Hi everyone!  It's Release Day!!

Please give a warm welcome to EXPLOSIVE, the third book in the Black Opal series, by my alter-ego, Tori St. Claire.  You can give it a try for only $2.99!

KINDLE version will be live today - Amazon has fixed my account.

For now:  Buy Paperback
Buy Digital:  Nook  |  Kobo  |  All Romance eBooks

  A man on the hunt...

Jayce Honeycutt never imagined returning to his hometown for a wedding would find him confronting the woman he intended to marry. Nor did he anticipate the passion they once knew would burn as hot and bright as ever. Only now Alyssa’s involved with Jayce’s former best friend, and Jayce can’t bring himself to interfere. When he learns Alyssa may be in danger, however, everything changes. As the threats against her life escalate, Jayce will stop at nothing to unveil the secrets she’s hiding. Even if it means risking his heart all over again.

A woman on the run…

Ten years ago, a brutal attack forced Alyssa Martin into a world of solitary darkness. She threw herself into her career, but now her work has led her back into the nightmare of her past and thrust her into a deadly game. When her roommate employs Jayce for her protection, memories compound. She’s never forgotten their shared desire, and her body still craves his masterful touch. Yet Jayce is determined to break down her protective walls, and confiding in him is more frightening than the shadows stalking her. But someone else is determined to control her. To survive, Alyssa must trust in Jayce and bare herself completely.

EXCERPT

CHAPTER ONE
Of all the god-awful methods of torture Jayce Honeycutt could envision, weddings ranked at the top of his list. That was saying a lot, considering he’d spent the last ten years of his life disarming bombs for the CIA’s specialized, undocumented team of Black Opals. He’d done his fair share of making threats on US security go away as well, sometimes using those very same methods of torture on subjects that held critical information. But hands-down, a wedding beat every documented and undocumented coercion tactic he knew.

After the last fiasco, when Alexei Nikanova—one of the most esteemed Black Opals, no less—married a virtual terrorist, Jayce had his fill. No more weddings. No more people losing their goddamn minds and throwing away perfectly good careers in the name of the two-faced bitch called love.

That is, until his older sister Jasmine called a month ago. Now he was back in Boulder, Colorado, the last place on earth he wanted to be, not only attending, but participating, in a damn wedding.

He slammed his pickup into third and skidded around the corner. He’d endured the family dinner with the in-laws he’d never see again. Suffered enough polite handshakes, false hugs, and sugary sweet smiles to last a lifetime. Now he couldn’t get to the bar fast enough. One beer to take the edge off. Another to clear his head—around five he might just forget how Boulder had changed his life and how he’d once been dumb enough to buy into the fantasy of weddings and lifelong nuptials. True, he’d never made it to the altar. No, Alyssa hadn’t let it get that far before she vanished, she and their unborn child.

Grinding his teeth against the unwanted rise of memories, Jayce eased up on the accelerator. Just as revisiting the past would bring up trouble, so would getting a ticket. Kevin Clark, director of the Black Opals, would make him eat this one. The three in London had pushed his boss a bit too far. Not to mention Jayce’s attitude about Alexei’s wife. Clark had all but forced Jayce to accept Jasmine’s request to escort her down the aisle. Not that he would have refused. This gave him the opportunity to be near his younger sister, Jordan, at a time she needed company the most.

A bright orange neon sign announced that Jayce had reached his destination and welcomed visitors to the Rocky Mountain Taproom. He nosed into a parking space, killed the engine, and jumped out of the car. Pocketing his keys, he entered a world of sultry blues and even more sultry lights. For the most part, the bar was dead, as he’d expected on a Wednesday night. A few men gathered around the pool table. Near the bar, three ladies laughed over the sound of a crooning sax. They looked his way as he grabbed a barstool. One shyly lifted a manicured hand to wave.

Jayce nodded at the brunette. Cute, but he wasn’t looking for a piece of tail. Not tonight. In another hour he was supposed to meet Jordan. She’d said she wanted to talk. About what made Jayce’s stomach twist into knots. He didn’t want to confront those memories either. All they did was remind him how he’d failed the one person he was closest to. How he’d been so caught up in his own disaster he couldn’t bring himself to help his sister fight the bastard who raped her and subsequently convinced the entire town she’d brought it on herself.
Still, he owed it to Jordan to be there for her. With Jasmine’s wedding approaching, the date of the disaster so near, he couldn’t tolerate the idea of leaving Jordan alone right now.

“What’ll it be, handsome?” The bartender propped her elbows on a polished brass rail, bending forward until Jayce couldn’t help but notice her nipples were about to escape the low-cut tank top.

“Coors Light, bottle.”

Her mouth curved up in an approving grin, and she tapped stubby nails on the polished wood. “Hometown boy at heart.”

Jayce chuckled. “Yeah, something like that.”

As she fished a frosty bottle from the cooler, she cocked her head to study him. “Hey, don’t I know you? Class of 2000. Jayce…Harcourt?”

“Honeycutt.” For the life of him, he couldn’t begin to produce her name. He supposed that shouldn’t surprise him; he’d blocked most of that year out.

She set his bottle down and extended her hand. “Marcie Lauflin. We had Accounting I together.”

Accounting. Jayce bit back a grimace. No wonder he didn’t recognize a thing about Marcie. Alyssa had been in Accounting I. He couldn’t recall a single lesson—he’d singularly attended class so they could spend time together. It was the only way they could be together without worry of getting caught.

He slid his hand into Marcie’s and gave it a shake. “It’s a pleasure. I see Boulder hasn’t changed much.”

“Nah, it never does.” She grinned. “You know how it is. What brings you back to town?”

“Wedding. My sister’s.”

Marcie wrinkled her nose, echoing Jayce’s very poignant sentiment. “Ew.”

“Yeah tell me about it. Not exactly my cup of tea. But…family…” Lifting his beer, he offered Marcie a mock toast, then downed a hearty mouthful. The cold coated his throat and soothed the tightness in his gut.

“You ran with Brice McTavish, didn’t you?”

Wow. Talk about a name from the past. Though Jayce had cut Brice off along with everyone else in Boulder, they’d been tight as teens. Both of them just barely getting by, one foot in the grave, the other barreling on ahead, hoping they’d manage to graduate by the skin of their teeth. Neither wanted to be held back again. “Is McTavish still around?” It might be nice to revisit that particular person from his past. Have a few laughs while he was in town, a few beers, a few minutes of disbelief that they were still alive.

“He’s still here. He’s some big name attorney now. Criminal law. Folks tend to look the other way when he’s around, ‘bout like they did back then.” She laughed again and swept a white cloth over the immaculate bar. “He’s a regular here on Wednesdays. I’m surprised he’s not in yet.”

“Really?” The night was looking up. Beating McTavish at a game of pool would improve Jayce’s mood ten-fold.

“Yep. He must be hung up at the office.” With a frown on her overly-painted face, Marcie rose on her toes and looked over Jayce’s head at the front door. “Wait. He’s coming inside now. Hey, Brice!”

Jayce cringed as her brittle voice thundered over the music. Damn, no wonder she was tending bar. She could break up a fight with just a yell. No one would want to stick around long enough to hear it twice.

“Evening, Marcie,” Brice called in amicable return. “Got a Jim and Seven for me?”

“Got something better. Look who’s in town.” Marcie thrust a plump arm under Jayce’s nose. “Jayce Honeycutt.”

“Jayce?” Brice’s grin doubled in size as he slid onto the stool beside Jayce’s and thrust out his hand. “I’ll be damned. Never thought I’d see you around here again.” As Jayce fitted his hand in Brice’s and gave it a firm squeeze, his childhood best friend enveloped him in a brotherly hug. “It’s good to see you, man.”

“Good to see you too, McTavish.” That was the one, the only, truthful thing he’d said all night. He took Brice in quickly, observing he’d evidently bettered his life. Crisp lines defined a custom-tailored, dark grey, Italian suit. Beneath the stylish coat, white silk opened at the collar. His brown hair was cut short, no longer clinging to his shoulders or falling in his eyes. And he’d shaved. Something McTavish avoided in high school like most men avoided low-rate whores.

“So where you been?” McTavish asked as Marcie passed him his drink.

Jayce took another pull from his beer before issuing his concocted excuse. “I’ve been working security.”

“Security?” McTavish gestured at Jayce’s own imported black suit. “Didn’t know installations could dress a man like that.”

Chuckling, Jayce shook his head. “Not installations. Consultations. Custom designs for the wealthy.”

McTavish let out a long low whistle. “Nice.”

“Marcie says you’re an attorney now?”

“Yeah, gotta pay the bills somehow. After the first year of partying at CSU, I realized rent didn’t come free. Got my act together. Managed to graduate. Opened my own practice about four years ago.”

“Like it?”

“Love it.”

McTavish darted a jerky glance at his watch, then smoothed his free hand down his pants leg. Too many years of being trained to notice insignificant actions alerted Jayce to the absent gestures. Nervous. Hiding something. But what? And why?

Jayce didn’t have long to wait to discover the answer. As he swigged another drink, the men surrounding the pool table all did an about-face toward the door. He turned, curious what, or rather who, captured their immediate attention. At the sight of silken hair the color of rich chocolate, a waist so tiny it would make Scarlet O’Hara cry, and a smile that could silence an angel chorus, Jayce’s heart slammed to a halt.

Alyssa Martin. Holy fuck, he hadn’t prepared for her on any level. Let alone the way she sidled up to McTavish and planted an affectionate kiss on his mouth.

“Hey, babe. Who’s your—” Turning toward Jayce, her words abruptly stopped. Recognition flashed behind even richer brown eyes. In a heartbeat’s passing, her delicate face washed white. “Jayce,” she exhaled.

He couldn’t speak. For the first time in his life, he couldn’t produce a single word. Dozens rallied in his head. Questions she’d never answered—where had she gone, where did he screw up? What happened to our baby? Nothing worked its way past his dry-as-sand throat.

She blew out a breath that fanned the loose tendrils around her face and restored a bit of color to her fair cheeks. “You look…good.”

So did she. Fucking hot as hell. Slimming pencil skirt in khaki, a flirty summer blouse that accented her toned arms—she was every bit as beautiful as she’d been when he’d fallen head over heels for her. More so now that she’d filled out. Her breasts were full and pert, her hips narrow and defined. Her waist still so small he could fit his hands around it and touch his fingertips if he squeezed just a little. And her hair… God, her hair. She hadn’t cut it. Ten years, and it was still as long and glorious as he remembered. He’d bet his soul it would still slide like satin between his fingertips.

Old longing pitched his stomach in a violent circle, and Jayce struggled to put words in order. He had to say something. Something other than a demand for answers. He forced a smile he hoped was casual. “Hey, you.”

His stomach lurched again as Alyssa perched herself on Brice’s knee. Though he hadn’t seen her in a decade, though he had every right to want to strangle Alyssa Martin, the sight of her with Brice was like someone rammed a boot in Jayce’s gut. A steel-toed one that cracked a rib. Christ, the burn was agonizing.

His Alyssa, the woman he’d done everything he could to provide a life for, was with his best friend. Former best friend. Perched on his lap in a way that couldn’t be mistaken as anything but intimate.

The irrational need to put a bullet in McTavish’s forehead possessed Jayce. He turned away and stared at his beer, the malt flavor now as bitter as rotten hops. As a covert operative, he should have anticipated Alyssa might be in Boulder. But last he’d heard, she’d left the city. Her parents gloated when they informed him she’d gone to her aunt’s in New Mexico. It was the only bit of information they’d ever volunteered.

If they’d liked him better, if his family came from the same wealth as hers…

He clenched a hand around the cold glass and choked the timeless questions down.

“Jayce?”

Alyssa’s voice reached him distantly, pulling him out of thoughts he had no business entertaining. The faint touch of her hand on his shoulder seared like coals. He forced himself not to flinch.

“Should I…go, Jayce?”


Buy Paperback
Buy Digital:  Nook  |  Kobo  |  All Romance eBooks



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Hey all!

For those of you who haven't heard, EXPLOSIVE, the 3rd Black Opal book, releases tomorrow!!



There's a few important things you should know:

a.  Amazon KDP has broken my account.  They are trying to fix it, but...it simply won't be available on Kindle until they do.  With the sheer number of folks who've signed aboard to help get the word out, I was in a position to have to keep moving forward with the release, and while I'm not responsible for their glitch, I do apologize to Kindle users.

b.  It will be available, however, on Barnes and Noble for Nook, Kobo, and All Romance eBooks, as well as CreateSpace for the print copy.

c.  It will release at $2.99 and stay on sale through October 1.

d.  I have a giveaway going on through Goodreads -- enter to win a signed print copy!!



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Explosive by Tori St. Claire

Explosive

by Tori St. Claire

Giveaway ends September 20, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win


~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Yay!  It's finally here -- the smokin' hot cover for Explosive.

Explosive continues the Black Opals saga with Jayce, who you met in Lie to Me as Sandman.  (For those of you who might be leaping into the darkly seductive world of undercover operatives, don't worry, all Black Opals books stand alone.)

So, I'm going to show the cover here, but to be entered for the giveaway or read the exclusive two-part excerpt, you're going to have to hop over to Scorching Book Reviews and Love to Read for Fun.  They've split the excerpt in two parts.  Be sure to stop at each to get a glimpse of Jayce and Alyssa.



EXPLOSIVE

Black Opals, Book III
Tori St.Claire

A man on the hunt...

Jayce Honeycutt never imagined returning to his hometown for a wedding would find him confronting the woman he intended to marry.  Nor did he anticipate the passion they once knew would burn as hot and bright as ever.  Only now Alyssa’s involved with Jayce’s former best friend, and Jayce can’t bring himself to interfere.  When he learns Alyssa may be in danger, however, everything changes.  As the threats against her life escalate, Jayce will stop at nothing to unveil the secrets she’s hiding.  Even if it means risking his heart all over again.

A woman on the run…


Ten years ago, a brutal attack forced Alyssa Martin into a world of solitary darkness.  She threw herself into her career, but now her work has led her back into the nightmare of her past and thrust her into a deadly game. When her roommate employs Jayce for her protection, memories compound.  She’s never forgotten their shared desire, and her body still craves his masterful touch.  Yet Jayce is determined to break down her protective walls, and confiding in him is more frightening than the shadows stalking her.  But someone else is determined to control her.  To survive, Alyssa must trust in Jayce and bare herself completely.

Start reading the excerpt at Scorching Reviews

Read part two at Love to Read for Fun

And spread the word that Explosive is coming September 17th and will be available for 2.99!




~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Good morning, readers!  Today I'm bringing Karen Greco in with her debut Urban Fantasy, Hell's Belle.  Lets take a look at this book that sounds really fascinating to me!


Hell's Belle
Hell's Belle Series Book, One
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: June 17, 2013
ISBN: 1484830202
Cover Artist: Jeff Brennan

Half vampire, half human, Nina Martinez spent most of her life underground as part of an elite secret team of government agents that quietly take down rogue monsters, the human world none the wiser. She moves back to her hometown of to keep an eye on the recent uptick in supernatural activity, and to help run the bar she co-owns with her aunt. Her attempt at a “regular” life, not to mention a budding relationship with smoking hot FBI agent Max, is cut short because of a string of ritual murders targeting the city's community of witches. 

But Nina's investigation unearths deadly secrets from her long buried parents. Now the target of supernatural assassins, could Nina be the most dangerous vampire hybrid to ever exist? No wonder she can’t get a date. 

An urban fantasy set in a decaying Providence, Rhode Island, HELL'S BELLE is a fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled roller-coaster ride through a city on the cusp of becoming an urban wasteland. HELL'S BELLE is an energetic, expansive, and cinematic beginning of a new series in the urban fantasy genre.

Amazon

Karen is going to share some fun info today with a top 10 list of what inspired her love of the supernatural.  So take it away, Karen!

I have always loved movies, and the scarier the better. But I prefer suspense and chills to simple gore-fests. These ten movies had a profound impact on me at a very young age, and I consider them key influences to my work as a writer now.

MAGIC
I think this was Anthony Hopkins' first American movie. I watched it when I was about 9 or 10, in an old roadside motel in upstate New York, near Niagara Falls. It was on television. I was so frightened; I covered my face but watched through my fingers. A demented, psychopathic dummy that murdered people--how could I NOT watch?

DRACULA
The first movie I ever saw was Dracula (the one from 79, with Frank Langella as the Count). It was on at the video store when my dad was buying our first VHS player -- one of those early 80s monstrosities! Anyway, the store had it on, and I watched while my dad picked out the machine. Since it was a long, long process, and I pretty much watched the whole thing. I was riveted. Of course, now I know that it was an absolutely brilliant cast, with Trevor Eve as Jonathan Harker, and Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing. No wonder I loved it.

(Quick note. Clearly my parents didn't really monitor what I watched--I also saw Lipstick when I was around that age. And the 2nd movie I ever saw was Ordinary People, which frightened me far more than Magic or Dracula! Third movie was a Cheech and Chong. Clearly they had very relaxed viewing standards, but I think I turned out okay regardless.)

THE EXORCIST
A young girl. A demon possession. A priest who lost his Faith. I was a little older when I saw The Exorcist, and was struggling to get through CCD (Sunday school for Catholics) without experiencing the wrath God (really, the wrath of my Hell-hath- plenty-of-fury Priests). So I related to this film in about a million different ways!  And let's just leave that to the armchair psychotherapists.

ROSEMARY'S BABY
Roman Polanski's classic. That cast was extraordinary—Mia Farrow, John Cassavettes. And no one does weird old lady better than Ruth Gordon.

PSYCHO
Really, every Hitchcock movie should be on this list, but Psycho is iconic. Norman Bates set the bar high for sociopathic killers on film. And that shower scene proved that sometimes seeing less is often more frightening than seeing everything.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE
This movie, like Psycho, proves that you don't have to be supernatural to be a monster!  It also taught me about how even awful, unredeemable characters have their own reasons, however false, for being so evil. Finding the humanity in such awful characters is what gives them real dimension. Plus, Betty Davis and Joan Crawford!

THE OMEN
Oh Damien. Another film that I related to in so many ways! It kicked off my life-long fascination with Great Britain--I loved the locations in this film. And the rabid Rottweilers partially inspired my character Dog. I was also fascinated by the idea that pure evil (in this case, demon spawn) could one day be a political figure, and not necessarily by satanic misdeeds but chosen by the people to lead. The idea that you do not know that this person you admire and respect it really the root of all evil. That's more frightening than Freddie Krueger, I think.

THEATRE OF BLOOD
My list would not be complete without at least one Vincent Price movie, and Theatre of Blood hits all the right buttons. It's simply over-the-top, and Price is chewing the scenery. Great fun.

HALLOWEEN
I was probably about 13 when I saw Halloween for the first time. This film kicked off my adoration for John Carpenter. For a long time, I religiously watched all Michael Myers movies, up until the one with LL Cool J. While most of my friends were Team Jason, I was totally Team Michael. Loved the Halloween franchise way more than Friday the 13th. Jamie Lee Curtis suffered no fools.

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (radio broadcast)
Okay, not a movie and more sci-fi than horror, but my 5th grade teacher played Orson Welles' infamous radio broadcast during class and it influenced me profoundly. I was fascinated by the fact that a fictional program could be so real that it actually sent people into a panic. I am not a huge fan of stories about aliens and alien invasions (I even loathe the movie Alien), but this adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel is a classic spine tingler.

I think I can relate to the love of many of this.  The Omen is one of my favorites!  What are your thoughts, readers?

Before we part ways with Karen, she is also sponsoring a giveaway today.  It spans the tour, but you'll need to enter to have a chance to win one of 10 copies of Hell's Belle.  The winner will be able to choose which digital format: mobi or epub.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


More About the Author:

An award-winning playwright, Karen Greco has spent close to twenty years in New York City, working in publicity and marketing for the entertainment industry. A life-long obsession with exorcists and Dracula drew her to urban fantasy, where she can decapitate characters with impunity. HELL'S BELLE is her first novel.

Goodreads  |  Twitter  |  Blog   |  Facebook





A Bewitching Books Guest







~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Apologies, readers -- I had to deal with some emergency farm issues and this is making it to you late.  However, I hope you'll be as excited about this discovery as I was.  M.E. Sutton is here today to talk about Storm Clouds, her latest release.  Look at this cover!  It screams, "READ ME!"

Storm Clouds
Hero’s Sword Vol. 2
Publisher: Delabarre Publishing
Date of Publication: April 24, 2013
ISBN: 9781619410558
ASIN: B00CIUR7HO
Genre: fantasy -middle grade

Amazon  Kobo   BN  iBooks

Eighth-grader Jaycee Hiller is beginning to fear she only imagined her trip to Mallory. But when a rainy afternoon leaves her with hours of playing Hero’s Sword, her favorite video game, she finds herself drawn back into the game – literally.

STORM CLOUDS is the exciting second volume of the HERO’S SWORD saga – chronicling Jaycee Hiller’s trials in eight grade, and her exciting adventures in Mallory, the setting of her favorite video game. Jaycee enters the video game realm via a special controller and is caught up in the action of this fantasy realm.

In STORM CLOUDS, a valuable jewel belonging to the neighboring estate of Devin, the Sapphire Star, is missing, stolen at the Fall Consortium. Lady Starla stands accused of the theft. Devin’s demands are clear: return the Star or they will take it back by force.

Now it’s up to Lyla Stormbringer to find the Star and the thief. before Mallory finds itself at war.


M.E. is here today to tell us how the fantasy world of the game parallel or differ from our real world. Here's what she had to say!  Be sure to read all the way through her post -- there's a giveaway at the end!

Whenever you get the opportunity to create a world, you inevitably end up with similarities and differences to the “real world,” no matter if your world is your neighborhood, Middle Earth, or the moon. The world of Hero’s Sword is no exception.

The estates that make up the Empire, essentially the world of Hero’s Sword, look very familiar to real life – if we were living about 600 years ago, that is. The Middle Ages, especially between the 12th and 15th centuries, are a good comparison for the basic world of Hero’s Sword. If you think of rolling countryside, grand manors, quaint towns, and three basic social classes – peasant, townsman, and noble – you’ve to the general idea. It was the time when men wore a lot of steel and women wore elaborate dresses. At least if you had money, that is. If you didn’t, well, your wardrobe was considerably less opulent.

When I think of Mallory, I often picture the French countryside of the times. The roads would be dirt or cobblestone, depending on where you were. Like France at the time, the economy is largely based on agriculture, with large farms dominating the landscape. There would be some trade in the towns – people dealing in cloth, shoes, or spices. And like the fiefdoms in the real world, the common folks would swear loyalty, and pay taxes, to the ruling landowner. In Hero’s Sword these are the estate owners who, although they don’t have titles, fill the same role as those barons and counts of medieval times.

Also like medieval France, the main method of transportation is the horse – either riding one or horse-drawn carts and carriages. Weaponry would be similar – bows and arrows, crossbows, and swords mostly (although I suppose the Imperial army has pikes too).

So if you go to an encyclopedia, or Wikipedia for that matter, and look up “12th century France,” you have a pretty good idea of what Mallory, and any other estate of the Empire, looks like. And yes, I deliberately stayed away from magic in the world of Hero’s Sword – at least anything resembling real magic. Some day people who deal in herbs and healing, and the superstitions that were common to the times, may make an appearance. This is another similarity to “real life,” where you can’t get out of trouble by reciting a spell or drinking a potion.

But what about the differences? Well, if you are comparing Hero’s Sword to modern life, of course things are very different. Both are inhabited by people (as opposed to elves and dwarves), but all of our modern conveniences, such as flushing toilets, running water, or cars, are missing. No firearms either – and I’m not sure if that makes the world of Hero’s Sword more or less “civilized”!

The other major difference is the characters, particularly Jaycee/Lyla. In “real life,” Jaycee Hiller is a girl in eighth grade, about 13 years old. She’s not quite a child, but she’s not an adult either. She has knowledge and skills appropriate to her age and society. She’s probably awesome at working electronics, but if you put a sword in her hand she’d be a bit lost. Not to mention the fact that she wouldn’t be strong enough to swing a very big sword.

Lyla Stormbringer, on the other hand, is definitely older. Not very old, but probably in her mid-20s. She possesses skills at archery and swordsmanship that Jaycee does not – although obviously Jaycee would know how to do those things in a video game. For the purposes of the book, however, Lyla needs to have those skills. Otherwise, she’s not going to be taken seriously – and that definitely wouldn’t work for the book. Because she is older, Lyla also doesn’t have to fight against a natural doubt that a child would be up to the task of saving the lady of the manor or averting war. Of course they trust Lyla, of course she’s capable.

That’s probably the biggest difference between the world of Hero’s Sword and “real” life. In the game, Jaycee is a strong, capable, confident young woman. In “real” life, she’s still kind of a wall-flower, not quite ready to believe she could be a real-world Lyla.

And that’s the question to be answered, not just in Storm Clouds, but in the entire series. What can Lyla teach Jaycee about surviving the real world? And will Jaycee learn those lessons or not?

It should be fun to find out, don’t you think?

Claire:  I do think it should be fun to find out, and I have added this on my list of books for my two boys and I to read together.  Looking forward to it!

Now for the giveaway!!

ME is providing an e-book copy in the winner's choice of format for today's stop.  Leave a comment below!

But that's not all.  There's also a tour-wide giveaway that you can enter through Rafflecopter.  Enjoy folks!!




About the Author:



A software technical writer by day, Mary Sutton has been making her living with words for over a decade. She writes the Hero’s Sword middle-grade fantasy series as M.E. Sutton, and The Laurel Highlands Mysteries series as Liz Milliron. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two children.





A Bewitching Books Guest



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Given that Seduction's Stakes is just re-released, and the fact I'm once again forced to be somewhere else during race day (this time soccer), I thought I'd share my picks with you for the Preakness.  In case you're unaware, the race is today, and we're discovering who, if anyone, will have a shot at the coveted Triple Crown.

ORB: Preakness Favorite, 2013 Kentucky Derby Winner

Difficulties arise here because the races are so close together, and that is playing in to many people's odds.  I'm not a huge fan of really anyone in the field, except, for once, the favorite:  Orb.  There are two other horses I feel have even a chance:  Departing and Governor Charlie.  Yes, Goldencents is up there in many people's predictions, the sloppy track at Churchill being excused for his poor showing.  I'm not buying it, even though I liked him for the Derby.

So, with all that said, and after much mulling over what I think my three candidates will do... For me, this is my Trifecta!

1.  Orb
2.  Departing
3.  Governor Charlie

A couple of caveats... Governor Charlie lost training time.  Training is important, but there's a certain amount of 'not forgetting' that comes with a horse who knows its job.  I'm really oversimplfying and doing an injustice to the hard work put into training, but put simply, the horse has to go around a circle to the left, insanely fast, without crashing into another horse.  Training really, to me, is the level of Jockey experience.  In this case, Mylute takes that cake.  But I don't like Mylute for win, place, or show.

Departing has a history of wins under his belt, and it wouldn't surprise me if he does overtake Orb.  Of all of them, he shows the most promise in doing so.  I really wish he'd run the Derby so I could have seen him against Orb.  This horse stands to be a wildcard.  I still don't believe he can pull ahead for a win.  Show it is.

And Orb.  I don't know whether I really like this horse for his ability, or whether I like the hope we might happen onto another Triple Crown winner.  I hate to see the run for the three jewels come to a grinding halt with Orb being beaten at the Preakness.  So my fingers and toes are crossed that he takes home the trophy and we will have much angst and nail-biting at Belmont coming up.

We'll see what happens, I guess!  (And you can decide whether you ever want to listen to my picks again!)

Just as a reminder, don't forget Seduction's Stakes is available now.



McCleery Racing didn't become a Thoroughbred racing powerhouse by betting on longshots. Maddie McCleery made it a multi-million dollar player through hard work, logical decisions, and a commitment to never involve herself with men who lived on the sport of kings. But when she sets her sights on a two-year-old colt her rival owns, she never imagines the lengths she'll go to, to bring the future champion home.

Riley Jennings wants unobtainable Maddie almost more than the Triple Crown. After his Kentucky Derby win, however, he sees a way to sure-fire victory. His proposed wager stacks the odds in his favor - if her horse wins the Preakness, he'll accept her terms. If his horse comes in first, they'll negotiate his way.

When the dust settles on the wire, will love claim final victory, or will unexpected tragedy stop them in the gates? 

Available on all popular digital platforms and in print, but here's the Kindle link:  Seduction's Stakes

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Good morning, everyone!  It's DERBY DAY!!



And for this racing enthusiast, there couldn't be a better day.  I love, love, love kicking off the run for the Triple Crown.

This year's Derby is interesting on so many levels.  We have a woman jockey, a black jockey, horses that could be full of surprises, and what promises to be a sloppy track.  We have turf runners, unproven candidates, and some last minute jockey change-ups.  All in all... very fun times.

Have you made your choice on who's going to take home the trophy?

Here's my picks, along with my very brief whys:

WIN - Revolutionary
I'm a Pletcher fan, for starters, and Calvin Borel is a world class jock, and they have a post position that suits Borel.  But when it all boils down to why I picked this dark bay contender, it's strict gut feeling.  For more solid reasons: it's all in the pedigree.  This horse is born to win.

PLACE -- Orb
I don't want to like Orb, because everyone else does.  But, damn it, I do.  He's done really well, really recently, and while I just can't see him overcoming Revolutionary, I can't see anyone else in the field who can overcome him.

SHOW -- Palace Malice
Now, before you laugh, look at the running history on this colt's sire side.  By Curlin, he's bred to improve with age, and he's just now three.  His recent performances show betterment in more difficult stakes.  I'm totally behind this horse, not to mention, he's also a Pletcher horse :)

4th -- Normandy Invasion
I think he's a dark horse waiting to surprise us all.  He's performing well in exercise runs and showing a lot of vigor.  The only surprise I see happening is he might just place in the money.

5th -- Goldencents
Really, Normandy Invasion and Goldencents, to me, have about equal odds.

And as a mention... I would really like to like Charming Kitten, simply because I am a huge Prado fan.  It would please me immensely if this horse would pop into the money.  But as much as I would like for that to happen, I just don't see this turf running cutting it on synthetic track.


So.  All that said, I'm celebrating the Derby with the re-release of Seduction's Stakes!  It's a little-known book I published, my first book folks, and I hope you'll grab a copy!

Seduction's Stakes

""Hot, Hot, hot. Seduction’s Stakes is a sexy race to the finish line." USA Today Bestselling Author, Nana Malone"


McCleery Racing didn't become a Thoroughbred racing powerhouse by betting on longshots. Maddie McCleery made it a multi-million dollar player through hard work, logical decisions, and a commitment to never involve herself with men who lived on the sport of kings. But when she sets her sights on a two-year-old colt her rival owns, she never imagines the lengths she'll go to, to bring the future champion home.

Riley Jennings wants unobtainable Maddie almost more than the Triple Crown. After his Kentucky Derby win, however, he sees a way to sure-fire victory. His proposed wager stacks the odds in his favor - if her horse wins the Preakness, he'll accept her terms. If his horse comes in first, they'll negotiate his way.

When the dust settles on the wire, will love claim final victory, or will unexpected tragedy stop them in the gates?





~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Good morning, everyone!  It's Thursday, and you know what that means -- a new voice (sometimes just to me) for me to share with you.  Please welcome author Liia Ann White, who's here today to talk about her new release, Dark Waters.  (I'm seriously liking this cover, by the way.  It's gorgeous!)


Dark Waters
Liia Ann White


Randor is a Fae assassin. As the most feared military officer in the Faery Realm, he only got out by striking a deal with the late King to become an assassin for hire. Something he was only able to do because of his place as adopted family member. When he’s ordered to kidnap the Unseelie Faery Princess and deliver her to the Seelie Queen, he doesn’t think twice, until he sees his target. Adora. Unseelie Princess. Most beautiful being in existence and feared witch warrior and his soul mate. Disobeying orders is something he’s never done before. But when he brings her into the Human Realm; his home, he has no regrets. Until his Elvish friend, Kiel, disapproves and an unexpected attack raises questions about his loyalties. The only way that could have happened was if Kiel tipped off the Queen's witch, Maleficent.

Adora was fearless, powerful and intensely unhappy. Until she was kidnapped by a mysterious stranger, who happens to be her half human, half Seelie soul mate. After being attacked, Adora, fearing she'd lose Randor, admits her feelings for her soul mate. The two of them just need to find a way they can survive together - away from the feuding kingdoms. Entering the Seelie castle, under a pretense of needing the witch's help to bind Adora's immense power, they ask for Maleficent, whom they plan to eliminate so she can no longer track them. 

When all hell breaks loose, they're involved in a fight including the witch, Kiel and the Queen. A fight that not all of them will survive. 

I asked Liia Ann to talk to us about her inspiration for the story.  Here's what she had to say:


Thanks so much for having me today!  (You're welcome, Liia)

When I saw this topic request for a blog post I beamed. She wanted to know what the inspiration for Dark Waters was. Well, there is about five different ways I can answer that, so here goes…

I’ve always loved fantasy. When done well, fantasy is my favourite genre. But there is a lot of it out now, books, movies, TV shows, that just don’t do it for me. If a fantasy book has not enough or too much description, I feel very disconnected from the plot. I’d had my own little fantasy series running around in my head for a while now and the opportunity came up for me to finally write a fantasy romance.

If you’ve read anything about me, you might know all my book ideas come from dreams. I have nightmares, vivid dreams and plain old weird dreams every single night. One night Adora appeared to me, with the basic appearance of a 21st century She-Ra (yes He-Man’s sister) in combat gear. She was tough yet vulnerable. Beautiful yet down to earth. And graceful yet deadly. She was everything I love in a heroine.

Several dreams followed with the appearance of Randor, the super sexy assassin, the outlay of the worlds they lived in, colours, trees, plants and buildings. I love blues, purples and greens – basically any cool colour, so that’s what I incorporated into the world. All the flora is a shade of blue or purple with green leaves and grass surrounding them.

When I write a book, it plays out in my head as a film, so I try to include all the aspects that I see in my book.

As for my inspiration for Randor? Who better than the always hot Ian Somerhalder as my favourite book character – Damon Salvatore :)




Let's take a peek at where her imagination led, shall we?

~~@~~
EXCERPT
~~@~~

Adora awoke lying on a cold, hard, stone floor. Her head ached and throbbed. What happened to her? She left the feast, headed for her quarters and...nothing. Her mind was completely blank.

So what was she doing on a floor? Sitting up, Adora rubbed her head and found she was shackled. Both her wrists and ankles were bound in iron cuffs. The metal shimmered with green energy. They’d been charmed, no doubt with a captivity spell.

Good gods, what am I supposed to do?

It was no use trying to free herself. Captivity spells were almost impossible to break without the proper words. Wait, could she pull the chains out of the wall?

Jumping to her feet, Adora stepped back until the chains were tight. They were attached by one hook embedded into the wall.

This should be easy.

Grasping the cold iron chains, she gave a mighty yank. The instant she did, pain shot up her arms. Adora hunched and winced as the cuffs around her wrists tightened, digging into her skin.

“The more you struggle, the tighter they become.” A deep male voice cut the silence around her.

She spun to find a man she didn’t recognise standing at the door of her small cell. He was tall and lean with muscle that she didn’t doubt held immense strength. His sky blue eyes shone in contrast with his tanned skin and brown hair. While this man was obviously Fae, there was something different about him. Something else emitted through his aura.

A smirk spread across his full lips as he took a step toward her.

Refusing to back away, she straightened and stood still. She was Princess Adora, first in line for the throne the Seelie Court and fearless warrior in the Seelie army. People feared her. She feared nothing.

“So, Princess,” he spoke as he continued to slowly approach her. “I’m supposed to deliver you to the Unseelie queen.”

Adora’s breath caught in her throat. The Unseelie queen had tried, many times, to invade the kingdom. But her soldiers never made it past the gates.

“But,” the stranger continued, “I think I’ll keep her waiting. Just for a little while.”

Adora cocked her head. What kind of soldier disobeyed his queen? “Who are you?”

~~@~~
YOU HAVE JUST READ AN EXCERPT FROM DARK WATERS
~~@~~





Liia Ann will be awarding a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a $10 Evernight Publishing Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.  Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here



About the Author:

Liia Ann White is an Australian author, hailing from Perth, WA.

She spent her childhood daydreaming about far off lands, creating her own unique characters, reading books about witches, faeries, demons, ghosts and a host of supernatural creatures. Eventually, she gained the courage to put her imagination to work.

A self-proclaimed geek, Liia collects Disney and Star Wars memorabilia and loves all things nerdy.

A vegan animal lover, she wishes to one day have her own rescue shelter for unwanted and 'unadoptable' animals. When not writing, she can be found reading or spending time with her dogs.

Liia is a member of Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of Australia, Passionate Ink, Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal Chapter of RWA and Young Adult Chapter of Romance Writers of America as well as being the webmistress for YARWA.

Always interested in meeting new people, Liia can be found on facebook or twitter almost constantly.

Keep in Touch:


Buy Links



A GoddessFish Productions Guest






~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Please welcome author Meggan Connors to the blog today, and her new Western Steampunk Romance.  Did you hear that?  I'll say it again.  Steampunk.

Everybody squeal with me.  (And for you just visiting the blog today, I'm a huge steampunk fan.)




She's about to become a pawn in a brutal game between nations... 

The American Civil War has raged for more than ten years. The outcast daughter of a famous inventor, Jessica White has struggled to salvage what little remains of her life. Then, one cold winter night, the lover she'd given up for dead returns, claiming the Union Army bought the plans for her father's last invention. But he's not the only one who lays claim to the device, for the Confederacy wants the invention as well. Both sides will kill to have it. 

...And only he can save her. 

As an agent for the Union Army, Luke Bradshaw is a man who will use whomever and whatever is at his disposal in order to complete his mission. An attack by Confederate soldiers ensures that Jessie will turn to him for help, but Luke can't help but wonder about the secrets she keeps--and if those secrets will ultimately prove fatal.




~~@~~
EXCERPT
~~@~~

Her cheeks heated and she sniffed. “I wouldn’t try the patience of my very generous benefactor, if I were you. I might also mention a bath could make your presence a little more tolerable. You’re lucky I didn’t sic Muha on you.”

Luke looked at the wolf, who thumped her graying tail in eager canine devotion. “You wouldn’t bite me, would you, old girl?” Scratching her head, he caught Jessie’s eye. “See, she still loves me.”

“Well, that’s one of us.”

“Right.” He dug into the pocket of his vest, removed a small, folded envelope, and extended it to her. “I brought you something.”

The paper trembled, and it took Jessie a moment to realize his hands shook.

She folded her hands in her lap. “I don’t want anything from you, except your promise that tomorrow you’ll leave and you won’t come back.”

“Can’t promise you that, but I can give you this.” He shoved the envelope at her.

“Don’t overstay your welcome, Bradshaw.”

“I always do.”

A nervous laugh escaped before she could stop it, and she took the letter from Luke’s outstretched hand. It was well worn and wrinkled, the edges charred, as if it had been rescued from a fire.

She ran her hands over the paper, and she sensed smoke and the heat of flames.

With shaking hands, she opened the envelope. She wasn’t sure what she had expected to find, but it wasn’t this. It wasn’t a photograph and a flood of memories.

Two young men. Union soldiers. Luke, clean-shaven and an older version of the boy she remembered, smiled broadly at the camera, his free arm around the shoulders of the young man standing next to him.

Gideon. His black hair and eyes, skin and high cheekbones showed the native blood he and Jessie shared. His mouth was set in a somber line, but she recognized the mirth in his eyes. Luke had never failed to amuse her brother.

On the bottom of the photograph, written in Gideon’s strong, precise hand, was, Me and Luke. October 28, 1867.

The day he died.

She put the photograph down beside her and turned to the second piece of paper, and her throat tightened as she began to read.

Jessie,

We leave for South Carolina today. Luke and I are assigned to different airships, but we’re both expected to be there by this afternoon. We don’t expect much resistance. There are rumors the Rebs have developed a weapon against our airships, but I’ve been working on something with Pop’s blue silver alloy. If it works, the Rebs will never be able to take us out of the sky. I only wish Luke were on my ship.

Don’t worry about us. Any day now, and we’ll be back where we belong. Luke sends his love. I’ll take care of him for you—don’t you worry. You take care of yourself and Pop.

–Gideon

The letter they’d received from Gideon’s commanding officer had assured her father that her brother had died quickly when his ship had plummeted to the earth and burst into flames. She had pretended to believe the lies for her father’s sake.

She traced Gideon’s words with the tip of her finger, trying to feel some remnant of her brother’s presence in the strong lines of his penmanship. New pain built in her chest when she realized her efforts were futile—his energy wasn’t there. His letter contained his words, but no trace of him.

“I always meant to come back.” Luke’s voice sounded rough. “I walked all the way back to the crash site, looking for him or something of his. I was given this. I’ve carried it ever since. I always meant to give it to you.”

She set the photograph in her lap. She memorized this last image of her brother, dressed as a solider with his best friend by his side.

Luke put his hand on her shoulder.

She flinched. “Don’t. You should have sent this when you found it.”

He dropped his hand. “I wanted to give you the letter in person.”

“Go away.” The words came out strangled.

“Jessie—”

“I wish you had been the one to die that day.”

This one small memento of her brother ripped her open and tore out her heart all over again. The pain was as raw as the day she’d learned of his death.

“You have no idea how many times I’ve wished the exact same thing.”

~~@~~
YOU HAVE JUST READ AN EXCERPT FOR JESSE'S WAR
~~@~~



~GIVEAWAY~



Meggan will be awarding a silver pocket watch pendant and a cameo choker, and a signed paperback copy of The Marker, her historical romance to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US/CANADA ONLY). So don’t forget to leave a comment and follow the tour.  The more you comment, the better your chances of winning!

Complete tour dates can be found here.





About The Author:


Meggan Connors is a wife, mother, teacher and award-winning author who writes primarily historical and steampunk romances. As a history buff with a love of all things historical, she enjoys visiting both major and obscure museums, and reading the histories of the Old West and the British Isles. She makes her home in the Wild West with her lawman husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow, or with her nose in a book. Favorite vacation destinations include the sun-kissed hills of California, any place with a castle or a ghost (and both is perfect!), and the windswept Oregon coast.

Links:

Website: http://www.megganconnors.com

Twitter: @megganconnors






~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Good morning, readers!

I hope you've all had an opportunity to pick up Immortal Trust!  If you have, I'd love to hear which book is your favorite so far.  There's three others to choose from:  Immortal Hope, Immortal Surrender, and don't forget Immortal Protector, the companion novella to the series.

Since it's Tuesday, our teaser this week is the conclusion of chapter one from last week.  With much, much ado, let's see what happens with Chloe and Lucan.


Immortal Trust
The Curse of the Templars, Book III
Purchase Now!

When archaeologist Chloe Broussard accepts the contract to lead a dig in Ornes, France, she has no idea she will uncover Veronica's Veil. When she does, she discovers a danger far greater than the demons that stalk her in the night. Azazel wants her, as well as the Veronica, and his chosen minion is her brother. Her hope lies with immortal Templar Knight, Lucan. Her life depends on oaths she knows nothing about.

For countless centuries, Lucan of Seacourt has lived with the knowledge that his brother killed their family. Now, as Azazel's darkness eats away at his soul, old betrayal stirs suspicion. He trusts no one. Not even the seraph who can heal his dying spirit.

With the fate of the Almighty hanging in the balance, Lucan must find faith in something more terrifying than the dark lord's creations. He must learn to believe his heart.

"The engrossing Curse of the Templars series hits another high note with its third installment, packed with the tension and passion fans have come to expect..." - Romantic Times Reviews 4/4

~~~~~~

****

Lucan’s eyes hardened like steel and clashed with Chloe’s annoyed scowl. She turned her back on the three imposing men, unwilling to let Lucan’s handsome face sway her into better spirits. Held back by the insistence from the Vatican that she wait until their representatives could be present, her team had missed a full day. A delay that would cost them dearly if the overcast sky made good on its threat of snow.

She stomped inside the trailer, letting the door bang shut behind her. Determined to ignore the twinge of guilt her unprofessional attitude brought, she dropped into her desk chair and folded her arms across her chest.

As expected, Lucan and the other two blocks of stone ducked through the doorway and entered the single-wide’s makeshift office. They formed a triangle in front of her desk—two blond corners at the rear, with Lucan as the point man. She let her gaze wander across the masculine faces. At Lucan’s right, the slightly taller, sandy blond wore a haggard expression. As if he had seen more from life than his midthirties warranted. He regarded her with subtle curiosity. Like a colleague who assessed a competitive peer. Beside him, the other blond’s expression brimmed with humor. Soft brown eyes crinkled at the corners, as if he enjoyed some inside joke.

Her gaze shifted to Lucan, and a strange tightness possessed her skin. Her work took her to the four corners of the world. She’d seen, spoken to, and even worked with handsome men. For that matter, her brother had been known to make women titter stupidly when he walked into the room. But this man . . . His broad shoulders screamed strength. His narrow waist said he knew the meaning of a hard workout. Yet, the way he looked at her, as if he could read her very thoughts, made her wholly uncomfortable. Behind the unmistakable sharpness of annoyance, interest fringed his unusual gray eyes. And the raven hair that fell almost to his shoulders suggested an uninhibited nature that contradicted his neat attire.

A shiver raced down her spine as the word naughty flitted through her thoughts.

He quirked a dark eyebrow. One corner of his mouth threatened to yield to a self-assured smile.

Heat crept into Chloe’s cheeks. She quickly averted her gaze and shuffled a stack of papers from one side of desk to the other. Handsome maybe. Cocky she could do without. Particularly if she had to work beside him for the next several months. She’d had her fill of trying to prove herself among her colleagues.

Fixing her stare on the less threatening face to Lucan’s left, she cleared her throat. “Is there a particular reason you decided to show up today?” Sarcasm crept into her voice. “Why not tomorrow? By then we might have a foot of snow to dig through and three extra pairs of hands would be welcome.”

With the smoothness of brandy, Lucan’s deep British accent washed over her. “I fear we are both victims of miscommunication. We were instructed arrive this evening, milady.”

Milady? Chloe blinked. The antiquated title prickled her arms with goose bumps. She left her chair to give herself a bit of breathing room and drifted to the long countertop behind her. Picking up a printed copy of the Vatican’s communication, she flicked the corner of the paper. “It says here Sunday the nineteenth. I assumed we’d start the week promptly this morning.” Turning, she strode back to the group of men and thrust the paper at Lucan’s wide chest.

He pushed it gently aside. Reaching into his coat pocket, he withdrew a folded square of paper. As he pressed the creases smooth, Chloe groaned inwardly. She didn’t have to look to know what that sheet of paper would say. Inevitably, his copy would read Monday the twentieth. Her luck wouldn’t have it any other way.

She accepted his outstretched offering and scanned the paper, confirming her suspicion. Her angry sails deflated, she let out a heavy sigh. “I apologize.”

“No apologies are necessary.” Lucan’s mouth lifted with a smile. His eyes sparkled with the gesture, not unlike silver beneath bright sunlight. “’Tis understandable you would be upset.”

For a moment, Chloe could do no more than stare. If he’d been handsome moments ago, that warm smile made him breathtaking. Her gaze skipped down to his boots, making note of the thick expanse of his thighs, the way the denim fitted snug. As she again met his discerning stare, and that dark eyebrow quirked as it had before, her cheeks heated once more. Good grief, he wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable by her appreciative appraisal. If anything, she half suspected he’d have no qualms mentioning it aloud if his friends weren’t present.

He took a confident step forward and extended his hand a second time. “Shall we try this again? I am Lucan.”

Swallowing hard, Chloe slid her palm into his. His fingers tightened just enough to make the strength in his hands obvious, but his grip came nowhere close to painful. Pleasant almost. If it weren’t for the overwhelming masculine presence that flooded her awareness. She tugged on her hand, anxious to be free of the unsettling sensations that accompanied the scrape of his skin.

The pressure around her fingers strengthened, trapping her in place. Lucan nodded over his left shoulder. “This is Caradoc.” He tipped his head at the other man. “And Gareth.”

Chloe offered the other two men an uncomfortable smile. “A pleasure, gentlemen.”

Lucan’s thumb brushed across the back of her hand. The light gesture carried entirely too much intimacy for her liking. She pulled back, and this time, Lucan’s fingers let go. Her palm slipped free, but his gaze imprisoned her. Suggestion glinted in those steely depths. A silent, yet bold statement that invited her to enjoy a bit of wickedly sinful abandon.

She broke free from the rush of heat that infused her blood by returning to her desk. He might be drop-dead gorgeous, but colleagues and sex didn’t mesh. She’d learned that lesson the hard way. Nothing short of absolute desperation would let her entertain the notions Lucan’s eyes conveyed. And she hadn’t reached desperate yet. Two years without a man left her a bit hungry for physical satisfaction, but the lack of orgasms hadn’t erased all sense from her head.

Determined to communicate strict professionalism, she summoned her no-nonsense business demeanor. “So, gentlemen, since it’s so late, what do you say to an early start in the morning—assuming the weather cooperates?”

Lucan glanced toward the door. “There is nothing you require of us this evening?”

Chloe shook her head and forced her irritation aside. “No, we’ve done nothing today. I was instructed to wait until you arrived before we excavated any more relics that could belong to the Church.”

Caradoc gestured at the closed crates stacked on the countertop. “We would like to see the artifacts you’ve already unearthed.”

“Those?” She chuckled softly. “Those aren’t what you’re here for. Anything that could possibly carry religious significance is in the other trailer. My brother, Julian, already left for the hotel. He has the keys, I’m afraid.”

Lucan’s gaze narrowed with suspicion. “But the cars outside—no one is here with you?”

At the reminder she’d have to close up the field office alone, Chloe’s chest tightened. Out here, especially at night, the presence that had hounded her the last eight years intensified. She didn’t know what, exactly, it was, but she understood one thing clearly—it didn’t like her.

She ignored the chill that inched down her spine. “I’ve been doing paperwork all day. I’m used to working alone.” Just not at night. Never at night.

A slight frown pulled at Lucan’s brow. “Do you have much work remaining?”

“Oh, not much.” She gestured at the open record book on her desk. “I need to transfer notes on three more artifacts into the computer. Then I’ll head on back.” Forcing brevity, she laughed. “Just me and the trees. The quiet’s nice.”

The tight downturn to Lucan’s mouth evidenced his disbelief. He twisted to address Caradoc. “Go on. I will stay with her.”

“No!” Chloe blurted out. Lord no, not alone with him. She’d take the presence in the darkness over ten minutes alone with him. He posed a far greater risk. “I mean, thank you, but that’s not necessary. I’ve been here for a full month. I’m quite capable of locking up on my own. Rest assured, I won’t be fiddling with anything that would interest you.”

Lucan eased out of his coat and draped it over the back of a nearby chair. “’Tis not the Church’s interest that concerns me, milady, but your safety.” Leather creaked as he sat down.

“Till morn then,” Gareth chimed, his eagerness to be free of the trailer evident. He exited swiftly.

Caradoc clamped his hand on Lucan’s shoulder in a brotherly gesture of support. “I shall inform Merrick we have arrived.”

To Chloe’s horror, he too vanished out the door. Unable to look at Lucan, she stared at her blank laptop screen. “Maybe work can wait until tomorrow.”

 Her feeble excuse met a wall of determination. “Nay. Do what you must. I will . . .” Trailing off, he glanced around the trailer. On spying Chloe’s coveted, specially shipped from Tucson, latest edition of Cosmopolitan, he picked up the magazine and scanned the cover. A smirk drifted across his sensual mouth. “I will learn how to turn a weekend getaway into an erotic paradise.”

Sheer mortification scalded her face. With a fierce push, she swiveled her chair around so she wouldn’t have to look at him and pressed the button to bring her laptop out of sleep mode. Torture. Not only did the Church seek to insult her ethics by demanding she cease excavation until their representatives arrived to oversee her work, they sought to torture her with a man who could define erotic paradise.




~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
~
(History Channel International)

IMMORTAL TRUST is
AVAILABLE for PRE-ORDER




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