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A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear

A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear

A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear

A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear
Available at:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks

Description:  Lisa Welsh only wishes to leave a messy divorce behind for a couple of days stay in Salado, Texas but wakes to nightmares and a cowboy in her bed, and she has no earthly idea how he got there. But the situation gets worse when she learns she’s now living in 19th Century Salado. Even more worrisome is the tall dark stranger, and everyone else in town believes she’s some woman named Josephine Rogers who is supposed to be dead.

Jack Stanton can’t believe the clerk gave him an occupied room at the Shady Villa Inn, but worse, he was ready to ravage the woman in that bed—until he realized his mistake. Now the woman he thinks is Josephine claims to be some other woman—and though he could never abide by Josephine’s fickle ways, this Lisa Welsh intrigues him like no other. Still, if she isn’t Josephine, he figures he best help her find her way back to where she really belongs no matter how much he wants to keep her with him.

Together, Lisa and Jack must solve the mysteries and face the troubles in their worlds or they will never be free to share the love that binds them across the ages.

Chapter One

In the flickering of the lantern’s golden flame, a shadowy solitary figure stood across the room, observing the sleeping occupant. The dim light projected through the amber glass cast eerie shape-shifting characters up and down the burgundy rose-papered walls. In the gloomy darkness, the specter reached out to Lisa Welsh, begging for solace, straining to be felt.

The fragrance of roses permeated the dimness, tea-scented, teasing the senses of the unwitting guest. Except for the rustle of sugar-drained leaves dancing against the windows, the room remained deadly quiet. Suffocated by the heat of the coverlet, Lisa tossed the quilt aside. Quickly chilled, she tugged it back over her shoulders. The darkness threatened to swallow her whole and drag her into the hellish pit of a nightmare again.

Groggy with sleep, she thought about Tom, the image of him, smug, his eyes blue and cold. “I found someone else,” he’d said, and it echoed in her mind like a damn broken record.

A girl barely out of high school. The bastard. At twenty-one, Lisa was already over the hill? She blinked tears back. She refused to give him any more space in her brain.

She attempted to think of something pleasant. And then she had it.

A Trojan warrior’s fingers pushed the silky gown up her leg—she, being his Trojan princess hostage. His muscular thigh tensed when he pressed his nude body against hers. She ran her hands over his sculpted back, mesmerized by the smoothness of his skin against her fingertips.

In the flutter of an eyelid, the chills resumed, and the darkness returned. A shudder shook Lisa’s body.

Murky figures moved closer. “She can’t last long.” A man’s gruff voice made no attempt to quiet his comment in Lisa’s presence.

We can’t wait any longer. The sale—”

I know, I know, the buyers are getting suspicious. In a town this size, the word will soon get out.”

What do you propose to—”

You know what we have to do. She’ll never be missed.”

The heat, the chills, the muscles that ached with every twitch of her body…

Lisa squirmed to free herself of the misery pervading her soul. She twisted and rolled onto her back. She gasped for breath—she couldn’t breathe.

In a mournful, strangled voice, she cried out. The goose down-filled pillow covered her face, pressing tightly against her mouth and nostrils. Her arms felt locked in a vise. She attempted to pull them free from the blanket and comforter

Were the bedcovers pinning her down? Or something more sinister? Fingers? Gripping her arms, bruising the skin?

Her heart beating pell-mell, Lisa broke free from the paralysis and threw the pillow burying her face onto the floor. Cold, she was so cold. And drained of energy. She rolled over, submerging herself under the covers, trying to push out the chill.

Warmth radiated from the other side of the bed, and she gravitated toward it.

Tom. Sighing, she snuggled against his hard, naked body, his heated skin warming her to the core. She listened to the steady thumping of his heart, the rhythmic drumbeat lulling her back to sleep. Until he stirred. His fingers slipped through her hair, tenderly combing the strands. His simple touch made her crave for more. She nuzzled her mouth against his smooth chest, her fingers tracing his pebbled nipple.

He groaned, leaned down, and kissed the top of her head.

Her heart lifting, she raised her face toward him, encouraging more of his kisses. Pressing his mouth against hers, gently at first, the sleeping giant awakened.

She kissed him back, nipping his mouth with teasing bites, touching her tongue to his, making him moan with need. The sound was gratifying after such a long absence. She shifted her body, sliding her thigh over his. But he pressed his hands against her shoulders, moving her onto her back like a man with a calling. Forceful, yet loving.

Yes! This is what she needed to warm her up.

His hands slipped to her breasts, and he caressed, lifted, and massaged them through her clothes, making her tingle throughout. She stilled her hands on his waist, absorbed in his sensual and needy touch. Then wrapping her in his heat and vigor, he pinned her to the mattress. Ohmigod, yes! He hadn’t shown her this much ardor in forever.

She ran her hands over the muscles in his back, enjoyed the feel of his satiny skin, the way he pressed against her, his arousal hard against her waist. She wanted him buried deep inside her, passionate, virile, possessive, loving her without hesitation.

With his mouth kissing hers, he swept his hands down her sides and reached for her… nightgown? Not right. Something’s not right.

He lifted it, exposing her, his fingers stroking her naked thighs with a silky caress. But a twinge of panic streaked through her veins.

Not…not her nightgown…too heavy, not long enough…denim…her denim skirt? The illusion shattered. The world as she knew it unraveled, one notion at a time. He was too muscular to be Tom, too tall, and he smelled like leather and a spicy scent not at all like her…her…oh, hell, she was divorced. Tom hadn’t lived with her for the last three months.

Her heart and breath on hold, she tried to slip out from under the aroused man who was clearly not her ex-husband. He slid his hand higher, toward the apex of her thighs.

Too scared to scream, she squirmed to get free.

Charlotte,” he said, his voice a husky, sexy tenor.

What’s wrong, darlin’?”

Ohmigod, had she been out of her mind? Gone to bed with a total stranger and made up an alias?

The cotton sheets scratched her skin, unlike the satin feel of her 600-thread count ones. Cotton? She’d put flannel sheets on her bed for the fall as cold natured as she was. She wasn’t even in her own bed. Where was she?

“Get off me!” She tried to shove him aside, but he was like a primed bull ready to mate with his woman, and she’d been the one to prime him.

He reached out and touched her arm in a reassuring way.

Honey?” His voice was drenched with lust but sounded concerned, too.

She pushed again, freeing herself from his hot body. She scooted away so fast she fell off the bed. And fell and fell. Finally landing on the unforgiving wooden floor, she smacked her elbow and hip hard. How high was the damned bed?

Charlotte?” the man asked, but this time his voice was tinged with more than worry.

Who are you?” The covers rustled.

Lisa couldnsee blamed thing in the dark, and she hoped the naked guy was dressing and leaving the room pronto. At least she wasnnaked.

You’re not…she’s…” He paused.

Lisa scrambled to her feet, trying to remember where she was and why she was with a naked man in a bedroom that wasn’t her own.

What are you doing in my hotel room?” he finally asked with an accusing tone.

Hotel,” she whispered,  rubbing her throbbing temple.

Ohmigod, hotel. The Stagecoach Inn.” She vaguely remembered leaving Waco last night to come to Salado, to get away after the judge finalized her divorce from Tom, the worm.

Wrong inn,” the guy said, matter-of-factly.

rented room here. Iafraid youre the one whoin the wrong place.” She attempted to sound sure of herself, not as rattled as she felt.  But she knew for fact that she had rented the room.

A boot hit the floor, and the bed creaked. “I sure apologize for the mix-up, ma’am. I reckon the clerk made a mistake. I’ll be out of here as soon as I can.”

It wasn’t your fault.” Although she couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d nearly done with a total stranger. How could she have thought it was Tom? She guessed after four years of marriage and three months of separation, she still couldn’t believe they were finished.

Boots tromped across the wooden floor then stopped at the door. When the man pulled it open, a hall lamp cast a dim light into the room, illuminating the guy’s attire, a cowboy dressed in black. A rodeo type or maybe he was in a country band. Neither of which appealed to her. Although why she was considering it, she hadn’t a clue.

He stared at her for moment, his brows deeply furrowed. hint of recognition appeared in his dark eyes, his angular face stern, and his jaw taut. Her gaze drifted to his lipsperfectly kissable mouthif they werenso grim. He was much better kisser than Tom had ever been, like he wanted to devour every lovable inch of herif shebeen some woman named Charlotte.

A green cord of envy wrapped around her heart. Why couldn’t she garner that much interest from a man who looked like this guy?

The cowboy cleared his throat, ran his hands over the brim of a black Stetson, and gave her a little nod. “I apologize again, Miss.” Then he shut the door, and his footfall echoed down the hall.

Instantly, she felt bereft. Alone. Unwanted. Discarded.

She was mess and had to pull herself together. Tom wasnworth the feelings that were churning deep inside her. He was perfectly content, and she was damned if she was going to be unhappy because heleft her for teen. Wiping away annoying tears, she vowed not to think about him again tonight. Or tomorrow. Or ever. Letting out her breath, she inched her way to the door in the dark. She fumbled with the doorknob, searching for lock.

A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear
Available at:
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Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington

Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington

Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington

Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington
Available at:
Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble

Description:  There are things Patrick Boyle will never forget: the sound of his own neck breaking at the moment of his death in the fall of 1970, the sweet taste of his mother’s chocolate cake, and the awful day his parents abandoned him in his childhood house-turned prison.

Nineteen-year-old Patrick wonders for decades if God has forgotten all about him or if he’s being punished for some terrible crime or sin over a lovely forty years trapped in an empty home. But when Sara Oswald, a strange woman with a mysterious past, buys his house, old feelings reawaken, and a new optimism convinces him that she’s the answer to his prayers.

Things are never simple, though, especially when she begins channeling the memories of his life and death in her writing.

Excerpt:

Whoever said dying was easy was full of crap. Patrick Boyle remembered slipping down the carpeted stairs, wincing and grunting as he dislocated his shoulder with the first jolt. His skin flayed off at the hip when his shirt rose up while skidding across a hard edge, a sensation he vividly remembered as lingering and grinding. And finally, he was fully cognizant of the pain as his neck made a sharp, juicy cracking noise when he crunched head first on the landing below. It wasn’t easy, and it sure as Hell wasn’t fun.

The pain faded just as quickly as it happened, but then he groaned in humiliation as the piss stained the front of his tan corduroy pants seconds after he officially died. His mother’s high-pitched screech drew his attention away from the sensation of hot fabric sticking to the inside of his thighs, although not so much that it didn’t occur to him it was pretty far out that he could still feel his body. It was a sure bet he was dead – if the blank look in his wide open eyes and the fact that his heart didn’t seem to be beating was any indication. And, you know, being able to see himself and his mother from across the room made it pretty obvious. In fact, he seemed to be able to see the scene from all directions: from above, from the left, and from the right.

Arlene Boyle obviously didn’t realize her son was dead, though. At least Patrick didn’t think so – otherwise, she probably wouldn’t have poked so hard at his dislocated shoulder with a firm but shaking finger and yelled his name. It was kind of strange; getting jabbed should have hurt, but he didn’t feel a thing at that moment. Well, except the beginnings of a persistent panic that tied his useless intestines in phantom knots.

“Patrick Michael Boyle!” rang through the house, echoing in the narrow stairwell of wooden steps and slippery, rust-colored shag carpeting runner. When Patrick’s corpse didn’t even so much as flinch, she slipped into Mom mode, quickly and efficiently calling someone, maybe the operator or the hospital or something. She probably couldn’t allow herself to even consider that her “little miracle Patty,” as his mother liked to call him – something about not being able to have more children –  might not be okay. That’s just the way she was, though: calm and optimistic. Patrick and his father liked to joke she was queen of ignoring the obvious.

The good news was when he looked down again, he stood beside his dead body… in his own body. His spiritual body, he supposed. And his corduroy pants – the ones on his non-dead… or undead, whatever… body –  were dry as a bone. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t the best thing to ever happen to him, but on a day when he was due to meet his Heavenly Host earlier than anticipated, he’d take what he could get.

Pancakes had been the key to Patrick’s undoing, the reason he got out of bed in the first place. The scent of vanilla and butter woke him, swirling around his pillow like a thick cloud and making him shift restlessly beneath his covers. His stomach rumbled, urging him downstairs. The smell had even interrupted a fairly good dream involving Susan Dey, inappropriate considering this might possibly have been his last full day of freedom. Unless Patrick had some exotic disease, wet dreams would occur in the presence of a dozen or more other guys for the next few years.

Lucky him.

Patrick felt kind of like a bad ass… at least for a few moments after his heart had ceased to beat. Dying was a downer, especially when he was just nineteen years old, but he grinned smugly anyway. It wasn’t the perfect solution to escaping Vietnam, but dying on the stairs had to be better than getting shot up in a rice paddy. Tomorrow he’d been scheduled to report to the draft board office in Philadelphia for a physical exam, a pit stop on his way to the war. He’d nearly sh*t himself when his number had been chosen in the draft lottery, although he shouldn’t have been surprised since his birthday had been assigned a relatively low number.

At least now his mother could bury a good-looking body, not that it would likely make her feel any better about the situation. But it would have to be at least some comfort.  Janice Hobbs’ brother had his head half blown off in some god-forsaken village during a surprise attack, and at the funeral the month prior, his parents had insisted on an open casket. Patrick’s mother had remarked to the neighbor over coffee that the Army had done a “spectacular” job of making poor Stevie Hobbs presentable, but all Patrick saw when he glanced into the coffin was Stevie’s pale waxiness, a too-flat nose, and a sunken cheek on one side that looked kind of like Silly Putty.

The worst his mother would have to deal with – aside from burying her kid – was trying to get the stench of urine out of the carpet in her stairway and straightening his head out, which admittedly looked pretty wrong, now that he had another look.  He hoped she would take care to make his hair look foxy at the funeral; it had taken six months to grow it out to just the right length. The hot blonde girl who worked at the record store on South Street in Philly said it looked cool last week. Patrick groaned to himself, lamenting the waste of his perfectly-feathered hair. He didn’t think God would really care how boss his hair was, though, and Mom was probably going to be too upset to give a rip.

Patrick snorted, rubbing his neck absently. No pain there either, but it had to have been busted. The crunching sound had been loud and unpleasant, like the crack of a bat against a baseball heading over the baseball field fence. “This is so crazy.”

His brain raced – it was hard to focus on just one thing, but maybe that was okay. God would probably send for him any second, so he should get his thinking done now. Remember as much as he could before he had other things to think about… like not falling off his cloud in paradise or losing his harp.

His father had been bizarrely unconcerned when his birthday had come up in the draft lottery, and his mother – true to form – had pretended March 16 hadn’t been chosen… until about a week ago. Then she started talking to Mrs. Timmons, the librarian. Apparently Mrs. Timmons’ nephew had been court marshaled or something when he didn’t show up for his physical a half dozen times. He was serving something stupid like fifteen years in federal prison. Patrick’s mother had told him quietly she didn’t want him to go to war, clutching his sleeve in her vise-like fist one afternoon.

“You’re my only son,” she’d told Patrick solemnly, eyes wide with panic and glistening with tears. “I don’t care what your father thinks. It’s not like I’m going to tell him… but I want to find a way to get you out of it.”

“Oh, come on, Ma.” He’d patted her awkwardly on the shoulder, faking confidence. “Don’t worry about it. They won’t want me anyway. I’m not exactly Army material.”

He knew from watching his friends and acquaintances get drafted; it didn’t matter if he was a one-eyed, pigeon-toed idiot – the government would still have his ass in basic training within weeks.

Patrick wasn’t interested in spending time in prison for skipping his physical, and he definitely wasn’t planning to spend the rest of his life in Canada as a draft dodger as Ginny Burns, his old girlfriend, had suggested two nights before his plunge down the stairs. On the night his group of friends drank pilfered beers at the abandoned lot on the outskirts of town, she’d been full of opinions.

“But Tim Rimmel’s cousin did it,” she’d protested, tipping a can to her lips with slender hands. “I think he went to British Columbia.”

The air that night had held a chill to it, a crisp feeling that brought to mind thoughts of dead things and football. Ginny shivered and inched closer to the fire he’d helped build in an old, rusted trash can. At the time, Patrick had been thinking about how glad he was he and Ginny could still be friends after he’d broken up with her. Thinking back, he wished he would have kept dating her – at the very least, he could have had one last grope, one last home run before checking out.

“I heard he’s working on a ranch or something like that.” His friend, Andy, pulled his fringed vest over a concave chest and blew out a long stream of cigarette smoke. The cherry of his cigarette danced in the dim light, the fire shadowing over sharp features.

“Well, I’m not making a run for Canada.” Patrick drained his Pabst and crushed the can, tossing it over his shoulder into the pile of aluminum that grew each weekend. “It’s probably cold as Hell, and my dad would kill me.”

Ginny flipped her straight, pale hair over her shoulder, grinning. “Oh, yeah. He’d be pissed.”

He knew exactly what Ginny’d been thinking – his dad was an Army vet who had served in the Korean War. His father had firm opinions about draft dodgers; he’d made it perfectly clear it was Patrick’s duty to serve his country, no matter what he personally thought of the war. “Chickens,” his father had called those who made a big deal about service, and that was among the nicer terms he’d used. “Go***mn pu**ies” was his dad’s personal favorite name, though. Patrick was no pu**y, and sure as s*it wasn’t a chicken.

 Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington
Available at:
AmazonSmashwordsBarnes & Noble

Together Again, by Mimi Barbour

Together Again, by Mimi Barbour

Together Again, by Mimi Barbour

Together Again, by Mimi Barbour
Available at:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks

Description:  Traveling forward in time, Dani Howard’s spirit becomes magically united with reporter, Troy Brennan. He’s everything a girl could want in a man, and during their time together, she falls deeply in love. Though she must return to her own body, she gains his promise to come to her birthday party in seven days time where they will meet in person and continue their romance.

Troy can’t believe he’s fallen for a sixteen-year-old spirit invader. He’s so infatuated that when renowned author, beautiful Ellie Ward, comes on to him, as attractive as he finds her, he’s honor bound to stay true to his young love—or is he?

Excerpt:

“Yes, Yes, Yesss!”

While her host shut himself off, Dani celebrated.The magic had worked. She’d abandoned her troubles, her home, and even her body to lurk inside another’s. A break from the predicament she faced couldn’t have come at a better time. The fact that she’d ended up in a man’s body didn’t fluster her; itonly added to the excitement.

She knew from looking at his long-fingered hands—through his own eyes, mind you—that she resided in a younger man somewhat fastidious about nail care. His jean-clad legs seemed to be muscular, and she did like the stylish shoes he wore. But she couldn’t wait to see what he looked like. Faces interested her—they represented possible characters in future stories. She wrote constantly and liked to make up adventurous backgrounds for those people who attracted her most.

Apparently he could close himself off from her by blanking his thoughts, exactly what he was practising at the moment. Interesting! Could she do the same with him? She’d have to try it.

It felt strange to be a thought process without any power over the muscles of the body. Wait a second. She should test it before taking anything for granted. She lifted his hand to his face and stuck his finger in his nose. He pulled it out and waved it around as if clearing a swarm of mosquitoes.

“Stop that! Look, let’s get one thing straight right from the start—”

“You’re attracting attention again.” Either her words or her sweet tone angered him, because she sensed a quick rise in his inner temperature. Actually, he became quite hot inside.

“Quit interrupting me, and quit telling me what to do, and for the love of God give me a break and get the hell—heck—out! I need you here like I need a hole in my head. I can’t believe my rotten bad luck—”

“You’re rambling and using profanity. But I don’t mind—the swearing, that is. Go ahead if you want to.”

“Hey! Even if you’re only sixteen, you’re a female, aren’t you? And I’m not a callow kid. I do not swear in front of females.”

“Right! You only cuss away inside your mind.”

“Right!”

He groaned so loudly that the young biker passing by became distracted and had to swerve at the last minute to miss the bushes.

“How about if I promise to censor your language myself when you mess up. Would you relax then?”

“No! I can stop the habit altogether. It only takes a bit of will power.”

She waited, sensing he had more he wanted to say.

“One question, little girl. Do spirits smile?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I’ve had the urge to say ‘wipe that smirk off your face’ ever since this conversation began.”

He found out to his dismay that spirits also laughed.

As Dani felt him loosen up and his anger recede, she decided enough time had passed for him to get over his snit.

“I suppose we should introduce ourselves, since we’ll be living together for a while. My name is Dani.”

“Isn’t that a boy’s name?”

“It’s a nickname I made from my real name, Daniell, which I dislike terribly. Names with consonants on the end are not at all attractive. I love names that end in ‘ie’ or ‘y.’ Girls called Julie and Christy are always so much cuter than girls with names like Marion or Elizabeth, don’t you think?”

“I never thought of it. My mother’s name is Elizabeth, and she’s beautiful.”

“What does everyone call her?”

“Lizzie.”

Dani also found out that a chuckle from inside a person is a very warm sound.

“What’s your name, and where do you live?”

“Troy Brennan, ma’am. Chicago born and bred.”

“I live here in Bury, finished my sixth form just last week, and will probably go on to university next term.”

“Why do you say probably? Don’t you know for sure?”

“I know what I want, but my parents have other ideas.” He sensed her vexation for just a moment, and then she tamped it down like a pro. “I won’t fret about it now, as there are always special circumstances that can bring about changes to the best-laid plans, aren’t there?”

“You mean like having unexpected visitors?” 

His sense of humour tickled Dani. “You’re being very reasonable about all this bother.”

“I’m hoping lack of sleep is making me hear voices.”

“I’m afraid that isn’t going to happen. Why do you keep looking at that woman in the cemetery? She’s very beautiful. Is she your girlfriend? Or your wife?”

“No. I’m not married. She’s the person I’m here in Bury to interview, but I doubt the moment is right, so I’ll wait around.”

With him, Dani watched the elegant blonde, who, in the distance, wove in and out of the lush vicarage gardens. When the woman stopped and looked towards where he sat, they could see her expression, lonely and a bit sad until a voice shouted to her from behind the wall. A pretty girl of about nine or ten years old, a petite, golden-haired doll whose ringlets flew in every direction, bounded into sight. She never slowed her racing steps until she’d flung herself up into the waiting arms with a glad cry of “Mummy!”

Following close behind were an older couple, arms linked and strides matching. They didn’t rush ahead but drew near in a leisurely manner, as if to give the excited twosome a moment to get caught up with their kisses and hugs. Upon approaching, they sedately greeted the woman before they all turned, clinging together, in the direction from which they’d come. The blonde stopped to pick up a small case hidden behind some bushes, gave one last glance in Troy’s direction, and hurried to catch up.

Troy rose to follow. Sauntering, he stayed many steps behind the laughing, happy group ahead until they slowed for the corner.

As they closed in, Dani recognized the group in front. “Why are we following these people?” For the first time her voice seemed oddly constricted, as if tears clogged her throat.

“You okay? You sound funny. I just want to know where she’ll be staying, so I can return another day to request an interview.”

“I see. Don’t you know her name?”

“Yes, it’s Ellie Ward, and she’s a very well-known author.”

“An author. How lucky she is. One day I want to write books myself. The little girl is wonderful, isn’t she? Will we meet her?”

“If things go my way, then it’s a sure thing.”

“You are very presumptuous.”

“Do you even know what that big word means, little girl?”

“Yes, big man. It means this tenancy could prove to be rather difficult.”

“Go ahead and break the lease anytime you want.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I’m afraid, since it’s only Monday, you’re stuck with me for a few more days.”

Dani had carefully read all the notes her uncle had left in the garden, and she knew her only escape would be on a Saturday at twelve noon.

Earlier, she’d recognized her very own parents, and seeing them interact with the person Troy followed had thrown her into a tailspin. She felt as though she’d looked into a mirror at her own future self, where her stylish silhouette was years older and a whole lot prettier. The little girl calling her “Mommy”—she didn’t even want to go there. But it was clear she must have travelled into the future. How confusing. Could she possibly be in the same place at the same time without there being repercussions? Would the universe allow this? She’d have to stop him from catching up to the group ahead, just in case. At that moment, like a direct answer to her prayer, Dani heard a bawling noise.

“Troy, listen! Can you hear it? Someone in the lane here is crying. Something must be wrong.”

None of our business. I need to follow Mrs. Ward. I’ve been on her trail since Chicago, and I’m not going to lose her now.”

Mrs. Ward? She was married?

It’s a child’s voice, Troy. A child is in trouble, and we need to check it out.”

Troy stopped in his tracks. She used every bit of yearning, persuasive power she had to influence his decision.

For pity’s sake.” He slapped his hands against the sides of his legs, swivelled, and took off down into the shadowy, dark lane.

Three bigger males, teenagers by their appearance, surrounded a small boy who clung to a cowering puppy. The terrified canine, intent on hiding his muzzle under the lad’s arm, appeared to be the object of the skirmish.

’Ere! Give over, ya sissy. He’s ours, we found ’im.” Two of the brutes reached over and each grabbed one of the tyke’s shoulders.

Brave or just stupid, he didn’t back down. “No!

You’re hurting ’im. I saw you with the cans. You can’t tie ’em to his tail, the noise frightens ’im.” The last words were whispered from a throat too closed up to enunciate clearly. Tears poured down the lad’s face, and a puddle slowly started to form in the dirt under his leg. He trembled, but his intentions were clear. His arms held even more tightly to the whining bundle, while his eyes shut tight.

Without waiting for Troy to speak, Dani jumped in. “Let go of him, you two! You’re a right pair of idiots, ain’tcha, pickin’ on a nipper, and you three all twice his size.”

The leader of the pack sized up Troy, sensing weakness from the tone and the words used. “Don’t mess about, mister. Ain’t none of your business, this. The punk here has me dog, and I wants ’im back. Me mum brought ’im home for me yesterday—for me birthday.”

“You’re lyin’. Your mum never did.” Incensed, the boy tried to break away from the  restraining hands.

“Shut your gob.” Neither the pointing finger nor the threats prevented the small boy from speaking up.

“The pup’s a stray.” Tears didn’t halt his words, either. He sensed Troy’s protection. Wriggling hard, he escaped from the two who’d been holding him and ran over to stand next to the big man.

Together Again, by Mimi Barbour
Available at:
AmazonBarnes & NobleAll Romance Ebooks

Desperate Betrayal, by Hildie McQueen

Desperate Betrayal, by Hildie McQueen

Desperate Betrayal, by Hildie McQueen

Desperate Betrayal, by Hildie McQueen
Available at:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Description:   Cynden Frasier (Cyn) is a member of a group of immortal warriors, the Protectors, assigned to protect humans in Atlanta, Georgia, the epicenter of a major uprising in demon activity. When Cyn is approached by a beautiful woman in a dirty alley, he is intrigued by the fact that she can see him for what he is, a terrifying demon slayer, and still dares to approach him.

Emma Blake, a half-demon, has to convince Cyn to help rescue her sister from powerful demons. Terrified that the Protector will kill her if he realizes what she is, she still goes against every instinct and approaches Cyn for help. Despite knowing that she is leading them both into territory so wrought with treachery, neither of them may survive.

Can Cyn and Emma overcome betrayal, the ancient rules that prevent Protectors from taking a wife, unless she is his one true mate? And if they do, will it even matter?

CHAPTER ONE

Shadows.

Emma Blake always felt at home in the shadows. It was where she lived, always concealing the truth from those around her.

Now as she hid in the doorway of an abandoned building, she couldn’t help but compare the current situation to her life. The dampness of the brick wall behind her seeped through to her skin, as she pushed further into the dark to avoid being noticed. The putrid smell of trash and urine barely registered, as she was mesmerized by the scene unfolding before her.

The scene invoked images of the endless battle forces of dark and light had been waging since the dawn of time.

Although beautiful to behold, the warrior who fought before her wasn’t exactly an angel, but he was as close to one as she would ever get. In desperate need of his help, she took a big chance sticking around; because once he caught her there were only two possibilities for her.

He’d either help her or he would kill her.

The air blew chilly on this damp, drizzly day in Atlanta, a city that for some unknown reason, in the last few years, had become a hotbed for demons. With such an influx of demons, human assaults were on the rise.

Emma continued to watch from the shelter of the doorway, as the Protector fought his aggressors. Ten huge low-level demons armed with medieval-type swords.

She tensed, but didn’t flinch as a demon’s severed arm flew past her and hit the ground next to her foot with a sickening thud.

Emma had no doubt as to whom the victor would be in the end. The fluidity of the Protector’s movements and the speed of the fight enthralled her. Her gaze locked on his biceps. Muscles bulged on his right arm, as he swung his sword in a way that seemed almost effortless. Impressive, for the weapon he wielded had to weigh at least twenty pounds.

He dodged a blow and struck out with his sword to slash through one demon’s chest. A dagger flew from his left hand and found its target in another’s heart.

As both demons fell, he already fought the next opponent.

The Protector was magnificent —she had to give him that. He was one of an army of immortal warriors trained for battle against demons. They kept a low profile, from humans, to avoid discovery. Anyone who happened upon them in battle would most likely mistake them for angels.

Avenging angels.

As she watched the Protector now, Emma could understand why people would make that assumption. He was not an angel, but a warrior that fought for good. His golden skin glistened from the rain as he fought, his long blonde hair, held back with a weatihered leather strap, flew around him like a halo as he swung his sword.

His face, a masterpiece that God surely had enjoyed creating. Perfectly arched eyebrows framed his ice-blue eyes. A shallow cleft softened his strong jaw. The sensuality of his full lips was not diminished by the snarl that remained constant as he battled.

Two demons left.

One of them looked in her direction. Did he see her?

No. I’m well hidden in this doorway.

Emma didn’t panic. The demon was more worried about his survival at this point, than feeding on her blood. The best option for him would be to run and save himself, while the Protector was distracted fighting another.

He chose self-preservation. Scant seconds later, the scent of the demon’s fear assaulted her nostrils as he raced past her.

The demon disappeared around the corner, and she debated the advantages of running as well. Once enraged, only a fool would stick around and try to talk to a Protector, they were slow to calm.

She was one of the few that could see both Protectors and demons in their true forms.

Because of her demon heritage, she was also the Protector’s mortal enemy.

The soft plop of droplets from the overhang splashed into puddles, alerted her to the sudden silence. Emma froze and held her breath. The thumps of her heart echoed in her ears, yet she chanced a peek.

The Protector stood very still. He no longer fought. The body of the last demon lay at his feet, its blue blood pooled around his boots. The body evaporated into a translucent vapor and swirled around the magnificent male.

Emma swallowed hard as the Protector raised his head to sniff the air. His actions slow and steady, as if he knew someone stood nearby. His frosty stare began to scan the alley, his eyes narrowed in her direction. She let out a breath of relief when he peered down at his left shoulder. He grimaced as he rotated it. It seemed that one of the demons had gotten lucky. A blood stain seeped through his grey t-shirt. He lifted the sleeve up and studied the wound, as if oblivious to her presence. He applied pressure with his right hand for a few moments. When he moved his hand away, the bleeding had stopped.

Emma shrank back when he raised his head and glanced in her direction again.

All air left her lungs, when he stalked toward her with an alert expression, as if he expected her to flee in terror before he reached her. The thought did cross her mind.

As the Protector came closer, Emma gritted her teeth and balled up her fists, to keep from running in the opposite direction. Her heart thumped inside her chest.

His face remained expressionless. With hands relaxed at his sides, his movements smooth, but with purpose. His sword, no longer drawn was sheathed in a scabbard and slung across his broad back.

His body loomed much larger now that he was up close. Fear surged again when the Protector stopped a few feet from her. Her blood ran cold and she could not suppress a tremble when his ice-blue eyes locked with her own and his nostrils flared. Narrowed eyes skimmed over her.

If he sensed demon first, she was dead.

At this distance, the male was magnificent. He towered over her, at least six four and he exuded power.

Emma remained tense and cursed in silence as fear seized her while she waited for his reaction. This was it, time to confront the man she’d been searching for and finally found.

Protectors had more strength than demons and although her demon half made her stronger than most humans, no way in hell could she hope to defend herself if he decided to fight.

Cyn pushed fury aside, and took a deep breath to calm. He wasn’t in the mood for more surprises. The low-levels that attacked him were less than a threat to him. What infuriated him the most was that he allowed the ambush.

Now a female waited for him, a small one at that. Just what he needed, another thing to deal with.

He’d taken his time pretending to inspect the cut to his shoulder, giving her time to run away.

She hadn’t.

Interesting.

At this point, he didn’t care if she’d seen him fight demons. Who would believe her anyway? As he stalked towards her, her eyes widened and she shuddered, but then squared her shoulders and held her ground.

Even more interesting, the petite woman barely flinched when Cyn stopped just a couple feet away from her and studied her.

Who was she?

The longer he watched her, the more she frightened she seemed to become. Her heartbeat picked up, her lips parted, and her breathing accelerated. The familiar scent of fear told him she’d witnessed what had just transpired between him and the low-level demons.

And, she was afraid of him.

His inner voice urged him to erase her memory and move on. Intrigue stopped him.

He tried to determine what she was. She didn’t seem like a demon. Her skin lacked the telltale blue tinge visible to Protectors.

Fully human? Perhaps, but he doubted it.

Cyn leaned forward and peered into her honey-brown eyes, as he tried to read her thoughts.

But he could not.

She could be one of the few humans that were difficult to read, or did she intentionally block him?

This is trouble. Move on.

Once again, he ignored the voice in his head.

The woman swallowed, but didn’t budge; as if afraid he’d attack at her slightest move. Not a bad assumption on her part.

He took advantage of her stillness, Cyn’s eyes traveled over her body again. In her grey business suit, she looked like she’d just stepped away from an office. Certainly, there were better places for her to go, than this alley, on such a damp dreary day. Almost as if in response to his thoughts, a rumble of thunder boomed over them.

Both ignored it.

The woman became more and more nervous as he continued to study her. Her breaths now came in small pants as she shuffled, putting weight on one leg and then the other. Her hand shook slightly when she raised it to brush several strands of golden brown hair away from her flushed, heart shaped face.

Pretty was not an adequate word to describe her. She was exquisite. His eyes lingered on her lips.

How would her lips feel under mine?

The fact that she took his breath away gave Cyn pause. After hundreds of years and many attractive women in his bed, it was rare that beauty affected him anymore.

The female narrowed her eyes at him and her nostrils flared. She interrupted his thoughts. “I know this is probably not the best time to ask, but I need to talk to you. I desperately need your help.”

Cyn’s interest spiked as she spoke. No accent, so that didn’t help him.

He didn’t answer her. Instead, he inhaled deeply and concentrated on isolating her scent that floated in the air. She smelled of tropical islands, a hint of coconut mixed with her natural essence. The heady fragrance forced him to take a step back. His entire body reacted to her.

Definitely time to leave.

Like any normal male, it wasn’t unusual for him to become aroused in the presence of an attractive female. But this reaction was different. It was intoxicating. Unlike any other he could remember.

His heartbeat quickened, his hands tingled urging him to reach out and touch her. A rush of heat coursed through his body. A feeling not too different from what he experienced in battle, but this time lust, not rage caused it. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from her.

The female, appeared normal, yet something about her, that he couldn’t quite explain, pulled at him.

A witch? He didn’t believe so.

Another type of immortal? He hoped not, he’d have to kill her if she posed a threat to humans.

She seemed to sense his thoughts, and took a step back. “Can we go somewhere to talk?” She asked him in a strong voice, yet he heard a slight quiver.

When he reached out to touch her, she held her hands up defensively. “Wait, don’t kill me, just listen to me. I need only a couple minutes to explain….”

“Believe me, sweetheart killing you is not exactly what I have in mind right now.” His fingers curled around her forearm and he drew her to him.

She yelped as if his touch burned her. She tried to yank her arm from his hold and glared at him. Her eyes flickered to his hand. “Let go of me, I am not going anywhere, it’s very important that I talk to you.”

The woman was either crazy or very brave to stand up to him. He released her forearm but kept his hand on her shoulder, to make sure she didn’t bolt. “Alright, talk.”

Before speaking, she eyed the hand on her shoulder. “My…. my sister, she’s been taken, I need your help to save her. Demons took her hostage. I know you can help her. You’re sworn to protect innocents.” Her bottom lip quivered, it made him wonder if she acted a part, but the plea in her eyes gave him a jolt.

He hated how she seemed to fog his ability to think. He shook his head to clear it.

“I don’t do rescues,” He snapped. “Why are you really here? Who are you?”

“I just told you, I’m a woman who’s desperate enough to come to you for help,” She replied.

He studied her for a moment longer before her eyes slid away from his and seemed to focus on his lips.

All of a sudden he was able to hear her thoughts. “His mouth, it’s so nice...”

His gaze fell to hers.

Thunder clapped simultaneously as he gave in to the powerful connection and drew her to him, ignoring her surprised yelp.

He mouth crushed hers. Caught off guard, she parted her lips and he dove in allowing his tongue to explore. She responded almost immediately. The woman clutched his arms and leaned into him. He hardened, aroused at the lush pliant body pressed against him.

With strength that belied her size, she ran her hands up from his forearms to his shoulders, and drew him closer. Her lips were as soft as the rest of her. The woman’s entire body molded into his now, and the warmth of it enveloped him. He closed his eyes, and allowed the wonderful feel of her to consume him. He deepened the kiss as his hands traveled down her back and cupped her butt. When he ground his hardness into her, he was rewarded by a soft moan.

Time seemed to stop as his lips traveled over her mouth. Aroused beyond thought, his fangs dropped and he used the tips, to tease her bottom lip.

The tingling on the back of his neck, alerted him of demon presence nearby. The defensive warning hauled him back to reality. He broke the kiss and raised his head to look around while he held her against him. The sound of their heavy breathing filled the quiet of the alley, until a growl came from deep in his throat.

More Demons and they were headed for them.

“Damn it,” He said, reluctant to move away from her.

When he released her, the woman swayed blinking repeatedly. An expression, somewhere between shock and disgust, crossed her face. Her upper lip curled and she covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh God! I can’t believe I let you kiss me.”

Cyn ignored her comment at first. “Demons are headed this way. You gotta go,” he told her and then narrowed his eyes at her and added, “You not only let me kiss you, but you kissed me back.”

Putting her hands on his chest she shoved him away. A light blush confirming that she heard his words.

She narrowed those beautiful golden eyes at him. “What did you expect? You killed a bunch of demons. They are going to send an army after you now.”

He shrugged, “So, what else is new.”

This female was spunky.

Too bad he’d never see her again.

He bowed his head at her. “Nice meeting you.”

Turning away, he rushed towards his Harley.

“Wait!” Emma held up both hands and shouted as the Protector ran toward a massive black and chrome motorcycle.  He hesitated for a second and she thought he’d heard her.

But, without a backward glance, he straddled the seat, started the loud bike and sped off.

“Damn it! Now I have to find him all over again.” She jerked around and scanned the alleyway. He’d said demons were headed there. It wouldn’t be good to be there alone when they arrived. She hurried out of the alley.

She felt foolish. After all that work to find the Protector and getting up the nerve to talk to him, she didn’t even get the chance to tell him the rest of the information. It’d taken her almost a week to find him. Night after entire night spent skulking through shadowy alleys and streets, following demons all over Atlanta.

Now she was forced to start all over again. She dropped her head, and allowed exhaustion to take over.

It began to rain harder so she hurried across the street toward her office.

# # #

Minutes later, Emma sat at her functional wooden desk at Georgia Bank and Trust with her face in her hands and stared at the bleary words on the papers in front of her. Her thoughts far away.

When she found him again, she would not allow her attraction to the Protector to hinder her. Her priority was to find her sister.

Emma opened her eyes and scanned the almost empty bank lobby through the glass office walls. The wet weather kept most customers home this day.

It was her last day at the bank. She’d requested an extended leave of absence. With no appointments scheduled, the rest of her afternoon loomed ahead.

Since Briana’s kidnapping, the days had been unbearable for her. It was hard to concentrate at work while demons held Briana. She didn’t want to imagine what her sister went through at the hands of the evil beings.

Hostage, until she brought the ransom.

Now, after she’d failed to convince Cyn to help her, a heavy sense of hopelessness engulfed her.

“What happened?” Wendy, her friend and coworker asked from the doorway. She didn’t wait for an answer and walked in closing the door behind her. Wendy plopped down on a chair with hopeful expression on her face. Wendy leaned forward her vivid green eyes searched Emma’s face, as she waited for her answer. Emma’s mood lightened.

Wendy was the one of a handful of humans Emma had ever met, that knew about demons and Protectors. Wendy was attacked by a demon one night and a Protector rescued her. Although she’d never seen the Protector again, Wendy could describe him in great detail, which she did every chance she got. By Wendy’s description, the Protector who rescued her had an uncanny resemblance to Cyn, except for the eye color. She swore her rescuer had clear green eyes. Cyn’s eyes were a very definite shade of blue.

It was very strange that Wendy could remember in great detail what happened to her almost two years earlier. As a rule, Protectors were careful after a rescue to erase the human’s memories of the demon attack. Although Emma didn’t understand why Wendy’s memory remained intact, she was grateful to have a friend to confide in.

As their friendship grew, Emma shared more and more about the Protectors. When she confessed her own demon bloodline, Wendy accepted her disclosure without judgment and their friendship became stronger.

Head still in her hands, Emma answered Wendy’s question. “I found Cyn, the Protector. But he refused to help me.”

“Really? You gotta be kidding me. I thought they’re supposed to rescue humans, or, er innocent beings, from demons.” Wendy frowned and bit her bottom lip in thought before she continued. “What did you say? What did he say?”

“I told him that my sister is being held hostage by demons and that I needed his help. He said,” she deepened her voice, ‘I don’t do rescues,’ and left before I could say anymore. Now I have to find him all over again.”

Eyes stinging with tears, Emma threw her hands up in exasperation. “Every day that passes can only be more torturous for poor Briana.”

“You’ll find him again Emma. I’ll help you,” Wendy said. Then she stilled and studied Emma, her brow crinkled. “Good thing you don’t have any customers, you’re a mess.”

Emma’s hands flew to her hair, she hadn’t even thought about straightening herself up after the encounter with the Protector. “It’s windy and drizzling out there,” she replied, hoping Wendy did not notice her discomfort.

She could feel Wendy’s stare as she took out a compact mirror to check her hair and make-up. Her lipstick smudged from one side of her mouth to her cheek and her hair was disheveled.

“I’m sorry. I’m sure your makeup is the last thing on your mind right now,” Wendy said.

Emma’s cheeks warmed as she thought about Cyn’s kiss. She grabbed for a tissue wiped at her stained mouth harder than necessary. Wendy didn’t seem to notice her discomfort and continued to talk, “Don’t worry, we’ll find him again and explain everything. Then I’m sure he’ll agree to help to you. I’ll even help you search for him.” Wendy’s fingers played with a strand of her short hair, her bracelets jingled. “Remind him that he is supposed to help. He took an oath.”

Emma couldn’t help but smile at Wendy’s stern expression. “I’ll do that.”

Wendy’s face softened as she gave Emma a reassuring smile. “Briana is in all probability doing okay. You told me yourself, she’d been hanging out with demons lately. She might even know some of the demons that took her.”

“These demons are not the BFF type, and it’s a Master demon, Gerard that has Briana.” Emma replied, but she hoped more than anything Wendy was right.

The lobby doors opened and a pair of customers shuffled in and shook rain off their coats and umbrellas. Both headed to the tellers.

Although she and Briana were like night and day, Emma adored her sister.

Just months earlier, Emma suspected that Briana was going to Inferno, a local nightclub, and known demon hangout. She’d tried on several occasions to talk to her sister about the danger of being around too many demons, but Briana laughed off her concerns and called her a bore.

The fact that being in the company of full-blooded demons presented the possibility of her demon side taking over was a thrill Briana couldn’t resist.

Now Briana was in trouble. Big trouble.

Hostage, until Emma lured Cyn to the demons.

Desperate Betrayal, by Hildie McQueen
Available at:
AmazonBarnes & Noble

Sloan’s Witch, by Kari Thomas

Sloan's Witch, by Kari Thomas

Sloan's Witch, by Kari Thomas

Sloan’s Witch, by Kari Thomas
Available at:
Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks

Description:   Witch Kassidy has to fight against a deadly Entity when it threatens her friends and the man she loves. Using her magic to destroy it is going to be easier than convincing sexy cop Sloan that he can love her AND accept her powers.

Excerpt:

“Spill it, Kassidy,” Hunter demanded in a low tone. Uh oh. Both men were already in their ‘cop mode’. And despite wanting to, she really couldn’t not tell them. They needed to know the truth before anything else happened. Briana suggested they go back inside. Sloan had done a quick check around and there was no sign of the Twi-ing shade.

Sitting on the sofa, cuddling a now-sleeping Talia, Kassidy took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. This was going to be hard. “After you left, things looked as though they were going to settle down. The people in the village went back to their normal routines. There were no more signs of any of the changing beasts, and the sorcerer was gone. I had hope for the first time in ages.” She looked at Briana, trying hard to ignore Sloan’s heated stare. “I tried a few spells to see if I could locate your spirit anywhere in the afterlife.” She shivered, remembering the dangerous consequences she’d chanced in doing such spells. “I couldn’t believe that you were dead, Briana. The Sphere had transported back to your world, into Hunter’s care, and I kept thinking that it would still die if you didn’t have control of it. When Hunter reported that it was still living, I knew you had to be alive. Of course, while I was searching for you, your ancestors returned you back to your world, thank the Goddess.”

“Where is this leading, Kassidy?” Hunter asked.

It was Sloan who asked the dreaded question. “How dangerous were those spells you performed while searching for Bri?”

She wouldn’t, couldn’t look at him. The rough anger in his voice was doing things to her insides, because she didn’t know if that volatile emotion was directed at her —or for her.

“Every spell has consequences,” she evaded. “Every witch is aware of that. I knew I was taking a chance.”

“It was so kind of you, Kass, to look for me.” Briana smiled at her. “But, I have this bad feeling you’re going to tell us that the ‘consequences’ had lasting effects. What exactly is a ‘Twi-ing shade’?”

There was no other way to say it, except blurt it out in one breath and hope they —especially Sloan —didn’t kill her on the spot. “It’s an evil entity that attaches to you if you happen to be wandering in the afterlife unprotected. It’s able to follow you back and then follow you anywhere you go. It’s…able to leave death in its path simply by touch.”

She’d never heard half the creative, fiery cuss words Sloan and Hunter spit out. She cringed. Briana had to finally tell them both to shut up. She lowered her head, resting her chin on sleeping Talia’s curly head. She wanted to cry. She’d been dealing with the Twi-ing shade as best she could, never going anywhere around the people in her care, always doing what she had to do by proxy or long distance. But never once had she thought the shade would be able to follow her into a parallel world. The thought of it unleashed here in Briana’s modern world was a nightmare.

“How do we deal with it?” Briana asked. “Are there any spells to send it back?”

Kassidy shook her head. “I’ve tried everything I can think of.” Did she dare mention the only solution that would send the shade back to the afterlife? There was no choice. She couldn’t put innocent people at risk. “The only way to send it back…is for me to die.”

So that’s what ‘dead silence’ sounded like. It was so quiet she could hear her own heart beat. She closed her eyes tight and waited for the outcome. She could just hear Sloan now “Well, if that’s what it takes…”

“Well, if that’s what it takes,” Sloan said in a near growl, “Then we have to think of another way.”

Kassidy choked on the rising emotion in her throat. She jerked her head up and their gazes once again locked. His blue eyes were dark with an emotion she was afraid to try and decipher. Her entire body pulsed in a purely feminine reaction and she tried unsuccessfully to repress it. She was so attuned to this man she knew instantly when he sensed her reaction. His eyes narrowed, a gleam of heat shining, and his sensual mouth curved into a tiny smile. She nearly lost her breath. All this time of being around him and she was just now realizing that he might have feelings for her…just as she did for him. It was too much to take in, especially with the threat now facing them.

“Maybe I can call on the powers of my ancestors,” Briana suggested.

Hunter immediately shook his head. “I’d rather you didn’t do any spells, sweetheart. We’re in enough trouble right now.”

Briana huffed at him. “Sloan can be my anchor. I’ll be fine. What could go wrong?”

“Hunter beating the crap out of me for touching you again,” Sloan muttered. “What are our other options? Can this thing be destroyed?”

Kassidy shook her head. “I don’t think so. It’s already ‘dead’, being from the afterlife. It’s almost as though it’s ‘death personified’; you saw what it did to the garden.”

“Why the garden?” Sloan stood up to pace, his ‘cop mode’ in full force. “Was that particularly malicious or the garden just happen to be there?”

“That’s right. When Sloan and I first saw it, it was actually just hovering in front of the garden gate. Almost as if it was hesitating. Then, it went in and the destruction started. That has to mean something.” Hunter joined his brother in the pacing.

“Talking to this thing is out of the question, right?” Sloan glanced at Kassidy.

“I’ve never got close. It’s been terrifying enough just knowing it was my shadow every moment.” She couldn’t even begin to tell them about all the horrifying moments she watched the shade’s actions knowing she couldn’t do a thing about it.

Sloan glanced out at the approaching evening. “Where does it go when it’s not right on your heels?”

Kassidy couldn’t look at them. “Actually, it’s here. It just goes invisible when it’s not ‘death touching’ something…or someone.”

Hunter cussed up a blue streak. He stomped over and yanked his daughter out of Kassidy’s arms. “Damn it, you could have told us that. What the hell are you thinking, putting Talia in such close proximity to that thing? Briana, take her upstairs.”

“Hell,” Sloan muttered in a low growling voice, “Stop acting like this is her fault, Hunter. Remember the reason in the first place that caused this damn thing to attach to her. She was looking for Briana.”

Tears swam in her eyes. She knew Hunter was right; she shouldn’t have endangered Talia. But it touched her heart that Sloan was ready to defend her. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t think it could follow me into a parallel world. I’d never noticed it with me on all the other times I’ve been here.”

“That’s odd,” Briana said, coming back into the room. She’d handed Talia over to Cynthia who was now putting the little girl to bed. “Why now? I wonder if it had anything to do with Talia’s wording of her spell to bring Kass over? Which isn’t a good thing —she doesn’t remember her own spells yet.” She glanced nervously around the room. “Just how intelligent is this shade, Kass?”

“Intelligent enough to pick and choose when or what it wants to kill.”

Hunter turned to Briana, his voice cold. “Our daughter is forbidden to say any more spells. This is too dangerous, Bri.”

“At least until she’s old enough to understand the consequences,” Briana said. “Stop glaring at me, Hunter. She’s part witch, and you should be use to that by now.”

Sloan choked out a gruff laugh. “Yeah, right. Easier said than done, honey. At least we can hope that with Kassidy’s children they’ll be a bit more stable in their talents.”

“Sloan, that was mean.” Briana grimaced at him. “It’s not my fault I have a glitch and my poor baby might have inherited it too.”

Kassidy’s heart raced with Sloan’s words. Just the thought that he had been thinking of her with children made her insides want to melt. She groaned inwardly. Why did it take this dangerous moment in their lives for her to finally admit she was falling in love with the darn man? How bad was that? They lived in parallel worlds. And she was a witch. He tolerated Briana because he loved her, but he never hesitated to complain about Kassidy’s witch status. She just couldn’t understand him. One minute he was complaining about her, and the next he was defending her. And in between it all, he was always watching her with those heated eyes that seemed to want to devour her.

This wasn’t the time and place for those thoughts. She groaned again. “Briana, we have to get me home. Now. The shade will follow me.”

“No.” Sloan glared at her. “I’m not letting you go back to Inverness-da with that thing following you. We’ll find a way to fight it here, on our ground.”

“It’s obvious that guns won’t work,” Hunter told him. “So, got any suggestions?”

“What about a trap?”

“Sloan may have the right idea,” Briana snapped her fingers. “If we bait him into a magical trap, maybe both Kassidy and I can spell cast him back into the afterlife.”

Kassidy shook her head. “He would sense —scent my magic on the trap. You’d have to do it, Bri. And we’d have to use the perfect bait.”

“Don’t even suggest it,” Sloan ground out angrily. “You are not going to be the bait. Damn it, Kass, are you crazy?”

She wanted nothing more in her entire life than to have his arms around her at that moment. She wanted to lean into his strength, his hard body, and feel safe. She wanted to know, for once and forever, if he felt the same way about her that she did for him. She was so tired of all the mixed signals. “It’s my fault he’s here, Sloan. I should be the life force he goes after.”

“Only one problem with that,” Hunter told them. “He’s not touched you, Kass. Your death isn’t on his agenda. Maybe his touch is random, or maybe he does it out of curiosity, or any other emotion. But, he hasn’t attacked you in all the time he’s been with you. Someone else will have to be the bait. Me, or Sloan.”

“No!” Kassidy added her protest to Briana’s loud one. She knew her face had to be as pale as Briana’s was. She looked into Sloan’s eyes, silently pleading with him to think of something else. The thought of anything happening to him…!

“Sorry, baby.” Sloan murmured the words before he broke eye contact. He turned to Briana. “Think you can conjure up a magic trap without burning down the house or something, Bri?”

“One of these days,” Briana muttered under her breath as she sent him a scathing look. “I’m going to make you two men eat your words.”

“Deal. This okay with you, Hunter?”

“Damn it, no. But what other choice do we have?”

 Sloan’s Witch, by Kari Thomas
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