Book Title: Another Brush Stroke (The Carnal Exhibitions)
Author: LW Barefoot
Genre: Dark Romance
Release Date: Nov 11, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Harper's running from her broken past. Haunted and tormented with the echo of the infamous Sculptor's words and the scars his knife left behind.
Evan Hawthorne always gets what he wants. His latest craving is the gorgeous, but elusive artist, Harper. His sexual tastes are not for the faint of heart, but he instinctively knows that Harper is exactly who he's been searching for. Her fate is sealed, but Evan's not the only one intrigued and desperate to break Harper out of her shell... or just break her.
The salty citrus of his drink mixes with the spicy heat from mine as our tongues meet. Discovery becomes necessity as I drink him in and savor the feeling of being in his arms. His lips rule and mine willingly comply.
When he pulls back, it’s too soon, because I was just getting started, and I haven’t had nearly enough time tasting him. He pulls back before the door to the patio pushes open and our waiter brings the check.
Evan and I leave hand in hand, just like we arrived. But now I gave him permission. I said yes.
I’m thankful we had to walk instead of drive to the restaurant. It gives me more time to consider what was exchanged at dinner. The breeze cools my warm face.
A large tour group blocks the side of the street we’re on. I move off the curb to walk around them, but Evan tugs on my hand to stay by his side.
“What are we doing?” I whisper as the tour guide tells a haunting tale of the building the group stares up at. No one notices us watching them.
“I find it amusing how the stories and histories change every time I hear them,” he whispers.
The building is dark and has been empty forever. Strict protection goes with the preservation of the historical buildings. I’ve noticed what Evan refers to, but I’m sure growing up here you get sick of people distorting and stretching the truth. The tour guide’s top hat and cane only make him seem more charlatan than historian. He rambles on in a deep voice of the resident ghost and the many stories that he swears are true. He even reels his audience in with pictures.
Evan pulls me into the circle of his arms as he leans in and says, “Do you believe in the things that haunt the night, like this man here?”
I want to say yes. I want to spill my twisted true story. But I bite my tongue and shake my head.
“Yes, but my beliefs are based on fact and ghosts that do more than just scare you,” I stop myself before I say too much.
Evan’s grip is tight and I’m pulled into him even closer. The look in his eyes give away something I can’t detect, but it feels as if he knows exactly what I’m talking about.
We all have secrets.
In a small town in Oklahoma, I was raised by an endless dreamer of a father. He spun fantastical stories of a heroine that slayed her own dragons, while jamming to the best music imaginable. I've been slaying dragons since and as much as I love fantasy, I believe magic is real and tangible in the very world we live in.
I, like many others before me, believe deeply in the destructive and healing powers of love. I hope to share stories of strong, yet broken characters that find their way in this life. I've had help finding mine, through love, loss, faith, music, creativity, writing, painting, positivity, embracing my past, and relishing the present moment.
Book Title: Imperfectly Beautiful
Author: ML Rodriguez
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Her rise, her fall, and her will to continue on...
At eighteen, I met him; a handsome young man with amber colored eyes, and with one look, he claimed my heart.
The world was at our feet, and we had our futures planned. But even the best-laid plans go awry when you’re blessed with a most beautiful surprise.
In a matter of minutes, our lives changed.
The years that followed were filled with change and adventure. Our life wasn’t perfect, but we were happy, or so I thought.
As I was living my dream, our life was slowly unraveling. The moment I stepped off that plane, my worst nightmare became a reality.
Now, I’m empty and lifeless.
I live in my own personal hell, drowning in my guilt and trying to forget the memories.
That is until a knock on my door changes everything, and I’m forced to face my past.
ML is stationed overseas with her husband and two children. Her obsessions include Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert, her mother's cooking (especially her breakfast tacos), wild berry skittles, coffee, dark chocolate, the color purple, and romance novels--the happily ever after kind, of course.
After years of comments from her husband to write and a chance meeting by the city pool where she met one of her favorite authors, ML decided to take a leap of faith into the amazing and exciting world of writing. Terrified, nervous, and with a stomach full of butterflies, she published her debut novel, Leap of Faith, and her second novel, Imperfectly Beautiful will release 26 January 2016.
To all the wonderful people who will read her work, thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on her. ♥
You can follow ML at the following:
Title: Bound to Fate
Series: Bound #1
Author: Kiru Taye
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Published: January 28, 2016
Book Title: Unconventional
Author: Avery Aster
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Fans of Nicole Edwards, Shayla Black, Lexi Blake, and Lora Leigh will enjoy this stand-alone, cliffhanger free, m/m/f contemporary erotic romance novel that features an HEA for all three protagonists.
From New York Times Bestselling Author of The Manhattanites comes a ménage love story posing the question; can two men share the same woman forever?
They are the best of friends and the greatest of lovers. Two men and one woman, searching for fortune and fame, bound together by an eroticism their money and power can’t buy them. Luigi, the romantic alpha hunk. Rocco, the exotic bisexual. Jemma, the insatiable beauty who possesses them both.
From their first rendezvous in Milan, the three set out on a wicked course, jet-setting from the kinky underground sex clubs of Berlin, to the lavish palaces of Moscow, to New York’s high society in pursuit of pleasure. They have only each other to care for. That is…until a baby comes along and changes their destiny. But which of them is the father? And will they continue their poly relationship or give in to convention?
In bed, Luigi was usually the verbal one. Rocco always had something in his mouth—either our lover’s cock was down his throat or he was sucking the cream from my clit—so he never seemed to say much. Luigi did all the talking for him.
Especially considering outside of the bedroom Luigi was normally quiet, almost conservative in how he spoke. But in bed, he came alive.
As I walked over to them, Rocco’s expressive, lust-filled eyes gazed up at me. Ravenous. Lips wide, going down, slowly tugging at the shaft as he came up, followed by a lick on the tip. He kept sucking our lover’s dick as I approached.
Luigi’s left arm was slung over Rocco’s head while his right hand massaged the back of his neck.
He always liked it when we put a concerted effort on his dick.
What man didn’t?
Those two could go at it for hours, milking each other. As if watching two unicorns playing in the wild, it was the most amazing thing to witness.
“Come here,” Luigi instructed.
I stepped closer. With a wicked grin, his face came into focus.
Already on his knees, Rocco squatted beside me and stroked my leg. His very touch sent a prickle of excitement up my thigh.
“Take off her panties, bello.”
Before Rocco could pull them down, I looped my thumb and pointer finger under the thin elastic waistband. Arching my back, I held on to his shoulder to balance myself and started to remove the flesh-toned fabric.
“No.” He snapped his fingers. “Rocco will undress you.”
“And what are you going to do?” I asked playfully.
Grinning back at him, I put my hands behind my back as Rocco’s palm continued to caress my legs.
“Sorprendente. So amazing.” Slowly, Rocco pulled the panties to my ankles. He lifted one of my legs up over his shoulder then carefully, utterly focused and with intention, he butterfly-kissed the inner part of my thigh then licked at my pussy.
“Let me do as I please,” he grunted between my legs, dragging his wet tongue over my hot flesh.
His kisses tickled me.
His licks excited me.
New York Times bestselling author Avery Aster pens The Manhattanites, a contemporary erotic romance series of full-length, stand-alone novels, and the naughty new adult prequel companion series The Undergrad Years.
As a resident of New York City and a graduate from New York University, Avery gives readers an inside look at the city’s glitzy nightlife, socialite sexcapades and tall tales of the über-rich and ultra-famous.
The Manhattanites is for fans who miss TV shows like Sex & The City or watch Girls (HBO), Revenge (ABC), and The Bold & the Beautiful (CBS). Avery’s characters are over the top. They have cray-cray fun, speak their minds and always get what they want.
Book Title:Zeke (Breaking The DeClan Brothers)
Genre:Contemporary Erotic Romance
Release Date:January 22, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
“Some guys call, some date, and some guys, they might even get married.
But, sweetheart, I ain’t any of those guys...” ~ Zeke Declan
Every girl in Galveston County knows about Zeke Declan’s rules and has agreed to them or is considering them.
Rule #1 Don’t call him. He’ll call you.
Rule #2 He doesn’t date.
Rule #3 No sleepovers.
Rule #4 Absolutely, no virgins.
When a couple friends talk me into going back to their hometown in the Bayou for the summer and challenge me to break “the best damn lay in Galveston County” along with every single one of his ridiculous rules, I’m confident that I can get the job done. I’m no stranger to men. I have five older brothers. I’m a teacher and I’m used to being around rebellious teenagers. However, Zeke Declan is definitely not someone that I could have prepared for. He’s not a testosterone-fueled, immature boy. He’s a confident, arousing, playful, and mind-melting man. But, behind that sexy charming smile, I know he’s hiding a secret. And, in order to break him, I’m going to need to find out what it is...
Kelly Gendron is the author of the TroubleMaker series, Breaking the Declan Brothers series, and a few other romantic suspense novels.
When she's not writing steamy, blush producing romances, she's out meeting new people while representing a group of reputable nursing facilities. You can find Kelly in a quiet suburb, somewhere between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. If you Google her, she’ll pop up there too. And, please do find her. Kelly loves to hear from her readers, and meeting new people.
Book Title:Forged in Fire
Release Date:January 27, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
She never knew this demon world existed. Now she just wants to survive it.
Genevieve Drake never needed a man to come to her rescue. Not until the night of her twentieth birthday, when some dude nearly chokes her to death in an alley behind a New Orleans Goth club. And a hot stranger splits the guy in half, rips a monster from inside, and incinerates it into ash.
The hunky rescuer? Jude Delacroix—Dominus Daemonum, Master of Demons, now her guardian, whether she likes it or not. But she’s seriously beginning to like it.
Her would-be murderer turns out to be only the first of many minions of the demon prince, Danté, who has all kinds of lascivious and sadistic plans. Which means when the formidably beautiful Jude offers his protection, Genevieve has no problem accepting it.
For Jude and his fellow demon hunters tell her she is a Vessel, one who is born to serve the Light, but can be corrupted into a weapon of darkness. And to survive, she must trust a man whose unearthly eyes promise heaven…but whose powers unleash hell.
Warning: Contains a dark and brooding demon hunter who harbors even darker secrets, a snarky heroine who’s being hunted by every demon in the underworld, and a sadistic demon prince with a fancy for violent sexual encounters.
To say I wasn’t terrified, as well as mortified for spying, would be a complete and total lie. Still, I held my ground, moving out of Malcolm’s arms and pushing my chin up a notch. I was getting good at acting. I fleetingly wondered if I should switch my major to Drama, or maybe Politics.
Then he was there. Whoa. Way inside my personal space. And Malcolm’s. Jet eyes staked me to the spot.
“Do you have a death wish?” His voice grated against my skin like sandpaper.
Malcolm pushed himself into the conversation. “Dude, excuse me. What are you doing?”
Malcolm made a hands-off gesture. He went to push Jude away but caught the look of death in Jude’s eyes and stopped himself. Holy hell! What was I thinking? I’d brought Malcolm up here based on my own selfish desire to get some answers and now I might be responsible for his untimely demise. I could see the headlines now in the Times Picayune: Twenty-year-old Student Spontaneously Combusts into Pile of Ash, Source of Death Unknown.
“Answer me, Genevieve. Why are you here?”
“You know this guy?” asked Malcolm, trying to cut in on the staring contest passing between us.
“We were just taking a walk,” I said, trying to keep my voice from quivering. “This is—”
“Jude, seriously, I was just—”
“Do you have any idea how dangerous this place is for you?” He made a sound in the back of his throat that could’ve been a laugh if it weren’t for the expression of rage warring across his face. He glanced at my jacket with a shake of his head. “Little Red comes wandering in the woods infested with wolves.”
He was so close now our toes were touching. I inched back a step.
“Hey, dude! I don’t know who you are,” began Malcolm, putting an arm between us, “but you better back off.”
Jude fixed a glacier-melting gaze on Malcolm, standing at least a head taller. I swallowed, but there was no moisture in my throat. How had I gotten Malcolm into this?
“Kid,” Jude annunciated softly and slowly, a sure sign all hell was about to break loose, no pun intended. “You may remove yourself and go back home now. Alone.”
He sounded as if he’d just dismissed Malcolm back to his playpen, an errant child being put in timeout.
“What?” Malcolm lowered his arm and turned to me. “You know this asshole?”
“Yes. Malcolm, um, this is a friend of, um, my dad’s. A work associate. From the dojo.”
I was stammering like an idiot. To say he was a friend of mine would’ve been laughable. Though he only appeared to be in his late twenties, he exuded maturity on so many levels. He in no way looked like a friend I might know from school, and for being a good liar, my brain was misfiring at the moment and not helping me come up with anything better.
Jude did not extend his hand in greeting. He did not welcome the introduction. He did not move an inch. As a matter of fact, I felt his presence swelling beyond the miniscule area where we stood, like a colossus breathing down on the pitiful people beneath his feet. He in no way appeared cordial or polite or even remotely human, for that matter. I had to get rid of Malcolm before this became seriously ugly. I put myself between them, pushing Malcolm gently back.
“Thank you for the beignets and the company, but Jude can give me a ride home.”
“I’m not letting you go anywhere with this guy,” he protested.
Wrong answer. I heard another scoff behind me that was supposed to be a sort of laugh but wasn’t.
“I’m sorry, Malcolm. This is my fault. My dad is kind of strict. There’s been trouble with the family business and stuff. I’ll let Jude take me back home.”
When did I become such a huge liar? Trouble with the family business? Was I embroiled in the mafia now? Malcolm didn’t know my dad, except from a distance. For all he knew, he could’ve been in the mafia. And Jude more than looked the part of the assassin. I insinuated in my tone there were things I couldn’t say, because of course there were.
“I’ll explain to you later, I promise. I’ll call you tomorrow?” I added lower, squeezing his hand.
Malcolm put his hands on my shoulders. I swear I felt two points of heat boring into the back of my skull. I wondered then about my “sixth sense.”
“Are you sure, Drake?”
I nodded. He pulled me into a brisk hug, then let go, giving the man over my shoulder a hard stare. I watched as he marched back toward Jackson Square, descending the stairs with one last scowling glance over his shoulder.
Taking a deep, shaky breath, I turned to face the executioner. I didn’t speak. Just waited. He was doing that thing where he appeared to be dissecting my thoughts, observing every line on my face, trying to solve a riddle that perplexed him. Flinty shards of gold sparked in his eyes. A shot of relief washed over me. Any fraction of light in those obsidian depths was a good sign. Or so I thought.
“Why are you here?”
His voice had lost its edge. Well, let me clarify, the razor-sharp edge that could slice an oak into splinters. There was still the blunt steel swinging in slow, even strokes, threatening to cut me if I made a wrong move. I glanced toward the sculpture. She was gone.
“Who’s Goth Barbie?”
His head tilted slightly to the left. His eyes narrowed, still glinting with golden stars.
“She’s a friend,” he finally responded. “Who’s Schoolboy Ken?”
He evaded, a special talent he possessed by the butt load. Two can play that little game.
“He’s a friend.”
Jude smiled. A genuine smile with teeth and everything. My heart stuttered with the sudden shift in mood. His gaze traced the contours of my face, hair, shoulders, lower.
“At least you had the presence of mind to cast illusion. When did you discover you could use your ability?”
Oh. I was pretty sure that was what the “warm blanket” was, but now I knew for certain. I felt it skimming along my skin, draping me from the inside out.
“Just now. It happened automatically, actually.”
“Not automatically. Subconsciously. Your Vessel instincts are kicking in to protect you since your brain has apparently taken a leave of absence.”
“Excuse me? Did you just call me stupid?”
“Stupid would imply you have no intelligence whatsoever. I am well aware that you are quite clever, so I would define this as either rebellious or apathetic behavior. Which is it?”
I made a disgusted sound, while smiling inside at his backhanded compliment.
“What is it exactly I’ve done to warrant the label of rebellious or apathetic?”
“You’re standing in the middle of demon hunting ground. This den of debauchery lures demons for hundreds and hundreds of miles. You are a Vessel, a prize above all prizes for a high demon. The illusion you cast would certainly fool a lower creature, but not one in the upper hierarchy. So either you are being rebellious in disobeying me, or you are simply indifferent to keeping your soul intact. Which is it?”
I felt the blood drain from my face. Maybe I was stupid. No. But I wasn’t being rebellious or apathetic about my well-being. My green-eyed feline lifted her head with wide eyes to remind me why I came, but I glared at her to keep her hissy mouth shut.
“Okay, you said to not go out alone. I wasn’t alone. Malcolm was with me.”
Did he really just roll his eyes at me?
“You might as well have been stripped naked, hanging from a balcony on Bourbon Street and screaming ‘Come and get it.’ That boy could have done nothing if you were spotted by any form of Flamma.”
Now that was an image I didn’t want in my head. I was slightly disturbed it was in Jude’s. Switching gears quickly, thank you very much.
“Well, you didn’t explain any of this to me. Perhaps if you were more forthcoming in explaining all of these rules I’d make better decisions,” I said, feeling the color coming back into my cheeks.
“You are right about that. I will certainly be outlining the rules more clearly so you’ll not misbehave in the future.”
“Misbehave? Who do you think you are? My overprotective brother? Never had one. And I don’t need one now.”
He moved even closer. I started to step back. A strong arm shot out, gripping the top of my shoulder. His thumb pressed gently along the side of my neck over the cuff of my denim jacket. Surely he felt the quickening speed of my pulse. Was that his intention?
“No. I am not your brother. Nor do I want to be. However, I am your protector, whether you would choose me or not. If you value your life, or at the very least, your eternal soul, then you must trust me and do as I say.”
Speechless, I nodded, unable to think clearly for the moment. His thumb continued to stroke my skin. I can’t begin to describe how distracting that was.
“Good.” His gaze slid to my lips. I wished he wouldn’t do that. Or maybe I wished he would. Often. My thoughts spiraled in a million directions, unable to move in any coherent way. I tried to cut the tension crackling between us.
“Demons have a hierarchy? Like a class system?” I was aware I was nearly whispering, my questions sounding feeble and irrelevant.
“Yes. There is a hierarchy in heaven. There is a hierarchy on earth. There is a hierarchy in hell. That is the way of the world—every world.”
“I don’t know the difference between a lower and a high demon. You’ve told me little about them, except for the fusing thing.”
He nodded in agreement. Small victory, but victory nonetheless. He still hadn’t pulled away. His thumb trailed down over my collarbone. Since the moment he touched me, a pervasive warmth had slipped in over my own protective blanket, draping down over my chest and limbs.
“So, Little Red wants to play in the deep, dark woods,” he mumbled almost to himself. Creepy metaphor. “Let us go straight to the wolf ’s den, then.”
His hand dropped to mine, swallowing it whole. The mantle of electric warmth continued to spread, sealing to my body like a glove. It didn’t feel suffocating. On the contrary, the sensation comforted me like a cozy fire in the dead of winter.
Jude pulled me toward the stairs. I took two steps to his one. “Wait, where are we going?”
“I had an appointment tonight. You might as well come with me. Actually, this turn of events will be quite enlightening.”
He gave me a wicked grin. The sudden image of a mischievous child dangling a minnow over a shark tank popped into my head.
“What kind of an appointment?” I didn’t like the sound of this.
“As you said, I have not been as forthcoming as I should’ve been,” he said in an obvious tone of mockery, leading me across Decatur along the left side of the Square.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Smile. You are about to get many answers to many questions. I am going to introduce you to a high demon.”
A secret lies in wait for over a decade. A tortured past comes to the surface while murder rocks the sleepy little town of Landers, Wyoming.
James Ashton is a police detective from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. A traditional southern man complete with lack of social graces, he decides it’s time for a fresh start after his wife leaves him for his best friend. A game of darts chooses his fate while he is deciding on where to go. Before the ink dries on the divorce papers, he packs up and transfers into the police department in Landers, Wyoming.
After her sister commits suicide, Melody Quinn decides that she needs the quiet life after having served in the Marines where she did two tours in Afghanistan, trained with the FBI at Quanitico, Virginia, and worked with the Los Angeles Police Homicide Department. She knew she needed to get away for a while. Her captain agreed with her. After contacting his old Army buddy in Landers, Wyoming, he arranged the transfer for Melody effective immediately. Unbeknownst to her, life would not be as quiet as she hoped.
Not long after Ashton and Quinn arrive, murder rocks the sleepy little mountain town as bodies start appearing. As it turns out, the killer is right under their noses…or is he?
Click the book to check out a teaser.
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Book Title: Lie With Me
Author: M. Never
Genre: Dark Erotic Romance
Release Date: November 27, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Tell me a secret...
CJ Carmichael hasn't been able to get the vivacious blonde he spent four delirious days with off his mind. The blonde who was completely off-limits, but he couldn't deny.
Tell me a secret....
CJ had no intention of pursuing her, but Tara Stevens knew what she wanted and it was him. Now six months later, their time together still haunts him. As much as he's tried to talk himself out of seeing her again, the craving is just too powerful.
Tell me a secret...
Tara is more than willing to spend an entire fantasy weekend with CJ. More than willing to hand herself over to him completely and fulfill his every desire. More than willing to pretend he owns her despite their age difference and Kayne's disapproval.
Tell me a secret...
Sometimes fantasy becomes a reality. Sometimes people fall in love before they even know it- before they even know each other- and after its too late.
Tell me a secret...
Sometimes, beneath the sweetest secrets are the most deceptive lies.
Teasers provided by M. Never
She has a dependence on sushi and a fetish for boots. Fall is her favorite season.
She is surrounded by family and friends she wouldn't trade for the world and is a little in love with her readers. The more the merrier. So make sure to say hi!
Title: Assassin's Kiss
Series: Watcher's Kiss #2
Author: Sharon Kay
Genre: Adult, PNR Romance
Published: January 12, 2016
Book Title:Vampire Hunter: Rammel Hawking 1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date:January 18, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
"I walked away from the best thing that ever happened to me, just when she needed me most." - Rammel Hawking
Ram's history prior to Elora's arrival coupled with My Familiar Stranger told from Ram's point of view and that of others close to him.
I had finished my education and chosen to sign on with Black Swan. The ink wasn’t dry on the paper before I was out the door. First assignment was Grunewald, the unit that serviced Berlin. It was close enough by whister to patrol, but far enough away to be secluded. The building was a renovation, or adaptation really, of an eighteenth century grand house, set in the middle of a forest preserve that was off limits to anyone not Black Swan.
I had seen a lot of the world by then, but had never been to Berlin. I knew why we had a unit there. Because wherever you find prevalent nightlife, you find active nests of vampire. I didn’t have any personal experience with leeches at that time. But you don’t have to experience a thing personally to believe people when they tell you it’s nasty.
I had never heard anything about vampire until six months ago. They trained our minds and bodies to be precision instruments and occasionally said something vague about protecting the innocent. But crap on a croissant. We had no idea we were preparing to be the only barrier between humanity and monsters that turned out to be real. Our story when we met civilian juvies was that we were in military school. Hel. Close enough. Right?
Anyway, six months ago they clued me in. There are vampire out there. I had two choices when I turned eighteen. I could sign on as a vampire hunter or go home and keep my mouth shut about everything I’d learned. I was told that, if I chose the first option, I’d find that my training hadn’t even begun. I didn’t believe that. I mean how much harder could it be? Really.
They said they took the mouth shut part of option two very seriously. No threat was spelled out, but it was certainly implied. I had six months to decide. So. Sure. I thought about it. A lot.
The day before I turned eighteen I still hadn’t decided. I returned to quarters around ten o’clock, closed the door, switched on the light and nearly jumped out of my skin.
My uncle was sitting there in the dark waiting like some creeper from a film noir movie. He laughed when I jumped.
“Right. Real funny. What are you doing in this part of the world?”
His smile slowly faded away. “Sit. I want to say something.”
Uncle Al wasn’t the sort of guy you said no to. I sat in the chair closest to the sofa where he’d parked his overbearing ass. He didn’t speak at first, just stared at me, and I have to tell you it took every bit of the self-discipline I’d learned to keep from squirming under that kind of scrutiny. But I knew it was some kind of test. I was supposed to be patient and wait it out. So I did.
“You’re going to be eighteen tomorrow.”
I smirked. “So I hear.”
He nodded. “Are you decided?”
I looked away. “Honestly? No. I’ve been hoping for a sign.”
“A sign, huh?”
My uncle didn’t seem to think that was a reliable approach to decision making.
“Well, I don’t know what kind of sign you’re expecting. I thought I’d stop by. Won’t be here tomorrow. So happy birthday.”
I stood when he got up to leave. He turned toward the door, but turned back like he’d forgotten something. I could almost see him mentally patting his pockets.
“Anything you want to ask me?”
I wouldn’t have thought so, but since he put it that way. There was something.
“I guess it’s clear what choice you made. Any regrets?”
He grinned. It was a thing so rare I couldn’t think if I’d ever seen him look pleased before.
“A good question for a seventeen-year-old.”
“Indeed.” He nodded. “The answer is no. Not one. Hope that helps.”
I thought about it for a second. “Would you feel the same way if you died tomorrow?”
His grin got even bigger. “Definitely.”
With that he left without looking back and, in fact, it did help. Immensely.
Teachers are known to go on every year about how you’d better get ready because the next year is going to be so much harder. But it never is. It’s always the same thing. So when I signed on to Black Swan for life and they told me it was about to get real, I just smirked on the inside and thought, “Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard it before.”
Looking back now I could slap my little bratty self for acting like a punk. Even if I kept it on the inside. For once the future of dread hadn’t been overstated. It had been understated.
The next four years were rigorous enough to make the first five look like a glide on a paddle board over a smooth-as-glass lake. Naturally, once we understood that we were going to be vampire hunters, and what that meant, we began to pay attention in earnest. But here’s the bare truth of that. Nothing they can do or say can truly prepare you for what it feels like the first time you are face to face with a pale-eyed leech who wants to rip you apart with virus-dripping fangs.
My internship was mostly served as backup to the Grunewald Unit knights. I went to Brazil for a few months and did an awful rotation in Central America looking for Chupacabra. Ew. Things give me willies when I think about them. Yeah. They’re even worse than vampire.
I was always sent back to Berlin though. Like it was home base. That was okay with me. There was a lot of action and the Grunewald knights were good solid teachers. They taught me about slaying vampire and they taught me about camaraderie.
Then, of course, there were German girls. I mean, you’ve gotta love girls who have beer with breakfast. Right?
It was a good place to pay my dues and hone my skills.
Three years later, I was told that I was being sent back to the States. To Jefferson Unit. Rumor had it that I was going to be a vampire slayer in New York, New York.
I wasn’t very impressed when the jeep stopped in front of J.U. It was the farthest thing from Grunewald Castle. A plain brick building with not a single window showing. Looked more like a prison than a Black Swan facility.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t require frills to complete me. It was just an observation. I stopped at the intercom.
“Just a minute.”
I heard the buzzer and pushed on the door. My first thought was that there was an awful lot of activity for a place that looked so quiet on the outside. I hoisted my duffel up higher on my shoulder and stopped a kid going by.
“Down one level and turn right.”
I nodded my thanks and headed toward the elevators. The central area was impressive with its three-story ceiling, modern gleam and polish. The place looked like a prison from the front, but once inside it was open and light with a view to what appeared to be a park on the other side of tall windows.
When the elevator opened, I checked to make sure the down arrow was lit, stepped inside and pushed S1. A couple of girls, well, young women I guess you’d say, got in after me in workout clothes. One of them looked me over, taking in the duffel, “Transferring in?”
She smiled. “I’m Ellsbeth. I work in medical.” The elevator opened. When I realized they weren’t getting off, I finally got the hint and exited. “See you around.”
The sovereign’s office wasn’t hard to find. The reception area was glass to the hallway, but I checked the plaque just to be sure. Sol Nemamiah, Sovereign.
There was a kid at the desk, young enough to be a student. He looked up when I walked in and dropped my duffel.
“Transfer from Berlin,” I said.
“Go on in.” He pointed to a closed door.
I opened the door, hoping the instruction wasn’t a new-guy-hazing prank.
The first thing I saw was a mess of blond hair. I knew he was an elf because he had some of that hair tucked behind the ears. I guess he could have been fae, but I didn’t know of any fae knights.
When he turned around, I had three thoughts. That he was just about my age. That his eyes sparkled with elf mischief. And that the only word to describe him was beautiful.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have a strong preference for the opposite sex and don’t usually think about whether other guys are attractive or not. But this elf had it going and I would have had to be blind to not notice.
I looked past him to the man behind the desk. You could tell it was the Sovereign by the way his jaw seemed permanently clenched. He pointed at the elf. “Rammel Aelshelm Hawking, meet Basil Rathbone Landsdowne.”
The elf stuck out his hand. I took it and shook. That’s when it registered. I laughed and blurted out, “You’re P.P.”
“Excuse me?” he said, with his brow knitting.
I looked at the Sovereign and thought better of saying more. “I’ll explain. Later.”
“You two are getting a try out as partners, attached to B Team, starting,” he looked at his monitor, “Thursday. Mr. Hawking, Mr. Landsdowne’s quarters are next to yours. Show him the way.”
“Aye,” said the elf as he moved toward the outer office. He held the door open to the hall and gestured toward the elevator. “Welcome to worm patrol.”
“Should I complain about the assignment?”
He laughed. “I’ve been told that’s what they call rotation in the Big Apple.”
Once inside he pushed the third floor button and leaned back against the wall facing me. “So what was the peepee thing?”
I grinned. “Not peepee! P. P. Your reputation is widely known. Stands for parties and pussy.”
He cocked his head and gave a tiny smile. “’Tis what they say about me?”
“Yeah, man. It could be worse. They could be sayin’ you’re a limp dick wanker who’s scared of girls.”
He combined a grin with a sly look that I’d come to think of as Ram’s trademark smile. “Spent a lot of time alone as a kid. I suppose there was some pent-up party in me. Maybe I’ve over-compensated. I would no’ want P.P. on my tombstone.” The elevator car stopped and the doors opened. He held his hand on the door seam while I hoisted my duffel and stepped out. I walked next to him down the wide hallway. It was carpeted with a rich red pattern, like a five-star hotel. The plus column features of J.U. were definitely all on the inside.
“So,” he continued as we walked, “your name is Basil Rathbone…”
“Landsdowne. My mother named me after some famous swordsman.” I chuckled, looking down at the carpet. “Maybe she set me up for this gig. You think?”
“Could be. I met a guy named Rathbone when I was thirteen. He recruited me. Big fella. No’ quite a giant, but really big.”
“Yeah. That was my uncle. He’s not that big. Matter of fact he’s just about the same size as you and me.”
“No shit?” he asked. I nodded. “I guess things looked bigger when I’d just turned thirteen.” He stopped in front of a door with my name on the plaque. “This is you. That’s me one door down,” he said as he pointed down the hallway.
“Okay.” I waved my new ID in front of the sensor and heard the internal click.
“Dump your stuff and I’ll show you ‘round.”
“Sure. Give me five.” The place was a lot bigger and nicer than I expected. In fact, it was a step up. I could stand being called “worm patrol” if all the perks were like that.
I followed the elf’s suggestion, dumped my duffel, looked around and walked back out. He was leaning against the wall facing my door looking at his fingernails. He seemed to read my thoughts when he said, “’Twas exactly my reaction when I was moved up here a day ago. ‘Tis the big leagues. Compensation for risk I guess. If we pass probation, we’re goin’ to be knights.”
I let that sink in. “Knights,” I repeated.
I’ve been lookin’ at that plaque on your door. “What do you go by?”
“Noooooo.” He drew the word out, shaking his head. “That will never do. Try it on for size. ‘Hold the fucker at bay, Basil.’ ‘Basil, jump back. He’s goin’ for your dick!’” I had to laugh. It looked like I’d scored a partner who was entertaining. “See? It just will no’ do.”
“So you want to rename me? What do you suggest?”
“Shorten your limey last name to Lan. I like the sound of it. Girls will, too.”
“Oh, yeah? What do you go by?”
He smiled. “Ram.”
I nodded, somehow knowing that it suited him perfectly. “No promises but I’ll try it out for a couple of days.” Walking out of the elevator into the Hub, I said, “Have you met the guys we’re paired with?”
He didn’t elaborate. So I decided to save the interrogation for later.
Ram gave me a tour of the facility. He was thorough when he was on a mission, left no corner unexplored. He introduced me to more people than I could remember then took me back to the Hub.
Opening his arms as if he was embracing the space, he said, “The perfect end to the comprehensive tour. The lounge. Off limits to students. What’ll you have?” he asked, sitting down at a table near the double-sided fireplace and gesturing at the bar attendant at the same time.
“What do you suggest?”
Ram grinned. “Keep it simple. Irish whiskey.”
“Oh, no,” I said, shaking my head. “I haven’t eaten in a day. No alcohol on my empty stomach.”
“Great Paddy, man! What kind of a shit host am I?!?”
“Let’s get you some food. What do you…? Hold on. Let me guess.” He tapped his fingers and jiggled his right knee, his brows knitted like he was trying to divine my food preferences. “I’m guessin’ you’re a French dip man.”
It wasn’t something I would have thought of, but once he said it out loud, I couldn’t imagine wanting anything else.
“Yeah.” I grinned. “That actually sounds great.”
“With tomato soup.”
The bar attendant arrived. “I’ll have my usual. My friend, Lan here, will have a cup of tomato soup, Caesar salad, and a French dip. Do no’ dawdle and do no’ be stingy with the beef. The lad is hungry and very likely still growin’.”
I had my doubts that I was still growing, but I had no doubt that I’d been partnered with a force of nature. But that was okay because he gave every indication of being a force of good nature. It was too soon to judge, but I was already feeling like, when it came to partners, I could have done a lot worse. Only time would tell, but I might have won the lottery. And I might just survive Black Swan, with a guy like him at my side.
“So take your mind off your empty belly by tellin’ me about yourself. For starters you sound American. You from here?”
“Born in Santa Clara. You know where that is?”
“Everybody in Black Swan knows where that is. Crawlin’ with vampire. Where did you do secondary school?”
“San Francisco. You?”
“I did my internship there! Must have just missed each other. Es ist eine seltsame Welt.”
“Aye. ‘Tis a strange world.”
“How do you like it here so far?”
“Think we might have landed on our feet.”
“Yeah. Seems alright. So far.” The attendant set a whiskey down in front of Ram and put a water down for me. “So. About the other two assigned to B Team?”
Ram shook his head. “Met ‘em briefly. My first impression is that they come with sticks up their asses. Sittin’ up just a little too straight if you ask me. One of them is a berserker.”
“No way! I thought they were all gone. Stuff of legends and all that.”
Ram was shaking his head. “He’s real and big as life. And I mean big! I guess you’ll meet them soon enough if they’re sendin’ us out startin’ day after tomorrow.”
“Kinda hard to believe. Goin’ out unsupervised, I mean.”
“I hear you. But we have a day to fatten you up for the leeches and maybe get laid a few times.”
I spluttered into my water. “A few times?”
At that point, I thought he was mostly bluff and bluster, but it turned out that he could have had a new sexual experience every hour if he’d wanted. Girls did things trying to get his attention that made me feel embarrassed for them. The notice he got for being beautiful made it hard to be inconspicuous, which is what works best for vampire hunters. He took to wearing a black knit hat that covered the ears and most of that blondeness. Seemed like those two things combined were like catnip to women. But you know what? After a couple of days I couldn’t even imagine another partner. When Black Swan put us together, they must have used some kind of magic. They knew what they were doing. We complemented each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And it’s no small thing that he made things that should have been drudgery or tedium seem like fun.
We needed that counterbalance because there was plenty about our lives that was not fun.
It turned out that Ram was kind of right about the other partnership that made up B Team. Storm and Kay were straight arrow types, but I didn’t object to that. Straight arrows are predictable. Well, I mean, so long as they don’t let their berserker out.
Certainly everybody can’t be Mr. Party like Ram. Sometimes a situation calls for a serious attitude. Vampire hunting is one of those situations. The most serious one of us, Storm, was the one we started listening to, like our lives depended on it. And I guess they did.
Ram was technically the most senior member of B Team because he’d arrived a couple of hours ahead of them, but it wasn’t a distinction he cared about. He seemed more interested in getting the job done and staying alive than being in charge. So I had no problem with his priorities.
Kay got stuck with the nickname Ram gave him, just like I did. Not that I’m complaining. I wore the name “Lan” like I’d never been called anything else and the fucker might have even been right about guessing that girls would like it better than Basil.
Yeah. Storm and Kay were good guys that I learned to love and they did their share of snatching my hiney from the jaws of death.
Until they didn’t.
Her paranormal romances come with uniquely fresh perspectives on "imaginary" creatures, characters, and themes. She adds a dash of scifi, a flourish of fantasy, enough humor to make you laugh out loud, and enough steam to make you squirm in your chair. Her heroines are independent femmes with flaws and minds of their own whether they are aliens, witches, demonologists, psychics, past life therapists. Her heroes are hot and hunky, but they also have brains, character, and good manners. **Usually.
Victoria lives in The Woodlands, Texas with her husband and a very smart, mostly black German Shepherd dog. She answers her own email and is happy to hear from readers. firstname.lastname@example.org