Thursday, May 30, 2013

Talon and the Falconer by Gale Stanley

Symbiotic Mates 3: Talon and the Falconer

This title is offered at a 10% New Release discount. Offer ends midnight CST, June 15th.

[Siren Classic ManLove: Erotic Alternative Paranormal Romance, M/M, vampires, shape-shifters, HEA]

Benjamin Byrd, a lycan falconer, lives on the outskirts of Arcadia. The wolf-shifters think he's a freak. They can't understand Ben's love for birds, especially when the pack is feuding with the kindred, vampires who can shift into hawks.

When vampire-hawk Talon Crowquill is shot down near Ben's home, he and Ben develop a mutual respect for each other, and Ben decides to help him escape. But Talon lost a lot of blood, and his wounds won't heal. Ben offers Talon his blood, but before the hawk can fly home, Ben is injured and Talon comes back to help him. Ben's injuries are mortal, and Talon turns him into a vampire to save his life. He leaves Ben in Arcadia and returns to the Colony. Both men become sick, and they grow weaker every day. They have no idea they've forged a connection that can never be broken and their only hope for survival is to become blood-mates.

Note: This book was previously published with another publisher and has been extensively revised and expanded.

Available at Bookstrand:


The full moon always did a job on Benjamin Byrd’s hormones, pheromones, and all the other moans in his lupine body. The cold gray orb pulled at him like it pulled at the ocean tides. It made him do crazy things. Things he wouldn’t normally do. Like go to the Wolf Den.

Ben lived like a lone wolf, but once a month the craving for companionship—spelled S.E.X.—fired up all his nerve endings, and thoughts of the pack drew him like a moth to a flame. Pack mentality was inbred in every wolf. There was no getting away from it, not when a full moon rose in the sky.

So Ben, dressed in a new pair of jeans and a clean black T-shirt, started walking toward the Wolf Den. The closer he got, the more his nerves increased. He hadn’t been back for twenty-nine days, and that visit hadn’t gone well. Harry, the plug-ugly bully, had made a pass at him, and Ben had beaten a hasty retreat. Harry was dead now, and a small part of Ben was glad he wouldn’t be running into the troublemaker tonight. For a second, Ben felt bad. A man shouldn’t think ill of the dead, especially someone who had been murdered. His regret didn’t last too long. Harry had not been a nice person.

Living so far from Arcadia, Ben was out of the loop, but bad news traveled faster than other kinds, and when a pack member was killed by one of his own, that kind of news traveled fastest of all. Hunter Black, one of the alpha’s best enforcers, had torn Harry’s throat out and run off. It was said that Hunter had been granted asylum at the Colony, home of the vampire-hawks. Ben knew Hunter, and in his opinion, if Hunter was guilty, he must have had good reason.

Ben slowed up as he approached the barn-like building that housed the Arcadia Pack’s bar and dance club. He felt eyes following his movement, but he shrugged it off as paranoia. Ben always felt conspicuous around the others.

Entering the club, Ben stood at the door for a few minutes, just looking around. Already, the place smelled of beer, testosterone, and sweat. A few men leered at him suggestively. Ignoring them, and the electronic beat of the dance music, Ben headed to the bar. A drink would go a long way to calm his nerves.

Ben looked for the bartender. Kade was on tonight. He had his back turned, and he was filling mugs with draft beer from the kegs. Suddenly, Ben was very conscious of the way Kade’s ass filled out his snug jeans. The bartender straightened and turned, flashing a sexy grin as if he knew exactly what Ben had been thinking. An unexpected and unwanted jolt of sexual awareness shot straight to Ben’s groin.

Hell, no.

Kade was one hot wolf, but he was cocky and arrogant, definitely not the type of partner Ben was looking for. The bartender intimated him. Already Ben felt his tongue tying itself into knots.

Kade set the mugs on the bar and came over to take Ben’s order. He stared at Ben’s hand on the bar. Ben’s eyes followed the direction of Kade’s gaze.
“Sharp talons,” Ben gave out a shaky laugh. “I wasn’t wearing my glove.”
Kade’s sneer of contempt and ridicule cut deeper than the talon marks on Ben’s hand. “So, what’ll it be, birdman?”

“Bud Light,” Ben replied in a voice so low, the bartender couldn’t hear him.
“What was that again, birdman?”

“Bud Light,” Ben said, a little louder this time.

“A Stud Light for the birdman,” Kade said loudly. Everyone laughed and the bartender set a bottle in front of Ben. “You spend too much time with those damn birds,” Kade spat. “You need a real man in your cage, someone who will ruffle your feathers.”

“Like you?” Ben retorted, hackles rising. He hated Kade’s condescending attitude.

“You should be so lucky,” Kade declared extravagantly.

Fuck you! Biting his lip, Ben grabbed the beer and moved away from the bar.

I shouldn’t have come.

Slipping through the pack of bodies, he made his way to a shadowy corner and leaned against the wall, trying to ape the attitude of the other wolf-shifters. It wouldn’t work. Ben had never been like the others, and no matter how much he pretended he was, everyone in the pack knew he was different. Too small. Too serious. Too much into birds.

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Blaecleah Brothers 6
Available May 28th  
Seamus Blaecleah enjoyed one explosive kiss with Sheriff John Riley and then the man refused to talk with him. Devastated, Seamus decides to leave the family ranch and find somewhere that the memories of the man he loves don’t plague his every waking moment.
Yancy Butler is overjoyed when the sexiest Blaecleah brother shows up on his doorstep, looking for a new life. He had given up hope of having anything with the man when he learned that Seamus loved another. Now, Yancy is determined that he will be the man in Seamus’s heart.
Sheriff John Riley will do anything to protect the man he loves, even let Seamus believe he wants nothing to do with him. But if he can discover who is threatening him and all those he cares about, he can bring Seamus home.
When betrayal comes at the hand of someone close to them, Yancy, Seamus, and John have to learn to put their differences aside and work together if they want to stay alive. But in doing so, will they learn to accept each other or will their relationship just be one of convenience?
Seamus Blaecleah's heart beat a little faster as he watched Sheriff John Riley's truck pull to a stop in the driveway. He didn't know why the sheriff was there but Seamus was pretty sure it wasn't to see him.
Sheriff Riley had been avoiding Seamus for the last few of weeks, ever since they had kissed. The man almost went out of his way to stay clear of Seamus. Something about that made Seamus's heart ache just a little. Another part of him said it was for the best. Wanting the handsome sheriff would only bring him grief.
Seamus wiped his hands on a kitchen towel, tossed the towel on the counter, and then walked to the front door. The sheriff was just climbing out of his police vehicle when Seamus opened the door and walked out onto the porch.
"Afternoon, Sheriff."
"Seamus." The sheriff glanced around. "Are your folks around?"
"Sorry, Sheriff, they went into town a couple of hours ago. I don't expect them home until later tonight. Is there something I can help you with?"
"What about Rourke and Billy? Are they around?"
"No.” Seamus frowned. “What's this all about, sheriff?"
"I have some news for them on Ira Thornton."
Seamus cringed at the mere mention of Ira Thornton's name. The man was bad news and had been for years. Ira was currently sitting in a prison cell after being found guilty on two counts of attempted murder, one count of assault, and one count of kidnapping. Seamus thought more charges should have been placed against the man everyone had thought was Billy’s father, but that’s all the evidence the sheriff had been able to get on the man.
"What news, Sheriff?"
"Ira Thornton and another inmate escaped custody while being transferred to another facility. They knocked the guard out and took his car. He hasn't been spotted in the area but I still thought it best to come out here and warn you all."
Seamus felt the blood drain from his face. "How in the hell did that happen?"
"Ira reported sick to the infirmary. Whatever was wrong with him was enough for the prison doctor to send Ira to the hospital, along with another sick inmate. They escaped while in route."
This was not good, not good at all. Seamus had no doubt that Ira would come right back to Cade Creek and try to make good on the threats he had leveled against the entire Blaecleah family. The guy had said that the Blaecleah family would pay. Seamus feared the guy would keep his word.
"I appreciate you coming to warn us, Sheriff. I'll make sure Ma and Da and everyone else gets the word."
The sheriff gripped the brim of his hat and gave Seamus a curt nod. "You do that."
Seamus almost whimpered when the sheriff turned and started back for his truck. He didn't want the man to leave, especially knowing that this might be the last time he saw John in a long time.
"Can I offer you a cup of coffee, Sheriff?"
"Thank you anyway, Seamus." Short curly blond hair brushed across the Sheriff's bearded cheeks as he shook his head. "I need to be getting back to the office. No telling what might happen if I'm gone too long."
There was nothing Seamus could say to that. If the sheriff didn't want to stick around, Seamus couldn't force him. Seamus gave the sheriff a smile he didn't really feel and watched the man climb back into his vehicle.
With the swiftness that the sheriff turned his truck around and peeled out of the driveway, Seamus would have thought the guy was trying to escape from a plague outbreak or something.
Seamus watched until the sheriff's vehicle disappeared then walked back inside the house. He was really getting tired of feeling like he had some sort of disease whenever he was around the sheriff.
It was a kiss, one simple passionate, earth shattering kiss—partly spurred on by fear and adrenaline after the sheriff's car had blown up and partly due to the incredible attraction Seamus had for the handsome sheriff.
He'd been lusting after the man since the sheriff took over the job from the former sheriff. Seamus just never did anything about it until the day John came to help them when Ruben's mother tried to kill them all.
She had wanted custody of Ruben's daughter, Alani, so that she could gain the infant's inheritance. When threats and intimidation hadn't worked, she had tried to kill them. Elijah, Ruben's lover, had been shot, the sheriff's car blown up, and the rest of them had been in fear for their lives.
Seamus had discovered that kissing the sheriff was just as good as looking at him. The man had rocked Seamus's world and then shattered it when he said they needed to talk and then walked away and never came back.
Seamus would have left it alone and chalked it up to too much adrenaline if the sheriff hadn't started avoiding him immediately afterward. So the sheriff wasn't really interested. So what? It had been an honest mistake. That didn't mean the sheriff had to treat Seamus like he had a communicable disease.
Seamus sighed and pushed a frustrated hand through his hair. He supposed it didn't matter anyway. He'd be leaving soon and he would only see the sheriff when he came home for the holidays.
He had thought long and hard about his decision to leave the family farm. It was a hard one. He was born here, right upstairs in his Ma and Da's bedroom. All of his brothers except Lachlan, the oldest, had been born here. Lachlan was born in Ireland before Ma and Da came across the sea.
This was Seamus’s home, his family.
Even after his brothers found their lovers and got married, they all stayed living in their own houses on the ranch. Everyone was staying except Seamus. He needed something more in his life, something he couldn't find here on the ranch or in the town of Cade Creek, which was really too bad. He would have given serious consideration to giving his dream up if the sheriff had been interested. He wasn't and Seamus was leaving.
He just had to tell his family.

When he had first met Seamus, Yancy had been ready for a simple fling. That was no longer true. After spending the last several days getting to know the guy, Yancy wanted more. He wanted the whole dream, or at least the one he had been fantasizing about.
Seamus started to smile again. “Turn around and let me wash your back.”
Yancy turned around and rested his forehead against the shower wall. He bit his lip to keep from groaning when he felt Seamus’s hands start to move over his back. The hesitancy in Seamus’s touch was just as sensual as the man.
When Seamus turned him around and started washing his chest, it was all Yancy could do not to drop to his knees and beg the man for more. Seamus’s lush lower lip was caught between his teeth as if the man was nervous but intent on what he was doing.
Fuck, what he wouldn’t give to have those lips wrapped around his cock.
“All you had to do was ask.” Seamus chuckled as he dropped to his knees.
Holy shit!
Had he said that out loud?
Yancy tried to keep his breathe steady as he worked his way through the implications of Seamus’s words. His heart went wild, and blood rushed hot through his veins when he felt Seamus’s wet tongue lick his pelvic bone. A groan rose up in Yancy’s throat as arousal caught him in a vicious grip and shook him hard.
“Seamus, please,” Yancy pleaded as he humped his hips toward Seamus, an anxious whine falling from his lips. He gritted his teeth when Seamus just chuckled at him.
A moment later Yancy’s needy cry echoed through the shower stall as the man’s lips wrapped around his hard cock. He had never felt anything so fantastic in his life. He could feel every movement, every lick, every sweet caress. Yancy could almost feel the very air around him moving over his sensitive skin.
He felt flushed, hot, and needy. Fire raced through Yancy’s body, melting him from the inside out. He didn’t know what Seamus would to do next and it drove him crazy. His heartbeat throbbed in his ears as he waited for Seamus’s next move. He just wished the man would hurry the hell up.
Yancy was about to go out of his ever-loving mind.
He groaned and started panting when something brushed against his balls. He spread his legs, giving Seamus more access. He loved having his balls played with, sucked on, tugged, anything.
His body shook. Red hot need rushed through his body like a tidal wave and crashed together in his cock when Seamus suddenly deep-throated him. Yancy growled as he felt the tip of his cock hit the back of the man’s throat. Using his hand to push his hair back, Yancy watched Seamus as the man moved his head back up and down his cock.
It was an alluring sight, one he hoped to see again and again—for the rest of his life.
“Fuck, Seamus,” Yancy shouted, “don’t stop.”
Yancy’s body stiffened as Seamus’s mouth sank even further down on his cock. Seamus swallowed it until Yancy felt the man’s nose brush against his short, curly hairs right before Seamus began to move his mouth along Yancy’s hard length.  
“Oh, fuck,” Yancy whimpered as the man’s slight hum sent small vibrations through his cock. He tangled his hands in Seamus’s hair, holding him in place as he fucked the world’s most perfect mouth.
He could feel his balls drawing up close to his body. He knew he was on the edge of an intense orgasm. Yancy couldn’t believe the hotness he felt, the exquisite pleasure. It just kept going higher and higher.
 “Oh, Seamus, gonna…” Yancy cried out as a heavy pressure built in his balls. It moved up to the base of his cock then erupted out the top as Yancy found his release. Yancy shouted as he came, flooding Seamus’s mouth and throat with hot, salty liquid. Seamus sucked down every last drop until Yancy melted into the shower stall.
When Seamus lifted his head, Yancy stared down at him a little dazzled, uncertain what to think or even how to think. Yancy’s fingers trembled as reached down and trailed them over the side of Seamus’s face.
“Thank you.”
Seamus’s face flushed bright red. “You’re welcome.”
“Can I return the favor?” Yancy was confused by the sudden embarrassment that he could see in Seamus’s green eyes right before the man dropped them to look at the floor. “Seamus?”
“I kind of…um…well, when you…I…”
Yancy suddenly read through Seamus’s stuttered words and he felt like shouting to the rooftops. He could feel small pants of Seamus’s breath tickling his cheek. The man’s breath was coming out raggedly, softly, nervously.
He pulled Seamus to his feet then tugged at his neck until their lips were only an inch apart, and then claimed his lips in a magnificent kiss filled with passion and desire and a need so great that it burned Yancy to his very core.
Yancy moaned, his body tightened involuntarily, every bone and muscle in him reaching for more of Seamus’s sweet taste, the hot draw of his lips. He pushed between Seamus’s lips with his tongue, wanting entrance.
Seamus’s deep needy groan as the man melted in his arms was all Yancy needed to make this moment perfect. Seamus tentatively reached out and grabbed Yancy’s arms, gripping them tightly as he returned the kiss was a passion that made Yancy ache all over again.
When Yancy finally lifted his head, his heart skidded to a halt and then began to pound erratically when he saw Seamus peering intently up at him, his pupils dark pools, mesmerizing and endless.
“Are you okay?”
Seamus’s face flushed again but he nodded. “I’m fine.”
“Is that invitation to breakfast still open?”
Yancy cupped Seamus's chin in his hand, tilting his head so that their eyes met. “Have I ever told you how sexy you are?”
“Once or twice.”
“Then let me say it again. You, Seamus Blaecleah, are one of the sexiest men I have ever laid eyes on.”

For more on the Blaecleah Brothers series, visit my website at

Dancing in the Flame by Ann Gimpel

Dancing in the Flame
By Ann Gimpel

Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
ISBN: 978-1-93176-191-8

Release Date: 4/22/13

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Life in a Were bordello is all Keira has ever known. Because of her mixed blood, none of the magicians’ guilds wanted her, or protested when the Weres bound her as an indentured hooker. Mired in the hopelessness of her dreams, she longs for more.

Barrett, one of the Daoine Sidhe, runs a magician supply shop in what’s left of Seattle. No one is more surprised than he when the Sidhe leader commands him to extricate Keira from the Weres.

Magic and intrigue throw Keira and Barrett into one another’s arms. Convinced they have a job to do, they struggle against the heat of the passion between them. Until it gets way too hot to handle.

Barrett bent over, hands on his knees. His limbs were heavy, weighted with weariness. Even the mud-streaked asphalt looked tolerable as a place to lie down, assuming he found some cover. He strengthened the magic surrounding him and sucked air. The goddamned humans and their atomic weapons had poisoned the atmosphere. It would probably hasten the end of the war, but at what price? His gaze swept over an uninterrupted vista of gray. The sky, clouds, remaining buildings, and ground were the same depressing color. He didn’t have to try very hard to hear the Earth cry and curse her guardians, the Sidhe, for doing such a piss poor job of protecting her.
“The weres, druids, and witches are ready to talk. The fairies agreed to moderate.” A familiar voice sounded from behind him.
“Hmph. Nice of them to consent to parlay while there’s still something left to salvage.” Barrett straightened and turned to face Caelin. With the Daoine Sidhe queen long dead, he was their de facto leader. All the other Sidhe answered to the Daoine, so Caelin was responsible for thousands of them. Too bad he hadn’t thought of that before dragging them into the war…
Tall and wraith-thin Caelin looked about as trashed as Barrett felt. His shoulders sagged. Bright red hair had escaped his warrior braids and hung to his waist in tangles. His battle leathers drooped in tattered shreds. Bits of grit, leaves, and dirt mingled with everything. His sharp-boned face was streaked with grime. The only part of him which looked the same was his eyes: a deep, dark blue.
“Isn’t it, though?” Caelin’s customary sarcasm rang through. He spread his arms wide. “That last atomic blast decided things.”
“Maybe it’s for the best.” Barrett met Caelin’s gaze. “We’ve been fighting for close to ten years. If the humans hadn’t felt threatened and pulled out all the stops, this might have turned into a hundred year war—if any of us lived that long.”
Caelin snorted. “We coexisted with those bastards for thousands of years. The minute they got a whiff they weren’t the only ones on the planet, they overreacted.”
A corner of Barrett’s mouth twisted wryly. “You have to admit magic can be a bit off-putting for humans.”
“Well, they’ve fucked themselves. There won’t be very many left once the atomic dust settles.”
Barrett quirked a brow at his leader. “To borrow from your vernacular, they’ve managed to fuck us, too, by dying. We’re going to have to figure out how to keep things running without them.”
“Point taken. Be sure to toss it on the table when we draw up a Covenant with the other magic wielders.” Caelin shook his head. “Despite all our efforts, there are more weres left than any of the rest of us—”
“Only because they breed like rabbits.”
Caelin waved him to silence. “Be that as it may, we must secure their cooperation. Otherwise, our numbers are too small to maintain any semblance of civilization. There’s electricity, water, the Internet, the cellular system, and food.” He ticked them off on his fingers as he talked. “It’s fortunate enough structures are still standing to house most of those left.”
“Where and when is this meeting scheduled?” Barrett hoped he could catch a few hours of sleep. He’d been up for the better part of the last two days.
“It’s now. In the Opera House, since it’s mostly intact. Walk with me.” Caelin set off at a moderate pace.
Barrett caught up to him. His muscles ached. A headache pounded behind one eye. Normally, he would have used magic to ease both, but he was seriously depleted. What little remained of his power was focused on filtering the air before it entered his lungs. “I still wish—”
“Don’t say it. Even in my worn-out state I have enough magic left to read your thoughts.” Caelin’s jaw set in a hard line Barrett recognized only too well. The Daoine Sidhe leader had never liked being questioned, nor was he open to discussion about his decisions.
Fine. Read my thoughts then. You can pretend they don’t exist, but we both know differently. The loss of their queen, Ivanne, had heated the rift between weres and the Sidhe to a boiling point and proven disastrous. She’d been a skilled mediator, navigating difficult political waters with grace and skill. Caelin was a warrior. He saw the world in black and white. Convinced the weres had murdered Ivanne, he’d convened the Council, dominated it with his anger, and led the Sidhe to war. At first it was just Sidhe against weres. Then witches and druids jumped into the fray, some on one side, some on the other. The only magical beings who’d remained neutral were the fae and the fairies.
“The weres poisoned Ivanne. Her death demanded retribution.” The harsh gravel of Caelin’s voice broke into Barrett’s thoughts.
“That may be true.” Barrett grabbed Caelin’s upper arm and forced the other man to a standstill. “War never solved anything. Not in human history, or in ours, either.” He swung an arm wide. “Look. Just look what a mess we’ve made. It will take decades for Earth to recover, if she ever does. Deep within my soul, she reprimands me over and over for our part in the destruction.”
A sheepish look flitted across Caelin’s face. He ran a hand down it, distorting his features. “Glad I’m not the only one she nags.”
A brittle anger filled Barrett, setting his guts on fire. “We deserve to be nagged. More than nagged, we deserve to be chastised—”
“It’s not like I did this singlehandedly.” Caelin sounded defensive. “The weres could have capitulated anytime.”
Barrett let go of Caelin’s arm. He pounded a fist into his open palm. “Damn it! You know better. Weres never apologize. They’re constitutionally incapable of admitting they were wrong about anything. It’s their dual natures. The animal side takes over and—”
“Spare me.” Caelin’s hands settled on Barrett’s shoulders. Fingers dug in hard enough to make him wince. “If I made a mistake avenging Ivanne, it is water long passed under the bridge. Think, man. That was ten years ago. We must play the ball where it is today. There’s little enough of our royalty left. Here in the Americas, it is you and me. I must have you standing solidly beside me. The weres will sniff it out soon enough if we are not aligned with one another.”
Barrett blew out a breath. Annoyance scoured his nerves. He hated to admit it, but Caelin was right. If the war was finally over, the next task would be crafting a Covenant with terms advantageous to all Sidhe, not just the Daoine. And making certain it enlisted everyone’s aid healing the damage done to Earth.
He ducked from beneath Caelin’s hands, squared his shoulders, and swept straggling copper-colored hair out of his face. “You need have no fears on that front. You have always had my allegiance and support.” Of a height with Caelin, Barrett locked gazes with him. “You are a brilliant tactician. And a fearless warrior. I only wish you had a bit more in the way of warmth and compassion to temper things.”
A wry grin split Caelin’s face. He didn’t smile often. The effect was electrifying, bringing all his latent beauty to the forefront. He punched Barrett lightly. “I wish for a lot of things, too. Problem is I rarely get any of them.” He inclined his head in a mock bow. “After you.”
Chapter 1
Eleven Years Later
Keira opened a door in the were bordello where she lived and worked and peeked out into the long hallway spanning the first floor of the building. Empty. Good. It was the middle of the afternoon, always a slow time. Her last customer had just left. Maybe, if she snuck out the rear door, she could claim a few hours of freedom. She ducked back into the room she shared with one of the other indentured hookers, donned a cloak and boots, and walked down the hall, making as little noise as possible.
The air was crisper than she’d expected as she eased the door shut behind her. Keira wrapped her arms around herself, wishing she’d brought a warmer coat. Most of her working clothes were wispy and suggestive. At least she’d been smart enough to put on tattered jeans, a moth-eaten sweater, and her favorite black cloak. For once it wasn’t raining. A pallid sun hung midway to the western horizon, bathing what were once busy urban streets with sallow light.
Keira emptied her mind, trying not to feel she was playing hooky. It wasn’t as if the weres kept her prisoner… She glanced at her left arm. Under the sweater and cape, she could have sworn the indenture bracelet spanning her upper arm tightened. Who am I trying to kid? They can find me anytime they want.
She walked briskly through Seattle’s Queen Anne district. Keira had the streets to herself today, but then she usually did. Good thing, too. Those like her, mixed-blood magic wielders with minimal power, were at pretty much everyone else’s mercy. Bottom of the New World totem pole.
Her gaze swept over urban rot. Keira grimaced. Buildings still stood, some of them, anyway. But most of the glass had been rocked out. Piles of trash blocked the roadways. Cars were a thing of the past. Out-of-control garbage had obliterated the sidewalks long ago. Paths wound through it, carved by varieties of magic wielders and prowling beasts. She made a point of ignoring what was underfoot. Most of it was too gross to even consider. It was a damned shame so many humans had been wiped out during the war. They’d taken care of things like that.
She pretended to consider what to do with her freedom, knowing her deliberations were a sham. She’d do the same thing she always did: head for Barrett’s magician’s shop. Housed in a cavernous Victorian on lower Capitol Hill, it was only about an hour’s walk from the were bordello. With its dark wood furniture, Oriental carpets, and overflowing shelves, the shop exuded a homey atmosphere which was irresistible.
Face it. The thing which makes it so enticing is Barrett. Keira smiled to herself as she pictured the tall, broad-shouldered Daoine Sidhe with his thick, coppery hair and pale blue eyes. Beyond his obvious beauty, though, he seemed kind. Not that she’d ever exchanged more than a few words with him, but he had laugh lines in the corners of his eyes and she’d watched him interact with other customers. He was always helpful, doing that little bit extra to assist someone find something. There was still bad blood among magic wielders, but not in Barrett’s shop. Everyone was granted equal status there. Never mind Daoine Sidhe magic was far more powerful than were, fae, or witch. Druid magic barely counted; it was nearly as feeble as hers.
The first time she’d stumbled into Barrett’s shop, it was by accident. She’d gotten into a big blow up with Simon, one of the staff at Were Calls, for refusing to service a customer in his animal form. Simon slapped her, which was a big no-no; punishment was supposed to be delivered through her bracelet per the terms of her indenture.
Keira had never seen Simon quite so angry. She didn’t wait around to see what he would do next. Despite being in her hooker garb, including high heels, she’d raced out the door and ran until her arches ached. It hadn’t helped when the skies opened and it began to pour. Not knowing what else to do—because she was not going back to Were Calls until things cooled down or they zapped her through the bracelet—she’d opened her magic senses. They’d led her straight to Barrett’s shop. It was only a couple of blocks from where she’d stopped.
Keira had pushed the heavy, carved wooden door open, ready to bolt if anyone so much as looked cross-eyed at her. No one did. The shop smelled heavenly. Herbs. Lots of them. They hung in bundles from a raised walkway, ten feet off the ground, which accessed a partial second story. Feeling a bit braver, she let her gaze roam the large room, crowded with shelves. No one paid her the slightest attention, which was amazing since all the other patrons were garbed in cloaks and coats. She glanced at her low-cut top, barely-there micro mini, and high heeled boots and winced. Her top didn’t leave much to the imagination since it was half-soaked through. Because she was cold, her nipples had pebbled into suggestive peaks.
Embarrassed, she’d skittered behind a bank of shelves and worked her way around the outside wall of the shop, appreciating being out of the weather. Her eyes widened at the variety of wares for sale. She lingered over things she couldn’t identify and hustled past things she wanted but could never afford. Along the way, she pulled a tiny bit of magic to help dry her clothes.
Keira recalled hearing the weres talk about Barrett’s shop. It was the only place left which still sold magician’s accoutrements and supplies. Three-quarters of the way through her transit of the shop, a musical baritone voice caught her attention. She stopped and looked for its owner. He stood behind the counter, wrapping a package and counting out change. Because he was occupied, it seemed safe to let her gaze linger on him. What a beautiful man. When he patted a witch’s hand before handing her the packet he’d wrapped, Keira wondered what those hands would feel like on her. The shop suddenly felt much warmer. She bit back a laugh. Sex was plentiful in her life, no reason to moon over a man. Several would be waiting for her back at Were Calls.
She’d just decided to edge a bit closer to the counter, drawn by the Daoine Sidhe’s magnetism, when the bracelet on her arm tightened. Keira ignored it, but it only tightened more. She knew how the game worked. The weres tracked her with electronics. Once she headed for Were Calls, the bracelet would leave her alone—as long as she kept moving. If she stopped for too long once they’d warned her, the next event would be a shock.
Keira scuttled out of Barrett’s store that day, but she hadn’t stayed gone long. Every time she left the bordello, it was where she ended up. She spun fantasies about what it would be like if she were free and could offer to work for Barrett. Just the thought of being close to him for long hours each day made her heart speed up…
Don’t be foolish, she chided herself as she reached the now-familiar door and pushed her way into the magic shop. He’s Daoine Sidhe. He’d never be interested in a mixed blood like me. She walked to a locked case with crystals and gazed at them. A beautiful rose quartz one she’d lusted over was gone. Damn! She’d been working up her courage to ask if she could hold it in her hand to feel its energy.
Keira never bought anything; she didn’t have the money. She’d felt apologetic her first few visits, but now she’d been there so many times, she felt confident Barrett wasn’t going to throw her out.
“Can I help you find something?”
Keira froze. It was him. She’d know Barrett’s voice anywhere. She heard it in her dreams and sometimes she imagined one of her johns was him. In her imagination, he crooned to her in that wonderful voice and…
He tapped her shoulder. “Miss. May I help you?”
Keira spun to face him. Her face heated and she knew she had spots of color high on both cheeks. “Uh, no. I’m just looking.” Responding to something, maybe a small spell, maybe just an invitation in those wonderful ice-blue eyes, she stammered on, “The rose quartz crystal—”
“I sold it. Just yesterday. It was one of my favorites as well. If you’re interested, I should be getting a new shipment soon, but the crystals are all unique. If there’s one you like, just let me know and I can see if it pairs well with your energy.”
“I, um, you see, I can’t really afford anything like that. I just like to look.”
“It’s okay. I get lots of lookers here.” Barrett smiled at her. Gazed into her eyes and smiled right at her. Keira’s heart stuttered. She opened her mouth and closed it again when words wouldn’t come. Unable to help herself, she took a step toward him and stumbled.
He reached a hand and placed it under her elbow to steady her. “Got you.”
An electric shock ran up her arm. Her breathing quickened. You don’t know the half of it. You’ve more than got me. Heart thudding, throat dry, she smiled, managed to murmur, “thank you,” and scuttled toward the door before she did something stupid like throw herself at his feet and beg him to take her. Here. Now. On the floor in front of everyone.
Barrett gazed after the fleeing girl. His cock pressed against the front of his worn breeches, as hard as it ever got. It throbbed hotly, urging him to go after her, run her down, drag her back to his bed, and… He shook his head. What had gotten into him? He was well beyond the age where he let his cock lead him around.
The girl was unbelievably beautiful. Her blonde hair was so long it reached her ass. She had an arresting face with high cheekbones, lush lips, and silver eyes. He’d thought only his own race had eyes that color. They were rare even amongst the Daoine Sidhe. But the ache in his groin went beyond her beauty. There was something about her, a purity of spirit which called to him. When he tried to sense her magic to see just what she was, he’d run up against a wall. Almost as if she were warded. It wasn’t something she was doing on purpose, though. If it were, he’d have seen it in her mind. No, it was more like a magical barrier surrounded her.
He usually didn’t pay any attention to the hordes of customers frequenting his shop. After all, it was the only one of its kind left. He expected it to be full to overflowing with patrons. He’d noticed the girl, though, the very first time she’d snuck in. Wet to the bone, her full breasts, tipped with wonderfully erect nipples, had been fully visible through the thin fabric of her top. She’d taken to the outer wall and worked her way around the shop that day. Curious about her, he’d spun a mild compulsion spell to reel her in closer. He still didn’t know what happened. She’d been moving toward him when something shifted and she’d scampered out of his shop like the dogs of hell were nipping at her heels.
Sort of like she did today. He chuckled, not caring that a pair of witches eyed him oddly. He’d spoken with the girl a few times, but today’s conversation was by far and away the longest. Though he liked to see himself as immune to women, this one frequented his dreams. He often woke with his hand pumping his shaft as he fantasized about the girl with no name. In his favorite vision, she was astride him, firm breasts pressed against his chest and long, blonde hair tickling his naked flesh.
Determined to at least find out where she lived before her trail grew cold, he glanced about the store. Too many customers to get rid of. He strode to Baen, a witch who’d fought on their side during the war. “Could you watch the register for me? Sorry, but it’s a bit of an emergency. I won’t be gone more than an hour or two.”
She raised perfectly formed red brows in her ageless, porcelain-skinned face. “For you. Of course,” she purred.
“Thanks.” Barrett kicked himself. He’d forgotten Baen had been trying to worm her way into his bed for a couple of years. Then he stopped thinking and sprinted out the door. Barrett threw his magic senses wide open, searching. He blew out a relieved sigh. There she was. Her track would be easy to follow. He’d been afraid the same magic which cloaked what she was would hide her trail as well.
He warded himself so his power wouldn’t tip her off and followed her back to Were Calls. She’s a hooker. From his vantage point behind some stacks of trash, Barrett was incredulous. How did the weres ever get someone that gorgeous to trick for them? And then things fell into place. She had to be indentured. It was why he couldn’t get close enough with magic to sense what she was. The weres must have some sort of microelectronic harness on her. He’d heard about them from the fairies who generated most electronic devices these days.
An indefinable sadness tugged at him. He felt the heaviness in the pit of his stomach. Barrett waited until the door shut. He’d heard a man shouting at the girl from where he was, all the way across the street. It was a struggle not to go pound on the door, tell them he’d buy her bond, and be done with it. Even if she didn’t want him, at least she’d be free…
Barrett took a deep breath and then one more. Get back to the shop, he instructed himself sharply. The last thing I need is emotional entanglements. So he wouldn’t be tempted to change his mind, he pulled magic, visualized his shop, and left in a hurry.
At least the girl wasn’t a mystery anymore. It explained why she’d been so tentative in his shop. He was surprised the weres let their property roam about freely, but then he remembered the Covenant. Even the indentured had some rights. Weres had been the only ones who wanted indentured servants. The others had argued vehemently against them. Especially the fairies. In the end, other magic wielders had capitulated because the weres were ready to walk; they weren’t signing anything which didn’t let them keep their servant pets.
Barrett stood in front of his shop for a few moments composing himself. Now that he knew more, he’d have a better chance of approaching the girl next time she came to his shop. I thought I didn’t need any emotional tangles, an inner voice mocked him. Barrett ignored it. He nodded to himself. He was certain she’d show up again. Something about his shop drew her. Maybe it was an antidote to the life she led. He pushed open the door and went inside.
“There you are,” Baen cooed and placed a hand familiarly on his arm.
“Yes.” He forced himself to smile brightly. “Thank you so much. Here.” He broke away from her grip. “Let me pay you.”
“Not necessary. Maybe I could stay for a bit after you close—” She leered suggestively and licked full, red lips.
Barrett blew out a breath. “I’m flattered, but no. I do not want you in my bed.”
Her eyes widened. “I-I’m not sure where you got that idea,” she sputtered, color staining her face.
“Because I’m very good at reading body language. And minds. Thanks for watching the shop. Now, if it’s all the same to you, I’d just as soon end this conversation.”
Her lips drew back into a snarl. Magic spooled so hot it turned the air incandescent. Barrett steeled himself, sure she was going to launch herself at him and go for his eyes. Instead, she spun on her heel and strode toward the door, hips swinging as if to say, see what you missed, buddy.
Barrett blew out a tired breath and settled himself in his customary seat behind the counter. He hoped there wouldn’t be any repercussions from the witches because Baen was angry. From long habit, his gaze scanned the shop, alert for any sign of trouble. Today everyone seemed to be getting along. He shut his eyes. The girl materialized in the darkness, silver eyes aglow.
Tomorrow, he promised himself. Tomorrow, I’ll at least find out her name.

About the Author

Short Bio:

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. Several paranormal romance novellas are available in e-format. Three novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, Psyche’s Search, and Psyche's Promise are small press publications available in e-format and paperback. Look for two more urban fantasy novels coming this summer and fall: Fortune’s Scion and Earth’s Requiem.

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