Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Demons and Angels. When It Comes To Love, Everything Is At Stake In 'Between Good And Evil.'


Tristan, Machidiel and Alastor are bound together by love, but their lives are running far from smooth. Thanks to Tristan’s demonic bargain with an incubus, they have no choice other than to accept that their lives are never going to be the same again.

To fulfil his obligations to the demon Tristan has two choices—remain with the incubus as his trainee or find a mortal to take his place. Neither option is appealing.

The three lovers struggle to release Tristan from his bargain, but find bigger problems on the horizon when a human caught up in the mess is taken prisoner by the Demon King himself.

With no help forthcoming from either angels or demons, the three lovers are on their own with a seemingly impossible mission before them—rescue the mortal from the Underworld.

Mac, meanwhile, has problems of his own. The archangels are voting on whether to ban relationships between angels and demons, and if the new law is passed he must choose between his wings and his lovers.

The three of them believe their love is strong enough to see them through the hard times ahead, but if they aren’t careful the repercussions of Tristan’s bargain could tear their ménage apart forever.


Tristan Garrett watched the waves as they lapped closer to his bare feet. Behind him Machidiel and Alastor packed up their belongings and prepared to return to the real world, as Tristan had come to think of it. He’d known from the start their idyllic island holiday wasn’t meant to last—he just wished their escape wasn’t coming to an end quite so soon.

Resting his chin on his drawn-up knees, he stared at the sinking sun, willing time to stop so he didn’t have to go back. Unfortunately, despite all his newly acquired powers, stopping time or turning back the clock weren’t amongst them.

He didn’t even turn round when Alastor flopped down on the sand beside him.

“Have you thought more about our idea?” Alastor asked. He sounded unsure.

Tristan snorted. He’d thought of little else.

It wasn’t that he hated the idea of relocating, though he’d balked at first. No, the idea had a certain appeal to him. He just didn’t think living somewhere else would solve his current problem. If it would, he’d be down at the estate agent’s first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, no matter where he lived, Lawrence would be able to find him.

Alastor reached around Tristan’s shoulders and pulled him into his side. “We’ll sort things out, don’t worry.”

“How?” Tristan asked. “I’m bound to Lawrence for fuck knows how long, and the only way to escape his clutches is to turn some innocent human into a monster like me.”

Alastor smacked Tristan’s thigh, perhaps a little harder than necessary. “You’re not a monster, so stop calling yourself one. Unless you think I’m a monster too?”

Tristan sighed and covered his face.

“Do you?” Alastor asked.

Tristan wouldn’t meet Alastor’s eyes. Even though he’d known Alastor to be a demon almost from the start of their relationship, he’d never thought of him as a monster.

“Then why do you think of yourself that way?” Alastor pressed. “You might be an incubus now, but you’re still you. You’re more yourself than I’ve been since turning demon, because you remember your life before. You’re not some evil monster.”

Tristan didn’t know the answer to the question Alastor posed. Maybe it was because Alastor was a different sort of demon—or because he’d never known him as a human. Whatever the reason, Tristan could barely stand to face himself in the mirror, and cringed when he saw the red eyes staring back at him instead of the regular green. He’d seen his full demon form just once and he had yet to work up the nerve to take a closer look.

“Are you guys ready to go home?” Mac called from across the dunes.

Tristan finally lifted his head and glanced over his shoulder towards the angel who’d swept him off his feet so unexpectedly the Halloween before last. If anyone had told him his one-night stand with Mac would’ve led him here, he’d never have believed them.

Here he was, living with two other men—one an angel, the other a demon—and he couldn’t bring himself to regret the direction his life had taken at all.

Even becoming a demon didn’t seem quite so bad now the memories of his life had been restored to him. He just wished he could figure out a way to get Lawrence, the demon who’d made him, out of his life without finding another human to take his place. He hadn’t yet come to terms with being an incubus, a male sexual predator of the demon world, and now Lawrence expected him to find some unsuspecting human and turn him into an incubus too. He’d be ruining someone’s life just to save himself. Actually, he’d be ruining more lives than one, because the new incubus would do exactly what Tristan had done to regain control of his sexual appetite, take the life of the human he fed from. 

Tristan wasn’t sure if he could live with himself if he turned another man into a killer, yet what choice did he have? The alternative would be to join Lawrence for as long as the other demon wanted, and Lawrence wanted forever.

Mac strolled over to Tristan and Alastor and crouched down on the sand. “Tristan, what’s the matter? Are you hungry?”

Tristan’s cock hardened in his shorts as Mac reached out to pat his leg. If it weren’t for the fact Mac and Alastor always managed to turn him on so quickly, Tristan might have thought the reaction stemmed from his demonic sexual appetite. Honestly, the hunger wasn’t the problem right now, though Tristan wasn’t one to turn down an offer of sex.

Tristan turned to Mac and pressed their lips together, moaning into the kiss.

“Fuck me, Mac.” Tristan sent his thought directly to Mac’s mind without breaking contact.

“Alastor, go fetch the lube from the satchel,” Mac ordered, as he toppled Tristan backwards onto the sand and yanked off his shorts without ceremony.

Alastor returned in seconds and Tristan felt slick fingers teasing his hole. He shivered as two mouths descended on his nipples, sucking and biting them. He relished the sharp pleasure pain as his lovers marked him as theirs.

Closing his eyes, Tristan wriggled his arse, trying to push down on the fingers that never quite entered him.

“Fuck me,” he begged. “Please Mac. I need you in me. Now.”

Tristan knew Mac had heard his plea. He was sure his words had made it through to the angel. During the last two weeks he had worked on his telepathic ability almost constantly. He knew Mac had heard him. Mac had simply chosen to ignore his plea, at least for the moment.

Alastor’s tongue circled his navel as Mac lapped at his balls. Tristan closed his eyes and let them work their magic on his body.

“Relax, baby,” Alastor whispered through his mind. Tristan smiled at the demon’s pet name for him. 

Whenever anyone else had given him pet names, Tristan had hated hearing them, yet with Alastor it gave him a feeling of being cherished.

Tristan sighed contentedly as Alastor moved lower, joining Mac at Tristan’s crotch, licking at every crevice.

The seawater brushed over Tristan’s toes as the tide came in. He moved his feet apart, his heels sinking into the wet sand as he lifted his hips, straining towards the teasing tongues.

Simultaneously, Alastor and Mac each sucked one of his testicles into their mouths and Tristan cried out as he began to shudder with the force of his emotions. He opened his eyes and stared down at the two heads bobbing together between his thighs. They were close enough for Mac’s blond hair to tangle with Alastor’s dark locks. Tristan’s cock stood erect and untouched. The head was purple and already leaked pre-cum.

Mac lifted his head and descended on his erection, swiping the slit with his tongue. Alastor meanwhile had moved in the other direction as he sucked and nibbled on the sensitive skin of his inner thighs.

“You’re torturing me,” he scolded lightly.

“Ah, but this is such fun, baby,” Alastor said telepathically, as he pushed a slick finger into Tristan’s arse, with Mac’s joining it a moment later.

“More,” Tristan begged. “Please.”

More was what he got as Alastor and Mac each inserted a second finger.

“Oh fuck.” Tristan nearly sobbed at the burning pleasure of having his two lovers fingering him so thoroughly.

“Is this too much?” Mac asked. “I know Alastor has a high pain threshold, but we’ve never gone this far with you. If you want us to stop…”

“No.” Tristan watched the two heads lift and blue and red eyes stared at him curiously. “This feels good,” he assured them.

One of them, he wasn’t sure who, crooked a finger and rubbed his prostate. The touch sent him over the edge and cum sprayed his chest as his orgasm tore through him.

“Just good?” Mac teased.

Tristan couldn’t even summon the strength to answer mentally. He lay panting on the sand, his lovers’ fingers buried in his arse and his softened cock exposed to the elements.

He wanted to stay there forever. He didn’t want to return to the rest of the world, not knowing what Lawrence expected of him in the imminent future.

The fingers disappeared and Mac pulled him up and into his arms. “It’s okay, Tristan, it’ll be all right. We’ll sort things out.”

Tristan buried his face in Mac’s chest. Alastor wrapped himself around the two of them and the three lovers held each other for several long minutes.

Eventually though, they had to leave the island. They washed up in the ocean one last time, Mac gathered their belongings, and the three of them transported themselves home in the blink of an eye.

The time to return to their lives had arrived and they couldn’t put reality off any longer.


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Saturday, December 27, 2014

She Has A Secret Gift And Love, Will It Destroy Her Chance At Happiness? Iris Dawn by Alexa Cole


Sandra is a telepath from a long line of female telepaths, and she has just met the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, she has to put that dream on hold when her sister becomes ill. Sandra is the only person who can reach into Carol's mind and relieve the pain of stunted telepathic growth.

But when the healing process takes much longer than anticipated, Sandra discovers her own pain. Will the extended separation from Gray and the unrevealed secret of her gift destroy their relationship before it even has a chance to blossom?


“Tonight. Dinner, candlelight. Please say yes.”

Startled out of her concentration on the book, Sandra glanced up and found herself quickly stifling a tiny gasp. The body that greeted her eyes was just as sensual as the voice. Velvety chocolate skin. Burgundy pullover and gray slacks. Hazel eyes calm, knowing, but too full of laughter to be called wise.

Wrenching herself back from the momentary lapse into Candy Land, Sandra pursed her lips as she responded with one lifted eyebrow: “Say yes? But I don't even know you. You could be some maniac who'll chop me up into little pieces and stuff me down the garbage disposal.”

“Ah, but I know you,” he responded with unshakeable poise. “I've noticed you in this bookstore for weeks now. You read science fiction and occasionally dabble in the occult section. A woman with imagination as well as great beauty. Please say yes.”

Those eyes. That's what did it. For reassurance, she used her rare talent to probe the edges of his mind ever so slightly. Yep, the brother's for real, she thought with relief and a smile.

* * * * *

A little while later, Sandra emerged from the South Street bookstore with a definite bounce in her step and Gray's phone number in her cell phone. She paused, trying to decide what to do next. Two seconds was about all it took for her to conclude that the next couple of hours should be dedicated to beautification—of her, that is, not the Philadelphia streets. “A girl's got to look her best to feel her best,” was her motto. For the second time that morning, she dug her cell phone out of her pocketbook. Using speed dial, she paced the sidewalk as she waited for her best friend to pick up.

“C'mon, Marsha,” she murmured aloud.

A few rings later, Sandra heard, “Talk to me, girl.”

“What're you doin' right now?”

“Laundry. Why? You have something more exciting to offer? Not that it gets much more mundane than laundry,” Marsha replied with an overly dramatic sigh.

Sandra laughed. “Cool. Meet me at 16th and Walnut in fifteen minutes.”

“Why? And where are you now?”

“I'm at 5th and South right outside Books That Bind. The 'why' is if I don't tell somebody about this gorgeous man I just met, I will literally scream.”

“Say no more. I'm putting on my shoes right now. Haven't heard little Miss Always-Got-It-Under-Control this frazzled since, well, never. What's at 16th and Walnut anyway?”

“Manicure and pedicure. Lola's Nail Emporium. My treat. Got to look right for tonight. Ooh, that rhymed. I must be on fire today!”

“Yeah, right.” Marsha snickered. “But ya know I am not one to pass up a free beauty treatment, so I'll see you in a few. Bye.”

 * * * * *

At the salon, the two friends spent long minutes debating the pros and cons of various shades of nail polish, picking up and putting down one after another of the dozens of bottles lined up on the tiny shelves affixed to one wall. They meticulously considered each color's name as if the secret to lifelong happiness were held within. Sandra finally decided on a pale pink called Spun Sugar for her fingernails and Intoxicating Fuchsia for her toes. Marsha opted for a deep burgundy, Devilish Delight, for both fingers and toes, a shade they both agreed played well against her deep-cinnamon coloring.

Shoes and socks off, they took their seats on their temporary thrones: behemoth pedicure chairs bolted down side by side. Each of the pedicurists turned on the whirlpool jets, and hot, scented water swirled soothingly around their feet. As they luxuriated in the warmth, Marsha turned to Sandra and said, “Okay, I've waited patiently till we're nice and comfy like you wanted. Time to spill it, lady.”

With a somewhat embarrassed giggle, Sandra proceeded to explain. “He makes me feel unsettled, but in a good way. Like any moment something terrifically wonderful and new is going to take hold of my life. And my oh my, he is too fine on top of it. You should see how he was put together for just running around on a Saturday morning. I know I'm usually so cynical. But this time…”

“All right, that means just one thing. You did your whammy number, didn't you?” Marsha asked accusingly.

Sandra bit her lip and didn't say a word.

“No, no, no,” Marsha groaned. 

Glancing at the pedicurists sitting on low stools scrubbing and smoothing their feet, Marsha lowered her voice to a fierce whisper. 

“You know that never ends up in a good place. Folks aren't ready for mind-readers, not even when they're as sweet and perky as you. Start that mess with that man, and you're gonna scare him away. Listen to me, Sandra. Need I remind you of that fiasco with Richard? Did he even stop to open the door when he ran out of your apartment screaming, or did he just bust right through it like some crazed cartoon character? And as for Barry, don't even wanna go there. Try to play this one the way the rest of us mere mortals have to: no special talent; no peeking at what's really going on in his head. I'm beggin' you, leave the Deanna Troi crap for Star Trek.”

“I know you're right,” Sandra said, sighing and staring at her hands clenched in her lap. “But he feels so different. And I need to know it's not just wishful thinking on my part. I am so tired of lousy relationships. I promise I'll be careful. He won't suspect a thing. Besides, I have to go in to work for a little while tomorrow to gear up for Monday, so you'll be happy to know I won't have a whole lotta time for gettin' into trouble.”

“Humph, don't give me that. I happen to remember you never go in till the afternoon when your all-consuming job requires a weekend appearance,” Marsha replied knowingly. “That leaves plenty of time for whatever. Just call me tomorrow and give me the rundown on the entire evening.”

“Done,” Sandra promised her friend with a smile. “And by the way, Deanna's an empath, not a full telepath.” Marsha just gave Sandra a flat, hard stare that ended with Sandra rolling her eyes and both of them tittering like adolescent schoolgirls.


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Friday, December 26, 2014

Azure and Frank; A Sweet Christmas Free Read by Mickie Sherwood


Azure's in high spirits. It's Christmastime! She has invited Frank to her family's traditional holiday breakfast. What could go wrong with that idea?

Frank's nervous. He comes because of Azure and he doesn't come empty-handed. All goes well until he asks her a simple question when they are alone. Then, she asks him to leave.

Will Azure's unfounded guilt ruin Christmas? Being the wise man that he is, will Frank's gift of love be enough to save Azure's Christmas spirit...and their romance?


Frank Hickman unwrapped a stick of gum and shoved it into his dry mouth. He drove slowly past the house for the second time, to the tune of John Legend's All of Me. The yard looked like a toy store had exploded there. Well, it is the Christmas holidays, he thought, removing the gum. It only made his mouth drier.

Not only did cars fill the driveway, leaving one barricaded spot untouched, curbside was a parking lot. There were so many vehicles for so early on a Christmas Eve morning. His inclination was to keep driving. However, he didn't get to act on the notion.

As he watched, the glass door to the front of the house burst open. Azure exited on the run. Frank jammed on the brake. He turned down the volume on the sound system. She sprinted right up to the truck as it hummed in the middle of the street. Her face had a peachy glow as she leaned on the passenger side door. Was the abrupt exertion the cause? He believed she was truly glad to see him.

Frank lowered the window.

"Don't think you're going to sneak off," Azure said.

Moisture returned to his mouth at the purr in her voice. He wanted nothing more than to lay a passionate kiss on her alluring lips. Her smile warmed him all over, even as cold air filtered inside his vehicle. She shivered.

"When you invited me to breakfast this morning, to meet your family—" Frank fingered the neck of his shirt, "—I thought it was to meet your parents."

A sneaky, humorous look entered her eyes. Azure wound her arms across the front of her body at the gusty wind. "They're inside." Her high spirits were evident in the naughty lilt of her voice.

"Yeah. And from the looks of it, so is everyone else."

"You know how it is when out of town guests swarm in for the holidays."

Frank remained mute, because he didn't. Tiny fingers gripped the window's edge, diverting his attention. Azure bent to lift a little body and propped him on the door.

"Who's this?" he asked.

"I call him June Bug." She made kissy sounds on the child's cheek.

"Hi, June Bug," Frank greeted. He signaled to her his jealousy with a tap to his own jaw.

Hair drizzled into her face when she threw back her head and laughed.

"That's not my name." The child's voice broke into their playful moment. "It's Darick Junior."

"DJ for short," Azure explained further.

"Okay, DJ." Frank slanted his body to extend his hand for a shake. Instead, DJ slapped him "five" in the palm.

"All right, you," Azure said, putting him down. "Go back inside. It's too cold for you to be out in your PJs."

DJ took off, much to Frank's amusement, skirting through the artfully arranged yard decorations on the way.

"Park it right here, mister." She talked to him now, indicating the vacant spot in the drive with a dip of her head. It took seconds for her to remove the makeshift barrier. "I reserved that place..." Azure flung her arm out and pointed, "...just for you."

"You mean that, don't you?" He gathered his elation came across in his tone. The unhurried curve of her fascinating smile said so.

She stepped aside with a hand on her hip for an answer, looking like a curvy goddess in her purple cowl neck sweater and fitted blue jeans.

Frank shifted into reverse while raising the window. He backed up enough to make the swing into the spot. Azure stood at his door before he even turned off the engine. She graced him with such an inviting look that his heartbeat increased to an erratic pace. He opened his door with careful deliberation to avoid hitting her.

"Every word of it." She finally replied to his question, taking a couple steps back to let him exit.

The way she caressed his arm, once he got out, continued his ascension into never-land. Getting to know her over the past months enlightened him. Her constant display of resiliency impressed him. Not once did he hear the words "why me?" come out of her mouth. Frank was wishful. The hope he was partly responsible for her merry disposition psyched him. Wrestling to rein in his rampant emotions didn't work.

She led him toward the door by the hand. The door hinges squeaked, snatching his attention away from her. Frank looked up and caught the eyes of the crowd standing in the doorway. Christmas Carols sifted outside to greet him. "Will I get a meal or...become the meal?"

Azure laughed but never stopped moving. "I know you're not nervous..."

Frank fought to hide his unease. "Not as long as you're by my side." He meant every word.

This was his make it or break it moment. The number of eyes raking over him increased the closer he got to the door. An oppressive heat sweltered under his black leather jacket. His instinct was to rip it off. That would be a dead giveaway to his plight. Therefore, he suffered.

"Geez! Back up, everybody." Azure's tone was bossy. "You'll scare Frank away...and God help you if you do that."

Those simple, yet poignant words lessened his anxiety.

Frank walked behind her, although she maintained a grip on his hand. The secret squeeze to his fingers buoyed him. Using his free hand, he held the storm door open high over her head while she entered. Comments started as soon as the soles of his shoes rested on the carpet.

"He doesn't look as old as I expected." That remark came from a young woman who sported a devious grin.

The open floor plan allowed him to watch her stroll away into the kitchen, leaving behind her snicker and another comment.

"I guess he'll do."

He didn't know how to respond. Or even if he should. Therefore, he kept silent, bracing for another onslaught from the masses. All eyes refocused on him. Delicious smells assaulted his senses. His stomach made an embarrassing growl while he stood in the encroaching semi-circle.

Shifting to a dominate stance, he rammed his hand into his pants pocket. The feel of his keys, loose change—but especially the ring—relaxed him. The chances he would offend anyone were nil. This was Azure's time. There was nothing they could do to provoke him.

"Don't mind my kid sister, Frank. She's Hateful Hanna. Dateless, mateless, and as jealous as they come."

Azure's off-handed introduction was a breath of fresh air to a suffocating man. Chuckling, he stepped up and boldly declared himself to all present. "I'm Frank Hickman." Continue reading.


Like what you've read? Finish this romance at my blog

Then, read the first chapter of my new novella release, Christmas Crush

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

There were so many beautiful pics to choose from I couldn't just pick one!  So I have two.  From me to you, wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Love Travels Faster Than Light. Bodies of Light by Lisabet Sarai


Physicist Dr Christine Monroe has devoted her lonely life to research on hyper-space travel. Her continued failure leads her to sign on to the Archimedes, a sub-light-speed mission aimed at establishing a colony in the Sirius B system.

Waking from suspended animation, she discovers that the ship is wildly off course and the rest of the crew are dead due to equipment failure. At first she thinks the two handsome strangers who show up on the ship are figments of her imagination - erotic hallucinations created by isolation and stress.

However, Alyn and Zed are solid, real, and ready to sacrifice their lives for the strong woman they've found stranded in deep space. As her ship begins to disintegrate, Christine must choose between the planet she was sent to save and the two alien beings she's come to cherish.

Publisher's Note: This story has been previously released as part of the Seeing Stars anthology by Totally Bound Publishing.


She had failed.

Suspension was supposed to be dreamless. Still, frustration and disappointment swirled through her consciousness. Pain nagged her, the ache of goals missed, work left undone. What work? She could not recall. She knew only that it had been critically important.

Layers of confusion swaddled her mind like heavy blankets, smothering any attempt at logic. The incoherence of her thoughts disturbed her further. Images, words and symbols crept into focus then faded before she could decipher their meanings. The need to understand was an itch she could not scratch.

She hung in a dark, foggy void, disembodied and disoriented. Only her emotions had any clarity. She could not banish the certainty that she had been tested and found wanting.

Then came the light.

In the void there was no time. Without transition, light arced through her, golden arrows that pierced and scattered her despair. She had no eyes but somehow she was drenched in rainbow-edged glory. Shimmering waves of aquamarine and cerise danced before her—through her—banishing her darkness. She heard the light as well as saw it, a strange melody that pulsed in rhythm with the glow, tugging at her heart. Irrational joy flooded her.

“Christine.” The voice wound in and out among the chords. It caressed her being, promising comfort and release from care.

“Christine.” A second voice (yet how could she know this, without ears to hear?) whispered in the brief pauses between notes, deeper, darker, a gorgeous contrast with the flaring colours that bathed her thoughts. 

The new voice spoke of pleasure, of desire and exquisite satisfaction.

“You are not alone,” the first voice murmured.

“We are with you,” the second announced, bold and bright as a trumpet call. At the same time, sensation rippled through her. 

Invisible hands cupped and massaged her breasts (but she had no body, no breasts…) until sparks flew from the nipples to merge with the spiralling brightness. Fingertips trailed along her non-existent skin, triggering pleasure so intense it frightened her. The silver voice—as she pictured the first—soothed her without words. The bronze voice laughed like ringing bells and coaxed ever more unbearable delight from her insubstantial body. Her soundless moans rose to join the prismatic symphony in which she floated.

The twin voices teased and enticed her, urging her to let go. “We will support you,” they crooned as pleasure suffused her. She stopped trying to understand how she could experience such arousal when she had no limbs, no sex. She was the pleasure, a multi-hued whirl of harmonious vibration in crescendo.

Silver-voice sang her to the top. Bronze-voice held her there, his power shuddering through her, driving out the fear. 

“Now fly,” said the darker voice and released her.

Pure white energy bloomed from her, rushing outwards. Bliss followed in the wake of the blossoming brilliance. The music swelled to a blinding chorus then thundered into silence.

Darkness descended once more, warm and welcoming, cradling Christine like a beloved child. She reached out mentally for the two voices, but caught only faint echoes of their presence. A twinge of sorrow marred her comfort for a moment, then evaporated. All was well.

Christine slipped deeper into the sweet unconsciousness of suspension, forgetting her doubts and regrets.


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Monday, December 22, 2014

Healing In His Wings; A Futuristic Erotic Romance by Ariel Tachna and Nicki Bennett


When the Starfire is struck by a mysterious and deadly plague, the captain and crew have no choice but to throw themselves on the mercy of the healers of a nearby, uncharted planet. 

First Officer Ryan Nelson accompanies the sickest patients to the planet’s surface, where he is put under the supervision of Juo-ta-ri, an apprentice to one of the healers who is helping the crew. The two have barely begun to explore the chemistry between them when Ryan’s body betrays him and he falls ill as well. 

Now it’s a race against time to see if Juo can bring the fever down before Ryan’s hallucinations kill him.

Note: This short story was originally published in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Size Matters.


Captain Portia Rusk  sat alone on the bridge, the lights dimmed at all but her station, her usually smooth, pale skin wrinkled with worry as she pondered the various options open to her. They had gone from few to almost none in the ten days since this plague of unknown origin had begun killing her crew. Dr. Shelton continued to insist that he could find a cure given more time, and she believed him, but she had no more time to give him. Her crew was dying. When their sensors had detected the planet yesterday, she had grabbed onto it as a new option, a new hope for her people. 

They had only been able to tell for sure that it was capable of supporting oxygen-breathing life, not whether it actually did, or if so, of what level of technological advancement, but she had not been able to shake the gut feeling that this was their salvation. She did not say anything aloud, not wanting to raise hopes prematurely, but she had immediately ordered the quarantine in hope of slowing the disease’s progress through the crew and giving them a little longer to see what the planet had to offer. They had sent out the standard introductory message on every frequency available to them, hoping for a positive response that could perhaps lead to some assistance, either academic or practical.

A beeping on the screen in front of her drew her attention. It seemed that someone was, in fact, listening. Quickly, she called her first officer, the communications officer, pilot, and chief xenologist to the bridge. It was not the full complement of bridge crew, but she did not want to break quarantine more than necessary until she knew if her instincts were right.

Rising with careful poise, she brushed her hands over her uniform, making sure she was the picture of command, not a hair out of place in the blond chignon she wore, her green eyes serene. Her officers would know it was a mask, for they had seen her sick with worry, as distraught over each death as if she had lost her own children, but her mask was not for their benefit anyway. She would not allow her fear and grief to show when dealing with an alien race for the first time.

“We’ve been hailed,” the captain informed her officers when they had all filed in and taken their places. “Pontil, bring up a link.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the Altarian replied, identifying the signal coming from the nearby planet and keying their communications equipment to match it. “Link completed, ma’am,” the blue-haired man informed the captain.

Captain Rusk punched the button next to the screen and brought up the video link, allowing her to see as well as hear the person on the other end, assuming the other person’s technology was compatible with theirs. She had been pleasantly surprised at how many times it had worked. The image was fuzzy at first, then cleared to reveal a silver-haired male with dark skin and a serious face.

“I am Teo-ta-dar-ri, Chair of the Governing Council of Petarus,” he informed her. “We received your message.”

“Thank you for replying, sir,” the captain replied, hiding her relief that the ship’s translator could make out the language. “I am Captain Portia Rusk of the Starfire. We are explorers under the aegis of Amalgamated Exploration, tasked with plotting areas of space previously unexplored by our home world.”

“We are not in need of exploration, Captain,” the Petari said abruptly.

“Wait,” Captain Rusk pleaded. “We contacted you in the hope that you might be able to assist us. We have been struck by a plague of unknown origin and my crew is dying. We hoped your doctors might be able to help us.”

Teo-da-tar-ri frowned. “This is a most unusual request, and not one I can grant without consultation with the Council and our healers.”

“If there is information we can provide that will help them make up their minds, we will do so gladly,” the captain promised. “Just tell us what you need to know.”

The sound stopped on the transmission as Teo-da-tar-ri spoke to someone not visible to those on the ship. When his voice began transmitting again, he said, “Send records of your travels over the past month as well as all medical records pertaining to this so-called plague. Our healers will look at them while the Council discusses your request. I will contact you again when we have reached a decision.” He signed off before the captain could reply.

At her side, Ryan murmured, “Let’s hope they talk fast or it won’t matter what they decide.”

“At least they’re willing to discuss it, Ry,” Pontil chimed in. “You know as well as I do that a lot of the species we’ve met wouldn’t have even considered it.”

“I know, Narshan,” Ryan retorted, “but a discussion like the one he mentioned could take weeks. You know what governments are like. The Altari government is as bad as the Earth government. And while they’re flapping their gums, we’re up here dying.”

“Gentlemen,” the captain interrupted calmly, “we can’t do anything to speed up their council meeting except give them the data they requested that will hopefully show the urgency of our problem. Mr. Pontil, get the ship’s travel log ready to send while I ask Dr. Shelton for the medical records. Let’s not make them wait for us.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Pontil replied, though he shot Ryan a cheeky grin as he carried out his orders.

Captain Rusk barely refrained from shaking her head. If her crew were not so damn good, she would have them all up on insubordination charges. Reminding herself that they had no time to lose, she used the ship’s intercom system to contact Dr. Shelton who promised to send her the records immediately.

“I have the medical records, Captain,” Pontil informed her.

“Then send them on to the planet,” she directed before turning to Dr. Stanovitch, the Chief Xenologist for the ship.

“Thoughts, Doctor?” she asked the tall albino. Like most of her race, the Regulosian had no pigment in her skin, an evolutionary trait developed from their subterranean existence.

“I only have a little to go on, of course,” the xenologist replied, “but they are technologically advanced enough to communicate with us through space and organized enough politically to have a governing council. That suggests we’re dealing with an advanced civilization that we would do well to approach as equals.” She knew the captain did not need to hear that caution, being one of the most open-minded explorers she had ever had the chance to work with, but it bore stating for the less open-minded crew. Not that any of them were currently on the bridge. Captain Rusk chose her officers for a variety of reasons, not purely for their skills. “As for the rest, only time and more contact will tell.”

Captain Rusk nodded. They were much the same conclusions she had reached herself, but it never hurt to have her thoughts confirmed by their resident expert. “Anyone else have any comments?”

They all shook their heads. Ryan might have added something had it been one of the other xenologists speaking, but he found it difficult even after all these months to look at Dr. Stanovitch, much less interact with her. Everything about her reminded him of Nikolai.

“Very well. Dismissed. Return to your quarters. I will call you when we hear back from the Petari.”

They all obeyed the order except Ryan, who lingered on the bridge after the others were gone.

“Mr. Nelson?”

“It’s just us now, Portia,” Ryan admonished. “Talk to me.”

“About what?” she asked. “How desperate the situation is? You’re as aware of that as I am. How scared I am that the Petari won’t be able to help us even if they agree? We’ve worked together too long for me to need to tell you that.”

“Hey,” he cajoled, “where’s my ever-optimistic captain?”

“In stasis with the ones we couldn’t save,” she replied sadly, the tears she refused to shed glittering on her lashes despite her determination not to show any weakness.

“Foolish woman,” Ryan scolded, setting aside all shipboard protocol and embracing her firmly. “Go ahead and cry so you’ll be done with it and can deal with whatever the Petari say. I did.”

Captain Rusk looked up at the strong face of the man who held her in disbelief. Ryan Nelson was the epitome of stoicism. The thought of him giving in to his emotions that way was almost beyond her. His clipped mustache twitched as he smiled down at her, making her laugh. “You’re having me on.”

“No, I’m not,” he promised, “but a laugh will do just as well, and I’m much better at dealing with those than with feminine tears.”

“Than feminine anything,” she retorted, knowing Ryan’s preferences ran to his own gender. In some ways, that made their jobs easier, with no sexual tension between them to muck up the works. She could admit, privately, that he was an attractive man, with his sculpted features, closely-trimmed dark hair, and surprisingly blue eyes, but she did not have to worry about his looks, or her own, interfering with their working relationship.

“Touché,” Ryan quipped. “Are you all right now?”

Captain Rusk nodded. “As well as I can be with people in the infirmary, probably dying as we speak, and only the barest possibility of hope from a planet whose people I know nothing about.”

“We’ll find a way through this, Portia,” Ryan insisted with a hope he was not sure he truly felt. “The Petari would have to be heartless to refuse us aid if it’s in their power to give it, and if it’s not, we’ll keep looking. This isn’t the only planet in the sector. We can’t give up hope.”

“I know,” she sighed.

“Get some rest,” Ryan suggested. “I don’t think you’ve slept since Corm got sick, and that’s been ten days ago. I don’t know why you don’t look like hell, but you won’t do us any good if you’re too tired to negotiate with the Petari when they call back.”

“If I lie down now, I won’t wake up for a week,” she protested.

“All the more reason for you to rest,” Ryan insisted. “I can handle them if you want me to.”

“I know you can,” she agreed, “but this is my responsibility. I will go rest, though, until they hail us again. I’ll be in my quarters.” She pulled from his loose embrace and headed toward the hatch that led to her cabin, turning back when she reached the door. “Do not fail to notify me, Mr. Nelson.”

“As you say, ma’am,” he replied, the very image of a responsible first officer again.

She gave him a curt nod and disappeared, leaving Ryan alone on the bridge. He settled in to wait, knowing it could be a long vigil.

Several hours later, the beeping of an incoming signal roused Ryan from his light doze. Glancing at the comm pad and seeing the same signature as earlier, he buzzed the captain’s cabin. “Incoming signal from the Petari, ma’am,” he informed her, hope dancing along his nerves despite the uncertainty of what the decision would be. The Petari could still reject them and send them on to die alone in space if Dr. Shelton did not find a cure. He knew that, but his pulse sped up anyway.

“On my way,” she replied.

A minute later, she strode onto the bridge, her face its usual carefully composed mask. Ryan could see a hope to match his own, though, in her eyes. “Bring up the link.”

Ryan hit the button and stepped back, leaving the captain center stage. “Teo-ta-dar-ri,” she acknowledged with a short bow, her voice deliberately even.

“Captain Rusk,” the Petari leader replied, inclining his head. “We have considered your request and our healers tell us they can help you. They also stress that time is of the essence. The Council, however, still has some concerns about letting your ship land, possibly releasing this plague on our populace. Therefore, the Council has some stipulations. I will let you talk with the healer who will be coordinating the relief effort. He understands the limits placed by the Council.”

“Thank you, Teo-ta-dar-ri,” Captain Rusk replied emphatically, relief surging through her. She wanted to shout with excitement, jump up and down like a little kid on Christmas morning, hug her first mate and the rest of the crew besides, but she kept her face unchanged and her voice level. “We will do our best to comply with anything your healer or the Council requests. As you say, the situation has grown urgent.”

She gestured for Ryan to page the doctor to join the transmission. Moving softly out of the sight of the video feed, Ryan called the infirmary, getting Dr. Shelton almost immediately. “The Petari healer wants to talk to us,” he said quietly, his voice reflecting the joy he felt nonetheless. “They think they can help us.”

“Thank the gods,” Dr. Shelton breathed softly. “What do they want us to do?”

“I don’t know yet. The captain is waiting for the healer. She wanted you to listen in, too.”

“Captain Rusk? It is an honor to meet you.” The image on the screen changed, Teo-ta-dar-ri’s sour face replaced by one even more lined and careworn, but with a kind smile and a mischievous spark that Ryan immediately liked. He could not have explained it rationally, but while Teo-ta-dar-ri raised his hackles, he trusted this one instinctively.

“I am Pol-ta-dar-ri,” the man continued. “I understand you have contracted a case of Mardonese plague.”

“If that’s what it’s called, then yes,” the captain replied, returning the man’s smile without even realizing it.

“That is our name for it anyway,” Pol-ta-dar-ri agreed. “We can help you, but Petari medicine is unique as far as we know, and is not something we can simply give you. I won’t bore you with the details, though I will be glad to share it with your healer.”

“Dr. Shelton?”

“I’m here, Captain,” the doctor’s voice came through the system.

“Very good,” the captain said, stepping back and letting Dr. Shelton’s face replace hers on the video screen. “I will let you and your esteemed Petari colleague work out the details then.” As soon as she knew the Petari could not see her, she turned to Ryan, her grin wide. His smile matched hers as he crossed the room to her side, checking to make sure they were off-screen before pulling her into a bear hug and twirling her around. “Stop,” she whispered. “They’ll hear us.”

“Dr. Shelton, is it?” Pol-ta-dar-ri verified. “Given our methods and the limited resources the Council is currently willing to free up to assist you, we need to determine which of your patients should come to the surface first.”

“Is that necessary?” Dr. Shelton asked, concern clear in his voice. “Could you not simply send me the antidote?”

At the mention of people going to the planet’s surface, the captain’s face grew serious again as she mentally rejoined the conversation. She would not intervene unless something the two doctors discussed seemed dangerous in her opinion, but she wanted to be aware of the course of their negotiations.

“Ah, if only it were that simple, doctor,” the Petari healer sighed. “Unfortunately, we do not use serums and pills and the sort of antidotes that are common among other civilizations. Our healing is more… natural, and requires a personal touch. We can help you, rest assured, but only a few at a time. My preference would have been to have your ship land near the village where I live, but the Council is concerned about overtaxing the delicate balance of our medical system and so has insisted we bring only those patients we can treat at any one time. Once someone is cured, we can bring someone else.”

“It seems like an awfully slow system,” Dr. Shelton commented. Silently, Ryan agreed, but then, he freely admitted he knew nothing about medicine. If Pol-ta-dar-ri said this was the only way it could be handled, he would certainly not be arguing.

“By your standards, it undoubtedly is,” Pol-ta-dar-ri agreed, “but it is the only system we have and it works quite well for us. If you can send blood samples of the patients you are currently treating, I can determine which are the most urgent. Eventually, we will need to scan the entire crew to make sure there are not any latent cases remaining before you return to your explorations.”

“I have fifteen patients currently in the infirmary,” Dr. Shelton told the Petari. “I’ve done standard analyses on blood samples of the entire crew. Would you prefer I send those rather than the actual samples? It would be faster.”

Pol-ta-dar-ri nodded. “Transmit the data and I will look at them. If I need more information, I will contact you. As you say, it would be faster than if I had to redo work you have already done.”

They could hear beeping through the comm as Dr. Shelton worked. “They’re sent,” he told the Petari healer. “I flagged the crew currently in the infirmary showing symptoms.”

“Very good. It will take me an hour or two to evaluate them and determine which ten we will help first. I do wish we could bring them all, as I said before, but the Council is adamant. Does your ship have docking capacities, Captain?” the healer asked, turning his attention back to Rusk.

“It does,” Captain Rusk confirmed, her mind racing as she considered the situation. It seemed they had no choice but to transfer the stricken to the planet’s surface, but she had no intention of letting them go alone. Her place was aboard the Starfire, but she trusted Ryan to act in her stead.

“We will need to have a small shuttle dock with your vessel so we can bring the patients to the surface,” Pol-ta-dar-ri explained.

“That can be arranged,” she assured him. “I know we are in no position to make demands, but would it be possible for my first officer to accompany the patients? Most of them are quite ill and I would feel better knowing there is a familiar face with them while they’re receiving treatment.”

Ryan frowned when he heard the captain’s plan, but he could see her logic. It bothered him, though, that he would be taking a seat on the shuttle that could be filled by someone in need of treatment.

Pol-ta-dar-ri nodded. “I understand your concern perfectly, Captain. If you would be good enough to give me the name of your first officer, I will check the blood sample. If he is uninfected, he is welcome to come. Otherwise, we will have to insist it be someone else, as the Council has clearly stipulated no more than ten patients at a time.”

Captain Rusk gave Ryan’s name as Ryan relaxed. His presence would be in addition to those who were ill. In that case, he had no hesitations about accompanying them. He trusted Pol-ta-dar-ri, but that did not mean he wanted his friends completely alone on a strange planet.

“Very good, Captain,” the healer said. “Let me do my analyses and I will be back in contact within the hour. In the meantime, I have transmitted some recommendations to help slow the spread of the plague until we can work our way through your crew.”

“Thank you, Pol-ta-dar-ri. We’ve received the file and we’ll await your contact for the next step.”

“We will notify you as soon as we’re ready to proceed.”

The screen went blank and Captain Rusk sagged back against her seat in relief. “It’s going to be all right, Ryan,” she said softly, looking up at her first officer. “I finally believe it’s going to be all right.”


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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter Fire by Kathy Fischer-Brown. A Tale of Forbidden Love Between A Man And A Woman Trapped Between Two Worlds.


When Ethan Caine pulled the unconscious woman from the half-frozen creek, he had no idea that his world was about to explode. Dressed in quilled doeskin of Iroquois design, she stirred up dark secrets from his past. At the same time, she was everything he desired. But she was more Indian than white, and on the run for murder. He needed to know the truth. He needed to find it within himself to trust her.

Banished by the Seneca Indians who adopted and raised her, ostracized by the whites in the settlement, Zara Grey wanted only to be accepted. “Ethancaine” treated her with kindness and concern. It was easy to trust him. But her Indian ways disturbed him, and in her heart she would always be Seneca.


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Friday, December 19, 2014

Sam's Temptation; A Foodie/Cowboy Romance by V.S. Morgan

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Sam’s Temptation
V.S. Morgan

Decadent Publishing
Length: 77 pages, ~20,000 words

SamGu00C7u00D6s Temptation-highres


On a working vacation in Montana, Chef Gabi Inez’s schedule allows her to enjoy planned activities and hangout with her cousin and his new family. She’s not looking for love, but spending time with a hunky cowboy sounds perfect. Gabi works hard, but every girl needs some fun. 

What if flirting leads to something more?   

Sam Malone is the brains behind Blackbird, a guest and working ranch. Since his parents’ death, his sole purpose has been family and the ranch’s survival. Burned by love in the past, he avoids the distraction that comes with beautiful women. 

But what’s a cowboy to do when a sweet and sassy chef gets under his skin, only to be told by her overprotective cousin she’s off limits? 



His breath caught in his throat as Gabriela emerged from the SUV. She was dressed in a T-shirt, jeans, and purple Converse sneakers. Her honeyed skin and unruly curls were radiant in the afternoon sun.

She reached him first. He extended his hand for a shake. “Gabriela.”

She ignored it to press in for a hug, which he returned stiffly, hyperaware of her soft, warm body against his fast-hardening one. Seemed his body hadn’t forgotten her either. He clenched his jaw as vanilla and jasmine wafted from her hair. She was considerably shorter without the heels, and hell if he didn’t love the greater height difference.

All too soon, she pulled back, her hands still at his waist, and beamed up at him. “Samuel.”

His name sounded exotic and sensual with her slight accent.

He cleared his throat. “Sam.”

“Sam,” she said softly, and his mouth dried in response to the husky tone. The woman could make financial reports sound X-rated with that voice of hers.

“Please, call me Gabi.”


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About the Author: 

V.S. Morgan has lived all over the US but calls Minnesota her home now. Her family includes her hubby, son, and a menagerie of pets. She's been writing stories since she could hold a pencil and dreams of happily ever afters - even for two hot men - because love knows no boundaries. V.S. writes MC/IR contemporary, paranormal, and suspense m/f and m/m with heart. V.S. is a GLBT ally and a lifetime contributor of The Trevor Project. 


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Twitter: @vsmorgan1