Expanded Free Read: Bloodgate

Now available for free download at Smashwords, the short fantasy romance tale (7,600 words) “Well of Sky” has been expanded and renamed “Bloodgate” to help celebrate Tecun’s upcoming release.  This story will be available at Amazon too — I’ll update those links once the short story is available (and marked as free, which takes a little while).

Blurb:

As a child, Lady Jade Mirror was tossed into the Sacred Cenote to appease the gods.  She survived, but whatever message the gods gave her has been forgotten as she struggles to return to a normal life.   Now drought threatens to destroy the once-great city of Itza’s Well and an eclipse may claim the sun for all time.  Unless Lady Jade Mirror is willing to make the greatest sacrifice of all.

Friday Snippet: Lady Wyre’s Regret

Sorry for my absense the last few days.  I’ve been working on more edits for Vicki (YOURS TO TAKE) and this weekend I’ll be tackling line edits for Tecun (THE BLOODGATE WARRIOR) so it’s been a bit hectic around here!

This is the final section of the free read prequel (previous snippet), Lady Wyre’s Regret, that I currently have.  My goal is to intrigue people enough to go in search of Lady Doctor Wyre – not provide a complete short story…while still balancing a satisfying ending.  What do you think about this final section?  Is it satisfying without giving away too much?  Or do you feel robbed that no actual consummation happens…?

Sig healed so rapidly that it scared her.  Before Charlotte’s eyes, his skin seemed to knit together.  Within a matter of hours, the fever had raged in him so hotly she’d feared the chills would break his bones, but suddenly broke into a sweat and left him sleeping like a baby.

My assemblers not only repaired the damage to his heart, but compressed the normal healing time into hours, not weeks. 

After just forty eight hours, she was having a hard time keeping him in bed.  Which was why she’d left him tied up.

“I have to see if the bounty hunter tracked us down!”

He’d given up on a reasonable tone of voice, but his increased volume only made her arch a brow at him.  No one had ever been able to intimidate her by yelling.  “We’ve already scavenged everything useable from the wreckage and I went over it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure nothing was broadcasting any sort of electronic signal.  I’d use the Razari crystal to destroy the entire ship but I’m afraid that hot of a fire would draw unwanted attention.  If the bounty hunter was able to track our crash, he’ll still have to brave blizzards and snow drifts to get here, and I’m assured by Gage that no one is foolish enough to brave these woods until spring.”

“That information is only good if you trust Gage and I trust no one.”

Obviously not even me. 

The flat tone of his voice combined with the blank empty-eyed stare finally made her lose her temper.  She slammed the datapad down on the bedside table and poked him in the stomach hard enough he grunted.  “That man has done everything possible to help us.  You’d better not even think about killing him.”

“He’s a loose end.  If the Queen’s Ravens find him, he will talk, eventually.  I don’t care how much you like him.”

Mild irritation flamed into full-fledged fury, fed by anxiety and stress of the last few days.  Where his volume went up, she pitched her voice low and vicious.  “Do you honestly think I’m nothing but a fluff-brained chit out on her first Season?”

She poked him again for good measure.  “Gage has agreed to go on an expedition with some of his aboriginal friends far to the west as soon as the snows begin to thaw.  He’d already planned to join them—we just moved up his timetable.  He won’t be here for anyone to torture.  We won’t be here either, even if I have to keep you tied up and drag you by your hair!”

Now it was his turn to arch a brow at her with surprise.

Shame churned in her stomach.  Here she’d pinned him down, trapped him against his will after everything he’d done to help her, and then she abused him when he was hurt and unable to defend himself.

“I can’t help being suspicious of everyone,” he said slowly, eyes narrowing in on her reaction.  Because he was watching so carefully, she refrained from wincing or dropping her gaze.  “Besides, you could drag me around by much more willing body parts than my hair.  And if you don’t know that I trust you after you saved me during the crash and healed me, I don’t know what else I can say to convince you.  So what’s really bothering you?”

She put on a clinical air and picked up the datapad, even though the numbers on it made her heart go cold and heavy in her chest.  “You’re recovering rapidly.”

“So I see,” he said dryly.  “Considering I was knocking on death’s door, I hardly see why that’s a problem.”

She’d run scan after scan, trying to make sense of what was happening inside his body.  Staring down at the numbers, her eyes burned hot and dry.  I learned nothing from my mistake with Majel.  I shouldn’t have risked another human experiment.  It’s too risky.  Dear God, what have I done to him?

She dragged her gaze up to his face and made herself tell him every gory detail.  “I injected you with an invention I call my assemblers, which are extremely tiny nanobots that work inside the body.  I’m afraid they’re working a little too… well.”

He didn’t appear alarmed that microscopic robots were roaming around inside his body.  “I’m not complaining, Charlie.  I’m thankful to be alive, whatever you’ve done.”

She sighed heavily.  “I made the mistake of leaving them inside my first subject indefinitely.  They integrated themselves into her biological systems to the point where they couldn’t be safely extracted.  I thought to counteract that risk with you by recalling the assemblers as soon as they’d repaired your heart, but I can’t, Sig.  I’m sorry.  Your heart was too damaged to beat on its own without them.”

He gave a brief jerk on the rope binding his right hand to the bed, as though he reflexively reached to touch his chest.  “It’s still beating, though.  I feel it.”

“They’re reinforcing your heart, forcing it to pump, but…”  She hesitated, her mouth dried with decaying dust.  “They won’t stop there.  You’ve already received miraculous healing.  Your strength has returned, if not increased from even before the accident.”

“What else?”

His voice remained even and calm, as though they talked about a fine new carriage equipped with the latest racing technology, not his life.  “I don’t know!  I don’t know what else they’re capable of.  I’m going to need to extract a few and download as much data as possible so I can figure out the best way to proceed.”

“So they’ll still respond to your programming.”

She nodded, relieved that he wasn’t horrified at what she’d done, and yet also crippled with her own guilt.  “I don’t know how long they’ll run, Sig, let alone what they’ll do now that you’re out of danger.”

“Your other subject,” he said with emphasis, confirming he knew exactly who her first test subject had been, “is still living.  I’m not concerned, but if we have a problem, the famous and dashing Lord Regret has the most talented and brilliant Lady Doctor Wyre at his disposal.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” she said each word low but vehement.  “You asked me to let you to die, but I couldn’t.  Not after you’d risked so much to save me.”

“No regrets, Charlie” he whispered, twisting his body toward hers.

He curled his lower body around hers and her determined guilt was shaken by his very evident interest.  Oh dear.  He very well can’t be that incapacitated if he’s aroused, yet here I’ve kept him trapped for days in bed.

She reached up to untie his hands.

“Leave it,” he said in a husky voice that fired her blood.  “I like being bound for you.”

Sliding her palm over his bare chest, she watched the darkness spread in his eyes.  “This is all very new to me, but I admit, the idea has merit.”

He nudged harder against her back and let out a soft groan that tightened her body.  I wonder what sort of sounds I can draw from him if I stripped him nude and stroked every inch of him with my mouth.

As if he heard her thoughts, he groaned louder.  “Charlie.”

She leaned down and rubbed her mouth against his, letting her breath become a caress.  “Sig?”

“When we’re away from here and you’re safe, I hope very much that you’ll experiment on me some more.”

Friday Snippet: Lady Wyre’s Regret

Continuing the free read prequel to Lady Doctor Wyre:

Sig was awake enough to know that he shouldn’t be alive, but he couldn’t seem to make his body work.  His eyes refused to cooperate and his head weighed like a ton of bricks.  He fought harder, swimming laboriously through layers of gray fog.

“Shhh.”  A gentle hand touched his face, but that only made him struggle harder.

Charlie.  I have to get her to safety.

It took all his strength, but he finally worked his eyes open.  She hovered over him, her dark hair smooth and tidy.  How could she look so elegant after crashing on a barely-populated colony?  He tried to sit up, or at least lift his head, but nothing responded.  He couldn’t feel his fingers or toes, couldn’t sense whether he was cold or hot, dressed or nude, on a bed of feathers…or nails.

She leaned down and pressed her mouth to his ear.  He felt that much at least.  “We’re safe, for now.  A colonist named Gage has taken us in.  As best as I can tell, he’s living in the wilderness between Bostonia and York.”

“Henry.”

She sat back up and raised her voice slightly.  “Yes, your name is Henry, and my name is Charlotte Wilder.  Do you remember now?”

A man loomed into Sig’s vision, a large, broad shadow that dwarfed her.  Danger sent shards of ice through his body.  No, that was his heart pounding harder.  His heart.  Hadn’t it been cut all to hell?  What did she do to me?

“Well, I’ll be, he’s awake,” Gage said with a huge smile.  “I didn’t think he was going to make it.”

“He’s not out of the woods yet.”  Charlie pulled at something on his chest.  From the sting and tug, it must be a bio-bandage.  He welcomed any sensation, even pulled chest hairs.  “But he’s doing much better.  How do you feel, Henry?”

“Danger.”  His lips fumbled the word, but he was sure she understood.

Humming as though they hadn’t crashed, he wasn’t on death’s door, and a huge wild man didn’t loom behind her with God only knew what kind of weapon, she prodded his chest with gentle but sure fingers.  “Yes, you’re still in danger, but the wound is healing nicely.”

He gritted his teeth, silently screaming at the stranger to go away so he could talk to her.  There’s so much we need to do.  If the bounty hunter tracks us down, while I’m sick and weak…

“Everything’s taken care of.”  She leaned down, her gaze heavy with significance as though she knew he was desperate to gain information.  “All you need to do is heal.  Right, Gage?”

“Aye, Miss Wilder.  I wiped away our tracks and fetched the other things you asked for.  Not much I could do about the debris other than toss some branches on the hull to disguise it.  The winter snows have even York piled up to their ears.  No one’s going to be coming out here any time soon to look for you.”

He knows too much.  Sig tried to convey the urgency with only his eyes.  Don’t trust him.  Don’t trust anyone.

Maybe all this concentrating was doing his frozen limbs some good, because he managed to shift his head enough to look down at himself.  Pale pink skin covered his chest, not a gruesome gaping wound.  Dread tightened like a fist in the pit of his stomach.  How long have I been unconscious to heal like this?

Terror pounded in his skull and he struggled harder, thrashing his entire body.  We have to get away from here!

Charlie pressed against him, using her slender body to try and still his struggles.  His strength ran out quickly, leaving him shaking and so sick with worry he wanted to weep.  I’ve failed her.  Snows or no, the Queen’s Ravens won’t be far behind.

“Trust me, Henry.”  She kissed his cheek and rubbed her palms on his shoulder in a soothing circular motion.  Bare skin.  He felt that much.  “I’ve got everything in hand.”

“I can’t move,” he whispered, his voice more broken than he cared to admit.  “I don’t even feel my arms.”

“I’m so sorry, but I had to tie you down.  You thrashed too much with fever and I was afraid you were going to harm yourself even worse.  Let me loosen the ties and see if you feel better.”

Tied.  Thank God his eyes were closed, so she wouldn’t see the horrible darkness that knowledge must be spreading in his eyes.  He hadn’t been tied up in a very long time.

Dark memories threatened from his childhood.  Memories he’d killed a long time ago.  He’d always thought those feelings of helplessness would stir him into a murderous rage, but all he felt…

Whatever bound his wrists loosened.  His fingers tingled, cramped muscles stretched, and a surge of enormous relief washed over him.  Peace.  That’s what this feeling was.  After all the suffering he’d survived as a child and the countless executions he’d committed in effort to blot out those memories, he’d never felt this completely at peace.

He flexed his fingers and turned his head to see his arm stretched out on a pillow.  A strip of white cotton still tied his left wrist to the simple wooden headboard.  His other arm sagged, too, still bound but looser and more comfortable.

Sensation coursed through his body, tingling like fire ants nibbling his extremities.  Charlie finished loosening the tie and turned back, leaning down over his chest.  “Better?”

He closed his eyes and nodded.  So much better.  Impossibly better.  He’d hated the last woman who made him helpless.  Every time he accepted a contract on a female mark, it was her face he saw when he terminated the target.  He often made wry jokes about all his regrets, but in truth, his only true regret was that he hadn’t killed her himself.

So why don’t I hate Charlie?

Friday Snippet: Lady Wyre’s Regret

As promised, I need to share the rest of what I’ve done for the free prequel to Lady Doctor Wyre — Lady Wyre’s Regret — and see what you think about the ending.  Of course as I give each snippet another light editing before I post it here, I’ll probably think of something else I want to add anyway.  *rolls eyes at self*  We’ll see how it goes.

I posted some bits of this during NaNoWriMo but I’ll back up a bit to the last “formal” posting here, continuing forward into the “assassination.”  It might be a re-read for some of you that were following along through NaNoWriMo, but I think the continuity and revisit will help me decide!

Waving regally, Charlotte paused on the front steps of Wyreton and awaited her public assassination.  Her heartbeat ramped to supersonic speeds, but she managed to smile for the millions of Britannians watching the Solstice Eclipse festivities.  Cameras flashed, broadcasting her departure for the royal ball.  As the Duchess of Wyre, she’d be fashionably late.

Eternally late, if Lord Regret manages to pull off this charade.

She heard the shocked whispers and gasps before the assassin’s blade dug into her neck.  This time he didn’t spare any pressure, deliberately drawing enough blood to leave DNA evidence on her spotless white marble.

It must look authentic beyond any reasonable doubt.

Drawing in a deep breath, she let a shrill scream echo across the plaza.  She clawed at his arm locked about her throat so tightly she couldn’t breathe.  Combined with the rigid corset, she was afraid she might actually pass out.

Pain burned across her throat and she tried to scream again, but she didn’t have enough air.  She hadn’t counted on being so terrified.  Her orders had been explicit.  He must rough her up enough to make it look real.  He must draw her blood, obviously wounding her severely enough that the general public would believe her dead.

Yet she couldn’t help that niggling doubt.  What if Majel had gotten to him?  What if someone had upped her price, making the amount on her head too attractive for the famous assassin to resist?  Every man has a price.  What is Lord Regret’s?

He picked her up, manhandling her down the impressive stairs to her gleaming carriage.  Her shoe fell off and she had the inane urge to laugh.  Cinderella would be late to the ball.  Would Prince Charming find her shoe and come to her rescue?

Lord Regret slung her inside the carriage so hard she fell face first against the floor.  Her head rebounded off the wall and for a moment, everything went black.  Outside, screams and chaos did nothing to help her regain her senses.  She tasted blood and her head throbbed.

The flash of heat stirred her numb limbs to life.  Fire exploded about the carriage, created by the Razari crystal she’d studied.  A deliberate message to Majel, as well as a plausible source for the execution to which she could claim ignorance.  Someone had to want Charlotte dead other than the Queen, enough to make her doubt Charlotte’s hand in her own execution.

Of anyone, the Razari would most want her dead for what she’d accidentally done to their planet.

Smoke choked her, making it impossible to see.  She ran her hands over the floor of the carriage, trying to find the escape hatch.  I have to get out before it starts moving.  Damnation, where’s the latch?

Panic made her hands tremble.  Sweat trickled down her face, the heat scalding her skin.  The stench of scorched silk and melting metal burned her throat.  Finally, she found the latch, hefted the small door open, and jumped through to blissfully cool darkness.  She pulled the hatch shut after her and nearly collapsed into a heap of smoldering skirts.

Too close.  Too real.  Her mind shrilled, her nerves raw with fear, but she forced her body to move.  She had to get off Wyreton lands as soon as possible.  Majel wouldn’t delay the search long, even if they managed to extinguish the blaze.

Her greatest fear was that someone would put out the fire before it managed to destroy the carriage.  The Razari crystals were powerful, flashing so hot that metal began melting almost immediately.  Definitely hot enough to combust a body into nothing but ashes, indistinguishable from the remains of the carriage.

I hope.

No one outside of Wyreton knew there were extensive tunnels beneath the estate, and her own people would never betray her House, not even to the Queen.  Yet she daren’t leave any trace behind, just in case.

From her reticule, she pulled out a thin canister of bio-bandage to seal shut the assassin’s wound.  She yearned for a mirror to see how badly she’d scar, resisting her vanity that insisted she cover the ugly cut with a scarf.  She didn’t feel much damage.  Sig knew very well what he was about.

She had no lady’s maid to help her strip off the gown, so she heaved her skirts up about her waist, picked up her remaining slipper, and ran down the corridor in her stockings with nothing but a hand on the wall to guide her.  No light, in case someone was watching.  No sound.  No trail for Majel to follow.

Once well away from the house, she exited the tunnel in a dim, empty stable.  No horses lived in these stalls, but Charlotte—and her mother before her—had always been careful and suspicious with private caches and safehouses throughout Londonium.  With ruthless House Krowe in control of Britannia, a lady never knew when she’d have to make a run for it, and a Wyre always went in style.

Donning a full-length cape, she hopped on a motorized scooter—her own invention, of course—and headed for their meeting place at the Thames dock.  She checked her timepiece and pressed the accelerator.  Regret had been adamant about the time.  Once the accident happened, the docks would close down within minutes just to make sure no one escaped.  Majel would claim she wanted to capture the assassin who’d dared harm her physician, but she’d also want to ensure Charlotte wasn’t escaping the net at the same time.  Five to ten minutes would be all they had to get out of the Britannian airlocks.

She skidded to a halt at the dock, Pier 371 as he’d ordered.  The motor started in a rumbling roar of smoke.  Oh, dear, the Captain could surely use my assistance in fine-tuning his engines.  Perhaps he’ll allow me to make a few modifications as we sail…

The ship lifted off and she stared at it a moment, dumbfounded.  She opened her mouth to shout, but it would do no good.  No one would hear over the engines, and she daren’t draw attention to herself.  How ironic that she’d been betrayed by her own assassin.  “Dead” wouldn’t matter if she couldn’t get off Britannia.  There was only so long she could hide, so many favors she could claim, so many bribes…before the Queen’s Ravens found her.

She squeezed her eyes shut and fought for calm.  Think, Wyre.  Think!

A hand closed around her arm and she nearly shrieked like a fishmonger in Cheapside.  Her eyes flew open and met Regret’s knowing smirk.

“Doubting the trustworthiness of your assassin, Lady Wyre?  Surely not.”

He guided her further down the dock to a much smaller ship.  Fighting back shock and relief, she stared doubtfully at the tiny boat.  Would it even be large enough for the two of them?  Then an overwhelming sense of loss washed over her, weakening her knees.  My research.  Lost.  What if it falls into hands worse than Majel’s?  Her voice trembled as badly as her hands.  “My trunks?”

Inclining his head, he waved her aboard, smiling at her torn stockings and slightly scorched silk.  “Already aboard, Your Grace.  I thought it best to have my own red herrings.  Lord Regret would make almost as an attractive lure as Lady Wyre for the footpads and pirates lurking about the docks.  Shall we be away?”

Charlotte spared one last glance at the glorious city stretched out along the Thames.  The Tower of Londonium rose like a gloomy dark sentinel against the brightly-lit night.  Even at this late hour, crows flew about the tower, their eerie caws echoing like ghosts in the nearly silent city.  Britannians everywhere were pausing in their chores and celebrations to watch with awe and not a little dread as the small distant planet, Americus, began to slide in front of the silvered moon.  For almost an hour, the moon would be completely hidden in the dark of that planet.

While I slip far, far away.

“I’ll not regret it if I never see Londonium again.”

Halloween Free Read

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I thought people might enjoy a short, creepy free read today, so I worked on a secret project this weekend.

A word of warning:  I’m not a graphic artist like Dawn, Deena, Silvia, or Soleil.  So while I did purchase stock to make a cover, it’s not “art” or anything unique.  However, with My Beloved Sis’s help, I think I made something simple yet appropriately creepy.

This is my short story, “Broken Angel:  A Zombie Love Story”  previously published in Drollerie Press’s horror anthology, Things That Go Bump in the Night.  We were in a DP chat (back in 2007 or 2008) talking about zombies (like we always did!) and someone ::cough, Deena, cough:: challenged me to write a zombie romance.

I wouldn’t really call this “romance” but it is a love story and it definitely involves zombies.  I hope it makes you shiver delightfully this wonderful Halloween!

Click on the cover to dowload pdf.  I’ve also created epub and mobi for Kindle (although I haven’t tested the Kindle version yet – Littlest Monster ran off with my Kindle).

P.S. I might load this up to Smashwords and Amazon as practice for the Shanhasson books coming soon, so Broken Angel may not be available for free very long!

Vote for Ritual Ink at ARe

Voting is now open for the Just One Bite paranormal romance contest at All Romance E-books!  You must be signed in at ARe to vote, but there are TONS of great reads!

Here’s a bit about my contribution, “Ritual Ink”:

Known as “Dirty Deeds” for the dark violence she commits at the Church’s orders, Catherine is a half-demon assassin.  For years, she’s been paired with Father Liam MacRae, who tattoos artistic designs laced with holy water into her skin to help cage her demon.  However, the spells are failing quicker than ever, and Catherine fears the worst.  One of these nights when she goes to the priest for healing, she’ll accidentally unleash her succubus.

On him.

Unbeknownst to her, Liam gave up his oath of chastity when he joined the secret brotherhood.  When violence ceases to keep her hungry demon satisfied, he’s more than eager to feed her passionate side.  If he can overcome her reluctance to commit dirty deeds with a former priest.

Return to Shanhasson – Spicy Excerpt

 

Return to Shanhasson, book 3 of The Shanhasson Trilogy, a Blood and Shadows book available at Drollerie Press.  For more of my free reads, check out this page.

“I thought your Green Land baths very strange after our steamtents, but I enjoy a long soak, especially when you’re at my side.”

She stirred and stretched her arms over her head, arching her back in blatant invitation. “Why don’t you lie down on the edge and let me begin my massage?”

Eyes heavy lidded, he ran his gaze down her body, but he complied, his mighty arms levering his big body out of the water. “I thought you wanted to give me such a bath that I would lose control.”

“I am. On your stomach, please.”

Laughing, he stretched out as she wished, carefully shifting his weight so he didn’t lie completely flat on his belly. “I can’t fully comply for obvious reasons.”

“Well, let’s see what I can do about that,” she purred.

Dunking her head beneath the water, she surged up out of the pool and straddled his lower back.

Na’lanna.” His voice was rather strained. “I don’t believe this is a very good starting position. One of us is backwards and it is not you.”

“Patience, my heart. I want to give you a massage first.”

“I don’t want a massage.” Heat rumbled through his voice that had nothing to do with anger. “I want you. Preferably this very moment.”

Selecting the smoky amber vial, she popped off the cork and sniffed it carefully. Exotic scents washed over her: roasted sticks nearly burnt, dark, sultry sandalwood, and beneath, a feral musk that she couldn’t identify.

According to Benton, the desert dwellers of Keldar threw sticks and seeds onto a stone, let the natural heat of the sun roast them, and then they tossed the burnt spices into both their tea and oil. Since their drink of choice was called “Fire Tea,” the oil had captured her imagination, for obvious reasons.

She poured a small amount into her hands and rubbed it into her skin, testing it on herself. The oil heated immediately, releasing a mouth-watering aroma of exotic sandalwood. Whether the oil heated her skin or her skin heated the oil, she didn’t know, but the spreading fire was unmistakable. It didn’t hurt, though, so she smoothed her palms from the small of Rhaekhar’s back up the slabs of muscle to his shoulders. Kneading her way across his shoulders, she said nothing, waiting to see his reaction.

“Great Vulkar, woman, what is that?”

“Fire Oil,” she replied innocently. She didn’t know what the Keldari called it. “Doesn’t it smell delicious?”

“Forget how it smells.” He sucked in his breath and shifted beneath her, his back humping like a horse getting ready to buck her off. “No wonder it’s called Fire Oil; my flesh is on fire.”

“You don’t like it?”

He shuddered, his big hands fisted in the soft mat. “If I were inside you, I’d like it much better.”

Stretching out on top of him, she rubbed her breasts against his back, spreading the oil into her skin. Deliberately, she moaned, tormenting him with her own sounds of desire. It did feel like fire spread across her skin. The scent burrowed deeper in her body, twisting and stirring her hunger. She gripped his shoulder in her jaws and slowly sank her teeth into the heavy muscle until he growled and moved beneath her, his hands sliding back to tug at her ankles and calves.

Her lips and tongue heated with the oil, buzzing and tingling as she rubbed her mouth across the broad expanse of his back. “You smell good enough to eat.”

Wriggling lower on his thighs, she licked a path down his spine, smoothing her palms up and down his flanks. She bit him again, hard enough he groaned so loudly the Blood must surely hear it. “Remember our challenge. You’re not going to lose control, are you?”

“That depends.” Panting, he raised his head enough to glare at her over his shoulder. Sweat dripped into his eyes, and his hair was dark and heavy with steam. “Are you finally going to mark my arse?”

She’d marked Gregar’s ass years ago on the night of their claiming, and Rhaekhar had long regretted that he’d lost that competition, even though he wore many other marks on his throat and chest. “That was my general intention.”

He buried his face in his forearm and cursed, muttering beneath his breath so she couldn’t make out his words. She took that as permission. But first…

She poured more oil into her hands and kneaded it into both cheeks and down his hamstrings. Lady above, she’d never seen a finer warrior. Hot velvet skin stretched tight over sculpted granite, he was a complex mixture of explosive power and incredible gentleness. Although there was nothing gentle about his hoarse growl when she reached under his raised hip to wrap her oiled hand around him.

“I’m going…” He arched his back, lifting his rump so he could thrust in her hand. “To pour…that cursed oil…all over you…while I hold you down…and let your Blood…lick it off.”

Lady, he might as well have doused her head to toe in the sizzling oil. Immediately, her mind pictured it: Rhaekhar lying at her head, pinning her arms against him, while auburn and golden brown heads moved eagerly down her body.

Using his own challenge words, she retorted, “You’re welcome to try.”

She struck, biting deep, gripping his cheek in a punishing bite until blood filled her mouth. Rich with strength, spiced with love, his blood stoked a fire in her that had nothing to do with Keldari oil.

Whatever he meant to say was lost on a roar.

He rolled over so hard she tumbled off to the side and nearly spilled the oil. “Come here.”

“The challenge.” She couldn’t seem to catch her breath. “Do I win?”

He slammed his arms down to the mat, fists at his side. Eyes blazing, he ground out, “Continue.”

“Are you sure?”

He shot her a dark look. “Be wary with that oil, na’lanna. When I come inside you, it’ll spread like wildfire on your tender flesh, too.”

Holding his gaze, she tipped the vial over his chest. “I’m counting on it.”

Free Read: Lady Wyre’s Regret

I’ve already posted the entire short story as “Friday Snippets” here on the blog, but here’s the free read compiled into a single file.  Several of you indicated interest in continuing the story about Lady Wyre’s “assassination,” soI hope to continue writing parts of this prequel over the next few months.

Lady Wyre’s Regret (pdf)

I also have mobi and epub versions, but for some reason WP won’t allow me to upload them.  If you’d like one of these alternative formats, just e-mail me (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) and I’ll send you the desired version.