Saturday, January 31, 2015

Available for Pre-Order: Dewdrops and Decadence A Collection of Erotic Poetry

Dewdrops and Decadence
A Collection of Erotic Poetry
Roxanne Rhoads

Print Length: 55 pages

Publisher: Bewitching Books 

Release date: March 3, 2015


This arousing collection of erotic poetry will delight your senses and stimulate your mind. 

Ranging from soft and sensual to explicitly erotic, lovers of erotica are sure to find something to tempt and titillate.

Flip through the pages with a lover or enjoy them alone as naughty bedtime reading.

Available at Amazon

A poem from the collection:

In the Clearing

Chasing butterflies I found you in the clearing
bathed in sunlight soft and sweet
Willow wisp and grass lithe
your body was the rock that grounded me

Butterflies fluttered by
as I tasted your desire
wild on the air, thick as honey
I kissed your lips to ease your need

Nature stood sentinel around us
testament to beauty, love, creation
Keeper of primordial secrets
Guard of our private playground

Butterfly kisses and tongue tickling caresses
love made blissful in sunlight glow
More than just a roll in the hay
a union of souls in dewy morning grass

You touched my soul as I held your heart
Butterfly whimsy and childish delight,
laughter and love sounds broke the silence of the wood
Bare sweat and dew drenched limbs lay tangled in sun glow

Breathless bodies eventually parted
Full of joy and love soaked energy
Drunk off passion play
Not quite ready to face a busy day

Never wanting to leave
but there was work to do
I followed the butterflies
but they always led me back to you

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Witch Within by Jacqueline Paige

The Witch Within
Ancestor’s Enchantment Trilogy
Jacqueline Paige

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Eternal Press

Date of Publication: December 1 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62929-185-7

Number of pages: 165
Word Count: 59,000

Cover Artist: Amanda Kelsey

Book Description:

Magic locked up long ago for the safety of all awakens in modern society where bad intentions are on every street corner.

Three women unaware of the power their ancestors passed onto them is the only thing that stands between the dark magic that lays in wait.

Available at Amazon

The sun was long past setting as the six gathered deep in the darkness and began moving through the trees.  Their only light was that of the luminescent moon at its fullest.  The youngest of the six led the way, she may have been the least in years, yet the others knew she was the one that held all the strength. 
In her wake, each would turn and check their trail to be certain no one followed.  If their parents were ever to know, it would be the end of them all.  The power and gifts they held secret had been discovered quite by accident a few years before, since that time they had honed their great skills of true magic.
Eden quickly caught up to her sister at the front, a sister of choice and not from blood.  Ducking her head, she whispered as close to Alana’s ear as she possibly could.  “Do you know of the reason for the summoning?”
Alana shook her pitch black hair back from her face.  “I do not.”  She turned towards the lake and increased the pace of her step.  Peering back over her shoulder, she gauged the others closeness and then spoke as soft as a breeze.  “A dark feeling has filled me for many days past, I fear it is not for good reasons we gather on this autumnal night.”  She patted the bundle she carried from cord at her side.  “We must be wary and prepared.”
Eden inhaled sharply and dropped back a pace.  “I shall caution Bridget.”  Alana only lifted her face to the moons rays and continued on.  Turning to look quickly at the three that walked a ways behind, heads close together, she turned and gave Bridget a stare to bring her to hasten her movement forward.  As soon as she was within hearing, she whispered to the ground.  “Alana has dark feelings – yet again.”
Bridget sighed quite loudly.  “I have been a feared of such since two days past, she walks about with that crease on her brow and my guts supposed it were to be brusquely that our scheme was at hand.”
Eden nodded, but daren’t say more for fear of the others overhearing.
Once reaching the lake, the six spread out the distance between their bodies, in habit a circle was formed.  Alana set her bundle upon the ground at her feet and turned to the eldest among them.  “Having done as you stated, not one of us have uttered a query for this assembly you have called, Ella.”  She looked around at her sisters of her choosing to see their rapt attention on the one she spoke to.  “Do end our curiosity, sister and share the meaning if you please.”  She kept her focus on the crimson haired sister, watching for a sign she prayed would not be revealed. Ella flipped her long locks back as she let her eyes move over each girl present.  The last she looked upon was Alana, as she knew to be common with her.
“It is my right to call each of you – as only sisters of our circle apt to do.”  Lenora and Jane were the only of the five that agreed readily.  “The year is now one thousand, six hundred eighty- five. It has been five years past, since the night we found our way to one another, as we are.  I have a wish to ensure the threats to our very lives are secure and to behold a power that we six are deserving of.”
Alana shook her head when Eden inhaled raggedly.  “Sister, Ella, have we not spoke of this to the point of tiring? The hunts have ceased, no more shall be accused nor sought.  We are here, each one of us safe.”  She chanced a glance at the others and found the group was as she knew it to be, split in two groups of three.  “Not once during the trials and fearsome times did even one come to think of us as a sort of betrayer to the word...” 
“Alana, child, you are what now? Ten and three years?”  Ella smiled in that maddening way she had.  “I, having five further years on yours can feel it in my bones, these outrageous happenings are not at a cease and we are very much in need of ensuring it does not come to pass again.”
Alana dropped her head down and let her black hair cover her face whilst she sought out the vibrations of the others dear to her heart.  Lifting her face she beheld the moon hanging over the lake.  “We are but children, Ella.  As god fearing as any that step in the arch of our church, we have nothing to fear.”
“We have everything to fear!”  Ella’s voice rose through the silence of the night.  “I shall be a betrothed woman in short time and then what will become of me when my husband discovers what I am?”
Eden replied before Alana had the chance.  “I am certain William will be ignorant in your habits, sister.  How would he ever find a clue unless you told him you are a witch of magicks.”
Lenora stepped forward and shook her head.  “In less than the years we have been together, each of us shall be wives – then what shall we ever do?”
“I agree.”  Jane said quietly.  “In one year’s time I too will be set to marry.”
Bridget lifted her head and glared at Jane.  “Whoever shall marry you shall get what he has coming to him.”
Tiring from the words they had all said to her many times before, Alana raised her hands in the air and sent a gust of wind through the circle.  “I cannot bear to hear this again, sisters.”  She turned and watched as Ella and Jane nodded to one another.  “I am not taking part in your scheme of evil darkness.”
Ella snorted in an unpleasant manner.  “You would break your word to each present here?”
Alana took a step back, bringing her close to the water’s edge.  “I would not.”  Her eyes quickly met that of Eden and Bridget before she finished.  “I would choose to revoke all I that I have been given than do unjust things to others that cannot defend themselves from your dark ways.”
Lenora gasped.  “You would not...”
Alana raised her hands.  “I would exactly.”
Jane stepped in front of Ella.  “For you to revoke your gifts, would you not be obliged to take all of ours?”
Alana shrugged.  “Mayhap it will take all no one can be certain.”
Ella shoved Jane out of her way.  “You would not dare to try, young sister...”
Eden bent down at Alana’s feet and opened the bundle.  Alana opened her hands in front of her and bit her lip to stop from hissing as her sister placed a small score on each of her palms.  Keeping her focus on the three opposed, she prayed they could not see.  When Eden straightened and walked past Bridget, she knew the task was complete.
Alana clasped a hand each of Eden and Bridget and raised their arms; the blood from the shallow scores upon their hands mixed and brought to her a heat of power that only she could have born.
“Sister, Eden, stop them!”  Lenora cried.
Alana closed her eyes and felt the winds circle her with recognition.  Beneath her feet the ground quivered, waiting for her to speak to it.  As she opened her eyes and focused on the three sisters she did not now touch, she felt the spray from the water at her back cover her in small droplets.  “I cannot be part of something that goes against all that I feel to be right, sisters.”  Tilting her head she looked at Jane.  “Join us in protecting what is just.”
Jane’s eyes widened and for the briefness of a heartbeat, Alana thought there was a small chance she might agree, but she shook her head and stepped beside Ella.  Woefulness filled her insides, even though she knew the outcome days before, her heart begged her to attempt. “Lenora?”  Once more she waited even though she knew another sister was lost to her.  Lenora backed further away and looked at the sand under her feet. “So shall it be,” Alana whispered.
Inhaling slowly she raised her eyes to the moon whose rays bound her to the sky above.  “I call ...”
“Wait!”  Ella’s voice was filled with panic.  “We can speak more of this and draw an end that pleases each one of us together.”
The fear jolted into her from the hands she held.  Without looking at Ella, she sought to feel what was in her soul.  Pain enveloped her heart as the truth coursed into her.  “Why speak of falseness, eldest sister?  I know what lurks in your heart and I must protect the innocent you wish to cause sufferance to.”
Raising her hands higher she spoke to the night. “I call upon the night and all of her energy, come to me and abet me with this, my last task.”  The winds swirled coloured leaves around her, she smiled and let the magic wash over, feeling the warm welcome of it just once more.  Lightening streaked through the clear sky above, she inhaled the power. “I seek to bind this three and three from doing any harm.”  A circle of flames burst around them, flicking as long tongues of three feet high, blocking the outside from entering and the six from leaving.  “I send for safe keeping all that we have, the gifts that you gave, to our furthest ancestors to keep within until there is a dire need of them.”
A stinging traveled along her flesh as the energies gathered, waiting for her leave go of.  “When a time comes that this three and three be together once more, awaken and come again...”  So much power was collecting inside her she had no choice but to cry a single tear, knowing that this was the last time she would feel it in this body.  “Collect inside the generations and carry us forward to a time long from now.”  She could hear crying, but was not to take a chance to see which sister or sisters it came from. “Select the one that bear good will and hold an honest heart and make her remember.  Remember the times of this six and behold the gifts we pass to her.”  A clap of thunder sounded across the sky, its cry echoing over the lake until it faded back into the night.  “I thank you from deep within and now set you free...” 
A strong tunnel of wind gust through the circle, stealing any more she had to speak.  Opening her eyes wider she watched as each sister dropped to the ground, leaving her the last one standing.  A burning washed over her, pulling at her until she thought she could bear it no longer, and then it was gone. Emptiness filled her as the flames swallowed into the ground.  Behind her the water was now lying calmly as it had been when they had arrived. The earth was now silent, as it had been. The rays of the moon seemed no more than a light in the darkness, without power and purpose.
A draining feeling passed through her, causing her legs to weaken under her until she dropped onto the sand and panted to seek to breathe once again.  Looking around, the others didn’t move, they just lay where they had fallen without a word.  When she glanced upon Ella, the hatred was clearly on her face.
“I will have vengeance.”  Ella hissed at her.
Alana rolled onto her back and looked at the sky, feeling like nothing more than a child again.  “You may seek to strive for such.”  She answered softly.  “My will shall fall to my kin far from now and we shall see if you find triumph.”  To feel nothing but commonness once more—it was wondrous to feel.

Was she floating?  See seemed weightless enough to be.  Squeezing her eyes shut, she counted to ten before opening them again.
Hovering above a lake, she could see her own shadow cast on the water from the moon above her.
A dream, it had to be a dream.  The last time she checked none of her life skills involved floating.
Glancing around, she didn’t recognize the area below her. People were walking through trees, or maybe those were just children...
Where was she?
A void feeling came over her, like she was fading...
What was that ringing noise?
Bolting up, Teegan looked around to realize she was in her own living room. 

About the Author:

Jacqueline Paige lives in Ontario in a small town that's part of the popular Georgian Triangle area.  No one has ever heard of Stayner, so she usually tells people she lives near Collingwood and no, she doesn't ski at Blue Mountain or at all, in fact she's not even fond of snow.

She began her writing career in 2006 and since her first published works in 2009 she hasn't stopped.  Jacqueline describes her writing as all things paranormal, which she has proven is her niche with stories of witches, ghosts, physics and shifters now on the shelves.

When Jacqueline isn't working at her reality job or lost in her writing she spends time with her five children, most of whom are finally able to look after her instead of the other way around.  Together they do random road trips, that usually end up with them lost,  shopping trips where they push every button in the toy aisle, hiking when there's enough time to escape and bizarre things like creating new daring recipes in the kitchen. She's a grandmother to five (so far) and looks forward to corrupting many more in the years to come.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Guest Blog and Kindle Voyage Giveaway with J Tullos Hennig

Green Man

It has been chiselled into cathedral columns and sewn into lavish tapestries.  It has been carved into wooden lintels and misericords, sculpted in stone to protect castle gatehouses, has grinned or scowled at us from walkways and garden gates.  Both male and female—and some in-between—sometimes cheerful, sometimes grotesque... always evocative.

It has become known as the Green Man.

But the Green Man is more than these numerous and specific representations.  He is of us.  From Neolithic times to the Victorian era, crowned with horns or tressed with foliage, the Green Man has been there, peeking from the corners of our subconscious.  For all the arguments about what He is and isn’t, one thing is clear: He characterises an oft-fierce and irrepressible life, symbolises our own longings for a verdant, natural world.  He is life, and nature.

It is an incarnation that Robin Hood was born to take on.

Indeed, there are many theories (and theories of this particular archer abound, believe me!) that wild Robin was indeed born from tree spirits and misted glens.  That he dances a spiral over the fecund earth, the lord of misrule who dares the wilderness both as the aspect of the Winter’s Holly King and the Summer’s Oak King, evenly matched and embattled.

In my own particular re-imagining within the Books of the Wode, Robyn Hode is wildly akin to that shadowy, leaf-crowned and horned figure, a trickster quite at home in the deeps of primordial forest.  He is avatar to the natural forces, a wild god taking aim at fate with the push of a longbow and the release of an arrow dressed with peacock tufts—the symbol of an ever-watchful goddess.  He has his men beside him, and his Maiden—only this time the Queen of the Shire Wode is his sister, with her own fate and strength and choices.  Robyn instead finds his heart in another direction, and with a theological twist only a stroppy dissident could come up with, Robyn swears he’ll defend the sacred space of the Shire Wode to his last breath—if his god will let him be a lover, not a fighter, to the nobleman’s son who is fated to wear the Oak crown to Robyn’s Holly, as his archenemy.  Seeking change, before the old magics are forever strangled silent.

But then, the Green Man breeds change, makes fertile the imagination and oversees the seasonal cycles, guards with fierce leers the gates to both heaven and hell—so, too, is Robyn a symbol of fertile growth.  He disappears into the safe and treacherous haven of the forest—a trickster, sure—but overall, a survivor.  When we most long for a way back, a reconnection with the power of nature, there he is, with two upthrust fingers for the powers that be.  Sedition, and significance.  Green is the colour of balance, so it is no coincidence that the Green Man—or His best-loved avatar, Robyn Hood—would supply both haven and havoc in a world wildly out of kilter.

He always reappears, just when we need him most.

Book One of The Wode
J Tullos Hennig

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Robin Hood

Publisher: DSP Publications

Date of Publication: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-63216-437-7 Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-63216-438-4 eBook

Number of pages:  350
Word Count: 151,000
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu

Book Description:

The Hooded One.  The one to breathe the dark and light and dusk between....

When an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also glimpses its future.  A peasant from Loxley will wear the Hood and, with his sister, command a last, desperate bastion of Old Religion against New.  Yet a devout nobleman's son could well be their destruction—Gamelyn Boundys, whom Rob and Marion have befriended.  Such acquaintance challenges both duty and destiny. The old druid warns that Rob and Gamelyn will be cast as sworn enemies, locked in timeless and symbolic struggle for the greenwode's Maiden.

Instead, a defiant Rob dares his Horned God to reinterpret the ancient rites, allow Rob to take Gamelyn as lover instead of rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s Church, sodomy is unthinkable... and the old pagan magics are an evil that must be vanquished.

Available at Amazon     BN    Kobo    iTunes    Audible   OmniLit

Readers love

Winner in the 2013 Rainbow Awards: First: Best LGBT Novel, Best B/T & LGBT Debut, Best B/T & LGBT Fantasy, Paranormal Romance & Sci-fi / Futuristic

“I loved this story for taking a legend and giving it a twist … I have to recommend this to those who love folklore, mystical legends, historicals, fighting for a love against insurmountable odds, danger, betrayal and an ending that is devastating while giving you faint hope.”
—MM Good Book Reviews

“This is a gutsy twist on a major classic that works.”
—Gerry Bernie

“There is so much good about this book I'm not even sure where to start. … This one is a highly recommended read. Just read it. It blew me away.”
—Better Read Than Dead

“Greenwode is legend. It is epic storytelling. It is fantasy and history. It is religion and spirituality. It is a world in which faith is a weapon, faith is a tool, faith is the enemy, and faith is the last vestige of hope… when there seems nothing left to hope for. If you love epic fantasy, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.”
—The Novel Approach

“I can assure you the weaving of themes and legends in GREENWODE is mesmerizing. … This novel will always be the one against which I will judge all the others.”
—Christopher Hawthorne Moss

“…an interesting, spellbinding read.”
—Rainbow Book Reviews

“I highly recommend this any fan of an epic fantasy with historical settings. It is long but worth it. I can’t wait for the second book to come out.”
—Hearts on Fire Reviews

a Prelude b

In the Deeps of the Shire Wode
1175 ACE

Wind and water, stone and tree….”
Firelight flickered against rock, as if in time to the low melody. Both light and song wavered as they traveled into the depths. Not that the voice was not strong or the fire not warm—the caverns were that deep.
An old man, lean and crystal-eyed, stared into the fire. Every now and then the fire would jerk and start, as if some giant had spat upon it, but the cause was natural enough. Thunder rumbled in the forest above, sending puffs of wind through unknown entrances into the caverns. The old man could hear the stones embedded in the earth above him creak, almost in reply; he tuned his low voice as if in reverent time. Those rocks that formed the circle above him might be a tiny imitation of the ring stones on the plain of Salisbury far to the south, but no less eternal in their observance of the powers that he, too, had served for….
How long had it been? Stubble had scarce grown on his now leathern cheeks when he’d first taken up the mantle of the god. He had put aside his real name when, on a midsummer night not long after King Stephen had taken up another, more politic authority, a peasant gathering had crowned a young man with antlers and cried the god’s name:
Cernunnos. Horned One. Green-Father. Hunter.
Stephen had relinquished his crown to his nephew Henry even as Cernun had groomed his own successor, moving from Hunter to Hermit’s guise. It was the way of things. Shaking a twisted lock of silver from his eyes, Cernun grumbled to himself again, stirring at the fire with a long stick. He was old, but not infirm. The Sight was still strong in him, his body still hale and sound of limb; the forces of nature had rewarded him well for his service. Most men who had seen over fifty winters were bent and aged, senile from hard, miserable lives. The blood of the Barrow-lines ran strong. And he had been lucky.
He could only wish his successor such fortune.
The fire sparked. Cernun leaned closer, scrutinizing the writhing embers, watched them swell then flare white, reaching for the low limestone overhead. Yes? he asked, silent beneath the swell of power. You speak, Lord?
Images assaulted him. He saw what had been: the midsummer madness of dancing and singing, the rejoicing in rites, which, for a short, sweet time, took his people from the harsh reality of toil and hunger. Saw Horned Lord take Lady, clothed in Hunter and Maiden, horns and moon-crown.
Saw children born, Beltain-gotten, and the sweet green Wode prosper. As above, so below.
The fire damped, the vision strayed. Cernun spoke a low, guttural word, grabbed a handful of herbs from the cauldron at his side, and threw them onto the fire. The past was a given—to what future led this vision?
Scented smoke rose. It blossomed, damp cavern mists and heat writhing, tearing into wisps then coalescing.
A scream. The Mother’s face reflecting flames and terror, the woods aflame, and the Horned One on the Hunt. Downed in snow, horns broken, wolves with blooded jaws snapping and snarling….
“No!” Cernun hissed. He caught his breath as more shapes danced in the smoke, dissolving then coalescing….
A cowled figure draws a freakishly long bow, the arrow’s flight swift and sure, to split another arrow already in the black… a sister of the White Christ bends over a kneeling soldier… clad in the red and white of the Temple, he raises his fair head to let her make the sign of the Horns upon his brow… a booted foot stomps the long bow, shattering it….
Cernun blinked, shook his head. It made no sense, none of it. Smoke hissed, twisted into a pair of cowled figures locked in struggle….
One slams the other up against a tree, yanks his head back, and brings a drawn sword against the exposed artery, only to have the sword fall from his hands, to stagger back as if he has seen some demon… or ghost….
Another twist of smoke, and abruptly the flames flared high, gusting char against the old man’s face. He didn’t move, in fact bent forward.
A figure, crouching naked in the fire, a silhouette amidst burning ruins. The fire rises again, a spiral of sound and wind, and the figure rises with it, backlit, stepping barefoot over the coals and extending pale arms as if clothing itself in fire.
And, suddenly, it is. Flames whip, clad and cowl the figure in brilliant scarlet that ebbs to black… then gray-ash rags. Winter blows through, snow hissing in the coals and covering the figure. It walks back and forth, and in its footsteps ice crystals form. Green, sharp-edged leaves unfurl amidst the winter ice, revealing blood-red berries in their depths. The figure turns to him, eyes glowing within its cowl, still pacing, like to a wild animal caged.
Wolf, it says, but does not speak. Witch. Hawk.
Wind gusted through the cavern in a bank of noise and cold. The fire pitched down from copper into indigo, sparks flying, smoke rising.
Cernun did not bother to stir it. Instead he closed his eyes, tried to make sense of what he had seen.
Wolf. The most skilled of hunters, yet hunted throughout the land by another, even more treacherous predator. Or… outlaws were known as wolfshead. Perhaps? But not likely. Cernun would tolerate no outlaw within his covenant.
Witch. What the White Christ’s followers called those who followed the old ways of the heath and Barrow-lines, a calling turned to hatred by outside forces, even as the Romans had done with another naming: Pagani.
Hawk. Proud birds, another hunter/predator forced to perform beneath nobleman’s rule, barely tamed and kept from free flight, jessed, hooded.
“Hooded.” It came out in a soft rush of breath. Not only the hawk but wolf and witch—predators cornered—the struggling figures, the flame-gotten one… all cowled. By fire, by ash, by blood. “Great Lord who lies incarnate in us. Has it come to this?”
He stared at the dying embers, not wanting to believe. But the image persisted.
The one to walk all worlds, to breathe the fates of dark and light and dusk between, male and female; the Arrow of the goddess and the Horns of the god. The champion of the old ways—and the beginning of their ending.
The Hooded One.

About the Author:

J Tullos Hennig has maintained a few professions over a lifetime--artist, dancer, equestrian--but never successfully managed to not be a writer. Ever. Since living on an island in Washington State merely encourages--nay, guarantees--already rampant hermetic and artistic tendencies, particularly in winter, Jen has become reconciled to never escaping this lifelong affliction. Comparisons have also been made to a bridge troll, one hopefully emulating the one under Fremont Bridge: moderately tolerant, but. You know. Bridge troll.

Jen is blessed with an understanding spouse, kids, and grandkids, as well as alternately plagued and blessed with a small herd of horses and a teenaged borzoi who alternates leaping over the furniture with lounging on it.

And, for the entirety of a lifetime, Jen has been possessed by a press gang of invisible ‘friends’ who Will. Not. S.T.F.U.

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Spotlight and Giveaway Toxic Love by Jax Garren

Toxic Love
Jax Garren

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Publisher: SilkWords

Date of Publication:  July 12, 2014

ISBN: 9781941847015

Number of pages: 187
Word Count:  47,670
Cover Artist: Indie Designz

Book Description: 

Future Las Vegas is as crazy as ever — even after toxic gas bombs have poisoned the air and moved the party  inside.

Hired as an entertainer, Chloe moves from the heartland with big dreams of fame and fortune...until an accident exposes her to the gas, and it's discovered she's genetically immune to the poison.

Now Vegas wants her enrolled in a dating program created to encourage immune breeding.

Will she opt out and return to the rich ex she left behind? Stay and play for the chance at fame on the stage? Or can a gorgeous scientist who's also immune tempt her heart?

Toxic Freefall

Chloe Parikh had never been to Las Vegas. She’d never been skydiving. Hell, she’d never been outdoors, surrounded by the Tox75 poison with only a thin layer of plastic between her and near-instant death. Today was a lot of firsts.
Her heart rate picked up as the clock counted down to the moment the door would open and she’d launch into the sky. Adrenaline made her blood pump and her head rush with a thrill like she’d never experienced in staid Oklahoma City. She was going to like living in Vegas.
No. She was going to love it.
Her tandem master slapped her on the butt as he headed for the closed door of the airplane. “You’ll be fine, sweet-cheeks.”
She stiffened, ready to snap at him. He’d never lay a hand on one of the eight rich kids paying top dollar for this jump. Yeah, she was an entertainer and this trip was paid for by her new employer, but she wasn’t that kind of entertainer.
One look at his amused grin and she bit back the words. Jeremiah, her favorite “brother” and fellow military orphan at the city home she’d grown up in had always said, “Better than fear, anger is.” He might’ve missed Yoda’s point, but pissing her off had been his remedy whenever she got scared, and damn if it hadn’t worked every time. The memory softened her ire.
Maybe Butt Slap the Tandem Man was trying to calm her nerves. Since she was about to have a near-death experience with his genitals strapped to her ass, she decided to go with that theory. No snappy retort then, just an exaggerated eye roll and the pointy finger of warning.
He laughed, friendly-like, before securing his face shield. “Suit up. Time to fly.”
Fear made her palms sweat as she secured her helmet to her vac suit. Once again, she checked the seals running down her front and at her collar. Less than a second of exposure and the only one who could save her was Jesus. With her history she wasn't too sure he'd bother.
She checked the seals a third time.
The crew chief unlocked the cabin door, and her tension ratcheted up, fear competing with exhilaration. Here was another almost-first, one that felt more fundamental than the others, more primal and significant, even if few Americans ever did experience it. She hadn’t been outside in twenty years, since she was three and the air was clean—or at least clean-ish. She barely remembered the feeling.
“Everyone secure?” the crew chief called. Tandem Man rechecked her helmet and suit, gave a thumbs up, and hooked the first line of his harness to hers.
The crew chief released the pressure gauge, counted to three, and opened the door to the blazing sunrise over Las Vegas. The engine’s hum became a storm of noise. Although the wind didn't whip into the cabin like Chloe had expected, the toxic air was still present, mingling with theirs, testing each vac suit for entry. But nobody keeled over, and her shoulders relaxed.
A whistling whine put her back on alert. It was probably normal, nothing to worry about. But Tandem Man motioned forward—hastily? Was he nervous, too? He shouldn't be nervous—and Chloe ambled towards the hatch, each step a clumsy misfire with the man at her back.
The whistling got louder. The closest jumper to the door yanked the straps of his partner's harness, tightening them in careless hurry then flung himself out backward in a fashion not approved by the morning's flying class. A lone jumper launched next, head first.
There was something to worry about.
“Move!” TandemMan yelled as he practically scooped Chloe up.
The whistling stopped.
Light burst outside the door. The cabin shook, and a deafening boom reverberated. She and TandemMan pitched forward, slamming headfirst into the hull and bouncing to the deck. The impact knocked the wind out of her, and she gasped for air, thanking the heavens the helmet had saved her brains.
She tried to stand, but TandemMan wasn't making it easy. “Are you all right?” She shouted over the chaos. “What should I do?”
He scrambled drunkenly—he must've rammed his head a good one—and together they lurched to standing.
“Count to twenty and pull.” He grabbed her hand and clasped it at his back. “Here.”
“Why are you telling me this?” she yelled, praying it was highly unnecessary information but keeping a death grip on the parachute's ripcord anyway.
He stumbled them toward the hatch, and she craned her neck around to see him.
The blood drained from her face and her skin went cold. “Oh my God. Your mask...” is cracked. If poisoned air wasn't seeping in now, it would be any moment. He needed a seal immediately, or he was a dead man. If he wasn’t already.
He pitched them out the door.
Another missile exploded behind the plane, and she screamed in fear and frustration. A shower of sparks sizzled around them as they dove head first away from the dying aircraft.
She started counting.
Wind attacked her with more freezing force than she'd expected as they plummeted toward the bonanza of color and texture that was her new home. “Eighteen, seventeen…”
The flopping weight of her tandem master drifted them horizontally. He wasn’t moving, at least not under his own control. “Thirteen, twelve…”
The plane, away to her left now, barreled toward the mountains as more jumpers flung themselves out in a colorful trail of human confetti. Panic dug at her insides as she fell with a possibly dead man on her back and explosives in the air. “Seven, six…”
War was all she had ever known—her parents had died in it and Jeremiah had enlisted to join it—but there had to be a better way to live than lethal air and sporadic bombings. Maybe she'd ditch performing and marry Eli, her rich ex, if he promised to take her to the Montana Rockies where there were still clean, cold villages high in the mountains.
No, Eli was a non-negotiable. She could steal a boat and smuggle herself to South America, land of clear skies and infinite beauty. Land of plenty and promise. Her grandparents were from India; she could pass for Latino. Or she could in the movies, anyway.
“One.” She pulled the ripcord and the parachute blasted open, yanking their free-fall to a lazy ride. But now she had to do something more complicated than count. They were supposed to end up on The Strip where suited camera crews were waiting to film her arrival. That sort of precision landing might be fine for an expert, but Chloe had a bad feeling her parachute was about to impale itself on the Vegas version of the Eiffel Tower. Sure, she’d paid attention in class but had assumed TandemMan would be doing the tricky parts.
She sucked in a cold breath, steeling herself for the next few minutes. She'd assumed wrong. Alive or dead—God, somehow may he be alive—TandemMan was out for the landing. Whatever happened next was up to her.
A jerk on the toggles turned them away from Paris and toward the Bellagio. A minute later her feet barely crested a railing. TandemMan’s hooked then released. They skimmed the water in front of the erupting fountain to the bombastic notes of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries.”
She yanked again on the toggles, trying to do the flaring thing the instructors had talked about. They slowed, and for a moment Chloe walked on water as the fountain cascaded and sang.
The parachute deflated, and they sank. Hoping she correctly remembered which side had the release and which had the spare chute, she pulled on the right of TandemMan's harness. To her relief, the parachute floated away.
Stretching down, the balls of her feet touched the sloped fountain floor. Half sliding, half-dog-paddling, she strained to keep her partner's head above water—not that it would do any good, but she wasn't ready to accept that yet—as she made a grueling path toward the bridge and the horde of cameras and HazMat suits swarming the street.
Welcome to Las Vegas.

About the Author:

Jax Garren, author of hot, urban paranormal romance series Austin Immortals and The Tales of the Underlight, is descended from Valkyries and Vikings (she’s part Swedish) but was raised a small town girl in the Texas Hill Country. She graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in Latin and stayed in Austin to teach high school. During her eight years in public education she was in a riot, broke up fights, had cops storm her class with guns drawn… and met the most amazing young people who taught her more about life and hope than she taught them about any school subject.

Jax believes in heroes and happily-ever-afters. She’s been married thirteen years to a handsome engineer who is saving the world through clean energy technology. They recently became foster parents, leading to more adventures than she can legally discuss. Jax’s fictional heroine is the tough but feminine Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jax blames that movie for her lifelong dream of traveling to Nepal. Though Jax has yet to experience Himalayan monasteries and drink yak butter tea—important components of a Nepalese excursion—she loves to travel. Her favorite adventure so far found her in Arctic Norway where she saw the Northern Lights and ate the world’s most delicious slice of apple cake.

Jax can be found at, at or on Twitter as @JCGarren. She loves meeting new people, so online or in person, feel free to give her a Viking “Hail!”


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