In the Shadow of Death: Chapter Seven

In The Shadow

<<<<< BACK TO CH. 6

That familiar ache that began just behind the eyes woke Scarlett just after 3 a.m.  She called it “The Ache of Inspiration,” and it always happened at the most inopportune times.  Once she had lost a boyfriend because she’d been overcome by the muses in the middle of a moment of passion.  She still laughed, thinking of the look on his face when she’d suddenly left the room and began painting, completely naked.  But what no one understood was that it wasn’t her choice.  Once that spark of inspiration hit, she had no choice but to answer its call.  It was a demanding lover that did not wait, and it did not matter if she were sleeping, taking a bath or standing in line at the grocery store.

Scarlett rose from the bed and stumbled around, still weary from the Halcion and sleep.  As she groped around in the dark for the light switch, she kicked something that crackled like old newspaper.  The shopping bag full of clothes Raze had bought for her.  It hadn’t been there before.  She assumed it was still down in the studio space.  He must have set it down in her room earlier when she’d been pretending to sleep.  She grabbed it up and began rifling through, looking for something to wear.  She pulled on a pair of snug fitting jeans that sat low on her hips, but all of the shirts she’d purchased weren’t exactly painting attire.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a large wardrobe that sat in the corner.  She opened it up to find a large television and stereo system on the top shelf where one might have once hung clothes.  There were three deep drawers below the shelf and Scarlett opened each one, looking for anything that might be of use.  She finally got lucky, finding an old sweatshirt folded neatly in the bottom drawer.  As soon as she pulled it over her head, she could tell it belonged to Raze.  It swallowed her small frame.  She could smell him all over it and her stomach fluttered.  With a sigh of frustration, she gathered her hair into a low ponytail and tied it behind her head.

Opening the door slowly, Scarlett slipped out of the room and sneaked down the hall toward the stairs.  She peered at Raze’s room as she passed and could see a soft light coming from under the door, as if from a television set that had been left on in the dark.  She bit her lip and tiptoed past, praying that the floor wouldn’t creak.  She didn’t know how she was going to face him in the morning and it wasn’t something that she could work out right now.  Now she had work to do.

Scarlett breathed a sigh of relief as she made it down the stairs soundlessly.  She’d just stop in the kitchen and make herself a cup of coffee, but when she came around the corner, she saw that Geoffrey was standing at the counter.  The old man was in his pajamas and moved slowly around the room, making a pot of coffee.  She started to derail and go on out the door, but it was too late.  “Miss Munro,” he called.  “What are you doing up?”

“Good morning, Geoffrey… or… well, it’s not quite morning yet.”  She smiled and joined him in the kitchen.  “I might ask you the same question.”

“The old don’t sleep much, young lady,” he said, pouring water into the back of the coffeepot.  “But you’re far too young for such maladies.”  He turned, giving a knowing smile and setting a cup down in front of her.  “The coffee will be done in just a minute.  Sit.”

Scarlett obeyed and watched him for a few more minutes as he flitted around the kitchen, gathering sugar bowls and cream.  He seemed to be pretty spry for his age. He was obviously at least in his seventies, yet he moved like a man with boundless energy.  “So Geoffrey… how long have you been with Raze?”

“Quite some time, Miss.  He’s been quite good to me over the years.”  He came over to the counter and poured Scarlett a cup.  “Cream and sugar?”

“Yes, please,” she replied.  She prepared her coffee, watching the cream swirl around in the dark liquid.  “He seems like a nice man.”

“Of course.  Raze has always been the compassionate sort.”

“So you’ve known him for a long time?” she asked.

“In a manner of speaking.”  He seemed to hesitate a moment, as if he were planning each word very carefully.  Scarlett could tell that he was hiding something, though what it might be she couldn’t imagine.  Constantine was like some kind of billionaire boy scout.  At least, according to everything she’d read about him.  She smiled behind her coffee cup as she took a sip.  Perhaps there were some skeletons in his closet.

“How old is he?”

Geoffrey chuckled.  “Much older than you think.”

“Oh he can’t possibly be more than thirty-five or forty at the outside.”

The older man smirked, but did not respond.  “I’m afraid Mr. Constantine is somewhat of an enigma to us all.  I only know what I have observed of him.  As I’m sure you’ve noticed, he doesn’t confide much.”

“No kidding,” she grumbled.

“Just because a man doesn’t say a thing, doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it.”

“I just wish I understood him a bit more.”  Scarlett sighed, resting her chin on her hands as she leaned against the counter.  “I mean, I’ve been here for a couple of days now and I still don’t know what he wants with me.  The paintings, of course, but there seems to be something more.”

“Raze has always felt a need to seek out those with no hope and help them find it.  He loves your melancholy, though he wishes to take it away.  Your art speaks to him in a way he’s never known.  He understands you, Miss Munro.  Though you may not know it just yet.”

“But why?  No one has ever understood me or even wanted to try,” she said.  “And I learned a long time ago not to open myself up.  Baring your weaknesses and fears to the world only makes them vulnerable to exploitation.”

“You think Mr. Constantine means to exploit you?”

“No, I don’t.  That’s what’s so frightening.  You see, everyone in my life, as long as I can remember, has wanted something from me.  Sex, money, adoration… but I can’t figure out what it is that he wants from me.  Whatever it is… I’m terrified I won’t be able to deliver.”

“Perhaps there is nothing.  Perhaps it is he that wants to give to you.”  Geoffrey smiled and topped off her cup of coffee.  “There you are.  Now… off you go.  I can sense the urgency of inspiration radiating off of you.”

Scarlett returned his smile.  Though she did feel her muses shouting in her head, she wished for a moment that she could stay here with Geoffrey.  He made her feel comforted like an old grandfather or favorite uncle.  “Yes, I suppose I’d better get started before I fall asleep again.”  She stood up and went toward the door.  “Thanks again for the coffee.”  Geoffrey nodded and waved goodbye, leaving her to puzzle over his words.

****

As soon as she was gone, Gabriel shed the image of the old man in seconds.  The gray hair and wrinkled skin dissipated like smoke and she stretched, glad to be rid of such a meager form.  Strangely, she could see why Azrael was so taken with this human.  She had a fire that was quite unexpected for one in her position.  Gabriel wished she could hate her.  Scarlett had cost her the only love she would ever know.  Angels weren’t supposed to fall in love with humans.  It just wasn’t done, but Azrael had fallen in love with Scarlett’s soul to such a degree that it had become an obsession.  Thousands of human years passed and he followed her through lifetime after lifetime.  Gabriel’s heart ached when she thought of it. The letting go.  The realization of the fact that he could never love her as he loved this flawed, pathetic human.

 

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Who Doesn’t Love FREE Stuff?!

Hey kittens! Glad to see ya. This week I wanted to let you know about this fantastic romantic erotica giveaway I’m a part of. All these authors got together to offer a story for #free through Instafreebie from 8/24- 9/5. I’m giving away my infamous threesome story, Unmasked, but if menage isn’t your thing, there’s tons of stuff to choose from: contemporary, paranormal, kink, vanilla— whatever your pleasure might be. And no, you don’t need to tell me about it in the comments… 😉 Just go to the site, click on the title to get a description and claim the ones you like. Instafreebie offers stories in mobi, epub, and pdf formats, so you can read them on anything you like. Click the banner below and it will take you to the landing page. Got it? Good. Now I can go get a few books for myself…

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Wicked Takeover by Tina Donahue

Hey kids! You guys know that here at the Belle, I like to share the love around. So when one of my awesome author friends needs a hand getting the word out about their new release, I’m always here to help. Especially when that author is one of my favorite steamy, contemporary compadres.

Tina Donahue is here today to tell us a little about her new contemporary romance about a wicked tattoo artist and the nice girl who loves him– Wicked Takeover…

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She’s just inherited a tattoo parlor…and the hunk who comes with it.

Lauren’s in a helluva mess. Not only has she lost her corporate HR job, she’s just inherited Wicked Brand, a struggling West Palm Beach tattoo parlor…along with the virile dude who runs it. Lauren’s full-figured, sorta pretty, and wanting him badly. Dream on. She’s here to sell the place as quickly as possible for some much-needed cash and score a new position in the corporate world.

Dante’s sinfully hot with a killer smile and beautifully inked biceps. He sees the heat in Lauren’s eyes despite her conservative appearance, recognizing the dynamite woman she could be if she’d just loosen up and have some wicked fun. Dominance and submission. Making love in a public place. Having her lush body always accessible to and ready for his.

Unwilling and unable to keep their hands to themselves, Lauren and Dante turn to carnal games and seduction. Until lust turns to surprising need and friendship to something deeper that might just change their futures.

***********

Sounds like Lauren’s in a helluva mess that I’d love to help clean up. Whew! Anyway, the book is LIVE as of today– August 7, 2017. Check it out!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073Z7MWC1/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1500306728&sr=1-1

Author Seeking Complex Readers

 

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Greetings from the world of the living! It’s been a while, but I hope you’ve all been well. I’ve been writing my little heart out the last month trying to finish up my upcoming release from Little Red Hen Romance. It’s a charming little #Sherlock Holmes #mystery entitled “Chasing the Dragon.” It’s a bit longer than the regular LRH release, coming in at just under 30K. But the 30K are well worth it in my humble opinion. As I was talking to my editor about it this morning, we inevitably veered the conversation into that deep, dark pit– how to sell more books? It’s a question that is always on the minds of writers these days. Many of my colleagues have gone from selling enough books to make their car payment to barely selling enough to warrant a check. There are so many layers to this question that we can’t even begin to examine all of them, but I wanted to focus this blog post on the most important one:  YOU, dear reader.

Picture it, Facebook: 2016. A beautiful young writer is browsing the author groups and reading blogs. She is puzzled, as she keeps seeing words like “BESTSELLER” and “5 STARS.” The problem is, all the books that had been tagged as “BESTSELLER” or “5 STARS” seemed to be carbon copies of one another. And they certainly weren’t the kinds of books that the young writer was churning out at light speed. Romances that weren’t even remotely romantic that featured predatory relationships, unreal situations, no high-stakes conflict, increasingly whacked-out scenarios– the list goes on. And apparently readers are lapping it up like milk and honey.

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Something about this just doesn’t gel.

I know readers, particularly romance readers, are smarter than this. I know they want complex stories that aren’t just about the sicky-sweet love and the increasingly disturbing sex. And how these two things exist in the same story still escapes me.

Here’s what I want in a reader: 

Someone who believes in love. I often get the impression that the people writing 50 Shades knock-offs think that love is a joke. That the fairy tale stuff doesn’t exist so we may as well make it a humiliating experience that no one will enjoy. Love ISN’T perfect, but it is out there. Sometimes hiding in the most unlikely of places.

Not a hopeless romantic, but a hopeful one.

Someone who wants adventure and a complex storyline in their romance. It doesn’t have to be all about the romance. There should be more at stake than an old boyfriend blowing back into town. Romance CAN exist in the midst of an international incident. Or on an interplanetary mission to save the sun. Or between a dragon and the slayer sent to kill him on behalf of the government. Romance novels don’t HAVE to be Hallmark Channel movies of the week.

Someone who isn’t just reading from one sex scene to the next to get off. That’s what Penthouse Letters are for.


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So where can you find these amazing feats of literary fitness? Well look no further than Little Red Hen Romance. It’s co-op of authors, Lucy Blue and yours truly, work tirelessly to bring meaty love stories to the complex reader. That reader that wants to lose themselves in the magic and adventure of a damn good story and feel the heart flutter as they witness two people falling in love.

I know you’re out there.

NC-17 Excerpt: Huntress

So my latest novel, Huntress, is #FREE this week on #Amazon. It’s kind of timely actually because the media giant unleashed their newest #Kindle device this week, the #KindleVoyage. At only $199 it does almost exactly what your Fire does, but better. I guess. Anyway, we over at the Little Red Hen Romance Coop aka The Love Shack (Tin roof rusted, y’all!) decided to give our darlings some treats to fill up their new, ridiculously expensive devices! In celebration of that, I thought I’d put up a tasty little excerpt from Huntress just for you! If you like it, go download it— it’s FREE!

CAUTION:  The following excerpt is NC-17 and NSFW!!!

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Thalia brushed a gentle hand through his hair, smoothing it back from his pale brow. He stirred a bit but did not wake. She didn’t want to wake him, but the thought of his arms around her again was just too inviting. Leaning closer, she pressed her lips to his forehead and lingered a moment. She loved the taste of his skin. Thalia smiled when he still didn’t wake and began planting kisses along the arch of his neck and down the slope of his shoulder. He growled and rolled to his back, nearly hitting her with his elbow. The muscles along his side were a glorious configuration of living flesh. She couldn’t help but touch him, tracing the lines and trilling her fingertips over each rib. Examining his body this way only made her want to explore further.

Slowly Thalia kissed her way across his chest, pausing to roll her tongue around each flat, dark nipple until it beaded between her lips. With a sneaky glance, she noticed that he was still not awake, though he made a soft, growling sound as she nipped at his skin. “Are you awake, my lord?” she whispered as her lips fluttered across the line of hair below his navel. He only responded with a stretch that allowed the coverlet to slip down, exposing his belly all the way to where the soft line of hair became coarse and wild, just at the base of his cock. She chewed at her lower lip, wondering if she might dare to pull the covers away. Thalia sat up and crawled over him, straddling his thighs then sitting back on his knees. He made no move to stop her, so she slowly pulled at the fabric until he was fully exposed. Her mouth watered. She had been so enthralled with the new sensations he’d wrought upon her last night that she hadn’t really seen him until now.

Bending close, she examined his manhood. Such delicate construction for so crude a purpose. She watched as her breath against it caused a slight twitch that became more noticeable as the ends of her hair swept along the insides of his thighs. Then a single, tentative kiss. The skin was so smooth and Thalia was fascinated by the pulse of blood rushing toward the warmth of her lips. It made her want to kiss him again and again, feeling his sex come to life, waking even as he slept. Finally, she couldn’t help herself and took his cock into her mouth. The size of it was a little overwhelming, and she pulled back, swirling her tongue around the length. When she reached the tip she nibbled lightly and rubbed her tongue against it, collecting the tiny drops of liquid that had already collected there. The flavor had a smoky, bittersweetness that only made her crave it more. Before long, she was devouring him, taking as much of his manhood into her mouth as she could. She wanted to pleasure him as he had pleasured her.

NEW RELEASE: Pleasure Me by Tina Donahue

 

PM_TinaDonahueHi lovelies! It’s been a while I know. But what better way to get back in the “spring” of things than to host a site favorite, Tina Donahue! Her new book Pleasure Me, Book 46 in her Black Hills Wolves series, is going live on April 22nd! Tina is celebrating with a Rafflecopter giveaway! Check out this blurb…

There’s no place like home…especially for a wolf who shouldn’t have run away.

 Wylder Aaron always knew Starr Joseph was his mate, but the time wasn’t right for them. To escape his hopeless feelings for her, he fled Los Lobos and joined the military, not even saying goodbye.

Starr wanted nothing more in life than Wylder. When he left, she fled too. Her sultry beauty made her an instant success as the new look for a major cosmetics firm. However, fame is fleeting. At twenty-six, she’s old news and forgotten. Worse, loneliness led her into the arms of another were-shifter with a jealous streak. During his last rage, he slashed the side of her face, promising to kill her the next time she tried to flee.

 She did anyway, returning to the safety and anonymity of Los Lobos…straight into Wylder’s arms.

The perfect book to curl up with on your Spring Break holiday! Available for PRE-ORDER now, just click the image!

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As if that weren’t enough, I can never resist a good excerpt…

He’d looked better than she’d dreamed, hotter than any man had a freaking right to be, and he was nice, too, actually wanting to talk. Maybe become friends. Screw around. Fall in love. No, wait. For her, she’d be falling more deeply in love.

Was he deliberately trying to drive her insane?

The bar door creaked. Music and voices spilled out.

She bolted down the road, not wanting to be around him again. Her battered heart couldn’t take anymore.

Loud male laughter rang out. His? Directed at how she’d run? No. Had to be someone else. She slowed and looked over.

The kissing fools from inside were outside now, both just barely of legal age to hang out at a bar. The young woman sprawled face up on the hood of a black pickup, the guy laughing again as he pushed up her tee. Snuggled between her legs, he kissed her naked belly.

Nitwits. Didn’t they know where desire led? To hell and back with no detours into everlasting happiness.

She sprinted away again, determined to erase Wylder from her thoughts.

Images of him bombarded her, running through her mind like a tune she couldn’t forget. He wore his hair long these days, the wavy brown locks grazing his shoulders, framing his rough, masculine features. Drool-worthy stubble graced his chin, cheeks, and upper lip, his bronze complexion darker from the summer sun. He’d packed on muscle during the last years, his shoulders broad, biceps bruising, his tee hugging his sculpted abs. He smelled of clean skin and male musk. Pleasant yet decadent, downright intoxicating.

When she’d first seen him at the window, sin had sparkled in his gray, lushly lashed eyes. The prize between his legs had thickened, pressing against his jeans. He was what every straight woman wanted.

She pressed one hand to her aching side, the other to her face to keep her hair from blowing back, revealing what a mess she’d made of her life. From the time she’d started noticing boys, she’d wanted Wylder to mark her, claim her as his own for eternity and all that other romantic crap.

Kade, her ex-lover, had claimed her instead, threatening to kill her if she even thought of leaving him. She had finally, prepared to die in order to escape. After the horror he’d put her through, closing her eyes forever would have been blessed relief.

Right now, she simply wanted to be alone, nothing more. She didn’t want Wylder’s concern or continuing attraction to her if those were his actual feelings. Could be he was guilty for having left the way he had. When those emotions faded and he got over her being back in town, where would that leave her? Aching for him again while he found someone else or took off once more without warning?

No damn way. Love was for the foolish young and masochists. Count her out. Being a shifter was bad enough. Not belonging fully in the animal or human world totally sucked at times, while having to keep their powers a secret was no picnic either. One wrong word and every human with a gun might swoop down on the town and shoot all the residents dead. Worse, the government could haul them off for an experiment to see what made them tick, how they’d come to be.

Too many times she’d listened to trust fund babies, starlets, models, and the money people whine about how awful their lives were. Taxes were going up. Their yacht had a scratch on the deck. Their help were too stupid to live.

Ha. Try living with what everyone here went through.

Tina is hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate her release!

She’s offering one winner her (or his) choice of THREE (3) of her backlist ebooks – full-length, bestselling, award-winning, from this list (25 choices):

 

  1. Adored – RWA award-winning; EPIC 2011 Finalist; 4 Stars RT
  2. Deep, Dark, Delicious – EPIC 2011 Finalist; Holt Medallion Award of Merit
  3. Lush Velvet Nights – EPIC 2011 Finalist; Golden Nib Award
  4. In His Arms – SIX 5 Star Reviews; 4 Stars RT
  5. Sensual Stranger – 2010 Book of the Year (erotic); 4 Stars RT
  6. The Yearning – Top Ten Bestseller
  7. Take Me Away – #1 Pick, Miz Love Loves Books
  8. Unending Desire – Best Book Rating LASR
  9. SiNN – Nominated for Book of the Week LASR
  10. Sinfully Wicked – Magnificent – Romancing the Book
  11. Claiming Magique – Top Pick – NOR
  12. Illicit Desire – Four Stars Romantic Times
  13. Come Fill Me – Five Stars – Guilty Pleasures
  14. Losing Control – Four and a Half Stars – Sensual Reads
  15. Shameless Desire – Four and a Half Stars – The Jeep Diva
  16. Illicit Intent – Four and a Half Stars – Sensual Reads
  17. Deep Within Me – Four Stars – Romantic Times
  18. Seven Sensuous Days – 4 Stars – Long & Short Reviews
  19. Stolen Desire – 4 Stars – Romantic Times
  20. Taking Eve – What to read after FSOG and Story of O
  21. This Time When We Touch – Erotic Paranormal
  22. Carnal Takeover – BDSM
  23. Wicked Takeover – Erotic Contemporary
  24. Intimate Details – Menage
  25. Freeing the Beast – Readers’ Choice Award

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

COVER REVEAL: Mistletoe Dreams Bundle

Happy Cyber Monday!  Yes, the Monday after Thanksgiving has become the Black Friday of cyber-retail.  That’s good for US because over the weekend while you were taking advantage of buying those new Kindle Fires for deeply discounted prices, the gals over at Mocha Memoirs Press were preparing a little bundle of joy to fill up those devices– The Mistletoe Dreams Holiday Bundle!  It features THREE steamy holiday IR romances that will keep you warm all season long.  Now, it doesn’t release until Dec. 7th, but you can preorder it RIGHT NOW!

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And speaking of filling up those devices, starting a week from today 12/7/15, TONS of authors are participating in the Season’s Readings Holiday Hop where they will be giving away eBooks, Amazon GCs, and swag that make perfect holiday gifts.  But I digress.  Let’s take a look at what books are going to be in the Mistletoe Dreams Holiday Bundle…

There’s no time like the holidays for love—whether you are rekindling an old love, finding love in strange places or just expressing a love of the ages. Follow these tales of love, laughter and holiday spirit in Mistletoe Dreams… 

 Winter’s Guard. . . 

 Five years after a broken engagement, Vicky and James have met again. Forced to work together, Vicky hopes to show James that what they had wasn’t all broken. All she wants is time to prove that their hearts hadn’t lied five years ago—they may have fallen in love during a dark moment in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t belong together. 

A Trick of Frost. . . 

Two days before Christmas with her ex-husband, Rick, harassing her parents, Jaycee Froste needs a gift to lift her spirits. She stops in at her favorite restaurant, and it brings more than a hot meal. Jaycee finds herself seated across from one of the most annoying and handsome men she’s ever met. She would even consider letting him taste her stew, if he hadn’t stolen her reservation. With the holidays upon her, Jaycee decides the thing she needs to lift her spirits is J.C., a man who offers her so much more than she ever could have hoped. 

 Naughty Klauses. . . 

 Jessica and Nic have always loved the holidays and this year they are most definitely going to be on the naughty list. When you’ve got eternity on your side, it’s nice to liven things up with a little spice. You’ll never look at Mr. and Mrs. Klaus the same way again…

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like triple the fun for the price of one.  So without further ado, here’s the cover…

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