Monday, February 16, 2015

Coming Soon - De Capo al Fine

Sometimes control becomes the shield we hide behind...

Katya pushed her way through the crowd of writhing bodies at Club Triptych. Music pounded against the walls of the old church, the rhythm a steady beat inside her head. A broad shouldered guy in leather pants and a mesh shirt rubbed up against Katya’s hip in a bid for attention. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had dared to grind up against her uninvited. It was almost a novel experience.
Turning her head, Katya lifted her chin and found the young man’s gaze. She knew he’d see a slim, attractive woman in a tight black dress that enhanced her cleavage and flattered her round butt. He’d look at Katya’s cat green eyes, pale complexion, and the black hair tumbling over her shoulders. He would want her.
“Hey baby.” He offered a hand, presumably to encourage her to dance.
Katya took the hand, pinched the skin between his thumb and forefinger, and twisted gently until he found himself kneeling on the stone floor of the club. She offered him a cold smile. “You’re a cute little boy.” With her free hand she cupped his cheek and brushed her thumb over his lower lip. His pupils dilated as he became aroused. “But I’ve had enough toys like you to last a lifetime.”

Katya leaned down and gave the young man a kiss. He moaned when she bit his lip. She dominated his mouth for the span of only a few seconds, but she sensed the inferno of desire she set off inside him. She let go of his hand and walked away. She didn’t have to look to know he was still kneeling there on the floor ready to beg her for fulfillment.

If you enjoyed this unedited teaser, stay tuned for more. In a world where control equals unparalleled pleasure, fire tempers steel to create profound beauty.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Don't Miss This Hot Valentines Day Read!

What do you get when you mix a New Year's Eve dare with chemistry so hot that it could make Cupid blush?


Mary Maureen McKinloch, better known as Morrie, slumped onto a bar stool at the far end of the bar where she wouldn’t get squished by the New Year’s Eve revelers. It was a relief to get off her feet. The pub had been open since ten thirty that morning, and they’d been packed all day. 

Morrie’s friend Luce nudged her shoulder. “How many hours have you worked today?” 

“I lost count somewhere around three p.m. After that it was just depressing.” Morrie leaned over the bar and helped herself to a pint glass. She used the wand to fill it to the brim with club soda. Squeezing lime juice into her beverage of choice, she tried to see the positive. “I shouldn’t be bitching. I’ve made enough in tips tonight to pay next month’s rent.” 

Luce’s expression turned skeptical. “Your landlord is your sister-in-law, and I know for a fact that Ashton is pretty low-key on the rent. So unless you’re a really crappy waitress, I’m thinking you’ll have enough left over to take a trip to that new outlet mall and buy some shoes.” 

Morrie took a deep drink of club soda and sighed. “Hmmm, shoes!” 

Morrie and Luce had immediately hit it off when Ashton had introduced them. Both women possessed a deep love of shoes, handbags, and bargains. It was a little odd that Morrie’s two best friends wound up marrying her brothers. At least she had awesome sisters-in-law. 

The eldest McKinloch sibling appeared from the direction of the kitchen with a massive box of liquor perched on one bulging shoulder. “How are my two favorite sisters?” 

“Wow, Oz, I’ll make sure to tell Ashton she’s in the doghouse the next time I talk to her,” Luce commented drily. 

Ossian McKinloch grinned. “Maybe that’ll teach her to run halfway around the world just because my brother’s air force command stationed him in Germany.” 

Morrie snorted. “Trust me, neither of you wants her here if Trip is still in Germany and they have to be separated.” 

Luce pushed a lock of long dark hair over her shoulder. “I’ll second that. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since she and Trip made it official. I miss her.” 

Oz swung the box off his shoulder and began the process of unloading bottles onto the shelves behind the bar. “Although it worked out pretty nice for you since Gavin was stuck on Ashton before Trip took her out of the picture.” 

Luce frowned, her full lips puckering into a pout. “Okay, I resent that remark.” 

“Not as much as I do.” Gavin slid his arms around Luce’s body and drew her back into his embrace. “Ashton marrying Trip was the best thing that ever happened as far as I’m concerned. But I’d rather be drawn and quartered than admit it to that egotistical bastard brother of mine.” 

Luce murmured something and turned in his arms. It took only seconds for the two lovebirds to sink into a passionate kiss that made Morrie want to throw up. First of all, Gavin was her brother. Major ick factor there. Second? She was sick and tired of everyone else being lucky in love. Hell, Gavin and Luce had even gotten engaged on St. Patrick’s Day. 

Zoey Statham leaned against the bar on Morrie’s other side. “Good God, are they at it again?” 

Morrie swallowed a big gulp of club soda and nodded her head, feeling like a complete frump beside Zoey. The other woman’s vintage black-and-white dress had cap sleeves that showed off her slender arms and a straight skirt trimmed in ruffles that rested at her knees. Her nut-brown hair fell in gently tousled waves around a face that could’ve sold cosmetics. Zoey was so damn put together, Morrie was a clumsy oaf in comparison. 

Morrie and Zoey were casual acquaintances. Morrie was never sure if Zoey really liked hanging out with her or just didn’t have any other options since now, Luce spent all her time with Gavin. Luce had brought Zoey into the McKinloch circle because they’d worked together as event planners. These days Luce worked with Gavin at their bakery, and she and Zoey didn’t seem as close as they’d once been. 

Zoey offered Morrie a sympathetic smile. “I just can’t believe how rude some people are when it comes to shameless public displays of affection.” 

Ossian gave Zoey an assessing look as if he saw something Morrie was totally missing. “If it really bothers you, you could always find some random partner in the room and create your own shameless display.” 

From the corner of her eye, Morrie saw Luce grin and brush her nose against Gavin’s. She felt a pang as she wondered if there would ever be someone in her life to snuggle with. Her last relationship had ended in unmitigated disaster when she’d discovered her guy was sleeping with another other woman on the side while trying to coax Morrie into bed with him. When she’d confronted him, he’d made some vague comment about a trying to set up a ménage so he could enjoy watching some girl-on-girl action. Morrie had dumped his ass, although she’d been more than a little horrified that she’d felt actual excitement when he’d said “girl-on-girl.” 

What would that be like? 

Beside Morrie, Zoey and Oz were still bantering. Zoey waved her hand at Gavin and Luce before addressing Oz. “Are you saying you think I’m too chicken to make a spectacle of myself?” 

“You mean do I think you’re all talk and no action?” Oz laid his palms flat on the bar and leaned across. “Yeah, I do.” 

“Oh you are going down!” Zoey crowed. 

Before Morrie even registered what was happening, Zoey spun her around, cupped her face, and kissed her full on the lips. It was like the whole universe ground to a halt. 

Pleasurable tingles shot through Morrie’s system. She registered the clean, fresh taste of Zoey’s mouth and the softness of her lips. Zoey’s hands were gentle against her face, light as a butterfly. Then Zoey slid her tongue along the seam of her mouth, asking for entrance. Morrie didn’t even hesitate. She welcomed the intrusion, savoring the foreign sensation of Zoey’s skilled mouth. 

Oh. My. God. 

ZOEY STATHAM WAS in heaven. She’d dreamed of this moment for months, though she’d never imagined Ossian McKinloch would be the one to make it possible. She half suspected the arrogant know-it-all had nudged her into kissing his sister on purpose. 

Morrie made a soft sound in the back of her throat that set Zoey on fire. Her core began to melt, leaving a warm slippery feeling between her legs and an ache that only knew one form of relief. 

Zoey slid her fingers over Morrie’s jaw and into the loose hair at the nape of her neck. The dark tendrils were thick and soft just as Zoey had imagined they’d be. She explored Morrie’s mouth with her tongue, teasing and coaxing, hoping Morrie wouldn’t retreat. When Morrie’s tongue made a tentative push into Zoey’s mouth, she couldn’t hold back her moan of excitement. 

“Um, wow.” Gavin McKinloch’s baritone blew the moment more effectively than an explosion. 

Morrie jerked away from Zoey. She swiped the back of her hand across her mouth as if she intended to get rid of the kiss. Zoey tried to be circumspect; gazing at the woman she wanted so badly. Morrie’s face was flushed, and her dark eyes were bright with awareness and a touch of curiosity. That gave Zoey hope. 

Knowing she had to take control of the situation, Zoey shot Gavin a bored look. “As if you didn’t dream of seeing something like that every single night between the age of thirteen and thirty.” 

Oz chuckled. “Probably true, although I’m hoping his fantasies didn’t involve our sister.” 

Morrie seemed to rally. She gave her brothers a look that oozed disdain. “Maybe next time Gavin wants to make out with my friend in public he’ll remember this incident and it’ll help cool him off.” 

“You know, I think the girl has a point.” Luce tugged Gavin’s arm. “Maybe it’s time we head on home.” 

Gavin looked at the clock hanging above the bar. “But it’s a twenty minutes till midnight!” 

“Exactly.” Luce began dragging him toward the back door. 

Zoey could see the moment her meaning sunk in, because Gavin took the lead, not even bothering to say good night. It hurt to see that happen. Luce had been one of Zoey’s closest friends. Sometimes she felt left behind now that Luce was married to a man she never wanted to be without. Zoey was happy her friend had found love, but a little jealous that she couldn’t seem to do the same. 

“And…it’s back to the Morrie is single with no prospects show.” Morrie slumped against the bar as Oz hustled off to help a customer not being handled by the other three bartenders on duty. 

Zoey wet her lips with the tip of her tongue, wondering if this would make it or break it for good. “Oh I wouldn’t say you have no prospects.” 

Morrie’s gaze traveled around the room. “Yeah, I’m just not feeling into any of the guys I see up for grabs on this fine New Year’s Eve.” 

“What about the women?” 

Morrie turned startled eyes back to Zoey. “I guess I never considered it.” 

“Why not?” Zoey forced herself to sound nonchalant as if she were just casually tossing the idea around herself. As if she hadn’t imagined making love to Morrie fifty different ways. 

“Because I’ve always been with guys?” 

Zoey climbed up onto the bar stool and took a moment to settle her skirt around her legs. She thought carefully about what she wanted to say. “Being with a woman means you’re experiencing pleasure with someone who understands your body almost as well as you do. She knows just how to stroke your breasts so your nipples get sensitive without overdoing it. How to tease her way down your belly to your pussy, and how to use every part of her body to make yours sing.” 

Morrie’s breathing grew ragged. Zoey could see her pupils dilate in the dim light of the bar. She was definitely curious. Now Zoey had to convince her to try something new and exciting. If Morrie would just let herself experience the passion that simmered between them, Zoey was sure she’d realize they were meant to be together. 

Morrie inhaled a shallow breath. “I guess I always thought that a woman wouldn’t have what I need.” 

Zoey scoffed. “You know the only thing a woman doesn’t have that a man does?” 

Morrie shook her head. 

“A dick telling her what to do.” 

Morrie’s laugh seemed to catch her by surprise. She covered her mouth with both hands, her eyes sparkling with humor. “Do you”—she seemed to lose her words—“I mean have you ever done something like that?” 

Zoey forced herself to play it cool even though her inner sexpot was jumping up and down screaming yes! “Why? Are you curious enough to come back to my place and try it?” 

Zoey had to choke back a groan when Morrie nibbled her full lower lip. She took one last look around the room, ending with a long stare at her brother, Oz. Then she turned to Zoey and gave her a sharp nod. “Yeah, I’m game.”

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chiaroscuro - All Romance Ebooks

OUT NOW AND AVAILABLE FROM LOOSE ID- Boston Avant-Garde #6 Chiaroscuro
Published: Dec 31, 2013
ISBN # 9781623005498
Word Count: 77,663
Heat Index     
Lars Aasen uses his playboy image like armor. If he pretends he doesn’t care, nobody will ever guess he does. When his relationship with Mattie begins to blossom, he runs to Owen hoping the sexy bouncer will agree to keep it casual. Lars could have never guessed that he had found the two people he cannot live without.

Mattie is a quirky artist who wants nothing more than a home and a family of her own. She can’t help but wonder if her heart will ever recover from Lars’s abrupt exit from her life. Then a jaded bouncer named Owen intervenes when a local lunatic takes an unhealthy interest in Mattie. She can’t help but wonder if Owen might be her prince charming in a sarcastic disguise.

It doesn’t take Owen long to realize that he and Mattie both have unfinished business with Lars Aasen. Owen has dark secrets that force him to keep things casual, but he can’t stay away from Lars and Mattie. Fate threads the three lovers together, but an outside enemy threatens to rip them apart. They'll have to learn to see through the shadows to live together in the light.
Reader Rating:  Not rated (0 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating:   Not rated

Tags for this product

Owen turned the shower on full blast so he wouldn’t have to hear Lars slam the door on his way out. Owen should’ve been glad to see the last of his most recent lover. The past few months had been like a roller coaster. The kind that went up and down and never seemed to end.

The way the man waffled about his sexuality made Owen crazy. Why couldn’t Lars understand that it didn’t matter if they were both men? They fucked. It was highly enjoyable. Ergo, why stop? It wasn’t as if Owen had a desire to go pick out wedding china or something.

As if that’s ever going to happen for me.

Owen didn’t want to think about the sins he’d committed that would always stand between him and a normal relationship. Steam billowed around the small bathroom, fogging up the mirror and chasing away the specter of past violence that haunted him still. Owen walked into the spray and savored the burn. He closed his eyes and felt the water saturate his thick hair. Bracing his hand against the tile wall, he let the water wash away the sweat and scent of sex. At that moment, he wished it were possible to wash the memory of Lars away as easily.

A loud knocking pulled Owen out of his maudlin thoughts. There was only one person in the world who had the brass to bang on his door like that. He shut the water off and grabbed a towel before stepping out of the shower.

Another round of insistent pounding made him grumble, “I’m coming!” He anchored the towel a little more firmly around his waist. “It’s no wonder Malachi enjoys spanking your ass so much if you make a habit of being this rude!”

He caught the barest hint of a smothered noise of feminine outrage on the other side of his thick door. That made him smile. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but messing with Selena Aasen gave him intense pleasure. It was probably because she was always guaranteed to rise to the bait, and maybe because she’d managed to permanently snag both of his bosses. Of course, he also liked her—not that he’d ever tell her that.

Owen flung the door open and gave the slim blonde his meanest look. “What do you want?”

She didn’t even flinch. “Where’s Lars?”

Owen mentally recoiled. Lars was Selena’s cousin, but the way Lars seemed to hate himself every time he wound up in Owen’s bed hadn’t suggested he’d be free with information about their clandestine relationship.

“Come on, Owen.” Selena folded her arms and gave him the stink eye. It was an expression that turned the massive Malachi into putty, but Owen wasn’t Malachi.

He decided to be blunt. “Lars left about a half hour ago.”

“Dammit!” Her fierce expression dissolved into a look of worry he’d never seen before. “He’s not answering his phone. I figured that meant he was with you.”

Owen opted to let that pass. “Why? Did you need him?”

“No…it’s just”—she seemed to reconsider him—“my friend Mattie is stuck having a meeting with a total douche bag later on, and I was going to send Lars to keep an eye on her.”

“Why Lars?” Owen’s mental radar was a blaring siren in his head. Surely Selena wouldn’t send Lars to babysit a woman he didn’t know. What if this Mattie chick was the person Lars had refused to talk about earlier?

Selena looked uncomfortable. “It’s no big. I’ll just ask Demon to shadow her for a bit.”

Yeah, that’ll go over like a ton of bricks.

The Demon of Triptych didn’t shadow anyone but Selena, Malachi, or their daughter, Alisa. Demon leaving his family to take on a security detail for some random chick wasn’t going to happen.

“I’ll do it,” Owen offered.

“Oh.” She suddenly became very interested in her manicure. “I’d hate to send someone she doesn’t know. That would just creep her out more, don’t you think?”

“And she knows Lars, how?”

“Well they…”

He had her now, and they both knew it. Owen sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’m not an idiot, Selena. I’m guessing they were fucking each other at one time or another.”

“I think they broke it off this past summer sometime,” she said hastily. “I’m sure it hasn’t happened since the two of you…uh…”

He couldn’t help it. Owen laughed so hard he nearly lost his towel. “Sheesh! You’re acting like I’m some lovesick girl. We’re hardly a couple, Selena. We fuck and we enjoy it. That’s it.”

She wasn’t laughing. Owen felt his own humor die at the speculative expression on her face. He became instantly aware that she and Lars had grown up as close as brother and sister. What had Lars told his cousin, and how weak would Owen look if he asked about it?

“Artists’ Row in Salem,” Selena said abruptly. “Her name is Mattie English. She’s got a stall on the opposite end from the Lobster Shanty. She’s meeting some guy named Daniel Hyde. I’ll e-mail you the dossier Malachi put together.” She dug her keys out of her pocket and stuffed them into his hand. The pink rhinestone princess crown hanging off the ring looked absurd in his grasp. “Take my car. Mattie gave me this keychain. That should give you a little credibility if you need it.”

* * * *

Mattie was jumpy as a cat all afternoon. Even the kids who’d shown up to her class seemed to notice. Each artist who was granted stall space in Artists’ Row for the season was expected to teach art classes to the community. Normally it was a job Mattie loved. In the fall she typically taught at the local elementary after-school program, and she saw many familiar faces on Artists’ Row. Today she could hardly keep her mind on the shading techniques she was demonstrating.

How was she supposed to concentrate on the pattern of light and shadow striking the potted plant outside her work area when she was scheduled to meet up with a man who had been arrested last year for sacrificing goats?

As if the very idea of animal sacrifice wasn’t enough to make her skittish, Mattie was still trying to figure out why Meecham would be aligning himself with Hyde. Wiccans didn’t practice that sort of thing. At least none of the ones Mattie had ever met would have considered it. Life was a precious, sacred thing. The members of the Circle she’d belonged to had valued life too highly to ever think they were worthy of snuffing it out. That was the Goddess’s decision, not theirs.

“Miss English?” Fourteen-year-old Lydia twisted her head sideways to get a better look at Mattie’s sketch pad. “Your tree looks possessed.”

So it does. “I suppose you could say this is an example of how we use chiaroscuro to make a mood.” Mattie decided backpedaling at this stage would only seem weirder, so she dove right into the demonic theme. In moments she’d shaded her tree into a pit stop on the way to hell. “We can use shadows in our drawings to set a peaceful, lazy mood, or you can make it look like something straight out of Sleepy Hollow. Artist’s choice.”

Mattie flipped to a new sheet in her book and tried to squash her nerves into the background. Her gaze flitted around the sunny walkway between the stalls until it settled on a man sitting nonchalantly at a bistro table twenty yards away.

Now there’s a body made for shading.

Her pencil began to sketch of its own accord. He was a big man dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans with one booted foot crossed over the other. His skin was like burnished copper, a shade she usually found in the local Native American tribes. He was utterly relaxed, but as she outlined his broad shoulders, she realized he was also very alert. Something in the way he held his head told her that his dark gaze could absorb everything at a glance.

She kept waiting for her brain to start comparing him to Lars—something it seemed to do with every man these days. Drawing side-by-side analyses of Lars Aasen and random men who seemed interested in her had basically destroyed any hope of a love life since Lars had run out on her during the summer. It had been totally unexpected. She’d thought things were going well between the two of them, maybe even ready to step to the next level, and then he’d stopped returning her calls.

Mattie sketched in the tree shading the bistro table, paying close attention to how the sunlight filtered through the tree’s branches, before shading her warrior in tones of charcoal and mahogany.

My warrior?

Yep, she was losing it big-time. She was practically salivating as she scoped out the darkened hollow beneath his sloping jaw and noticed the barest hint of blue ink visible along the neckline of his T-shirt.

Her hand stilled, the scratch of her pencil going silent. He was staring at her. She met his gaze. Not because she wanted to, but because she couldn’t stop herself. She was utterly trapped by the heat lurking beneath his calm exterior. Tendrils of awareness crept through her nervous system, culminating at a point between her legs. Molten desire melted her insides. She clamped her legs together and bit back a moan. It’d been too long. Celibacy didn’t agree with her. Mattie’s innate sensuality was so intense it sometimes left her trembling with needs she couldn’t acknowledge. It was something she kept at bay with very carefully orchestrated relationships while wishing fervently she could find something lasting.

Then she’d made the ill-advised split-second decision to get involved with Lars. Since then she hadn’t managed to put him behind her and find someone else. She’d become fixated on him, unable to focus on another man—until now.

Mattie believed strongly in the vibrant life force underlying all things. Every living plant and animal had its own energy—an aura, a tangible something that could be felt if she tried. Lars’s internal vibrancy had been like an aphrodisiac from the start. She’d never experienced anything like it. Hadn’t thought to meet anyone else with such a powerful intrinsic vigor. Now the memory of Lars and the reality of this perfect stranger seemed to blend in an unrealistic fashion.

“Miss English?” Lydia touched her shoulder. “What do you think?”

When her attention was ripped away and refocused on the class, Mattie felt drained, shattered, and shaken. Four teenaged girls were staring at her with openly curious expressions on their bright young faces. Exhaling deliberately, Mattie noted Lydia’s careful shading of the flower petals on her sketch pad. “Those are very realistic, Lyddie. You’ve developed a wonderful eye.”

The teen flushed with pleasure and turned to giggle with her friends. Mattie let her gaze wander back toward the stranger, only to discover he was gone. It was as if he’d never been sitting there. Disconcerted, she glanced back down at her sketch to reassure herself he’d been real.

She absently twiddled her pencil. Almost of its own volition, her hand added a few more details. The background materialized into another bistro table, a second chair facing the first. Lars’s body took shape on the page. The familiar lines of his slim-hipped frame, powerful shoulders, narrow waist, and long legs. She smudged in his perpetually tousled dark hair and the familiar dusting of five-o’clock shadow on his jawline.

Fully immersed in her own artistic world, Mattie placed herself at a triangular point between them. Not in a physical sense, but a focal one. It was as if she were staring at them both and soaking up the smoldering heat of their regard. Energy crackled to life on the paper, and she wished she had time to put what she was feeling on canvas in the broad, sure strokes of paint.

The spell ended, and Mattie snapped back to reality. Heat bloomed across her cheekbones, snaking down her neck and making her feel light-headed. There wasn’t a hint of jealousy or competition between the two alpha males on her page. Instead, they seemed oddly content to share…everything.

Talk about wishful thinking. I need to get laid.


Daniel Hyde popped out of thin air behind her left shoulder. Mattie quickly closed her sketch pad and gave her visitor what she hoped was a friendly yet unencouraging smile. A lump of dread settled in her belly when he returned her smile with a leer. This didn’t promise to be a pleasant afternoon.

“Girls?” Mattie glanced at Lydia and her friends. “That’s all we have time for this afternoon, but you’re all welcome to stay and finish up as long as you’d like.” In fact, she was hoping they’d stick around.

Hyde looked at the girls with thinly veiled contempt. He gestured toward the back of Mattie’s booth. “Shall we look over your paintings?”

She was starting to wish her black scoop-necked blouse and loose jeans were a baggy sackcloth. Hyde’s gaze was stuck to her chest as if he’d lost his eyeballs in her cleavage and wanted to retrieve them.

With a resolute sigh, she gestured to one of her largest pieces. “This is a personal favorite.” It had been painted near Marblehead in Lady’s Cove. The brilliant sunset showed the boats coming in with their colorful sails bathed in the fiery red-and-orange glow of the sun.

“It’s very nice.” He nodded toward a painting depicting storm-gray clouds gathering over Gallows Hill. “But this is more to my taste.”

Gee, why doesn’t that surprise me? Should I sketch in a few headless goats too?

The thought made her shiver. If Lars and the stranger outside both possessed brilliant energy, this guy’s aura could only be described as dark. Daniel Hyde gave off a vibe that made every hair on her body quiver with dread. Why had she ever thought him a harmless perv?

“Meecham says you can do a fair historic representation,” Hyde said. She met his gaze for a moment only to realize it was oily black. “I want to capture the terror of the hangings.”

He didn’t have to expand for her to know what hangings he was referring to. It was in his face, in his voice, a desire to revel in the madness that had seized Salem in 1692. Interest in those events brought people to Salem. Whether for simple curiosity or macabre reasons they kept to themselves, people wanted to know what had happened. Still, this felt different.

Hyde’s penetrating stare seemed to strip her skin from her body as it delved into her soul. “I need three paintings, one of the trials, with the spectral presence of the witches tormenting the victims. One of the hangings, and the last one depicting Giles Corey as he was pressed to death in the field.”

Her lungs couldn’t draw breath. Blood coursed wildly through her veins, and she grew light-headed. Finally, she managed to drag in enough air to speak. “I-I can’t paint that. What you’re asking… That’s not even what happened! There were no specters. There probably weren’t any witches. There are tons of theories. Ergot poisoning, political power games, bored teenaged girls—take your pick!”

Hyde edged closer, crowding her into the corner of her stall. She’d draped a sunny length of yellow linen across the rear wall. It tickled her ear as she tried to back away.

His lips curved into the vestige of a cruel smile. “Perhaps it was too much to expect a woman from a long line of cowards to believe the truth.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Mattie gazed wildly around, searching for someone to help. Lydia and her friends had wandered off, probably down to the Shanty to grab a snack. She could scream, but there was no guarantee anyone would hear or even care. What the hell had she been thinking meeting a weirdo like this?

OWEN HAD NEVER felt such an all-consuming urge to rip someone’s spine out. He’d turned away for less than five minutes, just long enough to get himself together after Mattie’s probing gaze had sliced right through all his carefully erected barriers. Next thing he knew, Daniel “Goatkiller” Hyde had pinned Mattie in the back of her stall for who knew what purpose.

Owen thought fast. He pulled out Selena’s keys and let the sparkly pink crown dangle from his fingers. Striding toward the back of the stall, he let them jingle. “Hey, baby, are you almost done here? I’ve got your keys.”

Hyde whipped around, his lip curled into a silent snarl. Owen lifted his chin and let the menace roll off his body in waves. Working as a bouncer at Triptych had taught him all kinds of things about silent presence. If he had to use every ounce of it to get Mattie away from this guy, he would.

Mattie peered at him as if he were offering a life raft in a storm. Her already fair skin was pale as milk, intensifying her dark hair and blue-gray eyes. Owen tried to exude as much goodwill toward her as he could. When her gaze flickered over the keys in his hand, he saw quiet relief enter her expression.

“My name is Owen.” Owen didn’t offer his hand to Hyde. He had no desire to touch a man who could give off the kind of evil this one was. “And you are?”

“Leaving, if you’ll excuse me.” Hyde turned on his heel and exited the booth without another word.

Owen turned, placing himself between Mattie and Hyde until the man was out of sight. He could sense her trying to gather what was left of her composure. When he turned around, she was trembling, one hand gripping a support pole.

“Selena sent me,” Owen said softly. “You’re safe.”

She seemed to waver. A tear streaked down the sleek contour of her elegant cheekbone. Her wobbly legs suggested she might collapse. Before he could think better of it, Owen reached out and drew her into his arms. She nestled there as if nature had made her to fit him perfectly.

I absolutely understand why Lars loves this woman, whether he’ll admit it or not.

“It was you,” she whispered. “Outside, staring at me.”


“Who are you?”

There was nothing but simple curiosity in her tone. He’d expected leftover hostility or fear from Hyde’s near attack, but there was none of that. She rested in his arms in a posture of utter trust. “I work at Triptych.”

“Yes, but who are you?” Her gaze made his cock quiver with awareness. “Why do I feel like I already know you?”

He wished he knew. It might make her less tempting. Or not. Owen couldn’t even decide if part of her allure was because she’d managed to snag Lars so thoroughly. Did she even know that? What if she was clueless, or worse, what if Owen was completely wrong, and there was something else instigating Lars’s self-castigation?

And why the hell do I care? I shouldn’t care. I can’t care.

“Will you take me home?” she asked. “I don’t want to be alone.”

Her instant faith in his good intentions humbled him in a way nothing else in his life ever had. “Anything you want.”
Copyright © Kaitlin Maitland

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Now Available-Junebugs, Haunted Houses & Jack-o'-Lanterns

I think some of the greatest love stories are the ones that happen between two people who think their chance at romance is already over and done. Getting swept off your feet by a handsome stranger is easy. What happens when you're navigating love in the messy everyday world of diapers, runny noses, post partum depression, and all those crappy little habits that take center stage in our married lives?

With the city of St. Louis and Clan McKinloch as a lively background, I hope you'll enjoy reading about two people who thought their romance was done. A guy who never said what needed to be said until it was too late, and a woman who desperately wants to know she matters.

Stacey is tired of sharing Donal with his job at McKinloch’s Pub.
She wants a husband who puts her first. Besides, sometimes being
married to the hottest guy in the room means you spend all your time
wondering who else is volunteering to warm his bed.

Donal has never wanted any woman but Stacey. There is no way he’s
letting her walk away from their marriage without a fight, even if he has
to step out of his comfort zone and sweep her off her feet. Fortunately,
chemistry is on his side, if only he can make Stacey understand that the
sparks they have in the bedroom could be carried over to the rest of their lives.

It doesn’t take Stacey long to realize that the guy you have might be exactly what you need. After all, nothing worth having comes easy. Worse, she’s starting to realize that she might have unfairly judged the one guy she needs to make her life complete.

An excerpt from the book

“Look, Mama!” Tyler cupped his baby palm around a shiny green beetle. “Look at the pretty bug!”

Stacey McKinloch crouched beside her son and tried not to feel as if every single person attending her brother-in-law’s wedding was staring at her. Although since they absolutely were staring at her, she was probably entitled to a little paranoia.

“What kind is it?” Tyler asked.

“It’s a june bug.” Stacey admired the way the torchlight shone on the beetle’s iridescent shell.

It was a beautiful evening. The twilight sky was a soft canopy over the outdoor dance floor and billowing white tents that had been set up for the reception. The air was balmy with just a touch of the humidity that would descend upon the St. Louis area like a suffocating haze come August.

“It’s May, Mama.” Tyler squinted his eyes at her as though he were trying to decide if she were pulling his leg or not.

Stacey chuckled, wondering how to explain to such a black-and-white thinker that the beetle’s name had very little to do with when he and his brethren descended upon the Midwest like a plague. Setting the abstract aside, she went with a logical explanation. “Maybe he’s early?”

Tyler giggled, his greenish-blue eyes lighting up his face and making her heart ache. Aside from his eyes, he looked so much like his father. The thick dark hair curling boyishly around his forehead and ears, his complexion, and even his smile reminded her of Donal.

As if the mere thought of his name could conjure him from thin air, Stacey caught a glimpse of her estranged husband leaning against the corner of the bar with his eldest brother, Oz. He was staring at her. It seemed as though lately all he did was stare at her. It was a pretty radical change considering he’d barely noticed her the last three years they’d been married. Three months after Tyler’s birth, Donal had started working endless hours and stopped paying any attention to his wife. Even their once active sex life had dwindled to nearly nonexistent.

Why couldn’t he pay this much attention to me while we were together?

She’d been a fool to come to the wedding in the first place knowing all her soon to be ex in-laws would be there. The whole lot of them probably thought she was a horrible person for filing for divorce from Donal, but then they hadn’t spent three years of a six-year marriage lying awake at night wondering if he was really at work or doing something--or someone--else.

Donal turned to say something to his brother, giving her a look at his handsome profile. She wasn’t ashamed to admit it had been his looks to catch her eye in the beginning. The first time she’d spotted him in a crowd at a high school soccer game, she hadn’t been able to stop staring. He’d been there to watch his younger brother play her school’s team in a matchup of long-time rivals.

He shifted abruptly, and their gazes locked. Stacey’s nipples peaked beneath her summer dress, and she felt a throbbing sensation between her legs. It had been like that between her and Donal when they first got together. The chemistry was explosive. Two kids, a mortgage, and their hectic life had changed things. Considering the lackluster state of their relationship in the last few years, she was surprised her body would react at all. Although her unpredictable hormones after the birth of their son three months earlier probably had something to do with that.

Stacey resisted the urge to fan herself. Donal would’ve known immediately, and giving him the idea she was beginning to change her mind about the divorce was on her short list of stupid things to do. Stacey wanted out. She wanted a relationship where she felt as though she were on equal ground. She didn’t want to look at every other woman who smiled at her husband and wonder if they’d spent the previous night flirting it up at McKinloch’s Pub where Donal worked. She didn’t want the “hot guy” anymore. She wanted the predictable, boring corporate executive. She wanted a perfect marriage like her parents had--a partnership where she ran the house and raised the children and her husband worked a steady, normal, nine-to-five job and came home every night for dinner.

A nudge against her arm brought Stacey back to the moment. “Hey, babe, I’ve got your drink.” Brett handed her a flute of champagne.

Stacey stood up and smoothed her skirt before offering her date a smile full of forced cheer. “Thanks!” She gulped the entire thing in one go. “Tyler and I were just checking out the june bugs.”

Tyler heard his name and grinned up at them, lifting his chubby little hands to show Brett his new buggy friend. If his expression was anything to go by, Brett wasn’t impressed. His tailored slacks, dress shirt, and imported shoes didn’t suggest he spent much time doing anything but sitting behind a desk in his brokerage firm’s office. Stacey knew he played golf, but his physique certainly didn’t suggest he’d last the hike across eighteen holes with a golf bag slung over his shoulder. He was her height, and thick in the waist with no hint of muscle definition. That, along with his thinning blond hair, made him exactly what she was looking for in a man the second time around. Brett would be a steady provider who didn’t draw too much attention, and would be home for dinner every night because he could leave his work at the office.

“Wanna hold him?” Tyler offered, smiling up at Brett.

Brett awkwardly patted Tyler on top of the head. “Gee thanks, sport, but I’m good.”

Tyler went back to his beetle. His ring bearer suit was filthy, but the pictures were over and done with, and Stacey couldn’t imagine trying to keep an active little boy clean while attending an outdoor reception.

Brett took a sip of his champagne. “Shouldn’t you tell him to stop playing in the dirt?”

“He won’t be three until next month. He doesn’t understand why he shouldn’t.” Stacey was starting to feel a bit miffed. Didn’t Brett like kids? He was dating her, after all, and she had two boys. It wasn’t like she expected him to raise her sons, but still. There was going to be a ton of dirt in her future.

Brett shrugged. “They call that parenting. Or maybe we could look into hiring a nanny if you’re incapable of handling it. At this rate he’s going to need a bath before he can get back in my car.”

Stacey was stunned he could be so callous toward her and her son. Her heartbeat began to flutter madly as she bit back the torrent of words she wanted to say. She couldn’t be rude to Brett no matter how badly she wanted to be. He was her father’s protégé. The man her parents thought was so perfect for her. The man she thought was perfect for her.

She pasted a smile on her face. “I really appreciate you coming with me tonight, Brett, but I know you’re busy. I was thinking about staying with friends if you’d like to take off.”

Brett pulled out his phone and began scanning text messages. “Are you sure? I don’t want to leave you on your own, but if you’d like to have a girls’ night, I won’t get in the way of that.”

“Oh absolutely!” Stacey aimed a wave at a group of women on the other side of the dance floor. “I see a few people I’d like to chat with, so I’ll just head right on over.” That, of course, was a total lie. There wasn’t one person at this party she felt comfortable talking to now that she’d filed for divorce from Donal McKinloch. These days she was practically a pariah in the Soulard area.

Brett tugged her close to his body. He was younger than Donal. Thirty-two to Stacey’s thirty. Stacey wished his ice-blue eyes and blond hair appealed to her. Unfortunately if she were totally honest, they really didn’t. At least she never had to worry about other women staring at him or hitting on him while her back was turned. Plus, her parents approved of him.

When he kissed her, she held her breath in anticipation. His lips were always slightly damp. He smelled nice, but she didn’t like the way he made her feel so smothered when he moved in close.

Brett cupped her backside and gave it a squeeze, something entirely inappropriate considering the situation. He moved his mouth to her ear and gave it a nibble. “I was sort of hoping you’d come by my place later on, after you took the rug rat home to your folks.”

“That sounds--nice,” she lied. “I’m not sure what time I’ll be done, though. Don’t you have an early golf game tomorrow?”

“That’s right, I do.” He nuzzled her neck. “Although I’ve been looking forward to getting you naked since the first night we met.”

Another awkward fact since they’d been dating six months, but her parents had introduced them well over a year and a half ago when she had still been with Donal. Stacey wished she felt as happy about her and Brett as a couple as her folks did. It would’ve made things a lot easier. She gave him her broadest smile and hoped it didn’t look as insane as it felt. “I’ll do my best to get out of here sooner rather than later so I can make it to your place.” Not.

“All right, honey.” He gave her a big wet kiss. “Call me.”

He turned and walked off without saying a word to Tyler. He didn’t even look back, although Stacey wasn’t sure she cared about that. She was still mentally reeling after his announcement that he was officially trying to get in her pants. There had been little pressure about a physical relationship at first because she’d been pregnant. After that she’d managed to put him off. Apparently her excuses were running thin.

She should’ve been ecstatic at the prospect of having sex. She was hornier than hell these days. Still, as difficult as it was to admit, she was horribly conflicted about the idea of being with someone else. Donal had been her first. After two babies and six years of marriage, she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t scared shitless to have another man see her naked.

DONAL GRIPPED HIS whiskey glass so hard he was surprised it didn’t shatter. It was a special brand of hell to watch another man kiss his wife less than a hundred yards away from him and be unable to do a damn thing about it. Stacey’s rich bastard of a boyfriend didn’t even see the way Tyler was frowning while he watched another man paw his mother.

Not that Donal didn’t understand why a man would have the urge to put his hands on Stacey. She’d always been pretty, but having their children had given her a certain something that made her incredibly beautiful. Her body was round in all the right places with fuller breasts, curvy hips, and an ass he longed to cup. Throw in the perpetually tousled shoulder-length blonde hair, sleepy green eyes, and full, pouting lips, and his wife looked as though she were made for pleasure.

“Have another drink, Donal.” Oz motioned to the bartender.

Donal shook his head. “No. I’m done. I’ve already had more than I should. A few more, and I’ll hunt that asshole down and rip off his balls.”

When Stacey’s new man walked away, Oz gave him a thorough evaluation from his designer-label shoes to the top of his overgelled head. “I’m not entirely sure he’d have any balls to rip off once you got him on the ground. Does he really think he can use product to paste hair over his bald spot? A dude who looks like that can’t possibly be a real man. He probably doesn’t even smell like one.”

Donal grinned in spite of himself. Stacey had always poked fun at the way Donal smelled. He didn’t have to wear cologne. He generally smelled like whatever sauce he’d been experimenting with last before he came home from the pub. She called it Eau de Yum.

The boyfriend strode off across the grounds toward the parking lot, leaving Stacey and Tyler all by themselves on the fringe of the party. Donal didn’t like it. He should’ve been glad her new man wasn’t treating her like a princess, but it didn’t sit well. He pushed away from the bar with the intention of moseying in Stacey’s direction.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Oz demanded.

“To talk to my wife.”

Oz snorted. “Ex-wife. She left you. Remember? Going over there is a bad idea.”

“I can be perfectly civil.” Donal threw his older brother a dirty look over his shoulder. “I seem to remember you’re the one who usually gets into fights at these things.”

Oz grunted, but didn’t respond. He hated weddings, loathed them in fact, though he’d never said why. The only reason he’d come to this one was because the groom was their youngest brother. You didn’t skip out on your baby brother’s wedding. At least a McKinloch didn’t.

Donal inhaled deeply of the soothing night air. It was unseasonably cool for June. More like a balmy autumn night. He could think of a million of those he’d spent with Stacey during six years of marriage. Why did this one seem as though the whole world rested on it?

Tyler spotted him first. “Daddy!” Tyler jumped up off the ground and wrapped his arms around Donal’s legs. “I found a june bug.”

Donal swung his son up into his arms, feeling the instant calm that always hit him when he held his children. “Let me see.”

Tyler opened his hand to show off his prize. “It’s green!”

“You must’ve caught the fastest june bug in the whole world, Chief.”

“Why?” Tyler demanded.

Donal pressed his face to his son’s tousled dark head and inhaled the familiar scent of childish sweat and the outdoors. “Because he got here a whole month early.”

Tyler dissolved into baby giggles until he spotted Donal’s mother across the garden. “There’s Gramma Ella!” Tyler squirmed. “I wanna go show her my bug.”

Donal set his son back on his feet. “Make sure you let her touch it, Chief. Gramma Ella loves bugs!”

Tyler bounded away as quickly as his short legs could take him. Donal watched him, waiting until he could hear Stacey shifting uncomfortably in the silence that lay so awkwardly between them. When he turned to face his wife, he was surprised to note she’d been watching him instead of their son.

Stacey gestured to Tyler and his grandmother. “He’s liable to put that bug right under her nose.”

“My mom raised four boys. She’s seen her fair share of bugs. It’s the snakes she could never handle.” Donal offered her what he hoped was a neutral smile. “I’m glad you came. It’s good to see you.”

She couldn’t hold his gaze. She kept glancing at a gaggle of women half a dozen yards away who seemed intent on staring at the two of them. Donal wondered why. Was she expecting him to head over and ask one of the women to dance, or was she waiting for her new Prince Charming to come back and whisk her off to his castle?

“Where’s Brett?”

“Oh, uh--he had some stuff to do.” She began to edge away.

Donal hadn’t meant to chase her off. He just didn’t know what to say. He never did. Words weren’t his thing. He glanced around helplessly, desperate for inspiration. His gaze fell on the couples swaying gently to the rhythm of a lazy ballad beneath the glow of the torches.

He extended a hand to Stacey. “Want to dance?”

“Is that a good idea?” She glanced longingly at the smooth wood floor nestled into the green expanse of lawn.

At least she hadn’t outright refused. Dancing had always come naturally to them as a couple. Donal’s mother was the old-fashioned sort. She’d made her boys take dance lessons until they could move like Fred Astaire. Plus, dancing didn’t require that Donal come up with fancy words. “Come on, Stace. You know there’s a debutante in a white dress inside your soul just begging to get out there.”

She glanced up at him in surprise, reaching for his hand as though she truly couldn’t resist. Donal had meant the white dress comment as a reference to her coming out as a deb, not as a reminder of their wedding. Still, the first time they’d taken the floor as man and wife wasn’t something he’d ever forget.

“I guess we could dance one song, just to be polite,” she said hesitantly.

He threaded his fingers with hers and tried not to focus on how right it felt to pull her into the curve of his body as they walked toward the dance floor. It shouldn’t be like this. How could it feel as though nothing had changed when in reality nothing was the same?

Copyright © Kaitlin Maitland

Junebugs, Haunted Houses & Jack-o'-Lanterns - All Romance Ebooks