Broken Princess By Loki Renard









































One day she will rule, but first she must be broken.

Locked away in her tower, Princess Aya spent years hiding from the truth as her people suffered terribly under her uncle’s tyrannical reign. Now she will pay the shameful price for her silence…

Awakened by the cries of the oppressed, Kazriel will not rest until things are made right. But putting Aya on the throne is only the beginning. Before he allows her to rule, the princess must be stripped bare and mastered so thoroughly she will never forget how it feels to be powerless.

Naked, bound, and at his mercy, she will scream and beg as her helpless, quivering body is put on display and tormented with pain and pleasure, then claimed so publicly she may never stop blushing. She is not just going to be humbled, punished, and ravaged. She is going to be broken.


Publisher’s Note: Broken Princess includes spankings and sexual scenes. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.

























Prologue

GUILTY

The word tolled from a thousand throats like a bell. It resonated through Aya’s tender frame, her silky soft skin turning to a myriad of bumps of fear as the energy of those voices passed over and through her.

She wrapped her arms around herself, trembling fingers clasping at the fine silk of her gown. Those who denounced her wore scraps of cloth and threadbare cloaks of wool, but their voices were clear, and they rang with truth.

GUILTY

The word was intoned with a collective gravity which chilled the princess to her core. They did not shriek the words. They barely shouted them. She would rather have faced a screaming mob than this civilian intensity which sunk into her bones and made her wish she could curl up on herself and simply disappear.

“I didn’t know!” She tried to argue, her soft voice carried away by the wind. “I couldn’t have known…”

GUILTY

Three times the pronouncement rang out from the mouths of the people. Her fate was sealed. The word shot into her heart and made it pound with abject fear. She could not be guilty. A princess could never be guilty, not ever. A princess was above the law.

The gaze of the peasants was shameful enough, but it was the least of her concerns. She felt a much more powerful stare on her. Celestial green eyes swept over her and it was as if she was entirely naked though she remained clothed. The people were common, but he was not. He was more than royal. He was the one creature in all the world who could be said to rule over a princess. More than a king.

She looked into the eyes of Kazriel and met a gaze which was not meant to be incarnate. He did not merely see the surface of her. He saw everything. Every thought. Every hope. Every desire. Her mind rebelled at finding itself prematurely laid bare. Perhaps after death she might have found herself judged, but there had never been any indication that a wayward princess like pretty Aya might find herself called to answer before the guardian of justice.

“I didn’t know…”

Her voice was as soft as her excuse was weak.

“You knew.”

His voice was deep, and not unkind. He spoke with the voice of the world, with the grinding of stones and the growing of trees. His voice was not merely sound, it was a resonance which touched every part of her and made her tremble with the guilt she had long denied and now could not.

“I had no choice…”

Again she tried to argue her way out of what was to come. She could not have known what the guardian had in store for her, but she sensed that it would be enough to make amends – and there were so very many amends to be made. She cowered in fear of the consequences as much as at the great beast of a god who stood before her, taller, broader, stronger, perfectly masculine in the carved planes of his body, human ideal made flesh.

He reached out. She flinched away. His touch would not bring comfort. She knew what she deserved. She knew what he would do to her. She knew that the fine garments protecting her from the eyes surrounding her would not remain intact much longer. She knew shame awaited, a shame she might never recover from.

But this was not her fault. She had only been trying to do what everyone else was trying to do: survive.

Perhaps she had been doing it differently from those who now stood in collective judgement of her, but that was an accident of birth. She had no more chosen to be a princess than any of the commoners around her had decided to be peasants. Why didn’t this creature who held her prisoner understand that?

She had begged for this chance to plead her case to the people, so certain that they would pardon her. But there was no pardon on their lips, and there was no mercy in their gazes. She would take the punishment. All of it. And they would be witness to it, from the scribes who would write this into the history books, to the common men who would tell the story to their sons so it may be told to all sons thereafter.

Princess Aya swallowed the lump in her throat and faced her destiny.

“Very well,” she murmured, a touch more rebellion than was wise entering her tone. “Do your worst.”

A soft chuckle escaped Kazriel. “My worst? Princess, you would not survive a fraction of my worst.”

She clamped her lips together and did not reply, but her look said everything. She had survived more than he could imagine, and she could take more than the guardian could inflict. It was a curse even he could not lift.

It was beginning.

Harsh ropes wrapped around her wrists and drew them high above her head, making her body stretch before the crowds. They would see through the sheer of her robe. They would make out the curve of her body, the lines of her most intimate places.

She heard the sound of hundreds of people looking at her, an intense, focused silence which made her every hair prickle at attention.

He stepped closer, his shadow falling over her. He was so tall, powerful beyond compare. She reacted to him on a visceral level. He called to more than her flesh. He called to her soul.

“Guilty,” he said, his hand running up the inside of her thighs, his fingers moments away from making contact with the virginal core of her.

“Do you repent, princess?”

Aya turned her eyes on him. She was so small in comparison. So weak. Her brown gaze was of earth, unlike his eyes which were iridescent with power. She could have said so many things in that moment. She could have apologized. She could have begged for forgiveness. She could have declared herself reformed. Instead, she took refuge in the haughtiness of her station and stared down the deity she had been worshipping since she was forced into the world by birth.

“I repent nothing.”

















It’s just as well Loki Renard became an author because other career paths proved disastrous. She was once thrown out of someone’s house for trying to sell them citrus based cleaning product, and her brief brush with corporate life ended when she wrote profiles for her fellow employees likening them to various feral animals then attempted to negotiate the idea of not coming into the office and getting paid anyway. Perhaps if she’d had the dedication to slug herself in the face a la Fight Club, things might have turned out differently.





































Cain by Alexis Noelle




Title: Cain
Series: Deathstalkers 2nd Generation #1
Author: Alexis Noelle
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: May 6, 2019



Blurb

When I found her that night I had no idea what I was getting into.
She’d been hurt, destroyed.
I couldn’t walk away from her.
Little did I know that helping her would change my entire life.
Now she’s in danger, someone is after her and I need to protect her.
The only problem is that once I make her mine who will protect her from me?





Pre-order Links

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU






Prologue
Emma
Three Months ago

“Bad dreams bad dreams go away, good dreams good dreams come to stay. Close your eyes my little one, tomorrow will be lots of fun.” Amy giggles as I lean down to give her a hug and a kiss. “Love you princess girl.”
“I love you momma.” She smiles up at me and it makes all of the stressful moments worth it.
I quietly shut her door and walk out into the living room. Looking at the couch I think about grabbing a glass of wine and enjoying some time to myself.
Who are you kidding? You’ll be asleep after the second sip.
I decide against the wine, grab a bottle of water and head to my room. Sometimes I want to go get Amy and just pull her into my bed with me. I hate the loneliness that comes at night. Most nights I sleep with the TV on just so I’m not jumping at every noise I hear when the apartment is quiet. I turn on the TV and a movie I’ve seen a dozen times before is on, knowing I’ll be passed out soon I don’t even bother changing it.
Laying down my hand trails over the large empty space next to me. I’ve been so closed off since Amy’s dad screwed us over. I never wanted to put myself in that position again. Giving someone the power to hurt me was not going to happen. I still wonder how it would feel to have someone in our lives, a role model for Amy to see how a man should treat a woman. I’m thankful that she was young enough when everything happened with her dad that she probably doesn’t remember any of it.
We haven’t heard from him in two years since he came clean about his affair and walked out on us. I had been a stay at home mom, and had to scramble just to find a job to support us. I was just digging myself out of debt now because for two months we lived off of the credit cards I had. Some days I felt like I was drowning and others I thought I had my shit together. I wasn’t close with my family so I had no one to lean on but myself.
When your back is against the wall you really find out what you’re made of. I was able to see that I was so much stronger than I ever thought I was. I started out working at one of the local daycare centers and the director took me under her wing. I was now running the four-year-old classroom and also had just been giving the responsibilities of assistant director. I catch myself falling asleep even though I’m trying to stay awake and enjoy the little bit of alone time I have.
The bed dips beside me and I jolt from the movement. Amy must have had another bad dream. “Climb under the covers and close your eyes princess.”
When there is no response I open my eyes seeing a man hovering over me with one of my kitchen knives in his hand. I open my mouth to scream but he covers it. “You scream and your little princess might wake up. I’d hate to have to hurt her because her mother made a stupid choice. Understand?”
I nod and he takes his hand off of my mouth.
“You are so goddamn beautiful.” He uses the knife to pull the sheets down the tip dragging over my body. “I have been dreaming about this.” His fingers roughly pinch my nipple and I yelp. “Ah, ah, ah. Remember what I said about being loud Emma.”
He knows my name. Who is he? The ski mask on his face shows me nothing except for the small holes cut out for his eyes and mouth.
The knife slides under my shirt and he jerks it up quickly slicing through the thin fabric. Tears start to fall from my eyes but I make sure to stay quiet. He does the same thing with my pants and panties cutting them off until I am lying bare underneath him.
“Don’t cry, you’re ruining it for me. You don’t want me to be unsatisfied after this and go looking for more right?” His eyes move to the door. He wouldn’t, but even as I think that I know he would. “You will moan, tell me how good I feel, and how much you like this dick. Understand?” I nod, but I have no idea how I am going to get through this. His hands move down my body as he forces his fingers inside of me I bite down on my lip to keep from crying out. He pulls out of me and raises his finger to his mouth. “You are too sweet to just have once. I am going to enjoy you tonight and then I’ll be back once a month on this date. You make sure that you’re home or I’ll be back and I won’t be happy. If you think I’m a monster now, you don’t want to see what I’ll be like then. Understand?”
My stomach rolls and I have to fight the urge to throw up. He plans to come back.
“If you go to the cops, or you tell anyone. I will pay a visit to your little princess and you don’t want to know how that will end. Maybe I’ll even pick her up from Wee Care.”
My eyes widen he knows where I work, where Amy goes to school.
“Do you understand me Emma?”
I nod and silent tears fall down my face as he lowers his mouth to me.


Chapter One
Cain

“I get where you’re coming from, just make sure we cover our ass through all this shit.” I look over at Logan as he nods his head.
Growing up in the club everyone knew we would end up officers someday. For Logan everyone assumed it would be his older brother Carter, but when the time came for their dad to step down Carter didn’t want it. Logan jumped at the chance and named me his Sergeant At Arms. Our dad’s still try to give us shit like we’re kids but we have the club running like a well oiled fucking machine.
“I’m going to head home, the early run this morning fucking killed me. See you tomorrow brother.” I walk out of the office and through the main room. There is a party tonight, but hell there is a party every night here.
“Hey, Cain.” Trixie says as her hand grasps my wrist. “How about we head up to your room?”
“Not tonight. Go find someone else.” I pull my wrist from her and keep walking toward the door. She’s a good time when I’m bored but lately she’s been to fucking clingy. All the officer’s have rooms upstairs away from the brothers rooms, but I also have an apartment. Sometimes it’s nice to just to get out of here for a little. Plus the more I hang around the more the club girls are going to swarm. They all have this diluted fucking idea that one of us will fall in love with them and make them an old lady.
Fuck. That. Shit.
Not only do I not want an old lady but when I get one, she sure as fuck wouldn’t have ridden every other dick in the club.
I hop onto my bike and give the prospect a nod as I pull out of the compound. My apartment building is only about ten minutes away, close enough in case I need to get to the club in a hurry, far enough that I can get away when I want to. Walking into the building I check my mailbox but it’s empty as usual. I take the elevator up to my floor when I step out something catches my eye. A guy in a black hoodie is closing the door to the apartment near the stairs. His hood is pulled up and it seems like something might be covering his face.
I know the woman in that apartment. Quiet, pretty, always smiling and she has a little girl who is always bopping around with some doll in her arms.
I should go to my apartment and mind my own goddamn business. For some reason I can’t get my feet to turn around. I start walking toward the door and when I go to knock the door opens a little. Before I can even say anything I hear the muffled sound of crying.
Fuck.
“Hey, just checking to make sure—“my voice catches in my throat when I see her.
The happy woman who always greets me with a smile is on the floor huddled against the couch completely naked. Her knees are drawn up to her chest, her face is tear stained and red like she’s been hit. Even from fifteen feet away I can see her entire body shaking.
I close the door and grab a blanket off of the couch, placing it over her I kneel down in front of her. “Are you okay? I’m going to call 911.”
“No!” she screams and her face twists in fear.
“What do you mean no? Whoever the asshole is that did something to you needs to fucking pay.” I reach into my pocket for my phone but her hand grabs me tight.
“You can’t. I can’t” She is crying so hard each word seems forced. “He’ll…”
“Mommy?” a tiny voice fills the large room and I see her daughter standing there. She’s rubbing her eyes and gripping a raggedy looking teddy bear.
I look at the terrified woman in front of me. I can’t let her daughter see her like this. “Well hey there beautiful. What are you doing up?”
“I thought I heard something. Is mommy okay?” She starts to walk toward us but I stand up and move to where she is before she can get far.
“She’s okay, she just stubbed her toe really hard and yelled when it happened. Thinking that’s what you heard.” The little girl looks from me to where her mom is in front of the couch. “Hey, how about we get you a drink of water and you can show me your room?”
A huge smile breaks out across her face. “I’m Amelia, my friends call me Amy.”
I grab a bottle of water off the case that is on the table. “Well, my name is Cain. Can I call you Amy?”
She arches an eyebrow at me like she’s considering my request. “I haven’t decided yet.” Amy laughs before running down the hallway.
I follow her knowing I need her to get back to bed and stay away from her mom right now. Walking into the bedroom it looks like every little girls dream room. There are unicorn, rainbows, and princesses everywhere. “Well this has to be one of the coolest bedrooms ever.”
Amy laugh as she climbs into bed. “Goodnight Cain.”
“Goodnight Miss Amelia.” I close her door and walk out into the living room.
Walking over to the couch I look down at her. “Your little girl is back in bed and I doubt she had any idea anything was wrong. If you expect me not to call the cops you need to start talking. Let’s start with your name, if you didn’t catch mine it’s Cain.” I notice her clothes on the floor and pick them up to hand them to her, except their cut in half.
Fuck.
I walk back into the hallway and go into the room on the other end. Heading over to the dresser I grab the first pair of pants and t-shirt I can find. When I walk back out she’s managed to wrap the blanket around her body and she is standing up.
“Grabbed these for you.” I hand them to her and turn my back. To give her some privacy.
“Thank you.” I turn around and she is sitting on the couch. Her gaze is fixed on nothing and the color is drained from her face. I walk over and sit in front of her. “My name is Emma.”
She looks me in the eye and I can’t look away. Her eyes are a deep green and even though they look so fucking sad, they’re beautiful. I wait for her to say something but she has her eyes are trained on the tiny hands wringing in her lap. “I know you don’t know me for shit, but I need to know what happened. Especially if you’re saying to me that you aren’t going to the cops. I could help you more than you know.” Like castrating that asshole and making sure he never breathes again.
“I…I can’t tell anyone.” Her eyes don’t meet mine but I follow her gaze to the hallway where Amy’s room is.
“He threaten you?” She doesn’t answer. I dip my head down so my eyes catch hers. “Tell me.”
She nods as a few tears fall down her cheek.
She’s in no place that I’m going to get anything out of her right now. “Tell you what. Go to bed and we can talk this shit over in the morning. I’m gonna stay here on the couch.”
Her breath catches like my offer surprises her. “No, it’s okay. We’ll be fine. He never comes back.”
My head snaps up at that sentence. “What does that mean? This shit’s happened before?” No answer. “Emma, that’s the only question you need to answer tonight from me. After that go lay down and get some much needed rest but I need that answer.”
“Twice before.” He voice is so quiet I almost don’t catch the response.
What the fuck? He’s done this to her three times?
“I know what you must think of me, but you don’t understand.” Tears fall freely each one making small drops on her gray pants.
I take her hands and at first she jumps before looking up at me. “I think that you have an amazing kid back there. I think that whenever I see you, you’re always smiling. I think that whoever is doing this will regret the very day they were born when I’m done.”
“You can’t do anything. No one can.” She stands up and walks toward the hallway. I want to go after her. I want to tell her that somehow I am going to make this shit right. I let her go though, she needs to rest and I need time to figure out what my next move is.
I text Dom asking him to pull camera feeds from anywhere he can find, and let him know what he’s looking for. Anytime the club needs something tech wise we go to him. Best part is that he isn’t the kind to ask questions.
My hands scrub over my face.
Dom: What is her last name?
Me: Don’t know it
Dom: How do you know her?
Me: She lives in the building.
Dom: Watch where you choose to stick your nose brother.
Me: Yep.
I know he’s right. With all the shit the club gets into we don’t need any added attention. There is no way in hell I can just walk away from this situation though.
I need to help her.
To make sure that she’s safe.
And I don’t even know that I really understand why.


Chapter Two
Emma

The sound of Amy yelling jolts me from my sleep. Throwing the covers off of me I run out into the living room to find her hitting Cain with a pillow. I’m about to tell her to stop when he shoots up yelling “boo” and scaring her. Amy starts to laugh and then runs over to me hiding behind my legs.
Cain’s eyes meet mine and I freeze. I know he said last night that he was staying, but I didn’t think he actually would. I have seen him a handful of times in the building but we have never spoken more than a ‘hi’ to each other. His eyes seem to scan my body like he’s making sure everything is intact.
“Mornin’” he says as he stands up. The hat he had on last night is laying on the couch, his buzz cut is a little bit long and his beard is a bit disheveled. I can’t help but stare as he seems to be stretching after being scrunched up on my tiny couch all night. His blue eyes meet mine and its almost like I can’t move under his gaze. “Hey Amelia, how about some breakfast?”
“Yes! I’m so hungry I could eat a cow!” Amy runs over to him jumping up and down in excitement.
“Well I don’t have a cow, but how about a pig? I have bacon and eggs. You can even help.” He winks at her and starts walking toward the kitchen with Amy hot on his heels.
“I actually don’t think I have any of that.” I usually grocery shopped on weekends so come Friday we are down to the bare bones.
“You didn’t.” Cain looks back at me and smiles. “I had it taken care of.”
What is that even supposed to mean? “Oh I didn’t realize you went out this morning already.”
He pulls a kitchen chair up to the table for Emma then walks over closer to me. “I didn’t. I told you last night I wasn’t leaving and I meant it. I had it taken care of. No big deal.” His hand rubs my arm and my skin immediately heats under his touch. “Now I’m going to make breakfast with Amelia, then after that we are going to talk about everything. Relax until then.”
He walks away from me and whispers something in Amy’s ear that makes her laugh. The two of them start cracking the eggs and getting pans out of the cabinet. Walking over to the counter I grab a cup of coffee and then sit at the table, just watching.
Cain interacts with Emma like he’s known her for her whole life. Looking at him I would have never assumed he would be like this. He looks so intimidating and serious. I watch them make breakfast enjoying a site I never expected I’d see, at least not any time soon. When Amy walks over with the plate for me she has such a proud smile on her face. “This looks amazing princess, thank you.”
She wiggles a finger at me and I bend my head down to her. “Cain did most of it, but he said I could take credit.”
I look over at him mouthing the words ‘thank you’. He smiles back at me and I swear it hits me right in my chest. We eat breakfast with easy conversation and lots of laughs. I look over at the man sitting across from me who as of last night was a total stranger to me. For some reason he’s taken an interest in us. He slept on my couch last night knowing I was scared. He helped me with Amy knowing I was in no place to last night. I’m trying not to be suspicious, and skeptical but I can’t help wonder what his motives are. Why would he want to help us the way he is?
“Mommy, I’m done. Can I go play?” Amy looks over at me and I nod my head. “Cain, do you want to play? I have lots of extra princess dresses and crowns.”
Cain chokes on the bite of food he had been chewing. “I need to talk to your mom for a little but maybe after that.”
“Okay!” she runs off toward the hallway.
I look across the table at Cain not ready to have the conversation that he wants from me. Do I owe him an explanation? He has put in so much effort, making me feel safer last night, the way he’s been with Amy “Thank you for everything.”
“It’s no problem.” He grabs our dishes off the table and puts them in the sink. I move to the couch and start fidgeting with one of the throw pillows. The couch dips when Cain sits down next to me. I glance up at him and meet his eyes that feel like they can see right through me. “I know you don’t know me but you can trust me and I can help you.”
“You can’t.” I want to believe he can, that anyone could. The things this asshole has done are straight out of my nightmares.
“I need you to just trust me.” His voice sounds so sincere.
This secret has been killing me. I’ve wanted to let someone in, confide in someone for so long. Am I really willing to confide in a stranger though? I look up at him and when our eyes meet I feel pulled to him. Like there are magnets drawing us together. “Last night was the third time. He comes on the same day every month. The first time he told me that he would be back every month, he warned me that I needed to make sure I was home.” My hands fist the pillow as the memories start to come back. “He said if I told anyone, went to the cops, or I wasn’t home that he would come after Amy. He mentioned the name of the school she goes to, and that I work at. Even after the first time I was contemplating going to the cops but the first week after I got notes from him every day. Some mentioned certain clothing I was wearing, or a place I had gone that day. He made it clear he was watching and I—“ a sob wracks my chest and I can’t finish the sentence.
His hands take my arms and pull me against him. I let myself sink against his chest needing the comfort he’s providing. After keeping everything in for so long it’s like I’ve opened up the floodgates. I let myself cry as Cain just holds me silently. His arms around me almost feel like a shield, like nothing can touch me when I’m there.
I don’t know how long passes but once my crying has slowed down I feel his arms tighten around me. I sit up some breaking his hold and noticing that his t-shirt is now completely soaked where my face was. “I’m sorry…” my voice trails off realizing how little I know him and how vulnerable I just let myself be.
“Don’t be. I couldn’t care less about my shirt.” His thumb swipes a stray tear from my cheek. “I am going to help you. This asshole will never lay a hand on you again.”
I shake my head. “I told you, you can’t. I won’t put Amy at risk. I’d rather deal with that monster every day then chance him coming near her.”
His fingers grip my chin to bring my gaze to his. “He won’t touch her, or you ever again. I will make sure of that. I know shit seems impossible but as long as you trust me you’ll see. This shit ends now.”
I take a deep breath trying to take in everything he is saying to me. “Why?”
A look of confusion crosses his face, “why what?”
“Why are you doing this? Why do you care?” I just can’t wrap my head around him being here.
“If I’m honest, I’m not completely sure why.” He takes my hand, “when I walked in here last night I would have done anything to fix what happened, to take away the pain that I saw inside of you. “
I just look at him not really knowing how to react to what he said or the fact that he is trying to be my knight in shining armor.
He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “I will be here every night, me or one of my brothers will also be with you wherever you go. You will not be alone.”
“Brothers? How many do you have? I don’t want a lot of people knowing about this.”
He laughs, “not those kind of brothers. I guess I should back up a minute and really introduce myself.”
I look at him so confused as to what he could be talking about.
“My name in Cain Marshall and I’m the current Sargent At Arms for the Deathstalkers MC.
Holy crap.



Author Bio


I love reading romance books! I feel like being able to lose yourself in a book in one of the more exciting aspects. The books I love to read and write will be ones that make you feel for the characters. You should have an opinion on every character in a book. Whether you love them, hate them, or think they are up to something.

I live in Levittown Pennsylvania, with my two kids, and two dogs. On top of starting a writing career I am a full time teacher, and a full time mom. I love spending time with my kids, although I have to hide the computer from them when I am writing! I love being active and being able to do any activity outdoors.

I have always thought as an author the most important critic is your reader, so I would love to hear from you. If you read the book and loved it or hated it, tell me. As long as it is in a constructive way I will always answer and interact with you. I want fans to feel free to tell me what they want for the characters in the story and what they want to see happen.


Author Links


Salvation





















































































Seven years ago, she was sheltered. In need of guidance. I was a newly-ordained priest with a vow of celibacy. Our love affair was torrid, and wrong, and ended in heartbreak.
We broke it off and went our separate ways.
I left the priesthood. She left her home.
Seven years later, she’s stranded in my NYC Club while a blizzard rages outside, and she wants a taste of dominance.
I won’t let another man lay eyes on her, much less touch her.
She’s still my everything. My salvation.
And there’s no way I’m letting her go.

























Chandra

I shiver when I enter the club, and I’m not sure if it’s the biting cold or fear that makes me tremble.
I shouldn’t be here. I don’t belong.
I considered some type of disguise coming here, but then I realized that anyone who would recognize me would be just as guilty as I am.
There’s a bouncer at the door, and a particularly strong gust of wind picks up just as he lets me in. I brace against the blast of cold, and he reaches for me, shielding me against the bitter blast of air and shutting the large black door behind me. It bangs with an audible click that makes me jump. Already, I’m out of my element. Men don’t touch me without permission.
But this is a BDSM club, and apparently no one plays by my rulebook. The one I was raised with. If I didn’t want someone to touch me, I wouldn’t be here.
“Name?” The man asks. He’s wearing a black t-shirt stretched tight over his muscled chest, stands well over six feet, and looks severe with a neatly-trimmed goatee and shaved head. He’s staring at a huge clipboard in his hand.
I blink and stare at him. Shit. I didn’t know I was supposed to give my name.
He looks up at me and raises a brow when a beat passes. I’m frozen. I can’t tell him who I am. And where the hell is Marla? My strategy to meet up with her definitely could’ve been improved.
But then again, she doesn’t know I don’t want anyone to know who I am.
“Chandra,” I whisper, hoping that’s enough. Does he need my last name, too? Because then I’m screwed. But he gives me a curious look, glances back down at his clipboard, and nods.
“Marla’s guest?” he asks.
At that moment, I hear a familiar squeal. “Chandra! You did it, girl! Come on in!”
Marla makes her way to me and the bouncer. “Master Geoffrey, this is my new employee. Her name is Chandra.” I smile at him and he shakes my hand, but then the door opens again, and two more people come in behind us. Marla grabs my hand and pulls me past the entryway door. There’s an office and what looks like a sitting room of sorts.
“If you come here with your dom, you can discuss your limits and things like that in this room,” Marla says.
My dom? I don’t have a dom.
“We have contracts and stuff like that. Over there is Master Tobias’ office.” She waves across the room to an open doorway, where a man sits at a desk typing on a computer. “He’s awesome, and you’ll love his wife Diana. In fact, you’re gonna love a lot of the people here,” she says with warmth. “I do.”
I nod dumbly when a couple walks through the door that leads to the club. I expected all leather and latex, but they’re dressed pretty normally. When they open a door from the room I’m in now, I hear music and voices, and I freeze. Once I step foot in there, there’s no going back. This is it.
But I can’t turn back now. I’ve been living and breathing everything I could get my hands on about the BDSM lifestyle for a full year, and I’m so ready to see what this is like.
“Let’s go,” Marla says, taking me by the hand and giving me a tug. She’s the least bashful person I know, and right now, I’m so grateful for that.
“There’s a bar,” she says. “Drinks are limited for safety reasons, but we can get you a good, stiff drink to start.”
I don’t tell her that I have literally never in my life touched alcohol. But tonight is a night of firsts.
“Sure,” I say quietly. She leads me to the bar. I’m trying to take in all the details, but it’s a little overwhelming, and I’m starting to feel that my too-tight black dress that I was so proud of for hitting my badass radar is really way too tame for a place like this. A woman walks past me wearing what looks like a purple leotard, complete with a tail and kitty ears. I must look wide-eyed and shocked, because Marla laughs and hands me a pretty pink drink. I take a sip. It’s delicious.
“Drink, honey,” she says. “You’ll be fine.”
“Got a friend with you tonight, Marla?” asks the man at the bar. He’s got a southern drawl and looks like he’s about my age, with sandy-brown hair and light brown eyes. He’s attractive, and seems sweet, so I take his hand and shake it.
“Chandra,” I tell him.
He smiles, revealing dimples on either side of his mouth. “Travis. Pleased to meet you, Chandra.” I say something barely coherent, but fortunately he’s already moving on to the the next person waiting for a drink. My mind is racing. This man’s a dom? Is he a sadist, too? Does he like to tie people up? Inflict pain? Does he have rules? I take another long pull from my drink.
I haven’t eaten all day, I’ve been so nervous about coming here tonight, and I’m not so sure it’s a smart idea having my first-ever alcoholic drink on an empty stomach. The room feels hot and stuffy, and my head is a little wobbly. I watch Travis fill other girls’ drinks and feel disappointed. He looked easy to talk to. And men are rarely easy to talk to.
Marla’s perched up on the stool next to me, sipping her drink. “So over there we’ve got pool tables for everyone to just mingle. This is sort of the meet-and-greet area.”
“Mhm.” I take another gulp of my drink.
“And beyond that area…” her voice trails off. I watch as couples and single people make their way to a hallway. Someone screams, and I nearly drop my glass. I look with wide eyes at Marla. She smiles and nods.
“The dungeon, honey. That’s where the real action takes place.”
“It’s not in a basement?” I ask curiously. I had visions of the dungeon being built with bricks, complete with metal handcuffs and no lighting whatsoever.
Marla smiles. “Not in this club, no. It’s just what we call it.”
I finish my drink, plunk it on the counter, and turn to her. Liquid courage, they say. Already, I know why. “Take me?”
She finishes her drink, too, and places it on the bar. “Absolutely.”
The room spins, and my head feels light. But I like this. I feel braver. Maybe even more powerful. I’ve gotten brave enough to come to my first BDSM club, and I’m not just here to mingle. Tonight, I want to see what this is like.
A couple jostles past me, and I lose my footing, but Marla quickly rights me. Still, it makes me feel like I’m on a merry-go-round. I’m definitely woozy, and not sure I like this feeling very much. Why do people do this on a regular basis? I like being in control of myself, and this is stupid.
I follow her past the crowd to the dungeon, excitement building.
“Down here are the private rooms for long-term members,” she says. “They’re color-coordinated, and long-term members keep their things here. It’s like a second home.”
“Do you have one?” I ask, shouting to be heard above the noise of the crowd.
“I could,” she says thoughtfully, and her eyes grow a little pained. “I don’t have a need for one, though.”
Marla’s single. I nod. But it’s at that very moment, just before I step into the dungeon, that I hear a voice that makes my whole body seize. I know that voice.
“Not here,” he says. “Take that somewhere else.” It’s calm but stern and brooks no argument. I look around me to see where the voice is coming from, but there are too many people here.
It’s got to be in my head. Some people sound like others, and I’ve just had a drink. Plus, I’m all keyed up. There’s no way that’s his voice.
But I’d know that voice anywhere. It’s the voice I conjure up when I go to sleep at night, to chase my demons away so I can rest. The voice branded into my memory like names carved in stone, lasting and irrevocable. In my mind, I tell myself it can’t be him. There’s no way. But in that moment, I’m no longer an anonymous woman who’s having a little fun at a BDSM club. I’m the girl who made terrible decisions she lived to regret. All of it comes rushing back to me in a flood of memories I can’t ignore, and I try to push it all away, but I’m frozen in place.
“Chandra?” Marla’s looking at me with concern, her head tipped to the side. She reaches a hand to my elbow. “Honey, if this is too much, that’s okay. We don’t have to go in here tonight.”
“No,” I say, shaking my head. I need to exorcise my past from my memory and know I came here and didn’t cave. I swallow hard and take a deep, cleansing breath. “Let’s go.”
She nods, and her eyes sparkle at me. “Let’s go.”
When I step foot in the dungeon, I feel something in me shift. I expected to be shocked. And maybe a part of me is, a little. There are some couples wearing outfits that range from outlandish to scandalous, men and women and people wearing masks for anonymity. There are all sorts of activities going on, but it doesn’t shock me. Maybe it’s the drink or maybe it’s because I was so freaked out by hearing the voice that yanked me back to my youth, but I’m excited. My whole body thrums with nervous, eager anticipation.
“Over there is the Saint Andrew’s Cross,” Marla says, pointing to crossed beams against a wall. No one’s on there yet, but I have read enough to know how that works. “We have spanking benches and horses,” she says, gesturing to a setup of sturdy-looking equipment. “We have some implements couples can use over clothing, but private implements only for bare skin.”
I shiver. I want someone to use an implement on my bare skin.
There are couples sitting on loveseats. I blink at first in surprise, and it takes me a minute to realize that some of them are actually doing sexual things. Right here. In front of everyone. One man’s feeling a girl up, tweaking her bare nipples right over the edge of a too-short top. Her head’s thrown back, lips parted. I watch as he bends his head down and flicks his tongue over a nipple. My own body heats with arousal. Oh my God.
“I thought you said there were private rooms,” I say to Marla in a choked voice.
She grins. “For long-term members only,” she says. “And also? Not everyone’s here for private play.”
I look back at the couple. He’s rubbing between her legs while he suckles at her breasts. She’s writhing against his hand. I watch in rapt fascination. She’s going to climax. Right here. Clothed, and in front of everyone in this room. My own body heats as he moves faster and faster. Is it possible to climax without even being touched? Because this man must be a magician. I’m ready to fly.
I tear my eyes away.
I hear someone speaking right near me.
“That’s enough, little one.” I look to see where this voice comes from. There’s an older man with dark hair and eyes crossing his arms on his chest. He’s looking reproachfully at a small blonde woman wearing kitty ears. “Behave yourself,” he says.
What happens if she doesn’t? My pulse thunders. I’ve read enough books to know exactly what happens in the world of fiction. What happens here? I watch as she shakes her head with a pout befitting a little girl.
Oh my God. She told him no?
He shakes his head with regret and takes her by the arm. “I warned you,” he says. He’s marching her over to one of the spanking benches but there’s a gleam in his eyes like he hoped she’d disobey. On the way, he grabs the varnished wooden handle of a paddle. I can’t breathe or speak, but only watch. He’s going to punish her.
I catch a glimpse of her face. She’s grinning.
I’d be beet red. But at the same time… I want to know what it feels like.
He bends her over the bench, expertly fastens her restraints, then stands behind her wielding the paddle. Placing one hand on her lower back, he lifts his right hand and brings it slamming down on the woman’s clothed ass. She squeals, and he says something in her ear, then brings the paddle down again and again. Every time the wood strikes, blood thunders in my ears. My pussy clenches. I’m so wet, my panties feel damp.
I’m so primed for this.
“Chandra?” Marla’s next to me. She’s been talking to me, but I’ve been too busy getting turned on watching the girl get paddled.
“Yes?” I croak.
“This is my friend Viktor,” she says. He’s shorter than the guy at the door but broad and stern-looking the way I imagined a dom would be, and I’m a little intimidated.
“Hi,” I say. I swallow and must look like a total idiot, because I let my eyes go all wide so he doesn’t know I’m aroused by the scene in front of me. It must be a funny thing being introduced to a man when you’re aroused, and I wonder if it affects my vision, because this man is beautiful and the whole tall, dark, and handsome thing isn’t normally my thing.
Then I notice the way he’s looking at Marla. He stands just a little too close and his eyes warm when she introduces us.
“Pleased to meet you,” he says. He’s got a barely-detectable accent that makes him seem even sterner. God, I need another drink.
“Join me tonight?” he says to Marla. She blinks at him and her cheeks pink.
“Well,” she says. “I actually need to stay with Chandra. It’s her first time here, and I don’t want to leave her.”
He nods. “Fair enough.”
But I see the way he looks at her, and I know how desperate Marla’s been for someone to pay attention to her. She’s been a member here since they opened, and the other guys that she knows are all friends. They think of her as a sister, not a potential sub, and though she loves the camaraderie and occasional scene, it isn’t what she wants. I’d be a crappy friend to hold her back.
“Go,” I tell her. “I’m actually just going to get another drink and then just come back and watch. You know. Like a fly on the wall. A voyeur?” I chatter on like someone’s wound my tongue up and let it go. “A fly voyeur on the wall.” Dear God, someone stopper my mouth.
She blinks. “You sure you need another drink?”
“Oh, so very, very sure.”
Viktor chuckles, but takes Marla by the hand. “Be my sub tonight?” he asks.
She looks at me and blinks, then looks back to him.
“Do it,” I tell her.
“Wait for me in the foyer,” Viktor says in his heavily accented voice. “If we’re scening tonight, we’ll have ground rules. I have a quick phone call to make, then we talk.”
My heartbeat accelerates. This is it! This is what she wanted, and I’m simultaneously consumed with jealousy and excitement for my friend.
“Have fun, you two,” I say, turning away from her and heading back to the bar.
“Text me,” she says, raising her voice. “If anything goes wrong at all, and you need to—”
But her voice fades as Viktor gives her a playful slap on the bottom. She faces him, he whispers something in her ear, and she nods, then goes beet red
I look away. My heart twists and my throat burns. There’s a little tingle in my nose. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m not sad that she’s with him. I’m just… jealous?
As I walk alone to the bar, I know, I wouldn’t have made a different choice. I don’t need a babysitter here. I’m only here to observe, and there is no way I’m participating in anything tonight. Like, at all. But this is hard for me. I grew up in a home where I wasn’t even allowed to date. My parents arranged my marriage like their parents did, and even though I bailed on that, a part of me still fears disapproval. If they knew I was here tonight, they’d disown me.
If they knew a lot of things, they’d disown me.
I make my way to the bar. I need a drink stat.
“Hey,” Travis says. He’s a friendly guy, and really kinda cute, though he looks pretty young, and that feels more like he’s my brother than a potential… well, anything. Dom. Boyfriend. Guy I kiss who buys me a drink. I’ve never been one who’s attracted to men my age, and I’m not now.
“Marla took off?” he asks. He wipes his hands on a towel. I can’t help but glance at his ring finger. He doesn’t wear a ring, but he’s got to be in his early twenties or so, and bartenders flirt even if they’re dating someone. He’s kind, though, and that’s always been my weakness.
“Well, she’s spending the night with a guy,” I say, and then realize that sounds like my friend is whoring herself out. “I mean—well. Okay, so I don’t really know how it works here?” I grimace. God, I should just shut up right now. “But there’s a guy named Viktor and he wanted to, um… what’s the word… scene with her. So they’re going to go… I don’t know, write up a contract or something?” I’ve been into this for how long and now I sound like a total newbie? God!
His eyes crinkle around the edges and he smiles at me. “Is that right? Seems like Marla’s in need of scenin’ good and hard.”
“Most of us are in need of scening good and hard,” I say before I can stop myself. My hand flies to my mouth and I look at him with wide eyes.
And just like that, the insane arousal that started when I saw the scene in the dungeon ignites. Travis grins.
“Is that right?” he asks in his panty-melting drawl.
Hell. Maybe he is cute.
I shouldn’t have come here. I’m way too sex-deprived and needy. I need to get out of here.
“That’s right,” I squeak. I grab a handful of the nuts in the little bowl on the counter, and pop some in my mouth so I don’t say anything stupid. My mind starts playing tricks on me. Travis bending me over the bar and showing me exactly what “scenin’ good and hard” looks like. I imagine he reaches for his belt buckle, those golden-brown eyes growing stern and corrective.
Someone lifts their hand across the bar and Travis shoots me a parting wink, then goes to fill the order. I barely restrain myself from burying my head in my hands.
“Buy you a drink?” someone to my right asks.
I look over and there are three men sitting there that look like they could be brothers with Viktor. Maybe they are. Or cousins or something.
“Sorry?” I ask.
“You look like you need a drink,” the younger one says. “First time here?”
I nod dumbly. He waves down Travis. “What’s your drink?” he asks me.
I shrug like a dumbass.
“Whiskey sour’s what Marla gave you.” Travis looks disapprovingly at me, and gives me the drink, but shoots the guys next to me a warning look. Is it my imagination? Is he jealous?
I hear someone laughing so loudly behind me, it catches my attention, and I quickly turn and look. There’s a crowd of people dressed up in all black, over by the pool tables. I can’t quite tell what they’re doing, but they’re having so much fun. I’m a little jealous, and I know then that I want to be a part of this place. I want to fit in. Have friends that know me and welcome me when I come. And hell, I want to scene.
“What brings you here?” the man next to me asks. He’s got a similar accent to Viktor. Russian? He pushes my drink to me, and I take it gratefully.
“Thank you,” I say. I gulp it like I’m dying of thirst. The voice I heard plays in my mind, and I need to get it to stop. I’m not that girl anymore, and I don’t act like her.
“Whoa, now,” the man says, holding his hand palm down. “Take it easy there. Travis is known for his good, strong drinks.”
My head is feeling woozy again and my mouth a little thick. “Is he known for good, strong anything else?” I ask.
Oh my God. Did I just say that out loud? The men just laugh, though. I drink until ice hits my lips. Marla’s with her man. After tonight, I may never be brave enough to return. Tonight, I’m living it up.












USA Today Bestselling author Jane has been writing since her early teens, dabbling in short stories and poetry. When she married and began having children, her pen was laid to rest for several years, until the National Novel Writing Challenge (NaNoWriMo) in 2010 awakened in her the desire to write again. That year, she wrote her first novel, and has been writing ever since. With a houseful of children, she finds time to write in the early hours of the morning, squirreled away with a laptop, blanket, and cup of hot coffee. Years ago, she heard the wise advice, “Write the book you want to read,” and has taken it to heart. She sincerely hopes you also enjoy the books she likes to read.









Beau, Mavericks of Montana CreekBeau, Mavericks of Montana Creek

Available via Kindle Unlimited

Beau Maverick has a great life-a close family, a thriving veterinary practice, and the privilege of being a Maverick in Great Falls, Montana. Despite all that, he fights a feeling of hollowness. After the death of his beloved mother, he throws himself into her role of charitable and philanthropic duties in the community. He was least interested in being on the chair of the local symphony, but when the feisty new director comes to town, he finds the challenge brings with it a spark of life.

Grace Sutherland is devastated at the news that the Manchester Philharmonic in her hometown in New Hampshire has voted to relocate her to assist one of their lesser known symphonies in a small town in Montana. Her unconventional methods, while effective, were at odds with their traditions. However, she accepts the challenge and is determined to regain her standing and get out of Montana as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for her, the chair of her new board might make that difficult.

**Standalone**

Grace

“You can’t be serious,” I said.
“I’m afraid I am, Grace.”
I shot out of my chair and began pacing.
“Please sit down,” my grandmother said, her voice as cool and emotionless as ever. I ignored her.
“How can they do this to me after everything I’ve done for them?”
“They’re doing this because of everything you’ve done for them,” she replied, droll.
I stopped in my tracks. “Someone has to make the difficult decisions around here. Heaven knows none of them are capable.” I began pacing again.
“No one is saying you’re ineffective. They’ve just decided they need someone more…” She waved her hand in a circular motion as she chose her words. “Tactful.”
I snorted. “You mean a pushover. They want a politician, not a director.”
I was aware the board of the Manchester Philharmonic in New Hampshire had given me this chance not because of my accomplishments, but because my father and grandmother were not only two of the longest standing members of the orchestra, but also amongst their biggest donors. I’d grown up in this world. I loved the orchestra more than anything, and my drive was born from that passion. At twenty-six, I was the youngest ever director and had made some unconventional and unpopular decisions in my time in this role, but I stood by them. If this organization wanted to remain relevant, then we needed to embrace change.
“Granted, our board of directors is more conservative than others in the area, but you knew that when you took the job. I warned you to take it slow.”
I stopped long enough to put my hands on my hips and level her with a glare. She had the audacity to laugh.
“I know. You’ve never done anything slowly. But unfortunately, in this case, the board feels your differences are just too great.”
“So that’s it? I’m out? Fired?” I could barely say the word without the all-too-familiar feeling of anxiety associated with the thought of failure. As a perfectionist born into a family of overachievers, it was something I’d struggled with my entire life. I tried to swallow the rising panic.
“Not fired, dear. Reallocated.”
“Reallocated?” I screeched. “Like I’m nothing more to them than a surplus of office supplies?”
“The board feels as though your particular talents would be put to better use elsewhere.”
My eyes narrowed as realization dawned. “The Foundation.”
She inclined her head but said nothing. Her silence was my answer. My hands found the back of a chair, and my chin fell to my chest. The Philharmonic is the administrator of a charitable foundation that funds symphonies in, ahem, less cultured areas. They’d been known to send misfit employees to remote locations to “develop leadership skills,” but usually the outcasts gave up and quit before they were invited to come back.
I squared my shoulders. That wouldn’t be me. I would go to whatever godforsaken orchestra they’d found, whip it into shape, and prove that I was worthy of this position. “Challenge accepted.”
Her lips ticked slightly upward, the closest she ever came to smiling. “Atta girl.”
So, she still had my back. I felt strangely encouraged and vindicated holding that knowledge. “So how bad is it?”
She plucked a piece of paper from the neat stack in front of her and offered it to me.
Please don’t be Kansas… Please don’t be Kansas…
I looked at the sheet of paper in my hand and blinked. It was even worse than I’d imagined.
“Montana?”
“The Great Falls Symphony,” she said.
“Montana has a symphony?” My mind reeled. “Montana has… anything?”
She lifted a trim shoulder. “Evidently.”
“That’s it?” I asked incredulously. “You’re willing to send your only granddaughter off to some godforsaken wilderness you know nothing about?”
“You know nothing about it either, dear. How do you know God has forsaken it?”
In a rush, the fight drained from my body, and I collapsed into a chair. “They really want to be rid of me that badly?”
My grandmother rose from her seat and rounded her desk to stand in front of me. Her tiny stature didn’t require her to bend to grasp my chin in her hands and force my eyes to hers. “This is simply a test, Grace, and I know it’s one you can pass. Take this assignment, kick its ass, rub their faces in it. If you prove you can handle yourself in a situation such as this, they’ll have no ammunition left against you. Sure, your methods may be unconventional, but if you can show them they work, they’ll reinstate you. I know it.”
“How can you be so sure?” I asked.
She straightened. “They think you’ll give up and quit, but I know better.”
I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. “Okay. I’ll do it.”
Her steely gray eyes sparkled. “Atta girl.”

Somer Hayes is an avid reader and writer of stories, hailing from the Midwest.

The Ocean Between Us by Michelle Heard

 

 

 

Model Credit: Drew Truckle.

Photographer Credit: Eric David Battershell.

http://www.ericbattershell.com

Cover Artist: Sybil, PopKitty Design.

 

 

 

 

Dying to experience life, I cross an ocean to get away from my fears. I find my safe haven in the form of Detective Aiden Holden. He shows me what love is, but then our lives collide. Our little world shatters, and I’m caught in the crossfire.

I’m forced to return home, to let go of the only person who has made me feel like I could be more.

How do you return to a cage once you’ve tasted freedom?

My only hope is that Aiden will cross an ocean for me.

 

 

EMMA


The last three days have been exhausting. Sneaking away from the house in the middle of the night like some criminal was the most daring thing I’ve ever done. While sitting at the airport, I chewed my nails to the nerve out of fear that I’d be caught and dragged back to that hellish prison.
I unlock the door to the flat which will be my new home for the next six months. Not knowing whether my roommate is home, I slowly walk inside.
Closing the door behind me, I leave my bags at the entrance. “Hello, is anyone here?”
Silence greets me, and I let out a sigh of relief. It will give me time to get settled before whoever I’m sharing the flat with gets back.
Crap, I should’ve asked Miss Jessie, the landlord, about my roommate. For a moment I contemplate going back to her but decide to put it off until I go out to explore a little of the town.
Opening the door to the first bedroom, and glancing inside, I see a pair of men’s sneakers beside the bed. It’s clear I’ll be sharing with a guy unless the girl has big feet, which I doubt.
Actually, I hope it’s a guy. I don’t think I can handle living with another woman so soon after all I’ve been through with my mother.
The second door opens to a bathroom, and I’m glad to see that it has a shower.
Grabbing my luggage, I walk to the last room, which I assume will be mine. Pushing the door open, my eyes greedily take in all the space.
There’s a closet against the wall, and a big bed stands opposite it. I’ve never slept in such a massive bed. I just want to face-plant onto it and sleep all my worries away.
“Wow,” I whisper. “This flat is amazing.”
Even though my parents live in a mansion in Clifton, one of Cape Town’s wealthiest neighborhoods, my bedroom at the back of the house was small and only held a bed. There wasn’t even space for a dresser, and I had to keep my clothes in the closet of one of the guest bedrooms. It was just another way for my mother to make me feel like an unwanted burden.
For the first time since I left home, a smile forms around my lips and excitement starts to bloom in my chest.
I hate my parents for doing this to me, for making me run to North Carolina, the other side of the bloody world. But I’ve had enough. A person can only take so much abuse.
I have to prove to myself that I can survive without them. The trust fund isn’t huge, and with the exchange rate being so bad, it doesn’t leave me with much of a monthly allowance once it’s converted to dollars. I’ll only have enough for rent, one meal a day, and paying for my studies.
Even though my finances aren’t the best, I feel hopeful, and for the first time, I don’t dread what tomorrow might bring.
Lifting my bag onto the bed, I start to unpack. It only takes a minute to transfer my clothes over to the spacious closet. The few items look lost in all the space, but still, a warm feeling settles in my heart.
I might not have much, but I have my freedom.
“You’ve done it, Emma,” I whisper. I grab clean clothes and the only towel I have, then walk back to the bathroom so I can shower. “You have six months to find a way so you can stay here.”
After I’ve taken a quick shower, I get dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
Back in my room, I place the dirty clothes in my backpack. I’ll have to find a laundromat where I can wash them.
I turn on my phone, and immediately it starts to vibrate with messages and missed calls. I choose to ignore them for now and search for Chloe’s number.
Holding the phone to my ear, a smile spreads across my face the second I hear her voice.
“I’ve been going insane! Did you land in one piece? Is the place you’re staying at nice? What is your roommate like? Have your parents cont –”
“Chloe, slow down. One question at a time,” I stop her interrogation with a burst of laughter. “I’m safely here. The flat is very nice. It’s a two bedroom, and it has an open plan kitchen and small lounge. The bedroom is huge, Chloe. It has so much closet space, and the window looks out over a beautiful courtyard. It’s nothing like the room at home. It’s easily twice as big. Don’t even get me started on how comfy the bed looks.”
A sense of freedom washes over me as I take in my new home.
I’m really free.
“I’m so happy you like it, Em. You sound better too. You did the right thing by leaving. Have you met your roommate?”
“I haven’t met the person I’m sharing the flat with. I’m a little nervous about that. I saw a pair of men’s sneakers, so I’m sure it’s a guy. Miss Jessie, the owner, let me in. She seems nice, but she was surprised to see me. My application got mixed up with some other guy’s. After explaining that I can’t afford to live on my own and how important it is that I share a flat, she relented and gave me the keys.”
“Oh hell. I’m just glad you got it all sorted. Anyway, I’m glad you’ve settled in. After everything we had to go through to get you there,” she sighs. “Just don’t answer your phone if that bitch tries to call you. Don’t reply to her texts. Don’t let her intimidate you. Remember, she’s on the other side of the world now. You’re safe in America.”
“Thank you for helping me,” I say, thanking my lucky stars again that I have such an incredible friend.
“You know I’d ride a porcupine butt naked for you,” she laughs. I don’t know where she heard that, but since she did, she hasn’t stopped saying it.
“You’re the best,” I whisper. It’s the best I can do to tell Chloe that I care about her.
I can’t say the words I love you. My mother has made them lose all meaning, and now they’re just empty words I hear after a beating.
“Now, go on! Go out and have some fun,” she says, her voice laced with excitement for me.
“I’m a little scared, to be honest, but I’m not going to let it hold me back,” I admit.
“Yes, don’t hide in your room. Go out and experience new things. You’ll see not everyone is as evil as that insane mother of yours.”
I want to experience everything this world has to offer. I’ve never gone out before and have no idea how to socialize. Being out and between people is the only way I’m going to learn.
“Take your phone with you and call if you need me. Or text me. I’m on standby,” Chloe says, offering her support like she always does.
“You’re the best. You know that, right?” I say again.
“No, you’re the best,” she laughs.
“I’ll let you know how it goes.”
My phone beeps just as I cut the call. One glance tells me I can’t run from the inevitable. Chloe would kill me if she knew I was answering them, but I can’t just ignore my parents. They are my family, after all. I’ll just let them know I’m safe.
Dad: Where are you? We can’t reach you. Your mother’s worried.
Me: I’m taking a break from it all. I’m safe.
I bite my bottom lip as I watch the message go through. Even though an ocean separates me from them, I can’t help but feel scared.
My heartbeat starts to speed up as a panic attack threatens to engulf me.
Closing my eyes, I picture an eagle taking flight, and I let all my feelings soar away with it. It’s something I started doing two years ago after I saw an eagle soaring above our house. I had just finished gathering all the dead leaves from the swimming pool when I heard the sharp cry. I must’ve watched it for an hour before it flew away. What I remember most from that day was the peaceful feeling which filled my heart.
Sucking in a deep breath, I slowly open my eyes. “You’re going to be fine, Emma. You can do this.”

 

 

 


Michelle Heard is a Bestselling Romance Author who likes her books hot, dirty, and with a touch of darkness. She loves an alpha hero who is not scared to fight for his woman.

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The Wilderness

Chapter Reveal, The Wilderness, Lavender Shores Book 8 by Rosalind Abel

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Will Epstein had it all—playboy good looks, wealth and prestige, and a gorgeous fiancé to costar with him on a reality television show. But that was years ago, before he was abandoned at the altar on national television. In the aftermath, Will’s world completely crumbled, leaving him humiliated, alone and lost.

Andre Rivera married his first love and lived a dream life until tragedy stepped in. His wife’s sudden death left him devastated and struggling to build a life for his young daughter. Being a pilot offers Andre a sense of freedom from Lavender Shores, but he feels trapped in his grief and unable to move forward.

A shared sense of loss fosters a surprising friendship between Will and Andre, giving them both the salvation they need. But when feelings cross the lines of friendship and secrets are revealed, Will and Andre have to confront their own fears.

Amid the gold of a Lavender Shores autumn, Will and Andre must grasp their chance at love… before it slips away.

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Rosalind Abel grew up tending chickens alongside her sweet and faithful Chow, Lord Elgin. While her fantasy of writing novels was born during her teen years, she never would have dreamed she’d one day publish steamy romances about gorgeous men. However, sometimes life turns out better than planned.

In between crafting scorching sex scenes and helping her men find their soul mates, Rosalind enjoys cooking, collecting toys, and making the best damn scrapbooks in the world (this claim hasn’t been proven, but she’s willing to put good money on it).

She adores MM Romance, the power it has to sweep the reader away into worlds filled with passion, steam, and love. Rosalind also enjoys her collection of plot bunnies and welcomes new fuzzy ones into her home all the time, so feel free to send any adorable ones her way.

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Wilde About Carson(The Brothers Wilde Series, #3) by Cate Faircloth

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have always just been friends.

Emily Rhey has been my best friend since tin-can lunches in the first grade. We have seen each other through everything; the ‘firsts’, the ‘seconds, the ‘always,’ but most importantly when everyone left, she was still there.

She’s smart, beautiful, witty–the perfect woman for any man.

Even someone like me; heir to my father’s empire, as handsome as I am rich.

Over the years, plenty have questioned us–my brothers, even my mother; but we have never crossed that line.

I never thought about it, and as far as I’m concerned, neither has she.

When grief draws us together, very close together, it changes everything…

I tell myself we are only friends…until I can decide if it is still true.

 


Carson

“I bet you a hundred bucks, you’re going to break your neck.”
“Only a hundred? Come on, is my life not worth more than that?”
“Less… I bet ten.” Dylan. Such a prick. Always has been. Always will be.
“No one is going to die. It’s only a ten-foot drop. Easy,” Fletcher adds in.
“Yeah, but add that with the icy cold water and the angle—”
“Shut up, doc,” Grayson snipes at Jeffrey, who makes a face but accepts that we are the last people to accept his MD.
“Just get down from there, Carson,” Holden adds his pseudo patriarch voice to the conversation.
I turn to him and laugh, shaking my head at him. The motion makes me a little wobbly on the edge of the boat. I slip and catch myself with my bare feet, my jeans are the only thing protecting my body from the cold wharf air. I mock exactly what Holden says, and he makes a face, holding his hands up, one with beer and the other empty.
“Do you really want to die the night of my wedding?” Brant finally chimes in.
He has been quiet and brooding the whole time, and we haven’t even left the dock yet. All of us flocked here for his wedding this weekend to the super-hot lawyer he met only seven months ago. They swear it isn’t only for the kid she is about to have, I believe him—but I’m not a fan of insta-love. Or love in general.
“That question begs the fact that I might die, but I won’t. Are your video cameras out?” I stare down at the water calmly thrashing against the edge of the boat.
I guess I shouldn’t call a hundred-foot yacht a boat. It’s more of a small house, our own little city. It has been in the family since I was little and looked at it like a small city. Now it’s yet another thing I have grown used to in this fine life we live. Thanks for all the hard work, Dad.
“Open the bay back doors for when I get back.” I shout to my brothers. All here except Isaac, maybe I am jumping toward him. Or is that way too touchy?
I’d like to think it is, but we are all thinking the same thing. There is a reason why we drink so much when we all get together. But I haven’t had enough to make me wobbly, or regret jumping out into the water, adding a flip. The water hits me cold, and I surface back up to find my brothers looking on.
All with video cameras.
* * *
“I look like a pompous ass.” Fletcher keeps picking at his suit like it was put on unwillingly. Maybe it was.
We are all laughing at him eyeing himself in the wide mirror like he doesn’t know who he is. I get it, big football guy wearing a suit. Not comfortable.
“You look like the rest of us.” Dylan stands behind him to fix his tie. At least Cora only wanted a simple wedding. But telling my mom she can go ahead and plan everything? None of them are prepared for what she did to the house for this party.
“Yeah, unfortunately we share genes. Alec on the other hand…”
“Fuck off,” Alec chimes in from his spot in the corner of the room. He is already dressed, the calmest of us all. Not just because he has always been a silent brooder, but because he has done this before and has a first-class ticket to chill out.
“You only have to wear it for the ceremony. And nine thousand pictures,” Grayson says. He looks older every time I see him, but he is only twenty-one. It’s probably from being away at the war and all. Or are we actually fighting?
“Right. Where is Brant?” Fletcher asks.
“Barfing.”
We all laugh.
Brant never freaks out about anything. He is always cool and chill. I crack the jokes to make the awkward moments go away.
“Not like he has anything to worry about.” I tilt my neck up to fix my tie. “Rich, famous, already knocked her up. She isn’t going anywhere.”
Holden highly disagrees with a scoff. “Yeah right, have you met Cora? She wouldn’t think twice about it if she had to. That chick is the definition of spitfire.”
“She reminds you of Elizabeth?” I ask Holden. He gives me a hard glare that still gets even me to shut up. I’m not allowed to talk about the woman he makes eyes with at work. But oh, he can bother me about any and every woman I hook up with. Just because he is older, he takes the hierarchy thing too seriously.
“Look, we all need to hurry up and get to Brant’s room.” Jeffrey brings us all back to the present.
We have turned the media room into our hangout spot while chaos ensues in the rest of the house—caterers, planners, whoever it is that brings the flowers and chairs. We don’t keep many friends. Just family friends, and actual family. Mom has a bunch of siblings, nieces and nephews—our cousins. But we didn’t make nice with each and every person we came in contact with because most of the time they only wanted something from us. Wanted in on the most successful family the tri-state area has ever seen.
But I’m not butt hurt about it or anything. I have friends, my brothers and—
“Where is Emily?” Evan asks.
I make a face at him as I walk over to the wet bar for a bottle of water. Fletcher makes a signal he wants one, so I toss it to him.
“Uh, out with Mom helping set up, I think.”
“Mom really likes her. More than Mia,” Alec says.
“Not possible, Mom loves Mia. And Emily has been in the family for a long time…” I guzzle down the water suddenly thirsty as hell.
“I know.” Alec chuckles. “But is she?”
“What?”
“Like family?”
My brothers all stop what they’re doing to make the room comically silent and stare me down until I answer. I hate them all. Of course, not literally. But every chance they get, they want to irritate me about this whole ‘best friend’ thing. Guys can have female best friends, and it doesn’t mean anything other than having a person, someone besides my idiot brothers.
I smile and laugh without humor.
“Don’t we have a wedding to get to?”
With more protests and denials, we pile out to find Brant in the pool house where he is supposed to be. He looks good, his bridal suit kind of matches ours, made more fancy by the tail end. I honestly never took him for the marriage type—maybe it is the rock-star thing. But now that I see it, I don’t question it, not since I saw him with Cora for the first time. It was the same with Alec and Mia, something about them is different…
“Imagining it’s you up there?”
I turn to Emily. She has her sneaky smile on. She’s got many smiles. I guess I would know since she is my best friend. What I didn’t know is how well she could clean up. Maybe it’s just been a while, but… she does look amazing.
“Hell no,” I whisper back.
She giggles softly and leans away from my ear. I would be up there with all my other brothers, but just like last time, we can’t all fit. Besides, Brant already decided on it. He doesn’t want anyone messing up the photo so it’s just him and his best man, good ol’ Holden.
“She is so pretty.” Emily sighs and leans her head on my shoulder.
The minister hasn’t been going that long, but I can tell it might get wordy. Brant likes that kind of stuff, and Cora humors him after she argues enough. It’s their thing.
“And she doesn’t even look pregnant. Well, that’s how I look after a meal of spaghetti.”
I chuckle softly at her, no one notices we are entertaining ourselves.
“You look great,” I whisper back. I feel her shrug like ‘okay.’
But I mean it. She has this tan dress on, side straps and a V-neckline low enough to remind me how sexy she really is. Sometimes I forget, especially when we spent our teen years together and saw each other through acne and braces. It’s long, I don’t see her legs crossed under the layered fabric of it. I know that’s how she sits though, always has.
“You look dapper.”
“You see me wear a suit every day.” I smirk down at her.
We work together at my dad’s company. I still call it that even though it has been almost a year since his passing, and Holden is well past running it on his own. Emily is an executive associate in international relations which just means she is one step away from running the whole team. Me, I’m COO because I know how to keep things in check—also studied business management at Yale with Emily. I went to college as a showpiece because I hated it, and when Dad passed, I officially took over as COO, and Evan moved to CTO so he wouldn’t have to manage both roles himself. We’re better at each position, respectively.
“Not like this.”
“You have the hots for me?” I lean down to whisper in her ear. Then she flashes me her goofy smile that I return.
“Shut up. Watch your brother get married.”
“It’s no different from the last time,” I murmur.
But I get my camera out when they start to exchange rings. I have an obligation to keep everyone updated.
“No way,” I say to myself when Brant starts crying at the end.
I look at Fletcher, and he frowns because he owes me some money since we bet on it. I bet he would cry, he said no way. How about that?
The lot of us hound Brant at the end. We are all super happy for him and Cora. Plus, the little one on the way. Alec has had his own share of it too, with Mia about the same amount of time along with their kid. Cora’s brother, Damien, is quite the socialite, talking up a few of our younger cousins. I guess they’re around his age. It’s nice to know that all facets of our family easily mesh together.
All but two now. Dad would be proud, and I don’t know if Isaac could care less.
“Let’s dance.” Emily stands and tugs me with her.
“I would rather eat these samplers.” I pick at one of my quiches.
But then she makes her face—the ‘please’ face. That face made me take a Pilates class with her, and I still have a wedgie.
“Ugh, fine. None of the Milly Rock stuff, though.” I follow her out to the designated dance area.
“Just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean you can knock it.” She laughs.
Most of the kids have found their own corner, the adults in another. Mom is sitting with Mia who is nursing her small belly. Mom is ecstatic about all the grandkids coming along. I’m sure she has plans in her head already.
The music is too slow for anything but goofy swaying. Our hands interlocked, moving back and forth while Emily laughs. She loves laughing at everything, and it is just part of who she is. Happy, loving, carefree, my twelfth favorite person in the entire world—right after my brothers and Mom.
“You learned new moves,” I shout to her.
Brant has taken the night off—no singing from him. But he did mention something about serenading Cora, and that would be the only singing he does over his honeymoon. Nothing like the heart-tugging first dance between them.
“I club a lot.” She giggles.
I shake my head at her and wrestle her into a dramatic dip. Her laugh shoots through my ears and makes me follow suit.
“How many more can you take?” I ask her as she doesn’t let me leave once again.
“What? You tired?” She comes closer and grabs my arms trying to make me hit the whip.
I smile down at her taking in the light of her dark green eyes and glowing sheen all over her dancing body. Was she always this pretty? I guess that isn’t the question at hand. Emily has a senseless beauty that grew like a flower, morphed with her soul in a fast, blinding moment. The soft roundness of her eyes frames her face over her button nose and small, set lips, her rounded face matches the rest of her sinuous body. I blink, she asked me something…
“Hell yeah, I’m tired.”
“Keep up with me, and I’ll buy you a milkshake after.”
“Can’t we ditch the wedding now?” I whine.
“We haven’t had cake yet. I never leave without cake.”


 

 

 

I have been a romantic all my life; in books, movies, television, and anything that brings happiness into the world. Though I love reading and avoiding daily responsibilities, I am also an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, a flag ship university for writing and creative freedom. I love connecting with all my readers, and sharing the stories that dance around in my head.