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Flesh and Spirit by Amanda Steiger

Flesh and Spirit

by Amanda Steiger

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 06572-02114

Rose has always dreamed of serving Kalia, the goddess of healing and pleasure. But in order to become a priestess, she has to complete a ritual in which she casts aside all inhibitions and enters a trance of sexual ecstasy. Only then will Kalia imbue her with healing powers. Her friends Gabe and Rafe — two strong-willed, sensual men from her village — are more than happy to help her complete her Initiation. But can Rose handle what they have in mind?

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Chapter One

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Bull and China by Rayven Renshaw

Bull and China

by Rayven Renshaw

Razor’s Edge Press

eBook ISBN: 06205-01993

China walks into a bar… and makes Bull an offer he’ll find impossible to refuse.

The life of a female warrior can be a lonely one. One look at China’s array of weapons tells Bull she’s a warrior, and dangerous — maybe as dangerous as he is. China needs careful handling.

Maybe Bull can be the one to tame her.

Note: This title has no chapter breaks. Please enjoy the first scene.

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Read #excerpt of Wild and Wicked (#BoxSet) by Rayven Renshaw #PNR #MMerotica Click To Tweet

Scene One

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Amused and Amazed (Collection)
by Willa Okati

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60521-545-7

Drag Queen of Faerie: The course of true love just won’t run smooth for hunk-next-door Will Taylor, who’s in search of that special someone. All that focused energy attracts the attention of Queen Mab’s lesser-well-known cousin Mabbey, the Drag Queen of the Faeries.

Valentine’s Vow: Friends and casual bed buddies Thom and Ryan don’t buy into the whole “true love” spiel. They have a good time together. Why would they want more? Luckily for this clueless pair, St. Valentine shows them how to appreciate a good thing when they’ve got it.

Independence Day: The boys are back — and they’re at it again. Ryan and Thom have returned for some hot Fourth of July action, but their newfound romance may just hit the skids when it comes to coming out as a couple.

Straight Man and Coffee Guy: Straight Man is anything but. He just doesn’t have a sense of humor. And in a city with so many superheroes there’s no one left to rescue, his power is attracting the freaks — like Coffee Guy from the diner across the road, who has the power of the never-ending cup. Misfits in a mad, mad, mad world, they’re pretty much perfect for each other.

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Chapter One

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Wylder Magick
by Camille Anthony

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60521-612-6

Humbled by her loss, Elias will do anything to find Moriah, even begging the Council of Magick for help. Unfortunately, his year of futile searching is almost up. An Athame Warlock must present his lady to the Council before the year passes, or lose her forever. Elias can’t allow that to happen. Moriah’s taken more than Wylder’s magick — she’s stolen his heart. He’s got just eight days to find her, and win her back!

Publisher’s Note: Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Camille Anthony’s Wylder Magick once existed under the same title as part of an anthology which is no longer in publication.

Chapter One

Thursday, October 14, 11:00 PM
(Northeastern Division Time)
“By the Lord and Lady! Wylder, how did you come to misplace the academy’s most promising student?”
Wylder sneered at Lemuel Westerner, refusing to give the irritating council member the satisfaction of answering. Yet he could not help acknowledging, if only to himself, his utter responsibility for the disaster now facing him. By totally fucking up, asshole. How else?
My own actions had caused this. I saw something I wanted, something wondrous, and with my usual damned arrogance, tried to snatch it for myself.
“And why are you only now bringing this to our attention?”
Just being here, ordered to be here, had his temper flaring hotter than the salamander-ignited fires blazing through San Francisco at this very moment, and here was Westerner, an old enemy, finally mated and a full member of the council, trying to lord it over him.
Elias Wylder — the most powerful warlock since his evil ancestor, Grimm the Rogue — glared at Lemuel Westerner until the hairy, burly shifter gulped and hunched down in his seat. Elias narrowed his eyes, bunched his thick eyebrows in an intimidating scowl, until he realized there was more likelihood of the man growing a second head than there was of his growing the balls to truly confront Elias in challenge. “What’s gotten into you, little mule? You know better than to speak to me in that tone of voice.”
Just the thought of Lemuel trying to stand up to him made Elias’s lips turn up in a contemptuous smirk. “Little cat, you couldn’t possibly be thinking about challenging me. Even drawing upon the enhanced power bestowed by your mated state, you haven’t a hope in hell of defeating me. Any contest between the two of us would be ludicrous — no contest at all.”
The werecat’s lips pulled back from his teeth in an angry snarl but before he could do other than posture, another council member spoke up. “I, too, would like to know the particulars of Miss Maganistus’ graduation. Where is the record of the ceremony? If you officiated at it, why has she yet to come before this council to receive her diploma and wand? The shock waves we’ve been attributing to her graduation were felt as far away as the Outer Isles.”
Lady Selima’s quiet voice worked wonders on his mood, as usual, and Elias turned to face her, sensing her nurturing magick flowing over him, calming his fractious anger. “Until now, I deemed it a personal matter. I didn’t feel the council needed the information, as at the time, it did not fringe upon national security. It does now.”
Her gentle mind reached out, attempting to touch and soothe his turbulent spirit. He closed his eyes, resting a brief moment in the peace she generated before mentally jerking back with a curse. Giving a sharp shake of his head, he broke contact with the compassionate lady, unable to afford even one second of weakness. The fluctuation in his power continued to increase. His control deteriorated daily. “Stop stroking my aura, Selima. You weren’t invited.”
The mellow magicker spread her hands out, palm up. “I sense great upheaval in your heart and soul. I but seek to ease –”
“Butt out! I don’t need you softening me up.” His low growl rumbled through the room like static electricity. “Don’t make me tell you again.”
The dark menace in his voice would have made any other cringe, but it didn’t surprise him to see Selima continue toward him, arms still outstretched. Before she could reach him, her husband drew her back, arrowing an admonishing glare toward the male upsetting his tenderhearted mate.
Antoiyn Grooden placed a comforting hand over his wife’s while his other hand furtively sketched a powerful protection rune in the air. “She means no harm, Wylder.”
Elias snorted, an imp of adversity temping him to burn a rune of his own into the air. He resisted, knowing the situation was already hot enough. “Stand down, Grooden. I mean her no harm.” He enjoyed teasing the stuck-up, tight-assed older male, and a toothy grin curled his lips as he continued to bait the powerful mage. “As if any signing of yours could stop my magick if I were inclined to –”
“Oh, for the goddess’ sake, Wylder, cut out all the dramatics and just tell us what happened with the girl. We put you in charge of seeing to her graduation exercises, and now no one can find a trace of her. It’s as if she fell off the face of the earth. So, what did you do… kill her?”
Horrified silence cloaked the room’s occupants in the aftermath of the daring outburst made by Westerner’s mate, until the silence shattered under the bark of Wylder’s involuntary laughter. Only Judith would actually come out and say something like that to me! How could I have ever fucked this mentally blonde airhead?
Oh, well, he reasoned a second later, chuckling and shaking his head, my cock didn’t give a fuck about her absent thought processes
His grudging amusement over her customary no-clue-ism gradually faded as his night-dark eyes touched on each of the mated pairs, noting with disdain how they had drawn back, distancing themselves from poor Judith and the anticipated backlash of his anger.
Wylder’s black eyes flashed, a grimace drawing his mouth tight. “Look at you, presenting as small a target as possible, pretending you aren’t frightened enough to piss yourselves.” He taunted them, not bothering to hide his disgust at his fellow council members. “None save Selima and Judith have the courage to speak their minds, let alone meet my gaze.” He snorted, mouth curling up in a mocking half smile when even the Elven pair — next in power to him — refused to acknowledge his derision. “Judith may not have enough sense to fill a thimble, but apparently she and Selima are the only ones in these chambers with any balls.”
Like a caged beast, he paced the parquet floor, running agitated hands through his shoulder-length mass of dense, black hair. Turning on his audience, he shouted, “What has this council come to? Once, this body of rulers stood for something. Now all I see is a pathetic group of cowards. Is this all that remains of the mighty Council of Magick? Well, you need an infusion of new blood. You need me!”
“Not yet, we don’t,” Lemuel snapped, face distorted with a mix of jealousy, envy and fear. “You don’t get to take control of this council until you are mated.”
“Meanwhile,” Grooden interrupted, smoothly bringing the conversation back on track, “you were telling us about Lady Maganistus –”
“No Lady until she receives her wand, Chairperson Grooden,” someone reminded him.
“As for what happened with Lady Maganistus –” The emphasis on the title did not go unnoted by Wylder’s listeners. “– I supervised her graduation, which she passed with glowing expertise. I left her sleeping, recuperating from the rite. When I returned, I found she had escaped.”
“Escaped? Why did she need to escape? She was a graduate, not a prisoner.”
“What did she do… better yet, what did you do?”
The memory of what he had done made his cock, never totally quiescent since that long ago evening, swell to painful hardness. Wylder chose his words with care, his rebellious thoughts running in counterpoint. “In my judgment, she was too powerful to risk with just anyone, so I chose to personally supervise the ceremony.” And I didn’t want any Warlock’s cock in her but mine!
“There was a danger she might lose control of her new powers during the ritual. She’s strong. I’m the only one among us who matched her in strength, who could control any wild magick that might get loose.” There was a danger she would forge an emotional tie with the male who acted as her Athame. Lord and Lady help me, but I would not allow that!
“Knowing she feared my reputation, I wove a spell of seeming to deceive her and presented myself as her Athame.”
I knew she feared me, feared my magick, thinking I wanted to take her over, control her. She knew I wanted more than the night’s ritual and balked at making the permanent mating commitment I wanted from her. “Once we joined, I knew her to be my future mate, but when our melded magicks revealed my true face she panicked, lost control.”
I have never been so connected, never seen someone as clearly as I saw her at that moment. I entered her so deeply, she felt me in her soul… and I felt her take over mine. The closeness, the passion changed us, formed us… we became two halves of a whole, our mating fated by the Lord and Lady… The terseness of his words faded as he paused to breathe, to gain control of his emotional agitation. He shuttered his dark eyes with a thick fringe of sooty lashes, his gaze flicking to the two empty throne-like chairs at the apex of the round table.
Hands fisted at his side, he swallowed thickly. Gods, how I hate being answerable to these weak excuses for leaders when, by rights, they should be answering to me! More than he hated admitting the mistakes he had made with Morven, Elias Ethan Winston Wylder hated needing the council’s help. “I lost it, too. I wasn’t prepared when she called forth my power. We merged totally, but our mating was disrupted before I could close the circle.”
“Great Lord and Lady, no wonder the power wave was off the scale!”
He swung his head around to eye the new speaker. The vampire representative was showing both sets of fangs in a wide, suggestive grin. “Man, that must have been one hell of an explosive opening ritual…”
Wylder nodded silent agreement, the memories welling up in a flood…
* * *
She whimpered, twisting her lithe, slender, golden-brown body sharply against him. For the first time in his life, he wished himself possessed of a smaller cock. Her breath came through her open mouth in gasping little pants, her distress so acute she could not hold back her moans. He looked up at her face, contorted in pain. Dark gray eyes swam with tears. Her deep auburn hair, darkened with sweat, lay plastered against her flushed cheeks and neck, evidence of her prolonged efforts to impale her pussy upon his steel hard erection.
Glancing down to where their bodies interlocked, he winced at the angry red color of her dainty little cunt, once so elegant with its smooth, shaven mound. Her swollen and inflamed lips throbbed against him, stretched obscenely thin by the ridged crown of his cock. He closed his eyes, fighting the feral urge to slam up into her, to ravage the virgin shield denying his full entrance.
She managed to wedge the massive, mushroom-shaped head just past her tiny opening, but the combination of his thickness and her tightness repeatedly defeated her efforts to take more.
He groaned. No sensation in the world felt better than being bathed in the hot juices of her cunt, of being caught in the fist-tight clasp of her scalding pussy.
At the same time, nothing had ever made him feel as bad as he felt now, witnessing her suffering. Passion gave way to compassion, and he knew he could not allow her to continue. Hands gripping her hips, he began the move that would ease him out of her tortured flesh.
“Do not go!” Her gasping cry rang harshly in the silent room.
“You are in pain. This is too much for you. I cannot continue when you are hurting so…”
“You must, Ethan. To withdraw now is to fail me. You are my Athame — my ritual knife — the blade I will use to open my body as a willing gift to the Eternal Couple. It is the only way I may receive my true power.”
She shifted atop him, and he moaned, burning, ripples of ecstasy coursing through his cock as her tight sheath clamped down on the sensitive head. “Do it,” she hissed, grabbing his face between both palms and bringing his head up to meet her fierce, stormy-gray gaze. “Come in me deeper… all the way… I do not give you leave to stop.”
A shudder racked her hard as he nodded, then angled his head to bathe her nipple with his tongue. “I obey, Lady. Only let me give you some pleasure to counter the pain…”
Her nod released him from his voluntary submission. Using muscles honed in battle, he flipped her, reversing their positions, managing not to dislodge his cock in the process. Now on top, he bit down on the tips of her ripe nipples, red as plump berries. He soothed the stings with swirling swipes of his tongue, worshiping the swollen bounty of her breasts until her back arched and she cried out… but not in pain. Rocking against her, circling, he felt a rush of her silky heat coating the constricted head of his cock. He slid deeper into the fertile, life-giving delta of her sex.
“Yes, baby…” he crooned, shifting to forge another few inches inside her, his passage eased by his pre-cum and her own sweet, slippery lubrication, “slow and easy… you can take me this way…”
His breathing faltered as he pushed in another inch and felt the vibrations down the length of his cock. A glance down showed he still had at least four more inches outside her body. Jaw firming in determination, he smoothed his hands down the outside of her thighs, encircled her ankles in the cages of his fingers and drew her legs up, forcing them wide. Rearing back, he pulled out, only halting when his broad cock head snagged at the gate of her small slit.
“No! Do not stop, Ethan, I beg you…”
Teeth sinking into his lower lip, muscles tightening in preparation, heart bleeding at the thought of the pain he could not avoid inflicting, Wylder looked into her eyes for an ageless moment.
“Don’t you dare,” she snarled in warning, a wildcat fighting for her future, her power. “If you stop…”
“I’m not going to stop. I’m never going to stop,” he promised her softly, holding her gaze as his fingers gripped her hips tightly, anchoring her against the coming shock.
“Be opened to your power, Lady… and to your Lord!”
Using his cock as a battering ram, he slammed into her, bursting through the thin but strong veil of flesh, closing his eyes as her scream assailed his ears, vowing that, before he finished, she would scream just as loudly in pleasure…
He never expected her to recover so quickly from the trauma of the difficult opening, yet she surprised him again, commanding he roll over so she could take the ascendancy. He obeyed eagerly, ready to continue their play.
She rode him hard, flinging her hips at him, bouncing on his upthrust cock with an enthusiasm he had never before encountered. Her silvery gray eyes glittered down at him, full of the joy of life. He’d never seen anything lovelier than her deep auburn hair flying about her animated face, her moist lips parted in a wide smile.
“I love this!” She rose and fell on his hard shaft, her laugh a sound of delight. Sliding her hands down her body, Morven skimmed her concave belly to touch and circle her clit as she undulated on his stiff pole. Her slim fingers encircled the base of his shaft, sliding up and down it as he pushed up into her, applying just the right pressure to keep him on the razor’s edge of coming. “You feel so thick and hot inside me… so wonderfully long and hard!”
Swiveling her bottom, grinding his wide, flared head against her cervix, she compressed his tightening balls between their heaving bodies with each downward plunge. Her thighs trembled at the bottom of each strong jounce, as though her control slipped its tether every time she felt his thick cock completely filling her pussy, stretching her almost impossibly wide.
By the Lady, how he loved her enthusiasm! Loved seeing her plump, pert breasts jiggling with her every movement, loved the nipples dancing before his hungering gaze. He loved the feel of her hot, clasping channel burning the skin of his shaft, the slick constricting walls of her vagina gripping him so tightly. Lying beneath her, watching her glowing face as she uninhibitedly screamed her way through a series of grinding orgasms, he admitted his love for Morven Maganistus.
“I am coming again!” She laughed aloud, her pleasure painted on her lively face with broad brush strokes of hot pink at cheeks and flushed neck.
“Do not come yet, stay with me a while…”
“No.” She giggled, leaning down to kiss his parted lips, dipping into his mouth to tangle her tongue with his. “You come with me… come in me. You have not yet given me the Lord’s Gift…”
“I want to fuck you forever, want this to last… I know you will not need me after this night…” He groaned aloud at the sad realization.
She slowed her carnal romp, easing into a series of smooth grinds and gentle undulations. “Perhaps, as you say, I will not need you… but I will want you… want this… again and again… and again…”
“Truly? Do you swear it?” His hips arched strongly, sending his cock spearing into her with all the strength of his newborn hopes.
“Yes, yes! Now come in me,” she commanded, suddenly picking up the pace again. Pounding her pelvis against his, she sank fluidly up and down his slick, rampant cock, their combined juices easing her way and sheening his flesh. “Give me everything within you… I want it all… every drop… every inch… all of you!”
Wylder shuddered, body convulsing under the lash of her voice. All unknowing, she spoke the ritual words of the joining rite, and his soul answered, helpless to deny her call. His hips surged upward, driving his cock deep. Sinking into her, seeking the entrance of her womb with powerful strokes, he held her down with hands fisted on her hips, striving toward nirvana. Sweat beaded on his skin. His lips pulled back in a grimace of erotic pain as he shuttled between her thighs, his shaft squeezed and abraded by the contracting walls of her cunt.
“You want me… take me!” He grunted, bucking hard against her. “Ughhhhh!” He slammed up, surging through her clasping pussy, slicing through her hot channel like a heated knife through butter. She melted around him, coating his cock and groin with her cream. “Here I am, baby… all yours… all for you… take it all!”
His eyes snapped open and locked with hers as his balls drew up tight, churning beneath his pistoning cock. Fingers of pleasure, spikes of electric fire, shot up the back of his legs, sparking along his thighs and back. His toes curled, and he pushed up and up, feeling the tightening in his sac that signaled the coming eruption of his sperm.
More than seed churned along the length of his shaft, for she had commanded everything of him, and he gladly obeyed. His power gathered in a mighty wave, rising and rushing along the pathways of his body, stripping him of will, of identity, of subterfuge.
“Morven! Yessss! Mine!” Muscles straining and heart pounding, mouth open in a primal cry of surrender and conquest, he spilled his power and sperm into her, marking her forever his.
“By the Lady of Magick –” Her shocked exclamation brought his head up. Gray eyes wide with disbelief, she gazed down at his contorted face… his true face, revealed as he gave way under the most explosive orgasm of his life. Her body still convulsing in climax above him, he held her, watched as disbelief gave way to horror.
“Professor Wylder!”
And then the climax shattered them, rolled them into a maelstrom of passion and power. They writhed together in the sweetest agony as power flowed between them. Their bodies and souls locked together in ecstatic pain and then unraveled in erotic release, hurling them onto a distant, star-spangled shore.
Her body collapsed upon his. Head tucked under his chin, she wept bitterly, body shuddering under the force of her tears. His heart shattered into pieces as the sound of her broken cries shredded his conscience. Each tiny part shriveled and died under the scalding heat of the tears falling upon his heaving chest…
* * *
“Save your congratulations,” Wylder growled. His fingers shook as they wove through his hair, pushing a fall of unruly curls off his forehead. “The graduation ritual might have been successful — and I attest it was — but the mating rite did not have so happy an ending. Actually, we did not complete the exchange.”
Vorodin raised an expressive eyebrow. “Now, that surprises me. I would never have taken you for the sort of chap to allow something that important to get out of hand.”
Wylder’s eyes narrowed angrily at the vampire’s tongue-in-cheek comment, not caring for the bloodsucker’s penchant for finding humor at his expense. “The opening ceremony proved too much for her, no doubt because channeling that much power for the first time drained her. I wanted her well-rested before staking my claim, with no possibility of later claiming I used her tiredness as an advantage. I placed her under a timed sleep spell. When I returned, she had flown. She’s managed to elude me ever since.”
Druscilla, never far from her vampire mate, reached for her husband’s hand, entwining her long-boned fingers with his. A frown puckered the skin at her brow. Her full, carmine lips thinned as her face twisted with worry. “But her graduation took place last year, one night before the All Hallows Celebrations. That means –”
“I have to find and bind her before this year’s Rites, or I lose her forever.” Narrowing his eyes in determination, Wylder pounded his left fist into his right palm. Through gritted teeth he ground out, “I will not lose her. I’ll move heaven and earth if I have to, but I will find her.”
“It is possible you will fail in this quest, Wylder. You need to know there has been a new seeing. In this one you do not take the Master’s Seat.” The detached, emotionless words of K’Lyndr, female of the Elven match, grated on Wylder’s already stretched nerves.
Not for the first time, he damned the ancient laws forbidding an unmated Magicker to hold council office. He deserved a position on the council by right of power alone. Had he and his mate taken their seats during the past All Hallow’s festivities, they would already be ruling the council of elders. Instead, he remained at the beck and call of a handful of people who were not only less powerful than he, but they suffered from limited vision and were prone to petty squabbling.
Lemuel Westerner’s head snapped up, his expression hopefully inquisitive. “Has it been confirmed? Who saw it? How strong was the seeing?”
Wylder stiffened. The heated glare he settled on the babbling council member must have made Lemuel recall the danger of angering a powerful mage, for he scrabbled over the arm of his chair, seeking a hiding place as Wylder bore down on him.
Thunder crashed. Lightning streaked across the inner bowl of the ceiling. The electrical lights flickered madly, their strobe effects chopping his movements into discrete segments as he crossed the floor and snatched the were-cat from his feet.
Lemuel panicked as Elias grabbed him. Unable to hold his human form, he changed shape, leaving the Warlock shaking a full-grown panther by the scruff of the neck.
With a scream of fear and rage, Judith transformed and rushed to her mate’s defense, launching herself at Wylder with deadly claws extended. A negligent flick of his chin knocked her from the air, sending her spinning end-over-end toward one of the marble columns supporting the ceiling of the council chamber. Just before her head struck the massive pillar, Wylder regained control of his volatile temper and closed his fist in a move of power. Her sleek cat’s body came to an abrupt stop in midair before slowly lowering to the ground.
“Your interest in this new seeing is very telling, Westerner,” Elias growled. Glaring into the great cat’s slitted eyes, he dug his long fingers into its wind pipe, cutting off its air. “I will not soon forget the sentiments you revealed here this night.”
Lemuel responded by mewling, sheathing his claws and curling his tail up under his belly, instinctively choosing submission over death.
A wave of disgust surged through Wylder. Feeling dirtied by contact with the cowardly were-being, he stared at the pathetic creature dangling from his fist.
He felt the magick swell within him, a blast of furnace-hot energy smoldering in his chest. Fueled by anger, it rode him, urged him to shift form and sink fangs into this treacherous prey. Control naught but a distant thought, a dim inclination, he bent his head, jaws elongating as his power gave form to his desires…
Judith screamed. Equal parts cat’s howl and woman’s grieving cry, the desperate, sorrowing wail froze Wylder in place.
Only once before had he heard such despairing anguish voiced. He had sworn he would never again be the cause of so deep a pain. Sickened by his actions, he swallowed the bile burning in his throat. Unable to get rid of the were-cat fast enough, he opened his fist and practically tossed the feline away. Despite the graveness of the situation, he almost smiled as he watched the cat twist in midair to land on her feet and scramble away. A moment later, all mirth ceased as, hands clenched at his sides, he swung about to confront the council.
They stood bunched together in tight formation. Lemuel, belly low to the ground, tail still tucked tight between his hind legs, had joined his fellows. Judith butted her head against her mate, herding him on to the back of the group as the others closed ranks behind him.
The council members actions, given their usual cowardice, managed to surprise him. They formed a barrier of flesh and magick between Wylder and the traumatized cat. Even Vorodin, whom he counted a friend, stood aligned against him. He couldn’t help but marvel at their courage as their mouths spoke great words of power and their hands wove ancient patterns in preparation for battle. Had he been as out-of-control as they obviously believed, they would have been preparing to die.
Frustrated and angry he might be, disappointed and often disillusioned over their actions, yes, but to his present amazement, he found he did not want to kill any of them. “Congratulations! I see there are teeth and courage aplenty in this company of misfits. Perhaps there is hope for this council, after all.” There was no mockery in his words.
Drawing on the shredded remains of his control, Wylder struggled with his roiling power. Ruthlessly harnessing the elemental energies, he tamped down his anger and calmed the lightning storm, allowed the room lights to come back up. With a wave of his hand, he set the room to rights. Then, with hard-won dignity, he schooled his face into an expressionless mask and bowed to the council, hands spread palm outward. “I place myself at the mercy of this council for offering violence to the body of one its members.”
K’Tylkn, the second Elf, raised his eyebrows and canted his pointed ears forward. “You have repeatedly asked why we do not recognize you as part of this council, even as a standing member. Your present behavior is part of the reason we question your ability to rule, Wylder. Yours is the strongest magick — none here doubts it, and none disputes it — yet, unmated, you lack the balance and self-control necessary to be an effective ruler. Think of what you almost allowed to happen to Judith, an innocent bystander to your wrath. Such out-of-control power is a danger to all of us… as you, above all, should well know.”
Every muscle in his body clenched as unwanted memories flashed across his mind’s eye, and the echo of a beloved voice rang in his soul.
Elias, we are as one. We are brothers. Join me, and together we will rule this world and any other of our choosing. Brother, do not make me kill you! Elias… no!
He closed his eyes and shut off the memories, unwilling to expose his torment to people who would judge him as they’d judged his brother. He would not share with them the pain that continually tormented him, daily ripped apart his heart with edges sharp and jagged as broken glass. At his sides, his hands curled into fists, the only outward sign of the bitter, heart-wrenching remorse that never left him. A ragged sigh swelled his chest. Swallowing past the lump of regret wedged in his throat, he admitted, “I do know it.”
Turning his gaze to Judith, who had yet to return to her human form, he bowed deeply, humbling himself. “I plead your pardon, Lady. You have never done me harm. For my unwarranted action against you, I owe you a boon. You may require it of me at any time.”
The panthera hissed at him, her ruff standing stiffly, twitching tail held aloft in an obvious sign of still ruffled emotions. Wylder sighed and inclined his head with a wry nod, accepting that her forgiveness would not be granted so easily.
“Something must be done. This barbarism cannot go unpunished,” Lemuel croaked from his safe haven behind the lines.
“My only defense for this lack of control is my need to find my mate. You all know I have never been able to stomach Westerner’s whining, yet never, in all these years, have I attacked him.”
“This is true,” Grooden allowed. “We must take into consideration the effects of an interrupted mating. His magick has been drawn forth but not returned. The situation will only worsen drastically if Wylder’s mate is not restored to him.”
“Granted.” Druscilla nodded in agreement. “But how will we begin? Where do we look? We have nothing of hers with which to skry…”
“I know she is far away. I have scoured these North-Eastern Division lands from top to bottom. If something or someone is shielding her from me, it is far enough away to elude my skrying, for I carry her essence within.” His lips turned up in a fleeting smile at the memory of her pure, sweet taste. “She could not escape my detection at close quarters.”
“Cast another seeing, K’Lyndr,” Vorodin suggested. “The Lord and Lady have already given you one sight involving this situation. Mayhap they will grant another.”
“Please, K’Lyndr!” Wylder added his request to Vorodin’s, not caring that his impassioned plea shocked them all. Pride had fled with his Lady. Every day without her saw him closer to losing control. Madness beckoned, and he feared for his world. Unlike before, there were none powerful enough to confront and defeat him. Ironically, the only person with a chance of defeating him was the very person he needed to save his sanity — and his life.
“Look for her on the Western Coast and the Light Isles, as far away as Chinasia.”
“I will cast, but I can promise you nothing.”
“I have fifteen days. We have fifteen days. Without my mate, I will have no anchor, no control. You all know what that means.” Driven by a desperation that had grown daily darker, stronger, Wylder abandoned all pride. “By the Lord and Lady… I must find her. Morven Maganistus is my life!”

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Gatos
Cat O’ Nines Collection
by Lia Connor

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60521-461-0

Catkind — they’re rough, they’re tough and they don’t take no for an answer. But who’d want to say no? Not Gabriella, a barmaid in a tiny roadhouse named Gatos near the Mexican border. Nor her sister Marnie. Lucia’s a party girl with two hot, hunky Catkind on her trail. Orion, a white Tiger, and Jomei, a Bengal, are royalty among the Catkind.

This collection contains the previously released novellas in the Cat O’Nines collection: Cat’s Claws, Cat’s Eye, Cat’s Cradle, Cat’s Meow, and Cat’s Paw.

Chapter One

“So there I am, standing in the middle of the street, screaming at him en Espanol. I’m calling him things our abuela would turn over in her grave to hear me say. And then she’d wash my mouth out with soap.”
“Lucia, when are you going to learn?” Gabriella unlocked the door to Gatos’ cold storage unit. “You stay away from men like him. They’re trouble.”
Lucia, her sister, had the fire of a Roman candle and a temper to match. She jammed her hands on her hips in indignation. “Like you have room to talk,” she shot back.
“I do. Do you see me getting tangled up with any troublemakers like him?” She yanked open the door, and cold air escaped with a whoosh. “Uh-uh. Oh, that’s good.” Gabriella closed her eyes and swayed in bliss. It was a gorgeous day outside in the shabby outskirts of San Miguel, the sky pure blue and the horizon clear for miles. Which meant it was hot enough to suit the devil himself, especially back in the warehouse. She let herself enjoy the cool air coming from the cold storage unit for a moment, then got back to business. She nudged the handcart. “Come on, you take one crate and I’ll take the other.”
“We shouldn’t roll out a keg?”
“If you think you can manhandle a keg in heat like this, dolly or no dolly, you’re welcome to try. Grab a case for now. Tony can get the rest later.” Gabriella sized up the hefty crate stamped with the Moctezuma Brewery logo. Nothing tasted as good or as rich as their cervesa. Moctezuma was why locals bothered traveling to her tiny, out-of-the-way bar. If the brew master hadn’t been a friend of her brother Tony, no way she’d have gotten her mitts on any of their goods. “Come on, Lucia, put your back into it.”
Lucia pouted briefly before bending and lifting the crate. Tendons stood out in her neck from the effort as she wrestled a heavy crate onto the dolly. “We need some strong young stud for this.”
“And there you go again, thinking about men,” Gabriella chided. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to have a strong young thing around, especially if he’s hot, eh? I’m saying we can get by fine without one. You seem to think that’s a mortal sin, which is why I’m listening to you pitch a fit in the street.” She tempered the sting of her words with the fondness of her tone.
Gabriella shut the door to the cold storage unit and clicked the padlock back in place before taking the handle of the dolly. Oof. She had to admit, the crates were terribly heavy. Together they headed back to the main room of Gatos, the tiny tumbledown bar that had been their sole legacy from their mother.
Not exactly a rich and abundant inheritance. Ah, well, Mama had tried.
Lucia was still stuck back on Gabriella’s opinions. “You’re telling me if a man like Roger came on to you, you’d say no? He looked so pretty.” She swung around to walk backwards. “Those cornflower blue eyes and his soft golden hair. Like a prince out of a fairytale.” Her pleading turned wicked. “And good in bed? He was a devil when it came to loving me.”
“And how many other women at the same time?” Gabriella bumped open the swinging kitchen door. “Would I say no to a man like Roger? Hell, no, I wouldn’t. But…”
Lucia rolled her eyes.
“But,” Gabriella went on, not letting Lucia’s scorn stop her, “I’d say yes long enough to enjoy his body. If he’s as good as you say, I’d have fun with him for a few days then send him packing. No harm, no foul, and no broken heart that needs someone to sweep up the pieces.”
Lucia scoffed. “You wouldn’t know how to let your hair down if someone gave you a hands-on demonstration.”
Gabriella’s pride was stung. “Says you!”
“You’re right, says I. You want to make a bet on this? Friday night’s tip jar says you don’t have the guts to take the next handsome guy who walks into Gatos for a test run.”
Ay, Lucia had her there. Gabriella could never back down from a challenge. “I’m listening. What are the terms?”
Lucia stretched her muscles out before unlocking the cooler. “So we have a deal?”
“Not yet.” Gabriella pulled the dolly close enough to the cooler to unload it. “Let me hear the details before I say yes or no.”
“Like you would,” Lucia smirked. “All right, here’s the deal. When we open tonight, you and I man the bar. When the first hot guy walks in, one I decide is enough of a handful for even you, I point him out and that’s when the game begins. You come on to him, you do whatever you have to do, and if he’s safe you get him into bed.”
“I’m not a slut,” Gabriella objected, all the while hoisting crates and holding them for Lucia to unpack and stow in the cooler. “And how am I supposed to know if he’s ‘safe’?” She dusted off her hands after the last bottle was stashed away. “You have to give me more than that to go on. I’m supposed to proposition a customer? That’ll give me a great reputation.”
Lucia shrugged smugly. “So you’re saying no? You’re backing down already?”
“Bitch. You know I’m not.” Gabriella undid her long ponytail, letting her hair fall loose to swing in thick, glossy black sheets down to the middle of her back.
Lucia watched in admiration. “I look at you and I know why they call it ‘crowning glory.’ You are so lucky. All I have to work with is this tangle of curls.” She shook her head to illustrate.
Contrary to Lucia’s opinion, her mane was stunning, silky jet-black ringlets and waves bouncing off her shoulders. Together with her cute-as-a-button girlish face and a woman’s ample curves, Lucia was hell on wheels. Gabriella and her two sisters both had the same Mexican mother, but different black fathers. Mama had been a hard, hard woman to live with, fiery as a demon. Their black-Latino heritage showed itself in different ways on all of them.
Replacing the scarlet scrunchie holding her ponytail in place, Gabriella swung her head back and forth to make sure it was secure. “Keep talking. Let’s say the deal is on…”
“It already is.”
“We haven’t shaken hands yet. Tell me more. I find a hottie, I screw him, and I take your money. That’s simple enough. But what happens if something doesn’t work out?”
“What, you mean like he can’t get it up?”
“Lucia!” Gabriella lightly slapped her impish sister’s arm. “Okay, if that happens, sure. Or if he doesn’t want to take me to bed.”
“Like that would happen. Have you really looked at yourself in a mirror lately?”
Actually, Lucia hadn’t. Long days, short nights and precious little time for anything else, they took their toll on a girl’s primping. “Or if he’s not safe after all,” she ticked off on her fingers, wishing she had a pretty manicure like Lucia’s, even if it would get ruined her first night at the bar. “Or if he turns out to be a jerk and I wouldn’t screw him if he was the last man alive.” She stripped off her plain white T-shirt and picked up a cropped black tank top, the unofficial uniform of Gatos. “So what happens then?”
“Depends. I’ll judge the circumstances. If I lose, you get my tip money — and the satisfaction of getting laid, which is a prize all on its own.”
“Sweeten the pot a little, eh?”
“That’s enough for you?”
“No. I got to have some leverage, or Lord knows what kind of jerk you’ll stick me with. You have to do the same thing, girl. If I win, I pick you a man, and you can’t back down.”
“You think I’d mind?”
“Maybe. I plan to pick you out a priest.”
“Wicked woman,” Lucia scolded before her indignant frown melted into thoughtful lasciviousness. “Ooh, you think he’d keep his collar on while we did it?”
Gabriella winced and crossed herself. “Lightning’s going to strike you down, I swear. All right, chica. If you agree, then we have ourselves a bet.” She held out her hand, palm up. “Yes or no?”
Lucia grinned and high-fived Gabriella. “We have a bet, girlfriend. We so have a bet.”
“Then let’s go.” Gabriella rolled her hips, displaying her toned tummy with its small gold ring. “May the better woman win.”
“May the sluttier woman win.”
* * *
Gabriella laughed as she headed out to the main bar. She loved Gatos, every inch of it. Right now, with the late afternoon light streaming through the big windows, she liked it best with the lights off. Made for a good resting spot and a peaceful atmosphere. The place would be crawling with rowdy men and horny women soon enough.
A woman popped up from underneath a table, where she’d either been crawling around looking for loose change or hiding. “Gabriella, thank God you’re here.”
Gabriella frowned slightly. “Marnie, what are you doing here? I told you to stay off your feet.” The youngest of her sisters, Marnie was pregnant, and as tiny as she was, Gabriella worried for her. Not only was she with child, but the baby was sure to have been fathered by her asshole on-and-off boyfriend. “That jerk isn’t after you, is he?”
“Your tips are as good as mine,” Lucia sing-songed, paying no attention to their baby sister.
“Watch your mouth,” Gabriella scolded. “Marnie, what’s up?”
Marnie tucked loose strands of her straight, dark brown hair behind her ears. She looked less Hispanic than Gabriella or Lucia, favoring her father. She’d gotten slight, nervous hands and a Cupid’s bow mouth from their mother. “Could you use an extra hand tonight? I’ll go crazy at home.”
“You know what Friday nights are like,” Gabriella warned. “Are you sure?”
Marnie nodded eagerly. “Absolutely. I can handle myself.”
Gabriella wasn’t any too sure, but she did need another pair of hands. The weekends could be crazy at Gatos. “Okay, fine. Get changed and help me do the set-up.”
Marnie beamed a brilliant smile. “Thank you, thank you!”
“Go on.” Gabriella watched Marnie disappear into the kitchen, shaking her head. “There goes living proof of my point, Lucia.”
“A bet’s a bet.” Lucia was supremely unconcerned. She rose on tiptoe to peer out the window, Marnie already forgotten. “Looks like we’re opening early. Two guys heading this way on the road.”
“I don’t hear a car.”
“They’re walking.” Lucia started primping her curls. “Showtime, girlfriend. They’re hot, they’re young, and ooh, they look sexy.” She narrowed her eyes. “Is it a new style or something to wear your belt dangling down the back?”
“Got me.”
“Doesn’t matter. One for you, one for me. My choice.”
The main entrance to Gatos swung wide before Gabriella could answer back. The two men, one tall and lean, one shorter and more compact, strode in without asking if they were open. As they approached the bar, Gabriella took in their musky scent, made stronger from walking in the heat of the day, and wanted to growl. Madre de Dios, but Lucia was right. She needed like fire to get laid. Either one of these two would work wonders for stress relief.
“Afternoon,” she said, already reaching under the bar for two frosty cold Cervesa Mocteczuma. “We’re not really open yet, but we won’t kick you out.”
“Good,” the lighter of the two purred, resting his crossed forearms on the bar. “We’ve come a long way, and we’d love to taste what you’ve got on tap.”
As he settled in, Gabriella saw his face clearly at last, and the sight drew a startled gasp from her lips. “Madre de Dios,” she whispered, taking a quick step back.
A man’s face, a man’s body, but with high, pointed ears on the top of his head, their softly furred tips poking through windblown hair the color of ripe corn. A broad nose and sharp canines. A long cat’s tail trailed from underneath his dark blue shirt. A switching, twitching tail the same shade as his hair, topped with a tuft of fur that looked touchable as a pussy-willow bud. She’d never thought she’d see one of his kind in the flesh.
The Catkind man grinned at Gabriella. “I’ve heard a lot about Gatos, pretty lady, and I’ve heard even more about the gorgeous barmaids. Glad we made the walk.” He gave her a once-over, not bothering to hide the way he undressed her with his eyes. “Can I have that beer you’re holding?” He didn’t wait for her to hand it to him, but snagged the sweating bottle in a hand that looked human except for the downy fur that covered his arms.
He elbowed his taller friend, who hadn’t moved or said a word. The second of the Catkind was dark as the tawny one was light, his face long and sexy and sober, no more human than his friend. “I win,” the tawny one informed his friend smugly. “You should know better than to bet against me.”
The darker Catkind flipped him off. Gabriella giggled. She couldn’t help but notice that their gestures were fluid and easy, feline grace shining through with every move, and their lazy smiles were as broad as a regular housecat’s after tasting some high-quality cream.
Catkind didn’t tangle with humanity, even after they’d been proved to be real. They kept to themselves and liked their privacy. Solitary hunters. Gabriella had no idea why they’d come to visit Gatos, but would she turn down a chance to satisfy her curiosity as well as turn away two men as hot as they were? Hell, no.
“Have a drink with us?” the tawny one invited, his grin wide enough to display his pointed incisors.
Lucia squeaked and fled. Gabriella resisted the urge to scold her. Instead summoned up her best smile, making no attempt to disguise her fascination with the Catkind men. “On the house,” she crooned, trailing her finger down the neck of the bottle. “Let me know if you need anything else.” She lowered her eyelids. “Anything at all.”
No way she’d back down now, not with two guys as yummy as these.
So what if they weren’t human? She’d have fun tonight.

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Silky's Master by Kate HillSilky’s Master
Alpha Delicious, Book 2
by Kate Hill

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60521-115-2

Undercover in the royal palace of Amazurn, Silky, a reporter, tries to gather evidence of abuse suffered by Princess Voluptia’s harem boys and meets the former gladiator Shawn-Dan Dawn. When the Princess abducts the Queen’s lover, Silky risks arrest to free Shawn and expose the secret harem.

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Chapter One

[Continue Reading…]

Serenity by D. Renee Bagby

Serenity

by D. Renee Bagby

Samhain Publishing

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-59998-898-6
Print ISBN: 978-1-60504-093-6

[ Fantasy Multicultural Romance, MF ]

Their uneasy alliance could lead to love—if the demon will allow it.

A Gezane Universe Novel

Melchior, King of the Bhresyas, is quickly growing tired of the war between his kind and the humans who view them as demons. He proposes a peace treaty with the most powerful human kingdom. His only stipulation? Once she comes of age, the human queen’s daughter must be his bride.

Serenity has spent her entire life preparing for her role at Melchior’s side. Other women might be frightened, but she embraces her destiny, knowing in her heart that she and Melchior have been twined together by fate.

While he wants cooperation between their two peoples, his union with Serenity cannot and should not lead to love. The more she tries to bring them together, the harder he pushes her away—until she lands in the arms of those who would do her harm.

Love is the answer. But before Melchior admits to his, it may be too late.

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Prologue

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Adrienne by D. Renee Bagby

Adrienne

by D. Renee Bagby

Samhain Publishing

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-59998-523-7
Print ISBN: 978-1-59998-757-6

[ Fantasy Interracial Romance, MF ]

He crossed dimensions to claim her as his queen—but her reign may destroy his world.

A Bron Universe novel

Adrienne Backett wants two simple little things this spring break: rest and relaxation. After nearly four years of slaving away for her college education, she deserves a holiday. What she gets is pulled into another dimension by a man who claims she’s his rightful queen.

Malik, King of Ulan, has until his birthday to find his bride or he must forfeit his throne. When a spell reveals her location, he will do anything, even cross dimensions, to claim her as his own.

As if fending off a lusty king isn’t enough of a headache, Adrienne finds herself a pawn in a rival monarch’s plot to bring Malik’s world to its knees. But is the real danger being stuck in the middle of a power struggle between rival kingdoms? Or the damage Malik could do to her heart?

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Chapter One

[Continue Reading…]

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