Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Available Now: One Night in Minneapolis by Margie Church

City Nights #29
Margie Church


(99c/99p through 30 April)
Marine Major Skylar Landis doesn’t resemble the demure Catholic high school girl Vince Andersen once knew. They’d dated briefly until she'd patch things up with his nemesis, Ethan Standfeld. After school, she joined the Marines and they’d lost touch.

Their ten year class reunion in Minneapolis brings Skylar face-to-face with Vince, awakening her memories of the past. She asks him to plan a hot, no-strings-attached hook-up to sustain her sexual fantasies while her intelligence unit is deployed to the Middle East. As their adventure unfolds, and he gives her exactly what she needs, Skylar wonders whether she can forget the man who put her desires first and asked for nothing in return.

• • •

He checked his watch, wondering what was keeping her. The days, hours and minutes until their reunion had passed at a snail’s pace. When he glanced up, a rumble of appreciation formed in his throat. He smiled, yet resisted the urge to go to her. This was her grand entrance.

Skylar walked toward him, the picture of confidence and seduction in a black and white sheath dress that clung to her curves. Her coppery-red hair rested on her right shoulder.

Vince couldn’t wait to run his fingers through the thick, luxurious tresses and over every inch of Ms. Landis.

She stood in front of him, a demure smile on her lips. “Vince. Finally.”

He took her hands, drawing her into an embrace. “Welcome home.”

“I can’t believe the day is finally here. We’re here.” Her voice held a gentle North Carolina drawl she’d picked up after years living at the U.S. Marine Corps base there.

When he kissed her cheek, citrus and spice scents grabbed his attention. He whispered into her ear, “You look even more gorgeous than I imagined, and you smell good enough to eat.”

“One can only hope.”

He winked at her. Though it had been ten years since they’d seen each other, the intimate exchanges they’d had and the plans they’d made for this weekend removed the usual dating preliminaries. He brushed the tip of his nose against hers.

Passion smoldered in her green eyes. She didn’t move from his embrace.

He kissed her lips softly, hoping to invoke the same desire unfurling in the pit of his stomach. He noted a slowness in her breathing. Anticipation?

She brought her hand to the back of his head, and slowly moved her fingers in the short hairs there.

Vince held her a little tighter. He teased her lips with the tip of his tongue, silently inviting her to taste him. The sounds of shoppers quieted as only her soft moan reached his ears. He kissed her with strengthening desire, but didn’t rush this first time. Pent-up emotions made his body react like any red-blooded man’s would, especially since she responded with equal passion. If he didn’t end the kiss soon, anyone would be able to see the physical effect she’d had on him. Vince cupped her cheek and gave her one more gentle kiss before stepping back.

He cleared his throat. “You’re lucky we’re in public.”

She glanced down his body, then back to his eyes. A satisfied grin curled her glistening lips. “A little bit of patience is all you need.”

“Patience?” He snorted. “You’ve driven me half out of my mind with wanting you. I think we should continue this reunion in the privacy of your hotel room.”

She reached for his shirt collar, pulling him close again. “I want to enjoy every second of the adventures we’ve planned.”

She’s right. He stuffed away his natural desire to get naked and wreck the bed in every way possible. He pointed toward the hallway while gliding his other hand down her back to rest on her hip. “Our first stop is there. Macy’s is never going to be the same in my book.”

She gave him a flirty grin. “Oh, I like the way you think.”

Skylar had challenged him to organize their weekend together. Of course, they had to attend at least some of the reunion activities. That was half the fun. He’d asked a hundred questions to learn about her sexual comfort zones and expectations. She’d given him few guidelines about what was off-limits. If things went the way he planned, the next twenty-four hours would be some of the most memorable of his life. A long night of lovemaking in a romantic setting such as the Blu was totally in his wheelhouse. The rest of it? Not so much.

• • •

Margie Church writes erotic romance novels with a strong suspense element, in keeping with her moniker: Romance with SASS (Suspense Angst Seductive Sizzle). Never expect the same thing twice in one of her books. She tackles subjects and conflicts that aren't typical in romances. Life is complicated. People are, too. Marrying those concepts makes her work fascinating to read. Margie was 2011 GLBT Author of the Year, and her book, Hard as Teak, was named 2011 GLBT Book of the Year at Loves Romances Café. She is well-known for her BDSM erotic romances as well.

Margie lives in Minnesota, is married, and has two children. Some of her passions are music, biking, walking on moonlit nights, fishing, and making people laugh.

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Available Now: A Rose Named Vengeance by Stella Whitelaw

Stella Whitelaw


(99c/99p through 23 April)
Ashley Rivers is living a turbulent life. As a young girl, she protected her frail Irish stepmother, Colleen, from the sexual violence of Delbert Rivers, whom she'd married to escape from the Troubles in Ireland, and to protect her son, Ryan. Ashley quickly grew fond of Ryan and allowed him to seduce her. Ultimately, she'd been forced to bury her secret in the parkland of Kerran Hall.

As a woman, Ashley is carving out a career as England's first female professional rose-grower. When Ryan is killed in a horrific car crash, she seeks to find the truth behind his death. Rally car designer and driver, Cameron Ross, is the man she blames for the accident, but when they meet, Ashley falls in love with him, and their love affair quickly ignites in a passionate clash. Despite finally finding love, Ashley still needs to discover what happened to her own mother, and the truth behind Ryan's death.

“And who is that little fairy hiding at the top of the stairs?” a sweet Irish voice asks. Ashley is about to meet the woman who becomes her enduring angel.

• • •

The white car slewed off the hot tarmac, the painted slogans on its doors blurring into a disordered graffiti of words. It veered out of control, ploughing through bales of straw, kicking them out like a mule, screaming a thin protest at the violent distortion of bodywork.

Ashley Rivers barely heard the gasp from the crowd, though she drew in her own breath on a sharp rise of fear. The noise gathered her up into stiff arms, bore her forwards on unfamiliar legs through the spectators. Helplessly, she watched the car roll over and somersault across a subsidiary road into undergrowth.

For a moment, Ashley thought she was watching a film. But the crunching of metal was real, so was the blast of fuel igniting. The heat seared her eyeballs and she couldn’t see, believing the sheet of hot orange across her lenses was a scalding blindness.

As the car turned into a rushing, glittering ball of flame, Ashley began to scream, but did not recognise the sound coming from her throat. None of this was happening. She would wake up soon and find herself in her cool apple-green bedroom at Kerran Hall.

She did not know if the roaring sound was from the burning car or the crowds or the firefighters racing along the tarmac. The men seemed to run slowly, weighed down by equipment, defying gravity. Ashley broke through the barrier, running towards the blazing car, stumbling, her ragged breath gathering into a hard knot in her breast, her dark hair escaping from under her baker’s boy cap.

“No, no! Please God, no…”

The windscreen went wavy then shattered and the glass blew out in streaks of arrowed light. Inside the car glowed, and she saw the outline of the driver’s shoulders. He wore fireproof overalls and a helmet. He was struggling to unfasten the safety belt, moving in slow motion.

“Get him out!” she screamed. “Get him out. . .”

The firefighters had reached the car and were activating their foam extinguishers. People were running from all directions. A tall man in crumpled black overalls, his tanned face ashen, flung his helmet to the ground. He tore at the door handles, the searing heat sending him crashing to the ground, the burnt flesh of his hands escalating the shock.
Somehow Ashley got through the crowds. The image was the worst of all sights. The face within the helmet was Ryan — carbon black, no features, his arms flailing the air, flames licking at his suit.

“For God’s sake, somebody do something!” Ashley shouted, pushing forward. She fought anyone who was in her way.

“Get that woman out of here.” The tall man broke out of the horrified crowd and, despite his hands, caught Ashley’s arms in a vicious grip. “You can’t help, you fool. You’re getting in the way. These people know what they are doing.”

“Leave me alone,” she stormed, prising off his hold with her nails. He flinched, biting on the pain.

“Mr. Ross. . . it’s Ryan O’Hara in the GT3000,” said a mechanic.

“Think I don’t know my own car?” the man said.

The firefighters managed to wrench open the door and Ryan fell to the ground, rolling over, trying to put out the flames devouring his suit. They pulled him away from the car before the reserve fuel tanks exploded. He was howling in agony.

Ashley could smell the sweet scent of burning flesh, and went cold. Her body shrank, repulsed, even though she loved him. A hot dry wind blew across the tarmac like a breath of fire. Her nostrils filled with charred fragments, and ash rose like black snow. She felt the world revolve slowly, and scenes of years ago came back with a clarity that she thought time had long since dimmed.

Meadows, river banks, a barn with hay smelling of wild flowers and herbs, the sun on her bare limbs, and a day that was all sweetness and light as her young body appeared for his gaze and touch. She had moved instinctively beneath him with sensual ease. Their love was a wondrous surprise, new for both of them. Time sailed through layers of sleep and loving, laced with the exhaustion of torn butterfly wings.

Ashley remembered it all while Ryan smouldered and burned in a writhing heap on the ground. Then she heard his voice.

“It doesn’t hurt. I’m all right,” he croaked through a ghastly grin.

He doesn’t know, she thought. He doesn’t know. He can’t feel anything.

The stench of death lingered in the air. What percentage burns killed? Ashley tried to remember. Third degree burns involved the whole thickness of the skin. Rule of nines for the area… fluid loss, plasma loss, strain on the heart. What was the minimum for survival? Were the fireproof overalls efficient? That’s why drivers wore them in events. She wore them.

“Get back!” the firefighters shouted.

Ashley was crushed in the turmoil of retreating bodies. The growling cars came to a halt as word spread round the track. She found herself flung against the tall man in the black overalls. He was like a wall, blocking her escape, looking over her head.

“It’s going up,” he said, without hope.

The reserve fuel tanks ignited and a great arc of flame lit the blue of the sky. Birds flew up from the singed hedges in alarm, pale wings flapping helplessly in the scorching air.

Ashley watched in a kind of stunned acceptance. Somehow, she had always known that their love had no future.

But then, Ryan had often told her so, hadn’t he?

• • •

Stella Whitelaw began writing seriously at the age of nine. She was ill with measles when her father gave her an Imperial Portable typewriter. Covered in spots, she sat up in bed and taught herself to type.

At sixteen, she became a cub reporter and worked her way up to Chief Reporter. She was the first woman Chief Reporter, the youngest, and the only one who was pregnant.

After producing a family, she became Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons. Secretary then meant the original meaning, Secretariat, the keeper of secrets. She was awarded an MBE in 2001 but is not sure why.

Like Trollope, she wrote books on the train and in the recesses. The Jordan Lacey PI series is her favourite and the cruise crime books. Her big romances, No Darker Heaven and Sweet Seduction, were a marathon adventure.

Stella has won a woman’s magazine national short story competition and the London Magazine’s Art of Writing competition judged by Sheridan Morley. The Elizabeth Goudge Cup was presented to her at Guildford University.

Homeless cats find their way to Stella’s lifelong hospitality and she has written eight books of cat stories for the 7 – 70 plus

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Available Now: Gray Places by Julia Byrd

Julia Byrd


(99c/99p through 9 April)
1790s Yorkshire, England - Katherine Gilbert sets out for Wainforth Manor in North Yorkshire to fulfill her father’s last request. The master of Wainforth, Thomas Norcliffe, does not welcome her unannounced arrival, so Katherine must tread carefully around his dark moods while attempting to unlock the history buried in his ancestral home.

After she receives more than one whispered warning from the townspeople in Wainforth Village, Katherine’s initial audacity begins to waver. Deadly secrets from the Norcliffe family’s past are resurfacing, and Katherine begins to realize that the biggest danger lies within herself—the wisest course is to leave, but she wants to stay at Wainforth Manor and uncover the truth about Thomas Norcliffe.

• • •

Rattling down the road in a musty carriage toward a strange man’s home with the intention of introducing oneself and securing an invitation to stay awhile is a good moment to discard concern for societal approbation. So when I heard a female voice holler out from the hedges along the country thoroughfare, I did not hesitate to scramble hastily across the width of the carriage bench in order to trace the source of the noise. I had just stuck my head through the small window when I heard her again.

“Whoa!” she cried, and I craned my neck behind us to catch a glimpse. “Whoa, driver!”

I did not stop to think about whether she might have had ill intentions or been working on behalf of a gang of highwaymen. I pounded on the roof of the carriage interior to alert the driver, Mr. Brown. I had hired him that morning in Peterborough to take me to Wainforth Village, and his courtesy was buffed to a shine by a substantial fare.

Mr. Brown brought the horses up sharply. I had unwisely failed to renegotiate my center of gravity prior to this deceleration and thus slid to my knees on the carriage floor. While giving thanks for the privacy of a hired hack, I clambered back to the bench and untangled my skirts. Mr. Brown was responding to the woman’s hail.

“Yes, sister? What’s this fuss?” he called back as the vehicle jerked to a halt. I decided the situation was safe enough, and curious enough, for me to emerge, especially in my new independent incarnation. To my considerable surprise, our delay was created by a nun in a black-and-white habit who scurried toward us at a swaying trot. Before I could say a word, she resumed her shouting.

“Did you see him? Did you see our lord and master? We must follow his lead, we must not stray from his path!”

She had already trotted past the carriage in the narrow space between it and the hedge, but then she suddenly halted and reversed course. She swung around to face me. Her skin was damp and hectic, her expression desperate. I hung half out of the carriage, clinging with my left hand to a strap just inside the door. The muscle in my upper arm began to quiver as the holy woman hissed at me.

“Cease this delay immediately. You must come with me now, and we will find him together. He cannot elude me much longer.”

I gaped at her for a moment, then fell naturally into my most well-trod mental pathway, which was calm and factual. “Sister, you appear to be overexerted. I am headed to Wainforth Village. Would you care to accompany me these last few miles?”

The nun reached out as if to clutch at me, then recoiled. Her mouth twisted to a sneer. “Foolish woman! We all have only limited hope in this world or the next, and you are too blind to see when hope must be chased.”

With that cryptic pronouncement, she turned and angled for a stile in the stone fence that bordered the road. I caught a glimpse of a sturdy black shoe and pale ankle as she clambered over the gate and off toward a copse of trees between the fields.

Mr. Brown craned his head around the side of the carriage from his perch on the front bench. “Do you want me to go after her, Miss Gilbert?”

I considered the question. On the one hand, clearly the nun should not be left alone overlong in the countryside, even fairly close to the village. It would be dark in another few hours, and the air would surely be much colder overnight. She did not seem, at the moment, capable of undertaking rational thought. On the other hand, I knew neither her name nor anything else about her. She was hardly my business. Finally I shook my head. “No, Mr. Brown, please drive on. That woman is long gone now.”

It was true, I could no longer see her black habit. Maybe she went to pray at a secluded altar hidden in the trees, I told myself, not believing it for a moment.

• • •

Julia Byrd lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York, with her handsome dog, and scruffy husband, although a large piece of her heart remains in her native Illinois. She tells people she enjoys books, wine, dogs, trees, and architecture as plausible cover for her secret double life.

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