Archive for the ‘Demons’ Category
They will bind her to them in every way they can.
Seraphena, a black panther shifter and familiar, hasn’t had a night off in months. Between work, dealing with her mother, and issues with her leap, her life is one challenge after the next. So when she finally finds herself with a night to herself, the last thing she expects is spending it with her secret crushes, Carver and Thorn, demons and owners of her favorite café, The Java Demon. Neither does she expect what happens when you play high card strip with a couple of pros. They give her a hot game, a night to remember with a little kink on the side. But Sera knows it can’t last with all the complications in her life. The last thing she needs is having to explain two men at once—and demons at that.
Carver and Thorn have wanted Sera from the moment she first strolled into the Java Demon for her caffeine fix. Now that they have her in their life, they refuse to let her go. They will bind her to them in every way they can, fulfill her fantasies, and show her the love and support she needs. Nothing will stand in their way—not work, not her mother, not her pard. But it might be Sera herself who shuts them out if she can’t stand up to those who would dictate their love…
“And if you’re a really good girl—and I mean a good girl—I’ll ask my best friend to join us. Him in your ass and me in your pussy.” Carver pressed his palm against her stomach and slipped it down until he covered her mound. “You want to be our good girl, don’t you?”
She nodded, unsure of what it would take to be that, but knowing that whatever it was she’d do it. He smiled and it felt as though the sun had come out. Heat radiated from his lips. She reached up to cup his face and bring him closer for a kiss, but he lifted his head.
“Tsk, tsk, not yet. I’m not finished.” He rolled his hips, rubbing his erection into her. The noises she made turned to moans. “Feel that? Every inch for you, used to pleasure you, fuck you, make you moan and scream and beg and cry out, to own you. I’ll sink into you over and over again, make you come so hard you’ll see stars. I’ll use toys, my fingers, my mouth, my tongue, my lips, my cock to worship you as you deserve. My beautiful one, I will never do to you what that bastard, Arthur, did to you.”
Sera jerked back. The fantasy faded away at the mention of her ex. How could he? She narrowed her eyes at him. “How do you know about Arthur? Only Mysta, Bridget, and Lana know what happened with him.”
Carver shrugged. “Word does get around, even if you don’t open that pretty mouth of yours. Besides, the asshole told anyone who would hear at the Harvest Festival about leaving you. But don’t worry, Thorn and I put him in his place.” A hard look entered Carver’s eyes, a darkness that glittered in the inky black of his irises. He gave her a dark smile.
Her nipples pebbled to the point of pain and she shivered. The arousal stirred to life. “Why would you do that for me? Whatever it is you did.”
Carver bent his head down. “Because I will fight to have you and shed blood to keep you safe and keep your heart secure. You are worth it. You are priceless. Do not doubt that.”
He cut off any response by lowering his head and pressing his lips to hers. Her mind became swathed in desire, and her body temperature rose once again. She was in so deep she wasn’t sure she wanted to escape.
Sex hot enough to burn their worlds down…
Pietro doesn’t think he has time for love. Being a demon king and part owner of Seven Sins Inn leaves him little time for women. But when his friends claim that they’ve found the perfect match for him, Peitro is determined to prove that he doesn’t need a set up–he can find his own date, thank you very much. Undeterred, his friends send him to investigate a “problem” at one of the Inn’s guest functions, where Pietro sees the woman of his dreams, right there in the very kissable flesh.
Paranormal negotiator Callisto Monroe went to the Seven Sins Inn for a friend’s wedding, hoping she could scope the place out for work. But she didn’t plan on being swept away by the hot, dark-haired demon, or spending a weekend having the hottest sex of her life. All that’s well and good. But when things get too hot to handle, how is she supposed to protect her heart?
Author Note: This book was previously published under the title Mudslide but has been revised for redistribution.
“I’m not like the rest of my kind. I have no desire to hurt you or look down on you. In my brief dealings with mortals, I have found I like them very much. Especially you.” He finally turned to look at her, eyes glittering with intensity. The ruby gaze dropped, looking her over.
Arousal flared hot within her, her stomach tightening into knots. Liquid heat slipped down, and her pussy throbbed as her panties dampened, tingling with need. An image of his fingers slipping over her thick nether lips, teasingly slow, rose in her mind.
Projection. The demonic talent of projecting images into the mind of a susceptible victim, or in this case an object of desire—her. She shifted, trying to stave off the ache, and the picture changed, a tongue replacing the fingers, tracing the sides of her labia before circling her clit.
“Take off your panties. I want you to touch yourself, show me those beautiful lips,” he ordered.
Her clit ached, thudded insistently. Her nipples pulsed at the low growl of his voice. A glance at his crotch showed her the large bulge pressing against his fly.
“Is that for me?” she asked, raising the hem of her skirt. The idea of doing this for him didn’t put her off—in fact, the tension in her body increased as her juices dripped onto her thighs.
“Yes, every inch of me is for you. I ache to be inside you.” His voice dropped lower, to a whisper, his words increasing the heat between them. She wanted to see him, see the pulsing length that showed her his desire.
“Show me. If I show you my pussy, you show me your cock,” she teased.
“You’re playing with fire.” He groaned and spun the steering wheel sharply. The car jerked hard to the right and stopped, engine still running.
The half-demon unleashed…
On the night, Daeveena, a half-fey, half-demon walked out of the Hellfire Club, she left a tide of destruction, but everyone figured that was the end of it. No one imagined that she would steal something so valuable. Can Arie discover who is harboring her before he loses everything?
a force that can destroy Arie.
Rue and an unlikely ally must accompany Holly into the depths of demon society in order to save Arie. Along the way Holly uncovers more about Arie’s unscrupulous past and finds herself questioning her feelings for him… and falling for someone else. Can Holly excuse his past or is this the end of their eternity?
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author A.C. James writes paranormal romance and erotica, including Eternal Ever After which was featured in the bestselling Spice Box anthology. She pounds out sexy scenes at her keyboard where romance is laced with horror in hot stories of vampires and bad boy werewolves. Her stories feature strong heroines and alpha heroes, with plenty of action, twists, and turns that will keep you turning pages. A.C. resides in northeast Pennsylvania where she entertains her husband with her imaginative yarns and quirky sense of humor. She spends her time drinking large vats of coffee while taming two toddlers by day and writing by night. Recovering video game beta tester and tech geek who grew-up going to cons and watching SmackDown. There’s probably some cosplay pictures around somewhere of her dressed up as Bloodberry from Saber Marionette J. Just don’t tell anyone.
I was lying on top of the bed, blindfolded—Arie was kissing me, possessive and demanding. I kissed him back but kept my hands behind my head. Arie wanted it that way, and I loved giving him the gift of my submission. Being blindfolded made me excruciatingly aware of all my senses and set every nerve ending on fire. Every touch, every taste was scintillating. His tongue tangled with mine as I moaned into his mouth. I wanted more. Greedy? Yes. Except he’d never kissed me like this. It almost felt like I was kissing a stranger. The thought brought me back to when he’d cuffed me to the pole and fucked me in front of everyone. I tried to capture his lower lip with the tip of my fang.
But Arie’s mouth dipped to my neck, his stubble scraping against my skin. Something about the abrasive texture always turned me on. My pussy clenched as his mouth moved to that hollow dip in my neck while his hand slid up my inner thigh. But he stopped when he reached my mound, and his hand moved to grip my hip instead. His fingers dug into its curve. I shifted, squirming, needing him to touch me.
-Please.- I begged telepathically.
It was cheating, of course, but he always let me get away with it anyway. After saving Luna and losing Victoria, we both needed this. And I wanted to feel him inside of me. His mouth met mine again with a fierce tangle of tongues, teeth clashing. He bit my lower lip, gently tugging on it. Pulling off the maneuver that I’d failed to execute.
Whenever Arie bit my lower lip it drove me absolutely insane. He took my mouth just as his hands claimed my body. His breath was cool on my face before he pulled away. Arie’s hands were gripping my hips, pulling them toward his. My sex brushed the taut denim fabric, and I moaned. I needed him now. I couldn’t take it anymore; I had to have him inside of me right then and there. I bit my lower lip to hold back another moan.
-If you don’t take me soon I swear I’m going to rip this blindfold off and make you fuck me.-
He groaned. Then he kissed me again. His kiss left me breathless and reminded me of the intoxicating sensation that you feel the first time you kiss someone new. Then again, I loved kissing Arie. I’d never had anyone turn me on the way that he did. Hell, I’d never had anyone make me come before I’d met Arie. The Sight always got in the way. I ground my sex into the stiff fabric and moaned as it brushed against my clit. Arie would have a wet mess on those jeans, but I didn’t care.
“God, Katarina. You fucking kill me.”
Oh. My. God.
I shoved him off of me and scrambled toward the headboard. Off went the blindfold, and I sent it sailing across the room. The vampire from the bar crouched on the bed. Christ, I was kissing a stranger. And I was naked. Kissing a complete stranger while I was completely naked. I shot off the bed, grabbed a towel from the floor, and wrapped it around me. He looked almost as shocked as I did — almost, but not quite. His vivid green eyes widened infinitesimally before narrowing like a cat’s. He had brown wavy hair, but was way more rugged in appearance than Arie. I had to admit he was definitely hot. That made me even more aware of my current state of undress.
He got off the bed, at least, but even with him standing about ten feet away heat spread across my body. It wasn’t nearly far enough. Hell, no. Not when my skin still prickled where his mouth had been. My clit throbbed, wanting the contact of denim, and my gaze dropped to his jeans. I was mortified. If I could’ve sunk into the bedroom floor or somehow disappeared right at that moment I would have. His eyes swept over me from head to foot, but when his eyes met mine, realization lit his.
“You’re not Katarina,” he said.
It wasn’t a question.
“No, I’m not. But who the hell are you?”
Clutching the towel around me, I knew my face must be the color of the silk blindfold I’d thrown, or worse. My embarrassment seemed to amuse the hell out of him. That only infuriated the hell out of me.
He grinned. “I’m Toren.”
T. He’s T. Katarina’s lover. Oh, hell.
Series: Hellhound Detective Agency
Excerpt Rating (PG-13)
Genre: Paranormal, Interracial, Dark Fantasy, BDSM
Sex and charm rolled off him in waves. He could seduce with just a smile. From the moment they’d met, he’d been trying to get her into bed. She didn’t know or care why. Casey had more important things to think about — like her job. If she wanted sex, she could get it with her battery-operated boyfriend.
Besides, she thought Blaise just wanted her so he could brag he’d bagged a Hellhound. All demons wanted to have sex with a Hellhound. Hellhounds could sniff out a lie and were considered the hardest demon to tame. Demons couldn’t resist a challenge — or a good deal or a fool and his money. Casey Mae was no one’s trophy — and yet she found herself in surroundings she didn’t know. A jerk of her hands and legs and the feel of smooth, warm wood against her arms told her she was also tied to a chair.
And I may possibly be a prisoner.
I just got a new review for Seven Sins Inn: Pietro and Callisto from Long and Short Reviews- Erotic Romance.
“Seven Sins Inn: Pietro and Callisto was a definite page turner and one I would recommend to anyone looking for an interesting and sizzling tale.”- Fuschia
I just got a new review for Seven Sins Inn: Pietro and Callisto from Long and Short Reviews- Erotic Romance.
“Seven Sins Inn: Pietro and Callisto was a definite page turner and one I would recommend to anyone looking for an interesting and sizzling tale.”
Guest Author Promo: Evangeline Anderson
I’m excited to announce my new book, The Covenant, is now out from Ellora’s Cave. I really enjoyed writing this one and I bet you’ll enjoy reading it too. It has it all–a hot, brooding vampire, a serial killing demon, and of course, lots of hot sex. So step on over to EC and check it out here:
Kaitlyn Richards is a witch with powers beyond the norm. Her unique abilities make her one of the few people in the state of Florida qualified to be an S.E., or Supernatural Enforcer. As part of her duties she uses her home as a magical holding cell for creatures too strong to be contained in normal human jails.
Holden Sumner is a three-hundred-year-old vampire on a mission—he’s been stalking a serial-killing demon for centuries and he needs Kaitlyn’s help to kill it. The problem is, she won’t give him the time of night. But Sumner is determined to get under her skin.
Though Kaitlyn is reluctant to get involved with a vampire, she agrees to help Sumner search for the killer. But in order to drive the demon back to hell and stop the slaughter of innocents, she will have to bind herself more tightly than she ever thought possible to a man she doesn’t want to love.
She and Sumner must form a blood covenant…or die trying.
Sumner just looked at me, stared into my eyes for a long, breathless moment. Then his pupils dilated, the inky blackness within eating the pale iris until it was nothing but a thin silver ring. “See yourself, Kaitlyn,” he murmured. “See yourself as I see you.”
And suddenly I did.
It was like looking into a mirror that someone had placed in my mind’s eye. In it I saw a woman with long brown hair and big brown eyes. She had a generous ass, full breasts and wide, curvy hips. She didn’t look anything like the cover of a fashion magazine but somehow it didn’t matter. She was absolutely stunning.
Beautiful, Sumner whispered in my head. You’re so beautiful, Kaitlyn. From the moment I saw you, I wanted you. Wanted you so much.
He pulled me to him and kissed me again, gently on the mouth. “Can I see you naked now?”
Though the idea had made me feel nervous and uncomfortable before, now it didn’t bother me a bit. “Of course.”
Standing, I shimmied out of the nighty and let it fall in a little puddle of black lace on the floor. I hooked my thumbs into the sides of my panties but before I could push them down, Sumner said,
I raised an eyebrow at him and gave him a little smile. “I thought you wanted to see me naked.”
“I do.” His voice was thick. “But I want to make you naked myself. Come here.” He was sitting on the side of the bed, legs spread, so I came to stand between them. He was tall but the bed was low—his face was about the level of my inner thighs. I had a vague idea that having his face so close to such an intimate part of me would have made me extremely uncomfortable in the past. Now I felt intrigued.
“Well?” I murmured, running a hand through his hair. It was thick and silky between my fingers. “Now what?”
“Now this.” Slowly, Sumner slid the black lace panties down my thighs, revealing the soft thatch of well trimmed curls at the top of my mound. Leaning forward, he rubbed his nose against me there, making me shiver as he inhaled. “God, you smell good.” His voice was a low growl and I felt a shiver of anticipation go through me.
“What else?” I whispered, tugging lightly at his hair.
Sumner looked up at me with a predatory grin. “Impatient, Kaitlyn?”
I tugged a little harder. “What if I am?”
“Patience, sweetheart. I promise to make the wait worth your while.” He began pulling the panties down again at what seemed like an excruciatingly slow pace. Obviously he was in no hurry. In fact, he actually knelt at my feet and helped me step out of them before sitting back on the bed. “God, you’re gorgeous,” he murmured, his eyes drinking me in. “Just let me look at you for a moment.”
I twirled in a little circle for him and gave him a wink. “Like what you see?” I asked, throwing his own words back at him.
“You have no idea how much,” he said hoarsely. “I can’t wait anymore. Come here.” He gestured for me to step closer which I did with no reservations whatsoever.
Sumner reached out and took me by the hips, pulling me close and then closer. He leaned forward and at first I thought he was going to inhale my scent again. Instead he pressed his lips gently to the very top of my slit, kissing me there as though he was kissing my mouth. I gasped when I felt his tongue flicker out to taste me just the tiniest bit. God, I needed more! Why was he going so slowly?
“Because I want to savor this,” Sumner murmured and I realized he must have caught my impatient thought through our strange connection. “I’ve been wanting this—wanting you—from the second I saw you.” He looked up at me, his eyes filled with pale fire. “Now spread your legs.”
I did as I was told, feeling strangely powerful as he drank me in.
“Beautiful… So hot. So wet.” Sumner spread me delicately with his thumbs, opening me, putting my slippery pink inner folds on display. In the past such a thing would have mortified me. Not now. Instead of a blush of embarrassment, I felt a slow sexual flush of desire heating my body.
It wasn’t just that I was opening myself up for him, or giving him a show. It was the expression in his eyes—the reverent, almost worshipful way he looked at me. When he leaned forward to place a teasing, tender kiss on the aching bud of my clit he touched me like I was something incredibly precious and rare, kissed me as though he might break me if he wasn’t careful. I felt beautiful—adored in a way I never had before.
I knew I shouldn’t let my feelings rule me, knew that what we were doing was just for tonight and that tomorrow I would probably regret it. But I couldn’t regret it now any more than I could feel ashamed of being nude in front of him. Letting Sumner see me in all my naked glory, letting him touch me and kiss me and explore my body was a heady experience—it made me feel free. Free to give in to all my darker impulses.
Gripping the back of his hair, I tugged hard. “You’re driving me crazy. What are you waiting for, Sumner?”
He looked up at me, licking his lips. “For you to be ready. But I think you are.”
I opened my mouth to agree but suddenly the world tilted and I was on my back on the bed with my lower legs hanging over the side. I felt dizzy for a moment and realized that Sumner must have done one of his vampire moves—so fast it couldn’t be seen with the human eye. Only this time he’d taken me with him. Taken me and put me exactly where he wanted me because there he was, kneeling in front of me, a ravenous look in his eyes.
“Let me in, Kaitlyn,” he ordered in a soft, almost dangerous voice. “Spread your legs and let me in.”
I couldn’t have resisted if I’d wanted to. Parting my thighs I welcomed him, moaning softly as his broad shoulder split me wide, opening me for him completely. I had never felt so vulnerable—so exposed.
Sumner pressed his mouth to my slit and took a long, slow taste, licking upwards as though he was eating an ice cream cone. I moaned and jerked under his mouth and he looked up at me and smiled.
“Feels good, sweetheart?”
“Feels incredible,” I admitted. And it did. To be perfectly honest, I had never enjoyed this particular act before. I had always felt too self conscious to really relax and let myself go. Then, too, I had never been with anyone who seemed so completely into it. Most guys seemed to think it was something they had to do—but it was clear that wasn’t the case with Sumner. From the look in his eyes he was enjoying himself as much as I was—maybe more.
He licked me again, another long, slow taste, and then kissed me gently, swirling his tongue around and around my clit, making me moan and thrash. God, he was good! But when he looked up again, his eyes were pale-on-red.
“Sumner?” I looked at him uncertainly.
“Can’t hold back anymore, Kaitlyn,” he growled hoarsely. “I’ve been trying to go slow—didn’t want to scare you. But, God, you smell so good, taste so good…” The naked hunger in his face was both frightening and compelling. I felt a surge of heat between my thighs—knowing he desired me so fiercely was intoxicating.
“Then don’t.” Reaching down, I grabbed a handful of his hair again and pulled him toward me. “Don’t hold back, Sumner. I’m not afraid of you. Take what you want.”
“Can’t help it. I have to.” He buried his face between my thighs again, his open mouth hot and wet and urgent against my pussy.
And then he devoured me.
Bio: Evangeline Anderson is a registered MRI tech who would rather be writing. And yes, she is nerdy enough to have a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be writing.” Honk if you see her! She is thirty-something and lives in Florida with a husband, a son, and two cats. She had been writing erotic fiction for her own gratification for a number of years before it occurred to her to try and get paid for it. To her delight, she found that it was actually possible to get money for having a dirty mind and she has been writing paranormal and Sci-fi erotica steadily ever since.
Walking the Plank – Pirates and Heroes
Reading through these fabulous guest posts on villains, heroes, and everything in between, one thing is perfectly clear: There is a point of no return for these characters, when they’ve done something irredeemable. Much like walking a plank, you can only go so far before falling into some shark-filled, treacherous waters, with little hope of escape – and if the character is bad enough, you might even hope that he’s eaten or drowns.
It’s also perfectly clear that the point shifts, depending on the reader.
This was something that I thought about constantly while writing The Iron Duke. My hero, Rhys Trahaearn, isn’t a nice guy. He’s arrogant and overbearing, and his moral center pretty skewed. A former pirate, he was a thief, and he didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who threatened him, his crew, or his ship. Sure, he had his reasons and a tortured history – and depending on where a person’s perspective, he might have even been justified in those reasons: the law failed him and many other people, and so he chose lawlessness.
Now, the worldbuilding itself gives him a little more leeway there on redeemable/irredeemable, because the pirate stuff he does would never fly in, say, a contemporary novel. No question, he’d be an out-and-out bad guy if the setting was modern day America (or Somalia). His actions would be unforgiveable. Much like the serial killer of the modern suspense novel, the excuse of a bad childhood only goes so far (but then you make that serial killer only murder bad guys, and you’ve got a Dexter – a hero of another sort).
So Rhys has a history that pushes him close to the edge of that plank, but there are other circumstances that keep him from falling overboard: because he freed England from an oppressive regime, he’s also considered a national hero. Even the heroine, who doesn’t like his pirating ways at all, is grateful to him for that.
And although Rhys isn’t a pirate anymore by the opening of the novel, he still often does exactly as he wants without considering what others want or need – and there’s always a point where overbearing and alpha can turn into: he’s a jerk.
I pushed Rhys to that jerky line a couple of times – I pushed him to the edge of that plank – pretty deliberately. For some readers, I know that means he goes straight over, because their plank is shorter than mine. There’s one scene that was actually difficult for me to write, where he is his usual “I know what I’m doing, I’m totally in control of myself” mode, and he inadvertently hurts Mina, the heroine. He’s immediately remorseful and horrified as soon as he realizes what had happened – which, to me, meant that he’s just barely hanging on to the edge of the plank by his fingernails, but there’s still the possibility that he can pull himself back up – but to a lot of readers, I knew that he took a flying leap right into the water.
That is always the risk that heroes like this will run. There will never be a one-size-fits-all-readers plank for our characters to walk. As I writer, I accept that.
As a reader, it makes for a lot more interesting experience with each book. When I read a review, I never know whether a hero or heroine will cross my personal line into irredeemable territory . . . and I think that’s a good thing. It keeps everything exciting. Maybe not as exciting as hanging upside-down from an airship and shooting a spear at a kraken, but still a pretty damn good time. Heroes that walk to the edge of the plank keep us on our toes, if nothing else – hoping they don’t go over and become shark-bait (or hoping that they do.)
The Iron Duke Excerpt:
Mina turned to find a man as big as his voice. Oh, damn the newssheets. They hadn’t been kind to him—they’d been kind to their readers, protecting them the effect of this man. A hollow fear shivered within her, much like the first time she’d run into a razor-clawed ratcatcher in an alley—the instinctive knowledge that she faced something dangerous and that she didn’t wholly understand.
Not that Rhys Trahaearn looked strange, or mutated as those ratcatchers were. He was just as hard and as handsome as the caricatures had portrayed—altogether dark and forbidding, with a gaze as pointed and as guarded as the fence that was his namesake. The Iron Duke wasn’t as tall as his statue, but still taller than any man had a right to be, and as broad through the shoulders as Newberry, but without the spare flesh.
But it was not his size that made her wary. And for the first time, she could see why his crew might follow him through kraken-infested waters or into Horde territory, then follow him back onto shore and remain with him. When he leveled that cold, detached gaze at them, as if he couldn’t care less whether they dropped dead in front of him, they would be too terrified to do anything else. He leveled it at Mina now, and the message in his eyes was clear.
He didn’t want her here.
Because of her bloodline or her occupation? Mina couldn’t decide. It hardly mattered, anyway—she was here now.
She glanced at the man standing beside him: tall, brown-haired, his expression bored. Mina didn’t recognize him. Like the Iron Duke, he wore a fashionable black overcoat, breeches, and boots. A red waistcoat buckled like armor over a white shirt with a simple collar reminiscent of the Horde’s tunic collar. Perhaps a bounder and, if so, probably an aristocrat—and he likely expected to be treated as one.
Bully for him.
She looked to the duke again. Though she’d never been introduced to someone of his standing before, she’d seen Superintendent Hale meet a marquess without a single gesture to acknowledge that he ranked above her. Mina followed that example and offered a short nod before addressing him.
“Your Grace, I understand that you did not witness this man die.”
“And your companion . . . ?”
“Also saw nothing,” the other man answered.
She’d been right; his accent marked him as a bounder. Yet she had to revise her opinion of him. He wasn’t bored by death—just too familiar with it to be excited by yet another. She couldn’t understand that. The more death she saw, the more the injustice of each one touched her. “Your name, sir?”
His smile seemed just at the edge of a laugh. “Mr. Smith.”
A joker. How fun.
She thought a flicker of irritation crossed the duke’s expression. But when he didn’t offer his companion’s true name, she let it go. One of the staff would know.
“Mr. St. John has told me that no one has identified the body, and only your footman saw his fall.”
“Did your footman relate anything else to you?”
“Only that he didn’t scream.”
No scream? Either the man had been drunk, asleep, or already dead. She would soon find out which it was.
“If you’ll pardon me.” With a nod, she turned toward the steps, where Newberry adjusted the camera’s thermite flash. She heard the Iron Duke and his companion follow her. As long as they did not touch the body or try to help her examine it, she did not care.
Mina looked down at her hands. She would touch the body, and Newberry hadn’t brought her serviceable wool gloves to exchange for her white evening gloves. They were only satin—neither her mother’s tinkering nor her own salary could afford kid—but they were still too dear to ruin.
She tugged at the tips of her fingers, but the fastenings at her wrist prevented them from sliding off. Futilely, she tried to push the small buttons through equally small satin loops. The seams at the tips of her fingers made them too bulky, and the fabric was too slippery. She looked round for Newberry, and saw that the black powder from the ferrotype camera already dusted his hands. Blast it. She would bite them through, if she had to. Even the despised task of sewing the buttons back on would be easier than—
“Give your hand over, inspector.”
Mina hackles rose at the command. She looked up into Trahaearn’s face and heard a noise from his companion, a snorted half laugh—as if Trahaearn had failed an easy test.
The duke’s expression didn’t soften, though his words did. “You’ll finish more quickly if I assist you. Will you allow me?”
No, she thought. Do not touch me, do not come close. But the body on the steps would not allow her that reply.
“Yes. Thank you.”
She held out her hand and watched as he removed his own gloves. Kid, lined with sable. Just imagining the luxurious softness warmed her.
Mina wouldn’t have been surprised if his presence had, as well. With his great size, Trahaearn seemed to surround her with heat just by standing so near. His hands were large, his fingers long and nails square. As he took her wrist in his left palm, calluses audibly scraped the satin. His face darkened. She could not tell if it was in anger or embarrassment.
However rough his skin was, his fingers were nimble. He deftly unfastened the first button, and the next. “This was not the evening you had planned.”
She did not say this was preferable to the Victory Ball, but perhaps he read it in her voice. To her surprise, his teeth flashed in a smile—then his face quickly hardened again, as if his smile had surprised him, as well. He bent his head over her hand again and Mina found herself staring at his short eyelashes, so thick and black that his eyelids seemed lined with kohl. She looked away, but gold glinting through the thickness of his dark hair drew her gaze again.
Three tiny rings pierced the top curve of each ear. His earlobes had been pierced, too, though he wore no jewelry in them.
And so the newssheets had dressed him up. In a drawing, his thickly-lashed eyes and jewelry would have appeared feminine. But not up close, not in person. Instead, the effect was . . . primitive.
Unsettled, she focused on her wrist. Only two buttons left, and then she could work.
She should be working now. “Were the dogs patrolling the grounds before the body was discovered?”
“No. They search for the point of entry now.”
Mina pictured the iron fence. Perhaps a child could slip through the bars; a man could not. But if someone had let him through . . . ? “Have you spoken with your man at the front gate?”
She had not asked the gatekeeper his name. “If Wills has a prosthetic left leg, and often saves a portion of his supper in his beard for his breakfast, then we are speaking of the same man.”
“That is Wills.” He studied her with unreadable eyes. “He wouldn’t let anyone through.”
Without my leave, Mina finished for him. And perhaps he was correct, though of course she would verify it with the gatekeeper, and ask the steward about deliveries. Someone might have hidden themselves in one.
His gaze fell to her glove again. “There we are,” Trahaearn said. “Now to . . .”
She pulled her hand away at the same time Trahaearn gripped the satin fingertips. He tugged. Satin slid in a warm caress over her elbow, her forearm.
Flames lit her cheeks. “Sir—”
His expression changed as he continued to pull. First registering surprise, as if he hadn’t realized the glove extended past her wrist. Then an emotion hard and sharp as the long glove slowly gave way. Its white length finally dangled from his fingers, and to Mina seemed as intimate as if he held her stocking.
Her sleeve still covered her arm, but she felt exposed. Stripped. With as much dignity as she could, Mina claimed the glove.
“Thank you. I can manage the other.” She stuffed the glove into her pocket. With her bare fingers, she made quick work of the buttons at her left wrist.
Mina looked up to find him staring at her. His cheekbones blazed with color, his gaze hot.
She’d seen lust before. This marked the first time that she hadn’t seen any disgust or hatred beneath it.
“Thank you,” she said again, amazed by the evenness of her voice when everything inside her trembled.
“Inspector.” He inclined his head, then looked beyond her to the stairs.
And as she turned, the trembling stopped. Her legs were steady as she walked to the steps, her mind focused.
“Tell me, captain: Did you plan to assist her, or undress her?” she heard his companion ask. Trahaearn didn’t reply, and Mina didn’t look back at him.
Even the pull of the Iron Duke was not stronger than death.
Meljean was raised in the middle of the woods, and hid under her blankets at night with fairy tales, comic books, and romances…and that pretty much explains everything about her. Meljean is the author of the Guardians paranormal romance series, and the Iron Seas steampunk romance series. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.
Heroes are always a complex subject, especially in fiction and particularly in romantic fiction. On the surface of it, they seem simple. The hero is the good guy with the perfect moral compass, who always does what’s right and gets the girl. Right?
Yeah, I suppose. But, being honest? That’s the sort of hero who bores me to tears. I don’t like reading them and I sure as eggs is eggs don’t like writing them. A writer has to like his or her hero, and even fall in love with them a little themselves, otherwise how can we do their story any justice or even write a story that is credible?
My heroes are usually deeply conflicted, not perfect, and even sometimes can be considered down-right bastards. But deep within, there is something there that is redeemable. Something about them which is just waiting for the right circumstance, and the right woman to come along to make them shine, or show them the way to being the man they want to be, and of course, the hero I want to write about.
Let me share with you my thoughts on one of my favourite heroes. I make no secret of the fact I am a Jensen Ackles fan. I’ve been hooked since watching him play on Dark Angel with Jessica Alba. But my favourite role of his has to be Dean Winchester.
Like my heroes, on the surface Dean isn’t hero material. He’s rough, violent, has questionable morals when it comes to women (okay, the lad’s got the morals of an alley cat at times) and has a more meaningful link with his car than most people. He’s a liar, a conman and for a good portion of the series’es (how the hell do you make series plural anyway?) he’s wanted for murder.
If we dig a little deeper though, there is something compelling and actually heart-rending about the character. He lost his mother at a very young age, but not young enough that he doesn’t remember her like his brother, and grew up dealing with his Dad’s one-man war against everything that goes bump in the night.
He didn’t have a normal childhood, instead moved from pillar to post as John Winchester hunted, and being responsible for his little brother for large periods of time. Both boys were brought up with the knowledge that the monster under the bed isn’t a story, but is real, and how to kill it in a variety of bloody and brutal ways.
As the story progresses, we see different facets of Dean’s character revealed like little gems. His ability to kill can’t be questioned, and he’d rather take that on himself than let his brother do it and suffer agony over it. He spent time in hell and started the apocalypse, but he fights harder than anyone to put that right.
The sweetest episodes for me are the ones were we see what Dean actually wants. Far from the gung-ho, action-driven lifestyle he has, and which most men would kill for in their dreams, he wants a home and family. He wants to be normal.
However, when the shit hits the fan, and the world is about to end…even though he can’t do anything and the very attempt will probably kill him…he doesn’t back down. He faces down the devil himself to try and save his brother.
Violent, egotistical, arrogant…determined to do right, unbelievably noble and sweet as all hell. That’s why Dean Winchester is one of my favourite heroes.
Mina Carter Bio:
Mina Carter was born and raised in Middle Earth (otherwise known as the Midlands, England). After a slew of careers ranging from logistics to land-surveying she can now be found in the wilds of Leicestershire with her husband and young daughter…the true boss of the family.
Suffering the curse of eternal curiosity Mina never tires of learning new skills which has led to Aromatherapy, Corsetry, Chain-maille making, Welding, Canoeing, Shooting, and pole-dancing to name but a few. A veteran Star Trek RPGer, she’s run both games and groups of games but now finds her home in Bravo Fleet, one of the internet’s oldest Star Trek simm groups.
She juggles being a mum, working full time and writing, tossing another ball in the air with her cover artwork. For Mina, writing time is the wee hours of the morning before anyone wakes up and starts making demands, or any spare minute that can be begged, bought or conned.
Her first stories were penned at age 11, when she used a stationery set meant for Christmas thank you letters to write stories instead. More recently, she wrote for her own amusement and to save on outrageous monthly book bills. Now she’s totally addicted and needs her daily writing fix or heads roll!