Throwback Thursday!

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Phoenix Moorhaven liked things just so. He likes his house running in perfect order, his coffee with a bit of blood and his manservant untouched by anyone—ever. When Declan decides to start dating Moor scrambles to intercede. After all messing with Declan could upset the pristine organization of his household.

Declan has pined for Moor long enough. Determined to have a life of his own Declan accepts a meeting with a blind date. However vampire masters and dating don’t mix and at the end of the night he’ll see a side of Moorhaven he never expected.

Excerpt:

Declan West tidied the den, plumping pillows and verifying not a speck of dust graced any surface. After the third run-through to check that everything sat in its proper place, he gave the room a pleased nod. With his obsessive-compulsive tendencies temporarily sated, Declan left his master’s office and headed for the front door.

The clock struck midnight as he reached the wooden double doors. Without checking the peephole or peering through the front windows, he pulled the doors open just as his master, Phoenix Moorhaven, walked up the steps.

“Good evening, Declan,” Master Phoenix said in his rich, mellow voice.

“It is technically morning, sir,” Declan corrected him automatically as he did every day at this time. Being exact was a science the vampire didn’t subscribe to.

“So it is,” Master Phoenix agreed, his gold eyes shining with amusement.

“You let your servant talk back to you like that!” The blonde lady on Master Phoenix’s arm sneered at Declan.

“Mind your manners, dear. I might be the leader of the vampires, but Declan is the master of my house,” Master Phoenix scolded. His tone might have been mild, but his expression went colder than the Arctic Circle.

Declan took his master’s coat without comment. The opinion of one blonde tramp meant nothing to him. Master Phoenix would fuck her, suck her, and toss her out at sunrise. He never kept his food around for long. As far as Declan could tell, his master had no interest in any human, male or female, beyond sustenance. Too bad, since Declan wouldn’t mind being on the menu.

“The den is prepared for you, sir,” Declan prodded, eager to have the vampires out of the way so he could finish his morning rituals.

Master Phoenix’s warm smile, the one he saved only for Declan, eased his irritation. He might merely be a servant, but Declan knew how much the vampire appreciated the smooth running of his household. Master Phoenix’s pleasure in Declan’s work was shown in the many bonuses Declan found in his paycheck.

“Good morning, Master Lorrie. I didn’t see you at first, please accept my apologies.” Declan greeted his master’s vampire companion.

Lorrie Bellows, the second-in-command of the vampire coven, gave Declan a friendly nod. “That’s all right. I know I don’t exist until you have Moor settled.”

Declan granted Lorrie one of his rare smiles. Lorrie had a winning way without using over-the-top flattery. There were always a few who tried to get to Master Phoenix through his prized servant, forcing Declan to waste his precious time returning their presents and bribes.

Declan’s integrity wasn’t for sale.

“May I take your coat, sir, and that of your companion?”

They both handed over their expensive outerwear. Master Phoenix’s bite for the evening hadn’t bothered wearing a jacket, probably worried about hiding her cleavage. Declan could’ve told her the vampire cared more about her blood than her breasts; however, he stayed silent. He never interfered with donors as long as they didn’t mess up the house.

Declan hung up their jackets with meticulous care, then closed the door, only to turn and find the entire party staring at him.

“There are drinks and snacks in the west parlor,” he prompted. He always put out food and juice for the guests. They tended to be hungry after the vampires fed.

No one moved. Really, why were they still watching him?

He raised an eyebrow at his boss. Master Phoenix smirked, then wrapped an arm around his food for the evening and turned to lead the girl away.

“So when are you going to leave Moor and come work for me?” Lorrie teased as he walked past.

Master Phoenix spun around, abandoning his date. “What?”

Declan didn’t roll his eyes, but only because it would take away from his dignity. “Master Lorrie appears to think I’m underpaid and overworked,” he explained. Lorrie lived to poke at the vampire leader, and Declan refused to fuel that fire.

Declan’s gaze zeroed in on a piece of lint sticking to Master Phoenix’s suit. Annoyed that it had passed his previous inspection, he walked over and plucked it from the vampire’s jacket. He carefully brushed down the fabric to smooth over the slight mark he’d made with his nails while trying to ignore how good Master Phoenix smelled. The vampire always wore an alluring scent Declan had never been able to identify, sort of a combination of cloves and honey. Why a vampire smelled sweet, Declan didn’t know, but he tried to keep his sniffing to a minimum.

Declan almost jumped when a large hand tilted his chin up until he met his boss’ eyes. “Were you considering leaving me?”

For a moment he thought he saw a flash of hurt in Master Phoenix s eyes, but abandoned the idea as foolish. The vampire never took particular notice of Declan unless something went wrong. “Don’t be ridiculous, sir. Why would I leave here? You’re an excellent employer.”

It would be difficult to find another boss who allowed Declan to arrange everything to his own liking and schedule.

“Good.” Master Phoenix stroked Declan’s head like a favored pet. “I’d be at loose ends without you.” He pointed a finger at Lorrie. “I forbid you to steal my butler. The entire coven would be in disarray if Declan weren’t here to keep me in line.”

Lorrie laughed. “Surely, you exaggerate.”

Master Phoenix shook his head. “Declan organizes my life to perfection, so don’t go messing with it.”

Declan’s head got another stroke. “Take the rest of the evening off, Declan, and don’t go wandering in the woods. You nearly gave me a heart attack last time.”

He didn’t bother to acknowledge Master Phoenix’s grumbled order. “I’ll see you later, sir.” He gave Lorrie a reproachful look that was met by a playful wiggle of his eyebrows.

Declan had only wandered close to the woods once, and the strong protection spells had kept him back. Asking around didn’t lead to any clues about what might be out there, so Declan let the subject drop. Master Phoenix’s reaction to an innocent walk was way overboard. Overprotective vampire.

Shaking his head, Declan headed for his room. He didn’t want to be around while the vampires fed. Sometimes their partners moaned really loud. It only underscored to Declan that he needed to find a lover, but who was going to get together with a slightly neurotic butler who had to be on twenty-four-hour call for his boss. Few men would put up with being second place to any job, much less one involving vampires.

Back in his room, Declan pulled up his profile on the online dating site he’d recently joined. He spent the next few hours going through the improbable bios and dirty emails he’d received while he had been working. A few he put in his saved folder to look at in more detail later. Maybe one of them would pan out. He didn’t need a full-time lover. Hell, at this point, he’d take a part-time fuck buddy. Anything would be better than spending every night dreaming about his boss.

* * * *

Continue reading “Throwback Thursday!”

Throwback Thursday!

biteabear

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Sometimes you need a grand gesture to prove your love, and sometimes a bear hug will do.

Harris Bender had a crush on vampire leader Rohan, so when the alpha male requests him to paint a mural, he can only say yes. However, after a passionate encounter, Harris discovered Rohan is his mate.

Is the carefree artist ready to settle down with one man even if he’s extremely hot?

Rohan had been looking for his blood bonded for centuries. One taste of the bear shifter’s blood and he knows he’s found the one. However, outside forces threaten to tear the couple apart. It will take more than a flash of fang to put them in their place.

 

Excerpt:

 

Harris Bender watched as the vampire leader, Rohan, lit the caskets on fire. Vampires didn’t bury their dead, they freed their souls by burning their bodies in a tradition as old as time.

The flames cast shadows on Rohan’s face, giving his handsome face harsh angles beneath sharp cheekbones. To Harris, Rohan appeared beautiful at any angle. His fingers itched for a pencil to sketch out the scene.

The heavy weight of silence coated the proceedings as if surrounded by an invisible shield. No one fidgeted or rustled. No birds sang in the distance. Even the bugs held their chirps and buzzes until Rohan finished his eulogy for the vampires who had passed. Rohan’s sorrow pierced Harris’ heart, as if he had personally experienced their loss when, in fact, he’d barely met them.

Poisoned blood from human donors had killed three vampires, compliments of the sorcerers.

Eaton had saved the rest of them by warning the vampires of the problem but not soon enough to save this trio. Unfortunately, the sorcerers had gone underground where no one could find them, so the vampires weren’t able to retaliate.

Harris didn’t have to be there. He didn’t belong to the coven and wasn’t a vampire. However, he couldn’t let Rohan mourn alone. The few weeks he’d worked for the master vampire had forged an odd friendship between the two men. A relationship Harris planned to take to the next level soon. Rohan called Harris his beloved but hadn’t made any further moves despite the longing looks and possessive behavior. After Rohan had a chance to mourn his friends, Harris would show the vampire he didn’t have to be alone.

Rohan had come to Harris’ aid when Eaton had been kidnapped, and although Rohan didn’t end up having to do anything, having the vampire leader there had given Harris the emotional support he needed. Harris wanted to return the favor.

When the vampire turned around, he immediately searched the crowd. Harris saw the vampire relax when Rohan caught sight of him.

After whispering something to the people milling to his right, Rohan walked over to join Harris.

Without ceremony, Rohan wrapped a proprietary arm around Harris and scooted him to one side, putting Rohan’s body between Harris and the other vampires. Rohan didn’t like other people too close to Harris. For some reason, ever since Harris started working for him, Rohan had watched over him like a dog with his bone.

“You doing all right?” Harris whispered. He fought against the urge to hug Rohan closer. The vampire leader probably wouldn’t appreciate coddling in front of his people. The way they stood now, Rohan could’ve been offering support to Harris. Harris knew Rohan was absorbing some of his calm. The vampire had said before that Harris zen-like peace soothed Rohan deep inside.

Apparently, the closer the proximity, the better the calming took.

Ignoring everyone else, Harris scooted closer to offer his presence if not his clumsy words of sympathy. He’d always been more of a person of action, not verbal expression.

Rohan had taken his vampires’ deaths hard since he hadn’t been able to prevent the poisoning.

Sorcerers and vampires were mortal enemies, but from what Harris had heard, they’d been in a semi-truce for years. Until sorcerers had poisoned the humans the vampires used for food, they had no idea the sorcerers were going to attack.

Rohan didn’t speak, but he slid a hand down from Harris’ shoulder as he stepped away and tangled their fingers together instead. “Thanks for being here,” he murmured in Harris’ ear, a soft, intimate sound. His breath brushed across the soft hairs of Harris’ ear lobe. Harris fought back both a shiver and the urge to turn his head for a kiss.

Before Harris could give in to any of his urges and after a quick squeeze of Harris’ fingers, Rohan released him and stepped away. Harris immediately missed the vampire’s presence. His inner animal yearned for contact with Rohan as if Harris couldn’t be complete without being close.

“You’re welcome. I’d do a lot more for you…” Harris confessed. He turned bright red. When would he learn not to say everything in his head?

With his friends, his tendency to blurt things out was mildly embarrassing. With Rohan, it reached a more humiliating level. He might as well strip naked and throw himself at Rohan’s feet.

Rohan turned to give Harris his full attention.

He cupped Harris’ cheek with one elegant hand.

“I’d love to hear about what you might be willing to do. Later,” Rohan said.

Rubbing his cheek against the vampire leader’s palm, Harris lost track of his thoughts. There was

little he wasn’t willing to do to have Rohan touch Harris as if he cared. His inner beast fought to come out and play.

“Easy, beloved,” Rohan said. “Keep the calm I love so much.”

Love?

Harris wondered how Rohan could toss such words around. Beloved. Love. Did the vampire not understand the power of words? That a foolish bear’s heart might patter a bit faster when presented with even casually tossed affection.

Harris took long, slow breaths to pull his bear back under his control. Years of meditation had kept Harris mellow in the face of true emergencies. Aden had sent him to a monk years before to gain the skills needed to find his inner calm and keep his bear subdued unless needed.

Unfortunately, whenever Rohan touched someone else, Harris had to wrestle back his inner beast. No

one should touch Rohan or speak to him unnecessarily or look in his direction. Yeah, maybe I do have a bit of an obsession going.

He worried over his reaction to Rohan. When shifters became possessive, it usually meant they’d found their mate. Harris didn’t know if he was ready for that level of commitment. He liked Rohan, but vampires were different than shifters.

Really different.

“Come on, let’s get you to bed. You’ve had a long day. This is the part of the ceremony where people go to mourn alone,” Rohan said. He took Harris’ arm and led him back into the house, then up the stairs.

Harris dug in his heels at the top. What is going on?

“Did I move in here?” Harris asked, confused.

He’d come to support Rohan during the funeral, but he’d had every intention of returning home afterward. He had already spent his day sketching out his concept on the wall by the foyer. Harris didn’t need to live there.

“I like you close by,” Rohan said, his words final, as if he’d closed the subject. Nothing showed on the vampire’s face. No teasing smile. No forbidding scowl. He acted as if Harris was the one acting strange.

Harris tried to object. He opened his mouth to complain, to voice a negative response. He couldn’t. Every atom in his body responded to Rohan. Harris tamely let the vampire lead him down the hall to an empty bedroom. A large bed filled most of the space along with a wardrobe, a side table and little else. Harris spotted two more doors in the room. “Where do those go?”

Rohan pointed to the left. “Bathroom.” He pointed to the right. “My room.”

“Your room?” Harris tried to hide his surprise.

He’d initially hoped Rohan might be taking him to the vampire’s bedroom. The fact Rohan gave him a choice raised his estimation in Harris’ eyes no matter how stupid his supposition.

“Something wrong?” Rohan asked.

“Um, no. Nothing wrong.” Harris tried to shove his desires to the darkest corner of his mind.

Rohan didn’t need him drooling over him while he was still wrapped in sorrow over the death of his coven mates.

Rohan cupped Harris’ face between his palms.

“You would tell me if you had a problem, right?

The only reason I want you to stay is because it’s late and you’re tired. If you want to sleep in your own bed tomorrow, you can.”

“What if I want to stay in your bed?” Damn, his runaway mouth had taken over again. Of course, there were always the benefits of healing sex.

Rohan frowned. “I don’t think you’re ready to be in my bed, Harris. As much as I’d like you there, I don’t want you to feel pressured.”

A tingle of yearning sizzled between them.

Need pulled at Harris like a physical force. “You want me. I know you do.”

Rohan dipped his head, placing his lips next to Harris’ ear. He spoke in his whiskey-smooth voice, “I want you so much, I would give up blood to have you.”

Harris jerked back. “I thought you couldn’t have sex without biting.”

“For you, I would.” Rohan’s sincerity couldn’t be faked.

Harris licked his lips. “Kiss me.” If nothing else, he’d get at least one kiss before being sent to bed like a child.

Rohan didn’t bother to ask Harris if he was certain before he wrapped his fingers around Harris’ head and held him still. Pressing his lips against Harris’ mouth, he sucked and licked until he gained entrance.

 

Throwback Thursday!

gamma

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Sometimes werewolves are the good guys.

Kaden has always dreamt of cooking. His family scoffs at his wish to help out the war effort and think he’s wasting himself by joining a pack.

Gage is the Alpha of his pack and loves his mate Russ with everything he has. But, although the beta wolf loves him back, Gage isn’t Russ’ mate. In a quirk of nature, their bond is one-sided, and while Gage holds as tightly as he can, he can feel his lover slipping away.

Russ loves his Alpha, but a piece of him always longs for what could be. He doesn’t want to hurt his lover—but how much better would life be if he could have a mate of his own?

Three men with different goals discover the difference between love and mating, and how sometimes, what you want may not necessarily be what you need.

 

Excerpt:

 

Kaden arrived at the pack kitchen first thing in the morning, eager to start his day. If images of the alpha had followed him into his dreams, he wasn’t going to let his mind relive those encounters. He didn’t want others to smell the scent of lust pouring from him while he scrubbed the dishes—they might get the impression he got an odd thrill over dish soap.

Not given to self-deception, Kaden had to acknowledge the alpha’s appeal. And if Russ tried to hit on Kaden again, he was going to punch the guy in the nose. How dare he try to cheat on the gorgeous alpha? Anyone with eyes could see that Gage adored the creep.

Although… When he remembered Russ licking clean his wound, Kaden could allow that maybe he wasn’t too bad. At any rate, Kaden vowed to make the alpha the best breakfast ever if Denel would allow him to.

He set to work making the muffins that his grandmother had sworn contained little bits of heaven in each bite. Kaden suspected it was really the sugar-coated blueberries that added that extra bit of flavour, but he never argued with Nana.

In the end, it turned out Denel had fallen behind schedule, so he gave Kaden the task of taking breakfast to the alpha’s meeting. Kaden smiled when Denel let him include his muffins on the cart.

“It never hurts to give them more than they can eat,” Denel said. Kaden recognised the voice of experience when he heard it and quickly nodded his agreement with the manager.

Using equal parts of patience and muscle, Kaden manhandled the food cart over a treacherous path filled with rocks, puddles and mud. A few times he worried that the entire thing would topple over, but eventually he made it. Smiling, he stopped at the entrance to the alpha’s tent and nodded to the guards.

“I have food for the meeting,” Kaden said with a tentative smile.

The guard on the right leered at him. “Aren’t you too pretty to be serving food, or is there something else you’re offering on the side?”

Kaden scowled at him. “I’m only serving breakfast.” As a gamma he should’ve bowed and offered himself to the other man. Most gammas were addicted to pleasing others. Unfortunately for the guard, Kaden didn’t fall into the category of the usual gamma. If the man had taken one more step forward Kaden he’d have shown him the results of the self-defence lessons his father had forced him to take.

The wolf licked his lips. “That’s a shame. You be sure to let me know if you change your mind.”

“I’ll be sure to put my foot up your ass if you ever touch him,” Russ growled as he appeared in the tent’s opening. Kaden watched in shock as the prime beta grabbed the flirting wolf and all but threw him across the yard. As the soldier hit the hard earth with a disturbing cracking noise, the beta wolf gave Kaden a dazzling smile. “Come on in. That smells wonderful.”

Russ held the tent flap open for Kaden, who swore he heard the other man sniff him as he entered. Surely he’d imagined it. Maybe Russ hadn’t eaten earlier and liked the smell of the food? After a quick glance around, Kaden’s gaze settled on the alpha. Gage sat at a table with four other men—their assembled guards standing in a semi-circle behind them. Kaden knew the guards would grab something to eat when they were off duty, but he still had a twinge of guilt for feeding only half of the hungry men in the tent.

Oddly enough, seeing Alpha Gage settled his nerves. Despite his dreams of the night before, there was something soothing about the man. Kaden had to fight the urge to slide down to the floor and sit at his feet. To keep his mind off that tempting image, he pulled out trays of eggs and slabs of ham and the large carafe of coffee to be arranged buffet-style then placed a basket of his muffins in the middle of the table with butter and jam.

“Did you make these, young Kaden?” Alpha Gage asked.

“Yes, sir.” Kaden swallowed trying to get moisture in his dry throat. When the alpha smiled at him, prickles of need spiked up his spine and he had to think unsexy thoughts to keep his cock in control.

“They’re very good,” Russ broke into Kaden’s thoughts with the comment. Apparently, while he’d been staring moon-eyed at Alpha Gage, everyone else had tasted his muffins. For a minute he contemplated kissing the man his thanks, but he realised in time that the alpha probably wouldn’t appreciate his behaviour.

“Thank you.” He quickly retrieved more plates for the group. Denel had told him how many to expect. However, when one of the soldiers pinched his ass and made him drop a fork, the offender was quickly pinned to the support post by Russ wrapping a hand around his throat.

“Did you see his arm band?” Russ asked in a deceptively gentle voice.

The soldier couldn’t speak or even move his head to agree or disagree. That didn’t matter as the beta answered the question for him. “It is green, which means he’s kitchen staff. He’s not your personal sex toy or plaything. He’s to be respected for doing his job. Do you understand?” Russ snarled and banged the man’s head against the wooden post with each word. Kaden looked nervously at the tent walls, hoping they wouldn’t collapse on them.

“I don’t think he’s going to understand if you bash his head in,” Kaden said dryly. He cast an imploring look at Gage, who merely raised an amused eyebrow at him.

Kaden dared to give him a scowl before grabbing Russ’ arm. “Let him go, please.”

Russ dropped the man like a sack of potatoes. “Apologise,” he snarled.

“I’m sorry, Prime Beta.” The offender shook beneath Russ’ scowl.

“Not to me, you idiot—to him,” Russ growled, pointing to Kaden.

The soldier took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, gamma, for assaulting you.”

Kaden looked at Russ to see him watching him closely. “Um. Okay.”

He heard Gage laugh and Kaden glared again at the alpha, who only looked back in amusement. Shaking his head at the pair, Kaden laid out the rest of the meal and quickly beat his retreat.

“I expect you to come and pick up the trays in one hour,” Gage demanded before he left.

“Yes, sir,” Kaden said. His traitorous mind pondered all the things he would like to be doing with the sexy alpha an hour from then.

Gage watched as the little gamma pushed out his cart before Gage helped himself to the meal he’d prepared. He’d also been ready to beat the crap out of Matt for touching the kitchen boy. No one should have to put up with being mauled while trying to do their job.

It was a struggle for Gage to cast the sweet man in the role of seducer when he practically ran for the hills when Russ got too close. In fact, the only time Kaden appeared calm was when he looked at Gage. He had to admit he was surprised that Kaden could meet his eyes when most betas couldn’t even glance at his face…much less the gammas.

Russ still let out the occasional growl when Matt wandered too close.

“Shit! I said I was sorry, Russ. You don’t have to keep beating me up over it. I won’t touch the kitchen staff again…although I don’t know why. That man is fine.”

Gage shook his head as Russ grabbed Matt by his neck and slammed his head into the tent pole again before tossing the unconscious beta to the floor.

“Subtle!” Gage said.

“He doesn’t understand subtle,” Russ growled.

They finished the meeting while polishing off the delicious food. Gage really enjoyed the gamma’s muffins. He knew the others lingered just to have another bite or two from the breadbasket.

“I like that new boy. He makes great food. I heard he made that soup last night,” Carlos, one of the pack betas, declared as he breathed in the aroma of the warm muffin.

Russ nodded like a proud poppa. “He did. He’s really talented.”

Gage felt a corresponding level of pride. What was wrong with him? How come he didn’t want to rip out the gamma’s throat? Instead, he wanted to let the young wolf curl up by his feet. One of his biggest fears abated somewhat. At least if he had to share Russ, he could tolerate their third. The young gamma would never try to battle either man for dominance. Kaden was the type to know his place and be content in it…

An explosion rocked the camp.

They raced outside. Gage’s heart slammed against his chest when he saw the kitchen building on fire. Enormous flames shot from the roof. Gage would bet money the kitchen stove’s gas tank had exploded.

“No!” Russ screamed. Shifting into his wolf form, he raced towards the blazing building.

Throwback Thursday!

4244protectorofdragons510w-430x645

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Secrets long hidden are brought to the surface on the shiny scales of a dragon.

After thousands of years petrified in stone, Jiang is finally free. The search to find his friends leads him to the doorstep of Aden Gale. Will Jiang’s need for his comrades unravel a family’s hidden secrets?

Meeting pigeon shifter Kurtis changes everything for Jiang. Drawn to the sweet man, Jiang vows to find a way to end Kurtis’ curse. However, dark magic works against them, and it will take the combined strength of many people to keep back the tide of destruction coming their way.

 

Excerpt:

 

“Hey, don’t do that. I don’t care if our connection has done something to change my DNA. I’m fine with that.” Aden rubbed his hands up and down Gallen’s back.

“But what if you start experiencing weird abilities?” Gallen asked.

Aden snorted. “What kind of transformation do you expect? Is my voice going to get deeper? Am I going through magical puberty?”

“Funny man. I’m going to keep an eye on you.” Gallen frowned at him.

Aden kissed him on the nose. “Good plan. You should examine me very closely, daily, perhaps naked in bed.”

Gallen laughed. “That could be arranged.”

Aden grinned. “Don’t worry so much love, there’s not much I can’t handle.”

He hoped the words would turn out to be true. Even with the knowledge of shifters, vampires, and sorcerers, Aden still found himself surprised by the variety of paranormals who were out there in the world without humans being the least aware.

A low roar outside yanked Aden’s attention away Gallen. On the other side of the glass a large blue dragon jumped through the water like a porpoise.

“Can no one else hear that too?” Aden asked.

“Not really. Humans will feel a twitch to vacate the area but they won’t hear or see him.”

Aden watched the dragon continue to play in the surf. Every now and then it gave out a cry as if it were calling to someone. A restless urge had Aden shifting uneasily on the couch.

“What’s wrong?” Gallen patted Aden’s chest.

“I don’t know. I think he’s calling to me.”

Gallen sat up then looked from the dragon to Aden and back again. “If you feel compelled to go to it, there could be dragon shifter blood in your family. It could also explain your tattoo.”

“You think so? Then why haven’t I ever shifted?” The thought of changing into a dragon terrified Aden. He’d watched his boys change into an eagle, a bear or a croc but never had he wished to become one himself.

“Maybe you weren’t ready yet. Not much is known about dragons. There aren’t enough of them to study.”

“You don’t have anything in your book?”

Gallen ran his fingers through his hair. “Not the one I have with me, maybe in the coven library. If they even have a library now. I’m the only one who ever cared about the books.”

From Gallen’s wistful tone, Aden know his mate missed his resources.

“We’ll start a new library, babe. We can put up shelves in the spare room.”

The dragon’s cry cut through the air, reverberating the glass.

“Let’s go see what he wants.” Aden’s stomach swirled with nerves. So far the water dragon hadn’t tried to hurt him, but if the beast decided to spit acid at him Aden had no defense. For the first time, Aden didn’t know how to take down a potential enemy. “On second thought, maybe you should stay here?”

The disgusted noise Gallen made had Aden smiling. “If you think I’m going to let you go talk to an acid spitting dragon by yourself, you’ve lost your mind. Now let’s go.”

Gallen stood up and offered Aden his hand. Aden let his mate help him up. They left the condo then crossed the street. No one else walked around in the cool winter air, so they didn’t have to worry about bystanders. Maybe the dragon had subconsciously run them off.

“Dragons tend to have a large territory. The only thing that could be attracting him here is you,” Gallen said as they approached.

“Or you.” Despite the mark on his chest, they didn’t know for sure the dragon was there for him.

“I’m thinking it’s probably here for you, since you saw that other dragon a few weeks back and I haven’t seen any without you present.”

Aden nodded, even though he hated that Gallen might be right. “True. It killed the guys shooting at me. It was a different type of dragon though, not a water one—it was gold and black and had wings.”

“Two dragon sightings within a few weeks can’t be a coincidence.”

“As long as I have my big, bad mate to protect me, I’ll be fine,” Aden teased.

“Damn right you do.” Gallen grabbed Aden’s arm. “Come on, love. Let’s go.”

Gallen steps slowed the closer they came to the beach steps. The dragon had abandoned the water to crawl up onto the sand. It watched them approach with liquid, brown eyes.

“Shift!” Gallen ordered.

The dragon ignored him. The large beast turned its head toward Aden.

“Tell him to shift,” Gallen whispered to his mate.

“Into what?” Aden didn’t know if he wanted the beast any closer.

“Human.”

“Oh, right. If you could shift please, we’d like to talk to you.” Aden politely addressed the dragon as he would a human. If the dragon were like his shifter friends, then he would understand Aden in either form.

For a moment Aden didn’t think it would work. The dragon snorted, spewing a fine spray of mist from its nostrils. Before Aden could say anything else a flare of blue light encompassed the dragon. The glow transformed from a large blob of icy fire to a smaller shape. When the light show ended, a slim oriental man in a suit of scales stood on the sand. The shimmering scales fluttered for a bit before transforming into a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt, an exact copy of Aden’s clothing.

“Hello.” Aden bowed his head slightly to the Asian man uncertain of a proper dragon greeting.

The dragon bowed deeply at the waist toward Aden then straightened. He ignored Gallen.

“Greetings Protector, I am Jiang, a river dragon, first of all river dragons named after the river Jiangguo.”

“I am Aden Gale, and this is my mate, Gallen Theos.”

Finally Jiang examined Gallen as if he found an interesting new fish in the waters. “A sorcerer mated to a dragon—how odd.”

Gallen gasped. “I didn’t know any of you were still around.”

A sad smile curved Jiang’s lips. “There are of five of us that I know of. We’ve been imprisoned in stone for centuries. We’ve only recently been freed.”

“The sea water doesn’t bother you?” Aden asked.

Jiang shook his head. “I might have been formed from a river initially, but all water accepts water dragons. I will never travel to a desert again.”

It was a strange vow for a water dragon to make. Aden would’ve thought it was a rather obvious for an aquatic creature to avoid an arid desert.

“What are you doing here?” Gallen asked, interrupting their discussion of water.

Jiang raised an eyebrow at Gallen but remained silent.

“Answer his question.” Aden nodded toward his mate.

The magical power pouring off the dragon scrambled his brain a bit. It was like standing next to a lightning rod and waiting to be struck with a bolt.

“My fellow dragons and I were turned into stone by the emperor and his sorcerers. We had no chance to elude them once they set their trap.”

“What trap?” Aden questioned. He didn’t like this story. If the dragon was bringing danger to his doorstep Aden had to be ready.

“A dark spell that changed us. They placed fenghuangs and foo dogs as our guardians and companions. Sadly, the foo dogs died when the spell shattered and the fenghuangs went mad from their prolonged captivity. I woke up in the water. I’ve been calling for days but so far no one has answered my beacon except you. I need to find my friends.”

The frantic expression on Jiang’s face pulled at Aden’s heartstrings. His need to help out the lost dragon tugged at him.

“You came all the way from China?” Gallen asked.

Jiang shook his head. “We were brought here and put in a musical theater.”

“That was you? I don’t think anyone in Seattle knew those statues were living beings.” Aden frowned as he remembered the many times he’d gone to that theater and never known the decorations could come to life.

Jiang tilted his head to one side. “You didn’t know?”

“Why would I know?” Aden turned to Gallen, knowing his confusion must’ve shown on his face.

“Because you’re part of the reason we’re free.”

Jiang’s answer startled Aden into returning his attention to the dragon shifter.

Aden’s mouth dropped open. “Why would you think that?”

Jiang stared at Aden as if he were trying to see through Aden’s clothing. “Don’t you have a dragon tattoo?”

“I recently acquired one, yes.”

“Then you’ve come into your power?”

“So far I haven’t experienced anything considered power. I have a new tattoo and that’s pretty much my only super ability.”

Jiang laughed, a low rusty sound, as if he wasn’t sure if the noise should leave his throat. “If you are newly connected to your magic then it might take a bit before you gain your skills. It can take centuries for a dragon to get his first ability. I couldn’t spit acid for the first fifty years of my life.”

Aden scowled. “I’m still not certain I’m a dragon, and I won’t have centuries to figure it out.”

If Aden truly was the reason the dragon broke free, he had a responsibility to the lost shifter.

“When the spell shattered, we must’ve been sent to different locations. I can’t even sense my companions any more. I need to find our leader, Zhou. He can tell me what to do next.”

Gallen’s sigh dragged Aden’s attention from the dragon shifter to his mate.

“Are you sure you’re all right, Gallen?” Aden asked.

“Yes, I’m fine. What can we do to help?” Gallen asked the dragon.

Jiang snorted. “I don’t know if you can help at all, sorcerer, but I’ll never turn down extra hands. Like I said, I need to locate Zhou. Even more immediately I need to figure out where the fenghuangs have gone. They were the first ones to escape and they could cause immense damage in their current condition.”

“What are fenghuangs?” Aden asked. “You mentioned them before. Why will they be trouble?”

“They are a Chinese phoenixes,” Gallen said. “They come in times of peace. They are actually male and female pairs, feng is the male and huang is the female. They are known for being good luck, a symbol of prosperity and to represent the yin and yang, the symbol of the lunar cycle.”

The dragon shifter nodded his agreement with Gallen’s definition. “Except our fenghuangs have gone mad. Over two thousand years of being stone has snapped their minds. There are two pairs of them and I doubt they will leave the area without venting their rage. Luckily they are one of the mythological beasts pure humans can’t see. I think one of the males has kept his sanity but I could only hear snatches of their conversation, they mostly only talked to Zhou, but the past few years they kept to themselves.”

“How did the rest of you remain sane?” If the peaceful birds had snapped, why had the dragons remained sane?

Jiang shrugged. “We stuck together and kept our communication open. Our guardians didn’t fair so well.” Jiang’s eyes turned watery. “The foo dogs had grown too brittle to survive.”

Sadly, there wasn’t anything Aden could do to bring back the foo dogs. “I’m sorry for your loss. What do you think the phoenixes will do now?”

“If they aren’t stopped, they could set the city on fire,” Jiang said. “They aren’t like regular phoenixes. They are immortal. They don’t die to be reborn—they will continue to live and burn down the city.”

“They could try, but it wouldn’t get them very far,” Aden argued.

“Why not?”

“After The Great Seattle Fire, they put a lot of extra fire protection downtown.”

“How would you know that?” Gallen asked.

“I took this tour with the boys a few years ago. It takes you underneath Seattle and they tell you all about the history. It’s pretty cool. We should go on it sometime.”

“Well I’m sure that would be great for a normal fire, but a phoenix fire is different. Magical fire is all but impossible to put out,” Jiang argued.

“How do you plan to deal with them? I’m not sure I’ve got the right weapons to kill immortal birds.”

“You have the blood of a dragon king. You will come into your magic when it is needed.”

“I hope you know what you are talking about.” Aden had barely survived his last injury. “If I were immortal, somehow I think my father would still be around.”

“What happened to him?” Gallen asked.

Aden shrugged. “I don’t know.”

His mother had never told him, she’d just said that his father had disappeared after Aden’s birth.

“Are there many dragon king descendants left?” Gallen asked.

Jiang nodded to Aden. “He’s the only one I know of. If another dragon child has awakened, he or she would’ve snapped our spell earlier.”

Gallen bit his lip looking from one man to the other. “Are you sure you have the right person? I’m pretty sure Aden’s mark is just a sign of our mating.”

“May I see your mark?” Jiang narrowed his eyes at Aden.

Aden sighed. With one swift motion he removed his shirt. The dragon pattern shimmered in the sunlight as if it had true scales with iridescent ink.

Jiang dropped to his knees in the sand. “My lord.” He bowed his head low.

“What are you doing?” Aden asked.

“You are truly a descendant of the dragon kings.”

“Kings? How many are there?”

“There were four main dragon kings of the seas but there are others. Once there were too many to count, but time and the emperor have killed most of them off.”

Aden’s heart went out to the displaced dragon. It sounded like he and his friends might be the last of their kind. “What do you need me to do? I can’t kill a mystical bird. Stand up and talk to me.”

He wasn’t comfortable with the dragon kneeling before him.

Jiang got to his feet. “You don’t need to kill them. We need to capture them before they destroy Seattle. Hopefully once contained, we can try to help them. They’ve suffered enough—they need to be rehabilitated, if they can.”

“Do you think Zhou might have gone back to China to hunt down the sorcerers who created your spell?” Aden asked.

Jiang shook his head. “No. He wouldn’t have returned without making sure all of us were safe. Zhou has watched over us for centuries, he’s not going to stop just because he’s been freed.”

“You are so certain he will find you?” Aden wondered if the newly freed leader might have flown the coop. As much as Jiang said Zhou wouldn’t behave that way, who really knew what went on inside the head of another?

“Yes.” Jiang’s conviction left no room for doubt

Throwback Thursday!

Excerpt:

Raven’s muscles ached, but it was a good ache as he stood beneath the stage lights. Sweat poured down his leanly muscled torso as he gasped for breath, desperately trying to refill lungs emptied by his exertion. Still panting, he gave a low bow to the screaming audience and flinched as a rose smacked him in the face.

Fucking thorns.Despite his stinging cheek, he flashed the crowd his megawatt stage smile, the one he’d perfected as a four-year-old dancing sensation. Raven waved a hand to indicate the other dancers and, as the audience continued to clap, made a discreet exit offstage.

“You were amazing.” A starry-eyed ingénue batted her lashes at him. Why she bothered, he didn’t know. It was a universally known fact he liked men. She was probably one of those women who thought they could be the one to convert him to the other side.

“Want to go out for a bite to eat?” she asked, confident now that she’d caught his attention.

Yep, she was one of those.

“Sorry, my sweet, I’m exhausted. I’m going to change and get to bed.”

“Sure.” Her face fell, and Raven had to rein in his instinct to try and make her feel better. Experience proved consoling women at the moment led to awkward situations later.

He still had a restraining order out on the last one.

He patted the girl on her back and all but ran to his dressing room. Once safe behind the locked door, he threw himself down on the couch.

“I need a vacation,” Raven said to the empty room. For the past twenty years, he’d done nothing but dance. He’d spent the first few years of his career as a prodigy fighting to get noticed, then his next few as a young star struggling to get the best roles. Now at the age of twenty-four, he was the most sought after dancer in the galaxy. He could write his own ticket, but right now he was just tired.

Bone tired.

Although this last production had been technically and physically challenging, Raven knew he’d lost some of his fire. The critics and the audience never noticed, but Raven felt something lacking on the inside. In this last performance of the season, he’d frantically tried to recapture his passion, but the spark that had kept him going all these years had left him. Maybe he needed to a new career.

Raven tried to envision a life without dancing but drew a blank.

What would he do if he didn’t dance? Choreograph? Direct? Raven didn’t know what his future held, but he did know he needed a vacation from both dancing and the paparazzi. The media hounds stalked him from planet to planet, hoping to catch a picture of him in questionable situations. It didn’t help that the top three galacticnet agencies had voted him the most eligible bachelor in the galaxy, every year since puberty. Even after all this time, Raven still didn’t understand the amount of fuss made over his appearance. Too much attention went to his genetic makeup instead of to his dancing.

Idiots.

Raven took a quick shower, donned a fresh set of clothes and slipped on a cap and pair of shades to hide his identity. Hopefully, no one would look at an average man on the street. After checking to see if the path was clear, he made his way through the side gate. No one was about. Smiling, Raven walked away from the theater and down the deserted sidewalk. The farther he traveled from the theater, the more stress slid away.

Humming a tune from the show, Raven headed toward the bright lights. Although he should be tired, his body still jittered too much from dancing to settle down for the night. Hopefully he could find some discreet, friendly company to help him wind down. Once his body relaxed, maybe his mind would stop spinning frenetically about his future like a manic toy top.

Raven smiled when bar signs flared into view but quickly lost interest when the sound of someone sobbing grabbed his attention. Curious, Raven followed the noise.

“Hello?” The crying grew louder as he approached the dark alley. He generally wasn’t an idiot who blithely walked into questionable locations in the middle of the night, but it sounded like a child. “Hello?” he called again.

Raven peered into the darkness. The dim streetlights barely reached the mouth of the alley, and he could just make out the shape of a small figure curled up on the ground. Unable to stop himself, he rushed over to the child, stumbling over something as he went.

“Hey, hey, none of that now. What’s wrong?”

A young girl looked up. Raven estimated her age at about seven years old, but it was difficult to tell in the meager light. A dim beam of light reflected shiny tears tracking down a small oval face.

“My nana is gone,” she said in a voice so heartbroken Raven had to blink back the moisture forming in his own eyes. As he crouched down, trying to soothe her, Raven’s vision adjusted to the dark, and he realized the lump he’d stumbled over was a body.

Unmoving.

He had no doubt the dead woman was the nana the girl mentioned.

“Shh, sweetheart, I’m here,” Raven cooed. “I’ll take care of you.” He took off his hat and glasses so the little girl could see him and not be scared by a faceless stranger. He set them on the ground, then rubbed a hand across the girl’s back in a soothing gesture.

“Y-you’re R-raven,” the broken voice whispered in awe.

“You know me?”

The little girl nodded. “Nana and me, we saw your show. You were great!”

“Thank you.” Raven reached for his communicator. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Trisha.”

“Nice to meet you, Trisha,” Raven said. He pushed the emergency button to call the local authorities. After he explained the situation, they assured him someone would be dispatched immediately.

“Someone’s on the way to take care of you,” he told the despondent girl.

The next few minutes were the most nerve-racking of Raven’s life. He’d never had anyone rely on him before. It felt strange to take care of someone else, strange but good. He was glad he had come along to help the little girl. The thought of her left alone in a dirty alley with her dead nana broke his heart. He didn’t know what had happened to the woman on the ground, but it wasn’t his job to figure that out. In fact, his part of this whole ordeal was going to end as soon as planetary security came to pick her up.

“Security,” a deep voice boomed into the darkness.

“Over here,” Raven shouted.

Raven was momentarily blinded as a high-beamed light flashed across his eyes. He held up a hand to block the glare.

“Stand up and put your hands where I can see them,” a voice said behind the light.

Raven slowly raised both his hands but turned his head to keep from being blinded.

When the light finally pointed downward, Raven sighed. His relief was short-lived as the security officer came over to search him.

Efficient hands patted him down, the touch impersonal. The officer removed Raven’s wallet before stepping back. He pulled out Raven’s identicard. “I’m gonna run your ID. Then I want you to come back to the station and answer some questions.”
There went his dream of having a night of hot sex.

“I’ll be here.” Raven nodded his intention to cooperate and allowed the man to lead him to one of their vehicles. As he ducked his head to get into the back of the hovercar, a scream ripped through the air.

“I want Raven! No. No. No.” Her hysterical screams got louder and louder until a security officer raced over to Raven, pulling the little girl by her wrist behind him. “I’m going to have her ride back here with you.”

Raven slid onto the backseat and scooted over for the little girl. For the first time, Raven got to see what a pretty thing she was even with her blond ringlets flattened against her head and her face blotchy from tears. Cleaned up and smiling, she probably shattered little boys’ hearts all over the place.

Surprise overtook him when she scooted closer, rested her head on his chest, and wrapped her thin arms around him. Silent sobs shook her slender body while two security agents slid into the front seat of the hovercar. The driver flashed them a brief look before taking off.

Raven muttered nonsense words as he stroked the golden head, trying to figure out where along the way his night of debauchery had turned into a babysitting assignment.

Throwback Thursday!

lessons

Amazon | Amber Kell Books | ARe | B&N

 

Lewis Larson had always thought he’d have female mate. His goal to eventually settle down with a woman and have a bunch of children hits a snag when a sexy vampire crosses his path.

 

John Lesley knew he wanted the sexy werekin as soon as he saw him. Unfortunately convincing a commitment shy wolf to bond with a vampire hits a snag when family, enemies and a trio of babies get involved.

 

Excerpt:

The memory of his last encounter with John made him shiver. One kiss and a small grope shouldn’t have turned his inner wolf into a wimpy, needy bitch who wanted to roll over and expose his belly. He readjusted the backpack on his right shoulder and tried to calm his animal half.

The pretty receptionist gave him a bright smile she’d polished like a new penny.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“I’m here to pick up some paperwork for Tam Larson,” Lewis explained.

Her professional smile warmed at his words. “You must be Lewis. Tam told me you’d be stopping by. I’ll let Mr Lesley know you’re here.”

“No! I mean, you don’t need to disturb him. Can’t you just sneak inside and grab it for me?” He gave her his best, charming smile, hoping desperately she’d take the hint and not ask any probing questions.

Please don’t make me see John. Lewis chanted in his head.

She leaned forward and asked with a conspiratorial air. “Are you afraid of him because he’s a vampire?”

“Yes,” he lied easily, giving a not completely fake shudder.

She didn’t have to know his unease stemmed from the surge of lust he got whenever he remembered a certain vampire nibbling on his neck. He feared John’s bite but for an entirely different reason than she suspected. The hunger surging through him at the mere thought of the John Lesley meant Lewis, more than anything, needed to stay away.

He didn’t receive the help he’d hoped for.

“It’ll be okay. I’ve been with Mr Lesley for three years now, and I’ve never known him to attack anyone,” she said in a reassuring tone.

Crap.

She picked up the phone, no doubt to tell John that Lewis had arrived. Before she could dial any numbers, the door to the vampire’s office opened, and a stunning man with blond hair and icy, blue eyes walked out. His annoyed scowl changed to one of pleasure when he caught sight of Lewis.

“Who do we have here?” the man asked.

A sniff revealed the stranger to be a vampire, who did nothing to Lewis’ libido and still placed John Lesley as the only male capable of triggering Lewis’ hormones.

“You may go in now, Mr Larson.” The receptionist’s cold tone chilled the room. She didn’t approve of the vampire.

“Oh, you don’t have to rush away on my account.” The blue-eyed stranger remarked with a frown. “Larson? You don’t go by Tam also, do you? I’ve been trying to get an appointment for months. I’m Allard Brown.”

“No. Sorry. I’m his brother, and I don’t get involved in Tam’s business dealings.”

Some days, Lewis didn’t envy his genius brother. Everyone wanted something from Tam.

Lewis would hate all the attention. Some people were just born to shine brighter than others.

Lewis’ brother Tam glowed with the ferocity of a supernova.

“Go on into my office, Lewis,” John Lesley stood in doorway and waved a hand to beckon Lewis closer. Damn, Lewis hadn’t even heard him approach; the vampire had softer steps than a sneaky werewolf.

Instinct had Lewis walking away from the stranger who screamed predator without saying a word. Lewis might not be the strongest or smartest wolf on the block. Hell, he didn’t even have the most power in his own family, but he had excellent instincts.

As soon as he reached John, the vampire wrapped an arm around Lewis’ waist. Lewis almost jumped from the unexpected contact, but he didn’t want to give the wrong impression to Mr Brown. If John putting an arm around his waist kept the strange vampire away from Lewis, he’d allow the touch. Besides, John smelled delicious. Instinctively, Lewis tilted his head back to get a better whiff. Wallowing in the vampire’s natural aroma, Lewis almost missed John’s growled warning to Mr Brown.

“The Larsons are under my protection, Allard. Don’t forget that,” John ordered.

“What makes you think I want your mangy wolf?” Allard sneered.

John gave a snort, an inelegant sound from the always proper vampire. “If you drooled any more, you’d be in danger of soaking through my carpet. Get going and remember to keep your fangs to yourself.”

Allard growled. “Don’t be so stingy. I wouldn’t hurt him. I’d only take a tiny taste.”

“We’ll talk about your proposal later,” John said in a dismissive tone, not bothering to address the other vampires request.

Allard gave a low snarl and glared at John before turning and stomping off toward the elevator. No one moved or spoke until the doors closed behind him.

Lewis stepped away from John’s touch, ignoring his inner wolf whimpering at the loss of contact.

Clearing his throat, Lewis addressed the vamp. “You have some papers for me?”

John’s blue eyes sparkled. “Sure, and maybe some etchings you’d like to see.”

Lewis choked on his laughter but refused to be pulled into the vampire’s teasing mood. It would be easy enough to ignore a full-out seduction, but his wolf could never resist a chance to be playful.

Shaking his head at John’s nonsense, Lewis followed the vampire to his desk.

Lewis’ phone rang, the lyrics to Born to be Wild spurring him to rummage through his cargo pants’ pockets until he finally closed his fingers around the device.

Lewis pressed the connect button. “Hello, Tam.”

“Hey, Lew, did you get my paperwork?” Tam asked on the other end of the line.

“I’m at the office right now. I’ll have it to you in a bit,” Lewis replied.

His brother’s timely phone call saved Lewis from having to make eye contact with the delicious looking vampire before him.

“Is that Tam?” John snatched the phone out of Lewis’ hand.

He growled at the action.

“Easy, pup,” John murmured, the vampire’s attention already back on the phone.

Lewis half-heartedly listened to the vampire berate Tam over something he did to a client. Lewis shook his head. The sooner John learned that Tam knew best, the better off he’d be. Tam never did anything without a good reason. Not always a decipherable one, but in the end, he always had a purpose behind any action.

Spying a packet of papers with his brother’s name on them, Lewis snatched them off John’s desk. With a quick wave, he scooted out of the plush office as fast as he could go without actually running. He could retrieve his phone later. Lewis didn’t like the electronic leash anyway and only carried it to appease his family. His absentmindedness and disregard for time often caused his mother to call him and remind him to eat or sometimes to come home. He could live without it. No doubt Tam would track down his phone or give him a new one. Lewis shrugged off concern like a duck shedding water.

Smiling, Lewis skirted around the receptionist desk at high speed. The elevator opened as he approached. Pleased at his unusual luck, Lewis slid into the car and pressed the door shut button.

He didn’t want to take the chance John might catch him at the last minute.

Once the doors closed, Lewis leaned against the far wall with a sigh.

“I made it,” he said, smiling.