Saturday, January 31, 2015

Courtlight and Crown Service blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Courtlight and Crown Service
Terah Edun
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult


The Courtlight Series

When peasant girl Ciardis is chosen for a position at court, she travels across the empire to begin a new life. To survive, she’ll need to master intrigue, befriend a crown prince, and learn to control magical abilities she never knew existed.

The Crown Service Series

As an unstoppable war breaks out between the mages of the Algardis Empire, young Sara Fairchild enlists in the empress’s army to find out exactly what everyone’s trying to hide. But there are secrets on both sides of the battle that will make her question everything…



"No, you can't," said Ciardis flatly. "I may be inexperienced, but I'm not stupid. Your own courtiers are trying to kill you, and your social standing is next to nil. Any of my other prospective Patrons would be a much more suitable pick, in particular because they want me for me. You need me, but for how long?”
            Sebastian opened and closed his mouth. He bit his lip, thinking, apparently trying to come up with something that would convince her to accept his proposal. Then, hesitantly, he said, "You're right—I'm not offering you a marriage, a family, or a warm hearth to crochet by. I'm offering you an adventure, and a chance to save your empire. Everyone needs something to inspire them, and can you really say that managing household accounts will do that for you?"

Ten minutes passed, then twenty, and suddenly a cloaked figure emerged out of the evening fog. Walking toward Ciardis with a confident stride, the figure pulled the hood back and Ciardis could see her clearly. It was Stephanie in tight pants, a white shirt, and, oddly enough, with a sword at her waist.
            “Thank you for coming,” said Ciardis.
            “Let’s go inside,” said Stephanie, looking around the street quickly.
            Going in, the two grabbed the nearest table. A waitress came up immediately and asked for their order. As she was preparing to go back to the kitchens, the waitress snapped her fingers at Stephanie to get her attention, “No hidden magical weapons. Tavern rule.”

                When Inga finally finished her meal a half-hour later, Ciardis was fairly bursting with questions. She knew very little about frost giants but she did know the human mantra: They were deadly, they were evil, and they were stupid. For a stupid, deadly, and evil creature, Inga ate with a delicacy that rivaled that of most villagers. Picking her teeth clean with a sharp bone and tearing bread neatly to soak up the broth weren’t exactly high court manners, but her behavior certainly beat the ravenous, bloodthirsty beasts Ciardis had always assumed a frost giant to be.
            And it wasn’t just Inga. The frost giant warriors surrounding her ate, laughed, and sharpened their weapons just like a normal group of soldiers. They also didn’t appear to be cannibals with sixty claws like daggers on their hands. As she snuck glances around as she finished her meal, Ciardis was flummoxed. She continued to search, but there was one thing she didn’t see: frost giant men. Every single warrior in the encampment was female. It wasn’t hard to tell with the skimpy leather and fur outfits they wore; weapons weren’t the only things on display.

He nodded while leaning over on his knees and panting heavily. “Man, killing people is exhausting.”
            She lifted an eyebrow but didn’t bother mentioning he hadn’t actually killed anyone.
            “Good work with those men and with our traitorous sun mage over there,” said Sara. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
He flushed with praise and she turned to march over to a pinned Nissa with a smile.
            The woman was stuck to the tree with an arrow through her shoulder, but she didn’t flinch or beg for mercy. In fact, she lifted her chin proudly and met her captor head-on.
            “Hurts, doesn’t it?” Sara said mockingly.
            Nissa looked at her with fury in her eyes.

Might as well come out,” she said. “I know you’re here.”
Then the cloak fell. A man stood in front of her. Ezekiel stood in front of him with a sharp knife held at his throat. The man was gripping him tightly. Sara quickly spotted one other man with his back turned to the three of them about six rows back.
“Nice trick,” she said. She carefully took in the situation. She wondered if she was dealing with a mage, but she didn’t think so. Her battle instincts told her she was dealing with a normal man. Those instincts were almost never wrong. However, there was something magical about him. Narrowing her eyes, she realized it was the pendant around his neck. It was giving off an aura of old magic. She was impressed.
Haven’t seen one of those before, she thought.

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Terah Edun's next YA Fantasy novel, BLADES OF MAGIC - Crown Service Book #1 (set in the Algardis Universe), will release on March 31, 2014. Book Five of Courtlight, SWORN TO DEFIANCE, will release in April 2014.

Her favorite writers include Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, Robin Hobb and Maria Snyder.

Check out Terah's author website ( for more information about her books, find her online @TEdunWrites and subscribe to her newsletter ( to be notified of upcoming releases.

Author links:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Toxic Love Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Toxic Love
Jax Garren

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Publisher: SilkWords

Date of Publication:  July 12, 2014

ISBN: 9781941847015

Number of pages: 187
Word Count:  47,670
Cover Artist: Indie Designz

Book Description: 

Future Las Vegas is as crazy as ever — even after toxic gas bombs have poisoned the air and moved the party  inside.

Hired as an entertainer, Chloe moves from the heartland with big dreams of fame and fortune...until an accident exposes her to the gas, and it's discovered she's genetically immune to the poison.

Now Vegas wants her enrolled in a dating program created to encourage immune breeding.

Will she opt out and return to the rich ex she left behind? Stay and play for the chance at fame on the stage? Or can a gorgeous scientist who's also immune tempt her heart?


SilkWords is the go-to source for interactive romance and erotic fiction.

With gorgeous custom covers and a clean, sophisticated design, the SilkWords site offers a secure, upscale reading environment. In addition to content on their web site, they offer stories for purchase in the standard e-book formats.

SilkWords is owned and operated by a full-time mom with a background in genetics and an RWA RITA-nominated, multi-published sci-fi romance author.

Their technology guy and site designer was the founder of Microsoft Xbox Live.

SilkWords features two formats that allow readers to choose how the stories will proceed.

Pick Your Path:

Will she or won't she? With which man (or woman) in which location? With Pick Your Path romance, you decide. Romance and branched fiction are made for each other, like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream...positions, partners, and paraphernalia, oh my!

Reader Vote:

Readers vote at choice points and decide how the story will continue. These stories are a great way for readers and authors to connect. It’s exciting to be part of a developing story!


Toxic Freefall

Chloe Parikh had never been to Las Vegas. She’d never been skydiving. Hell, she’d never been outdoors, surrounded by the Tox75 poison with only a thin layer of plastic between her and near-instant death. Today was a lot of firsts.
Her heart rate picked up as the clock counted down to the moment the door would open and she’d launch into the sky. Adrenaline made her blood pump and her head rush with a thrill like she’d never experienced in staid Oklahoma City. She was going to like living in Vegas.
No. She was going to love it.
Her tandem master slapped her on the butt as he headed for the closed door of the airplane. “You’ll be fine, sweet-cheeks.”
She stiffened, ready to snap at him. He’d never lay a hand on one of the eight rich kids paying top dollar for this jump. Yeah, she was an entertainer and this trip was paid for by her new employer, but she wasn’t that kind of entertainer.
One look at his amused grin and she bit back the words. Jeremiah, her favorite “brother” and fellow military orphan at the city home she’d grown up in had always said, “Better than fear, anger is.” He might’ve missed Yoda’s point, but pissing her off had been his remedy whenever she got scared, and damn if it hadn’t worked every time. The memory softened her ire.
Maybe Butt Slap the Tandem Man was trying to calm her nerves. Since she was about to have a near-death experience with his genitals strapped to her ass, she decided to go with that theory. No snappy retort then, just an exaggerated eye roll and the pointy finger of warning.
He laughed, friendly-like, before securing his face shield. “Suit up. Time to fly.”
Fear made her palms sweat as she secured her helmet to her vac suit. Once again, she checked the seals running down her front and at her collar. Less than a second of exposure and the only one who could save her was Jesus. With her history she wasn't too sure he'd bother.
She checked the seals a third time.
The crew chief unlocked the cabin door, and her tension ratcheted up, fear competing with exhilaration. Here was another almost-first, one that felt more fundamental than the others, more primal and significant, even if few Americans ever did experience it. She hadn’t been outside in twenty years, since she was three and the air was clean—or at least clean-ish. She barely remembered the feeling.
“Everyone secure?” the crew chief called. Tandem Man rechecked her helmet and suit, gave a thumbs up, and hooked the first line of his harness to hers.
The crew chief released the pressure gauge, counted to three, and opened the door to the blazing sunrise over Las Vegas. The engine’s hum became a storm of noise. Although the wind didn't whip into the cabin like Chloe had expected, the toxic air was still present, mingling with theirs, testing each vac suit for entry. But nobody keeled over, and her shoulders relaxed.
A whistling whine put her back on alert. It was probably normal, nothing to worry about. But Tandem Man motioned forward—hastily? Was he nervous, too? He shouldn't be nervous—and Chloe ambled towards the hatch, each step a clumsy misfire with the man at her back.
The whistling got louder. The closest jumper to the door yanked the straps of his partner's harness, tightening them in careless hurry then flung himself out backward in a fashion not approved by the morning's flying class. A lone jumper launched next, head first.
There was something to worry about.
“Move!” TandemMan yelled as he practically scooped Chloe up.
The whistling stopped.
Light burst outside the door. The cabin shook, and a deafening boom reverberated. She and TandemMan pitched forward, slamming headfirst into the hull and bouncing to the deck. The impact knocked the wind out of her, and she gasped for air, thanking the heavens the helmet had saved her brains.
She tried to stand, but TandemMan wasn't making it easy. “Are you all right?” She shouted over the chaos. “What should I do?”
He scrambled drunkenly—he must've rammed his head a good one—and together they lurched to standing.
“Count to twenty and pull.” He grabbed her hand and clasped it at his back. “Here.”
“Why are you telling me this?” she yelled, praying it was highly unnecessary information but keeping a death grip on the parachute's ripcord anyway.
He stumbled them toward the hatch, and she craned her neck around to see him.
The blood drained from her face and her skin went cold. “Oh my God. Your mask...” is cracked. If poisoned air wasn't seeping in now, it would be any moment. He needed a seal immediately, or he was a dead man. If he wasn’t already.
He pitched them out the door.
Another missile exploded behind the plane, and she screamed in fear and frustration. A shower of sparks sizzled around them as they dove head first away from the dying aircraft.
She started counting.
Wind attacked her with more freezing force than she'd expected as they plummeted toward the bonanza of color and texture that was her new home. “Eighteen, seventeen…”
The flopping weight of her tandem master drifted them horizontally. He wasn’t moving, at least not under his own control. “Thirteen, twelve…”
The plane, away to her left now, barreled toward the mountains as more jumpers flung themselves out in a colorful trail of human confetti. Panic dug at her insides as she fell with a possibly dead man on her back and explosives in the air. “Seven, six…”
War was all she had ever known—her parents had died in it and Jeremiah had enlisted to join it—but there had to be a better way to live than lethal air and sporadic bombings. Maybe she'd ditch performing and marry Eli, her rich ex, if he promised to take her to the Montana Rockies where there were still clean, cold villages high in the mountains.
No, Eli was a non-negotiable. She could steal a boat and smuggle herself to South America, land of clear skies and infinite beauty. Land of plenty and promise. Her grandparents were from India; she could pass for Latino. Or she could in the movies, anyway.
“One.” She pulled the ripcord and the parachute blasted open, yanking their free-fall to a lazy ride. But now she had to do something more complicated than count. They were supposed to end up on The Strip where suited camera crews were waiting to film her arrival. That sort of precision landing might be fine for an expert, but Chloe had a bad feeling her parachute was about to impale itself on the Vegas version of the Eiffel Tower. Sure, she’d paid attention in class but had assumed TandemMan would be doing the tricky parts.
She sucked in a cold breath, steeling herself for the next few minutes. She'd assumed wrong. Alive or dead—God, somehow may he be alive—TandemMan was out for the landing. Whatever happened next was up to her.
A jerk on the toggles turned them away from Paris and toward the Bellagio. A minute later her feet barely crested a railing. TandemMan’s hooked then released. They skimmed the water in front of the erupting fountain to the bombastic notes of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries.”
She yanked again on the toggles, trying to do the flaring thing the instructors had talked about. They slowed, and for a moment Chloe walked on water as the fountain cascaded and sang.
The parachute deflated, and they sank. Hoping she correctly remembered which side had the release and which had the spare chute, she pulled on the right of TandemMan's harness. To her relief, the parachute floated away.
Stretching down, the balls of her feet touched the sloped fountain floor. Half sliding, half-dog-paddling, she strained to keep her partner's head above water—not that it would do any good, but she wasn't ready to accept that yet—as she made a grueling path toward the bridge and the horde of cameras and HazMat suits swarming the street.
Welcome to Las Vegas.

About the Author:

Jax Garren, author of hot, urban paranormal romance series Austin Immortals and The Tales of the Underlight, is descended from Valkyries and Vikings (she’s part Swedish) but was raised a small town girl in the Texas Hill Country. She graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in Latin and stayed in Austin to teach high school. During her eight years in public education she was in a riot, broke up fights, had cops storm her class with guns drawn… and met the most amazing young people who taught her more about life and hope than she taught them about any school subject.

Jax believes in heroes and happily-ever-afters. She’s been married thirteen years to a handsome engineer who is saving the world through clean energy technology. They recently became foster parents, leading to more adventures than she can legally discuss. Jax’s fictional heroine is the tough but feminine Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jax blames that movie for her lifelong dream of traveling to Nepal. Though Jax has yet to experience Himalayan monasteries and drink yak butter tea—important components of a Nepalese excursion—she loves to travel. Her favorite adventure so far found her in Arctic Norway where she saw the Northern Lights and ate the world’s most delicious slice of apple cake.

Jax can be found at, at or on Twitter as @JCGarren. She loves meeting new people, so online or in person, feel free to give her a Viking “Hail!”


Just Let Me Love You - Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Just Let Me Love You 
S.R. Grey
(Judge Me Not #3)
Publication date: January 27th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance


No one ever said a lasting love would be easy.

When Chase and Kay hit the streets of Las Vegas, the goal is simple—rescue Will, Chase’s brother, from making the biggest mistake of his young life. But keeping Will out of trouble turns out not to be the only obstacle in Chase and Kay’s path. Finding himself back in the city that broke him, Chase’s heartbreaking past threatens to derail all the progress he’s made.

However, Chase is determined not to let that happen.

While striving to help Will before he implodes, Chase seeks to come to terms with the things that almost destroyed him. He soon discovers that the answers to the most complicated questions sometimes lie in one’s own heart. You just have to be willing to dig deep enough to find them.

Can Chase succeed in doing that?

Just Let Me Love You is a story of healing, letting go, and trusting love to guide you. The conclusion of the Judge Me Not trilogy brings everything full circle.

New Adult Romance

*mature themes including explicit sex scenes and profanity*

Third and final novel in the Judge Me Not series/trilogy.

Amazon (US):
Amazon (UK):
Barnes & Noble:

Buy links for the first two books in the Judge Me Not trilogy:
--I Stand Before You (Judge Me Not #1):

--Never Doubt Me (Judge Me Not #2):



I touch his lips, mouthing the word, “Soft.”
He smiles.
I laugh. 
Lowering my hand, I grasp his solid bicep. “Hard,” I nod and raise my eyebrows. “Actually very hard,” I add. “Impressive.”
This time, Chase laughs.  But he quiets when I skim my hand across his chest and stop at his heart. “Soft” I whisper, “so very soft.”
Chase grabs up my hand. “Kay…”
His eyes on mine say everything he does—or cannot—say.
“Go,” I tell him, turning away. “Go, before I try and stop you.”
I hear him sigh.
I hear him close the door.
And then he’s gone.

The outcome of this night is now in fate’s hands.   

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S.R. Grey is an Amazon Top 100 and Barnes & Noble Top 100 Bestselling author. She is the author of the popular Judge Me Not series, as well as the Inevitability duology and A Harbour Falls Mystery trilogy. Ms. Grey’s novels have appeared on Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists in multiple categories, including #1 on the Barnes & Noble Nook Bestsellers list last year.

New novels slated for 2015 release dates are Inevitable Circumstances (Inevitability #2), and a New Adult novel to be revealed in the future.

Ms. Grey resides in Pennsylvania. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree, as well as an MBA. Her background is in business, but her true passion lies in writing. When not writing, Ms. Grey can be found reading, traveling, running, or cheering for her hometown sports teams.

Author links:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wolf's Song Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Wolf’s Song
Black Hills Wolves
Taryn Kincaid

Genre: Paranormal romance

Publisher: Decadent Publishing

Date of Publication: January 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61333-676-2

Number of pages: 59
Word Count: 19,000

Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

Book Description:

Ten years ago, visions of death and the babble of lupine voices in his head, drove lone wolf Brick Northridge to challenge his cruel and greedy pack alpha. Beaten by the alpha’s thugs and banished from the pack, Brick lives a life of seclusion in a mountain cabin in the Black Hills.

Born into a rival clan of feline shifters, skinwalker Summer McCoy, in her guise as a raven, watches Brick from afar, giving him back a reason to live through her sweet songs and special gifts.

But when her clan attempts to tear them apart and threatens the pack that banished Brick so many years before, will their love be strong enough to withstand the forces bent on their destruction?

Pre-Order at Amazon: 


Summer McCoy perched in the uppermost branches of her special Ponderosa pine, in raven guise, engaging in her favorite pastime, spying on the lone wolf chopping wood below. Two days’ worth of whiskers shadowed his rigid jaw. She loved when he forgot—or didn’t bother—to shave. Scruffy stubble suited him.

The sun beat down on the back of his bronzed neck and shone on his hair, the color of roasted coffee, a shade lighter than the dark shadow that charcoaled his face.

She fluffed her feathers in anticipation. Take your shirt off, Brick.

She’d heard the giant werebear, Gee, call him that name a decade ago. He’d made some joke about a wall and the hardness of the male’s head. But Brick hadn’t laughed back then. Not ever.

He’d fascinated her from the moment he’d arrived in the glade, bruised and battered. Once she’d learned his name, she’d treasured it, taking pleasure from repeating it often. Secretly, of course. Unwrapping the syllable frequently to admire its radiance in the privacy of her tree house, the way a woman wearing pearls against her warm skin enhanced their luminosity and iridescence.

Now, as if he’d heard her silent urging, he complied with her plea, shrugging out of the plaid flannel and flinging it onto a tree stump. Her beak opened as she sucked in breath. Sweat glistened on his torso, glazing rippling pecs and abs, shoulders broad enough to span the Badlands. A huge, incredible specimen of masculinity. Thick biceps flexed as he wielded the ax. Her heart beat faster than a hummingbird’s wings. Heat licked her.

About the Author:

Taryn Kincaid is a former award-winning reporter and columnist, covering everything from fires and homicides, to corrupt politicians and hero dogs. Nowadays, she haunts courthouses (in least paranormal way).

She is the author of the Sleepy Hollow series--LIGHTNING,THUNDER,FROST,HEAT WAVE and IN FROM THE COLD -- sexy paranormal romances for Decadent Publishing's popular 1Night Stand series; BLIZZARD, a short erotic romance for Decadent's The Edge line; HEALING HEARTS, a Regency romance from Carina Press, and SLEEPY HOLLOW DREAMS, an erotic paranormal romance from The Wild Rose Press. Books 1-4 of her Sleepy Hollow series, plus Blizzard, have been compiled in the SLEEPY HOLLOW edition, available in paperback and digital formats.

Coming January 30, 2015, WOLF’S SONG, a sexy paranormal romance for Decadent Publishing's new Black Hills Wolves shifter line. And coming February 24, 2015 from Fated Desires Publishing, IF YOU CAN'T STAND THE HEAT, a contemporary foodie romanceCheck out the fun videos for Thunder, Lightning and Frost.

Visit Taryn at her website  or her blog  as well as Twitter, Facebook , Amazon and Goodreads.

Isla's Oath blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Isla’s Oath 
Cassandra Page
(Isla’s Inheritance #2)
Publication date: January 20th 2015
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult


Australia is a long way from the Old World and its fae denizens … but not far enough.

Isla is determined to understand her heritage and control her new abilities, but concealing them from those close to her proves difficult. Convincing the local fae she isn’t a threat despite her mixed blood is harder still. When the dazzling Everest arrives with a retinue of servants, Isla gets her first glimpse of why her mother’s people are hated … and feared.

But Isla isn’t the only one with something to hide. Someone she trusts is concealing a dangerous secret. She must seek the truth and stop Everest from killing to get what he wants: Isla’s oath.


“Can I help you all?” A large woman came out from behind the counter, her sudden appearance making me jump. I hadn’t seen her until she moved. Her red and gold gypsy-style shirt camouflaged perfectly with the rug hanging on the wall behind her.
“Just browsing, thanks.” I smiled at her. She didn’t smile back.
“Your friend there like art?” The woman indicated Ryan with a jut of her chin.
“He’s a painter.”
She brightened—I noticed a few old spots of paint on her jeans—and lumbered over to Ryan. However, she kept a gimlet eye on the rest of us to make sure we didn’t steal anything. Very welcoming.
Bored, Sarah and I waited by the jewellery stand. “I’m dreading getting back to the cabin,” my cousin admitted, brushing sweat-damped tendrils back from her face. “It’s going to be an oven.”
“Why don’t we use the barbeques to cook dinner?” I suggested, wiping my palms on my denim shorts. My nausea was growing. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to eat dinner. Stupid honeycomb. “At least that won’t heat up the cabin any further.”
“Good idea.” Her eyes lit up. “Then we can go down to the beach for a swim afterwards. To cool off.”
“Hey, Isla,” Dominic said, walking towards us. He was holding something black in one hand. “I was thinking about getting this as a present for your dad, to thank him for paying for the trip.” He held the object out to show me, a lump vaguely shaped like a curvy woman with her arms together above her head.
I squeaked and leaped back, my shoulder thumping into a hanging wind chime. Wooden tubes clanked furiously. The shop’s owner shouted something, but I didn’t hear it.
The sculpture was iron. And I’d nearly taken it from him.
Dominic stared at me with wide eyes, the sculpture still outstretched. The storeowner barrelled over and snatched it off him as though he was brandishing it.

Swallowing hard, I fled.

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Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat—despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres—although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

Author links:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Forged in Fire Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Forged in Fire
The Vessel Trilogy
Book One
Juliette Cross

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Publisher:  Samhain Publishing, Ltd

Date of Publication:  January 27, 2015

ISBN: 9781619224919

Number of pages: 318 pages
Word Count: 98,000

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Book Description:

She never knew this demon world existed. Now she just wants to survive it.

Genevieve Drake never needed a man to come to her rescue. Not until the night of her twentieth birthday, when some dude nearly chokes her to death in an alley behind a New Orleans Goth club. And a hot stranger splits the guy in half, rips a monster from inside, and incinerates it into ash.

The hunky rescuer? Jude Delacroix—Dominus Daemonum, Master of Demons, now her guardian, whether she likes it or not. But she’s seriously beginning to like it.

Her would-be murderer turns out to be only the first of many minions of the demon prince, Danté, who has all kinds of lascivious and sadistic plans. Which means when the formidably beautiful Jude offers his protection, Genevieve has no problem accepting it.

For Jude and his fellow demon hunters tell her she is a Vessel, one who is born to serve the Light, but can be corrupted into a weapon of darkness. And to survive, she must trust a man whose unearthly eyes promise heaven…but whose powers unleash hell.

Warning: Contains a dark and brooding demon hunter who harbors even darker secrets, a snarky heroine who’s being hunted by every demon in the underworld, and a sadistic demon prince with a fancy for violent sexual encounters.

Available at Amazon  BN  Kobo


Chapter One

I glimpsed my reflection in the mirror-backed elevator. Long legs in dark blue skinny jeans, red top that fit a little too well, and straightened black hair falling to the middle of my back. Along with Mindy’s Ferrari-red lipstick, I looked…
“Smokin’ hot. You’ve got some serious junk in the trunk too.”
“Shut. Up.”
I glared in the mirror at my best friend, her perfect blonde self beaming at me with a syrupy-sweet smile.
“Seriously, I will wipe that smirk off your face.”
“Oh, come on, Gen. You look amazing, and you know it. I wish I had half your curves. Don’t be so grumpy. Tonight, I want you to relax. Nothing else to worry about. Just have fun.”
I glanced down at her baby blues pleading with me to loosen up.
“Nothing to worry about. Fun. Got it.” I smiled.
“Awesome. Now let’s go celebrate!”
We were total opposites in just about every way. She was petite, slender and tan. I had inherited my height and dark hair from my dad. But my milk-pale skin and ice-blue eyes came from my mother.
“Stop brooding,” muttered Mindy.
“I’m not.”
Right before the elevator doors opened, Mindy shifted and glanced sideways under long lashes. A telltale sign of guilt I recognized from our long friendship.
“What, Mindy? What did you do?”
“Nothing,” she protested too innocently. “I forgot to mention that Steven is coming with us.”
The elevator dinged. The door opened.
“You did not set me up on a date tonight,” I grated out.
“No, I promise! Not a date. He just wanted to come along. As a friend. That’s all.”
I eyed her with suspicion. “Whatever. But, I am not on a date. This is my night, remember?”
“Yes! Of course! Your night.”
She hooked her arm through mine as we entered the lobby of her mother’s upscale New Orleans condo. I was still surprised by what an unemployed divorcee could afford, but then I glanced at Mindy. She was a perfect miniature of her mother. An endless stream of wealthy men in this city were willing to bestow treasures on attractive, charming women. I kept hoping Mindy would choose more wisely. Sadly, she had the same sort of taste in men as her mother.
We waltzed into the lobby, arm in arm, clip-clopping across white marble to a set of gold brocade sofas. Her boyfriend, Dazzling Dave, jumped up along with his buddy, Slippery Steve.
“Ladies, ladies. You two look divine.”
Seriously? I wish Mindy would find a new boyfriend and fast. His lines were nauseating. He gave us his signature smile, beaming his super-straight and over-bleached teeth.
“Hi, David,” she gushed, instantly gluing herself to his side.
Steven stepped up, eyeing me from top to toe. “Hello, Gen. You look awesome. Ready to celebrate?”
“Hey, Steven. Thanks. Ready as I’ll ever be.”
I tried not to grind my teeth as we pushed through the glass doors into the night. I wanted to stay angry at Mindy for dragging Steven along. She knew that our failed blind date nearly a month ago still had me on edge every time someone mentioned going to the movies. Seriously, I didn’t realize that watching a Will Ferrell comedy in the dark was a contact sport—not until I went out with Slippery Steve.
The ride downtown in David’s convertible definitely lightened my mood. Cool night air hinted at autumn. Canal Street buzzed with life. Neon lights blazed from one end to the other, highlighting everything from liquor stores to Commander’s Palace. Partygoers laughed, sauntered, and half stumbled along the sidewalks. The din of honking horns chorused energy and life. Rather than turn left toward the French Quarter where the buzz became downright noisy, we hung a right. I had no idea where we were going. Mindy had kept it all hush-hush, wanting to surprise me.
The New Orleans business district bustled during the daytime, but now the streets were near empty. All the shops and offices stood dark and closed. Apparently something was still open or Mindy wouldn’t have dragged us down here. David parallel parked on a side street, folding the top up with a click on the dash.
“Let’s go, ladies.”
“Come on, Gen!” Mindy squealed as she scooted out.
I smoothed down my hair, unable to keep from laughing at her enthusiasm. “I take it you’re excited?”
“You’re going to love this place. Promise.”
One block over, David led us down a few steps into a basement club underneath a fluorescent-green sign reading Tartarus. A broad, beefy guy took my license at the door, scanning it without expression. He blinked twice, then handed it back to me, saying in a monotone voice, “Happy birthday.”
“Thanks, Sunshine.” I gave him my brightest smile.
His mouth quirked at the corners, then straightened again to a grim line. I loved throwing people off-balance.
Mindy pulled me, literally, bouncing into the club. The beat pumped right through my body, vibrating to my bones. Laser lights flicked and twisted around the room, pulsing to the rhythm of the house music. While Tweedledee and Tweedledum went for drinks, I pulled Mindy out to the dance floor. A drinker I was not, but dancing? Hell yeah.
Making our way through the throng to the middle of the dance floor, Mindy and I moved our bodies to the rhythm pulsating around us. I loved this feeling of elation when I relaxed my inhibitions. I spent so much of my time behaving calm and controlled, but here, I could let loose and dance with my best friend. No matter that we were crushed between sweaty bodies reeking of cigarette smoke, hard liquor and musky cologne—I felt free. I laughed. Mindy threw her head back and laughed with me.
A tall sandy-haired guy beelined for us. He passed Mindy and started dancing behind me. Why is it that every Timberlake-wannabe thinks he can grind on a girl when she’s having a perfectly good time dancing without him? I maneuvered closer to Mindy, rolling my eyes so he couldn’t see. She smirked with a sympathetic tilt of the head, but the guy was not taking the hint. Seriously? I needed to warn him off. He put his hands on my hips, pressing even closer. I restrained from kneeing him in that most sensitive spot for men, wanting to keep my birthday as trouble free as possible.
“No thanks.” I pushed his hands away.
By some divine fortune, he didn’t put them back, but leaned close, warm breath on my ear.
“You’re really hot.”
I nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s really hot. Need something to drink.”
I pointed toward the bar, pulling Mindy along with me. A quick glance back at gyrating boy had me stumped. He stood perfectly still, staring after us as if confused. A sinister red gleam flickered in his eyes as I turned away, a weird reflection of lights or something. When I glanced back from the bar, he had started dancing with another unlucky girl.
“Creeper!” yelled Mindy in my ear.
The music kept us from having any civil sort of conversation, so we leaned back against the bar, where David passed us drinks. Blue lighting backlit the wall of liquor bottles all the way to the ceiling, giving the dark room an eerie glow. Black dominated the place, except for the bar lighting and the silver cages on either side of the DJ’s stage. This is where especially drunk girls who wanted to be center stage could make total asses of themselves. Right now, only one cage was occupied by a barely standing blonde.
“Appletini.” David passed Mindy a glass of green liquid. “And Coke Zero.”
“Thanks,” I said, downing it.
“It is your birthday,” said Mindy. “You could live a little, you know?”
Mindy and I were still underage, but that didn’t stop most of the young-adult world stuck in that purgatory between eighteen and twenty-one. Honestly, who came up with the law to allow college students to enter a bar at eighteen but not be served alcohol? For once, I’d love to see an undercover police officer shut down one of these clubs, flashing his badge and attempting to arrest the vast number of underage drinkers allowed into the place.
“Come on,” urged Mindy.
She persuaded so well.
“Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll have a drink. A beer, please.”
Steven grinned like an idiot, and I don’t know why. It’s not like one beer would suddenly make him attractive. I leaned back against the bar, propping my elbows up behind me. Scanning the scene, my eyes passed by a corner, then did a double-take, zoning in on someone tall, dark and way-beyond-handsome.
He stood in the shadows against the far wall behind the dance floor. Dark jeans, black button-down, crossed arms, and seriously fine face fixed directly on…me. Never before had my heart leapt into my throat. I tried to swallow, to make it go back into my chest where it belonged. To no avail, mind you.
“Here, beautiful.” Steven handed me an Abita Amber.
“Thanks,” I muttered with a tight smile. Please, Steven. If you could see the competition across the room, you’d tuck tail and run.
“Yay!” screamed Mindy. “A birthday beer!” She giggled and clinked her glass against the lip of my bottle.
The music pumped hard and loud, wavering between old-school classics and modern tunes. Mindy suddenly squealed with delight. I knew why without asking. The Cure’s song “Fascination Street” started thrumming all around us. As much of a Barbie Doll as she was, Mindy had eclectic taste in music, and anything by The Cure required complete adoration. Taking my beer with me, I followed her back onto the floor, squeezing through the sweaty bodies.
Unfortunately, Steven did too. Persistence—I suppose that is a virtue in some people. Right now, it was just annoying. I sipped on the Abita to avoid talking to him and moved to the slow beat. Mindy and David shuffled off together, locked in an embrace. I feigned interest, pretending to listen to Steven yammer about who-knows-what, but all I wanted was to peer behind him at Mr. Rugged and Beautiful.
He hadn’t moved, still watching from his solitary post with hooded eyes. Actually, from here, I couldn’t really tell if his eyes were directed at me or simply in my general vicinity.
Oh crap! Here came sandy-haired gyrating boy again, more earnest than ever. His hands found my hips, quickly moving south.
“Back off!” I shouted over the music, elbowing him in the ribs.
Not too hard, but hard enough to make the average guy get the hint. He didn’t.
“Dude, did you hear her? Back off!” Steven stepped in.
For once, I was thankful he was present. Steven grabbed the guy’s shoulder, but Sandy-hair pushed Steven so hard he fell through the crowd into the DJ’s stage. Other dancers sidestepped and turned back to their partners, probably thinking him drunk. Sandy-hair swiveled to me. A cold expression shuddered across his face. I stepped back, but he caught my wrist in an unbreakable grip. He pulled me hard against his chest, knocking my bottle to the floor, pinning my arms under his. He grinned. Primal fear flared inside me. Something was very wrong here. Again, a flash of red skimmed across his eyes. Was I already tipsy from half a bottle of beer?
“Let her go,” a deep voice rumbled directly behind me.
Sandy-hair tore his gaze from mine. One glance at the deep-voiced person over my shoulder, and shock skittered over his expression. Or was it fear? He bared his teeth like a cornered animal, then let me go, backing away toward the exit of the club.
I twisted around, looking up, way up, into the face of Mr. R-and-B standing a head taller than me. I was five eight and wearing boots. Dark eyes, so dark they were almost black. An unreadable expression set in harsh lines. I couldn’t form a coherent thought, much less a sentence. From far away, he was stunning. Up close, I couldn’t even breathe. He gazed down at me for what seemed like an eternity while lights and music pumped around us. Captivating. Hypnotizing. Was he putting me under some spell? Why couldn’t I think straight? My mouth hung agape as I tried to regain composure.
Finally, he spoke. “Are you all right?”
Me? No! I’m about to need resuscitation from lack of oxygen. Preferably mouth-to-mouth. And from you, please.
“Yes. I’m fine,” I whispered, clearing my throat.
All of a sudden, it was very hot in here. Where was that beer?
He stared at me a moment longer. He appeared to be somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties, but something in those dark depths made him seem so much older. His olive skin reminded me of warmer climates; not here in Cajun country but somewhere distant, exotic. Wavy dark brown hair hung loosely across his forehead and to the nape of his neck. He hadn’t shaved recently, and man, oh man did I want to run my fingers across that scruffy jawline. I realized I was staring, no, gawking at him. A ghost of a smile flickered across his face. Without saying anything else, he pivoted and headed for the exit, which was quite a pleasant view.
By this time, Steven was back at my side, scowling.
“Where’s that dude? I’m gonna smash his face in!”
Yeah. Whatever.
I couldn’t figure out exactly what just happened. Of course I was thankful Mr. R-and-B showed up, for more than one reason. There was something very wrong with Sandy-hair. Maybe he was on drugs. Ecstasy could make people very touchy-feely, so I was told. The way he glared at me, the sheer menace in those strange-colored eyes—disturbing to say the least. Must be the laser lights in here.
I waved the bartender over and downed the beer the moment it was in my hands. I tried to chill out. Glancing back at the dance floor, I saw David half carrying Mindy toward the bar with a rip in her jeans at the knee.
“Mindy! What happened?”
“Fell and twisted it.” She winced with each step. I pulled up a stool.
“Let me go get the car,” said David. “I’ll pull it around.”
“No, David,” Mindy whined in her lilting drunk voice. “Stay with meeee.” She hooked her arm tighter around his neck. One too many appletinis.
“I’ll go.” I set my beer on the bar. “Wait here.”
Mindy grabbed my arm. “Sorry.” She pouted with glazed eyes. “Didn’t mean to ruin your birthday.”
“You didn’t.” I smiled. “Be right back.”
“I’ll come with you.” Steven took David’s keys and followed me. We pushed through the crowd back to the entrance, passing by big-and-beefy at the door.
“Later, Sunshine,” I called with a wave.
He nodded with a thin smile. Not a soul walked the street. I found it sort of strange to have a bar located in the more industrial end of town. But it was an eccentric place. Maybe that’s what they were going for. Exclusivity, to make it more appealing. A gust of wind whooshed by, lifting my hair. I wrapped my arms around myself as we angled down the side street toward the car.
“You cold?” asked Steven behind me.
“No.” But something made me shiver. “You have the keys?”
“Yeah, right—”
I heard the keys jingle and fall to the pavement, then a thump. I spun to find Steven slumped against the wall. Unconscious. Before I could register what happened, my body slammed up against the brick wall behind me. Pinned in place by none other than Sandy-hair, his hand grasping and squeezing my throat.
“Keep still.” Voice low and gravelly. “Don’t scream.”
As if I could. How could I, of all people, get myself into a defenseless position? I knew how to fend off an attack in a hundred different ways, but he already had me in such a tight grip. He crushed me against the wall, choking the life out of me. I stared up at him, hoping to memorize his face for a police report later. If there was a later. Spots hazed my vision, though I definitely recognized those hate-filled eyes, blazing blood-red down at me. What the hell?
“Such a pretty one.” A guttural murmur. “Such a shame to have to kill you.”
Kill me? What! I squirmed, trying to pull free. Useless. A sinister hissing laugh in my ear. Lightheaded. Dark spots at the corner of my vision. I couldn’t see anything anymore. I drifted. I thought how sad my father would be that I died in such a violent way as I slipped further into oblivion. I thought of my mother.
Suddenly, I gulped air back into my lungs. I was free of him, sliding down the wall, feeling my way along the cold brick behind me. A dark shape loomed, grappling with my attacker. Finally catching my breath, chest still heaving, I focused to see a shadowed figure lifting my would-be killer by the throat off the ground, holding him midair. His words confused me even more.
“Stop human-hopping, and come out to play.”
I knew that deep voice from the dance floor: R-and-B. Sandy-hair held on to my hero’s arms. He laughed that wicked laugh again.
“Make me,” he hissed.
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
R-and-B placed his free hand on the guy’s forehead, still holding him aloft. He whispered something I couldn’t hear. Sandy-hair screamed in agony. His body blurred. A second head twisted, separated from the first. How was that even possible? The second one was malformed and hideous with deep-set eyes, no nose at all and gnashing fangs. R-and-B pulled the monstrous head, slowly ripping a writhing, ghastly creature from inside Sandy-hair, letting the human host slump to the pavement. The monster screeched and hissed as my dark rescuer chanted inaudible words. Tiny hairs on my arms rose with a rippling chill. An aura of flickering golden light swept wide above his head and shoulders, beaming off his back.
I rubbed my eyes, sure I’d been slipped some mind-altering drugs in the club. R-and-B whispered more vehemently, words I couldn’t quite hear in another language, though they sounded familiar. The creature screamed, twisted, unable to free itself. The size of a small child with bony, spindly limbs and gnashing teeth, the thing beat and scratched and clawed the air. I heard the final words of the creature’s captor, his aura flickering like flame.
“Go back to hell.”
In a bright flash of reddish-gold light, the beast disintegrated into smoke and powdery black ash. The smell of sulfur wafted into the air, leaving a metallic taste on my tongue. R-and-B dusted his hands off on his jeans, totally calm and collected. He sighed, walked over to Sandy-hair and checked his pulse. A sharp nod, then he walked toward me where I still sat against the wall, wondering what in the world just happened. Squatting in front of me, he lifted my chin, examining my throat.
“How do you feel?”
I blinked, trying to ignore the heated sensation of his touch on my skin and wondering if I’d truly lost my mind.
“Well, I was nearly choked to death, and I just saw you pull a monster out of another man, then use some voodoo-mojo or something to crush it into dust.” I stopped to cough, rubbing my throat, my voice raspy. “I’m feeling fine. How are you?”
I knew I should be a little less snarky to the guy who just saved my life, but what an insane question. His extremely distracting lips lifted into a smile.
“Better, then.” He grinned. “Good.”
He had some sort of accent, but I couldn’t place it. I took advantage of our proximity to examine him closer. Above his top button, below his collarbone, I could see the black etchings of a tattoo. I recognized the Celtic interlacing from my mother’s artwork. The tattoo must be very big, and I wanted so much to see the fine details. He reached out his hand and pulled my necklace out from underneath my shirt. The action surprised me as he moved farther into my personal space.
“Can I help you?”
He observed the medal dangling on the chain. “St. George. The dragon slayer.” One dark eyebrow lifted in a question.
“My mother gave it to me.”
“She is a smart woman.”
Those midnight eyes gazed directly into mine, searching. “I’m sorry.”
Sorrow whirled in those depths. I felt overheated again so near him. My heart hammered away. He hovered so close, too close, just staring at me like…like what? He seemed to be trying to solve a puzzle. Finally, I found my voice.
“Thank you.” I swallowed, my throat tight. Glancing at Sandy-hair still unconscious, I nodded toward him. “What was that thing? The thing inside him?”
“A lower demon. A rogue, apparently. Why would he want to kill you?”
“A what? Are you kidding me?”
He shook his head once. “Not a joke, I’m afraid. I don’t understand why he wanted to kill you.”
His voice was so calm, so normal. A lower demon nearly killed me, and he was playing paranormal detective. What was a lower demon? And what did that make my rescuer? Steven stirred nearby. I’d forgotten all about him.
“Your boyfriend is unharmed. However, he’ll have a headache.”
“He is not my boyfriend,” I enunciated very, very clearly.
Another ghost of a smile crossed his face. My insides melted into a pile of goo.
“Come. Your friends will worry.”
He offered his hand and lifted me up. His hand enveloped mine, warm and rough from calluses. I needed to let go, feeling overwhelmed by the sensation of his touch. I was never overwhelmed. I was Genevieve Drake, the epitome of calm and collected. Steven moved again. Damn him.
Tall, dark and smolderingly sexy lifted my hand to his lips, brushing a soft kiss along my knuckles. His lips lingered, spreading warmth from my hand to my arm and throughout the rest of my body. What an old-fashioned gesture. I shivered. Not from the cold. His eyes never left mine.
“Happy birthday.” He let my hand slip from his.
What? How did he know? Unable to hold his gaze any longer, I glanced down, chanting a brief mantra in my head. Get—it—together. I took a deep shaky breath, finally summoning the courage to ask for his number. When I looked up, he was gone.


About the Author:

Juliette calls lush, moss-laden Louisiana home where the landscape curls into her imagination, creating mystical settings for her stories. She has a B.A. in creative writing from Louisiana State University, a M.Ed. in gifted education, and was privileged to study under the award-winning author Ernest J. Gaines in grad school. Her love of mythology, legends, and art serve as constant inspiration for her works. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance--brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.