Friday, March 6, 2015

Bec McMaster's Of Silk And Steam is finally here!

As the fifth book in the London Steampunk series, I've been waiting a while to tell the story of Aramina Duvall, the icy Duchess of Casavian, and Leo Barrons, the illegitimate heir of the Duke of Caine. 

Both characters appeared in Kiss of Steel, the first book in my London Steampunk series, as mortal enemies, their relationship growing over the course of the previous four books until they finally get their romantic showdown in Of Silk And Steam

And it is epic! Picture a Romeo & Juliet type family feud, a battle of wits - and seduction - between an ice princess and the only man who dares to scale her walls, and all-out war as a group of roguish and determined revolutionaries take on the cruel Prince Consort. 

Blurb:

When her beloved father was assassinated, Lady Aramina swore revenge. The man responsible is well beyond her grasp, but his dangerously seductive heir, Leo Barrons, is fair game. When Mina obtains evidence proving that Leo is illegitimate, she has the means to destroy both the killer and his son, a man who troubles her heart and tempts her body.

A woman of mystery, Mina's long driven Leo crazy with glimpses of a fiery passion that lurks beneath her icy veneer. He knows she's hiding something, and he's determined to unravel her layer by silken layer. He just doesn't expect the beautiful liar to be the key to overthrowing the corrupt prince consort… or to saving his own carefully walled-off heart.


To celebrate the release, here's one of my favourite excerpts of Of Silk and Steam:

Barrons’ gaze softened, his face lowering. “If I recall, you owe me a kiss.”

“You owe me a note,” Mina shot back, her hands clutching the edge of the bath and her heart hammering.

“A kiss,” he repeated, “if I managed to get you out of there safely.” His face lowered toward hers, candlelight turning his skin a delicious golden hue. Thick lashes shadowed his eyes and a strand of hair fell over his forehead. “The note was for another payment indeed.”

Her whole body burned. The fist in her hair tightened, as if warning her that he had her at his mercy. “I’m already naked,” she replied flatly.

“But clothed in bubbles, my dear.” That smooth voice turned molten. “Bubbles and candlelight.”

The tension between them changed. She could feel it, thickening the air around her. The bastard was daring her, a little smile playing around his lips. Knowing that she did not want to pay her dues.

Mina’s heart pounded. “So be it.” She forced her whole body to relax, her fingers releasing their claw hold on the lip of the bath. “You’ve earned your kiss. I do hope it’s all you imagined.”

Reaching up she slid a hand through his hair, tearing it loose from its velvet thong. Palm flat against his scalp, she dragged his head down, tilting her lips to his.

They were softer than she’d expected, melting over her own and sucking her breath into his lungs. The intimacy of that thought burned between her thighs, a hollow, empty ache that seemed almost alive...waiting for something more. She brushed her mouth against his once. Twice. Licked at his tongue, then sucked it into her mouth as she slid both hands up to cup his cheeks.

Each sensation ignited something dangerous within her; the scrape of his stubble against her chin, the firm pressure on her hair as he held her locked in place... submitting to the mastery of his kiss. It shouldn’t have mattered. She shouldn’t have felt anything, but something inside her kindled to life at the way he pinned her down. A fever burned beneath her skin. It made her aware of just how large he was, how strong, how easily he held her down...

Want kindled in her. A fierce desire, not unlike the rush of need through her veins when her hunger rose. She wanted to drag him into the bath with her, to let him put hands and mouth to her body, to fill this unknown void within her. Dangerous things to think, to feel, for she shouldn’t be feeling anything at all.

Mina broke the kiss with a gasp.

Barrons’ chest rose and fell, his eyes heavy-lidded. His fist in her hair kept her there as they stared at each other, and then those devastating lips curled in a slow, entirely too-pleased smile.

“Was the payment to your satisfaction, my lord?”

“Worth the risk of life and limb?” His gaze dropped to her mouth, dark eyes blistering in their intensity. “Yes.” His voice roughened. “Worth dying for.”

“No kiss is worth dying for.”

“Then you’ve never had the right kind of kiss.”




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Hope you enjoyed my little excerpt! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Michael's Story arrives in "Bring On the Dusk"

by M.L. Buchman

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It's funny when you first write a memorable character, you have no idea that you were doing it; at least I didn't. Colonel Michael Gibson appeared in Night Stalkers #1 The Night Is Mine as a small character intended to tell us that the heroine Emily Beale was really good at what she did.

No other character, other than Emily herself, has elicited as much fan mail, not across a dozen titles!

So here, at long last, is Michael Gibson's story of his path to true love.

Michael, of course, does nothing the way anyone else would. He can't even do a meet-cute like anyone else, but then neither can helicopter pilot Claudia Jean Casperson.

-----

The landing zone was a total shit-storm, about like a typical training scenario except this time the bad guys were trying to kill the good guys with live rounds.

The air was a thick with the hail of small arms fire as Claudia swung her helo wide to clear the streamers of fire that punched out the windows of the building to all sides. She settled as close as she dared beside the southeast wall of the building.

Merchant threw up a world of dust as it dropped in beside her.

Two men came running toward them, but she could see the small infrared patches on their shoulders that identified them as friendlies so she kept her hands on the controls rather than grabbing for her weapon. They were also each carrying large heavy sacks. The bigger guy, and he was way big and broad-shouldered, headed for Merchant.

The smaller man tossed his bag on top of her own gear in the rear and returned to the group of bound men on the ground.

Two more friendlies moved to squat at the corners of the building and were laying down cover fire against anyone who tried to circle around the building to the helicopters. Anyone remaining out in the compound had the two gun platforms circling above to keep them occupied.

There was the harsh roar of a mini-gun sluicing down five thousand rounds a minute interrupted by the harsh sizzle of rockets and matching explosions just moments later.

For now, they were in a quiet bubble behind the shield of the building, but it would only last another few seconds.

Claudia let go of the controls and took up her weapon to guard for approaches over the desert.

The big guy-little guy team moved to cut the prisoners’ feet loose in pairs. They hustled their prisoner’s onto Merchant’s bench seats, tied them in place, and shot each with a tranquilizer injection into their necks. In moments, they had four tied and slumped bad guys on Merchant’s benches. The two friendlies who’d been working guard at the corners of the building clambered onto Merchant and the bird dusted off. The two soldiers continued providing cover from their positions aloft.

The other two soldiers started her way herding the last three prisoners.

On a quick sweep, she spotted a figure running toward them over a low dune beyond the camp.

No “friendly” infrared tags on their shoulder, and their weapon was up. She popped the safety and unleashed a three-shot burst. He cried out and fell to the ground.

By the time she turned back, they had the prisoners tied on and drugged out. The big guy sat on an outside bench and the smaller one slipped into her empty copilot seat.

At his nod she grabbed the controls and was out of there, staying low and racing directly away from the gun battle still roaring across the compound: the two attack choppers and the armed terrorists going at one another. Claudia knew it would be a very one-sided battle. There was a reason that “Death Waits in the Dark” was one of the Night Stalkers’ mottos.

She crested a dune and spotted an outlier guard in her infrared night vision. Someone lying on the back of the dune face, spread-eagled and holding a weapon.

“Shooter!” she called out. She needed both hands on the controls and this wasn’t a gunship; she had no weapon other than the one hanging across her chest.

Even as she spun to give the man in the copilot’s seat a better angle, he twisted in his seat and fired downward through the open door; two shots so close together that they almost sounded like one.

The man turned back, not even bothering to watch the results of his effort.

Though they were already moving at over fifty miles an hour, Claudia could see the bad guy on the ground convulse. His shot went wild and a rocket propelled grenade blew up the face of a dune.

Damn, she didn’t know anyone could really shoot like that. She was good, but that shot was insane.

Not wanting to hang around and see who else was lurking in the dunes, she rolled right to cut the shortest route back to the coast and laid down the hammer. Right at redline on the engine RPMs, she was outta there. Behind her she could see the bright flashes of the DAP Hawk and the attack Little Bird tearing up the camp. Merchant was just two rotor diameters off her port side.

Ripples of adrenaline raced through her body like shock waves from a bomb blast. Her old Marine SuperCobra was a pure attack helicopter. She flown plenty of protection runs during an exfiltration, but she’d never before flown transport right down in the thick of it. It was a whole different up-close-and-personal kind of ride that still had her heart pounding and her breath running short.

The man beside her didn’t say a word. He simply sat back, with his rifle laid across his chest.

He kept his hands lightly on the weapon, but closed his eyes as if he was perfectly comfortable and not just thirty seconds from a life-or-death mission. He’d been the one actually in the battle and she was the one being wound all the way up.

He began tapping the back of his helmet lightly against the back of his seat. It wasn’t frantic, like nerves. It was slow, almost gentle; a stark contrast to the shooter of a moment before.

“You okay?”

“Sure.” He kept up the tapping.

It was a rhythm she found herself echoing with one finger tapping against the cyclic control in her right hand.

“IMF,” he added softly.

IMF? I am fine. Probably. Everything in the military was an acronym and some made as little sense as that.

Though the IMF was also the Impossible Missions Force—the secret branch of the military in the Mission Impossible movies and Delta specialized in impossible missions just like the one falling rapidly behind them.

“You and Tom Cruise,” she kept her tone neutral. “Just fine.”

He stopped his tapping and turned to stare at her.

She ignored his searching attention.

In the exchange, she’d found his quiet rhythm. It was…the way an evening breeze might move through the Sonoran Desert of her youth in Arizona. Tap. Pause. Tap. Pause. Tap. It, gods, she could feel the harshest layers of the adrenaline draining slowly out of her system. Tap. Pause. Tap.

Time, which had been compressed out of all recognition, began to have meaning again.

Her heart rate had returned to normal by the time she crossed a final berm and was once again “feet wet” over the ocean. She climbed back up to fifty feet and trailed Merchant. The other two aircraft, finished with the camp, were formed up behind them. Now she could finally spare the attention to look at her companion clearly for the first time.

He’d finally turned back to watch forward. He seemed small only when compared to the big soldier who’d been with him and was perched on one of the outside benches. Sitting next to her, he looked to be her height, perhaps another inch or two taller.

MICH helmet, not a lot of heavy armor like she wore, and enough ammo to suppress a mid-sized city.

Four guys attacking an entire terrorist camp at sunset. Coming away with seven hostages and what she assumed were large sacks of intel.

Only one group was that bug-shit crazy. She’d never flown with them, only knew them by myth and rumor. In eight years of service Claudia couldn’t be sure if she’d ever even met one of them before.

Delta.

Scary bastards, making her damned glad they were on her side.

Still, Claudia made it a personal policy to steer well clear of scary bastards who were bug-shit crazy.

A policy she had no intention of changing.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A big hug for "Kiss Me Hello" by Grace Burrowes

Kiss Me Hello is the final novel in my Sweetest Kisses contemporary series (for now!), and I have to say, I do like this story. I kept the oldest brother--MacKenzie Knightley--for last, and let myself toss in a lot of story elements I'd saved back from the previous four titles.

We have a pair of one-ton draft horse hussies, a sulky teenage foster son with a heart of gold, a city gal trying to find her way without any urban sign posts, and a farm-boy-turned crack-shot lawyer who's given up on love.... almost.

I had such fun. Mac and Sid made brownies and chased loose horses, planted a big garden and leveled a vintage hog house (complete with two-seater in the back). They fell in love to the song of the peepers (c'mon Spring!) and found their happily ever after in a wildly cheering courtroom (this IS a romance, right?).

The family meddled shamelessly, the forces of darkness were overcome, and in pursuit of a happily ever after, our hero might have had to watch a princes movie or two (Shana Galen, represent!) and our heroine had to cut back on the caffeine. Sacrifice is always a part of a worthwhile character arc, after all.

If you'd like to read an excerpt from Kiss Me Hello, you can click here.

Excerpts from the previous stories are also available: Kiss and Tell (novella with a Scottish hero), Kiss for Luck (FREE! novella), A Single Kiss (Trent and Hannah's story), and The First Kiss (James and Vera's story).

If you were writing a novel, what's one quirky, fun, interesting factoid, aspect of your life, or challenging situation you'd include in your storyline? To two commenters, I'll send the entire Sweetest Kisses trilogy of novels.
 

 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

How I Desserted My Family

That's right, I said "desserted." With the double-s that means something delicious is in the works.

See, I'm getting close to a book deadline, which usually means I become less mentally present, unlikely to remember mealtimes, and prone to disappear into my office in the evenings. (Ok, I guess I mean "deserted" too.) My husband has become used to life with a writer, and my daughter is getting there.

Still, I figured I owed them a cake.

I love to bake, and I'm a sucker for recipes printed in the newspaper alongside pretty pictures. So when I saw a recipe for a cake made in a slow cooker, I had to try it. Look how pretty the picture! And cake! In a slow cooker! I didn't even know this was possible.

It was easy to mix up the batter, and after four hours in the slow cooker, it had steamed into something that sort of looked like it might be done. When it failed to turn neatly out of its pot, a friend and I took a kitchen spoon to it. Nothing like a good big scoop of cake, right?

Mr. R thought it smelled good, but the texture put him off. Little Miss R and I liked it, though I think there was too much butter in it. (I know. I can't believe I said that either.) Faced with beaucoup de leftovers, I sent the rest of the cake to Mr. R's workplace, where he said his coworkers approached a slow-cooker cake with trepidation. 

I suppose next time I ought to just bake a cake in the oven when I feel like making a dessert. But first? I have a new doughnut pan I want to try out. Yes! Doughnuts! Baked in the oven! If you guessed that I was convinced to buy this when I saw a picture of beautiful baked doughnuts in the newspaper, you have learned my quirks well.

How about you all--got any unusual dessert favorites? Or baked-doughnut recipe recommendations? I'm going to be cooking up the first batch this weekend, if my family allows another culinary experiment so soon after the slow-cooker cake.

Historical romance author Theresa Romain pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in the Midwest. Find her at theresaromain.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Proud Author Moments (plus chocolate fountains)


Being a writer is 90% writing/daydreaming/plotting/talking-thinking books and 10% reminding yourself the rest of the world exists, or so it seems to me. So last weekend, I took some time out to have a girl's weekend away with my mum and two sisters, just to reconnect.

Re-enactment of myself with
chocolate fountain
For Christmas, I'd gotten them tickets to Cirque du Soleil's Totem (and one for me too!), and mum had tickets to High Tea at the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne, so we definitely made a weekend of it.

The High Tea was amazing. They brought out little trays with scones and sandwiches, and you had your choice of champagnes and different tea varieties. I ate my little heart out... and then realised there was a dessert buffet! Instant regret over the sandwiches. You name it, and it was on the dessert buffet. They even had a chocolate fountain.


That night the streets were awash with thousands of people (over 500,000 to be more precise) for the White Nights, an art festival in which Melbourne blocks off the streets of its CBD for all manner of musicians, art displays and people. So. Many. People. I enjoyed it at first, but then there definitely came a moment when this little introvert needed some space. Back to the hotel for some time in the spa and girl talk.

The next day we got to indulge in my personal favourite activity: Stalking bookshops. As an author who lives in a small town in the country, it's a rare experience to get to walk into a bookstore and actually see your books on the shelf - plus a recommendation! This is the first time it's happened to me in Australia, apart from a specialty romance bookstore, so I count this as a definite achievement. I am now in Dymocks.

It's the first time we've all been away together in years, so it was nice to start a new tradition. Sometimes life gets so busy, that it's difficult to find time to catch up for these moments, and rare to just get away from everything - families, husbands, work etc. - and just hang out. It's nice to really sit down and chat with your girls and we've now decided that High Tea is definitely going to be on the menu again!
My pretties...

So I'm curious about what type of traditions everyone else out there shares in their families, or with their friends? You never know, I might need some new ideas for next time...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Court of Annwyn continues with a free read!

There are three more Annwyn books out this year (yay!)

And while the covers look very pretty they hide something darker as these three books look more closely at the banished fairies living in our world.

Darklings, kelpies and changelings with magic to die for.

After spending the first three books following the drama in Annwyn it was nice to bring the focus back to our world, especially after the plagues at the end of To Love a King. So there is a bit of a dystopian feel as the world recovers.

The best thing is if you haven’t read the first three books, you can jump in now and I have a free short story available to give you a taste of Annywn and my fairies.


The Tenth Life of Vicki Torres
A Court of Annwyn short story

Is he saving the cat or is the cat saving him?
Seth expected the world to end in wars and bombings, not in a plague. When he obeys his dying father and heads for their secret cabin in the mountains as arranged, he gets lonely so fast that he's willing to share his meager food with the stray that appears in the woods. But is the cat what she appears to be or is she something else entirely?

This story takes place during the plagues that happen in To Love a King (Court of Annwyn 3)

Read for free:
Amazon
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Barnes and Noble
iTunes
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Add to your Goodreads shelf

I hope you’ll join me as the Annwyn adventure continues this year!

SHONA HUSK is the author of the Shadowlands Series and the Court of Annwyn Series. You can find out more information about Shona and her edgy romances at www.shonahusk.com or follow her on Twitter @ShonaHusk, Facebook www.facebook.com/shonahusk or join her newsletter: http://mad.ly/signups/119074/join

 

 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why Vampires Were Perfectly Suited to the British Aristocracy in the Regency Era.




Hi, I'm Regency Paranomal Romance Author, Brooklyn Ann.

My books feature unconventional heroines finding unconventional romance with peers who have fangs. I figured today I'd share why that works so well for me. 

Vampires were perfectly suited for the British Aristocracy, which was a major reason why I put them in Regency ballrooms in my Scandals with Bite series. Here are the reasons why that works out so well:

They're night owls.

Most of the balls and operas and festivities in the regency went from dusk till dawn. A vampire's nocturnal behavior would be unnoticed in this environment.

The Window Tax

Seriously, there was a tax on how many windows one had on their home. People often boarded up their windows to avoid the tax. This was beneficial to vampires in that no one thought it amiss if they did so to protect themselves from the sun

An Age of Enlightment

In an age of reason, vampires are regarded as mere folklore. This disbelief is advantageous. However in the face of scientific advances, discovery is all too possible. Which is why drinking a mortal's blood to the point where they die has been forbidden since the mid Eighteen century. 

Disappearance of poor people would still be unaccounted for.

Thousands of potential meals languish in alleys and gutters all over London's East End. A vampire would never starve in this populous city. Also, they have a house full of servants in case of emergency, though normally it is considered a faux pas to feed from one's servants. 

People drank a LOT at Balls and Musicales.

It's easy to steal a drink from an unsuspecting mortal when the majority of one’s peers are deep in their cups. Sometimes it's hardly even necessary to mesmerize them and banish their memory of a feeding after the claret really flows. There were also many secluded alcoves inside a British Manor and on the grounds.
 All the better to secure a meal. 

Respect and authority for rank.


One rarely dares question the behavior of a nobleman. If he has odd behavior, he is merely written off as "Eccentric."


So if you're interested in checking out my series, books 1, (BITE ME, YOUR GRACE) and Book 2 (ONE BITE PER NIGHT) are available everywhere where books are sold.

Book 3, BITE AT FIRST SIGHT will be out in a little over a month, on April 7th!

Pre-order links are here and I included an excerpt below:




Kobo 



Excerpt:  
“If one desires a task to be accomplished correctly, one must do it herself.” Cassandra Burton, dowager Countess of Rosslyn repeated the litany as she pulled the rickety little wagon through the moonlit aisle of tombstones.
She shivered under her velvet cloak. Her fingers had long since gone numb with the effort of navigating the dratted conveyance over uneven ground and across slippery, damp grass. Shovels and pry bars clanked across the wagon’s worn pine boards. The winch rattled on its frame.
Something flickered across the corner of her vision.
Cassandra jumped. She stopped and rubbed her gloved hands together for warmth, surveying the graveyard. The area was still and silent as …well, a tomb. Yet the chill in her spine refused to abate. A scornful frown turned her lips at such irrational behavior. Ghosts were an illogical figment of uneducated imaginations and no one could possibly have business out here at this hour …except herself.
“Worthless curs,” Cassandra whispered in as haughty a tone she could manage.
If only the men to whom she’d offered a more than generous sum to perform this troublesome task had done their duty rather than disappearing. She shook her head, further lamenting the inconvenience they’d left her with. If not for their unreasonable negligence, I would now be comfortably ensconced in my laboratory unraveling the secrets of the human body … not out in this cold, dreary place, jumping at shadows.
Surveying the newest graves, she read the dates to discern which would be the best specimen. Her mind nagged her as to the mysterious disappearances of her hired hands. Could a murderer be on the loose? She shook her head and pulled the folds of her cloak tighter, shielding her body from the crisp autumn air. No, the authorities would have found their bodies by now and the news would be sensationalized in The Times.
“They were cowards,” she asserted aloud, fighting back a shiver as the wind whispered through the grass and dead leaves. “But I am not.”
To prove her lack of irrational fear, Cassandra fetched a shovel from the wagon. Her hands trembled as she grasped the wooden handle. “I am only nervous.”
And she had every reason to be. Removing the dead from their graves was illegal. If a constable caught her, she’d be sent directly to Fleet prison. Halting her wagon and taking a shovel, a fresh surge of trepidation curled in her belly.
For some inexplicable reason, exhuming a corpse, rather than having one ready on her operating table was quite a different matter. The prospect of removing the body from its carefully arranged resting place and the chore of winching it out of the ground and loading it onto her cart made the situation seem more gruesome than objective. However, gruesome or not, Cassandra needed her specimen for her work to continue. And she would acquire it no matter how much her nerves protested.
Despite being barred from official education as a physician because of her sex, Cassandra was determined to learn the skills to become a doctor. She needed to learn everything she could about human anatomy. For that, she required cadavers.
Returning to the graves, she made her selection. Alfred Lumley, born September first, 1801, died September seventeenth, 1823. Three days ago Alfred had been a living twenty-two year old man, three years younger than herself. Whether or not he’d been healthy, she would soon determine. A pang of sorrow struck her heart. His soul is in heaven, she reminded herself. A mere shell remains. A shell which will help me to aid the living.
She raised the shovel, ready to plunge it into the soft soil. “I am not afraid. I am not.”
“You should be.” A sinister, accented voice pierced her consciousness.
The shovel fell from nerveless fingers, thudding against the cold ground.
Cassandra knew that voice, it was the same rich, dark cadence which had haunted her dreams since the night she’d first met him. She spun around, the hood of her cloak falling to her shoulders.
Rafael Villar stepped out from behind a mausoleum. The shadows embraced his bronze skin, obscuring the scars on the left side of his face while moonlight highlighted his exotic, Spanish features on the right.
Known as “The Spaniard,” Villar had been an infamous pugilist in Cheapside despite having only one functioning arm. The eccentric and wealthy duke of Burnrath was his sponsor. Cassandra had often encountered him at Burnrath House when attending the duchess’s literary circles. Right away she’d suspected that there was more to the relationship between Rafael and Their Graces. And she’d been utterly and completely fascinated by him.
When the Duke and Duchess departed for the continent to travel, Villar leased Burnrath House. By all accounts he was rich as a nabob. For the remainder of the Season Mr. Villar was all the ton could gossip about. But when months passed without the Spaniard making the slightest attempt to join Society, he was forgotten. Cassandra would have forgotten him as well, if it weren’t for those damned dreams. Now here he stood before her in the most unexpected place and at the most inconvenient time.
Good Lord, will he turn me in to the authorities?
She opened her mouth to inquire as to the reason for his presence. The words caught in her throat as she saw that his amber eyes were glowing like a funeral pyre. His sensuous lips— lips she’d unreasonably dreamed of kissing— drew back to reveal white, even teeth …with two gleaming fangs for incisors.
Before she could scream or flee, Mr. Villar’s fiery gaze widened, then narrowed in recognition. “You! You’ve been the one disturbing my people?”
“Y-your people?” Cassandra stammered dumbly, staring raptly at those sharp fangs. She’d certainly never seen those during their previous encounters. Her heart leapt into her throat in dawning horror. This man was not human. What is he?
His lips curled back in a sneer, puckering the scars on the left side of his face. “Don’t play coy with me, Countess.” The word was spat in acidic contempt. “Some of my subordinates reported hunters disturbing their lairs.” He gestured at the mausoleum behind him. “It is hard to fathom that you’re behind this, though I should have guessed. Is that why you befriended the Duchess of Burnrath?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea what you are going on about. I came here to... well it is no concern of yours.” A wave of indignation bolstered her courage. How dare he speak of her most treasured friendship in such a manner? How dare he accuse her of duplicity when he stood before her, sporting unnatural teeth and luminescent eyes? And of what exactly was he accusing her? “What does Her Grace have to do with this?” Cassandra took a shaky step back. “…And, in the name of heaven, what are you?”
In a blink of an eye, Rafael stood inches from her. With the same impossible speed, he grasped her shoulder, pulling her close against him. Dizziness swarmed her mind at the feel of his firm heat and his intoxicating scent of forbidden spices. His crippled left arm moved lightly around her waist, his fingers delicately brushing across her lower back. The heady combination between rough and gentle made her tremble.
His eyes blazed amber fire as they locked on hers. “I will show you, Countess.”
Then his mouth was on her neck, firm lips caressing the sensitive flesh, somehow more intimate than anything she’d experienced in her ill-fated marriage. Cassandra melted against him, tangling her fingers in his silken waist-length hair.
Sharp pain exploded in her throat as his fangs broke her skin. Cassandra cried out and tried to push him away, but his iron-like right arm mercilessly held her immobile. The pain took flight, and drugging pleasure fluttered within her belly on heated wings. A low moan escaped her throat as she pulled him closer. Liquid desire pulsed between her thighs. Whatever this was, she needed more, craved it with mindless longing.