Currently viewing the category: "Valentine’s Day"

Devil May Care by Sam Cheever

Devil May Care

Holidays are Hell, Book 2
by Sam Cheever

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 06190-01988

Valentine Smith H-A-T-E-S the month of February. The constant jokes about her name and comparisons to the chubby guy with arrows are enough to make her want to run and hide for the entire month.

But, this Valentine’s Day, the ultimate joke is about to be played on poor Valentine. She’s supposed to choke on a chocolate heart and die. You’d think that would be bad enough. But when she misses her chance to die, she finds herself running from an overly ambitious angel and a sexier-than-hell devil named Abbadon. In the race between good and evil it’s no contest. Hell has sexy green eyes, lots of yummy muscles, and a truly decadent pair of lips to ease her pain!

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Chapter One

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Cupid Gone Weird by Stephanie Burke

Cupid Gone Weird

by Stephanie Burke

Razor’s Edge Press

eBook ISBN: 06196-01990

Cupid only wants a little revenge on Chris Cringle, master of North Pole Industries and the bane of the Holidays’ existence.

But when he cracks open a bottle of stolen wassail, will one spilled drop give him everything he ever desired or will it be a tool for Chris to gain more control over the wayward Cupid? No one can really tell what will happen when Cupid Goes Weird.

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

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Changeling Press

Scene One

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Into Temptation
Wild Wishes Anthology
by Lena Matthews

Loose Id

eBook ISBN: 978-1-59632-430-5
Print ISBN: 978-1596320260

Themed parties are never a good idea, especially when they incur the wrath of a God.

All Billie Fowler wanted to do was spend a little extra time with her office crush, Tomas Mendez. And if it was after hours at a party, where she could wear a little slinky number, even better…or so she thought. The notion that a small Anti-Valentine Day’s party might turn into the craziest night of her life never entered her mind, but on the other hand, she had never been on Cupid’s bad side before.

Chapter One

“Fuck Cupid.”
Startled, Billie Fowler looked up from her desk and into the beaming face of her co-worker, Jenna Fields, with amazement. She couldn’t have heard what she just thought she did. “Excuse me?”
“Fuck Cupid,” Jenna repeated with a smile as she jiggled an envelope in her hand. “That’s the theme this year for my annual Anti-Valentine’s Day Party. Fuck Cupid.”
Billie winced again. The obscenity grew louder every time Jenna said it. Quickly standing, she snatched the invitation out of Jenna’s hand and looked around over the walls of her gray cubical, hoping no one else had heard her insane colleague. “All right, girl, I heard you the first time. I was just hoping I hadn’t.”
“Oh, you heard me, all right.” Waggling her eyebrows, Jenna grinned. Decorum wasn’t a word in the extroverted woman’s dictionary. She was all about shock factor, the dirtier the better, but at eleven o’clock in the morning, it felt like a bit much. “So are you going to come to my party?”
Jenna’s parties were legendary around the office — hell, around the whole city. To the petite blonde, bashes were a way of life. No matter how much Billie tried, she couldn’t get Jenna to stop inviting her. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Jenna, because she did. Billie just didn’t have the energy for the Sex in the City lifestyle that suited Jenna.
A girl had to sleep sometimes.
“I don’t know what my plans are yet,” Billie lied, trying her best to politely refuse. She knew exactly what her plans were. They included sweatpants, a Lean Cuisine, and her Dirty Dancing DVD.
A quiet, safe Valentine’s Day, where the only heart that could possibly be broken was her heart-shaped candy dish.
“Don’t give me that ‘maybe’ stuff. I want you front and center this year. There are going to be a lot of single people there, and no one is allowed to bring dates. It’s a get-laid-palooza. Even you can’t screw it up.”
“Thanks,” Billie scoffed. Was that supposed to be a selling point? It was a good thing Jenna was her friend, not her enemy. Lord only knew what she might say.
Jenna had the grace to look a bit embarrassed. “Ahh, come on, you know what I mean.”
Billie had a pretty good idea. “That I’m a hopeless shut-in with no future for a mate.”
“Not even. I’m just saying that it’s time you need to get out there. You know, embrace your inner wild child. Free your alternate you …”
“Shave my legs.”
“Exactly.” Jenna beamed, missing Billie’s sarcasm altogether. “So you’ll be there tomorrow night. Oh, wear red.”
Billie watched Jenna stroll away, bemused. Apparently no wasn’t in her dictionary, either. Looked as if Billie might be going to a party after all, whether she wanted to or not.
Shaking her head, Billie pulled the scarlet invite out and almost swallowed her tongue. The party theme was spelled out in large, bold, black letters, with a picture of Cupid being sodomized on the cover. Unfortunately, the wide-eyed cherub didn’t seem to be enjoying the plundering all that much. It was obscene, offensive … and so Jenna that it was downright hilarious.
“Jenna has a way with visual aids, wouldn’t you say, Holiday?”
Billie smiled as she began to place the invitation back in the envelope. The play on her name and the smooth Latin accent could only mean one person. “I agree; I think Levin should put her in charge of the ad department.”
“Somehow I don’t think that’s a good idea.” At his soul-deep chuckle, Billie looked up. As usual, when she was next to her handsome co-worker, Tomás Mendez, her heart did a silly little pitter-patter in her chest. It was sickening how drawn to him she was.
The uncomfortable silence between them lengthened as they stared at one another, both seemingly looking for something to say. Not that words were always a necessity; Billie was quite at ease with sharing stolen moments of peace with him as the world at large whizzed by them.
Unfortunately, in her moment of bliss, Billie didn’t realize she hadn’t put the card up completely and the dirty picture caught Tomás’s eye. “So can I see the whole picture, or am I just to look at the large … member?”
Tapping her finger against the card, Billie eyed him in amusement. She wouldn’t have classified Tomás as conservative or anything, but he did seem a bit above bawdy bathroom humor. “I don’t know. It’s a bit graphic.”
Her words came off more like a challenge, not at all what she had been intending. “If you can see it, Holiday, I think I can take it.”
“Suit yourself, Tomás, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Raising a brow arrogantly, he took the card from her outstretched hand. Their fingers brushed as he pulled the card away. The contact, although brief, led to them looking into each other’s eyes. One stared questioningly, the other surprised.
Of course the second he pulled the card out of the envelope, all unasked questions were forgotten.
“Oh, my God!” He choked on his laughter as he studied the card. As she watched him, Billie realized she was such a goner.
She couldn’t help it. Tomás Mendez was the total package. With wavy dark hair and smooth skin blessed with a natural tan, Tomás was the quintessential Latin heartthrob. He was handsome, charming, and successful — everything a woman could possibly want, and then some.
The only problem was, when she wanted to drool over him, she had to get in line. In the seven months he’d been there, he’d had the entire female staff — and some of the male staff as well — panting after him.
Where the other women were audacious about their wants, Billie was more comfortable with just sitting back and playing the cards where they lay.
She would never approach him in any way that wouldn’t be deemed friendly. She just wasn’t that type of person. And it was probably one of the reasons Tomás sought her out. He saw her as friend, someone he could speak to over coffee breaks with no risk of injury to his posterior.
“You’d think she’d have something better to do.” Shaking his head, Tomás shoved the invitation back into the envelope and handed it back to Billie, who was wearing an I told you so expression on her face. “What’s the deal with the Anti-Valentine’s Day party?”
“It’s a bitter single woman thing. You wouldn’t understand,” she replied, as she tucked the invitation into her purse.
“You’re assuming I wouldn’t understand, why?”
Leaning against her desk, she wondered where he was going with this. “Because you’re not bitter or a woman.”
“But I am single.”
That was good to know. “I’m sure Jenna has every intention of inviting you.”
“Should that scare me or make me feel better?”
“Now, that is the real question.”
Tomás leaned against the wall of her cubical and crossed his arms. “So you’re not bitter, but you are a woman, and single; are you going to rearrange your Valentine’s Day plans so you can go?”
Billie liked the way he didn’t assume she didn’t have plans. “I haven’t decided yet. What about you? You have a big night planned?”
“I’m still pretty new to the area. A little too new to have a Valentine.”
“I’ve been here for five years, and my big competing plans involve a frozen dinner and an old movie.”
“Sounds like it might be a hard decision to make.”
“It is my favorite frozen dinner and movie.”
“I guess it would be kind of hard to compete with the two of them.”
“It is.” She tsked. “Lesser men have tried.”
“That’s the whole problem right there, Holiday.” A slow, sensual smile spilled across the fullness of his mouth. “Lesser men. Not real men.”
* * * * *
No matter how much he warned himself to take things slow with Billie, Tomás couldn’t help the need he felt to put his mark on her and make her his. He’d only known the dark beauty for a short while, but time didn’t matter with affairs of the heart.
From the first moment they had been introduced, Tomás had been taken in by her warm personality. Her laughter was infectious. Her voice could make him hard from a hundred yards away. She was beautiful, sexy, and a fun person to be around, but the “just friends” vibe she was sending him was about to kill him.
Billie held her hands up to her cheeks, as if trying to keep her embarrassment at bay. “Damn, you’re smooth. Do you practice these lines in front of the mirror before you say them, or do they just come naturally?”
“Blame it on Cupid. The frisky little devil is up to no good.”
“Do you echo Jenna’s sentiments?”
“Oh, no.” He shook his head as he walked further into her cubical. Stopping a breath away from her, Tomás leaned against her desk, letting his arm brush against hers. “I believe in el amor. All Latin men do.”
“I thought that was Frenchmen.”
Tomás scoffed. “The French think love is pretty words and flowery gestures. Real love is dirty, hot, and overwhelming. There is nothing pretty about it.”
“Wow.” Billie’s hands slipped from her face as her large, doe eyes stared up at him in wonder. Despite the wall of friendship she had erected between them, Billie wasn’t immune to him. “That was …”
“Real.”
“Real’s a word for it, all right.” Her nervous chuckle stirred Tomás.
Then again, everything about her stirred him. From her coffee-tinged skin, so dark and smooth like a clear, starless night, to her thick, wavy hair that she wore twisted into spirals springing around her oval face.
She was the epitome of beauty; exotic, breathtaking, damn near irresistible. Just standing here next to her, breathing in her sweet scent, was giving him ideas that he didn’t need, especially at work.
“Are you going to go to the party?”
“I wasn’t planning on it.”
“I think you should go.”
“You do?”
“Oh, yes.” There weren’t enough words to express how much he wanted to see her out of the office. Out of her clothing and stretched out on his bed would have been even better, but he would settle for what he could get.
“I don’t know,” she teased, her full lips spreading into a welcoming smile. “I’m not really into violating Cupid.”
“We could go together, as friends of course.” He added the last part just to ease her mind. The last thing Tomás wanted was for her to say no.
For a second it seemed like her warm smile slipped a bit, but before he could question it, Jenna came back towards them.
“Tomás, just the man I was looking for.”
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll run,” Billie whispered teasingly.
“Too late.”
Hurrying to where they stood, Jenna thrust an envelope with his name scrawled on top, out at him, “I was going to leave your invitation on your desk, but I wanted to hand it to you personally.”
Tomás was pretty sure the invitation wasn’t the only thing Jenna wanted to give him personally, but the perky blonde was a bit too much for him. “I was just discussing the party with Billie. She was just saying how much she couldn’t wait to go.”
From the corner of his eye, Tomás saw the thanks a lot look Billie shot him and grinned. There was no way he was going to a bitter woman’s party without her.
“Really?” Jenna shimmered with excitement. “That’s wonderful. You’re going to come too, right? I just won’t take no for an answer.”
“Then I better say yes.”
“There are going to be a lot of happy women tomorrow night.”
“Why, are you going to spike his drink?” Billie asked, tongue in cheek.
It took all of Tomás’s hard-won control not to burst into laughter. He was well aware of the come hither looks some of the women on the staff tossed his way. Their behavior was something he was used to Billie teasing him about; she just didn’t normally do it in front of people.
“Billie!” Jenna’s phony gasp was as transparent as her white blouse.
“Jenna!” Billie mocked back. “Come on, Tomás knows he’s a hottie. He can feel the stares on his cute derrière as he walks.”
Tomás looked at Billie with a grin of his own. “Cute, huh?”
“Downright adorable.” Her brown eyes twinkled with amusement. Tomás was going to have to pull her across his lap and teach her a little lesson. She was such a little hellion.
Wait a minute … spanking her … the thought had merit. Just the word spanking in the same sentence with Billie was causing an upheaval in Tomás’s body. It had been a long time since he had been with a woman, and even longer since he’d wanted someone as much as he did Billie.
If — no, when he got her under him …
“Well, I’m off.” Jenna’s nagging voice broke through Tomás’s lust-clouded brain. “I have a few more invites to pass out.”
Startled, Tomás turned his head back to look at her. She was still there. “Okay.”
Jenna eyed them with interest before walking away. There was something very predatory-like in her stare, only further driving home the point that Tomás didn’t want to be caught alone in a room with her.
“I think she likes you,” Billie teased. “Word to the wise, don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”
“I’d think I’d be wise not to drink the water either.”
“It must be nice to be the belle of her ball.”
Tomás lowered his voice, so they wouldn’t be overheard. “I have no desire to ball anything of hers.”
Billie’s sharp laughter drew several stares in their direction from people passing by. But the curious glances were all worth it just to see her smile. Glancing around at the attention they were receiving, Billie stepped away from him with a cautious smile. “You are going to get me fired.”
“Then I’d have no reason to come to work.” With a wink, Tomás stood up. On his way out of her cubical, he stopped and turned back to her. “Will you be there tomorrow night?”
“Do you want me to come?”
Talk about a loaded question. With an inner groan, Tomás willed his cock to stay down. “Most definitely.”

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Kissing Joan Collins
by Lex Valentine

MLR Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60820-604-9

Logan fell in love with roommate Chase in college. Years later, when Chase puts on a dress, heels and a wig and transforms himself into Joan Collins for a party, Logan’s libido goes ballistic. Can two best friends build a life together after one night of revelations, confessions and love?

Chapter One

The restaurant had red paper and foil hearts everywhere. The sight of them made Logan grit his teeth. Nowhere in the city could you go for lunch or dinner without seeing evidence of the coming holiday. He slid into the booth across from his brother, Jeremy, and grabbed the bottle of ale that conveniently waited for him. He poured it into a glass and took a hefty swallow. When he looked up, he found his brother’s blue eyes gleaming at him.
“What? You know I hate Valentine’s Day,” he grumbled and took another drink from his glass.
“I know that you should have gotten over Marc a long ass time ago so that Valentine’s Day didn’t bother you any longer,” his brother replied in a matter-of-fact voice. “So he dumped you on Valentine’s Day. Christ, Logan. That was two years ago. Surely, you’ve fucked someone since then.”
The trouble with siblings is that they knew you too well, Logan thought sourly as he stared at his brother. Jeremy knew most of the details of what had happened between him and his last lover. After all, Jeremy had helped Logan put his life back together after his cheating, twink-loving boyfriend had bailed on Valentine’s Day with the contents of their joint savings account and all the furniture in their condo.
Three years Logan had invested in Marc and the man upped and took his money and furniture and moved to Los Angeles without a word. Oh, there had been a note about a job on a soap opera and how sorry he was to leave Logan without a stick of furniture, but he was certain it would be easier for Logan to buy more furniture than it would be for him to have to buy it once he got to L.A. And the note had briefly apologized for taking the joint bank account money too.
Yet, Marc hadn’t apologized for breaking Logan’s heart and dumping his dreams of marriage into the garbage disposal. It wasn’t until Logan had come across a photo in a soap magazine that he discovered Marc had been cheating on him with a gay soap star every time he’d gone to L.A. to audition. A fucking prissy little pretty boy with kohl rimmed eyes who looked like he stuffed the front of his skin tight jeans with a sock.
Jeremy grunted and pushed a plate of loaded potato skins at him. “What is wrong with you? Sometimes you act like no one on the planet but you has ever been cheated on and dumped.”
“Why are you picking on me?” Logan asked as he reached for an appetizer.
His brother huffed out an aggravated sigh. “Because you need someone to. You’re fucking moping again. And you’re moping over someone who’s been gone from your life for quite awhile. Someone who never even fit into your life that well to begin with!”
Logan blinked at his brother in surprise. “Why the hell would you say that? We lived together!”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” Jeremy pulled a face. “Everyone but you knew Marc was using you, Logan. He couldn’t hold down a job. He was always running off to L.A. for auditions. He’d disappear for days on end and come back with some stupid ass excuse for where he was and you swallowed his lies for three fucking years. You’ve no idea how many times I had to stop Julia from telling you the truth about him.”
“Why the hell did you stop her?” Logan shook his head in shock. “And how the hell did you stop her? ‘Cause she never breathed a word to me.”
Their sister Julia – Jeremy’s twin – was a formidable woman with a no-nonsense personality. Her brothers did their best never to do anything Julia wouldn’t like. The consequences didn’t bear thinking about. Unpleasant didn’t even cover it.
Jeremy put down his half-eaten potato skin. “It wasn’t easy. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly and you were a damned fool. Even Chase said so.”
Logan winced. How had he not known that everyone close to him had known Marc had played him? His best friend Chase Courtland hadn’t said a word even when Logan had sat and whined on Chase’s couch for twelve months after Marc had left. Logan realized then that he probably would still be whining on Chase’s couch if the guy hadn’t moved to Las Vegas for work.
In that instant, two truths dawned on him. One, he really had been moping over Marc far too long. Sure, he hadn’t been celibate the last two years, but he’d not let anyone get close to him either. And two, he missed his best friend. Chase had moved away a year ago when his company had promoted him. Logan hadn’t wanted to admit that he felt a little lost without Chase, but it was the truth. They’d been best friends since college and Logan had harbored a secret crush on Chase for all those years.  He’d never, ever act upon itthough because Chase was way out of his league.
He took another drink of his ale. “I can’t believe none of you thought to clue me in,” he grumbled. “My best friend and my siblings all know my boyfriend is cheating on me and you don’t say a word. You just let him clean me out!”
“We didn’t know he’d take your money,” Jeremy protested. “If we’d known he’d do that, Julia for sure would have said something.”
Silently, Logan acknowledged that his brother spoke the truth. He munched another potato skin and sipped his ale. It really was time that he stopped letting what Marc had done to him color his life. He used to like Valentine’s Day before he got dumped on the holiday. He liked the crazy little candies and the excuse to be romantic. Hell, he even had a Valentine’s card Chase had given him their senior year in college, one of those little fold up cards that elementary school kids gave each other. It had a cartoon of a red heart with arms and legs holding a sign that said, “Be Mine” on it. Logan had always cherished it.
“By the way, I got a call from Chase before I left to come here,” Jeremy told him. “He couldn’t reach you and figured you forgot your cell phone again. He knew I’d be on my way to meet you for our weekly lunch and I never forget my phone. He says he’s coming to town next week and he’ll be here for a couple of weeks. He’s planning to crash at your place.”
Logan bolted upright in his seat. Chase was coming? Would be there over Valentine’s Day? Was staying at his place? Dear God. How in the hell would he survive?
“Why do you look like a mule just kicked you in the face?” Jeremy’s blue eyes narrowed suspiciously.
Staring down at his ale, Logan mumbled, “Two weeks living with Chase can be daunting.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Jeremy’s voice held a note of astonishment. “Chase is the most easy going person I know. And besides, you two were roommates in college. Why the hell would it be daunting to have him in your house for two weeks when you lived together for four years and you’ve been best friends for a dozen?”
Logan raised his head and shot his brother a pleading look. “You don’t understand.”
Munching the last potato skin, Jeremy raised one brow. “You’re right. I don’t. Explain it to me.”
A heavy sigh escaped Logan. “Chase is perfect. The most perfect gay man I’ve ever met. In college, we met because I sat there dumbfounded, staring at him throughout the whole DLP event. I never heard a word of the fraternity spiel. Afterward, Chase walked up to me and offered to buy me a drink. He said he wanted to know why I’d been staring at him like a deer in headlights for half an hour.”
Jeremy rolled his eyes. “Why were you?”
“Because he’s the most perfect gay man I’ve ever met!” Logan huffed out. “Even at eighteen he was! Beautiful, poised, comfortable in his skin, comfortable with being gay, popular and…perfect!”
“Why did I never know you had it this bad for Chase all these years?” Jeremy stared at Logan in surprise.
“It’s not something I want the world to know. It’s my deep, dark secret.” Logan hunched his shoulders and glowered at his brother over the rim of his beer glass. “Now, it’s yours too. Not a word to Jules. Not a peep to anyone.”
Jeremy shook his head in amazement. “Dude, why don’t you try telling Chase how you feel?”
Panic rippled through Logan. “No fucking way! Don’t you think if Chase had been attracted to me that he would have said or done something by now? He goes after what he wants. I should know. I’ve watched him do it for twelve years.”
“Well, there could be more to Chase than what you know. Your feelings for him and keeping yourself protected from him could be skewing your perceptions,” Jeremy pointed out. “Look how Jules lied to herself for years about Ben. She didn’t think he liked her and he’d been mooning over her forever. It could be the same with you and Chase.”
“Oh, no. No way. I’m so not Chase’s type.” Logan knew this for a fact. Sure, the men Chase went for usually were tall like him, but there the resemblance ended. Chase liked bears, big guys with furry chests and thighs like logs. Logan might be six foot four, but he was built more like a quarterback than a lineman with long, lean muscles. And he didn’t have a single hair on his chest.
Jeremy snorted in disgust. “You are such a wuss, Logan. Maybe Chase goes out with those big dudes because they aren’t like you and won’t remind him of you. Maybe he wants you as much as you want him, but he’s just as afraid as you are to mess up your friendship.”
“When the hell did you become Mr. Relationship Advice? You don’t even date the same woman more than twice.”
Jeremy shot him an evil look. “I do too…when I can find one that doesn’t bore me that fast. Look, I’m just saying that maybe things aren’t what they seem with Chase and you should think about that before you dismiss the notion that Chase doesn’t think you’re attractive. Don’t be a pansy. Use the next two weeks to make him see you’re interested.”
“And get shot down?”
A napkin came sailing at him and he caught it in mid-air before it hit him in the face.
“You’re such a fucking chickenshit, Logan. If you want the guy, tell him, show him, but don’t sit on your ass and mope.” Jeremy shook at finger at him to emphasize his words then reached for the menus. “Can we order now?”
Later that day, Logan’s phone began playing Coldplay’s Fix You, his ringtone for Chase. With a suddenly shaking hand, he picked it up and answered the call.
“Hey,” he said, trying to keep his voice even.
“So you got my message from Jeremy?”
Chase’s deep voice held a note of humor that warmed Logan from the inside out. It also did seriously crazy things to his stomach which felt as if it were flopping like a fish out of water.
“Yeah. He said you’re coming to town for a couple of weeks. You’re taking vacation in February?”
“It’s not really a vacation.”
Logan heard a wry note in Chase’s response. “What’s that mean? Either you’re working or you’re on vacation.”
“Technically, I’m on vacation, but really, I’ll be spending all my time looking for a house,” Chase admitted. “I gave notice. I’m coming back to San Diego.”
Happiness streaked through Logan to the point where he almost couldn’t breathe. Quickly, he marshaled his composure and asked, “Why? I thought you loved your job.”
Logan had always admired Chase with his IT degree and his brainiac job working for a company that specialized in making software bulletproof to hackers. His own lowly degree in literature had landed him a job at a local magazine right out of college, but he’d had some luck selling his first novel — a mystery suspense with a gay cop hero — to a big New York publisher. He now wrote full-time and only did a monthly column for the magazine where he’d once been a very junior reporter. In his mind, what he did wasn’t nearly as amazing as what Chase did. 
“I love what I do, but a job is a job, Logan,” Chase said on a sigh. “And I’m tired of the way this company treats its clients since the merger that landed me out here in Vegas. And I’m tired of Vegas too. I need to be closer to my friends and family. I need to settle down.”
“It’s not that far,” Logan protested. “And I can’t believe you didn’t meet anyone out there in Sin City.”
Chase made a frustrated sound. “I met a lot of anyones, but no one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”
For a brief moment, a vision flashed into Logan’s head of himself and Chase, sitting on Chase’s couch watching a Chargers game in their cut off sweats, sharing a tub of chocolate peanut butter ice cream and screaming themselves hoarse. It was something they’d done countless times over the past twelve years. The only thing that would have made the vision better was if Chase had kissed him when the Chargers scored. Logan had always longed for that, but knew in his heart it would never happen.
When Chase had moved to Las Vegas, Logan had wondered if his life would be easier, if he’d find someone to be with and forget how much he longed for his best friend. He wondered if he’d be able to handle things better when Chase finally fell in love if they weren’t in the same city where he’d have to see Chase with his partner constantly. But he’d missed Chase fiercely when he left, to the point that he’d fallen into a depression. His siblings thought he was moping over Marc when it had really been Chase he’d been missing.
A sigh escaped him. “I know what you mean,” he muttered.
Silence met his words, an anticipatory silence as if Chase was waiting for him to say something else, something important. When Logan didn’t say anything, Chase made a huffing sound.
“So will you pick me up at the airport? And I can stay with you, right?” he asked in a businesslike tone.
“Yeah. Yeah, sure. Not a problem, buddy,” Logan hastened to reassure him.
“And you’ll look at houses with me? ‘Cause I really need your input. You know how stupid I can be when it comes to a big purchase.” Chase’s voice sounded relieved but Logan had no idea why.
“Oh, I know about you and impulse buying. Sheesh. What were you thinking when you bought that damn Bug? A six foot tall, masculine male driving a fucking powder blue Volkswagen Beetle. Way to tell the world you’re a limp-wristed pansy.” Logan shook his head in wonder even though Chase couldn’t see it.
“I am a limp-wristed pansy. Besides, the salesman was hot,” Chase replied wryly. “And he was a good fuck too.”
“Talk to the hand. I don’t wanna hear it.” Logan smiled at the wall of his office, imagining Chase grinning on the other end of the line. “You have a nice SUV that fits your long legs now and you haven’t made another big impulse buy like that since so I suppose we should forget about that one lapse.”
“Still, when I go to look at the houses the realtor lined up, I’d really like your opinion,” Chase pleaded.
“Okay.” Logan gave in with a grimace. House hunting with Chase. Yeah, that would be fun. Not. Looking at bedrooms, imagining Chase in them with another man. It would be sheer torture for Logan. He knew he’d end up imagining himself in each of the rooms with Chase. Fucking him. Sucking him. Being fucked by him.
He shook off the torturous visions that had his cock poking out the top of his shorts and obediently took down Chase’s flight information.
“And don’t forget, we have to get costumes for Jules’ Valentine’s Masquerade.”
Chase’s words wilted Logan’s erection. His sister’s parties could be fun, but a costume party on Valentine’s Day wasn’t his idea of a good time.
“I’ll just wear my everyday clothes and go as a writer,” he grumbled.
“Oh, no you don’t! It’s a themed party. A couples theme. And since you’re my date, I am going to come up with something amazing for us. It will do you good to step out of your comfort zone,” Chase told him.
Logan’s heart leaped to his throat. “Chase, you seriously do not want to go this thing as my date. Jules will probably stock the guest list with every hot gay man in San Diego. If they see you as the other half of this costume couple thing, you’ll be marking yourself as off limits to them.”
“That’s fine with me. I’m good with going as your date, Logan.”
Chase’s voice held a note of solemnity that made Logan frown. What the hell was up? Chase usually cruised the best looking guys at Julia’s parties. And Logan’s sister, knowing what type of guys Chase liked, usually had several available for him to choose from just like she kept throwing guys at him.
“Okay, fine. Whatever you want. It’s your non-vacation.”
“Damned right. Now, say goodbye, honey. I’ll see you on the tenth at the airport,” Chase said with a chuckle.
Logan stared at the phone in his hand after Chase hung up. The next two weeks would be Heaven and Hell. He had no idea how he would survive the torture but he figured it might take a lot of cold showers and a heck of a lot of masturbation to get through it. And maybe copious amounts of alcohol.

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Most Eligible Bachelor
Men of Distinction, Book 1
by Empi Baryeh

Evernight Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-927368-49-7

After her fiancé’s betrayal three years ago, magazine columnist Chantelle Sah is more than willing to put in a hard day’s work this Valentine’s Day; even if it means going on a date with gorgeous playboy tycoon, Lord McKenzie, and opening herself to an onslaught of all things love.

Chapter One

All is fair in love and war.
Sitting at her desk in the spacious office she shared with twelve others, Chantelle Sah typed out those words, the perfect title to her piece for the April edition of Odopa magazine. The cursor blinked on the laptop screen as if in celebration of another job well done. She was well within her submission deadline.
A good thing, since she still had the feature story for April on her plate—an interview with construction tycoon and notorious playboy, Lord McKenzie. She snickered at the oddity of the name. What kind of parents named their kid Lord?
Not that it was any of her business. Her job was to do the interview and write her piece. God knew she couldn’t afford to have her feature swiped from under her feet. Again.
After two years of building a solid reputation with her column, she’d pestered her editor for a chance to do a feature. He’d given her that opportunity a few months ago, and she’d blown it. Somehow her story had leaked out to their number one competitor, Celeb magazine, leaving her scrambling for a back-up. For the first time ever, Celeb had sold more copies than Odopa. And it had been her fault.
“Hey.” The voice of her colleague, Dufie Swaniker, reeled her back from her momentary drift. “Busy?”
Chantelle sat back with a sigh. “I’m about to call his Lordship.”
Dufie clutched her chest in a dramatic fashion. “Oh, I can just feel your pain.”
“I swear. Randy’s doing this just to punish me for the Celeb incident.”
“Aw, come on. He’s doing you a favor. Do you know how many writers would kill for an interview with Ghana’s most eligible bachelor?”
A snort of laughter slipped past Chantelle’s lips. “Most eligible bachelor, my ass.”
She winced. Maybe that was harsh. After all, she hadn’t even met the guy. It wasn’t exactly his fault he looked like God’s best work of creation, or that women didn’t let him forget it, even if he wanted to. She humphed. As if.
“He’s probably as shallow as he is good-looking.” Add that to his ego-boosting name, and she had one pain-in-the-ass interview on her hands.
“You really have it in for this guy, don’t you?” Dufie chuckled. “Listen, a group of us single girls are going out for a drink tonight. Do you want to go?”
Chantelle became quiet. Her gaze flickered over the cupid spin-danglers hanging from the ceiling and the floral bouquets and greeting cards adorning the rich mahogany workspaces. All around them, the office hummed with Valentine’s Day buzz and animated banter about romantic dates later in the evening. They were all reminders that she’d been happy once, hopelessly in love. How had it all gone wrong?
She shoved those thoughts aside, focusing her attention on her friend. “No, I think I’ll just go home and have a quiet evening.”
Dufie folded her arms, perching herself at the edge of the desk. “Chantelle, he’s been gone four years.”
Chantelle didn’t answer, and the ensuing silence hung between them for a beat.
“I’m sorry for bringing it up. I know what you went through losing Martin so tragically, and then to find out—” She stopped, as if realizing she’d gone off on a tangent.
“It’s all right, Dufie. You can say it.” The part that had cut her the deepest. “He was with another woman.”
She released a jagged breath, stunned to discover those words hadn’t been as hard to utter as she’d expected. The pain and anger still simmered somewhere inside, but, for the first time, she didn’t feel their weight crashing down on her. Maybe time did heal all wounds; or perhaps, she’d finally perfected her ability to numb her heart.
“Martin was a jerk for breaking your heart, but you can’t hole up at home every Valentine’s Day because of what happened.”
“That’s not what I’m doing. I’m really tired, and it’s only Wednesday. I need to unwind.”
Liar. The truth was she didn’t want to go out tonight, didn’t want to hear love songs or see happy couples. It would only fill her heart with longing for the warm embrace of a lover, the intimacy a woman shared with a man, that heated you’re-the-only-one-for-me look. Going out on Valentine’s Day would expose her to an overdose of things she couldn’t allow herself to have, because she didn’t know if she’d ever be ready to risk her heart again.
She gave herself a mental shake, bringing her mind back to the present in time to catch Dufie’s response.
“Well, you have three whole hours ‘til close of day to reconsider. Let me know if you do.”
Chantelle nodded, even though she didn’t intend to change her mind. “I will. Thanks.”
With a shrug, Dufie stood and sashayed off to her own desk.
Alone again, Chantelle decided to make the call to Lord McKenzie. But not here, she thought, watching two other colleagues gushing about an e-card one had received. Aside from wanting privacy for her call, she definitely needed to escape before she got any more unsolicited invitations to go out tonight.
Grabbing a pencil and paper, she headed out and found one of their small meeting rooms.
Just as she sat at the round table, the door opened, and her editor peered in.
“Ah, there you are,” he said, entering and shutting the door. “How are we doing with the Mckenzie story?”
Chantelle frowned. Randy usually didn’t hound his writers, especially when there was more than enough time till the submission deadline.
“I’m about to call him. That’s why I slipped in here.” She noted the somewhat anxious look on Randy’s face. “Is everything all right?”
“I just heard Celeb is also after McKenzie.”
Chantelle felt the words like a kick in the belly, and a band of tension wound tight around her chest.
Celeb had started a teaser campaign for their tenth anniversary celebrations, but no details had yet been released. It seemed they were keeping a tight lid on it; which could only imply one thing – they didn’t have a go from McKenzie, or they would have started advance publicity for the issue.
Meaning her interview had just become number one priority.
“The good news is we want him for April.” Despite her attempt at putting a positive spin on things, tension continued to coil around her insides. Celeb was known for their guerrilla tactics; if they knew about her piece, they’d move theirs up in a heartbeat.
“Get to him before Celeb does,” Randy said, and then he was gone.
She swallowed, taking in a deep breath to calm her nerves. That was a threat if she ever heard one. With her annual appraisal coming up in a few months, she couldn’t afford to lose this story. Especially not to Celeb. That would be just too embarrassing, not to mention how it would affect her prospects of a promotion in the future. She could only hope Lord McKenzie wouldn’t make her jump through hoops before granting her the interview.
She retrieved the sticky note Randy had given her earlier and unfolded it to reveal a cell phone number. She punched the number into her phone and hit send. While it rang, she idly wondered about Lord McKenzie’s middle name, and what on earth his girlfriend called him. Correction, girlfriends.
“Hello.” Lord’s voice boomed through the line, deep and husky, and an answering zing shot through her stomach.
She sat up. Okay, count that under weird.
“Hi.” She grimaced, and then amended her greeting. “Hello. Lord McKenzie?”
“The one and only, sweetie.”
She frowned. Sweetie? Oh, she was going to hate this guy after the phone call, never mind the interview.
“Hi, Lord, uh, Mr. McKenzie, my name is Chantelle Sah. I’m—”
“Hi, Chantelle. What can I do you for?”
His voice possessed a rich timbre, which coupled with his choice of words, evoked images of two bodies intertwined in passionate encounters. An unexpected thrill galloped up her spine.
Whoa, what the hell was that? Chantelle forced a smile, taking a second to compose herself. Clearly, her self-imposed celibacy could use some reinforcement.
“You could grant me an interview.” Good girl. Keep your mind on business.
“Did I win something?”
“Well, you were voted most eligible bachelor by Odopa magazine.”
He gave a soft melodious laugh. “I hate that.”
Chantelle frowned, taken aback. “You – pardon?”
“Do you know how much trouble you put me in by naming me most eligible bachelor?”
If by ‘trouble’ he meant more girls than he could bed, then yes, she knew. Well, she could only guess. “Maybe you can clarify things in the interview.”
Silence followed as if he was contemplating her offer. “Tell me, Chantelle Sah, are you single?”
“Yes, but I don’t—” Why on earth had she said yes? An embarrassing warmth crept over her cheeks. Thank goodness this conversation wasn’t face-to-face. A flustered image wouldn’t make a good first impression. She should have rehearsed this call. Now she’d given him an upper hand, no matter how remote.
“Great. Why don’t you escort me to Afrodite tonight?”
She frowned. “The nightclub?”
He chuckled. “Yes, the nightclub. I’m having a Valentine’s party there.”
“Well…”
The last thing she wanted was a date. Particularly tonight. However, if he was willing to grant her an audience, what choice did she have? She couldn’t let the opportunity slip through her fingers.
“Do you want the interview?” His matter-of-fact tone made it clear she occupied the beggar’s seat in this discussion.
“Of course, I do.”
“Excellent.” She could hear a smile in his voice. “Bring a recorder, and you can have your interview after the party. I hope you like to dance.”
“No, I don’t dance.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll teach you.”
Chantelle bit back a curse. She’d lost complete control of this conversation. Mechanically, she found herself agreeing to meet him at the party, anxious to secure her interview before Celeb beat her to it. Randy wouldn’t forgive her for that.
“Oh, by the way, if you’re available and looking, wear red. Otherwise, the dress code is white.”
With those parting words, he ended the call.
Chantelle couldn’t believe she’d allowed him to dominate the conversation. Now she’d talked herself into the Valentine’s Day pit of hell. She couldn’t decide who was to blame more: Dufie, for upsetting her by digging up the past, or Randy, for rattling her with his threat. Usually she had enough resolve to sidestep emotional traps like those, but today was Valentine’s Day, and emotionally, she was at her weakest.
****
Lord McKenzie was good at reading people, detecting subtle signals others might miss. He could even pick up sounds over a phone line, like the slight catching of Chantelle’s breath when he had
answered the call. It was all he’d needed to know his plan would work. Now all he had to do was play his cards right, and he could kill two birds with one stone.
As he placed the Blackberry on his desk, his gaze caught the latest copy of Odopa magazine, which lay next to the metallic letter-tray where he’d placed it two weeks before. He still hadn’t had time to read it.
Picking it up, he paused on ‘Contents’ long enough to find the page number for Chantelle’s piece before flipping over to it. Her photo caught his interest, as it always did. Thick shoulder-length hair framing a heart-shaped face and a smile that could steal a person’s breath away. She looked straight into the camera with confidence shining through mischievous hazel eyes. It was the kind of look that made you want to hear what she had to say. Whether on paper or in that sultry voice he’d have the pleasure of hearing again tonight.
He’d always wanted to meet her since he had first read an article of hers a couple of years back. He had every copy of Odopa for two years running because of her. So when Randy Brobbey, the editor, his old school-mate, approached him about an exclusive, he’d readily agreed.
Plus, Chantelle was the only reporter he trusted to write a piece that would begin to rectify the general perception of him the tabloids had perpetuated. A perception which, to be fair, he hadn’t done a thing to dissuade. Frankly, he’d thought it funny, bordering on ridiculous, the first time he’d earned the label of playboy tycoon.
Granted, he didn’t go out on more than a few dates with any woman, and he’d never left any of them under the illusion of their liaison being anything but temporary.
However, he didn’t play women. As far as he was concerned, something had to be fundamentally wrong with a man who pursued multiple women simultaneously. He was good to his women, and their break-ups were amicable.
At least that’s what he’d thought until one of his exes – he wasn’t even sure he could call her that, considering they’d only been together two weeks – had done an exposé for Celeb magazine, based mostly on twisted truths and partly on falsehoods. Initially, he’d been pissed. He had even considered taking his lawyer’s advice to seek legal action, but he couldn’t possibly sue every single paper for any untruths they printed about him. He’d simply decided not to dignify any of them with a response.
He’d also refused to let those stories dictate his actions, so he’d maintained his social calendar, fully expecting it to blow over.
Instead, the story had dominoed out of control with more women coming forward with their own stories, and the labeling had continued: heartbreaker, lady killer, lover and leaver, Lothario McKenzie.
It wasn’t his first experience of being called names, though. In secondary school, Lord had been a lanky boy, and being the younger brother of the most popular guy in school had just made him more visible. As the butt of jokes for anything from his name to his physique, many of which were instigated by his own brother, he’d had to develop a thick skin.
So the labels didn’t bother him, but when the public perception of him threatened his company’s chances at winning what would be their biggest project ever, he had to do something.
Enter Chantelle.
He should have been thinking about their upcoming meeting in a purely professional sense.
He wasn’t.
Staring, once again, at her picture, it was her voice he thought about. It sounded exactly the way he’d imagined, a little breathy and way too sexy for her own good. From the tone of her articles, he knew she was a strong-minded, passionate woman with a healthy dose wit. Most men would be intimidated by that combination, but he wasn’t most men.
And he wanted her.
He checked the time. His next engagement was in fifteen minutes. Good.
He’d barely settled to read the article when his phone rang.
Reluctantly, he set down the magazine. At this rate he’d never get to it, and for some reason he wanted to read it before meeting Chantelle tonight.
He hit the answer button without checking the caller ID, intending to get rid of whoever it was quickly. “Hello.”
“Hey, lover boy. Guess who’s returning to town in time for the Golden Stool Awards.”
Lord grimaced. Deconte. Another perception he needed to fix.
“You.”
Her claim-to-fame girlish laughter carried over surprisingly clearly for an international call. “Turns out we’re wrapping up earlier than planned, so I can make it. Are we still on?”
“I’m a man of my word, Deconte.”
“Yes, you are.” A brief silence followed before she added, “You realize, though, that’ll take us to ten weeks, right?”
“About that—”
She didn’t let him complete the sentence. “You want to end it.”
One thing he loved about Deconte; like him, she didn’t mince words. “This has gone on long enough, don’t you think?”
A short silence followed his question.
“Deconte?”
“You’re right.” She tried to sound upbeat, but he caught the reluctance in her voice.
“It was never supposed to go on for this long.”
“I know, but I was kind of hoping to not rake up any negative publicity before the release of my upcoming movie, and being in a stable relationship helps.” She hesitated. “If I’m correct, you need it, too.”
She was right. If McKenzie Contractors hoped to win the pitch they were participating in, he couldn’t afford a scandal either; especially since the only thing the papers seemed interested in was his love life. Much to his father’s dismay. His jaw clenched as he remembered the many conversations he’d had with his father on the issue.
“Just another two weeks ‘til my movie comes out?”
He released a breath, weighing the options.
“Wait,” Deconte said. “Have you met someone?”
Lord’s gaze darted to Chantelle’s headshot, and he smiled. “About to.”

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Valentine’s Ghost by Alice Gaines

Valentine’s Ghost
Candy Kisses (multi-author series)
by Alice Gaines

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-59596-651-3

Phyllis Green has decided that her vibrator is better than men. That is, she thinks so until a little old lady named Agnes appears on a milk carton in Phyllis’s fridge on Valentine’s Eve. Agnes claims to be Phyllis’s fairy ghostmother, and she’s going to take Phyllis to Valentine’s past, present, and future. Will one of the visions turn out to be a keeper?

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

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Scene One

[Continue Reading...]

Good Bi Valentine by Giselle Renarde

Good Bi Valentine
by Giselle Renarde

eXcessica Publishing

eBook ISBN: 9781609826017

Spend Valentine’s Day with Lexi the Sexi Superintendent and her apartment building full of very naughty tenants.

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Chapter One

[Continue Reading...]

Freedom’s Fire
Candy Kisses (multi-author series)
Freedom, Book 2.5
by Willa Okati

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-59596-668-1

It’s the Day of Lalasa, the Goddess of Love. All across the land, men and women are making love in celebration of she who gave them the gift of sexual pleasure — and that includes Courtesans.

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

Page One

Silken lived life by the rules of his profession, even if he was, as Nanashi insisted, a “free man” now. He always remained on the bottom when they fucked, but oh, by the gods and goddesses and Lalasa herself, no one could have been in a better position.
Making love was a wonderful celebration of Lalasa, Goddess of the Heart. Today was Her holy day, one which all lovers celebrated, and Silken was wholly glad to be one of those worshipping Her with such pleasure.
Lying beneath Nanashi, his own Nightwalker, Silken was nearly bent in half. His knees almost touched his ears, his legs held hard in position by hands much stronger than an ordinary human’s. Nanashi’s grip was tight enough to hurt, but the little zing of pain just made this ever more memorable.
“My Silken,” Nanashi panted. Nightwalkers did not need to breathe, but they often forgot in the heat of the moment. Silken loved hearing Nanashi lose control and fall into the human habits of gasping, groaning, moaning and hissing with pleasure. “Tight. Gods, always so tight. How do you…”
Silken hid his grin and arched up as Nanashi thrust deeper in, impaling himself on Nanashi’s cock and then bearing down to squeeze him hard. He could feel the man’s prick inside him like a rod made of the coolest ivory, some work of art that a very particular collector would prize.
Nanashi liked dirty talk, so Silken could, with relief, let himself babble as well. “Harder. Deeper. Please.”
“Always so hungry for it,” Nanashi grunted. He pressed Silken’s legs further open and back. “Your cock… such a treasure.”
“Touch me,” Silken begged. “Wrap your hand around my rod and squeeze. I burn for your touch.”

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Valentine’s Gift
Holiday Interludes, Book 3
by Marie-Nicole Ryan

eBook ISBN: 978-1-4657-7743-0

Valentine’s Day doesn’t look promising for author Nikki Devereaux. Her husband is distant. She comes to the conclusion he’s having an affair.

Max has a surprise for Nikki. Unfortunately there’s more than one which could affect the their relationship. Will Max’s secret result in a HEA or end in D-I-V-O-R-C-E?

Chapter One

Nikki stared at the laptop screen. The words danced and blurred before her teary eyes. She sniffed and rubbed away the tears. The strains of a Bach concerto played softly, while a lavender-scented candle flickered, sending its fragrance throughout the room. No matter—they weren’t doing their usual job…getting her in the zone. How the hell was she supposed to write a happy ending for Jenna and Clay when her up-until-now devoted husband was having an affair? Did she have any real proof? No. Not any that would stand up in a court of law. Not yet.
But the evidence was certainly starting to mount against him.
How could he do this? How could he give up what they had for someone else? Married ten years and he’d never given Nikki cause to believe in anything except his steadfast love.
Until now.
For two weeks he’d been distant. Forgetful. Late for dinner. Worst of all, too busy to so much as respond to her texts. Always pleading work as his excuse.
Face it. At thirty-seven, she no longer looked like the supermodel he married. Every day he was surrounded by much younger models at his agency. And in spite of being nearly fifty-two, he was as trim and handsome as the day they married. Oh, add a few lines to the corners of his eyes. While his hair had turned a silvery gray at the temples, the result was obvious. He only looked more handsome and distinguished. After all, wasn’t he was at “that age” where some men looked around for a trophy wife?
She never would’ve believed Max could be that kind of man. He wasn’t insecure about his manhood. My God. Their very private New Year’s Eve celebration on St. Croix was even more romantic and sensual than their honeymoon in Paris. He hadn’t gotten older…she held back a sob…he’d gotten better. Good grief, she was thinking in clichés. Cliché or not, it didn’t alter the fact that someone else was likely reaping the benefits of his sexual prowess.
Sniffing, she wiped the tears from her eyes. Jenna and Clay’s HEA would have to wait.
No.
She had a deadline looming, and she’d never missed one. With renewed resolution, she poised her fingers over the keyboard.
Damned if she would be less than professional just because her husband found another woman. A fling was one thing, but what if he’d fallen in love?
Her throat closed. Her eyes stung. She bit her lips to stop the trembling. She hadn’t been able to give him a child, in spite of several rounds of in vitro. Maybe he’d found someone younger. He’d always told her it didn’t matter. After all, he had Alexa by his late wife Solange. Alexa was very dear to Nikki, a rare combination of little sister and step-daughter. The twenty-three-year-old was an interior designer and most assuredly not interested in running an international modeling agency. Maybe deep down Max wanted a son to carry on the family legacy at the Devereaux Agency.
Whoa, sister. Enough of the pity party.
She swiped away the tears, reached for a tissue and blew her nose.
Dammit. Jenna and Clay deserved their HEA whether their creator’s heart was broken or not. Business was business.
~~*~~
Maxim smiled at the jeweler. The overhead lights glinted on the platinum band, but it was the heart-shaped stone that blazed as if it were lit with a thousand fires.
“The stone is ten point four carats,” the jeweler said. “Grade D—pure white. Flawless.”
“Perfect. She’ll love it.” The ring would be an elegant tribute to his love. After he was gone, it would serve as a daily reminder of how much he once loved her. At that moment his phone signaled a text. He pulled it from his jacket pocket and frowned. Nikki again. His wife was relentless. He shrugged. His reluctance to respond couldn’t be helped.
How could he keep his surprise a secret if she dogged him like one of those television private investigators? Sooner or later he would trip up and the surprise would be spoiled. Only four more days.
Unfortunately the ring wasn’t the only secret he kept from his wife. No point in worrying her at this stage. Not until the test results were back.
~~*~~
Nikki slogged through the evening, finally bringing Jenna and Clay together for their happily ever after ending. Eyes tired from staring at the computer all day, she hit print. Tomorrow she’d give the hard copy a final read-through, make the corrections and e-mail it to her long-suffering editor Geoff. It would take the entire day, but hopefully it would keep her mind off Max.
Again, Max hadn’t come home for dinner. Hadn’t called. Hadn’t responded to her texts.
She glanced at the laptop’s tool bar. One forty-five in the morning. Damn him!
From her office, two floors above, she heard the security alarm beep, then stop. So. He’d finally returned from his assignation with his mistress or whatever.
“Nikki,” he called, his sexy French accent still present after many years in America. “Are you still up?”
She rose from her office chair, walked into the hall and stopped long enough to take a deep breath. Don’t let him see how upset you are. Don’t be a jealous, insecure wife. In other words, don’t be yourself.
Leaning over the banister, she answered in her calmest tone, “Yes. I just finished for the night.”
She watched him walk out of sight toward the back of the brownstone. Flying down the two flights, she found him in the kitchen opening a bottle of water. “Are you hungry?” she asked then fumed inwardly. What was she a freaking waitress? Did he think she was running an all-night diner?
He turned and smiled. “No, I had dinner with Tom.”
“Oh.” That would be Tom Landry, a longtime friend…and attorney. Nothing unusual there, but why hadn’t he let her know by any one of the multiple means he had at his disposal?
“You look tired.” Truthfully his face was drawn and his cheeks seemed pale beneath his usual tan.
“Fashion Week is in full force,” he said with an elegant shrug.
“Oh yeah.” Had she really left that world so far behind her that she’d forgotten about Fashion Week?” She glanced down at her baby blue sweatshirt and jeans, her usual writing attire. She’d managed to keep trim, but every year it took more and more time in the gym. And that was time away from writing. And bunny slippers. On what planet were they de rigueur? God, she was a mess. No wonder he—
“What is it, Nikki?” His tone was solicitous, but his expression said bored.
“Wrong? Nothing.” She turned, heading toward the fridge. There was a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Maple Blondie in the freezer, and every second, louder and louder, it was calling her name. She reached for the door, then stopped. Why should she act like a meek doormat? Better to get her concerns out in the open.
Hands on hips, she faced her husband. “I’ve had it with your evasions. I don’t care if Fashion Week lasts all year long or goes down the tube altogether. Where were you really? And if you think I’m going to stand aside while you’re out screwing around with another woman, you’re sadly mistaken!”
He walked toward her. “Chérie…” Again his tone was soft and seductive. Yeah, seduction was his gift all right. He placed his forefinger under her chin and raised it. His eyes darkened to emerald as he gazed down at her. “I know I’ve been busy, but you have no reason to—”
Furious at his condescending tone, she shook her head. “The wife may be the last to know, but believe you me, buddy, this wife knows when something’s up with her man.” Jeez. Now she was reduced to quoting lines from one of her books. “For the last month you’ve been distant. You never tell me when you’re going to be late. You don’t even respond to my texts which would only take a second or two of your precious time. I’ve had it!” She grabbed the nearest object, a crystal vase, from the countertop and smashed it on the slate tile floor. Water sloshed and a single rose landed at her feet.
Where had the rose come from? Had he brought her a rose as a peace offering? Pathetic gesture. Typical of a husband who was screwing around.
Max’s eyes widened, as he bent to pick up the rose. “Feel better?” His gaze hooded, he handed her the single lush red blossom, its fragrance full and rich reached her nose.
“I’ve never known you to be so childish. Nikki, I love you. Only you.”
He caressed her cheek, and a flash of heat surged through her body, centering in her core. Dammit. In spite of her anger, she couldn’t deny the effect of his slightest touch. Always that way, ever since their first time, the night a terrible storm buffeted this same townhouse.
“And I love you,” she said, “but I won’t be cast aside like last year’s couture.”
“Where is all this emotion coming from, ma chère?” He sat on a stool and pulled her onto his lap. Lifting the hair off her neck, he brushed a kiss on the nape.
Feeling a hot flash of desire, and her resolve and anger getting weaker by the minute, she bolted to her feet. “It’s not me. It’s you! Don’t you listen?”
“Is your latest book going badly?” His dark brows drew together. “Is that it? You’ll work it out. You always do.”
His tone was so conciliatory. So understanding. How dare he act so unaware? So condescending? Nikki clenched her fists while the anger bubbled up from deep inside. “This isn’t about a story. This is about us. I’m losing you, and I don’t know how to fight another woman who’s younger…and fertile.”
Folding her arms over her chest, she hid her fists in her armpits and stomped over to the sink and gazed out the window into the dark walled garden. She hadn’t meant to lose her temper. Hadn’t meant to reveal her greatest vulnerability.
Max came behind her and stood, not touching her. “Ah, you think I could—or would—trade you for someone who could give me a child? You think so little of me? Of my love for you. Of what we have shared these last ten years? Not being able to have a child with you was a disappointment. I can’t deny that. But it was our disappointment. Our tragedy. Ours.” He enfolded her in his arms, pulling her close to his chest, even as she shook her head and refused to face him.
Yes, a regret. A tragedy, but not the end of the world. If his pretty speech were true, then why was he seeing someone else? No, his seeing another woman was the end of Nikki’s world.
And yet she could feel the pounding of his heart against her back. In spite of his outward calm, his heart raced, not the usual steady beat she knew so well. Just went to prove he was upset. Good. No reason he should get off scot free. After all, he was the one ruining their marriage.
She tried to choke back the sobs threatening to shake her entire body. Pulling from his arms, she said, “Enough. I’ve had more than enough.” She raced from the kitchen and headed upstairs, fully determined if anyone left the marriage it would be she.
Their bedroom was luxurious and only recently redecorated. The newly varnished hardwood floors gleamed, even though the overcast February night sky was dark. The pale yellow walls made it seem as if the sun were shining. She pulled an overnight bag from the closet, then jerked open several drawers. All she needed was enough for a couple of days. Marti would let her stay with her and Tom until Nikki found a new place. Then she would send for the rest.
She’d miss the townhouse. It had been her home even before she married Max. She’d come here as a sixteen-year-old runaway. The upper eastside brownstone had been his mother Renée’s home, and Nikki’d been in awe of the priceless French antiques and lovely décor.
Renée.
Mentor.
Friend.
And more of a mother than Nikki’s own.
She sniffed and wiped her nose. Happiness she’d known here. Love and affection. She’d become a woman here.
Yes, she’d miss it. No doubt about it.
But when all was said and done, it was just a house. Without Max’s love, it was nothing.

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Lupercalian Feast by Silvia Violet

Lupercalian Feast
Candy Kisses (multi-author series)
by Silvia Violet

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-59596-534-9

When Julianne retreats to her family’s mountain cabin to spend Valentine’s weekend alone, she never expects to meet the men of her dreams, and she certainly doesn’t expect them to be satyrs.

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

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Scene One

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