Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Not as Easy as it Looks by Jaime Samms

Blurb: Don Jenkins will do anything for a happy, thriving family and home. When he discovers that Griff McAllister, his life partner and love since high school, seems to be losing faith in him, he’s at a loss for how to mend the relationship. Then Howard Campbell is added to the mix, a man Don and Griff both love beyond words, and jealousy and mistrust threaten not just their bond, but even Don’s ability to keep his farm viable. 

Nearly losing Howard in an accident serves as a wakeup call. They begin to pull their relationship out of the muck and work to remember why they came together in the first place. If they can figure out how to help one another and make sure each man gets what he needs, the trio might build the loving future they’ve dared to hope for. They have to be brave enough to commit every resource they can muster—especially trust, understanding, and acceptance—and realize true love is never as easy as it looks.
 
 
Excerpt: A low growl issued from Griff’s chest and he turned. “You’ve got to be the densest person on the fucking planet.”
Don blinked at him. Griff never swore.
“I don’t understand.”
“Obviously.” He shook his head, tossing strands of gold and sunlight over his face and past the clear blue of his eyes, like wheat on the horizon. And that look went on forever.
Until Griff was too close to focus on and of much more immediate importance was the taste of the coffee they’d been drinking and the mint gum Griff always chewed. Eclipsing whatever was behind his eyelids—closed now because there was nothing to look at—was the feel of calloused fingers on his cheek, then his neck, and the slither of wet tongue into his mouth, past lips still parted in shock.
Griff was kissing him.
It was clumsy and wet and more real than any kiss Howard had presented him with. It was as strange as a boy stepping between him and threat and punching it in the face. And it was as ordinary as a boy climbing into the cab of his father’s truck like he belonged there.
He hadn’t even gotten his head around the fact of it before it was gone.
Griff watched him, eyes wide, fingers still lightly connected to his face.
“You… smell like horses,” Don said.
Blond brows collapsed in confusion and the blue clouded over.
“Howard never kissed me like that.”
“Holy fuck!” Griff spun and reached for the door.
“Howard’s gone!” Don shouted. “He’s gone, Griff.”
“What do you mean? Gone?”
“We had a fight. He took off and I haven’t even spoken to him since.”
Griff’s head bobbed once, slowly. “That’s why you’ve been so….”
Don waited, but his friend didn’t say anything else. “So what?” he asked finally.
“Sad.”
“I’m not sad over Howard.”
“Bullshit.”
Another swear.
“I’m not.” And he wasn’t, exactly. At least, he didn’t think he was. “He asked me if I thought what we did was… gross.”
“I don’t think I want to—”
“Just listen.” Don knew Griff probably didn’t want to know what they’d been doing. But it was part of the thing that mattered. Part of the foundation, now. “I guess… he thought I was ashamed of it.”
“Are you?”
Don shrugged. It didn’t matter that Griff couldn’t see the gesture. “Doesn’t matter what I think of it. Doesn’t change anything.”
“What do you mean?”
“We did it once… I don’t even know. It was sort of by accident.”
Griff snorted. “Oops. I fell and kissed a boy.” He shook his head. “You’re so full of shit.”
More swearing. He’d never heard Griff swear before, and here he’d dropped them all in the space of five minutes.
“I don’t know. It wasn’t planned. It just happened. I wouldn’t have done it, or done it again if I didn’t like it. I kissed Kerrie-Lynn once, too, and that was gross.”
Griff chuckled. “Yeah. Wendy Scofield. Course, I was, like, ten, so what did I know, right?”
“You know when it isn’t what you want.”
“So you wanted Howard?”
“Listen.” Don held his breath. He wanted to explain. To make Griff understand, but he didn’t want to make Howard the bad guy. He hadn’t actually done anything wrong. If anyone had been in the wrong, it had been Don, not Howard.
“Okay,” Griff said slowly. “I’m listening. So talk.”
Don let out a breath and nodded. “So I told him I didn’t tell anyone about him and me because I didn’t want to get the shit kicked out of me when people found out.”
“I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you,” Griff said, his voice fierce and quiet and full of all those things in him that made him stick up for small, skinny boys he didn’t know.
“I know you wouldn’t.”
And there. That was not the same answer he’d given Howard at all, was it?
“I know you wouldn’t, Griff. That’s what Howard said, too. I told him, basically, he couldn’t protect me, and he wasn’t worth taking the chance. Well.” Don drew in a breath and let it out, because the next bit was him taking a hammer to his own foundation in hopes he was just knocking away the loose flakes and not smashing it to smithereens. “What I told him was that not even you were worth it.”
Griff gasped.
“Wait. Let me explain.”
“There’s more? Christ!”
“I said that, and it was cruel, Griff. Don’t you see? It pretty much told him he was less to me than you are.”
“And yet I’m not worth taking a risk for.”
Don blinked hard and swallowed. How to explain he’d been wrong about that?
Finally, Griff turned just enough to look at him, and there were tears on his cheeks. 
“Shit. I’m sorry.” He was dense. He had no idea what he was apologizing for. But Griff was crying and there wasn’t anyone else around who could have caused it. He was lousy at this shit.
“For what?” Griff asked, sniffing and wiping the back of his hand across his cheek.
Don shrugged.
“This is stupid,” Griff muttered, turning back to face the front of the cab.
“I guess.” Don smiled weakly and reached to turn the engine back on. It roared to life and when he glanced over at Griff, his friend’s proximity made his heart jump.
This kiss was less wet and a little longer. Griff leaned over to put his mouth next to Don’s ear after and shouted, “Don’t kiss Howard anymore.”
Howard had left.
Don grinned like an idiot as he got the behemoth machine moving again.
Griff had kissed him. Griff was his. His what? He grinned wider. Just his. That was good enough.

 

Face to Face by Jaime Samms

They say home is where the heart is. They never mentioned rusty fire escapes, hustling or dumpsters. They never warned how fragile hearts could be, either.
They say home is where the heart is. For Skate and Denny's sake, they had better be right, because all they have is each other.
For eight months, they've been running from past mistakes, a vengeful gang and their own inner demons. But living on the street has become less and less viable. As winter deepens and food gets scarce, they have to make some tough choices. How much can they sacrifice before it becomes too much?
Desperate for survival, Denny is forced to make decisions when Skate no longer can, and takes them back to Rainbow Alley, where their lives first went wrong. Hoping Rolly can help them escape the gang and the streets with their lives, and maybe some of their tattered pride, he begs for help. But going to Rolly might prove to be the one thing that their fragile relationship can't survive, not to mention that the chaos their return unleashes in the Alley and with its protectors could make them more enemies than friends.

https://www.totallybound.com/face-to-face?author_id=133

Skate
Winter seeped through even thick denim, eventually. Skate squirmed. The pavement ground his seat bones. It hadn’t been that long ago he’d had much more padding back there. He braced his feet, wiggled his toes and aligned his spine next to the hard metal bracket bolted to the brick at his back. It dug painfully into his flesh but it was a comfortable kind of pain. It told him he was as far under the rusting iron grid-work of the fire escape as it was possible to get, and that was a good thing. Neither the cold wind nor prying eyes could reach this far into the gloom
“You okay?” A small, soft voice issued from the bundle between his legs.
“Yeah.” Giving in to his need for warmth, Skate wound both arms around said bundle and drew the quaking form tight to his chest. It was as much shelter as he could hope for, sandwiched between crumbling brick and the bony form of his companion.
His bundle squirmed until a face appeared. “It’s getting worse.” Lank, mousy brown hair flopped in front of sunken brown eyes set in the gaunt face that turned up to him. Full lips looked out of place, too plump next to all the shaded hollows of too-thin cheeks, a jutting chin and a long, narrow nose.
Mouse. At the moment, it seemed an entirely appropriate name for the tiny, skittish creature huddled in the tight space with him. Skate hauled him nearer.
“You still chilly?” he asked.
“Aren’t you?” Mouse never spoke louder than a stage whisper lately, and Skate had to lean until he felt the warmth of breath on his cheek to hear the question.
The truth was Skate had gone well beyond cold some hours ago. At least back here, fingers and toes might be numb, his ass on the concrete might be beyond feeling, but he had Mouse curled up tight to his chest and he had the illusion, with that intimate contact, that they were safe. With any luck, safe enough he could sleep. Between the constannedt wintry temperature and forever looking over their shoulders, he was exhausted. Maybe now that he’d stopped shaking, he would be able to find some rest.
“Skate?”
“Huh?” He fought to keep his eyes open, his thoughts focused and his attention on Mouse’s grimy face. He’d asked something, but Skate couldn’t remember what.
Frosty fingers cupped his face.
Skate flicked his head, trying to eradicate the frigid touch snaking goosebumps down under his collar.
“Are you cold?”
The pitch of Mouse’s voice had risen slightly, touching off an alarm in Skate’s gut. He pulled the smaller man closer still, peering past for the danger that had his friend on sudden alert.
“Skate!”
“What?”
“We should go to the shelter.” Mouse prised himself free of Skate’s grasp and began to back out of their tiny alcove. “C’mon.”
“No.” Skate remained firmly, heavily in place, making it impossible for the smaller man to move him.
“We should. C’mon.” Mouse tugged again, harder, jacking pain through Skate’s fingers where he squeezed the frozen digits too hard.
“No!” Skate jerked free. “Blade.”
One name, a short form for all of the things they’d been trying to outrun for months. The shelter was where their former gang leader had found them the last time. They’d only got away because one of the brawnier volunteers had managed to distract Blade at the door just long enough for Mouse to dash to safety. Skate didn’t think about his own encounter with the gang on that faraway day. He had managed to get himself out, but not soon enough.
Blade would be doubly pissed off now that two minor, mostly helpless ex-gang members had once again slipped through his grasp. The shelters would be watched. So would the soup kitchens and charity wagons and bus stops. The abandoned buildings where vagrants crashed would be guarded by the very homeless people who squatted there. They’d tell Blade if Mouse and Skate showed to save their own frozen, filthy hides, and Skate couldn’t really blame them.
Every place they might go would be under surveillance, and Skate knew it, because back in the day, when he’d been desperate to join the Greenbacks himself, he’d been one of those doing the watching.
Now that he wanted out, he was the one being hunted. All those kids wanted was a glimpse of them. They wanted that vital scrap of information that might get them noticed by the leader. The desire to tell them how horribly wrong it would all go once they were in washed over Skate.
Of course, he wouldn’t say anything to any of them. He couldn’t. They’d have to save themselves.
“We have to go somewhere,” Mouse was insisting, still yanking on his arm.
“Here’s good.” Skate called up reserves of strength he didn’t really have to spare and hauled Mouse back in. “Not even cold anymore.” He smiled a wilted, floppy smile. “Just tired.”
“That’s what has me worried.” Mouse huddled against him, apparently giving up the attempt to get him to move. “Tell me something?”
“What?” Skate blinked into the dusky light. Knowing they were safe from prying eyes here, he wrapped his arms around Mouse and nestled his chin on his companion’s shoulder, breathing in the faint smell of Mouse clinging under the layers of street.
No use wasting the tiniest smidge of heat, he decided. Besides, despite the reek of city filth and the stale stench of other men, Skate could still detect that special tinge of open sky and hay and sweetness that he was addicted to. If he could breathe Mouse all the time, he would.
“Anything.” Mouse twisted around and cuddled his bony body to Skate’s. He never passed up an opportunity to get close. It didn’t matter how many times Skate reminded him they were just friends, he still wormed his way deeper every opening he got.
“Tell me anything,” he said, voice barely above a kitten purr. “Just talk. I love your voice.”
“Nothing to say,” Skate muttered. He was acutely aware that if anyone were around to overhear them, or see them like this, he would never get away with playing his dog-eared, bent-up straight card. Especially not with the way he let Mouse take the liberty of popping tiny kisses open along the side of his neck.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Night Games by H.C. Brown & KevaD

Night Games

Night Games

By: H.C. Brown | Other books by H.C. Brown
      KevaD | Other books by KevaD
Published By: Steam eReads
ISBN # 9780992331535
Word Count: 21000
Heat Index   

Available in: Epub, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat
add to cart Read More

About the book

Joe Harrison’s attraction to the young, handsome part-owner of Bowers’ Beautiful Excursions has become an obsession. His purchase of a sailboat, and need for a skilled captain, gives him the opportunity to spend some time alone with the elusive Dazz.

Although sailing a brand-new schooner through pirate infested waters isn’t Dazz’s idea of fun, his desire to know Joe more intimately overrides his caution.

Hijacked by pirates and forced to flee into the jungle, they must overcome all obstacles and fight to recover the vessel. Will their fragile relationship survive the bittersweet trials to come?


www.hcbrown-author.com

Sea Games by H.C. Brown & KevaD

Sea Games
 

Sea Games

By: H.C. Brown | Other books by H.C. Brown
      KevaD | Other books by KevaD
Published By: Steam eReads
ISBN # 9780992331528
Word Count: 22000
Heat Index    
Available in: Epub, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat
add to cart

About the book

Brian Bowers is a man on a mission. Revenge weighs heavy on his mind. The need to punish the woman he once loved above all others falls into tatters the moment he sets eyes on her again.

Fifteen years of walking on the fine edge between love and hate ends in an explosion of lust. Patrice, sophisticated and wealthy, has her own agenda. She knows how to use her body to get what she wants. But Bowers knows how to play the game.

Set in a world of indulgence, Sea Games follows two hearts as they battle memories of the past. Will they win or lose a future together?

Jungle Games by H.C. Brown & KevaD

Jungle Games
 

Jungle Games

By: H.C. Brown | Other books by H.C. Brown
      KevaD | Other books by KevaD
Published By: Steam eReads
ISBN # 9780992331542
Word Count: 29000
Heat Index    
Available in: Epub, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat
add to cart

About the book

Insecure Karin Orth agrees to an erotic seafaring vacation with her fianc√© in the hope they can reduce the growing list of problems in their troubled relationship. Unfortunately, the bevy of gorgeous, slender women onboard the Brazilian-based schooner only serves to shrivel her confidence further. Her fianc√©’s sudden obsession with threesomes and foursomes doesn’t float her boat either.

Smuggler, thief, and pirate Miguel Arelo is a dangerous man. Few know he upholds the ancient tribal beliefs of gods and goddesses. The moment he lays eyes on the voluptuous Karin Orth, he is convinced the gods have bequeathed him a treasure beyond imagination. Now, all he has to do is claim his prize. The fact she isn’t interested in him is a small matter a simple midnight kidnapping can resolve. Well, that and an Incan altar of decadent, sexual torment secreted deep in the Amazon rainforest. And ropes…

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Delta Blues by Ellen Cross

 In a World where the Alpha are the law, Beta the order, and Omega the knowledge…the Delta have become the oppressed.
    The night of Samhain is fast approaching, and for that one night a year, Gray and the last remaining Dire Wolves—amongst others—are entrusted with the protection of the veil between worlds, while it’s at its thinnest. Add in the threat of a new drug on the market, and they’ll have to work twice as hard to keep everyone safe. The last thing he needs is a sexy little Delta to save.
    As a lowly Delta, Red Wolf shifter Ryan has never known peace. Cast away and unwanted, he is quickly taken captive and trained as a dancer at The Howling, a strip club in the worst part of Praeter. Hungry, abused, and kept in a drug-induced fog, his life is nothing. He is nothing but the orders and twisted demands of his captor. All that changes when he catches the scent of a wolf in the crowd.
    Long ebony hair, eyes that can’t decide if they’re green or blue as they follow him on stage. Unable to stop himself, Ryan does the one thing guaranteed to earn him punishment. He touches the other wolf. Peace. For those few brief moments, the hunger, the pain, the torment…all gone. The price to feel that respite again, though, could very well be his life.
http://www.extasybooks.com/delta-blues/

EllenEmoji

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Little Weird by JB McDonald

Blurb:

Kel has seen his share of weird throughout his life, but when London asks him to sub for her and her boyfriend, that tops the list. He isn't gay. He isn't bi. He definitely isn't submissive. And with an underlying case of post traumatic stress disorder from years in the military, anything BDSM just sounds dangerous.
But he also doesn't want to see his friends hurt, and he's positive that will happen if they get together with strangers from the Internet. London plays things too close to the vest for him to get a good enough read on her, but he trusts Ty, even if he doesn't think he'll enjoy turning over control. It'll be a one-off, it'll be a little weird, and they'll all go back to normal.
He's not sure what to do when a little weird turns out to be something he wants.




Excerpt:

"Sit," London said, plopping herself down on the edge of the couch.
Kel remained standing, shifting until his back was against the wall and he could see everything and everyone. He really liked standing. He tucked his hands in his back pockets. Maybe this was a bad idea. A threesome was one thing. A threesome with friends was another. A threesome with friends where he was supposed to be submissive seemed impossible.
And just who would you try anything new with, his mind murmured, if not with friends?
He hated his mind.
"Take your jacket off." Ty motioned to a hat stand filled with scarves, coats, and hats. "Stay awhile."
Right. He shrugged out of his jacket self consciously. "How does this work?" He sounded more gruff than he'd meant to. He couldn't help it. London kept watching him.
"It's pretty simple, really," Ty said, wandering toward the mini-bar. "I give the orders, and you follow them." He smiled at London. "Mostly, I'm probably going to repeat what London says, so you might as well save yourself some trouble and follow the lady's instructions."
London grinned.
He couldn't bring himself to believe she'd request anything really bizarre. Not that he had any idea what she might request -- reading online had made him more unsure in that regard than he'd been before. But the twinkle in her eye was more amused than anything. The urge to smile back at her surprised him. He worked to keep his face straight. "No harnesses," he told her, semi-serious.
She blinked at him with wide eyes, feigning innocence. "That wasn't on your piece of paper."
He thought she was feigning. He glanced at Ty -- Tyrone -- for confirmation, and Tyrone laughed. "See, man," Ty said, "This is why she doesn't get to be a dom."
There was that word. It brought a wave of uncertainty. "I don't think I'm gonna be very good at being a-- a--" He couldn't even say it.
Ty -- Tyrone -- cut in. "Don't think about being submissive. Think about following orders. Just..." He smiled slowly, teeth white against his dark skin. "Don't argue."
Kel suppressed the urge to fidget. "What if I don't like something?"
"Be willing to try new things," Ty said. Then he shrugged, crossing to the bar. "But if you really don't like something, then say so. And worst case scenario, you can always use your safe word or tap out. You remember your safe word?"
Kel gave Ty an unimpressed look. "Safe word." He'd figured he'd remember that, just like remembering to tap out when he was overwhelmed was automatic.
London grinned. "That was mine, too."
"Look," Ty said reasonably, "if you realize you really don't like following orders, we can always change things up." He poured a glass of water, sipping, watching Kel over the rim as if waiting for something.
"Okay," Kel said, despite his misgivings. "We gonna do this or what?"
"You sure you want to?" Ty asked. London had folded her hands together, as if it were the only thing keeping her from bouncing up. Ty ignored her. "We could just talk."
Kel scowled at Ty. "I'm here, aren't I? Yes. I want to." Besides which, if he left without doing something he wasn't sure he'd come back.
"All right," Ty said easily, setting down his glass. "Have a seat." He gestured to the couch.
A flutter bubbled in Kel's chest. "What, here? Aren't we--"
"Kel." The word slapped across him, low and flat. "Have a seat."
Kel glanced at Ty and received a steady, calm look in return. He narrowed his eyes, fighting the urge to turn it into a contest of wills. He shifted from one foot to the other. Silence stretched, like taffy. God damn it, he was supposed to be following orders. He nodded once, stiffly, and wandered to the couch slower than he knew politeness would dictate, the tempo of steps his unspoken protest. He sat when London patted a cushion, and as soon as his butt was on the leather she hopped up and spun toward him. Suddenly, he had a lap full of London, sideways across his thighs. His arm came up automatically to keep her from sliding back too far, and he glanced up at Ty. Tyrone. It wasn't Kel's girlfriend who'd just hopped into some other guy's lap, after all.
But Tyrone seemed unperturbed about it, wandering over with his glass of water in one hand and a beer in the other.
Kel's eyebrows rose. "I thought you didn't drink while you... played."
"I don't," Ty said with a half smile. "But my job is to make my people comfortable, and you said you wouldn't get drunk off of one." He held it out.
Kel didn't need alcohol to calm down, but he took it with a sense of relief, anyway. It was even a brand he liked, he realized as he sipped.
Tyrone settled sideways on the couch a few feet away, facing Kel and London and looking perfectly happy to stay there. That was kind of a relief, too.
"First rule," Tyrone said as London took Kel's beer away and drank from it herself, "is to not initiate contact unless otherwise directed."
Kel, halfway through taking his beer back, slid a look over to Ty.
Ty's mouth was gentle, amused, but he looked pointedly at Kel's hand and then back at Kel.
Well. That changed things. Cautiously, testing out how it felt, he pulled his hand away. London grinned at him and offered the bottle again, waggling it. He couldn't decide if it was a real offer or if he was being baited. Kel glanced at Ty, which didn't tell him much, and glanced at London.
"If she's offering it," Ty said, "you can have it."
Kel took it. "This seems like a tease."
"It is," Ty agreed easily. "That's one of the fun things about having-- having someone who takes orders." He was being careful not to say sub, Kel suspected. Kel appreciated it. "Taking them to the edge and holding them there until you tell them to fall. Good news is, contact is going to be encouraged most of the time."
That, he had to admit, sounded like a great way to spend an evening. Of course, it also just sounded like sex. Wasn't that the point? To get close to the edge and stay there until you fell? He kept his gaze on London, sipped his beer, and when she took it from him again he didn't object.
So far, so good. If this was what they were doing, he could manage it. No problem.
Then London leaned in and kissed him. He hesitated, overly-aware that Ty was watching. He kept his hands off her, even removing the one that had been steadying her where she was.
Ty spoke quietly, sounding like he was holding back a laugh. "You can kiss back."
So Kel did. His free hand -- the one not holding beer -- rose to thread through her hair, cradling the back of her skull. She was a little higher than he was, being on his lap, and he had to tilt his head to meet her.
Faintly, he realized he was surprised she was a good kisser. Somehow he'd always figured her awkwardness in conversation would translate to awkwardness in the bedroom, too. He changed the angle of his head, closed his hand gently in her hair to tug, and felt her breath catch. She pulled away and he followed, right until her hand slapped against his sternum and stopped him. Even if he hadn't been supposed to follow orders, he'd have stopped at that. He didn't make it a habit of pursuing women when they didn't want to be pursued.
At some point, he realized, Ty had taken his beer. With a slight smile, Ty took a sip, then handed it to London, who took another sip. She waggled it at him again, this time with a wicked tip to her mouth. When he reached for it she pulled it away.
Kel's eyes narrowed. It made her laugh
"Did you want some?" she asked with polite courtesy so innocent it was bordering on mockery.
He followed suit, just shy of sarcasm himself, with the ultra-polite manners his mama had drilled into him. "Yes please, ma'am." He hadn't meant it in any sort of following-orders way; it just came out, tinged with the accent he'd rid himself of when he'd joined the military.
London's mouth opened. Ty's eyes widened. Kel scowled at them both. Before he could say anything, though, London put the bottle to his mouth and tipped it. He swallowed so that beer didn't spill down his front, his hand coming up to catch her wrist and pull it away before he drowned. As soon as he could breathe, though, Tyrone's hand closed around Kel's wrist and tugged away from London. Not hard, but irrevocably.
Kel looked at dark fingers wrapped around the large bones of his wrist for a long, deciding moment. He could think of twelve ways to break that hold, and seven of them involved breaking bones. Instead, he let go of London and allowed Tyrone to pull his hand down and put it on the couch between them. Tyrone flattened his hand over Kel's, pinning it there gently.  

LUCIUS: Spartan Warrior by Stormy Glenn

Coming October 22nd, 2013

Lucius is Spartan, a genetically enhanced soldier created for the sole purpose of fighting. But what is he to do when the war is over? Exiled with his unit to an island off the Pacific coastline, Lucius is shocked when he finds more than a deserted island when he meets Ari, a man determined to live by his own rules even at the cost of his own life.
Ari was just a teenager when he was abandoned by his family and exiled because he didn’t meet the new moral code. He does what he needs to do to survive. When he meets Lucius and the other Spartan, he finds that the fierce warriors need even more help than he does.
Emotions have been drummed out of the Spartans, deemed useless to men taught nothing but killing. Teaching them to feel just might be harder than Ari thinks, especially when he needs Lucius to be the killing machine he was born to be in order to save them all when the enemy attacks. But the cost might be the man he is falling in love with.



STORY EXCERPT
Ari tightened his fingers around the knife in his hand to hide the tremble that flickered through his entire body. The soldier standing before him was the biggest damn man Ari had ever seen in his life. He stood taller than the wooden doorframe.
Ari didn’t move other than to try and draw some much needed air into his lungs. He wasn’t stupid. He knew he was facing off against a Spartan warrior, one of the fiercest fighting machines ever created.
The three black tattooed lines on the side of the man’s face were a dead give-away. All Spartan had them. Each line was a mark of rank. Ari had no idea what this man’s rank was but he hoped it was high enough up that he could keep the others from killing him—assuming he didn’t kill Ari himself, which was a very real possibility.
Ari had seen the Spartan warriors in the cities during the war. He had seen them fight and seen them kill. He knew what they were capable of and he was fully aware of the fact that he didn’t have chance in hell of beating the one standing in front of him or the ones standing behind him.
“Who are you?” the man repeated.
“Ari.” Fuck, man this guy was huge. Ari swallowed hard, trying to bring some moisture back to his dry throat. “I live here.”
“No one is supposed to be on this island.”
Ari cocked his head to the side, a small frown of confusion working its way across his forehead. He slowly lowered the knife in his hand but didn’t let go of it. He would most definitely lose a fight with this soldier, but he’d cause a lot of damage as he died.
“Who told you that?”
“My superiors informed us that this island was uninhabited.”
“They were wrong.”
Ari gulped when the man’s lips thinned in obvious anger. He quickly held his hand up to placate the guy, and hopefully keep his head attached to his shoulders. “I’m sure they thought the island was uninhabited but it’s not. There are a lot of us here.”
Ari groaned when the warrior’s eyes narrowed at him. He knew he talked too much when he was nervous and a person couldn’t get much more nervous than he was right now. If he didn’t tuck his lips in he’d start spilling about every damn thing floating through his head.
“How many are here?”
Ari pressed his lips together and shook his head rapidly. He was in enough trouble. He wasn’t taking anyone else down with him. The next instant, Ari found himself disarmed and lying down on the floor on his back, his arms pinned down above his head and the biggest damn warrior in the group sitting on him.
“Speak,” the man growled, low and menacing.
Ari swallowed again, just knowing he was enjoying his last few minutes on earth, and then he shook his head. He might not like everyone that was stranded on the island, but he refused to divulge their numbers or whereabouts to a bunch of soldiers.
Nothing in the world could have prevented the squeak that fell from Ari’s lips when he felt the very sharp edge of a knife blade press against his throat.
Yep, he was going to die.
“Speak.”
Shaking his head was out. He’d just end up cutting his own throat. “No,” Ari said with as much bravado as he could muster up considering he was so scared he was about to piss himself.
“Then you will die.”
Ari almost rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I kind of figured that.”
“Then speak.” The Spartan sounded confused; almost as if he couldn’t quite understand why Ari wouldn’t speak if refusing to do so meant his life would be forfeit. And maybe he didn’t understand.
From what Ari had seen during the war, many people would give up their mothers for the right incentive. Ari’s mother had died during the war. Ari barely remembered her. But that didn’t mean he didn’t have people in his life that he cared about.
Ari refused to give the others up. He might not like some of them, but he had made friends with a lot of them. Besides, Ari had always known he would die at some point. It was kind of a fact of life. And he’d rather go out protecting his friends than from starving to death or getting a cold.
“No.”
 “Do you want to die?”
Ari’s lips twitched. He almost felt like laughing. “Not really.”
“Then speak,” the man said in a deep voice void of emotion. “Tell me how many others there are.”
“You might as well kill me now because I won’t tell you anything.”
“So be it.”
Ari braced himself, waiting for the killing blow. But instead of dying, Ari was yanked to his feet. He found himself spun around then he was picked up and tossed over the large warriors shoulder. The Spartan started out the door, pausing on the doorstep to look back at the other warriors.
“Burn it,” he said before carrying Ari out of the building.
“No!” Ari screamed as he started to struggle, visualizing all of his hard work going up in flames. “No, please, don’t—”
“Then speak,” the Spartan said as he dropped Ari down to his feet.
Tears blurred Ari’s vision as he glanced at his house. It had taken him nearly two years to get the place livable, to carefully cultivate his garden and get all of his food stores canned and in his pantry. He had worked so hard, often from sun up to sun down. He couldn’t watch it all go up in flames.
“No,” Ari whispered as his shoulders slumped. Even if it meant his home, he couldn’t betray his friends. His house could be replaced. His friends couldn’t.
A lone tear slid down Ari’s pale cheek as he watched the first flicker of flame come to life on the torch one of the warriors held. He knew once the torch was fully engulfed with flames, the Spartan would toss it on his house, beginning the process that would take everything from him.
He’d seen it before.
Ari jerked back when the large Spartan with onyx eyes wiped his tear away with a single finger. “Why do you cry?” the Spartan asked. “This is your decision. Tell me what I want to know and I will not order the building burned.”
Ari’s nostrils flared as he inhaled hard. “Fuck you!”

ADULT EXCERPT
Ari yelped when he was suddenly grabbed around the neck and yanked forward. Hard searching lips pressed against his…and that was it. Ari waited for something more to happen—movement, the slip of a tongue, anything.
He got nothing.
Lucius was frowning just about as deeply as Ari had ever seen when the man leaned back. “I am not sure I fully understand why everyone seems so excited by a kiss, Ari. While I find that my pulse increases and my penis grows harder, this kissing thing does not seem to be a good enough reason to be so excited.”
Ari’s jaw dropped. “That wasn’t a kiss, Lucius. That was just you pressing your lips against mine.”
A kiss is the act of pressing one's lips against another person’s, is it not?”
“Yeeaahh, sorta. There’s a little more involved than that.” Ari chuckled as he pushed the blankets down and moved to sit on the edge of on the bed. He patted the mattress in front of him. “Come over here and I’ll show you why everyone raves about kissing.”
Well, Ari hoped he could show Lucius what was so exciting about a kiss. He was pretty sure that Lucius was interested in men if he gave the Spartan a hard on. That did not mean he would like kissing. Not every man did. Ari, on the other hand, loved kissing. He dreamed of making out with a lover for hours.
If he had a lover.
Once Lucius had moved into place, Ari when to grab him when he noticed the flak jacket he was wearing and the gun holstered at his hip. While the man was prepared to go into battle, this was not a battle.
It was a kiss.
“Can you take off the flak jacket and gun?” Ari gestured to the nightstand. “You can put them there within easy reach.”
Lucius looked hesitant, his jaw firming as if he was fighting his instincts, but finally, he unbuckled his gun belt and laid it down on the nightstand then pulled his flak jacket off, laying over the top of his gun holster. When he was all done, Lucius settled back down on the bed.
“Now what?”
Ari chuckled just because the situation was so fucking weird. “Close your eyes.”
“Why?”
“Please?” Ari would never admit to Lucius that he was too nervous to have the man watching him while they kissed. Lucius’s dark eyes assessed everything, looking for strengths and weaknesses. For once, he just needed to feel.
Ari’s stomach fluttered when Lucius’s eyes slowly slid closed, and that was a telling moment in itself. Ari knew that there had to be at least some level of trust for the man to close his eyes around him.
Ari held his breath as he cupped Lucius’s chiseled face between his hands and leaned forward, touching his lips to Lucius’s. His tongue stroked across Lucius's lips, caressing his mouth more than kissing it.
Groaning, Lucius opened to him, and Ari swept his tongue inside, exploring, conquering. Tasting the warrior that he had wanted since the moment he saw the strong man standing before him with a knife in his hand.
Ari started when he was suddenly crushed against Lucius’s chest, the man’s large hands fisting him his hair. Lucius pressed his mouth to Ari’s, claiming his mouth with a savage intensity that seared Ari to his toes. Ari returned Lucius's kiss with reckless abandon, wanting more, wanting Lucius.
Now, this was a kiss.
When the full weight of Lucius’s muscular body pressed into him, Ari fell back against the pillows. A deep growl rumbled through Lucius’s chest as he crawled up and settled over the top of Ari, the width of his hips spreading Ari’s thighs until they almost hurt.
The pain was worth it to feel the monstrosity of a cock Lucius was sporting press against him. Ari’s breathing sped up as he hitched his hips and wrapped his legs around Lucius’s waist, bringing their two cocks together.
Ari bemoaned the fact that fabric separated them when he so desperately wanted to feel Lucius’s naked cock against his own. He reached down, wiggling his hand until he could get it between them, searching for the buttons of Lucius’s pants.
The moan that fell from his lips came partly from the victory he felt when he found the buttons and got them undone, and partly from the lips that continued to devour his. Lucius kissed Ari with a hunger that rivaled his own, threatening to consume them both.
Ari slid his hand inside of Lucius’s pants. The very moment his hand wrapped around Lucius’s wide girth, the man’s head snapped up, breaking the kiss. Lucius stared down at Ari for what seemed like a million years, and then tossed his head back as he roared, bucking wildly as hot cum filled Ari’s hand.
Ari just laid there, stunned, his own cock throbbing, aching. After watching Lucius’s display, he was so close to release that a stiff wind would have sent him over the edge. He just needed a little more, a little…
Ari cried out, his entire body going ramrod stiff as Lucius’s lips slammed back down on his, the man capturing his lips in a kiss that showed who dominated who. Lucius’s hand wrapped around Ari’s throat and the underside of his jaw, tilting his head back. The other one moved down Ari’s body, sliding down under him to grab his ass.
He was so damn close.
Ari almost went out of his mind when Lucius’s single hand covered a fair amount of both ass cheeks. He ripped his lips away from Lucius and stared up into Lucius’s unfathomable eyes, the intensity of the man’s gaze making his entire body clench with need. Ari swore he could see flames leaping to life in Lucius’s dark eyes, an invisible web of attraction building between them.
“Lucius.”

On Fire by H.C. Brown

New Release!
On Fire by H.C. Brown
M/M Erotic Romance <<...>> 

http://romancecoveart.blogspot.com.au/ 

Gold Coast, Australia. Blake is immediately attracted to the new firefighter at his Golden Beach Station house, Sax Peters. However, the six-foot-five hunk is fifteen years younger and may be a much more smoldering, sexy man than Blake can handle.

An excerpt from the book Surfers Paradise, Australia.

“Now that’s what I call a wet dream walking.” Grant moaned and cupped his balls. “Two ‘o clock leaning against the bar. Oh, shit he is HOT.”
Blake Harper shifted his gaze to the bar. Oh yeah. The tall, sexy, sun-kissed god turned slowly, giving him the full gamut of a delightfully muscular body. His white shirt, opened to the waist, accentuated his suntanned, hairless six-pack and framed deliciously bitable flat nipples. Blake’s gaze rested hungrily on the unbuttoned jeans, slung low on the man’s hips, showing a band of white boxers. He licked his lips at the prominent bulge and lifted his stare, slowly, taking in every inch of him. Oh boy, this guy ticked every box on his “I want to fuck you” meter.
Deliciously Handsome met his gaze with a slow smile and lifted his glass in a toast. Fuck. Blake’s mouth went dry. He lifted his beer in response and forced a small smile. His stomach dropped to his boots. The young man’s mouth quirked into a satisfied grin. Oh yeah, he’s thrown out his line and damned if I haven’t taken the bait like some sex starved teenager.
“I must be dreaming; he’s coming over!” Grant gripped Blake’s arm. “What are we going to do he is way out of my league?”
“Let go of my arm for a start. I’m not your date.” Blake glared at his friend. “Don’t, for fuck’s sake, say anything stupid. Be cool.”
The sexy man sauntered toward them and Blake’s attention went to the man’s face. Hell, with eyes as deep as the ocean, he looked as if he belonged on the cover of a romance novel. He stopped in front of them and inclined his dark head. His blue gaze moved in slow deliberation over Blake’s physic. Blake cursed under his breath; his traitorous cock was straining against the front of his jeans.
A voice like dark chocolate poured over him. “I know you; your picture is in the firemen’s calendar. You’re Blake, Mister July. Fuck, you’ve got a great ass.” Deliciously Handsome held out his hand. “Sax Peters.”
Blake shook the offered hand firmly. “Blake Harper. This is my friend, Grant Smith.”
“Nice to meet you Grant.” Sax ignored Grant’s outstretched hand and centered his attention on Blake. “I’m the new kid in town. I’ve been transferred from Sydney to the fire department at Golden Beach; I believe you’re based there.” He grinned at Blake and rested a hip on the bar seat beside the round, glass-top table.
Blake swallowed hard. Imagine working with him, I’ll be hard all day long. “Yeah, I’ve been stationed at Golden Beach for a little over five years” He gave Sax’s perfect body a frank appraisal and watched the guy’s six-pack ripple under his gaze. His mouth watered at the sight of suntanned bare flesh. He inhaled and caught a whiff of expensive cologne and clean male musk. He met the man’s amused gaze and forced words post the lump in his throat. “How come you didn’t get into the calendar; you’ve got a pretty fine ass yourself.”
“Thanks.” Sax grinned. “I made the Sydney one, Mister January. So . . . what’s it like working in Queensland? Do you run into any trouble being gay and a firefighter? Do the other guys on your team have any problems with you?”
Blake ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “Some of the older men have a problem, but here on the coast, it’s tolerated better than in the country.”
“That’s a relief. Can I buy you a drink? Another beer?” He glanced past Blake and raised a brow at Grant. “You don’t mind if I steal Blake for the night, do you? I wanna ask him about the ground rules at the depot.”
“No, go right ahead and have a chat. I’ll buy the next round.” Grant turned toward the bar.
“Sorry about that. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but to be honest he’s not my type.” Sax winked. “Now you, well I hope we can be friends.”
Blake’s legs turned to jelly. How a stunning, six-foot-five Adonis could be interested in him, a man of thirty-seven, he had no idea. Sure, he kept in shape but he wasn’t what a man in his twenties would be craving. He looked into Sax’s intelligent, oh-so-blue eyes and coughed. “Me? Hell, what have I got that could possibly interest a guy like you?”
“Experience on the job, and I’m guessing between the sheets. You have a hard body with plenty of muscle. I like that and I like a man to look like a man — rugged, not pretty like me.” Sax took a step closer.
Oh Shit, I am way out of my depth here. Blake inhaled Sax’s rich, musky scent mixed with a hint of sandalwood. He cleared his throat in the hope his voice wouldn’t come out in a squeak. “Have you found a place to live?”
“Yeah, I’ve rented an apartment overlooking the beach at Miami. I’m a beach bum in my off time and spend most of my time surfing. When I’m working, I like to run on the sand at daybreak, keeps me fit.”
Sax had moved so close his thigh brushed Blake’s jeans and heat from Sax’s body seared through the denim. So the sexy guy had moved into his suburb and he had the chance to watch the sexy bronzed Aussie jogging every morning before work. Oh my God. He straightened and concentrated on taking the next breath, Blake smiled. “That’s where I live. I live in the Waves building. I run every morning too. It’s strange we haven’t met before.”
“That’s because, I was living with a friend near Surfers, but I moved into the Waves building this morning. I’ll be out there every morning from now on.” Sax flashed a white grin. “This is getting better by the second. How about meeting me on the sand at six tomorrow morning and we’ll run together. My shift starts at nine.”
Blake laughed. Had his fairy godmother waved a magic wand or something, or would he wake up soon? He slapped Sax on the shoulder and allowed his hand to linger. “That sounds like a plan and there’s another coincidence it looks like you’re on my shift too. I’ll be able to introduce you to the boys”
“Sweet.” Sax grinned and inclined his head toward the crowded floor. “Wanna dance?”
Running his fingers over the beer coaster on the table, Blake shrugged. “I’m not comfortable dancing or public displays of affection.”
“You’re in a gay club, so you’re out. Come on, it’s a slow one; come and press that hard body against me.” Sax leaned in close. “I know you want to.”
Blake looked wildly around for Grant. Sax smiled wickedly, grabbed Blake’s hand, and pulled him onto the dance floor.
Blake hung back. “I’m not sure I can do this.”
“Yes you can. Look, it’s just you, the music and me. Forget about the other guys” Sax squeezed his hand. “Put your arms around me and sway” He grasped Blake’s buttocks and pulling him flush. He buried his face in Blake’s neck and his warm breath teased his ear. “You smell like sin.”
Blake shuffled his feet and moved slowly. The other dancers closed around them and under dimmed lights Blake’s confidence rose. He swayed to the music, his erection pressed hard against Sax’s package. He grasped the back of Sax’s neck, and his fingers brushed the dark hair curling at the nape. One dance ran into three. Sax caressed his ass with his long fingers and the man’s hot breath brushed Blake’s cheek. His cock ached with desire for this man and pressed hard behind the zipper of his jeans.
Without warning, Sax kissed him, dipping his scorching tongue deep into Blake’s mouth. He groaned and without thinking, ground against Sax, bringing a chuckle from his hot inviting mouth.
“You are so fucking hot. Come home with me.” Sax suckled on Blake’s bottom lip. “You want me, I want you. Let’s make it happen.”


www.hcbrown-author.com  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

To Love a Highland Dragon by Ann Gimpel



To Love a Highland Dragon
Dragon Lore, Book 1

By Ann Gimpel

Publisher: Taliesin
ISBN:  978-1-962916-004-7

Release Date: 9/5/13

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Romance
71,000 words

A modern day psychiatrist and a dragon shifter stranded in time can’t escape their destiny, no matter how unlikely it seems.

Blurb:
In a cave deep beneath Inverness, a dragon shifter stirs and wakens. The cave is the same and his hoard intact, yet Lachlan senses something amiss. Taking his human form, he ventures above ground with ancient memories flooding him. But nothing is the same. His castle has been replaced by ungainly row houses. Men aren’t wearing plaids and women scarcely wear anything at all.

In Inverness for a year on a psychiatry fellowship, Dr. Maggie Hibbins watches an oddly dressed man pick his way out of a heather and gorse thicket. Even though it runs counter to her better judgment, she teases him about his strange attire. He looks so lost—and so unbelievably handsome —she takes him to a pub for a meal, to a barbershop, and then home. Along the way the hard-to-accept truth sinks in: he has to be a refugee from another era.

Never a risk-taker, Maggie’s carefully constructed life is about to change forever. Swept up in an ancient prophecy that links her to Lachlan and his dragon, she must push the edges of the impossible to save both the present and her heart.


Excerpt:
Chapter One
Kheladin listened to the rush of blood as his multi-chambered heart pumped. After eons of nothingness, it was a welcome sound. A cool, sandy floor pressed against his scaled haunches. One whirling eye flickered open, followed by the other.
Where am I? He peered around himself and blew out a sigh, followed by steam, smoke, and fire.
Thanks be to Dewi— Kheladin invoked the blood-red Celtic dragon goddess— I am still in my cave. It smelled right, but I wasna certain.
He rotated his serpent’s head atop his long, sinuous neck. Vertebrae cracked. Kheladin lowered his head and scanned the place he and Lachlan, his human bond mate, had barricaded themselves into. It might have only been days ago, but somehow, it didn’t seem like days, or even months or a few years. His body felt rusty, as if he hadn’t used it in centuries.
How long did I sleep?
He shook his head. Copper scales flew everywhere, clanking against a pile that had formed around him. More than anything, the glittery heap reinforced his belief that he’d been asleep for a very long time. Dragons shed their scales annually. From the looks of the pile circling his body, he’d gone through hundreds of molt cycles. But how? The last thing he remembered was retreating to the cave far beneath Lachlan’s castle and working with the mage to construct strong wards.
Had the black wyvern grown so powerful he’d been able to force his magic into the very heart of Kheladin’s fortress?
If that is true— If we were really his prisoner, why did I finally waken? Is Lachlan still within me?
Stop! I have to take things one at a time.
He returned his gaze to the nooks and crannies of his spacious cave. He’d have to take inventory, but it appeared his treasure hadn’t been disturbed. Kheladin blew a plume of steam upward, followed by an experimental gout of fire. The black wyvern, his sworn enemy since before the Crusades, may have bested him, but he hadn’t gotten his slimy talons on any of Kheladin’s gold or jewels.
He shook out his back feet and shuffled to the pool at one end of the cave where he dipped his snout and drank deeply. The water didn’t taste quite right. It wasn’t poisoned, but it held an undercurrent of metals that had never been there before. Kheladin rolled the liquid around in his mouth. He didn’t recognize much of what he tasted.
The flavors are not familiar because I have been asleep for so long. Aye, that must be it. Part of his mind recoiled; he suspected he was deluding himself.
“We’re awake.” Lachlan’s voice hummed in the dragon’s mind.
“Aye, that we are.”
“How long did we sleep?”
“I doona know.” Water streamed down the dragon’s snout and neck. He knew what would come next; he didn’t have to wait long.
“Let us shift. We think better in my body.” Lachlan urged Kheladin to cede ascendency.
“Ye only think that is true.” Kheladin pushed back. “I was figuring things out afore ye woke.”
“Aye, I’m certain ye were, but…” But what? “Och aye, my brain is thick and fuzzy, as if I havena used it for a verra long time.”
“Mine feels the same.”
The bond allowed only one form at a time. Since they were in Kheladin’s body, he still had the upper hand; the dragon didn’t think Lachlan was strong enough to force a shift without his help. There’d been a time when he could have but not now.
Was it safe to venture above ground? Kheladin recalled the last day he’d seen the sun. After a vicious battle in the great room of Lachlan’s castle, they’d retreated to his cave and taken their dragon form as a final resort. Rhukon, the black wyvern, had pretended he wanted peace. He’d come with an envoy that had turned out to be a retinue of heavily armed men…
Both he and Lachlan had expected Rhukon to follow them underground. Kheladin’s last thought before nothingness descended had been amazement their enemy hadn’t pursued them. Hmph. He did come after us but with magic. Magic strong enough to penetrate our wards.
“Aye, and I was just thinking the same thing,” Lachlan sniped in a vexed tone.
“We trusted him,” Kheladin snarled. “More the fools we were. We should have known.” Despite drinking, his throat was still raw. He sucked more water down and fought rising anger at himself for being gullible. Even if Lachlan hadn’t known better, he should have. His stomach cramped from hunger.
Kheladin debated the wisdom of making his way through the warren of tunnels leading to the surface in dragon form. There had always been far more humans than dragons. Mayhap it would be wiser to accede to Lachlan’s wishes before they crept from their underground lair to rejoin the world of men.
“Grand idea.” Lachlan’s response was instantaneous, as was his first stab at shifting.
It took half a dozen attempts. Kheladin was far weaker than he’d imagined and Lachlan so feeble he was almost an impediment. Finally, once a shower of scales cleared, Lachlan’s emaciated body stood barefoot and naked in the cave.
*
Lacking the sharp night vision he enjoyed as a dragon, because his magic was so diminished, he kindled a mage light and glanced down at himself. Ribs pressed against his flesh, and a full beard extended halfway down his chest. Turning his head to both sides, he saw shoulder blades so sharp he was surprised they didn’t puncture his skin. Tawny hair fell in tangles past his waist. The only thing he couldn’t see was his eyes. Absent a glass, he was certain they were the same crystal-clear emerald color they’d always been.
Lachlan stumbled across the cave to a chest where he kept clothing. Dragons didn’t need such silly accoutrements; humans did. He sucked in a harsh breath. The wooden chest was falling to ruin. He tilted the lid against a wall; it canted to one side. Many of his clothes had moldered into unusable rags, but items toward the bottom had fared better. He found a cream-colored linen shirt with long, flowing sleeves, a black and green plaid embroidered with the insignia of his house—a dragon in flight—and soft, deerskin boots that laced to his knees.
He slid the shirt over his head and wrapped the plaid around himself, taking care to wind the tartan so its telltale insignia was hidden in its folds. Who knew if the black wyvern—or his agents—lurked near the mouth of the cave? Lachlan bent to lace his boots. A crimson cloak with only a few moth holes completed his outfit. He finger-combed his hair and smoothed his unruly beard. “Good God, but I must look a fright,” he muttered. “Mayhap I can sneak into my castle and set things aright afore anyone sees me. Surely whichever of my kinsmen are inhabiting the castle will be glad the master of the house has finally returned.”
Lachlan worked on bolstering a confidence he was far from feeling. He’d nearly made it to the end of the cave, where a rock-strewn path led upward, when he doubled back to get a sword and scabbard—just in case things weren’t as sanguine as he hoped. He located a thigh sheath and a short dagger as well, fumbling to attach them beneath his kilt. Underway once again, he hadn’t made it very far along the upward-sloping tunnel that ended at a well-hidden opening not far from the postern gate of his castle, when he ran into rocks littering the way.
He worked his way around progressively larger boulders until he came to a huge one that totally blocked the tunnel. Lachlan stared at it in disbelief. When had that happened? In all the time he’d been using these passageways, they’d never been blocked by rock fall. If he weren’t so weak, summoning magic to shove the rock over enough to allow him to pass wouldn’t be a problem. As it was, simply walking uphill proved a challenge.
He pinched the bridge of his nose between a grimy thumb and forefinger. His mage light weakened.
If I can’t even keep a light going, how in the goddess’ name will I be able to move that rock?
Lachlan hunkered next to the boulder and let his light die while he ran possibilities through his head. His stomach growled and clenched in hunger. Had he come through however much time had passed to die like a dog of starvation in his own cave?
“No, by God.” He slammed a fist against the boulder. The air sizzled. Magic. The rock was illusion. Not real.
Counter spell. I need the counter spell.
Maybe I don’t. He stood, took a deep breath, and walked into the huge rock. The air did more than sizzle; it flamed. If he’d been human, it would have burned him, but dragons were impervious to fire, as were dragon shifters. Lachlan waltzed through the rock, cursing Rhukon as he went. Five more boulders blocked his tunnel, each more charged with magic than the last.
Finally, sweating and cursing, he rounded the last curve; the air ahead lightened. He wanted to throw himself on the ground and screech his triumph.
Not a good idea.
“Let me out. Ye have no idea what we’ll find.”
Kheladin’s voice in his mind was welcome but the idea wasn’t. “Ye are right. Because we have no idea what is out there, we stay in my skin until we are certain. We can hide in this form far more easily than we can in yours.”
“Since when did we begin hiding?” The dragon sounded outraged.
“Our magic is weak.” Lachlan adopted a placating tone. “’Tis prudent to be cautious until it fully recovers.”
“No dragon would ever say such a thing.” Deep, fiery frustration rolled off Kheladin.
Steam belched from Lachlan’s mouth. “Stop that,” he hissed, but his mind voice was all but obliterated by wry dragon laughter.
“Why? I find it amusing that ye think an eight foot tall dragon with elegant copper scales and handsome, green eyes would be difficult to sequester. A hesitation. “And infuriating that we need to conceal ourselves at all. Need I remind you we’re warriors?”
“Quite taken with yourself, eh?” Lachlan sidestepped the issue of hiding; he didn’t want to discuss it further and risk being goaded into something unwise. Kheladin chuckled and pushed more steam through Lachlan’s mouth, punctuated by a few flames.
Lost in a sudden rush of memories, Lachlan slowed his pace. As a mage, he would have lived hundreds of years, but bonded to a dragon, he’d live forever. In preparation, he’d studied long years with Aether, a wizard and dragon shifter himself. Along the way, Lachlan had forsaken much—a wife and bairns, for starters, for what woman would put up with a husband who was so rarely at home?—to bond with a dragon, forming their partnership. Once Lachlan’s magic was finally strong enough, there’d been the niggling problem of locating that special dragon willing to join its life with his.
Because the bond conferred immortality on both the dragon and their human partner, dragons were notoriously picky. After all, dragon and mage would be welded through eternity. The magic could be undone, but the price was high: mages were stripped of power and their dragon mates lost much of theirs, too, as the bond unraveled. Lachlan had hunted for over a hundred years before finding Kheladin. The pairing had been instantaneous on both sides. He’d just settled in with his dragon, and was about to hunt down a wife to grace his castle, when the black wyvern had attacked.
“What are ye waiting for?” Kheladin sounded testy. “Daydreaming is a worthless pursuit. My grandmother is two thousand years old, and she moves faster than you.”
Lachlan snorted. He didn’t bother to explain there wasn’t much point in jumping through the opening in the gorse and thistle bushes and right into Rhukon’s arms. An unusual whirring filled the air, like the noisiest beehive he’d ever heard. His heart sped up, but the sound receded. “What the hell was that?” he muttered and made his way closer to the world outside his cave.
Finally at the end of the tunnel, Lachlan stepped to the opening, shoved some overgrown bushes out of the way, and peered through. What he saw was so unbelievable, he squeezed his eyes tight shut, opened them, and looked again. Unfortunately, nothing had changed. Worse, an ungainly, shiny cylinder roared past, making the same whirring noise he’d puzzled over moments before. He fell backward into the cave, breath harsh in his throat, and landed on his rump. Not only was the postern gate no longer there, neither was his castle. A long, unattractive row of attached structures stood in its stead.
“Holy godhead. What do I do now?”
“We go out there and find something to eat,” the dragon growled.
Lachlan gritted his teeth together. Kheladin had a good point. It was hard to think on an empty stomach.
“Here I was worried about Rhukon. At least I understood him. I fear whatever lies in wait for us will require all our skill.”
“Ye were never a coward. It is why I allowed the bond. Get moving.”
The dragon’s words settled him. Ashamed of his indecisiveness, Lachlan got to his feet, brushed dirt off his plaid, and worked his way through the bushes hiding the cave’s entrance. As he untangled stickers from the finely spun wool of his cloak and his plaid, he gawked at a very different world from the one he’d left. There wasn’t a field—or an animal—in sight. Roadways paved with something other than dirt and stones were punctuated by structures so numerous, they made him dizzy. The hideous incursion onto his lands stretched in every direction. Lachlan balled his hands into fists. He’d find out what had happened, by God. When he did, he’d make whoever had erected all those abominations take them down.
An occasional person walked by in the distance. They shocked him even more than the buildings and roads. For starters, the males weren’t wearing plaids, so there was no way to tell their clan. Females were immodestly covered. Many sported bare legs and breeks so tight he saw the separation between their ass cheeks. Lachlan’s groin stirred, cock hardening. Were the lassies no longer engaging in modesty or subterfuge and simply asking to be fucked? Or was this some new garb that befit a new era?
He detached the last thorn, finally clear of the thicket of sticker bushes. Where could he find a market with vendors? Did market day even still exist in this strange environment?
“Holy crap! A kilt, and an old-fashioned one at that. Tad bit early in the day for a costume ball, isn’t it?” A rich female voice laced with amusement, sounded behind him.
Lachlan spun, hands raised to call magic. He stopped dead once his gaze settled on a lass nearly as tall as himself, which meant she was close to six feet. She turned so she faced him squarely. Bare legs emerged from torn fabric that stopped just south of her female parts. Full breasts strained against scraps of material attached to strings tied around her neck and back. Her feet were encased in a few straps of leather. Long, blonde hair eddied around her, the color of sheaves of summer wheat.
His cock jumped to attention. His hands itched to make a grab for her breasts or her ass. She had an amazing ass: round and high and tight. What was expected of him? The lass was dressed in such a way as to invite him to simply tear what passed for breeks aside and enter her. Had times changed so drastically that women provoked men into public sex? He glanced about, half expecting to see couples having it off with one another willy-nilly.
“Well,” she urged. “Cat got your tongue?” She placed her hands on her hips. The motion stretched the tiny bits of flowered fabric that barely covered her nipples still further.
Lachlan bowed formally, straightened, and waited for her to hold out a hand for him to kiss. “I am Lachlan Moncrieffe, my lady. It is a pleasure to—”
She erupted into laughter—and didn’t hold out her hand. “I’m Maggie,” she managed between gouts of mirth. “What are you? A throwback to medieval times? You can drop the Sir Galahad routine.”
Lachlan felt his face heat. “I fear I do not understand the cause of your merriment … my lady.”
Maggie rolled her midnight blue eyes. “Oh, brother. Did you escape from a mental hospital? Nah, you’d be in pajamas then, not those fancy duds.” She dropped her hands to her sides and started to walk past him.
“No. Wait. Please, wait.” Lachlan cringed at the whining tone in his voice. The dragon was correct that the Moncrieffe was a proud house. They bowed to no one.
She eyed him askance. “What?”
“I am a stranger in this town.” He winced at the lie. Once upon a time, he’d been master of these lands. Apparently that time had long since passed. “I am footsore and hungry. Where might I find victuals and ale?”
Her eyes widened. Finely arched blonde brows drew together over a straight nose dotted by a few freckles. “Victuals and ale,” she repeated disbelievingly.
“Aye. Food and drink, in the common vernacular.”
“Oh, I understood you well enough,” Maggie murmured. “Your words, anyway. Your accent’s a bit off.” His stomach growled again, embarrassingly loud. “Guess you weren’t kidding about being hungry.” She eyed him appraisingly. “Do you have any money?”
Money. Too late he thought of the piles of gold coins and priceless gems lying on the floor of Kheladin’s cave. In the world he’d left, his word had been as good as his gold. He opened his mouth, but she waved him to silence. “I’ll stand you for a pint and some fish and chips. You can treat me next time.”
He heard her mutter, “Yeah right,” under her breath as she curled a hand around his arm and tugged. “Come on. I have a couple of hours and then I’ve got to go to work. I’m due in at three today.”
Lachlan trotted along next to her. She let go of him like he was a viper when he tried to close a hand over the one she’d laid so casually on his person. He cleared his throat and wondered what he could safely ask that wouldn’t give his secrets away. He could scarcely believe this alien landscape was Scotland, but if he asked what country they were in, or what year it was, she’d think him mad. He wondered if the black wyvern had used some diabolical dark magic to transport his cave to another locale, and then thought better of it. Even Rhukon wasn’t that powerful.
“In here.” She pointed to a door beneath a flashing sigil. He gawked at it. One minute it was red, the next blue, the next green, illuminating the word Open. What manner of magic was this? “Don’t tell me you have temporal lobe epilepsy.” She stared at him. “It’s only a neon sign. It doesn’t bite. Move on through the door. There’s food on the other side,” she added slyly.
Feeling like a rube, Lachlan searched for a latch, didn’t find one, and pushed his shoulder against the door. It opened, and he held it with a hand so Maggie could enter first. “After you, my lady,” he murmured.
“Stop that.” She spoke into his ear as she went past. “No more my ladies. Got it?”
“I think so.” He followed her into a low ceilinged room lined with wooden planks. It was the first thing that looked familiar. Parts of it, anyway. Men—kilt-less men—sat at the bar, hefting glasses and chatting. The tables were empty.
“What’ll it be, Mags?” a man with a towel tied around his waist called from behind the bar.
“Couple of pints and two of today’s special. Come to think of it,” she eyed Lachlan, “make that three of the special.”
“May I inquire just what the special is?” Lachlan asked, thinking he might want to order something different.
Maggie waved a hand at a black board suspended over the bar. “You can read?”
“Of course.” He resented the inference he might be uneducated but swallowed back harsh words.
“Excellent. Then move.” She shoved her body into his in a distressingly familiar way for such a communal location. Not that he wouldn’t have enjoyed the contact if they were alone and he were free to take advantage of it… “All the way to the back,” she hissed into his ear. “That way if you slip up, no one will hear.”
He bristled. Lachlan Moncrieffe did not sit in the back of any establishment. He was always given a choice table near the center of things. He opened his mouth to protest but thought better of it.
She scooped an armful of flattened scrolls off the bar before following him to the back of the room. Once there, she dumped them onto the table between them. He wanted to ask what they were but decided he should pretend to know. He turned the top sheaf of papers toward him and scanned the close-spaced print. Many of the words were unfamiliar, but what leapt off the page was The Inverness Courier and presumably the current date: June 10, 2012.
It had been 1683 when Rhukon had chivied him into the dragon’s cave. Three-hundred twenty-nine years, give or take a month or two. At least he was still in Inverness—for all the good it did him.
“You look as if you just saw a ghost.” Maggie spoke quietly.
“No. I am quite fine. Thank you for inquiring … my, er…” His voice trailed off.
“Good.” She nodded approvingly. “You’re learning.” The bartender slapped two mugs of ale on the scarred wooden table.
“On your tab, Mags?” he asked.
She nodded. “Except you owe me so much, you’ll never catch up.”
Lachlan took a sip of what turned out to be weak ale. It wasn’t half bad but could have stood an infusion of bitters. He puzzled over what Maggie meant. Why would the barkeep owe her? His nostrils flared. She must work at the establishment—probably as a damsel of ill repute from the looks of her. Mayhap, she hadn’t been paid her share of whatever she earned in quite some time.
Protectiveness flared deep inside him. Maggie should not have to earn her way lying on her back. He’d see to it she had a more seemly position.
Aye, once I find my way around this bizarre new world. Money wouldn’t be a problem, but changing four-hundred-year-old gold coins into today’s tender might be. Surely there were still banks that might accomplish something like that.
One thing at a time, he reminded himself.
“So.” She skewered him with her blue gaze—Norse eyes if he’d ever seen a set—and took a sip from her mug. “What did you see in the newspaper that upset you so much?”
“Nothing.” He tried for an offhand tone.
“Bullshit,” she said succinctly. “I’m a doctor. A psychiatrist. I read people’s faces quite well, and you look as if you’re perilously close to going into shock on me.”



@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)