Saturday, January 11, 2014

Where Life Takes You Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Where Life Takes You by Claudia Y. Burgoa
Publication date: July 31st 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult

Synopsis:
Becca Trent lived her childhood next to a cruel woman—her mom—who lived to torment and neglect her. During her high school years, her mother married; bringing home not only a new husband, but a step sister her same age. The latter took over her Mom’s role—making Becca’s life miserable. Including stealing Ian—Becca’s best friend and boyfriend—Lisa treated her worse than her mother had for the previous fifteen years. A couple of years later, things ended up in tragedy.

Becca buried that part of her life in the deep corners of her psyche, but that only work during the days when the nightmares didn’t come back to haunt her. Her best friend, Dan gives her that family love she always lacked. Everything was close to perfect, until everything and everyone from her past came back. Now, she’s trying to figure out how to survive and keep that bond which seems now to be held together by a thread.

Note: This is the first part of a two book novel.


Goodreads: 

Book Trailer: 


Purchase:

Excerpt 

“We ran out of chocolate chips.” Dan put a full plate of pancakes on the table. “Do you think you’ll survive a few days without your fix?”

“I’ve more across the hallway, and you can fetch them later.” if drenched the pancakes with maple syrup, took a bite, and moaned. “Amazingly good! I’m impressed. You dominate the kitchen like it’s your boardroom. Who taught you how to cook?”

Dan poured orange juice for us both, as well as a cup of coffee for him, and a glass of milk for me. He sat next to me, covered his own pancakes cautiously—not Becca style—cut a piece of pancake, and ate it. “Hmm they are good, but they don’t seem to affect me the way they do you.” he chuckled.

I awaited his answer curiously.

“My last foster family.” He’d gone through more than one foster homes? “My foster mother taught her surrogate children to fend for themselves. Our chores included cleaning, cooking, and washing dishes and clothes. No, she didn’t want cheap labor. She did it to teach us how a normal house hold functioned, and to care for ourselves.”

“She sounds smart. I’m guessing you helped her—or them— after you became the all-powerful Daniel Brightmore?” if asked, while sneaking my fork onto his plate to steal a piece of his pan- cake. Mine had disappeared way too fast. He playfully fake- slapped my hand away, and I pouted at him. “Selfish. That’s why no one likes you.”

“You not only like me, you love me, little one.” he fed me a fork full of pancake and gave me a satisfied smile. 

“After my first company became fully successful, I set up a trust fund for the Swansons. It made sense to help them after everything they did, and didn’t, do for me.” I knitted my eyebrows in confusion. 

“They didn’t hit me, or abuse me. Very few children get to spend their years in the system with people who truly care. Richard Swanson taught me how to hold a hammer, use power tools, and fix cars.” 

His voice became more animated as he continued with the story, and those gray eyes smiled at the fondness of the moments he told. “Thanks to him and those skills, I held a few jobs during college. And was able to begin my first company. Last year I moved them to Austin, Texas. They’re getting old, and the weather is nice year-round.”

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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AUTHOR BIO

Claudia lives in Colorado with her family and three dogs. Two beagles who believe they are human, and a bichon who thinks she’s a beagle. While managing life, she works as a CFO at a small IT Company. She’s a dreamer who enjoys music, laughter and a good story.



Author Links:








Friday, January 10, 2014

The Sorcery Code Tour, Review & Giveaway!

The Sorcery Code by Dima Zales
Publication date: December, 2013
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Synopsis:
From the internationally bestselling authors who brought you the Krinar Chronicles comes a captivating tale of intrigue, love, and danger in a world where sorcery is entwined with science . . .

Once a respected member of the Sorcerer Council and now an outcast, Blaise has spent the last year of his life working on a special magical object. The goal is to allow anyone to do magic, not just the sorcerer elite. The outcome of his quest is unlike anything he could’ve ever imagined – because, instead of an object, he creates Her.

She is Gala, and she is anything but inanimate. Born in the Spell Realm, she is beautiful and highly intelligent – and nobody knows what she’s capable of. She will do anything to experience the world . . . even leave the man she is beginning to fall for.

Augusta, a powerful sorceress and Blaise’s former fiancĂ©e, sees Blaise’s deed as the ultimate hubris and Gala as an abomination that must be destroyed. In her quest to save the human race, Augusta will forge new alliances, becoming tangled in a web of intrigue that stretches further than any of them suspect. She may even have to turn to her new lover Barson, a ruthless warrior who might have an agenda of his own . . .



Purchase:
--Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HB8TGVS?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B00HB8TGVS&linkCode=xm2&tag=anzfb-20



Scott
 
The Sorcery Code  by Dima Zales 
 
Review by Scott
 
3 of 5  Stars

 

Dima Zales’ The Sorcery Code is heavy. Everything about the fantasy is leaden with importance. Zales wraps a steamy romance in a tapestry of magic, complete with fish-out-of-water subplots, magical intrigue, political deception, and not to mention the burden of inner conflicts.

Zales’ weighty fantasy is loaded with back-story and cool magical spells such as Life Captures which allow for the user to envelop themselves into another’s life.  Code’s early strength lies in the rich description of the magical world, and the steamy sexual tension between Blaise, Gala, Augusta, Barson. The prose pushes forward with lots of heavy names, history, and themes,  and at times the forced relationships and political dalliances weigh down what should be a more fluid sexy romance fraught with danger. I’m not sure how much the average reader will care about Blaise’s hero Lenard the Great, or Ganir’s invention of Life Captures; most readers will be flipping pages for a bare-chested bar brawl between two hotties, or a steamy courtyard romp with women wearing diaphanous gowns and men in leather armor.  Much of the footwork in Sorcery Code is to set up the world of future adventures, sexual liaisons, and backstabbing socio-geo-political revolutions. 

Gala’s creation from the realm of pure magic is the real conflict of the novel. Blaise has created life. And she’s hot, and  in more than one way. She’s innocent, sexy, smart, potentially dangerous, powerful, and close to Blaise, whose reclusive shunning of all things Council make him a misunderstood outcast to other sorcerer's around. It is his special relationship to magic personified makes him a suddenly powerful pawn. Blaise is now important.

Zales plunges Gala into a world of sensory overload, and the readers are along for a ride as she discovers the world and all the pain that comes from being a living being. In ends up in a wild fight in and outside the Coliseum, and along the way lies are told, flesh is paraded, and lots of magical odds and ends combine to what makes up for an entertaining escape.

Zales is detailed, and so is the world he creates, much of heavy handed and serious, but Zales’s strength lies in the soap opera machinations laid out here.  Essentially a young girl, Gala relationship with Blaise takes on mentor mentee/May December romance traits, while Augusta’s affair with the sneaky and aggressive Barson is a typical bare chested sexual tug of war between fiery physical specimens.  Zales may have set up enough backstory to launch future volumes right into action, or perhaps there’s more world building to come in a series that is sure to entertain urban fantasy readers. Three stars.

This book was provided free of charge as part of the tour for an honest review.

  


AUTHOR BIO
Dima Zales is a full-time science fiction and fantasy author residing in Palm Coast, Florida. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked in the software development industry in New York as both a programmer and an executive. From high-frequency trading software for big banks to mobile apps for popular magazines, Dima has done it all. In 2013, he left the software industry in order to concentrate on his writing career.
Dima holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from NYU and a dual undergraduate degree in Computer Science / Psychology from Brooklyn College. He also has a number of hobbies and interests, the most unusual of which might be professional-level mentalism. He simulates mind-reading on stage and close-up, and has done shows for corporations, wealthy individuals, and friends. To read more, click here!

Author Links:

Burning Cover Reveal

Burning by Rachel Firasek
(Tears of Sin #2)
Publication date: March 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance


Description
“Never say never.”

Gabe James never thought he’d suffer from a broken heart. He never thought he’d have to work for a living. And he sure as hell never thought he’d fall for a woman that carries a torch for the man that is trying to ruin his life.

Jade McKenzie has danced with demons most of her life, and just when she feels like the dark clouds have lifted, a pointless fight with an ex-boyfriend leaves her with a scarred face and ends her ballet career. Now she dances on a stage where the sway of her hips trumps the pirouettes of her past, a mask concealing her marred beauty. But nothing will stop the pain of shattered dreams.

Except love.

With Gabe’s career on the line and the threat of financial ruin blazing on the horizon, he’s guarded against a woman threatening to distract him even further when he needs his focus most. Jade can’t escape the memories of her past or Gabe’s heated glances—even if he swears that it’s her enthralling him. The two together are like kerosene and matches waiting for a spark. For a woman with no future and a man on the verge of losing hope, the only things left to cling to are their determined wills and the promise of a burning love.

***Burning is a New Adult Contemporary Romance recommended for Adult readers due to some violence, language, and sexual content.***


Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19299468-burning?ac=1


AUTHOR BIO:


Rachel Firasek spends her days daydreaming of stories and her nights putting the ideas to ink. She has spent a dull life following the rules, meeting deadlines, and toeing the line, but in her made up worlds, she can let the wild side loose. Her wonderful husband and three children support her love of the written word and only ask for the occasional American Idol or Swamp People quality hour.

She has a philosophy about love. It must devastate or it isn’t truly worth loving. She hopes that you all find your devastating love and cling to it with all your heart! 

Links:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Dark Huntsman Tour & Excerpt!

The Dark Huntsman, A Fantasy of the Black Court
Tales of the Black Court,
Book One
Jessica Aspen

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Publisher: Abracadabra Publishing

Date of Publication: October 2013
ISBN: e-copy: 978-0-9899558-0-5
ISBN: Paperback: 978-0615891682  
ASIN: B00FN2P7A8

Number of pages: 326
Word Count: 88,000 words

Cover Artist: Kari Ayasha of
Cover to Cover Designs

Book Description:

An evil queen, a dangerous man, and a witch, tangled together in a tale of Snow White...

Desperate to save the last of her family from the murderous Faery Queen, Trina Mac Elvy weaves a spell of entrapment. But instead of a common soldier, the queen has released the Dark Huntsman, a full blooded fae with lethal powers.

Caged for treason, Logan Ni Brennan, is ready to do anything to win free of the manipulative queen, even if it includes running a last errand for her…murdering a witch. The sight of Trina, ready to fight despite the odds, gives him another option: use the witch as a chess piece, put the queen’s son on the throne, and bring down the queen forever.

As the queen slides into insanity and her closest advisor makes plans to succeed to the throne, Logan secrets Trina away in the enchanted forest and makes a decisive move in his dangerous game of manipulation. But the gaming tables of fate turn on him, and when Trina’s life is threatened he discovers he risks more than his freedom…he risks his heart.

Dare to enter Jessica Aspen’s world of steamy, fantasy romance in her new twisted fairy tale trilogy: Tales of the Black Court…

Purchase it at Amazon   


Excerpt:

Riding into the dry-as-bones mountains on the back of the puca, Logan’s anger seared bitter in his chest. It rolled off him in waves, pulling thunder down from the sky. He toyed idly with the storm letting his anger draw the danger of the lightening to him as he seethed. Fifteen years away from his hounds. Fifteen years of Solanum’s running wild, the puca causing havoc wherever he went. Fifteen years of Logan’s life eaten away in the hole of the queen’s dungeons.
And now he was to kill witches for the queen. A fact that rubbed him raw.
Humans were amusing companions, why create trouble? Irritated with the brief flare of morality, he smothered it with brutal force. It didn’t fucking matter what he wanted. It never had.
Lightening cracked. The eerie silent hounds of the Dark Hunt tightened around him, their tense glances and snapping teeth reflections of his flaring emotions.
He had no room for second thoughts tonight. The Black Queen had given him no reason why she needed these witches killed, but if he satisfied her it might give him his freedom. At the very least it would give him some space. Maybe some time to figure out a way to stay out of the dungeons. And time to figure out how to truly extricate himself from her bloody dominion.
Because no matter what she had promised him, he knew, there was no way she would simply let him go. Not after the way he had betrayed her.
Solanum tossed his head and bucked. “Quit squeezing my ribs.” Lurid green faery flames leapt from his hooves, igniting short-lived cold fires in the dry Wyoming brush.
“Cease, horse,” Logan said, squeezing his legs a little more. Punching Solanum’s buttons felt good, really good. Just like his wrath at the queen felt good. Justified.
The puca tossed his long mane into Logan’s eyes. “Lay off, or you’ll be eating dirt,” the puca snarled, his nostrils flaring in the dimming light.
Solanum’s irritation put a hard smile on Logan’s lips. He tightened his legs and drove the puca harder down the hill through the brewing storm.
A hound pushed in close. Solanum’s hoof lashed out, connecting with a solid thud. The hound’s yipe sounded inside Logan’s head as he regained his balance, cursing the hound’s behavior and the puca’s intolerance.
He was back. The hounds would get used to him again. And Solanum too.
Thunder crashed in the sky, following him down into the shadowed hills as he approached the witches’ lair. Nostrils burning from the ozone, nerves tingling, he distracted himself with the dark moist wind, manipulating it to blow through the dry autumn brush like a child's tantrum.
He laughed, the spiteful wind stealing away the dark sound as cracks of thunder echoed off the mountains. He let the anger simmer and the lightening moved further away. He wasn’t free yet, and he wasn’t suicidal. What he was, was trapped. And it pissed him off, the frustration riding him like a hag.
What could he do when the queen changed her mind and refused to release him from her service? What if the bitch thought she could use him then put him back into her dungeons Underhill, calling him to her side like a lapdog? He needed a way to show her there would be repercussions. He needed leverage.
In the distance, thunder rumbled and they tipped over the edge of the valley in search of the witch. A wavering glow of candles shone above the last few rocks.
Almost there.
The telltale traces of a spell raised the hair on the back of his neck. He extended his Gift to perceive what he couldn’t yet see. A labyrinth set by a single inexperienced witch. His lips twitched. As protection it might have worked, had the Faery Queen sent her regular henchman. Unluckily for the witch, the queen had unleashed him. The Dark Huntsman.
He would kill the wench, and be done with this thing between himself and the queen of the Tuatha De Dannan. And when the queen refused to release him? He’d deal with that when the time came.
The wind carried the hot dry smell of sage mixed with the smell of fear and musky female. He inhaled the raw flavor of the witch, the taste of her fear and anger and power slid down his throat, easing his rage.
The anxious hounds shifted around him, sensing the proximity of their prey. Solanum rounded the rock.
And there she was.
The sight of her rocked him back like a blow, almost knocking him to the ground. And he realized that despite the stasis, fifteen years had been too long a time to be without a woman.
Glimmers of power limned her naked body and the silver blade of the athame that gleamed between her breasts. Her legs were spread slightly apart, tensed for battle. Long black hair crackled and lifted with static. Her expressive face was poised on the edge of dilemma, her body caught between the need to hold the spell and the need for action.
He paused to let the feel of power and woman roll through him.
Beautiful.
Unexpected.
Green, almond shaped eyes widened. Her stance firmed, her shoulders pulled back, and her full breasts rose, nipples tightened with cold or fear. Something wild and raw he hadn’t felt in a hundred years stabbed low in his gut.
His agenda changed.
The queen wanted to kill the witch. Why? His plan of placating the queen suddenly seemed weak. She’d never let him go without leverage, and here was leverage standing naked and lovely before him. He had a new plan.
Screw the queen.


About the Author:


Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies.

Stop by Jessica’s website and leave a comment to enter Givaways!






Join the Jessica Aspen mailing list! Get the scoop on new releases, sales, plus the chance to win ARCs and participate in special giveaways. http://eepurl.com/zs4Sj



Bad Blood Cover Reveal

Bad Blood 
by Nikki Jefford
(Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter #3)
Publication date: May 2014
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy


Description
Aurora Returns Spring 2014!

BAD IS THE NEW GOOD

Aurora returns from boot camp to a new assignment, an unwelcome roommate, and the increasingly amorous attentions of a certain vampire hunter.

College is starting, and so is Aurora’s undercover work at a network of swanky parties known as “Tastings” for high rolling vampires who like their blood laced with fine wine. But Aurora’s not the only one on the prowl. An underground investigation is under way to find out who killed one of Anchorage’s most prominent vampires… and Aurora is a prime suspect.

(Language, violence, and sexual situations.)

***Don’t miss STAKEOUT, Vol. 2.5, a 53,000 word novella featuring Noel Harper and the entire Aurora Sky gang. Releasing January 2014.***


Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19075697-bad-blood?ac=1

Purchase (book 1): 
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AUTHOR BIO
:


Nikki Jefford is a third generation Alaskan who found paradise in the not-so-tropical San Juan Islands (Wash.) where she is once more neighbors with Canada in a town without a single traffic light. She loves fictional bad boys and heroines who kick butt.

When she's not reading, writing, working, or out on a nature walk, she's out riding her Suzuki DRZ400SM.

Author links:


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dragon Maid Tour & Excerpt!

Dragon Maid
Dragon Lore, Book II
Ann Gimpel

Publisher: Taliesin Publishing
Release Date: 1/2/14

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Dragons have always fascinated me. Creatures fresh out of legend, they tempt the soul to stretch its wings. This book is dedicated to Kheladin and Tarika, two wonderful dragons who live in my imagination and who were generous enough to grace the pages of my books.

Book Description:

Jonathan Shea is a software engineer. When pressed, he admits to being a closet witch, but he’s always been a shade ambivalent about his magic—until a dragon shows up in Inverness, and then all bets are off. Along with others in his coven, Jonathan is both charmed and captivated by the creature fresh out of legend.

Britta is a dragon shifter. Dragged from the Middle Ages by the Celtic gods, she and her dragon prepare for a battle to save Earth. The first human she lays eyes on in modern times is Jonathan. There’s something about him. She can’t quite pinpoint it, but he has way more magic than any witch she’s ever come across before. Aside from magic, Jonathan is drop dead gorgeous. For the first time ever, Britta questions the wisdom of remaining a maid.

Surrounded by dragon shifters, Celtic gods, Selkies, and a heaping portion of magic, Jonathan comes into his own fast. Good thing, too, because fell creatures have targeted him, Britta, and the dragons. In the midst of chaos, he finds passion so poignant and love so heartbreakingly tender, it will change his life forever.



Excerpt:

…Jonathan tried not to stare, but it was a losing battle. The woman—no, the dragon shifter—was the most perfect, the most alluring, creature he’d ever laid eyes on. Tall, with high, rounded breasts, a slender waist, and curvy hips, she looked like a goddess. Who knew? Maybe she was. The Celts had had many deities. He fumbled with his rucksack, pulled out a turkey sandwich on rye bread, and handed it to her.
She yanked the wrappings aside, dropped them onto the floor, and stuffed food into her mouth, chewing quickly. “Ye said there were two of these meat and bread things.” Britta surveyed him, golden eyes alight with interest.
“Yes, I did. If I give you both, I’ll be hungry.”
She shrugged. “Not my problem. Also, I requested mead.”
Jonathan’s lips twitched. He corralled the smile that wanted out. Britta was an imperious bitch, yet there was something so undeniably appealing about her straightforward nature, it was impossible to feel offended. “No mead. At least I don’t have any. We could ask the other witches, or if we found you some clothes, we could go into the city and buy a proper meal, and as much to drink as you wanted.”
She cocked her head to one side and popped the last bite of sandwich into her mouth. “I can go as I am. Shall we walk or use magic, witch?”
“Um, no, you can’t. You’d be arrested.”
She tilted her chin up. “Why? I can see where I might freeze to death, but who would give a jolly fuck whether I’m dressed or not?”
Before he could craft an explanation, Kheladin stalked over, trailed by three female witches stroking the scales on his lower body. “Lachlan kept a clothes chest against the far wall.” He pointed with a talon. “I am certain some of his shirts and tights would work, though there’s little to be done by way of shoes.”
Her gaze landed on a particularly large heap of gold jewelry and coins. “I could borrow a bit of money from your hoard, just a coin or two, and—”
Kheladin’s eyes whirled faster, glittering dangerously. “I doona think so.”
“Well then,” Britta turned a brilliant smile on Jonathan and tapped his chest with her index finger, “he can buy me what I need.” Magic shimmered around her. “Come close, witch. We are leaving.”
Kheladin stumped to Britta’s side. The counter spell he summoned to dampen her power sparkled; strands wrapped around her. Her lips curled in fury, and she raised her hands to call magic of her own. “Not so fast,” Kheladin snapped. “First, ye’ve forgotten ye need clothes. Second, Tarika was in an all-fired hurry to find me. Such a big hurry, ye went without food or rest. Why?”
Britta shook her head so hard her hair danced about her body. She swept the heels of her hands down her cheeks, distorting her perfect features. “Och aye, whatever is wrong with me? Nay, I know the answer. The Morrigan is furious because Lachlan triumphed over the black and red wyverns, and their dragon shifter mages.”
“Good the old battle crow even noticed,” Kheladin growled and breathed a fiery gout of flames.
“She did more than notice. She cast a spell to disrupt our memories. If ye wouldna have reminded me… Hell, ’tis surprised I am we got here at all. The Celtic gods, Gwydion and Arawn, sent us to warn you and Lachlan. They told us their magic would trump hers, but not forever.” One corner of her mouth turned down. “’Twould appear I just ran up against forever. Or mayhap their magic got subverted by your wards.”
“What impact has the Morrigan’s mischief had on the rest of our kind?”
“Those in Fire Mountain are safe so long as they remain there. The casting only traps them when they set foot on Earth.”
“Did the Celts try to neutralize it?”
She cast a look Kheladin’s way that said he should ask something worth her time answering. Johnathan watched the exchange, chest tight with excitement, feeling he’d fallen into one of the old tales where heroes and heroines walked amongst humans.
“All right. Let me try again.” Kheladin sounded exasperated. “Did the Morrigan wake the black wyvern’s mage, Rhukon?”
“’Twas the first thing she did.”
“So all our effort was for naught.” The dragon clanked his jaws together. “I must alert Lachlan. Where did the Celts find you?”
Britta rolled her eyes. “Not in Fire Mountain, though I admit Tarika and I retreated there after Rhukon, Connor, and their dragons teamed with the Morrigan, and things werena looking good. Nay, the Celts plucked us out of the sixteen hundreds, told us enough about what the future held to alarm us, and sent us on our way. I am far from certain, but it seems they might be gathering reinforcements beyond Tarika and me, so ye and Lachlan willna have to fight alone.”
Kheladin inclined his head. “Thank you for coming.”
A warm smile lit her face. It softened her features and made her look barely more than a girl. Jonathan’s cock stiffened where it pressed against his jeans. Breath caught in his throat, and he fought against touching her, running his hands down her golden skin. He drew magic around himself to mask his lust, make it unobtrusive, but she noticed anyway.
Britta turned an appraising glance his way. “Aye, ye’d do well to hide your rut from me.”
Embarrassed at being caught out but curious, too, he asked, “Why?”
She tossed her head at Kheladin. “Tell him, dragon. Mayhap he’ll believe it if he hears it from another, ahem, male.” Her last word dripped sarcasm.
Kheladin blew so much steam he looked like an old-fashioned train. Jonathan bristled. Worse, his cock didn’t seem to be in the mood for retreat. He tried for dignity. “Look. If it’s all the same to you, I’d just as soon move on. I withdraw my question.”
“Nay.” Kheladin got his mirth under control. “Many have tried to mate with Tarika—and Britta too. I believe they fancy themselves reincarnations of Artemis. ’Tis why they bonded one to the other.”
Jonathan’s brows crawled up his forehead. “The virgin huntress?”
“Good ye know your mythology.” Kheladin clanged his jaws shut for the second time.
“I thought you were Celtic,” Jonathan sputtered. “Artemis was Greek.”
Kheladin bathed him in smoke until he bent over coughing. “I picked a deity ye might recognize, witch. Most of our goddesses have fallen out of human memory. How Britta is isna entirely her fault, though.”
She put her hands on her hips and glared. Breasts peeked through a curtain of hair. “I’m not sure whether to thank you or let Tarika out to throttle you. How would I have had the time to either find a mate or attend to him once found?”
“Lachlan dinna have a wife, either.” Kheladin’s tone was mild.
“Aye, but he fucked enough women to make up for it.” Britta narrowed her eyes. “As I recall, there was a string of housekeepers in addition to a bevy of local maids.”
“He was laird of Clan Moncrieffe. ’Twas natural enough maids would wish to be his lady.” Kheladin defended his shifter bond mate.
Jonathan felt as if he’d wandered in at the midpoint of a very old argument. He cleared his throat. “Was there a specific reason neither dragon shifter wed?”
Britta snorted. “Ye know nothing of what it takes to become a dragon shifter. I studied long—as did Lachlan—and forsook much. A man would have just gotten in my way, as would bairns. I could have made certain I dinna conceive, but what man doesna wish heirs?”
Kheladin leaned closer to Jonathan. “Her da was a powerful mage and laird of Cumbria. Many a swain wished to share her bed—and her dowry.”
“Men! Cretins, the lot of them!” Britta threw a hand in the air, spun, and strode toward where Kheladin had indicated Lachlan’s clothing chest was.
Jonathan cleared his throat and sent a thought to Kheladin since he didn’t want to be the butt of Britta’s scorn. “Temperamental, isn’t she?”
“Ye doona know the half of it, laddie. Yet she is courageous—and compassionate. ’Twasn’t accidental the gods picked her to locate us.”
“Guess I’ll wait until she’s dressed and then take her into Inverness. We can find more clothes, some shoes, and a meal.”
“Aye, and then ye must return here. While ye’re gone, I’ll raise Lachlan.”
“Whatever are the two of you whispering about in mind speech? Sounds like a buzzing beehive over here.” Britta sashayed to them wrapped in a cream-colored linen shirt that fell just south of her groin. A pair of black tights was draped over her arm.
Jonathan eyed her. “Are you going to put those on?”
She focused her golden eyes on him and slowly, deliberately, shook out the tights and rolled one leg. Still watching him intently, she raised her leg, giving him a clear view of tight red-gold curls before she shoved it into the woolen pants. Heat raced through him; it was so intense he could barely breathe. His cock strained against his pants. For one long, awkward moment, he was afraid he’d come in his shorts.
For Christ’s sake. I haven’t had this much trouble controlling myself since I was a teenager twenty years ago. Because he couldn’t force himself to look away, he squeezed his eyes shut and thought about breathing. Just breathing. Not about burying himself to the hilt inside her gorgeous pussy. His cock jerked. It didn’t want breathing. It wanted fucking and reminded him it had been months since he’d paid any attention to his sexual needs.
Time passed. Kheladin’s energy pulsed to one side. Jonathan could pick out witches he knew from how their psychic emanations felt. Maybe I should get one of the women to feed her and get her some shoes…
“Och aye, and that wouldna be nearly this much fun,” she purred.
He pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers. “Stay out of my head. A man’s thoughts need to be, well, private.”
She ignored his plea. “Do ye think I’m dressed enough to be decent?” Her scent eddied closer, lavender, musk, and something he couldn’t identify. Maybe amber. “Ye’ll need to open those lovely eyes to answer me.”
He felt her magic zing into him; his eyes snapped open, and he took a couple of steps back. “The only way this is going to work,” he gritted out, “is if you stop teasing me with your body. It really is incredible, but I’m sure you already know that.”
“Is it now? I have lived amongst dragons and our mages for so long, I’d nearly forgotten. But now ye are near and fawning, I find I’ve missed human attention.”
“We all have,” Kheladin cut in. “Yon lad has a point. His cock is ready to burst from his pants. If ye expect him to sit with you, share a meal and mayhap information about this era—about which ye know nothing, I might add—ye will need to behave better.”
“I doona understand.” Britta drew her perfect brows together. “He can simply tap a serving wench, satisfy his lust, and return to my side.”
Jonathan chuckled. “Ha! I always wondered what it was truly like a few hundred years back. There aren’t too many handy serving wenches willing to lift their skirts—or drop their pants, more likely—these days. I’d have to wine them, dine them, at least pretend to care—”
She waved him to silence. “I am starting to understand. I willna flaunt myself, though ’tis great fun to know I can still heat a man’s blood.”
Heat a man’s blood, is it? He bit back a laugh at the idea and the Gaelic inflection in his thoughts. For a moment, he’d sounded just like his da. “You do way more than that.” He let himself look at her. The tights were in place, waist string tied, but she had yet to button the shirt. Apparently sensing his thoughts, she hastily looped square, wooden buttons into their holes.
She held her arms to the side and twirled in place. “There. Will I do?”
He found he could breathe again. Although still aroused, the desperate edge had receded. Jonathan nodded. “Yes. Your magic or mine?”
“Yours. I am still depleted from my travels.”
He glanced at Kheladin, now surrounded by ten witches, all patting and fussing over him. The dragon almost glowed beneath their attention. “How soon do you need us back?”
Kheladin bathed him in steam. “I would verra much like to tell you to take your time, but I fear ’tis something we may well be running short of. Enjoy a meal. Find the lass some footwear and a warm jacket. Mayhap other clothes that fit her better. Then return.”
“Ye can link to me if something happens,” Britta said.
Kheladin included her in the steam bath. “Aye, ’tis been long since I’ve had another dragon shifter—at least one on our side—near to hand. Thanks to you again for coming.”
“My pleasure. Once we return, Tarika and I want to know about the magic that allows ye and Lachlan the freedom of your bodies yet maintains the bond.” She turned to Jonathan. “I stand ready, witch.”
“Wait.” Kheladin held up a foreleg and chanted a few notes mingled with fire. “There, my wards are open.”
Jonathan threw his rucksack over a shoulder. He summoned magic, wrapped them in it, and aimed for a thick grove in one of Inverness’ many parks. If they got very lucky, they wouldn’t disturb a couple in the midst of enjoying one another. The cave’s walls glimmered, thinned, and turned to black as he ferried them away from Kheladin and the phalanx of adoring witches.
Providence was on his side. It was dim where he brought them out in a thick hawthorn grove. And cold. He slid his iPhone from a pocket and glanced at the time. Just closing on seven. Not so bad, except it meant they’d need to shop first, else the stores would shut for the night.
Britta inhaled noisily. “It smells odd.” She drew closer to him. “Is the air poisoned?”
“It’s just car exhaust. The air’s better here than in a truly big city.”
“Car exhaust? Neither word means aught.”
Where to begin? “Let’s get you some clothes. I’ll explain what I can over dinner. In the meantime, it might be best if you didn’t ask too many questions.”
She drew herself up and squared her shoulders. “And why not?”
“You don’t want people to think you’re odd. Or that you don’t belong here.”
A shiver ran through her body. He glanced down and saw her shift from one bare foot to the next on chill, damp ground. “Come on.” He hooked a hand beneath her arm and tugged. “Shoes first. Then clothes.”
She fell into step beside him. “They will have to measure me. It takes several days to craft a pair of boots.”
“Not anymore. We’ll find what you need readymade.”
“Really? Will the quality be acceptable?”
Spoken like a true countess. “Probably not, but you’ll make do. It’s better than being cold and barefoot.” He tightened his hold on her arm, wanting to protect her, care for her. It would take her time to get used to the modern world—if she stayed here long enough to learn about it. Jonathan examined the feelings coursing through him. Was it possible she’d snared him in some sort of spell?
“I did no such thing.” Enough outrage ran beneath her words, he believed her.
“Look here.” He kept his voice low. “You have to stay out of my thoughts.”
“But how else will I know about them?”
He chuckled. “How about if you ask me questions and satisfy yourself with what I’m willing to share. Turn this way.” He pushed open a swinging door and followed her into a brightly lit shoe store. He blinked a few times to ease the transition from daylight to neon.
She shielded her eyes with a hand. “What manner of magic creates light this strong?”
“Hush. We call it electricity. Come on.” He guided her to a display rack and selected a serviceable pair of lace up boots. “What do you think of these?”
She wrinkled her nose. “They’re ugly and shoddily made.” She flicked a loose thread with a fingertip.
“Then you pick something.”
She glanced about and trailed her hands over tennis shoes and sandals as she walked through the store. After oohing and aahing over several pairs of high heels, she let him guide her back to the place they’d begun. “Britta. It’s summer, but the nights are always on the chilly side. Your feet will get cold unless you get sturdy boots and socks. How about if we try these.” He pointed. “And those.” He pointed again.
“I suppose ye’re right. Do ye think either could be dyed black?”
A clerk had been hovering. “We have that style in black, ma’am. What size should I get for you?” He glanced down and inhaled audibly. “B-but you’re barefoot. Your feet must be freezing.”
Color stained Britta’s cheeks. “’Tisn’t so bad as all that, laddie.”
Jonathan thought quickly. He closed his hand around Britta’s arm and gave it a warning squeeze, hoping she’d understand not to contradict him. “My sister just gave birth. Err, twins. Her feet got bigger. Much bigger. Nothing fits but her house slippers, and she was too embarrassed to wear them. How about if you measure her?”
“Certainly. If you’d just sit over there?” The clerk gestured to a bank of chairs.
After shooting Jonathan an annoyed look, Britta followed the clerk.
An hour later, they had two pairs of shoes, one black, one brown, socks, underwear, three pairs of warm corduroy pants, sweaters, T-shirts, and two jackets. Jonathan was a thousand pounds poorer but considered the funds well spent. She’d stopped trying to seduce him from the moment they’d left Kheladin’s cave, which meant he’d simply enjoyed her company.
She led the way out of the clothing store he’d selected after they finished with the shoe store and turned to him. “Can we get something to eat now?” Both of them were laden with bags.
“Sure. What do you feel like?”
She leaned close. “I doona know. Everything here is so strange, I feel I am playacting, yet without knowing my lines. Pick something. Simple food and stiff spirits.”
“Have you heard anything from Kheladin?”
She shook her head. “Nay, but Tarika isna pleased. She believes we waste valuable time. ’Tis possible she will settle once we find food. She is hungry.”
Jonathan considered their options. He didn’t want to bring her to a noisy pub where they’d have to strain to hear one another. Nor did he want a nightclub. He looked up and down one of Inverness’ main streets. His gaze settled on a smallish place where a sign promised EXCELLENT FOOD IN AN INTIMATE ATMOSPHERE. Sounded perfect.
“Let’s try over there. Maybe we’ll have enough privacy to answer some of those questions I’ve seen dancing behind your eyes.”
She smiled at him. Really smiled without coquettish edges. “Ye’ve been truly kind to me. I apologize for…well, for how I was earlier. I shouldna have been such a tease.”
“Apology accepted. I do understand, though.”
She cocked her head to one side. “Do ye?”
He grinned. “Sure. Sex is power. Or it can be. But being friends is better.”
She grinned back. “To friendship, then. Find us a bottle, and we can drink to it.”



About the Author


Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent.  Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing.  A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. She’s published 19 books to date, with several more contracted for 2014.

A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
          
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)