with it if I'd left him/her to their own devices (I haven't decided on my muse's sex - quite like the idea of gender not being part of the identity).

The exercise was in three easy steps. First, you are given an object to study, consider, take notes about. Mine was a Santa-shaped babushka doll. Second, you go out and meet a stranger and talk to them and see what they say (in the meeting, we talked to the person next to us but were given three topics to share and listen to). Third, you go into a library, or a bookstore and at random pick a book, then randomly throw it open.

Take those three elements, throw them together and see what happens.

At first, I wasn't too sure. I had my Santa-babushka and it was interesting. The person I talked to had some great stories about her grandmother working in the war to support her family and her in-laws having a ghost in the house. But I couldn't see any obvious connection, any story that would grow out of it. What did it all mean?

Then came the crucial third piece of the puzzle. I decided my random book would be a random internet article. I opened Wikipedia and looked at the "Did you know..." section on the first page. There was something there about the largest colosseum ever discovered outside of Rome. From there, I went researching the real Colosseum and from there, I found out about a building called the spoilarium, where the bodies of dead gladiators were taken and stripped of their armour. The bodies were discarded, the armour fixed for another gladiator to wear.

Suddenly, things were coalescing, moving in my mind. I opened Word and typed in the first line:
"I woke to find the ghost had stripped another layer."

The story flowed, as they sometimes do. It was about a mother, making the ultimate sacrifice for her children in order to secure their future. I knew I'd done something special when I took it to a critique session and the first person looked at me and said - "Wow."

I can't share more than that - am trying to sell the story at the moment - but the experience sold me on story generation. Since then I've used it a few times to either start a story or help a story along - choose a line of a song, open a book at a page and see what comes out.

And when you think about it, story generation like this isn't too far removed from editing. When you come across a problem in your story, you have certain parameters within which the solution must come. Story generation creates those parameters upfront and considering how much I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of editing, it's probably no surprise story generation has worked for me.

Try it for yourself - next time you're waiting for the muse to give you an idea, bypass him/her and try to generate the story yourself. There's lots of exercises online if you Google 'story generation'. At the very least, you might just scare your muse into being more proactive!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Magic Thursday Slackness

Hello there. Yes it is after 2:30 in the afternoon and I am only just now posting my Magic Thursday spot. And what I had prepared went out the window, because instead I want to talk about a very serious affliction that I, and many authors (I hope, please don't say its just me) suffer from: Extreme Unorganizationitis. Sounds horrible, doesn't it?
Seriously though. I forgot I had to post here today. Okay, I didn't actually forget because I had it written down on my calendar and I'd written a blog post and I kept thinking to myself earlier in the week "must remember to post on Thursday." But then yesterday came and the Anzac holiday really threw me off. I kept thinking it was Saturday. And then when hubby got up and went to work today, my mind told me "Monday" and I kept trying to do Monday things, only to tell myself "DUH its Thursday."
So I had no idea what day of the week it was, and had many things on my mind; emails I need to send to people. The fact that I couldn't remember the last time I mopped the kitchen floor and how my shoes squeaked every time I walked across it because it was so sticky (I just finished the marathon of all sweeping/vacuuming/mopping triathlons). The fact that the dust bunnies in the corners were starting to breed smaller dust bunnies that were floating across the floor when a strong enough wind blew. The lovely drawing one of my kids did in the inch of dust coating the book shelves. The bills I have to pay today. The fact that my kids cleaned out my wallet so when I went to the Post Office I didn't have any gold or silver coins and had to eftpos four dollars (which the man behind the counter was REALLY impressed about). The fact I had to remember to pick my kids up from two different places at two different times and not get them mixed up (done that before!). Things I have to do for the kinder committee. Things I have to do for my local writer's group committee. At some point this week I'd like to fit in some yoga, but its already Thursday.... THURSDAY! Oh my god, I'm supposed to be on the DSDU blog. AHHHH!
Is this sounding familiar? This is a pretty typical day for me. I feel awful about it, but I forget to do things all the time. I really think people must believe I'm just a flighty, irresponsible person who can't manage to follow through on the things I promise to do. But underneath all these things I have going on, I'm also always thinking about my manuscript/storyline/characters/editing/ideas for future projects. And its damned distracting. One day recently I forgot to go meet my BFF for coffee and she raced over here, kids (including a newborn baby) and all to check I was okay. I was, it had slipped my mind that I was meant to meet her and she caught me my oldest, ugliest clothes scrubbing the bathroom tiles. Boy was I embarrassed that day.
I keep telling myself I will be more organized, that I can get on top of this craziness and be a goddess of organization. Cool, calm, collected and with my hair brushed every single day! I have a calendar, a diary, reminders in my phone, sticky notes placed strategically around the house, yet still things slip through the cracks and that one thing I miss makes me feel bad for ages after its all said and done.
So I want to know about everyone else. Who else has Extreme Unorganizationitis? What do you forget or neglect in your life to keep up with everything else?
I'm giving away a copy of my latest release, Heart of the Warlord, to one lucky commenter.

On the planet Kanaan, Jiovahnie Dorrian, the Marques of Gryffin, walks a fine line between keeping his place in society amongst the Ruling Families, and his ancestral legacy of being a warlord. Though he'd rather stay camped in the Borderlands with his men, when his cousin, the Duque of Harkin is to be married, it’s the event of the season. One he can't miss. After all, the duque expects him to be the best man. But Vahn doesn't anticipate his best man duties to include fetching his cousin's bride when an enemy attempts to abduct her.

Lady Gwynevive Tyne isn't the wilting Miss society expects her to be. And when mercenaries attack her traveling party on the way to her intended husband's home, she does what any self-respecting girl should —  tries to steal the enemy's ship to escape. But before she can get away with the reckless plan, a warrior turns up claiming to be sent by her fiancĂ©. He dresses like a mercenary and his silvery, metal-gray eyes make her heart beat a little too fast.

For both Vahn and Gwyn, a forbidden attraction flames to life between them almost instantly. Both know there's no way they can be together. Yet neither of them can stay away from one another. An enemy is intent on preventing Gwyn's marriage, and at every turn, Vahn finds himself protecting Gwyn from danger. He needs to keep her safe and then hand her over to his cousin to wed. And when the time comes, they have to find some way to let each other go… Or risk starting a war that could tear apart the Ruling Families.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Good News Day!

Welcome to this week's good news....


Imogene Nix
Starfire will be released on the 6th June 2012, and check out it's amazing cover! Woohoo!

Erica Hayes
Hex Appeal is a urban fantasy anthology and includes one of Erica's stories.

Nicola E. Sheridan
Magical Redemption (the third book in the Magic Series) will be released on 1st November 2012!



Imogene Nix
Starline has another review this week from Words of Wisdom. Here's a snippet:

"As a big fan of the sci-fi genre and it's mix of action, suspense, and intriguing views of the future I found myself drawn to this story and the groundwork that was laid for a trilogy set in the future with occasional visits to the past. With its likable characters, action packed scenes, and some super sexy interludes I found a rather enjoyable read that has me intrigued for what comes next."


Angela Castle
Tiger Mine is out now from Rogue Phoenix Press.


Come back next week for some more good news....

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Magic Thursday: Astrid Cooper on Research

By Astrid Cooper  

Of bondage, beads and bindings… stripping to the bare essentials in the name of research. 

Characters wear costumes. Whether they’re realistic historical garb, or fantasy adaptions—clothes do maketh the man or gal.

Have you ever had a secret yearning to re-live an historical setting, or become a fantasy character? Perhaps you would like to become Arwen, or Galadriel for a day? Or maybe Xena is more to your taste. (muscles and leather looks chic, doesn’t it?) Or, maybe out of this world is your direction? Consider those characters from the sf series, Farscape? – the women had toned bodies and knew how to wear those fabulous outfits. (John Crichton wasn’t half bad, either!)

I was a member of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) for many years and attendance at every event is mandated by the rule that ‘mundanity’ be left behind. No mod-cons in sight and all people must be in period costume and act their persona. We are ‘lords’ and ‘ladies’ for the duration of every event. Even weekend long camps required one to become ‘in period’. Living like that for two days really awakened me to the ‘issues’ and I’ve used some of my experiences in a current fantasy romance wip. 

In the 21st century most Western women take for granted the ease of clothing and relative safety of environment—as it relates to what we wear. All this is lost the moment one dons period garb. Dressed in my 15th century gown, I scorched my bell-shaped velvet sleeve simply by leaning across the table to reach the wine jug (I could argue though, that it was my fault. A ‘lady’ doesn’t lean across the table—she summons a servant or the nearest lord to fetch for her). The candle flame burnt my sleeve, but I was lucky. At another event a lady had her sleeve catch fire (again reaching across the table) and by the time the lords extinguished the flames, she was burned and required hospital treatment. 

Similarly, head-dresses are another hazard. Modern doorways aren’t high enough to walk through without scraping (or losing) your magnificent butterfly hennin. Elizabethan farthingales or Victorian crinolines swirl around your body supporting layers of silk and velvet, but when wearing one, you have to turn sideways to navigate a doorway. Even the bustle poses challenges. And as for sitting down…

Going to the bathroom is a challenge…

Those voluminous skirts are cumbersome when answering the call of nature. In some costumes you have to learn to balance above the bowl with the skirts bunched around your anatomy and your aim has to be accurate. I think you can imagine the picture. (It’s not a ‘romantic’ sight). And at those weekend camps, you can experience the reality of life when using drop pits or digging holes for calls of nature. Living in the 21st century, we are generally insulated from the smells of historical times, but if your hero or heroine finds themselves on a backwater planet, or transported to a medieval; setting, you can enrich your narrative, but a simple commentary on the ‘stink’… using one of the five senses to bring the scene alive for the reader. Why nose-gays and pomanders were carried by ladies to put against the nose to disguise the stench of the streets—an essential part of every lady’s wardrobe. The ones I’ve made and beaded and embroidered were filled with cloves.. 

Elizabethan garb is one of the cruellest – the wooden stomacher laced over your front to ensure flat profile… just simply crushes. If one is a buxom wench, this costume causes extreme discomfort. The Elizabethan corsets and lacing leave bruises on the flesh long after the garb is removed. Even my slender friends who have an Elizabethan persona tell me about the bruises and the difficulty of breathing, especially at times of exertion such as dancing. No wonder the court dances of this period were (for the main), slow and sedate.

It is historical fact that women removed ribs to ensure a smaller waistline, though the resultant surgery caused severe health problems. Without the protection of ribs, internal organs are vulnerable and a corset compresses them to the point that many women often fainted—the ‘fit of the vapours’—we have read about. Cutting off toes to minimise foot size wasn’t just done by Cinderella’s stepsisters.

Spare a thought for the knights of the period, and for those men (and women) who adopt a knight persona in the 21st century. Chain mail, armour and helmets weighed in total approx. 32 kilograms (circa 15th century). Try moving about with this restriction. As a consequence, battles lasted a short time because heat exhaustion was a very real occupational hazard. Blisters, chafing, bruising were experienced by knights then and now, simply due to their costume.

In a current work in progress, my heroine is required to don a mail shirt. I wondered what it would be like for someone unaccustomed to wearing this. I did my research—just for a one line reaction that the heroine has in the scene—but for it to be real, for me, as author to convince the reader of the heroine’s reaction, I had to do this. I put on a mail hauberk. Phew! I gained an insight and renewed respect for the lord and ladies who fight in this costume. In another of my books, the hero vampire drives a Ferrari. The heroine is taken out on a dinner date by the hero. She’s never sat in a Ferrari, so how, can I—as author-creator—convince my reader of my heroine’s reaction to the car? I hightailed it to the nearest luxury car sales yard, told the manager what I wanted and why and I sat in the car and had a drive (nope I wasn’t game enough to drive it, even if it was offered –it wasn’t!) The heroine’s reaction to the car is real, and I created a reaction so that the reader (who may never sit in a Ferrari) could experience it. .

Those of us who write historical or fantasy romance will sooner or later face the scenario where your characters are going to undress (whether a love scene, or a bathing scene). For a knight there’s no such thing as a ‘quickie’, though you may recall that scene in Excalibur where Uther Pendragon, in full armour, ravishes Ygraine. Close encounters? I don’t think so! A hero wouldn’t do this to his lady. A villain might try… but in armour it’d be very difficult—the codpiece of later historical epochs can be removed, but all that armour in the way—the villain would have to be of considerable proportion to ‘dock’ (or, so my knight friends tell me).
Stripping to the skin in period garb takes much longer than we are accustomed to. The undressing provides a feast of sensuality/eroticism for authors wishing to explore it in their books. The removal of layers of clothing, of untying laces and ‘points’—the anticipation (sexual tension) of what lies beneath, can be extended for as long as you wish. 

deviantart.com - Angirias
In historical settings, the glimpse of an ankle, or wrist, or the nape of his lady’s neck may leave the hero weak at the knees. The heroine’s back-laced gown provides some difficult moments if the hero is unaccustomed to it. It is almost impossible for a woman to unlace her own back-laced gown. I’ve tried. Thank heavens for long-suffering husbands and handmaidens to provide the hands to unlace. Writing a scene where the heroine unlaces her own back-fastened gown may need to be modified. Get yourself laced into a gown and see how ‘easy’ it is to get out of it. Again, research is the key to authenticity.

Leather breeches do look good, but not that comfortable. They’re hot and sweaty and sooner or later the leather sags around the derriere. Naturally, though, our heroes (and vamp-fighting heroines) do not have this problem: their leather breeches remain taut and sexy. The leather-clad spacefarers in Farscape never had saggy rears. 

One of the most evocative, sexually-charged scenes in any movie I’ve seen occurred in The Last Samurai. The character of Nathan Algren dresses for the coming battle, assisted by the Japanese lady-samurai, Taka. Algren wears the full armour of Taka’s late samurai husband, whom Algren has killed in a fight months before. The scene is riveting (I think) because Algren starts bare and is dressed in layers upon layers of ritual samurai clothing, finally ending in the red armour and helmet. The scene is done in relative silence, with only the swish of fabric against skin. There’s fleeting caresses of Taka’s fingers over Algren’s skin as she folds the first kimono shift over him, the smoothing down of more layers of garments, a cautious hand touch… The emotion conveyed in this scene is, in the main, conveyed by the clothes—the dressing and what that clothing represents (both its cultural importance and the fact that Algren is probably going to his death that morning). The dressing says farewell without the need for words.

But if history isn’t your forte, then let’s go boldy out there thattaway to the stars…

In my futuristic romance novel, Crystal Dreams my heroine (Liandra) comes from an advanced space-faring culture and she wears body-hugging synthetic suits that allow her freedom of movement and her enviro-belt ensures that she is protected from heat or cold, so she is always comfortable in her flimsy attire. A minor conflict between Liandra and the hero (Connal), is that he insists she wear—for ‘modesty’s sake—‘suitable women’s clothing’. (His insistence has nothing to do with the fact that he sees how some of his men watch Liandra and he doesn’t want to ‘share’ her in anyway with anyone; no, he’s just concerned for her welfare. ( Yeah right!) This clothing issue gives the reader an insight into the developing relationship between hero and heroine—a relationship which both Liandra and Connal deny. Liandra loses her enviro-belt in a botched escape attempt, so she has to wear cumbersome robes and layers of clothing to combat the cold. She soon discovers how complicated life is when wearing these clothes. Conversely, she finds Connal’s hip-hugging kilt more erotic than anything she has experienced in all the League Worlds—and the men there also wear those clingy jumpsuits which Connal knows ‘hide nothing’. A simple thing such as clothes can progress a plot and characterisation and provide humour. But to be authentic, to give a realistic response, an author has to walk a mile in the heroine’s shoes to realise her predicament.

If you ever have the chance to dress up in ‘proper’ historical garb, do so—’proper’ , here, means lacing, corsets, hoops, crinolines, or mail… not costumes that are superficial adaptations, such as you’d buy from a costume hire shop. The ‘true’ experience will give you a greater appreciation of the freedom of movement we all take for granted and it may give you more identification for your characters—whether you are a reader, or a writer.
Barbarella space suit

This is also true of romances in space. Do you recall the opening scene of Barbarella? Barb slowly strips off her spacesuit. How long does it last? What is the audience reaction? In your book, if your heroine (or hero) strips off his suit, imagine the layers and the difficulty. Or, how about helmets? What tension does this create? Helmet to helmet ‘kisses’? Hero and heroine meet for the first time? What is in that suit? This vizor may be blacked out. The voice may be distorted… is that the person’s real voice, or computer-generated? Does the helmet hide an angel or a monster? Literally, there is a wealth of experience, plot and characterisation in just this piece of clothing. This was explored in Tanith Lee’s novella, Beauty (a re-telling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’) and to my mind one of the most evocative sf romances I have ever read.
A space suit as WE know it

In my most recent works—the paranormal sexy series Monsters inK, the cat shifters (in particular) are disdainful of trousers/pants, much preferring to wear kaftans, silk robes and similar. They are sensual creatures, so the feel of silk and satin or velvet is part of their culture. Though, when they see their human men garbed in jeans and torso-hugging t-shirts, they go weak at the paws. I also use this trouser disdain as a vehicle for humour, innuendo and double entendre. (By way of explanation, the human-vampire hero, Jai, is stage manager for the cabaret at Monsters inK, so he has access to costumes…)

Jai said, ‘You need clothes. We’re about the same size. Jeans and t-shirt okay?’

‘I never wear pants.’

‘That’s what I’ve heard about cats, always ready for action.’ Their gazes locked. ‘So what do you wear? A dress? Not on this world, at least in public.’

‘I’d prefer a kilt, or a sarong, or a silk robe.’

‘I’ll see what I can find.’

Jai returned a few minutes later, and held out a lime green tutu.

Leydan growled. ‘I am a man, not some escoru.’

‘What’s an escoru?’

‘Someone who would wear that abomination. Get it out of my sight.’

Score one to me, Jaidyn thought. He’d truly teased the cat’s whiskers. He flung the tutu on the sofa and held out his own much loved, tattered and many times patched green cotton dressing gown.

‘That?’ Leydan asked, his eyes narrowed. ‘Is this the best you can do?’

‘It’s my favourite.’

‘Then I pity you if your circumstances are so reduced that this… thing is your favourite. What sort of heathen place am I in?’

‘Suit yourself,’ Jai said. ‘Walk around naked, as if I care. But the cleaning ladies might enjoy the sight and want to buff your butt with their dusters.’

Extract from The Cat the Vampire Dragged In
Astrid with some of her research projects

Clothes can provide a myriad of possibilities for your plot and characters. If you are so inclined, you can even make your own costumes to match your creation. This is often done by those who write steampunk. But I don’t think a heroine can adequately slay the bad guys wearing eight inch stiletto heels. I tried a pair on in a shop (research—again) and couldn’t balance.

Have fun ‘researching’ clothes for your characters. You never know where it will lead.

If you need some costume research, I can try and assist, but contacting your local SCA or sf group will be even better. Have fun. Live the dream…

Crystal Dreams published by Devine Destinies www.devinedestinies.com

Monsters inK series published by extasy books www.extasy books.com

Christmas Creek Decadence, Vampire for Hire, The Cat the Vampire Dragged in 

Join Astrid on FaceBook (link to it via www.astridcooper.com) and twitter

Astrid has kindly donated a giveaway. One lucky commenter will have a choice of one of the  Monsters inK books (m/m romance) OR a copy of Crystal Dreams. 

Most images are sourced from Wikipedia

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A Bite of... The Crystal Warrior

This fortnight's "Bite" is brought to you by Crystal Warriors who dress like adverts for We Love Leather and like to wave big swords:

And as Wulf is a bit busy with Chalcey and their new baby daughter right now, their creator, Maree Anderson, kindly stepped in to give you the low-down:

DSDU: Can you in less than five words describe your story THE CRYSTAL WARRIOR?

MAREE: Uh... Is "No way in hell!" an acceptable answer?

No? Darn! OK, how about this:

Career-focused dancer is magically bonded to alien Crystal Warrior.

(Yeah, I know. That's 9 words--or 10 if you won't give me the hyphen. Sorry, but I kinda suck at high concepts like this.)

DSDU: What inspired you to write it?

MAREE: DD (who was very young at the time) was given a bunch of pretty crystals and I had no clue what kind of crystals they were, so I went out a bought a book called The Crystal Bible. And as I flicked through the book, I realized some of the crystals had masculine-sounding names like wulfenite, kyanite, malachite, whereas others had a much more feminine vibe like chalcedony, ruby, jade. And I thought, hey, wouldn't it be cool to write a series about warriors from another world who're being punished for their crimes with imprisonment in their namesake crystals? Of course my crystal warriors needed redeeming in a biiig way, so I magically bonded them to modern-day women, who're also named after crystals... and don't appreciate being manhandled and told what to do and when to do it *evil grin*

DSDU: How about a short excerpt from THE CRYSTAL WARRIOR?

MAREE: Now that, I can do *g*

By Maree Anderson

Ray reached her before she could scramble back to her feet. He grabbed her arms and hauled her up on tiptoes so that her body was plastered up against his. “Aw, you hurt yourself, huh? Let Ray kiss it better.”

His face loomed closer. Chalcey jerked her chin aside. Yeah, he was strong but she could take him. Not to mention, ensure that he thought twice about forcing his attentions on any other woman. She’d had a gutful of men who assumed a girl was begging to be pawed just because she had a larger than average cup size and wore something a bit revealing. Well, okay, a lot revealing. But it didn’t matter what she happened to be wearing, he was way out of line. She’d show him. And while she was at it, she wouldn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about taking all her frustrations about the male of the species out on him, either.

She could easily have broken his grip. There were three simple and very effective maneuvers she’d learned in self-defense classes a couple of years back that she could use in this situation. Instead, she pretended to give in, melting into his arms, tempting him to relax and let down his guard so she could hit him where it hurt and deal to him in a way he wouldn’t forget in a hurry. She didn’t have quite enough leverage to knee him in the balls—yet. And she’d only have one chance at making that maneuver count. If it didn’t work, it was no biggie. She’d simply resort to some of the other dirty stuff she’d been taught, stuff that would leave a guy in a moaning sniveling heap on the ground.

He mashed his lips onto hers.


His tongue probed her mouth.

Double ick! There sooo was a bottle of mouthwash with her name on it when she got home.

His grip eased up… so he could grope her breasts. Huh. Why did that particular move not surprise her?

While he was occupied, she toed off her useless damn sandals. She’d found her balance and was preparing to carry out Plan A to devastating effect, when an ear-splitting roar sounded behind her.

She froze.

A shadow loomed. It ripped Ray away from her.

“Aaargh!” Ray flew through the air and landed in a sprawling heap on the pavement. He groaned and lay still.

Chalcey sucked in a shaky breath and confronted the shadow’s chest. She gazed up. And up some more. Until she locked eyes with an incredibly large, incredibly furious man, who threw back his head and bellowed so forcefully that the tendons in his neck distended.

Whoa. Chalcey mentally fanned herself so she didn’t do something stupid. Like hyperventilate, and get all dizzy and fall on her ass. He’d been poured into those scarred leather pants. And as for the chest-hugging leather vest and shit-kicker boots…. Lord have mercy. He looked like a warrior king of old. He could have stepped right out of one of her private nighttime fantasies.

He turned his back on her and stalked toward Ray. The stiffness of his spine, and the rhythmic clenching and unclenching of his fists, screamed deadly intent and purpose.

Oh no. This could get out of hand real quick. She wasn’t the sort who’d stand helplessly by, wringing her hands in dismay, while a guy got pulped—not even if he did deserve it.

“Hey!” She darted forward and clutched her rescuer’s arm, hauling him around to face her.

His gaze latched onto hers again, ensnaring her. She couldn’t look away. Her heart raced, its beat echoing manically in her ears. Her bare skin prickled as though he’d run cool, caressing fingers down her flesh. She flushed with heat as parts lower down clenched and throbbed with lust. Her body responded to him, cried out for him, even though she’d never met him before in her life.

“Who—?” Her question died when he grabbed her and planted a kiss on her lips that stole her breath.

He speared his fingers through her hair to cup the back of her skull with one big hand. He held her immobile and lowered his mouth to hers. His kiss was hungry, demanding, brutally intense. She was so stunned that she didn’t even try to struggle. He took her mouth as though he would brand her as his own. And she would have let him mark her. Hell, she would stoop to begging!

When her legs wobbled, he clasped her so tightly against his body that she was forced up on tiptoes. She stared into his eyes. So intensely blue… like the sky viewed from a mountaintop on a crystal-clear day.

His mouth hardened on hers, forcing her lips apart so that he could thrust his tongue inside her mouth. Still she didn’t protest. Her head spun. Her eyelids drifted shut. She became a creature of pure sensation. There was only him and her. His lips on hers, her body pressed against his. Her yearning for him to fill a gaping hole in her soul that she’d not realized existed before now. His needs and wants and desires, all of them focused upon her, all of them centered around her. The rest of the world dissolved beneath his sensual assault. Nothing else mattered. Nothing but him.

“Hey!” somebody—Ray—shouted. “Who the f**k d’ya think you are?”

Chalcey blinked. The hulking great hunky stranger, the one who had dealt to the sleaze-bag mauling her, was now… well… mauling her. Did she have “Grope Me” tattooed on her forehead, or something? What was with this guy? He was just as bad as Ray.

So she did what any self-respecting girl who’s had enough of men would do—even if the man was an incredibly hot one who kissed like there was no tomorrow. She totally overreacted. She grabbed a handful of his hair and yanked his head back. And kept on yanking until he quit kissing her and released her enough that she slid down his body. The instant that she had her balance, she drew back her arm and punched him in the face. Hard. Putting all her strength and the power of her body behind it.


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