Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dust of My Wings eARC giveaway

Dust of My Wings is the first book in the Dante's Circle series and comes out July 27th!!! I'm so excited about this y'all!

Since I'm so happy, I'm giving away FIVE ecopies of Dust of My Wings! Yep. FIVE!!! But in order to do that, I need some pomp! LOL So get the word out! Tweet, share, have fun, and enjoy yourselves. I can't wait to share Lily and Shade with you guys!

Follow the rafflecopter to enter!

            Humans aren’t as alone as they choose to believe. Every human possesses a trait of supernatural that lays dormant within their genetic make-up. Centuries of diluting and breeding have allowed humans to think they are alone and untouched by magic. But what happens when something changes?
Neat freak lab tech, Lily Banner lives her life as any ordinary human. She’s dedicated to her work and loves to hang out with her friends at Dante’s Circle, their local bar. When she discovers a strange blue dust at work she meets a handsome stranger holding secrets – and maybe her heart. But after a close call with a thunderstorm, she may not be as ordinary as she thinks.
Shade Griffin is a warrior angel sent to Earth to protect the supernaturals’ secrets. One problem, he can’t stop leaving dust in odd places around town. Now he has to find every ounce of his dust and keep the presence of the supernatural a secret. But after a close encounter with a sexy lab tech and a lightning quick connection, his millennia old loyalties may shift and he could lose more than just his wings in the chaos.

Writer Wednesday:"This Tangled Thing Called Love" (an exclusive excerpt)

"This Tangled Thing Called Love"
by Marie Astor



Twenty-eight-year-old Claire Chatfield has everything a girl could possibly wish for: looks, a promising career at New York’s top architectural firm, and an engagement ring from one of New York’s most eligible heir-bachelors! Life should be a dream, but when Alec Brunell, a sexy tango dancer, moves into the apartment one floor above from Claire’s, he unwittingly awakens Claire’s old insecurities, making her question her life choices. Will Claire brave her fears and allow herself to take a chance on Alec, or will she continue to play it safe?

In order to secure his place as his father’s successor, thirty-three-year-old David Lawson must settle down with a wife befitting the future head of Lawson Enterprises - and who could fit the prerequisite better than the stunningly beautiful and incredibly bright Claire Chatfield? There is just one glitch – David Lawson is in love with another woman – a Hollywood Legend Claudia Block.

A successful tango instructor, Alec Brunell has never lacked for women’s attention, but he finds himself at a loss when faced with his downstairs neighbor, Claire Chatfield. Upon hearing of his occupation, most women swoon with desire, but Claire runs for the door. Still, her iciness only adds fuel to his fire, as Alec is determined to change Claire’s view of him.

Dance Me to the Stars is a love story about finding one’s perfect match - sometimes following one’s heart is as convoluted as learning the steps of tango.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Marie Astor is a die-hard romantic who wholeheartedly believes in true love, which is why she writes in the contemporary romance genre.

Marie is the author of contemporary romance novels Dance Me to the Stars, On the Rim of Love, Lucky Charm, and a short story collection, A Chance Encounter and Other Stories.

Currently, Marie is working on her next novel – a first installment in a romantic suspense series that is scheduled for release in mid-summer of 2012.

If you would like to receive updates about Marie’s book releases and events, please visit Marie’s website at: and join her distribution list through the Contact page or visit Marie at her Facebook page: or Goodreads: or Twitter: @marieastor.

Books by Marie Astor:

Dance Me to the Stars:

Lucky Charm:

On the Rim of Love:

A Chance Encounter and Other Stories.


An Exclusive Excerpt:
“Hey!” Claire saw Lindsay, already seated with a huge cup of coffee in front of her, wave.
“Someone looks awake.” Claire took a seat.
“Yeah.” Lindsay grinned. “Sorry for barking at you earlier.”
“Rough night?”
“Very – I had to cover three openings last night. I got home around six a.m., and then I had to organize my notes, so that I could get the report out to my editor. I finally crashed at around eight and then had the pleasure of being woken up by you.”
“Geez, Lindsay, I’m sorry – I had no idea you burned the midnight oil like this.”
“That’s the life of a tabloid reporter, and ever since the new editor took over, it’s gotten even more intense.” Lindsay shrugged. “But don’t you worry, one day I’m going to write for New York Times, and then everything will be different - no more sweaty nightclubs or teenage celebrities - it will be museum galas and charity balls and socialites.” Lindsay’s eyes lit up.
“I’m sure it will happen soon.” Claire felt lame for her platitude, but she was as remote from the world of reporting as she was from dancing.
“Should we order? I’m starving and you promised to buy me breakfast.” Lindsay turned her attention to the menu. “I’m gonna have a ham and cheese crepe. Do you want to share a Nutella crepe?”
“I’ll just have some coffee.”
“You’ve got to have more than coffee – you’ll make me look like a glutton.”
“I just had bacon and eggs with David – I can’t splurge on calories like you.”
“Please.” Lindsay rolled her eyes. “You don’t need to be on a diet.”
“Easy for you to say – you can probably still fit into your high school jeans,” Claire added wistfully – not that she wanted to fit into her own high school jeans – not fitting into her high school jeans was a blessing and she intended to keep it that way.

Marie will be giving away three prizes of custom made jewelry to three randomly drawn commenters during the tour (Continental US only).:  Prize #1: Coral necklace sterling silver chandelier coral earrings set, Prize #2 Blue opal sterling silver plated necklace and Prize #3 Sterling silver chandelier earrings with green aventurine, rose quartz and amethyst .

Stop by more the of the tour by clicking here for more chances to win.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Response to The R Word

Below is something that I don't normally write and I may delete it just had to be said. At least for the moment.

I'm not a political person. I'm not. I'm someone who keeps their opinions to themselves because, frankly, I don't know everything.


And yes, this is my pen name, not my real name. I talk freely with my real name because those people know be and don't rely on me for being a "public figure". (Even though I don't think of myself as that either)

I only know what I think and what I research. So I don't feel informed enough to talk about certain things.

But after reading The Escapist: The R Word, I really had to type something out. I mean...I know everyone won't agree with me, but this is what I have to say.

Rape is a word I don't like to hear.

I don't.

I can read about it, hear about it, and learn about it if I know the information is coming to me. If someone is telling their experience, I will sit with them or read about because I know how hard it is to tell your story. I can read it in books and even write about the aftermath in my books--because I am ready for it in terms of fiction.

But I don't like telling my story.

I don't like letting everyone know that when I was 14, I tutored an 18 year old boy in math he decided to tutor me in something else. He put a knife to my throat and took my virginity. I remember every single thing about it.

Every single thing.

He decided.

I didn't.

He then told his friend that I was easy and liked it so I gained a reputation. His brother was a cop so he got away. My parents were in another country serving ours. My guardian fought for me...but it wasn't enough.

I am long past the need to point fingers and put blame. The man who raped me died two years later because he thought he was a thug and got himself shot in a gang shooting.

I'm not sorry about that.

I shouldn't have to be.

But I shouldn't have to hear the word rape in a funny connotation. I've been hearing it for years in the gaming and university world. Where one person wins a game therefore they "raped" the loser. Or when someone gets "raped" by an exam I give.

Or when I pass by Family Guy on the TV and have to listen to Peter make rape jokes.
It's ridiculous.
By saying a word over and over again we don't get over it or let it desensitize us. By doing that, we make people who haven't been touched by the rape think it's okay to say those things. By doing that, we make the people who have been touched by rape want to dry heave....or worse.

I'm sick of reading about people being horrible on Twitter, Facebook, or the news, seeing it in my classrooms or out in public.

I can't tell you what to say and you don't have to agree with me. But as with The Escapist, hearing the word in that context brings me back to when I was a 14 year old girl with a knife to my throat.

I don't want to be that girl anymore.

Okay. I'm off my soapbox or whatever the hell it is. I'll probably delete this post later. But I had to write it.

Angels and Demons are Coming!

Howdy y'all!

Guess what happens starting on Thursday? We're hosting a Blog Hop! Me, along with 102 other Authors, Bloggers, and Reviewers are hosting an Angels vs Demons Blog Hop!

We want to know: Angels or Demons...who do you want?

From June 28th - July 1st, you can HOP around the blogs, comment on each and follow their rules, and be entered to win over 100 giveaways.

Yep. I said 100 GIVEAWAYS.

Each blog will have it's own giveaway, PLUS we have TWO grand prizes.

ONE Commenter from the blogs will win a KINDLE TOUCH

another Commenter will win a $60 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Card!

Yep! We're doing THAT MUCH. You can comment on 1 or all 103 and be entered up to 103 times for the grand prizes.

So come around those days and do your best to win!

Good luck y'all!

Manic Monday Updates: Time? What Time?

Happy Monday!!! I'm super busy with edits, hops, drafts, teaching, and kittens! I think my cats are taking up more of my time than ever LOL! They are so needy. But really, I'm just going day to day. You know me, quite boring!

Waiting for:
  • A new cover and graphics are coming.
  • My publishing company, Fated Desires, also does graphics and COVERS!!! So if y'all need promo goodies, banners, website graphics...and more, let us know! We also have a new website!!
Working on:
  • I have ANOTHER series in mind now. OMG. I need to stop myself!
  • Revisions for Charmed Spirits. I finished the draft last week so I want to do a couple of read throughs before it goes to my editor.
  • Enforcer's Redemption (Redwood Pack 4). I'm working on this slowly. I'm trying to get Charmed Spirits done first, but sometimes Adam needs to talk first.
  • I've joined Pinterest and made boards for each of my books and series. Come on over and tell me what you think. Each board for each book has their characters, covers, and key moments in the book that will help you picture my world.
And that's about it! Go on over to other Manic Monday Updates with: Lia Davis , Lacey Wolfe , Fated Desires,   and  The Divinites

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dust of my Wings - Six Sentence Sunday #44

Hi All! Below is a snippet from my upcoming Dust of My Wings (out July 27th!) Thanks for stopping by!!!

“No, keep looking at me, Lily. I want to see your reaction.” He brushed a finger over her nipple through her bra, and she swayed in his hold.
“That feels so good, Shade.”
             “You have no idea how you look right now, your pale cheeks flushed, her eyes bright. You’re so responsive. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fresh Friday Reads: Demons, Shifters, Italians...and Julian. Mmm.....

Welcome to another fabulous week of reading! This week I read a few new releases and some back lists as well. Here are just a few. :-) Tell me what you've read!!

Destiny Bewitched - Leia Shaw

This series just gets better and better! I love reading about Leia's world and diving right in. Geo is freaking hot and so worth taking time away from my day so I can get to know him better! And Sam is a very strong heroine who I want to be when I grow up.

Deemed “trailer trash” by humans and the daughter of the most disgraceful family of witches and warlocks since the Puritan age, Samantha is used to fighting her own battles. When her younger sister is taken to the Underworld, Sam doesn't hesitate to rescue her. To survive the harsh land, she makes a deal with a demon — the most dangerous of creatures in the realm. Even with those lustrous horns, Geo is as hot as the hell she's stuck in. Fighting nasty beasts in a supernatural version of the gladiator games is easy compared to falling in love with a man who has no future to offer.

Cynful - Dana Marie Bell

First, look at this cover. Yum. Just OMG, yum. Okay, I'm back. And, yeah, YUM, can work for this book as well. I've been not-so-patiently waiting the release of Julian's book. When I first met him in book 1, I wanted his story NOW. But then Dana Marie Bell decided to work on her other 40 AMAZING I guess I'm all right LOL.

But WOW. I want Julian. Can I have him?

Amazing writing, plot, characters, just everything!

To save the woman he loves, he must push his gifts to the brink. 

Halle Shifters, Book 2

Julian DuCharme, a rare Spirit Bear with legendary healing powers, is finally free from the threat of death, finally free to claim his mate—but she’s not having it. While his Bear screams it’s time to mate, the love of his life wants to date.

Holding his Bear in check while convincing her he’s not out to control her won’t be easy. She’s stubborn and a closeted geek—in other words, perfect for him.

Cynthia “Cyn” Reyes, owner of Living Art Tattoos, thinks Julian is the hottest thing on two legs. That doesn’t mean she’s going to roll over for his masculine charm. She watched her mother flounder when her father passed away, and she’s determined to never lose herself to someone else. Not even a man who would jump the moon for her, if she asked that of him.

When the women of Living Art are targeted by a killer, Julian doesn’t think twice about pouring out his last drop of power 
to keep Cyn safe. But it’s Cyn who’ll give up everything—her independence, even her humanity—to keep a terrifying vision 
from coming true.

One of his death.

Warning: This novel contains explicit sex, graphic language, a tattooed heroine and the Bear who loves her. Maybe he’ll finally convince her to tattoo him with “Property of Cyn”.

The Sparkling One - Susan Mallery

So I'm starting on Susan Mallery's work. I've never read her before--I know---gasp! But I REALLY liked this one. Yes, I wanted to kick some of their asses and say get into the 20th century, but again, the characters wanted to do the same thing.

I'm going through the rest of the series and her back lists now and enjoying my sefl. Ms. Mallery has found herself another fan.

For the Marcelli sisters of California wine country, the season is ripe for romance!
A party planner extraordinaire, Katie Marcelli loves her big, boisterous family -- even when their chronic matchmaking drives her crazy! In the Marcelli household, fine wine and good food are as celebrated as true love, so when her eighteen-year-old sister announces her engagement, Katie promises her the perfect wedding. There's only one hitch: the father of the groom, Zach Stryker, who is adamantly opposed to his son marrying so young. Now, despite her instant attraction to the handsome, arrogant attorney, Katie must approach with caution: Zach, who hired Katie for a major fund-raiser, holds the fate of her business in his hands -- and how can she trust a man who is willing to break her sister's heart? It will take a passionate battle of wills to determine if wedding bells will ring for a Marcelli bride, and to unlock the deepest desires -- for family, love, and home -- inside a strong-willed man's heart.

A Few Good Men - Cat Johnson

You know, I really like these books. Short, hot, and a great plot. Plus, I love military men.

He has met the enemy…but he’s never fought desire like this.

Red, Hot & Blue, Book 7

Deployed in the deadliest place on earth, Army Staff Sergeant John Blake relies on caffeine, adrenaline, years of training and sheer force of will to get through his days. He has no problem with his tank crew passing around a sexy romance novel, but John’s a fighter, not a lover. He’ll pass.

Winding up as the author’s accidental pen pal wasn’t in his plan, but there’s something about her sweet, caring emails that has him looking forward to checking his inbox.

Week after week, Maureen Mullen, aka erotic romance writer Summer Winters, has dated one loser after another in a quest to find the last decent man on earth. Now it seems she’s found him—halfway around the world. When it comes to falling for unavailable men, she’s batting a thousand.

Gradually, the emails between the war-hardened warrior and the writer of passionate prose heat up to the point of keeping them up warm and wanting at night. Soon they’re wondering if it’s possible to build something solid out of cyberspace, or if it’s just an emotional mirage that will dissolve in the heat of reality.

This book was previously published.

Product Warnings
Contains some steamy phone calls from the war zone and one hell of a sexy first meeting between two strangers who are already in love.

Running Wild - Joely Skye

I've been keeping up with this series because its a shifter m/m and liking it. Pretty short, but good.

The road to believing can be one wild ride.

A Northern Shifters book.

Seamus O’Connor thought his friendship with Zachariah Smithson was just that—a relationship born on one horrific night seven years ago. He never thought he’d end up inheriting the old man’s farm.

Tons of chores and hard work are nothing new for Seamus. The farm comes equipped with all he needs—and something he didn’t expect. Unsettling, late-night visits from Zachariah’s grandson Ri, a man who appears and disappears like a ghost.

Ri has had little contact with the outside world, with good reason. Horse shifters aren’t any human’s idea of normal. Plus, he’s wary of being the next target of the werewolves who took his twin brother. Trust his matchmaking grandfather to give him a reason to come home—Seamus.

As Seamus gradually learns the truth of Ri’s life, their relationship tentatively grows—and danger grows closer. For it was Ri who rescued Seamus on that terrible night long ago. Seamus is about to realize he’s had his own encounters with werewolves. He just doesn’t know it—yet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Rough Surrender with Cari Silverwood

Please help me welcome Cari Silverwood to the blog! She has a new release that is definitely worth a read!!

Cairo, 1910.
When history and BDSM collide, you get a book like Rough Surrender. Romantic yet sexily hot, with the fun bits of history interwoven into the story in a way that helps the plot accelerate and colors in the characters. You’ll wish you could go back to that time to climb the pyramids (which we can’t do anymore), or to watch the old canvas and timber airplanes purr overhead. And of course, so you can also go back to meet my Dom, Leonhardt Meisner and Faith Evard, a woman who is exploring her need for submission.

The Wright brothers only flew a few years before the time of my story, in 1903. Yet in 1910 the first great meet of pilots and their flying machines occurred on the African continent – the Heliopolis, Le Grand Semaine de L’aviation. Here is the time of Rough Surrender. Thirty or forty thousand people attended that meeting.

I modeled Faith’s love of flying her Bleriot plane after the very first woman to get a pilot’s license, Baroness de Laroche. Learning to fly in 1910 wasn’t a sedate affair, and might mean someone running or bicycling alongside the plane you were taking off in, while yelling instructions at you. Hair-raising, I’m sure. So I think you’ll understand why Leonhardt Meisner was horrified at the prospect of Faith flying.

When you put together two strong people with divergent views of something that one of them wants dearly, and then combine sexual attraction and the power exchange inherent in BDSM, you get an explosive situation.

If a man cares for you deeply, and only wishes to protect you from what he sees as a terribly dangerous pursuit, what do you do when you unearth his secret? Can love survive such a deception? Add in a series of murder with bodies being found in the river Nile after the crocodiles have had some time with them, and you have my latest release from Lyrical Press, Rough Surrender.

At a time when airplanes are as new-fangled and sensational as the telephone, Faith dares to fly. The one territory she has not explored is her own sexuality. In Leonhardt she discovers the man who can teach her how a woman surrenders her body and her mind. However, Leonhardt has a shadowed past and his own learning to do. He doesn't have the right to keep Faith from flying, even if he thinks airplanes are flimsy death-traps made of canvas, timber and their inventor's prayers.

Faith has her limits, Leonhardt has his flaws, and sometimes the nicest people get murdered by unscrupulous bastards. Even if Leonhardt can save the woman he loves, the battle for Faith’s heart will be the hardest one of all.

WARNING: BDSM, anal sex, orgasms galore, and a Dom who likes to claim his property with pen, ink and bondage.


This is the website for the book
(educational yet kinky)
And my website

Faith halted at the door, put her palm to the wood while her other hand brushed her fringe back as well as she could without a mirror--needing that moment to compose herself.
Liar. Damnable liar. She had let him do that. She couldn’t trust herself.
“Leonhardt,” he said.
“What?” Frowning, she turned. At least, this time he’d kept some distance, a few feet, between them. Not enough. Her treacherous tongue curled out to touch her lip. Why did she do that? As if she could taste him on the air. Her nostrils flared. She could smell him, though: tobacco and soap and sweat, but even in winter, Cairo would make anyone sweat.
“Leonhardt. Call me that.”
“I doubt that would be appropriate, Mr. Meisner.”
His mouth curved in a small smile. “You lied before. Of course.” He took an unhurried stride forward, brought up his arms and braced them either side of her head.
“If it weren’t for that adorable tongue of yours, I’d have let you go. Now, I’m going to see what you taste like.” He lowered his head.
Faith strained away, the back of her skull smacking lightly into the timber.
“Don’t move.” Those two words were like nails driving her into place. He covered her lips with his and she gave a muffled groan as his tongue slid into her mouth alongside hers.
All resistance vaporized. She fought to stay aware and upright though her legs threatened to collapse and her logical brain had disintegrated into a swirl of lustful thoughts. Nothing mattered except the feel of him inside her. His lips pressed and slid, his teeth caught her flesh here, there...his breath merged with hers. This was a man who knew how to take.
His body moved in, squeezing her between timber and man. If she needed to breathe, she must accept what he gave her. If he didn’t hold her there, she’d fall. The world shifted on its axis.
Sweet Jesus, she loved it.
This time, when he drew away, she kept her fingers hooked into the heavy fabric of his coat. Something hard and long pulsed against her stomach--his manhood. All of their own accord, her hips arched forward. Her panting came a little faster.
“We’d best be leaving.” He stroked the side of her face with his knuckles.
“Mmm.” Someone had put glue on her tongue and throat
“Mmm? You kiss like an angel come down from heaven, sweetheart. Tell me the truth this time, before I let you go. Did you like that?”
Before I let you go That matter-of-fact statement shook her. Her eyes swept up, found his--so striking, so intense. She searched for a word to describe them. Animalistic? When eyes were given out, he’d been given the wrong ones--those of a hawk or wolf.
She considered lying but couldn’t, not while he held her still in place. “Yes,” she whispered. “I did.”
His knuckles feathered over her lips and, on impulse, she licked at them. His eyes darkened.
A hiss escaped from between his teeth. “You tempt me too much.” Then he stood, moved back and gestured at the door.
It took a moment for her to adjust to the loss--of feeling his body on hers.
By the time he slid back the door and guided her toward the motorcar with his hand low on her back, she’d done some thinking. If she’d doubted his effect on her, she now knew for certain. He’d given her an entirely new understanding of kissing. Mr. Meisner...Leonhardt, could own her without doing anything more than saying a single word.
He opened the passenger door. Their eyes met.
Well, two words. She wasn’t that easy.
Don’t move. The memory of her response scalded her. Like a cat on heat, she wanted to lie down at his feet and arch her back. Whatever am I going to do?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Street Pack Members Wanted

If you're interested in joining my "Street Pack" for publicizing/promoting my work, and getting some nifty goodies in return, sign up and me or my admin will contact you (we DO need a way to contact you). Street Pack duties would be passing out postcards to stores and at conventions, posting notes on your blogs/websites when a book is due out, making sure any paranormal lists you have are updated with the release date info, reviews, etc.

Please comment on this post and leave your email address. We'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sign up for the Romancing the Hop Blog Hop!

Hello again!

What do you love about romance? What about romance books? Well, if you love romance, then this hop is for you!

From August 31st - Sept 3rd we're having a blog hop! Here you can talk about romance, do a giveaway, and get to know some readers!

Sign up with the Linky Code below, copy the image and link it to this post, and we're ready to go! I'll be sending out welcome emails in a couple of weeks, so enjoy and tell your friends!

We'd love to have you!

Manic Monday Updates: Are We There Yet?

Happy Monday!!! I'm slowly counting down the days until I'm done teaching so that way I'm all ready for more and more writing! Doesn't that sound grand? LOL
I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to schedule my new found time...its odd to say the least. 
But I'm working on it because I can't wait to get more words down and see what my characters come up with!

Waiting for:
  • Proofs for Dust of My Wings so I can finish it up and get some eARCs ready!
  • A new cover and graphics are coming.
  • My publishing company, Fated Desires, also does graphics and COVERS!!! So if y'all need promo goodies, banners, website graphics...and more, let us know! 
Working on:
  • Plotting Santa's Executive. Yeah, I know its June, but Christmas stories won't write themselves! LOL
  • Charmed Spirits (Holiday Montana, Book 1). I just passed the halfway mark for me so that means more action more *ahem* scenes...and goodies. It's starting to roll which is nice for me.
  • Enforcer's Redemption (Redwood Pack 4). I'm working on this slowly. I'm trying to get Charmed Spirits done first, but sometimes Adam needs to talk first.
  • I've joined Pinterest and made boards for each of my books and series. Come on over and tell me what you think. Each board for each book has their characters, covers, and key moments in the book that will help you picture my world.
And that's about it! Go on over to other Manic Monday Updates with: Lia Davis , Lacey Wolfe , Fated Desires,   and  The Divinites

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dust of My Wings - Six Sentence Sunday #43

Hi All! So here is a snippet from my Dust of My Wings, coming July 27th!!! I'm so freaking excited about this book y'all! LOL. 

Shade adjusted himself as his cock rose to attention just at the thought of Lily. He’d only seen her through the paned glass, yet he wanted her. He liked the way her average height held such delicious not-so-average curves. Those damn sexy hips of hers begged his hands to grip them as he rammed into her body bent over any surface he could find.
           Shade groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. This was so not the time to be thinking these thoughts.

Thank you SOOO much for stopping by. I love all of you for commenting!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Off the Page: Happy Father's Day from Edward Jamenson

Hi All! Welcome to Off the Page...where every once in awhile one of my characters comes over to talk to us. Now, be kind, my characters aren't edited. But they love you.

Edward Jamenson sank into the  rocking chair on his porch and sighed. Damn, he was getting old. He’d raised seven children, led a Pack of the most fierce and loyal werewolves in the world…and was getting tired.
He knew  his sons were doing much of the work for the Pack. After all, they were  the Pack’s future,  rightly so. They needed the responsibility, the experience.
And it was a testament to their characters that he trusted them to do so. Because even though he loved his pups more than he could breathe, he needed to believe that they could live without him.
He let out a laugh. God, he sounded like one of those emo boys that didn’t hold their pants above their asses or just like an old man.
Well…he was. At least the old man. He wouldn’t be caught dead in that eyeliner crap.
He closed his eyes and tried to make his headache go away. Werewolves really didn’t get sick, their bodies too strong for that, but he’d been the backbone for his Pack for so long…sometimes he just needed a breather.
Not that he’d let anyone but his mate know that.
“Edward, hon, what are you doing out here?”
Speak of the devil, or in this case, Momma Wolf. “Just thinking, baby.”
Patricia, the love of his life and the second half of the Alpha pair, sat down on his lap and cuddled close. Even after over almost two centuries together, he loved to nip and nibble his tasty morsel of a wife. She didn’t look a day over twenty five…but neither did he. Werewolf genetics had their upsides.
Pat kissed him softly and sighed, the weight of the Pack heavy on her shoulders just as  his.
“What are you thinking about, my Alpha?”
Edward chuckled. She knew just as well as he did that she ran this Pack side-by-side with him. Just because the moon goddess had decided to give the males of their species the leadership abilities didn’t mean that the women weren’t just as special. Oh, he knew they were strong and in charge. It didn’t take almost two centuries of being Alpha to learn that.
“I’m thinking that I’m tired.” He traced her jaw and she smiled.
“I know, baby. Me too.”
He kissed her softly. “I’m also worried.”
Pat rested her head on his forehead, a frown on her face. “Me too,” she whispered.
They were the Alpha pair. They weren’t allowed to be worried. They had to be strong. But they were on the brink of an all-out war. Only half of their children were mated. The ones that weren’t seemed to be falling faster than he could reach them.
Kade was stepping up. His eldest and Heir was mated to Melanie and Edward and Pat had their first grandson, Finn. Kade would be okay. Jasper would as well with his mate Willow and their baby Brie. Edward didn’t worry about Reed and his two mates, Josh and Hannah. Though there was something going on between the three of them that made his Alpha bond want to go over and soothe. But the human part of him knew his wolf needed to step away and let them grow together. Whatever it was…they’d be okay.
Maddox and North. His twins. Edward sighed. Again, there was something going on there but he couldn’t think of how to help them. At some point the father and Alpha needed to step away and let his children make their own mistakes. Edward just didn’t know if they could survive the outcome.
Adam was the one who destroyed him. He felt like a failure as an Alpha and a father.
“Edward, stop thinking that.”
He smiled and brushed a lock of hair behind his mate’s ear. “I can’t help it.”
Pat’s smile wobbled and she let a single tear fall. Strong was his mate. “He’s so lost.”
Edward squeezed her tight, her soft body molding to his. “I know.”
“We can’t do anything for him but be by him if he needs us.”
“I know.”
Edward rocked his mate and looked out on his land, trying to heal wounds that weren’t his but could still burn.
He had seven children and yet the baby of the family was always closest to his  heart. His baby girl, Cailin. So fierce, temperamental, and Alpha in her own way. Yet as she got older, he had no idea how the hell to read her. She was an enigma. Independent yet ingrained in the Pack. His only daughter would always be his baby. He didn’t envy her future mate.
Especially considering the fact he planned on interrogating the man until he was found perfect. Which would never happen. But it  was okay, he’d protect his little girl from anything.
“I don’t like that look on your face, Edward.”
He smiled, aware of the gleam in his eyes. “Just thinking of my baby girl.”
Pat threw back her head and laughed. “That girl has you wrapped around your finger.”
He shrugged. “So? It’s a daughter prerogative.”
“You are such a Dad.”
“You know it.” He shifted and settled his mate closer on his lap. “Speaking of, I know Father’s Day is tomorrow, but I don’t want to do anything for it.”
Pat straightened and blinked up at him. “Why not? It’s your favorite holiday.”
“I know, and I’ve loved our family dinners to celebrate it. But this time I’m not the only father in the group. I want it to be about the boys and their babies too. Not just me.”
“But we could do that at dinner,” Pat pleaded.
He shook his head. “I want Kade and Jasper to enjoy themselves and make their own traditions. Plus, I’ve seen the way Adam watches those babies and I know he’s thinking about that baby he lost. I don’t want to cause him any more pain than he’s already dealing with.”
Pat’s eyes filled and she buried her face in his neck, the collar of his shirt damp with her tears.
“I just want to spend the day with my mate, cuddle, and make love.”
She sighed and kissed his jaw. “That sounds perfect.”
“You think the kids will mind?”
“Oh, I think they’ll like some time to themselves. We can always do a family dinner another night.”
“Uh huh…though I think I could use some planning and practice for our day.”
His wolf growled and his eyes grew gold. She shifted on his lap and he moved to she could wrap her legs around his waist.
She nipped at his lip. “I’m thinking the patio. The den can’t see us from here. We’re completely alone.”
He growled and crushed his mouth to hers.
She pulled back and laughed. “Careful big boy, we need to make sure we get some protection or we’ll make another baby.”
“It would be a nice father’s day gift….” He smiled, knowing she’d know he was only kidding.
“Oh really? Baby number eight? Maybe she’ll be just like our Cailin?”
He groaned. “I don’t think I can take another Cailin.”
She giggled and kissed his ear. “I love you, my Alpha.”
“Not as much as I love you.”
He picked her up and pulled her down to the porch so he could show her just how much he loved his mate. He’d raised seven children with  this woman and loved every inch of her. Now he got to show her just how grateful he was for his children…and the other half of his heart.

What did you think? I love Edward Jamenson...just saying. If you want to read more of Off the Page, stop by Lia Davis's blog!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fresh Friday Reads: Werewolves and Old Time Cowboys

It's Friday!!! Whoot! This week, between edits, new WIPs, and the lack of major releases from authors I follow, I don't have a huge list for you. I only got ONE book on Tuesday. *gasp* But I did read a few more from new-to-me authors. Here's the new one, plus book 1 from each of the "new" series I tried.

Tell me, what have you read this week? I love hearing from you. The more you tell me, the more I read! And the more I read, the more likely it will end up on this list for others to read. Get the picture? Help an author out! Read a book!

Wolf Line - Vivian Arend

So I love Vivian Arend. She's on my auto buy list. This time we got to go back to her Granite Lake Wolves for this 5th installment. She also has a spin-off of this series already out so I'm happy. This book was a bit confusing for me because Amazon's formatting lost all the spaces between POV changes. But other than that, I LOVED it. Still a 5-star! The hero was so cute and worthy. The heroine was strong and totally stood by her hero. Very sexy and very cute. Love it.

Into the best-laid plans a little chaos must fall…

Jared’s not sure how his quiet morning coffee near the harbour ended with him on a cruise ship impersonating one of his pack mates. Well, it might have something to do with a woman, but who can blame him? The female of the species was made to love, and he’s more than willing to share his considerable skills in that area. Especially since he figures the chances of meeting his own one-and-only are slim.

Keri Smith is positive the last-minute recruit sneaking aboard the Arctic Wolf Cruise Lines tour is her mate. Ix-nay on confirming that, though, at least for the next ten days. She’s promised her best friend to be overall troubleshooter for the shifter-only cruise. Getting tangled up in mating lust would reduce her skills to nil. Avoidance of the sexy wolf for the duration of the cruise, followed by jumping his bones, seems the logical solution.

But when libidos are on the line, “logic” and “wolves” don’t go together. Throw in suspicions of wrongdoing, and these two virtual strangers will need a lot more than luck to find their way through to forever.

Warning: Really? You need to be warned about the hot nookie and sarcasm? Yeah, it’s in here. Also colourful cat shifters, lupine royalty, and wild adventures in cabins like you’ve never seen before.

Welcome to Harmony - Jodi Thomas

Okay, so this was not my normal book. It's more of a series about a town that goes in about 8 POVs that are easy to follow. There is romance, love, happiness, and some suspense. But no sex. You heard me. No. Sex. And I'm okay with that LOL. I was having a HORRIBLE beginning of the week and this four book series helped me out. I'd try it if you're looking for a sweet Women's Fiction series.

Sixteen-year-old runaway Reagan has always wanted a place to belong. She's never had a real home of her own, but perhaps she could borrow someone else's. Under an assumed name and identity, she moves to Harmony, Texas, but keeps her distance from the welcoming townsfolk. Until prairie fires threaten Harmony-and Reagan learns the true meaning of family, friends, and home.

Rachel and the Hired Gun - Elaine Levine

I'm glad I listed to Moria Rogers and tried out this author! And old time western romance that was intriguing. Very, very good! I'm going to want to read more from this author.

When Rachel Douglas left her aunt's house in Virginia for the wilds of the Dakota Territory, she knew the journey would be long and arduous. But she didn't realize that she had been summoned west to be used as a pawn in a ranch war with her father's neighbor—or that her fierce, sudden attraction to Sager, her father's hired gun, would put her heart and her life in jeopardy.

Seducing Rachel and feeding a bitter feud between the two ranches was Sager's plan of vengeance against those who slaughtered his Shoshone family. Instead, Rachel's guileless mix of courage and vulnerability touches the conscience he thought he'd buried long ago, and draws them both into a passion without rules, without limits—one that will change their destinies forever.

So tell me, what have you read this week? What do you want to read? What should I read? Talk to me! I love hearing from you!!

Head on over to Lia Davis's to see what she's reading!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday Tales: What is Romantic with Malia Mallory

Welcome to Thursday Tales, this week with Malia Mallory and what it means to be romantic.

What Is Romantic?
Usually when we think of romantic gestures, we think of flowers, chocolates or a bottle of wine. When we contemplate romantic activities, we might imagine a candlelit dinner or walk on the beach. However, some studies show that while love poetry might be appreciated, real romance involves doing the dishes. Just do a Google search on "men doing housework" and you'll find a host of articles describing how men who pitch in have happier marriages, better sex lives and lower rates of divorce. This is not to say that women don't love receiving flowers or that occasional bottle of perfume, but it does seem to indicate that what happens day in and day out is more important over the long term.
There are a number of hypotheses about why a more equitable division of housework leads to happiness in the bedroom. Could it be a sign of respect? Is it simply more fair? If the household and childcare duties are more evenly divided, does that free up time and energy for other activities? My question would be, is the relationship happier because a man does more housework or are men who do more housework more supportive partners?
Speaking for myself, I'm thrilled when my husband empties the dishwasher without being asked.
What do you find romantic?
One lucky commenter will receive a copy of Mia's Cop Craving! Be sure to leave your email address!
Mia's Cop Craving
Mia is just your normal girl next store with a secret fantasy. She can't resist a man in blue. She's desperate to find a cop of her own and fulfill all her sexual dreams. When Mia finds sexy police officer Rogan, he takes her on a tour of her own sensuality.

Excerpt from Mia's Cop Craving
He brushed her lips with his. "Mmmm, you'd better point me to a flat surface."
Her hand fluttered in the direction of the hallway and she gasped as he swept his arm under her knees and picked her up. His legs covered the distance quickly, and it barely seemed a blink before they were in her bedroom.
Lights from the street bathed the room in a slight glow and Rogan laid her on the coverlet. He smoothed her hair back from her face and climbed onto the mattress beside her.
"Mia," he whispered, “tell me what happens in your fantasy."
Malia Mallory is the author of The ABCs of Erotica series, which includes so far A is for Anal, B is for Beach, C is for C*ck Ring, D is for Domination, and now, R is for Revenge. The ABCs of Erotica covers the erotic spectrum from BDSM to ménage and everything in between. More releases in the series are on the way. She has also released Mia's Cop Craving and Santa's Backdoor Baby. She has hit the bestselling erotica lists at both Amazon and iTunes. Her books are available in electronic format at major retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and AllRomance Books.

For a free copy of B is for Beach from The ABCs of Erotica, head to her website and sign up for the newsletter at

Connect with Malia Mallory

Buy Links
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All Romance -

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writer Wednesday: An Interview with Zee Monodee

Hi everyone! Welcome to another edition of Writer Wednesdays, where we get to meet another fabulous author, Zee Monodee!!! Help me welcome her!

Hi! Thanks so much for coming today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi Carrie; hey all! Pleasure to be here, totally stoked!
So, about me... Married chick, mum of a tween, stepmum to a teen, undomestic goddess, has a strange fascination with cookbooks and cooking shows despite hating to cook (starting to show my weirdness now...). I also think I have a very twisted mind because it appears I can get into the minds of assassins, spies, and sociopaths very easily in my Corpus Brides romantic suspense/espionage series. When I’m not writing, I’m most probably reading, or watching Supernatural or Glee, and surely plotting how to get my husband to take me shoe shopping ASAP.

Tell us a bit about your book.

It’s the story of Rayne Cheltham. Rayne always knew she was a bit ‘odd’; actually, she has sociopathic tendencies. But she also knew she could curb that edge if she settled down, with the boy she’s always loved – Ash Gilfoy, her neighbor and childhood best friend.
But the day Ash crashes her hopes when he vows never to marry, that dark edge wins, and Rayne gives in. She becomes a clandestine agent with the Corpus agency; a highly-skilled, trained assassin whose specialty is undercover work and killings without leaving any trace.
For seventeen years, Rayne has been able to carry out missions as Kali, her secret agent moniker. Until the day she comes back to England, and her path crosses Ash’s path once again. Faced with the man she never stopped loving, Rayne knows she cannot go back to being sociopathic Kali. So she bows out, and goes to Ash, ending up with him.
Easy, right? Not exactly. Ash has no clue she used to work as a killer, and someone inside her agency is not ready to let her leave so cleanly. Rayne is now in a race against time to keep her secret and find the people who want to get them to work for their nefarious purposes, before Ash discovers the truth, and before these rogue agents kill her.

Is this part of a series?

Yes – it’s Book Two of the Corpus Brides series. But it is actually the prequel to Book One, showing what happened in the backstory of the Corpus agency, the mutinous plot that is at the heart of Book 1, Walking The Edge.
This mutiny storyline spans over the 3 books in this series. Book 3, Let Mercy Come, is currently in writing stage, and is the story of the presumed mutiny leader being brought to justice in front of the Corpus authority.
But nothing is exactly what it seems – no one is exactly who or what he/she shows himself to be... There are a lot of secrets still to be unveiled in Book 3.
Each book focuses on the life and love of one female agent, a Corpus Bride, and can be read as a stand-alone.

What did you find the hardest part of writing it to be?

To think, behave, act, carry out missions, like a trained spy/assassin would. While Book 1 had aspects of espionage tradecraft, Book 2 required me to literally step into the shoes of an international spy, to ‘be’ this undercover agent and efficient killer. It was a walk on a very tight line to make Rayne, and the other agents inside the Corpus, come across as realistic, yet at the same time, sympathetic, and a person the reader would cheer for. I’ve pored over countless espionage books, watched hours of spy TV shows and movies, done endless research on locations and the veritable barrage of guns that these spies use. Spies seem to be wired to think differently, and it wasn’t easy to get my suburban-housewife-mum brain to wire this way.

What was your favorite part?

The scenes with Rayne’s family. Russian on her father’s side, Irish on her mother’s, they are a crazy, loony, totally over-the-top bunch who have so much drama going on in their lives you wonder how anyone can remain sane in their entourage! Rayne and Ash go home for their siblings’ wedding (Ash’s brother is marrying Rayne’s sister), and in the process, unveil their very own secret Las Vegas wedding on their unsuspecting families. Writing the actual wedding – the exchange of vows and the reception – was a true delight. These scenes were the touch of lightness in what was otherwise a very dark and ominous atmosphere.

Rate your story in terms of steaminess

1 – Something your sour, old, very proper aunt wouldn’t even scoff at!
2 – You might get that aunt to scowl...
3 – Don’t even think of letting the old biddy see this! She’d think you’re on the road to hell!
4 – Worry that if your mum ever reads this, she’ll wonder where all your religious education went, and how she is now damned to hell for raising such a shameless daughter!
5 – Don’t even dream of letting anyone in your entourage see this, because they’ll think you’re a sex fiend with more than a kinky bent (you’re heading to Bedlam though, because this level of hotness is just “not done”... shame on you...)

I’d say the sex scenes in Before The Morning slot in somewhere between 4 and 5. One of my beta readers fell in lust with Ash merely on the basis of his hot prowess in the bedroom!
The buildup of sexual tension warrants a 3, I suppose. These two mostly jump into the sack without much need for long, drawn-out tension. They’ve known each other forever, and are already married for much of the book.

Who is your favorite romance author?

Susan Mallery. No one quite does small town romance and lovable characters as well as she does. Her books also don’t sound like you’re reading the same story over and over, with only the character names changed.

What is your favorite romance book or series?

Favorite book = The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. There’s everything in that one – humor, lots of laughter, falling in love, a heroine out of her depths who learns to ‘live’ again, a man to die for, and that definite HEA.

Favorite series = Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold. That town feels like a second home now, the characters like an extended family you just love to catch up with.

Who is your favorite romance character? If you could go on a date with that person, what would you do? Details please! *wink*

I’ve totally been struck by this man I read about in Judith McNaught’s Night Whispers. His name is Noah Maitland. Rich tycoon, totally swoon-worthy, honorable, and when he fell in love, he fell hard. There’s also an edge of danger to him, a sort of roughness no amount of high society polish or money could totally buff out of his persona and his appeal.
A date with Noah Maitland? *checks if my husband is around... he’s not* LOL. Let’s just say, why not a balmy evening on his yacht, just off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. We wouldn’t be exchanging pleasantries and witty conversation, if you know what I mean... *grin* So, the soft evening breeze blowing on the deck... the yacht moored a few hundred yards from land, where no one can really make out what’s happening on board... a nice, comfy blanket on the polished wood planks of that deck... a sexy, dark, brooding man wearing nothing but skin-tight jeans... I’ll leave you to imagine the rest *wink*

Boxers or Briefs?

Boxers... though, in the end, both will have to come off ASAP... *grin*

What is next for you?

A slew of WIPs, a handful of them continuing the two series I have started at Noble Romance Publishing. Book 2 of my sweet romance, Destiny’s Child series, is in the making, titled Glory Days. It’s the story of teenage lovers who reconnect nineteen years later... to win custody of their granddaughter after the death of their secret child. Book 3, the last one, of the Corpus Brides series, is also on my drafting board.
Then I have a couple of 1NightStand ideas rolling around, and a potential contribution to Decadent Publishing’s Western Escape small-town romance series.

What were your first impressions of each other?

Ash Gilfoy: That she was totally off her rocker. I saw this little girl in a pink tutu and ballet slippers climbing up this gigantic chestnut tree at least five times her size. As I predicted, she slipped, and I got there in time to catch her. The first thing she asked when she opened her big blue-grey eyes was, “Are you an angel?” I expected, “Who the hell are you?”, but no. She was totally crazy!

Rayne Cheltham: I thought he was an angel, sent to save me. I fell from that tree and this bony, gangly little boy cushioned my fall. I remember staring into the most beautiful, molten-silver eyes I had ever seen when I looked at him; they were the color of my mum’s most precious silver. His blond hair fell over his forehead, and he really did look like an angel. I was six, and I’m pretty sure I fell in love that day. My heart never belonged to any other boy ever since that day.

What are your favorite parts about each other?

Rayne: That Ash has a noble spirit. He wants to help, to do good, to save people. Who can resist a knight in shining armor?

Ash: Rayne can take on the world when she’s got her heart set on something. There’s nothing that can come in the way of her determination.

What’s next for you?

Rayne: Getting used to a ‘normal’ life, and becoming better acquainted with my role as a wife. I will also try my best to stop my past from encroaching into my life...

Ash: Getting used to the idea that I now have a wife, when I have no clue or memory of proposing or even getting married... I never conceived of my life including a wife, a family. I never conceived I’d be anything but a cop, either, and look where I am today, a paramedic. I’ve got to adapt to this change...


Zee Monodee
Stories about love, life, relationships... in a melting-pot of culture
Zee is an author who grew up on a fence - on one side there was modernity and the global world, on the other there was culture and traditions. Putting up with the culture for half of her life, one day she decided she'd stand tall on her wall and dip toes every now and then into both sides of her non-conventional upbringing.
From this resolution spanned a world of adaptation and learning to live on said wall. The realization also came that many other young women of the world were on their own fence.
This particular position became her favorite when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing - her heroines all sit 'on a fence', whether cultural or societal, in today's world or in times past, and face dilemmas about life and love.
Hailing from the multicultural island of Mauritius, Zee is a degree holder in Communications Science. She is married,mum to a tween son, & stepmum to a teenage lad.

Buy Links:

BEFORE THE MORNING (Corpus Brides: Book 2): An action/adventure, romantic suspense tale on the backdrop of a clandestine espionage agency - come read the story of Rayne, a spy who leaves that life in the name of love, & Ash, the man who changes her world!

WALKING THE EDGE (Corpus Brides: Book 1): Currently FREE - A romantic suspense novel, wherein an amnesiac woman is on the quest for her forgotten memory... Escape from London all the way to Marseille, France, and discover the secrets, deceit, danger, & the powerful love, she uncovers during her search!  

ONCE UPON A STORMY NIGHT (1NightStand): On the paradise island of Mauritius, British billionaire Lars Rutherford isn’t looking for a woman, & corporate law executive Simmi Moyer isn’t looking for a man. But when a matchmaker pairs them together on a blind date, both face open doors towards a future they refused to contemplate... until now.

Contact Links:


Facebook & Goodreads: Zee Monodee

Twitter: @ZeeMonodee

Before The Morning
. . . is a time of great darkness. . . 
A trained killer with borderline sociopathic tendencies:
Rayne Cheltham traced out her life's path when she was twelve: she would marry her best friend and bear his children, and in the process, stifle the restless edge in her. When he vows never to marry, she gives in to the darkness and becomes a clandestine agent—until the day he walks into her world again, and her carefully fabricated façade crumbles.
A former cop burned by life and his personal demons:
When Ash Gilfoy meets a woman who reminds him of his childhood best friend, he starts upon a path that leads him down into an abyss once again. The day Rayne waltzes back into his life, he knows she is his second chance, and the one who will save him.
Each thinks the other is their redemption . . . until they discover how deep the other's edge of darkness goes
No one knows Rayne used to be a spy and an assassin, and no one knows why Ash left the police force. The secrets between them make them sit on a keg of gunpowder with a lit fuse in their hands. Neither knows what 'normal' means now, especially Rayne, whose whole life is built on a lie. Truth is threatening to explode in their faces, and that is not the only menace they have to face. Someone is out to get Rayne, and she must disclose her past before it is too late.
Can Rayne and Ash survive all that's thrown in their path? Can they hang on to the last thread of their relationship, and can they emerge, still together and still alive, in the morning after the deepest darkness?


From the front-facing window on the second floor of the Shepherd's Close freehold, Corpus secret agent Rayne Cheltham watched the ambulance pull away from the curb.
Shivers crept up her arms, and she hugged herself tight to ward them off.
Get a grip!
She was a professional on an assignment, an elite, trained operative from a clandestine agency that handled operations for governments and international forces as a stealthy left hand. Her agency entrusted her with the most important missions—nothing should faze her.
Before today, she would've said that nothing could affect her when she had her eyes on a goal.
But she wasn't sure anymore. She'd never had her past collide with her present like a few moments ago, in the form of her childhood best friend.
Ashford Gilfoy, better known as Ash. The boy who had been there to catch her when, at six, she had slipped while climbing the chestnut tree that sat right on the border between their two houses in Hastings, two days after her family moved there from Salisbury. The boy who had taught her how to ride a bicycle without the training wheels on the long and winding, gravel-covered lane leading to her parents' mansion. The teenager who had smashed the nose of the first lad who had broken her heart, at thirteen, during recess in the schoolyard. The young man she had left seventeen years ago on a platform at London Waterloo, on the day she bid her old life goodbye.
For the first time since that day, she was back on British soil, and kismet decided Ash should cross her path.
Why then, of all times? She was a hair's breadth away from closing the contract on this mission. Seven months of intensive infiltration work and she was ready to achieve her aim—neutralize Nikolai Grigorievskiy's criminal operations before she took out the man. The Corpus always sent her for the kill, but the trick was that she had to make her target's death appear self-inflicted, at the bare minimum, or an accident, in the direst of cases. Measles, as such operations were known in their clandestine world—a planned assassination that didn't leave any indication of the cause of death. She would then have to sanitize everything—leave no evidence, no witness, nothing that could lead back to her. Unlike her other agency counterparts, she wasn't an out-and-out black ops assassin, but a different level of highly implicated agent provocateur.
In other words, a consummate actress who got to her ends by manipulating people and circumstances. All those years of drama school, at her mother’s insistence when, obviously, she'd be too tall to become a ballerina, came in handy. In fact, her portrayal of Lady Macbeth in the drama school's end of year play had caught the eye of the people who had recruited her into the Corpus. Seventeen years into the agency, fifteen of them as Kali, her operative name, a sociopath with no apparent conscience who followed her orders with diligence. Never had any one of her targets come close to figuring she was an undercover agent. Her track record was flawless—each assignment undertaken with one hundred percent success rate and a marginal body count.
Until today, when she'd almost gotten burned.
Ash had recognized her down there. For a second, she'd thought her cover was blown. Then, she'd taken a deep breath and forced herself to remain in character. Never panic, always stay in control, breathe and gather your wits—the first lesson drilled inside the mind of any secret agent. Pulling on a blank face was one of her fortes, and Ash had bought the act. He thought she was Irina, clueless twenty-year-old from the dirt-poor suburbs of Moscow who didn't speak any other language but Russian.
She'd had a few close encounters in the past, but never like that. Rayne and Kali had two separate, compartmentalized lives that ran parallel. The two should never have touched, because that would end up making a mess of her. She could keep each persona separate, as long as she could push Rayne to some dark corner of her mind. Her job taxed her, and she walked the tight line of paranoia every single second while undercover.
But if Rayne came to the front during a mission . . . .
Damn it, she wasn't a rookie agent on her first mission. Cherries, as the CIA called them. Hell, even during her first undercover operation, she'd had no qualms and no trouble achieving her aim.
Why today, when everything was smooth sailing toward a much-desired goal?
She closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the windowpane. The glass was warm against her clammy skin.
She was sweating?
That will not do. I have to take control again.
She had to forget about Ash, about Rayne, and focus on being Irina, the one who would bring down a notorious criminal. Her agency and the whole world counted on her to take out the piece of scum. She was their last hope, sent in as the trump card after good cops got killed when trying to bring Nikolai to justice.
Someone knocked on the door, and she pulled away from the window. Damn it, she still had a job to do.
Willing confidence to steel her spine on a deep breath, she turned around. She blinked a few times, called forth tears. She was supposed to be a young wife who'd just been hit by her husband, a man she'd left downstairs at the party with a leggy blonde draped all over his side.
The moisture trickled onto her cheek, and she swiped her eyes to smear the kohl and mascara.
There—she should present the desired picture of despair.
"Da?" she answered as she stepped toward the door.
The panel opened quietly. "Zdrastuyte, Gaspazha Grigorievskaya."
Hello, Mrs. Grigorievskaya. Such formality. Only one man addressed her with such deference and respect—Boris Petrov, Nikolai's right-hand man.
"Zdrastuyte, Boris Ivanovich." She replied him with the same formal greeting, using his patronymic name to further show her respect, as was customary in the Russian culture.
Boris was the least disposable target in the whole operation—the keystone. She had to bring him down, or at least create a rift between the two men. Everything would crumble afterward. Nikolai wouldn't have his main pillar of support, and would thus crash down through the pyramidal structure of his operations.
"Are you okay?" he asked as he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.
She shrugged, forced a small, tremulous smile. Russian wives, she'd learned, tolerated a lot of their husbands' outbursts. "It's nothing."
"You shouldn't listen to what Mikhail said. He is just jealous that Kolya's attention is not wholly directed onto him any longer."
"It does not bother me," she said in a small voice.
Make a move, she silently urged him. For her plan to work, Boris had to capitalize on the simmering embers of passion that flared between him and his boss' wife, and that he denied all the time. She'd already lost too much time, and had to start the measles process.
I have to take matters in my hands. There's no other way.
She trained her eyes on him. Boris was a big, burly man in his mid-forties. Anyone could imagine him knocking out a person with just a flick of his thick wrist. Toying with him was like playing with fire—she could get burnt. But she had no other choice. The time had come. Five months to gain Nikolai's trust and compliance; two months to insidiously plant the seeds of discord within the criminal's entourage. She didn't have much leeway to work at influencing outcomes anymore. No—she had to provoke.
Rayne inhaled, felt the oxygen fill her lungs and clear her brain. She forced herself into her character. What would Irina do?
She gasped, and brought her hands to cover her mouth. With rapid steps, she rushed to Boris' side. She reached out with one hand and trailed the tips of her fingers along one of his eyes, swollen nearly shut from a blow.
"You shouldn't have," she said in a soft whisper, letting tears streak down her cheeks. "Not for me."
Boris' swift intake of air was the only sound that hissed between them. He closed his eyes under her touch.
Do it, she urged.
"I am so"—she paused and sobbed—"so sorry." Her voice was small and breathless, heavy with sadness.
Boris settled a heavy, meaty palm on her hand, to keep her fingers unfurled on his cheek. "Forgive me, Irina. I couldn't let him say those ugly lies about you."
He is caving.
"Boris, please." She pleaded with him.
"I will do anything for you."
"I am a married woman."
"Why don't you leave him?"
She gasped. "I cannot. I pledged myself to him."
"But look how he treats you!"
"Borya," she said, using the nickname for Boris, "back in Russia, for every one like me, there are ten other girls, more beautiful, waiting to take my place."
"There isn't any woman more beautiful than you in all of Russia."
She smiled, making sure she displayed sadness and resolution on her features.
"You are such a sweet man." When he wasn't forcing underage girls into the cargo holds of boats docking out of most major European ports, plying them with drugs before supplying them like meat to brothels and sex perverts.
"Leave him," Boris said, the words a subtle urge.
"I can't. Where would I go?" She gently tugged her hand from under his and took a step closer to him. "I can't go back to that life, Borya."
"Irina, please—"
The sound of the door opening startled them. Nikolai stood on the threshold, his tall, dark form an intimidating silhouette in the dim doorway.
Kali threw one look at Boris, shook her head softly, and took a few steps away. The back of her knees hit the edge of the window seat. She stumbled backward into a sitting position on the upholstered ledge.
Nikolai's narrowed gaze went from Boris to her, and back to his right-hand man.
"Leave us," he said softly, the words obviously an order.
Boris nodded and exited the room.
Good—she’d sown the seeds of doubt. Her "husband" would wonder what went on between her and Boris, and Boris would try to get closer to her. She would play on this nearness between them, subtly make people wonder if something was happening behind Nikolai's back.
At that point, she would move her final chess piece—Nikolai would die at the same time as Boris. For the world, things would look like an altercation gone wrong between a spurned husband and a forbidden lover, with her caught in the crossfire. That's how she'd ensure her exit from the operation.
Yes, all the pieces of the game were falling into place. She just had to play along.
Nikolai closed the door behind Boris, the click of the latch falling into place sounding louder than it should have.
He turned toward her, pressed his shoulder against the doorframe, and pushed his hands into the pockets of his Gieves and Hawkes champagne-coloured, tailor-made linen trousers.
Her "husband" focused his steely grey eyes on her.
The stare burned into her skull. Still, she refused to look up. Not yet.

***end of excerpt***

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