Archive for December, 2010

Love From The Ashes on sale!

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Yes, it’s a huge book cover. Cause I want you to see it. 🙂 I’ve reduced the price of LOVE FROM THE ASHES at Amazon for a limited time. 🙂 Why? Well, because I can. And because this is a book I want a lot of people to read, and it’s a big, thick historical with adventure and romance. It’s my 2001 EPPIE winner for best historical romance. So stop by Amazon and pick up your copy. 🙂 This has been your public service announcement for the day. Happy New Year!

Christmas in Las Vegas

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Hey all. Just got back from Las Vegas yesterday. Our brains were pickled after the airport experience. Not that the experience was particularly bad, but air travel always wipes me out.

We spent time this holiday with son Michael and his wife Kelley. We hadn’t been to Vegas in quite a few years, and this time we stayed at THEHotel in Mandalay Bay. The suites were sweet! We’d stay there again.

As for Vegas, it’s as noisy and boisterous as ever. We don’t really care about gambling, but it can be fun to watch other people gamble. We took in Zumanity at New York, New York and enjoyed it. Had some good food and some not so good food. It’s all a part of the experience.

I’m looking forward to a quiet New Years with a good book and even more sleep!

Happy New Year everyone!

Happy Holidays and Christmas Eve

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Hello everyone! I know people probably have better things to do than read blogs during the holidays, so I wanted to breeze through and say Happy Holidays. For the wonderful holidays out there between now and New Year’s Eve, may you receive all the blessings you desire. I’ll be really up to my eyeballs in things for the next few days until at least next week. Everyone have a safe holiday!

Daryk Rogue released today!

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Hey everyone! A very late mention that Daryk Rogue came out yesterday at Ellora’s Cave www.jasminejade.com. I got totally swamped doing some other must accomplish things and just couldn’t get to the computer until now. Whew! Crazy days right before the holidays.  Here’s the blurb and an excerpt to tantalize you. Beware, this excerpt is hot and not for the faint of heart.

**

Ruled by treacherous desires to mate…

He would kill and die for her…

When Xandra Shorenus’s husband murders her family in retaliation for her defiance she escapes, but a huge wave wrecks her ship. Rogue Daryk One Rayder Tyrus saves her, but commands her allegiance with one kiss. She is his now, in and out of bed.

Rayder has infiltrated a dangerous faction, his need for redemption and retribution absolute. Desire to protect Xandra mixes with powerful carnal needs that demand he show her pleasures she never could have imagined in her sheltered life. They discover a fiery connection forged between hot kisses, adventurous touches and mind-melting unions. They must learn to survive the wrath of the breeder/slaver who hates Rayder, Xandra’s husband, the elements of jungle and desert that rule the land, and a war about to erupt that could separate them forever.

**

The lightning flashing, the sound of the storm lashing at the cabin destroyed her concentration, and so did the man lying in the bed. Both warred with her ability to read and that bothered her. She tried again, determined neither one would win. Despite her efforts and the minutes that went by, her awareness of him increased.

He’s just a man. No reason to become all goggle-eyed over him.

Especially considering he was a rogue and wastrel.

She forced her attention back to the poetry. Beautiful and absorbing, the passages took her to another world. From the words, Xandra learned that Dragonia possessed as much splendor as danger, as much life as death. Glaciers, jungles and deserts occupied the continent. Though she’d heard it all before, the poet described the land with such affection and depth that rendered the country mysterious and beautiful. Curiosity twisted inside her and made Xandra wonder if Dragonia would be her freedom or stifle her in entirely new ways.

Her eyelids started to droop with exhaustion, but she couldn’t abandon the book. Finally she couldn’t keep her eyes open. She closed the book with a sigh and noted the author’s name carved in red on the rich black cover.

She said the name softly. “Aknada Tyrus.”

“She was my sister.”

Xandra jerked, startled by Rayder’s voice. She dared to look up. He was still under the covers. “Your sister?”

“Yes.” He sat up against the dark wood headboard. “She was.”

A sinking feeling entered the pit of her stomach. “Was?”

He swallowed hard, his eyes momentarily burning with anger. “She was murdered.”

Murdered. She understood so well how it felt for a loved one to be murdered. Her heart twisted as her own pain resurfaced with staggering force.

“Oh god Magon. I’m sorry.” She touched the cover reverently. “This poetry is so beautiful and meaningful.”

He nodded. His eyes sad. “Aknada wrote that poetry when she was but fifteen. She was very talented.”

“When did… When did she die?”

“Three years ago. She was twenty and betrothed.”

Tears prickled in her eyes. “How awful. What happened to her?”

“Never mind. I’ve said too much.”

Curiosity plagued her, but far deeper emotions overruled. Tears spilled over her eyelids. A few seconds later she heard the bed covers rustle as he left the bed. Her heart pounded, her breath coming shorter. She stood quickly, needing to escape. She kept her eyes averted from him.

His hands clasped her shoulders. “Are you all right?”

She looked up quickly, still afraid of his nakedness and even more fearful she’d tell him her story. She solidified her strength and remembered her goal. Return to Magonia to live her life, and more than that…find a way to bring Taris Elian to justice for what he’d done to her family. She swallowed hard around the bitterness that filled her heart, filled every part of her until she overflowed.

“Xandra? What’s wrong?”

She kept her gaze pinned to his face, overwhelmed by feelings and a staggering awareness of his virile presence. “Why do you care? I’m merely your slave.”

His mouth tightened, his brows lowered and eyes serious. Those green and gold striations mesmerized her and added mystery to his allure.

“You’re my slave, and it’s better if you get used to idea rather than fight it,” he said.

“Just allow you to take over my body. You don’t want to marry me, so why are you?”

“You know why. Because Admiral Aramus requires it.”

“You are second-in-command. You don’t have influence over him?”

“I’ve been on this ship three years, slowly working my way to second-in-command. I didn’t get that far by arguing inconsequential points.”

She made a noise of disbelief. “Marriage is inconsequential?”

His eyes sparked with a predatory glimmer. “No. It’s a very important step in anyone’s life. My parents made sure I knew that.”

Sarcasm crept into her reply. “Really. I heard that all Dragonians are raised by their brutish fathers and the mothers rarely interact with their children.”

His fingers tightened on her shoulders as his mouth became a thin slash. “Where did you hear such bollocks?”

“Our scribes.”

He grunted. “They lie.”

That stung, and she wanted to deny what he’d said but couldn’t. “Mia, one of the women I met on the ship, was training to become a scribe. She decided the life wasn’t for her. She said some unhappy things about lies and the scribes.”

“There you have it then. From the mouth of one who knows.”

“I would rather see for myself, but I don’t have time. I need to return to Magonia.”

“What is so important there?”

She shook her head, unwilling to give him more. “Business.” Before he could press her to ask more, she swerved toward a new subject. “Your parents were good people?”

“My father was a professor who taught children their sums, and my mother also taught very small children. They were gentle people.”

Surprised that he’d revealed his childhood to her like that, she relaxed in his grip. “That’s wonderful.”

“It was. I had a happy childhood. But it wasn’t perfect.”

“Is it ever?”

“Perhaps not.” He released her but didn’t move away. “When it was apparent I was to become a Daryk One, they tried to hide my abilities.”

Daryk One. Oh my god Magon. “You’re a Daryk One?”

His smile held wicked teasing, his gaze losing that intensity for one moment. “You’ve heard of us? What do you think you know?”

She licked her lips and his gaze flicked to her mouth and settled there. Heat flowed and filled her up. “Daryk Ones are powerful. Men who are stronger than the average man and brutal killers. And you’re all in alliance with Drakus Fina, an evil man who wishes to bring down the Magonian government and enslave every Magonian man, woman and child. Your slave ships are filled to the brim with Magonian women who Drakus uses as breeding material.”

Teasing left his eyes, replaced by a hard, unforgiving air. “Some of your story is completely wrong. But I’m not sure I want to take the time to tell you which parts are right.”

He started to turn away and took a couple of steps toward the bed. His wide shoulders were sculpted with muscle, waist trim, his butt hard. And his legs. Ah, his legs fascinated her. Thighs peppered with dark hair, corded strength through his calves and into his big feet. Xandra couldn’t help but stare, and when he turned to look back, he caught her assessing his body.

She couldn’t avoid seeing his manhood without acting the complete ninny, the full prude. His cock, she’d once heard this part of a man called. Somehow the word fit so well. Thick and long, his arousal stood erect from a thatch of dark hair that grew between his thighs. Her mouth opened, her breath caught. Her body reacted beyond her control as an ache grew between her thighs. He nipples peaked, grew taut, her breasts feeling larger and rounder.

Taris Elian hadn’t looked anything like this.

And his cock certainly hadn’t either.

She should look away—all the teaching of Magon said she shouldn’t even see this part of him once she married him. Of course, Taris wasn’t concerned about that. He’d showed her his cock the moment they were in the marriage bed. Rayder didn’t need to know that. “A man and woman never see each other’s…”

“Nakedness?” His voice dropped, going deeper and harder. He approached again, his stride sure, his power evident.

She couldn’t tear her attention away as stood close in front of her. Every inch of sculpted, finely honed man created conflicting emotions. “Yes.”

“Does it scare you?”

“Yes.”

“There’s nothing to fear. I can show you.”

“No. Our marriage is a sham. We can’t…consummate it.”

He speared his fingers into her hair and drew her slowly against him. “We can if we wish to.” His mouth hovered over hers, his breath fresh and warm on her lips. “You might not like it, my beauty, but there’s something between us. It’s hot and it’s real. There’s no shame in it.”

Welcome to J. L. Saint and Collateral Damage

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Everyone knows that great covers can draw a reader’s eye. I can’t really describe what I like best about the cover for J. L. Saint’s COLLATERAL DAMAGE, but it jumped right out at me. Generally speaking, I like military romantic suspense. But I always read the blurb and the excerpt before I decide if the book is for me. The minute I saw the cover, I knew I had to find out more. Once I read the excerpt, I made a point to pre order it for my Kindle. I’m sailing through this book and loving it, and I asked J. L. to blog today to give you a taste of her book. If you like romantic suspense with action, adventure, and sexual tension so thick you can feel it, you’re going to love this book. Welcome J. L.!

***

Make New Friends But Keep the Old… by J.L. Saint, aka, Jennifer St. Giles

At  Christmastime we gather to celebrate love, life, and hope.  We meet with family and old friends that bring golden memories to warm our hearts and we meet new people, too.  People that someday will be the source of bright silvery new memories to add to our treasure chest of life.

In the course of my writing career, I have come to look at my readers as golden and silver-bright friends.  Golden ones who have been with me since the chilly house on the hill in The Mistress of Trevelyan to the Shadowmen’s misty slopes in Twilight, Tennessee, and who will follow me to the edgy precipices of my Silent Warrior Series.  The silver-bright ones are those who are graciously trying out Collateral Damage and falling in love with my hero, Jack Hunter and will hopefully go back and discover my other books as well.  If you have never read one of my books then I invite you to become a silver bright friend this Christmas season.

Collateral Damage is the first book in my Silent Warrior Series that will feature a military man or woman as the hero or heroine of the story.  The first few books focus on a Delta Team whose mission to extract high profile hostages from a radical group in Lebanon turns into tragedy.

These books are not battlefield thrillers, but stories that place a military hero and his extraordinary skills in a domestic setting with a fast paced plot and a sensual romance at the heart of each story.

Jack who is recovering from serious injury in the hospital sees the picture of prominent American businessman, Bill Collins, on the news, who he swears he killed in Lebanon two weeks ago, but nobody believes him, especially since Collins reportedly died in Brazil just yesterday.  Leaving the hospital, Jack goes AWOL to uncover the truth.  Instead of answers, he gets assassins, more questions, and a terrorist plot that threatens to ignite a world war.  As Jack fights to keep Lauren Collins, Bill’s estranged widow and her twin sons alive, he lays more than his life on the line and stands to lose everything when the truth behind Bill’s death comes to light.

When Lauren Collins learns her soon-to-be-ex’s deceit was more than just an affair or two, she and her sons were thrust into a world of peril where they become the target of irrational revenge and the focus of a serial murderer.  One man, a wounded Delta soldier, steps between her family and danger and Lauren discovers there are men of honor.  Jack puts his life on the line for her and her children, but can one man stop the onslaught against her?  And if she and her children survive the Collateral Damage of Bill’s treason, can she trust Jack with her heart and those of her sons?”

Meet Jack “DT” Hunter.

Shorter of breath and one day closer to death…

Pink Floyd’s “Time” hammered through Sergeant First Class Jack Hunter’s brain as he tightened his grip on the treadmill and ran harder, his heart pounding, his lungs burning. Rage tinged with fear made for a potent Power Bar that fueled his drive. Sweat poured from his brow and his body screamed for relief, but he couldn’t stop. Not yet. His vision dimmed, and President Anderson’s address on the overhead TV calling for a swift but rational retaliation to al-Qaeda’s latest attack became nothing but a blur in his mind.

Life often hinged on the details, those seemingly insignificant microscopic events that most people trampled over obliviously. He’d trained to notice the details and to remember them. Yet no matter how hard he tried, his memory of the mission in Lebanon remained a kaleidoscope of combat images and one man’s mocking blue eyes…Jack clenched his teeth against the rising pain inside him. He took being team leader to heart both on and off the battlefield. The mission and his men were his responsibility. Rico, Pecos and Neil were his Delta brothers, and it killed him that he could only remember bits and pieces of what happened.

They’re here, DT. They’re alive! Will Taylor’s—aka Pecos—distorted voice echoed in Jack’s mind, sucking him down a long tunnel of fragmented memories… Suddenly Jack’s head jerked back as his headphones were snatched off and Lt. Col. Roger Weston, his Delta Team commander, whom the teams called Commander Weston because anything less didn’t fit his hard-edged charisma, got in his face. “Son of a bitch, DT. Are you trying to kill yourself?”

Jlsaint.com

For your chance to win a free ARC of Collateral Damage, read the full excerpt at http://jenniferstgiles.com/content/bookshelf/collateral-damage/#more-87 and email how you think the hero and heroine should meet to jlsaintwrites@yahoo.com.

Merry Christmas and may your life be filed with silver and gold friends and memories.

JL Saint/ Jennifer St. Giles

Excerpt: Close Quarters

Friday, December 17th, 2010

This has been one of those weeks where I felt like I was running a treadmill. Getting writing done on my work-in-progress has turned into a challenge. But, it’s all good. I wanted to share a favorite scene from CLOSE QUARTERS, the fourth book in my HOT ZONE series at Samhain Publishing. Later this weekend I’ll share an excerpt from another book in the series. Next week I’ll post another excerpt from DARYK ROGUE, the second book in my DARYK WORLD series at Ellora’s Cave. In the meantime, hope you enjoy this taste of CLOSE QUARTERS. If you like military romances, this novella might be for you.

**

CLOSE QUARTERS

Book 4 in the HOT ZONE series

By Denise A. Agnew

When all hell breaks loose, sometimes you just need someone to cover you…

Neena Williamson struggles to keep her high-pressure job from overwhelming her, and she thinks the demons of her past have long since disappeared. One night, she sees a man wearing the most hideous Hawaiian shirt on earth and vows he’d never fit her image of a hot bod for a local charity’s new hot male calendar. Then the evening erupts in violence, and he proves that first impressions can be dead wrong.

Sometimes having a simple cup of coffee can turn into a complicated situation…

Mitch Gilroy hides in plain sight, enjoying his low-key handyman job.  His former life isn’t open for discussion, and Clarksville, Wyoming is the perfect place to find peace. Then a gunman forces his hand, and Mitch must remember everything he’s tried so hard to forget.  Thrown together, Neena and Mitch quickly discover how tangled their emotions can become, and only by working together can they banish the monsters that haunt them and heal a lifetime of regrets.

* *

She registered the heat and hardness of his body. Her breasts mashed to his chest, his hips and thighs pressed along hers. Close up, his face held the chiseled hardness of an old west movie hero, without anything fancy to pretty him up. A cut jaw, a nose slightly on the big side. Only his mouth was sculpted, lips just right on a man—not too big, not too thin. He felt so warm, so protective…

He released her and walked toward the door. He tried the knob. When it didn’t budge, he slammed one palm against it. He tried kicking it down, but the door wouldn’t budge. She realized the room was a huge pantry with shelves on three sides. No way out.

Handyman tried budging the door one more time to no avail. “Damn it!”

That’s when true fear slammed her. Like it or not, she was trapped in a locked room with a total stranger. Tears gathered in her eyes and spilled over her eyelids before she could stop them. Handyman turned toward her, striding across the room until he cupped her shoulders.

“Hey, it’s going to be all right.”

She nodded and buried her face in her hands. “I know. I just…”

Tears spilled, and a sob escaped her.

“Hey, hey. Easy.” He gathered her close once more, and she found her hands buried in his big shirt again. As tears spilled from her and she gulped and sobbed, she tried to regain control. Embarrassment sliced her with cruel fingers. His touch slipped through her hair, gently massaging her neck.

“It’s all right. He’s gone.” Velvet and husky, his voice held safety and comfort.

Poor fashion sense or not, his voice was to die for.

So was the body pressed along hers. She felt muscles. Lots and lots of glorious muscles. Or maybe the fear had destroyed her reasoning ability and she wanted the man holding her to play the hero. Right now, with a tenderness that put her off guard, he fit the lead part in her adventure movie down to a capital T.

Only difference is, he hadn’t whipped out a gun and gone Kung Fu on the bad guy’s ass. Which in reality made perfect sense. If Handyman had played knight on a white horse, they’d be dead. She shivered and then did another stupid thing. She slid her arms around his waist and held on. Yeah, he has a trim waist, too. Hmmm…

“When that jerk pointed his gun in your face, I thought he was going to kill you right in front of me,” she whispered through a sob.

“So did I.”

His voice rumbled deeply, so matter-of-fact she couldn’t believe how distant he sounded. His arms tightened around her in a gentle squeeze, the only sign that he felt anything about his near miss with death.

“You had a gun pointed at your head, and here I am babbling like an idiot.” She gulped back another sob.

“So did you, remember? You were looking right down the barrel for a long time.”

Right. She had. Her tears started to dry, and the fright calmed somewhat. She forced herself to pull back out of his arms. “God, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go all girly like that.”

“It’s okay. What just happened scared the shit out of me, too.”

A man who’d admit his fear. Interesting. His expression might show no fear and his voice gave no indication of the trauma he’d faced. Yet he could speak the words.

Neena became aware of a shift in perception. Not a smidgen of change, but a whopping ugly belief that she’d altered in the last few minutes. That the world had undergone a drastic, nasty transformation. She’d never believed in a rosy world, but this one had sharp thorns. She held her hands in front of her. They shook. A heat wave and then a cold flash washed over her in relentless strokes. Her stomach curled. Shaking, she put her back against the one wall minus shelving and slid downward until she plopped on the floor. Cold and hard, the landing felt brutal against her ass. Incongruously she noticed a run in the right calf of her thigh-high stockings. A jagged, gaping slit that might have been there before the robber came into the coffee shop, or maybe happened sometime in between. Who knew? Who cared? For a second she gave a damn. A really big damn. Then she took a shaky breath. She was acting like an immature, shallow twit. She’d buy more. Ten pairs more if she survived her stay in this stupid pantry. Then she wanted to smack the robber across the face with her purse for the inconvenience.

“Damn it.” Handyman glared at the door. He peered through the half dozen bullet holes that had come through the doorway. “The bastard put something heavy in front of it. Can’t see a thing.”

“You think?” she asked, her voice laced with sarcasm. Then she regretted her snarkiness. “I’m sorry. I’m just…pissed off.”

“You think?” he asked with a smile.

She cracked a reluctant half grin in response. “I’m sitting here getting twisty headed because I have one big-assed tear in my stockings. How messed up is that?”

Her hands still quivered, and she hated that even more.

“Hey.” He knelt down in front of her. He touched her forearm and gently squeezed. “You look like hell.”

“Thank you.”

His frown deepened. “You’re trembling.”

“I hate to admit it, but I feel sick.”

His big hand caressed her hair, pushing it back from her face. This surprised her so much she gazed into his concerned expression with curiosity.

“Probably adrenaline. You just came down from a big rush.”

“You know about adrenaline?”

“Yep. Take deep breaths if you feel dizzy.”

She put her hands to her head, in case she needed to hold her skull on her shoulders. “Good idea.”

He stayed kneeling in front of her while she sucked in one big breath and then another. It worked.

“Better?”

“Much. Thank you.”

His gaze, mysterious yet calm as a slow flowing river, captured and held hers. “You ever see a man shot?”

She put her hands down. “Are you kidding? I hate guns. It was so…loud.”

“Yeah. In a confined space. In any space.”

“Why did you ask me that?”

“Because it would explain your reaction. It’s not because that coffee cake is making you sick.”

“Never. Davina makes the best coffee cake there is. Hey, wait. You noticed what I was eating?”

“You noticed something about me. I saw you glaring at me a few times.”

Under the circumstances, she couldn’t dredge up the energy to feel embarrassed. Misdirection had worked for her often. No need to stop now. “Have you ever seen a guy shot?”

His eyes hardened, as if he’d not only seen a man shot, but perhaps witnessed far worse. “Yeah. Yeah, I have.”

He peered around the room. Handyman observed the corners, as if assessing any reasonable escape route. Determined not to be a girly girl anymore, she stood on wobbly knees. He followed. She rubbed her hands down over her hips, aware that her serviceable white blouse and blue gabardine skirt felt hot. The room probably didn’t have much ventilation.

Hands on hips, he turned to her. From here, his shirt was still ugly. But something about Handyman was different. Less…geeky. She sensed a hard core inside him, and her intuition told her she’d been wrong about him in more than one way. Neena’s earlier concern arose. She didn’t know him. And she was stuck in here for God knows how long.

Yet her priorities had changed, too. In one striking moment, she understood things about herself she’d stayed blind to for a long while. She’d start off the rest of her day with a fresh slate. She also had another revelation. Handyman probably wasn’t a rapist or mad murderer, thank God. That would have really capped her day. Instead she’d felt his strength of character, and a solidness that gave confidence.

Christmas Traditions

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

One of the things I remember distinctly in childhood are the traditions we had at Christmas. I think when we’re really young we tend to see this type of thing as either fuddy duddy or we love the tradition but don’t always cherish it. I never thought my family’s get togethers were fuddy duddy.

In the sixties we had a real tree at Christmas. I think it was early seventies when my mother got tired of the messiness that can come with a real tree. We purchased an artificial tree and never turned back to real trees.

Remember those old bubbling light ornaments that clipped on to trees?  We also had this punch that Mom made. It was concocted of Craigmont sparkling punch, Ginger Ale and something else. Might have been Seven Up. We also made what we called “Horse’s Dovers.” Actually it was Onion Dip and we couldn’t pronounce the French word…can you guess what we were trying to say?

I’m making a similar punch, and we have the onion dip but not the bubbly ornaments. Did you have any Christmas traditions you still follow to this day?

First Sneak Peek: Daryk Rogue

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Daryk Rogue releases December 22 at Ellora's Cave

Welcome to the first sneak peak at Daryk Rogue, the second book in The Daryk World Series at Ellora’s Cave. Here’s the burb and an excerpt to tantalize you!

**

Ruled by treacherous desires to mate…

He would kill and die for her.

When Xandra Shorenus’ husband murders her family in retaliation for her defiance she escapes, but a huge wave wrecks her ship. Rogue Daryk One Rayder Tyrus saves her but commands her allegiance with one kiss. She is his now, in and out of bed.

Rayder has infiltrated a dangerous faction, his need for redemption and retribution absolute. Desire to protect Xandra mixes with powerful carnal needs that demand he show her pleasures she never could have imagined in her sheltered life. They discover a fiery connection forged between hot kisses, adventurous touches and mind-melting unions. They must learn to survive the wrath of the breeder-slaver who hates Rayder, the elements of jungle and desert that rule the land, and a war about to erupt that could separate them forever.

**

Desperate to find out if her friends had lived, she stood on wobbly legs and noticed her boots and socks by the bed. Both were dry, so she put them on and moved slowly for the door. She opened it with difficulty and the hinges creaked. Stepping outside cautiously, she held on to the door as if it could keep her on her feet.

Several men moved about the deck. Suddenly a hairy man with enormous arms stalked toward Xandra. Impressions flew at her. Far over six feet, he had the bulk and brawn capable of hurting her easily. His nose looked half smashed, as if he’d grown a panatan root for a nose, all bumpy and bulbous. Lank, thin dark hair hung to his chest. A red bandana circled his neck. He wore a dirty white tunic and filthy black breaches. Watery green eyes held nothing but hostility.

She stepped back and bumped into the doorway.

“What are you doin’ out here, girly?” the man’s gravel-filled voice asked.

“I’m— Where am I?”

The big man stopped too close in front of her. “You’re on the Beast.”

His hand came up to touch her hair and she flinched. She threw her hand up in front of her, alarmed. “No.”

“No?” He laughed and touched her hair anyway, his eyes hot with an emotion she didn’t recognize. He smelled sweaty and her already unstable stomach lurched. “Girly, you don’t have the right to say no on this ship. You belong to us now.”

“I do not.” Anger twisted inside her, and she stiffened her spine. “I was on the Hydrasoseles. A passenger ship. She was destroyed by this huge wave—”

“We ’eard of the ship, little lady,” another man’s crackling voice said nearby. An older man with long gray hair and a wobbly gait strode up until he stood nearby. “Barely escaped that wave ourselves. A fierce storm, it was.” He winked. “But not as strong as the Beast.”

His hand made a waving motion that presented the craft. Enormous sails reached for the brilliant blue sky. The ship cruised through the water at a pace the Hydrasoseles couldn’t have managed, and the sheer size astonished her.

“Very nice, but I need to get back to Magonia,” she said.

Two other men watching the conversation dropped what they were doing and closed in, their eyes intent and curious, but not as overtly dangerous as the men in front of her. Still, she was encircled, and if she wanted to escape this crowd of stinky, awful men, she’d have to think of a defense soon. But where could she go to hide on a ship? What if Elian were nearby? Fear leaked through her bravado, but she shored up her bravery. She couldn’t crumble now. Perhaps a man would come along who would have some principles and decency. If she spotted a possibility, she’d peck him on the cheek, and that would keep these disgusting men away from her.

The gray-haired man’s small eyes scanned her with evil intent. “Magonia, eh? Now that’s a fine thing. You shouldn’t have told us that.”

She swallowed. “Why?”

“Why you’re our enemy, little lady.”

“Enemy—” She cut herself off as she realized what they meant. “Then you are a Dragonia ship?”

The bruiser glared at her and laughed. “We ain’t Dragonian. We don’t belong to no country. We’re on our own and better for it.”

“But that’s ridiculous. Every ship flies under the flag of Magonia or Dragonia.”

The men all laughed, and through their guffaws the bruiser leered. “Yeah, but we have our own country. The ocean is our home. Ain’t no need for dry land. A man is free here to do as he sees fit and not by another’s leave.”

“We don’t cotton to no man’s word except for the admiral’s,” another man said nearby.

He gestured to a flag that flew above the craft. It was solid black with no insignia.

Fear tingled along her spine and sent screams of alarm to every part of her body.

The old man laughed softly. “Maybe I should let this here rotter have a taste of you before I get my own.” He touched her hair and she flinched. “No harm in having a little play, is there? You Magonian women are as sweet as they come, I hear tell.”

Bruiser nodded emphatically. “I done had one not too long ago. She was from the Hydrasoseles too.”

Oh Magon. Had they hurt Ketera and Mia?

Panic stirred inside, but she refused to show it. Gulping down the tightness in her throat, she remembered what she’d learned from her friend Mia about defending herself. A swift kick to this hateful man’s bits and—

The old guy reached for her.

She took a step forward and brought her knee up with raw force. Her knee made contact with the old geezer’s manly parts and he screamed. He doubled up in pain and collapsed on the deck.

Sickness washed over her, a weakness that she’d never experienced before and that threatened to cut her legs out from under her. She tried to slip past the bruiser.

“Magonian bitch whore!” He grabbed her by the throat. His huge fist clenching around her throat with such force a fierce pain pierced her throat.

“Release her at once!” A deep and commanding voice, dark with anger, cut the air.

The bruiser didn’t, and she choked, grabbing the man’s forearm and digging in her nails. He didn’t budge. She kicked out, made contact with the man’s knees. He grunted but didn’t lose loosen his grip.

A dark shadow swiftly launched at the man. Through her fading vision she saw the shape bring a baton down on the man’s head. Bruiser released her and she gasped for much needed air as the big man yelled in pain and fell to the flooring. Coughing, she touched her throat gingerly.

Her vision cleared as the man who rescued her roared at the other men. “Farcam! Touch her again and I’ll cut off your cock and feed it to you.” He threw a deadly glanced at the old man. “Oscan, you’ve been warned before. Into the brig with you.” He gestured at the other men. “Get these bags of guts below and put them in chains.” Her rescuer said with deadly coldness to Farcam, “Admiral Aramus will have your hide for dinner.”

“Fuck you,” Farcam said, giving her rescuer a flash of a middle finger.

“Sorry, mate.” Her rescuer threw a disgusted look his way. “Not my type.”

The other men dragged Farcam and the old geezer away.

Her rescuer turned his gaze on her and his eyes stayed predatory, hungry almost as his gaze traveled her face and body with clear appreciation. “You, however, are.”

The man who’d saved her hooked his baton to his belt and walked toward her, his stride self-assured and as authoritative as his voice. His face was young, maybe thirty years, but there was a wealth of age imprinted in his eyes. Thick hair as inky as the night came to just above his shoulders. Danger and fierceness in his almost black eyes sent two spears of emotion through Xandra. Stark fear and unaccountable attraction. He stared at her as if he wanted to devour her. Or perhaps kill her.

She blinked, amazed at this new threat that stalked toward her. He was as big as the creature who had dared to touch her, but the difference between the men was marked. Her rescuer wore a sleeveless black tunic open down the front to reveal a muscular chest covered in a generous sprinkling of black hair. The tunic was cinched at the waist by a wide black belt. Black breeches curved over muscular thighs and calves. Black boots covered his feet and ended mid-calf. This new predator didn’t have a modicum of extra fat. He moved with grace, muscles rippling in his tanned arms.

Fear sizzled along her body. So this lug had saved her from the ugly man only to waylay her too?

Dizziness swamped her and she blinked quickly, trying to right her vision. She had to think quickly, and she held one hand out in front of her to warn him off.

Her throat burned as she managed to croak, “Don’t touch me.”

“I won’t harm you.” He frowned and his gaze landed on her hand, which she held up toward her throat, rubbing at the sore flesh. “You’re hurt.”

She shook her head, afraid any sign of vulnerability would set these men on her like a predatory animal. “No.”

He stared at her with a mixture of vexation and curiosity, and that’s when she made a rash decision. At least this man seemed decent enough that he didn’t want to hurt her and he had some authority.

She found her voice. “I hear that if a Dragonian man kisses a woman, then she is his and no other man is permitted to touch her.”

The man smiled, but his eyes burned with a raw heat that she’d never seen in a man’s eyes before. “That is true.”

“Very well then.” She leaned forward, aiming for his right cheek.

Her savior had other ideas.

**

Keep checking back. I’ll have at least one more excerpt before the book releases. 🙂

Guest Author: Zoe Archer and Stranger

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Can I make a totally fan girl sort of squeal here? I’m so excited to have Zoe Archer back again to the blog. I was fortunate enough to read an excerpt on Lauren Dane’s blog a few months back and discovered Zoe’s writing. Zoe’s voice in her novels captures me, her characters rock, and I love the fact she’s writing stories that are different. I’m all about different these days, I’ll admit. I love a read that is very unique, and at the same time has a fantastic plot and characters. Zoe delivers. She’s here today to tell us all about her series and STRANGER, the last story in her Blades of the Rose series. She’s also giving away a copy of STRANGER to one lucky poster. Take it away, Zoe.

**

This December is bittersweet for me.  My BLADES OF THE ROSE series concludes this month after four back-to-back releases, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the wild ride.  I would finish a round of blogs and interviews to promote a new book, take a breath, and then start it up all over again for the next new release.  In the middle of this, I’ve been writing a whole new paranormal historical romance series.  As problems go, it’s a good problem to have.

The series has been a long time in the making.  After writing the complete manuscript for WARRIOR, I sold that book and the rest of series on proposal way back in May 2008.  My deadlines for the other three books in the series came soon after that, one on top of another, for the next year.  For reasons of scheduling, I finished the books and they were edited, but they had to wait over a year before release.  That meant a lot of waiting, a lot of pre-release promotion, and a lot of worry.  I hoped readers loved my books and my Blades as much as I did.  The first book is set in Mongolia—not your typical historical romance location.  Yet I wouldn’t know how readers felt for a very long time.

Finally, the books started to hit the shelves.  Now, after over two years of waiting and wondering, people are finally reading the Blades of the Rose books!  The response has been awesome.  It’s hard to explain how gratifying it is when you hear that people who aren’t even related to you are reading your stuff.  And no sooner would one book come out, than the next followed, and the one after that, and the one after that.

Each of the Blades books features their own hero and heroine finding adventure and love in different locations around the world.  Though most of the books can be read on their own, each novel builds upon the storyline of the one that precedes it, culminating in the final book, STRANGER.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but suffice it to say that the fate of the world is on the line, and everything depends on genius inventor Catullus Graves and gutsy reporter Gemma Murphy.

Catullus is the only character who appears in all four Blades books, so I’ve grown pretty attached to him and wanted to make sure that not only did he have a spectacular adventure, but that his heroine was someone worthy of him.  I feel pretty confident that I’ve succeeded in both those goals.  When he and Gemma face the greatest threat to the world’s magic, and catastrophe on a global scale, it will take all of Catullus’s brains and Gemma’s spirit to prevent disaster.  And in the middle of all this madness, they have a very hot romance.

I have future releases lined up.  My sci-fi romance, COLLISION COURSE, will be out April 2011 from Carina Press, and in December 2011, the first book in my new HELLRAISERS paranormal historical romance series is released.  So there are definitely more books on the horizon.  Maybe even more Blades stories, though that hasn’t been decided yet.  What I do know is that I’ll never see another year like this one, with my first ever back-to-back series.  The ride has been scary, thrilling and wonderful.  I feel like I just rode a roller coaster, screaming my head off, and now that the ride has come to a stop, I want to do it all over again.

***

Excerpt: Marshall’s Law-Print Edition

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Hey everyone! Hope you’re having a fantastic week. I’m up to my eyeballs in stuff to do, some of it holiday things and some writing things. Today the print version of Marshall’s Law is out. Woot! It’s available at Samhain Publishing, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Today I’m bringing you a sneak peek you may not have seen before. Hope you enjoy it!

Marshall’s Law is one of those books where the wit that I do have came out. I’m generally not great at writing “funny” on demand, but this book definitely has humor mixed with romantic suspense.

* *

Awkwardness seemed to rule the moment as a hush closed over the room again.

Marshall took a deep breath and let it out. “Dana, I’ve…I’ve got some apologizing to do.”

She saw a strange wariness in his eyes, as she might haul off and slug him for what he might say or what he would say. When he waited, caution written all over his face, she pressed onward. “About what?”

Clasping his hands between his knees and propping his elbows on his legs, he gave her what amounted to a nervous expression. “Thanks for your concern earlier today. When you… I saw tears in your eyes. Thanks for caring.”

Her mouth opened but she couldn’t think how to reply. He’d gone from grizzly bear to teddy bear. Trying to predict which one he’d become in any given moment could make a woman batty. Then, because she had lost her mind along the way, she reached up and touched the side of his face near the bandage. Her fingers met silky hair and warm skin. She snatched her hand back.

“Does it hurt much?” she asked, her voice sounding raspy.

A small grin met his mouth. “Nah. Barely even know it’s there.” His big shoulders made a shrug and a twist. “I’m going to ache tomorrow.”

“The stakeout could have waited until you felt better.”

His glance strayed to the area near the bed. “No, this couldn’t wait. Saying I was sorry couldn’t wait. Maybe catching the jerk that is doing this couldn’t wait.”

Marshall’s confession, his softening, sent her insides into double turmoil.

Despite the heat from the fire, she shivered. “For a little while I forgot about that. I forgot to be nervous about who or what is out there.”

A look of guilt flickered over his face. “There’s more.”

She smacked her forehead. “Marshall, if you don’t stop hitting me with these lovely surprises—”

“This one’s not so lovely, Dana.”

Before Dana could ask what he meant, Marshall launched into an explanation.

“Skeeter’s been taken off the watch. Sheriff Pizer says we can’t afford to have Skeeter on permanent assignment to watch over you.”

She frowned. “Oh.” She shrugged. “There’s still Logan.”

Swallowing hard, he shifted his gaze from his hands back to her face. “Logan isn’t enough. As it was, I hoped the three of us could cover all bases. Now we’re down to two.”

It took several seconds for her to make sense of his cryptic undertone. “You mean…wait you mean you were assigned officially to watch over me?”

He shook his head. “Skeeter was the only official one. Logan did this because he was coming to Macon anyway and he’s a good friend.”

The answer dawned. “You watched over me because you wanted to, not because you were assigned.”

“Exactly. Before you were run off the road I kept a surveillance going at the house.”

She nodded, recalling when he’d turned up at the front door on the night she’d seen a prowler in the woods.

He continued. “When that bastard ran Bertha into a tree, I knew something worse than little malicious mischief was going on. When I couldn’t be around I felt…I knew Logan and Skeeter were top notch at what they do. But that didn’t satisfy me. Pizer called me into his office and told me we couldn’t have Skeeter protecting you that many hours a day. So I told him my solution.”

“Solution?”

“I told him I’d take vacation. I’ll protect you on my own time. Twenty-four seven.”

Again she became speechless, scared witless by what he’d said. What his attention might mean.

When he stood she felt bereft at the same time she experienced relief. He made them another cup of tea, and as the microwave hummed she took a good look at this man that had rocked her world. He was tough. Unyielding. Stubborn. Critical. Strong. Opinionated.

Heart-stopping, breath-stealing, amazing.

Tender, giving and passionate.

She decided their conversation about Eva, Helen and her own current problems had ended too quick and simple. There had to be more lying deep beneath the brooding, smoldering exterior of this big lug. More to understand about why he wanted to protect her. More to understand why she wasn’t royally upset with the prospect of having this man near day and night.

She stood again, restless. “Why did you assign yourself to me? You could have left Logan on the case and gone about your business.”

Instead of bringing her the fresh mug of tea, he came around the bar, all the time pinning her with a penetrating stare. When he stood within less than a foot of her, his heat enveloped her like the fire from the hearth. It burned her in a way physical conflagration never could. She trembled under it, feared it and wanted it.

“Because I don’t want Logan this close to you.” His liquid voice, filled with a velvet and silk combination, almost unraveled her control. “He’s a good man and a great friend, but I don’t want him distracted. And believe me, you’re distracting.”

She decided to be flattered by what he’d said instead of hacked off. “Why? You’re not thinking I—” She stopped dead, then restarted as she realized what his statement might tell her. “You think he’s interested in me romantically?”

He tilted his head the slightest bit. “Or maybe you’re interested in him.”

He sounded, dare she think it…jealous. Nah. It simply couldn’t be.

“Rest assured, Marshall, I may think he’s a great looking guy, but unlike Eva or Helen I don’t chase men around like a bitch in heat.”

Her blunt words didn’t appear to make a dent in his armor. He didn’t wince or flinch or show any outward sign of belief or skepticism. Instead he returned to the bar, dunking the bags of tea like she had not long ago.

Did he imagine she could be cut from the same hair shirt as Eva and Helen? She wanted to growl and howl at the injustice. Instead she knew that she hadn’t reached his complete trust. She sensed he wouldn’t talk about his horror filled romances any more that evening. No coercion would do the trick.

She cringed at the thought of enticement. Images of nubile women with beautiful blonde hair and stunning smiles made Dana want to run, run now before she found herself lacking. Became entangled once again in another dead end relationship like the one she’d had with Frank.

Gazing at the man who’d made her twenty types of mad in one day, she wondered how many women in Macon had looked on him and found their temperatures hitting triple digits? Had they wanted to feel his arms around them, his lips taking, giving, exploring—

He’ll never be that way with me. He’ll never need me that way. Damn Eva and Helen to purgatory for ruining this man for anyone else. And damn me for giving a rat’s hind end.

Words shot off her tongue before she could think. “Why did you grow that beard and mustache?”

That’s it, Dana. Find something mundane and harmless to talk about, but try not to make the question so stupid next time.

Marshall’s eyes darkened like a late summer storm. His denim shirt was open a couple of buttons at the neck, the tail not tucked into the waistband of his jeans. She recalled the first day she’d met him and the time he’d pulled off his wet shirt. Then she’d seen the clear definition of hard pectorals covered with a sprinkle of dark hair. A swatch of hair had covered his flat stomach. Her gaze had hitched on that hard, flat stomach that was muscled but not the six-pack she’d seen on many men who exercised at the gym.

Combined with a relaxed pose, he looked exposed down to the last nerve. He seethed with a mysterious, powerful secrecy that made her ache to understand him. Something deep and primitive ached inside her, and she knew this man was to blame.

No one man should be allowed to have that much testosterone.

When his stone cool expression changed to wicked, teeth-exposing grin, Dana’s heart came to a complete stop. Marshall crossed his arms and the rolled up sleeves revealed sculpted forearms and a portion of hard biceps.

Finally he said, “Covers up my ugly puss.”

Lord, I almost forgot the original question.

A predatory gleam entered his gaze as he reached for his mug and took a generous swallow.

A wash of emotion flooded her. Something totally knee-buckling had happened again. Had been occurring for days. Every time she thought she had a grip on his modus operandi, this man changed directions.

“You excel at this, don’t you?” She couldn’t resist asking. A force deep inside would not let go. “Keeping people close, then turning them away gives you a power trip. You want complete and total control of the situation.”

Lines in his broad forehead creased a little more. Was that a smidgen of regret, a paltry bow to anxiety entering his expression?

“You really think I’m a big, dumb, hard ass, don’t you?” he asked, the timbre in his voice lowering.

A sensation, almost a hot flash, coasted over her body and left a trail of fire in its wake. “Well, aren’t you?”

His grin came back, and she wondered if he realized the chameleon effect kept her tottering on the edge of screaming surrender. Surrender, however, to what? She knew his potent force lay in wait, ready to take her on a journey she could never return from. Once within Brennan Marshall’s sphere you were never the same.

He slowly marched toward her. Her heart jumped and startled flutters flipped in her stomach.

Apparently he planned to answer her, but he couldn’t be planning…what on earth was he doing?

His feet tread silent, but she could see the rise and fall of that magnificent chest. Dana refused to look away, and when he came to a stop in front of her, one corner of his mouth turned up. “I’m sorry.”

She blinked. “What?”

“You were right. I haven’t been too hospitable since you came into town. And I wasn’t friendly at the game today. Forgive me?”

Those last two words issued as a low rumble. Her body responded to his pure masculinity. Her common sense told her to resist his appeal. Marshall’s gaze, overlaid with an intense alertness, compounded his magnetism.

His attention made her so hot she could have melted like chocolate. For a startling second she imagined the taste of his lips…a combination of that sweet concoction and whiskey.

No!

“Well?” He lifted his right hand and gently pushed hair away from her forehead. Under the soft brush of his fingers along her cheek, Dana shivered with panicky delight. “I always tell the truth, Dana. Even when it hurts.”

His fingers left her skin. She swallowed again, trying to form words and finding it difficult. “How convenient. How can I tell that you’re not lying about that?”

“When did you think I lied to you?”

“All the time.”

Astonishment, or something remarkably similar, widened his eyes. “Then you haven’t learned much about me in the last hour.”

Dana shook her head, and as he took a last step closer, she trembled. “No, I haven’t. You’ve got the wall up high. There’s no way to get in. You’re as tough as…as…”

“Dried cow shit on a hot summer’s day?”

Despite her anger, she almost laughed. A small smile slipped out. “Exactly.”

This time his hands cupped her shoulders and the heavy heat ignited her. Right then and there, as his fingers caressed, she realized she’d never experienced a more unforgiving wave of desire in her life. Dana felt caught in a bizarre chemical that brought her to a boiling point.

Marshall’s grin faded, replaced by a haunting tenderness she couldn’t have imagined on his face seconds before.

“Do you really want to know me?” he asked softly.

While logic screamed in the negative, the rampaging need inside couldn’t deny him. Before she could blink his lips hovered over hers. Before Dana could reply, his mouth descended.