For the sake of her people, Princess Meriane must mate with an Earth man to bring more diversity into the gene pool. When she’s conceived a child, her mate will join the other males in the men’s colony. In this way, her culture has perpetuated itself in peace for generations after banning the hated Triani from their midst. Finding a proper bed partner shouldn’t be hard at Earth Con, should it?
Zarim has been sent to Earth Con to masquerade as an Earther in order to worm his way into Meriane’s bed and her heart. When he finds himself falling in love with the virginal but feisty princess, he has to discover a method to make peace between their peoples. Unfortunately, his very identity makes him an outcast on her planet.
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2016 Alice Gaines
The server — bartender, she should use the correct words — stood not far away talking to a customer. When he spotted her, he headed in her direction and wiped the surface in front of her with a cloth.
“What can I get you?” he said.
She stared at all the bottles. With such a selection, how could she make up her mind? She could point, but that would mark her as someone who didn’t know her way around Earth or its customs. She pondered the dilemma for long seconds, but no solution came to her.
“How about a glass of white wine?” the bartender said.
She waved a hand. “Far too safe.”
The man stared at her. “Okay.”
“But I’d better not have any mixed drinks.”
“Then, you’ll want something straight,” he said.
Straight as opposed to crooked? Now she stared at him.
“Neat,” he supplied.
“Oh, yes. Something neat.” She needn’t have anything sloppy, after all.
“I have some very old cognac,” he said. “A little on the expensive side.”
“Expense is no problem.” She reached into the pocket of her uniform and placed the plastic card on the bar.
“Cognac it is, then.” He produced an oddly shaped glass from under the bar and set it in front of her. It stood on a base, had a wide bowl at the bottom, and tapered to a smaller opening. Then he grabbed a bottle from behind him and poured a bit of liquor.
When she lifted the glass and swallowed the cognac, it burned down the back of her throat. The bartender didn’t say anything as she coughed and sputtered. He didn’t have to. Clearly, she’d taken the drink the wrong way.
“People usually sip cognac,” he said after a bit.
So when he poured her a bit more, she only took a small amount. That made a lot more sense because now she could appreciate all the different flavors, and the shape of the glass allowed her sense of smell to pick up the perfume of the cognac. Quite complex and elegant. No wonder Earthers paid a great deal for this liquor. It was really quite remarkable.
“I’ll leave the bottle,” the bartender said as he smiled and walked away to take care of another customer.
Meriane poured herself a bit more and swiveled the stool so she could check out the rest of the bar.
A few more people had arrived, some in costume and others in more subdued clothing. She should interact with a few of them and get her bearings socially. Certainly an intoxicant like liquor should make people friendly.
As she sipped her drink, a sense of rightness settled into her chest. Everything was quite lovely here, wasn’t it? Comforting and welcoming. The barstool was comfortable, the bartender genial, and the cognac sublime. She could relax and have some fun here as she searched for a mate. That in itself would provide plenty of stimulation for the senses.
Yes, it would.
Toward the back in a dim corner, a man sat studying her. He had an intriguing look to him with his eyes largely hidden beneath bushy brows. Intricate tattoos over his cheeks and to his temples gave him a dangerous appearance, and his clothing — all black and tight fitting — fit the impression. One could easily picture him pulling a lethal knife from his boot and slashing an enemy to ribbons.
What outrageous thoughts. Those things didn’t happen in civilized societies. But on a more primitive planet he could best an opponent and physically take the woman as a prize. And then carry her off to his den or ship to…
She couldn’t help but giggle, even while a surge of energy went through her. Awareness. Of him. Somehow, he could reach out to her and make her heart beat a little faster even though they hadn’t touched or even spoken. Was this the power of attraction the elders had told her about? She shouldn’t choose a mate based on his looks but rather on his genes. She was seeking sperm for her whole race, after all.
He beckoned a waitress with the crook of one finger. The woman went to him, of course. Once summoned by this man, a female responded. How could she not?
This time a shiver went down Meriane’s spine, and she turned away, lest she show too much interest. She sipped more of her cognac. It steadied her, blurring the edges of her vision. Warmth settled over her like a blanket. She had the situation in hand, and all would be well. In a little while, she’d use the plastic card to get a room, and she’d take a nap.
Just as she was pouring herself more cognac… how much had she had, anyway? The bartender approached and gave her her card. “The gentleman in the back is paying for you.”
“He is?” Why should he do that? She had plenty of funds. She glanced over her shoulder to look for him, but he’d left his table.
When she turned back, he was standing beside her, and she jumped, nearly toppling herself from her stool.
He reached out and caught her with his arm around her waist. “Easy there, space commander.”
She giggled again and straightened herself on the stool. Then she found herself staring up into eyes so green they could have been jewels. The dark eyebrows she’d noticed before and thick lashes almost obscured them, and the whole seemed to make the tattoos at his temples seem to move. But then, not everything was stable at the moment.
“You paid for my cognac,” she said. “Why?”
“It’s common courtesy for a man to buy a lady’s drink.”
He leaned an elbow on the bar. “You’re not from here, are you?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
USA Today bestselling author Alice Gaines has published several sensuous and erotic works. She prefers stories that stretch the imagination, highlighting the power of love and sex. Alice has a Ph.D. in psychology from U. C. Berkeley and lives in Oakland, California, with her collection of orchids and her pet corn snake, Casper.
Miznari Anderson just discovered her life isn’t as perfect as she imagined. Her boyfriend Mike has the hots for her best friend, Aaron, and now a blue fairy with a broken wing just dropped into her lap. Then the twelve-inch blue fairy turns out to be on the run from an evil pirate who wants to steal his sperm, have his baby, and make herself the next ruler of his planet.
Kell may be blue, and he does have wings, but he’s not a fairy. He’s the prince of his planet. He’s also a shapeshiting warrior who has the hots for Miznari. Now Kell has to defeat the evil Stinza, find a way to neutralize her mind altering drugs, and figure out how to keep Miznari.
Easy enough for a determined hunk of a winged blue warrior like Kell. All he needs to keep Miznari happy? Lots of love and sex.
Publisher’s Note: Miznari was first published many years ago in a multi-author anthology.
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2015 Stephanie Burke
The elevator doors opened and Miz was greeted by a group of people, all in strange otherworldly costumes, giggling and having the time of their lives. She pushed her way in and stood in front of the doors, slamming her finger on the lobby button, trying her best to ignore the sounds of the shiny happy people.
Why the hell were they so happy? There was a bug of some kind, with three beer bellies and a beard that was longer than the hair on her head. There was the shortest Amazon she had ever seen, wielding a plastic sword and seeming to possess the world in her hands. Then there was this horse-looking thing that she couldn’t tell — was it a man or a woman?
But they were all happy, their radiance contrasting starkly with the emptiness that was eating its way into her soul.
The doors could not have opened up faster. As soon as they began to slide to the sides, she exploded like a bullet from a gun. She made it three feet before she stopped again. All around her, the lobby had been transformed into something that looked like Mars. There were space creatures everywhere, alien and warriors, models and writers, reporters and curious readers.
The old Miznari would have jumped at the chance to join the fun, to be a part of the shining glittering throng. But with her awakened eyes, all she saw was the plastic facade and the nothingness it offered her. Her face dead, she turned and made her way to the exit, pushing past a group of fairies and vampires on their way inside.
She needed air. She couldn’t breathe. But there were more of them in the parking lots. People everywhere, sucking up the air, mocking her with their happiness, their smiling faces and their lives filled with purpose, even if that purpose was just to enjoy themselves for the night.
It was too much. She couldn’t take it. Turning, she made her way to the rear of the building, to the Spectacular Mountain Range, and cold empty fields that backed the new hotel. Breaking into a run, she felt the tears flow freely as she scrambled over scrub grass and rocks, as she sought to escape, to make the pain go away.
She would run. She would run until nothing could find her, nothing could hurt her, until her mind went cold. She would run until her legs fell off.
She ran, her feet pounding on the hard-packed earth, her legs jarring with each punishing stride, her breath rasping in her body, her tears flowing freely. She ran. She ran until she was suddenly airborne.
A frightened shriek sprang past her lips as her arms windmilled to keep her balance. But she was flying. Up, up, up. Then down, down, down. And the hard earth was waiting there to catch her fall. She landed with an audible oomph that tore the air from her lungs and sent her skidding across the rocky ground.
“Damn,” Miz grunted as she slid across the earth on her chest feeling every hard rock and soft lump of flesh…
“Oh God,” she gasped as she struggled to her feet, looking around for what she fell on. Were there skunks in Virginia? Was it a cat? It was too little for a cat. A rat? Eww. Rabies? Was it a snake or a… ?
It glowed. Miz rubbed her eyes in disbelief as she stared down at the crumpled bit of glowing flesh that lay in the indentation her body made as it skidded across the fresh black mountain soil.
It was no more than a foot long, and it glowed faintly blue. There was a set of wings with strange black… tattoos, but one wing lay at an odd angle. It was covered in long bluish-white hair that shifted as its breaths moved its chest frantically in and out.
“Miz,” she gasped to herself as she stared in disbelief. “You landed on Tinkerbelle.” Bending over, she tentatively reached out her hands to touch it, jerking back with a moan as it gave a lurch and tried to sit up.
“Don’t move…” She trailed off, not knowing what to call it. “Don’t move. I have to check you for… damage?”
The thing shuddered, then turned its head in her direction.
Miz was caught by a pair of almost milky-white blue eyes. It shook its head, and as she watched, it sat fully up, wincing, as its movements pulled at the injured wing on its back. It cradled one arm as if it hurt, as it seemed to gather its bearings. It glared at her, she knew, but as it used one hand to toss its hair behind its back, she noticed that it was a he. It was wearing a loincloth of some rough-looking material and he was not happy.
“Oh geez,” Miz moaned as she practically danced from foot to foot, wanting to get close to help it, but not sure if she should. Finally reaching a decision, she reached down to touch it, and watched as it began to more than glow. The thing lit up like a drunken Southern belle at a Rough Riders convention.
Was it going to hurt her, seek its revenge, cast some spell?
Whatever it was doing, it glared up at her as it began to glow brighter and brighter. Then in a flash, it seemed to explode, blinding Miz as she desperately tried to see what was going on. As her sight cleared, she noticed that he now lay prone on the ground. Not moving, not glowing.
“I killed Tinkerbelle,” Miz groaned as she stood looking down at the small fairy. “No, I killed Tinkerbelle’s brother.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie is a USA Today Best Selling, multi published, multi award-winning author, Master Costumer, handicapped, wife and mother of two.
From sex-shifting, shape-shifting dragons to undersea worlds, sexually confused elemental Fey and homo-erotic mysteries, all the way to pastel-challenged urban sprites, Stephanie has done it all, and hopes to do more.
Stephanie is an orator on her favorite subjects of writing and world-building, a sometime teacher when you feed her enough tea and donuts, an anime nut, a costumer, and a frequent guest of various sci-fi and writing cons where she can be found leading panel discussions or researching varied legends and theories to improve her writing skills.
Stephanie is known for her love of the outrageous, strong female characters, believable worlds, male characters filled with depth, and multi-cultural stories that make the reader sit up and take notice.
Doctor. Hero. Alien.
Time is running out. Victoria Mathers has tried everything. Her daughter has a rare cancer that hasn’t responded to any of the treatments human medicine has to offer. If she can’t convince the sexy alien doctor to help her, she knows she’ll watch her child die. Victoria will do anything to save her daughter, even if it means bonding with an alien for the rest of her life.
Per Earth’s rules, Xonos isn’t allowed to treat humans, unless they’re one of the new human-alien pairs. However, looking at the small human child who is obviously suffering tears at his heart. It’s been his life’s work to save people, and he isn’t sure he can stand by and watch an innocent child die when he might be able to help.
What starts as a simple arrangement quickly turns into something more as Xonos and Victoria grow closer. It isn’t long before she realizes that she yearns for his touch and she wants so much more from him than he may be willing to give. Love was never mentioned when they struck their bargain, but now she’ll settle for nothing less.
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2015 Jessica Coulter Smith
Xonos felt his frustration building. The entire situation was a mess, but it was out of his hands. When he’d asked to transfer to Earth, he hadn’t realized his healing abilities would be restricted. Earth’s government had been adamant that he only treat Terran patients. Terran. What a laugh. His planet had chosen the name to make them seem more human and less of a threat. His planet’s true name was Zelthrane-3, but once lifeforms similar to his people had been discovered on Earth, a rather primitive planet, they had studied every aspect of Earth and its inhabitants. It was discovered through extensive research that Earth women would be viable for carrying Zelthranite babies, so his planet’s ruling council had then changed Zelthrane-3 to Terran, in the hope it would put the humans at ease when contact was made.
“Please,” the woman begged. “None of the treatments available on Earth have been able to cure her, or even slow down the progress of the disease. I know you can help her.” Xonos looked at the small child clutched in her arms. The little girl was deathly pale, as if she’d succumb to her disease at any moment. Her hair was thin and brittle, her body nearly skeletal. Xonos’ heart ached when he looked at her, knowing it was within his power to ease her suffering even if he couldn’t save her, yet being unable to because of diplomatic bullshit. It wasn’t the first time Victoria Mathers had come to plead for his help, and definitely not the first time he’d noticed her, but it was the first time she’d brought her daughter. Eyes that should have been full of life stared at him with a tired acceptance that no child should feel.
“I wish I could help you, truly I do, but your government is adamant that I not treat human patients. If she was half-Terran, or even related to one of the human-Terran pairs, then I could do something.”
“I applied to be a bride in the exchange program, but they turned me down.” Victoria licked her lips and shifted the frail body in her arms. “They claimed none of your warriors would want to be saddled with a sick child.”
“You need to understand that I can’t cure everything. One of our captains recently lost his mate. Her cancer had spread too rapidly. As sick as your daughter is, it’s possible I wouldn’t be able to help her. Ease her suffering, yes. Cure her, I’m not certain. So if you tried to enter the bride program only as a way to help her, it might have been in vain. Then you would have been stuck on Terran with a mate you never wanted. That wouldn’t be fair to you or the warrior who chose you.”
Tears pooled in her eyes, but she blinked them back. He could tell she wanted to argue; it was shown in the stubborn tilt of her chin. Xonos truly wished he could give her good news. It had to break her heart, watching her child suffer, slowly getting worse, inching closer and closer to death’s door. But unless Victoria convinced a Terran male to buck the authority of the council and bond with her, she was out of options. He supposed he could understand Earth’s reasoning behind their decision. If he helped this child, thousands of humans would abandon their doctors to seek his aid. At the same time, however, he couldn’t understand a world that would doom a child to die when help was available.
Victoria’s breasts rose and fell in an enticing way when she huffed out a breath. She really was a rather attractive woman, despite the worry and fear in her eyes. She’d make some warrior a fine mate, if she could get someone to agree to bond with her. Despite the fact Xonos had to control his body every time she was near, he wasn’t in the market for a mate. Not even one as pretty as Victoria.
“I believe you have an Earth expression,” he said. “My hands are tied. Unless you mate with a Terran male, there isn’t anything I can do for you.”
“But no one would want me.” Her lips trembled. “I have precious little time. Even if I were to apply for the program again, the time it would take…” She shook her head.
“Then you need to circumvent the program.” Xonos crossed his arms. “I truly want to help your daughter and you, but we’re at an impasse. You have to mate with a Terran for me to give you any assistance, so I would suggest that you dress in something other than that baggy outfit and try to snag yourself a warrior. We can be a compassionate lot, so your sick daughter may actually be to your advantage.”
Her eyes sparked and her nostrils flared. Through pinched lips she hissed at him. “Do you honestly think I would just whore myself out?”
He shrugged. “I wouldn’t think of it in those terms. The warrior would gain a mate and future children; you would gain the life of your daughter. Think of it as an agreement instead of a marriage if you wish. I’ve studied Earth enough to know that humans have married for less.”
Like for sex. You could mate with her for sex. He gave himself a mental slap. He was not mating with her, for sex or otherwise. Xonos had seen the horror Reyvor went through when he lost his mate, and he wasn’t in a hurry to put himself in that position. Not even for someone as tempting as Victoria. Not even if he had started dreaming of her and her creamy skin practically every night.
“You’re an insensitive asshole.” She cuddled her daughter closer.
Xonos sighed. “Give me some time. I might be able to find someone for you. There’s a warrior here, Thrace, who has been eagerly seeking a mate. He may not mind that you already have a child and might want a mate bad enough to fight our government to keep you. But as I said, there’s a chance I won’t be able to save her.”
Victoria smoothed her daughter’s hair. “But you could take the pain away?”
He nodded. “That much I’m sure I could do.”
“Then it will be worth it. I would give everything I have, even myself, just to give her a moment of peace.” Tears streaked her cheeks. “She’s the most precious thing in the world to me, and I would gladly die in her place if I could.”
Xonos hoped it wouldn’t come to that, that he could cure her daughter if given the chance and with a bit of help from Syl, but he didn’t want to give her false hope. It would be cruel to promise her something he might not be able to deliver.
It pricked his conscience that she might not be a good mate if her daughter died, and he wouldn’t wish that on any warrior, but he didn’t know how else to help her. He’d thought, at one time, that he wanted a mate. Someone to share his life with, to love. And then he’d watched Reyvor’s mate die. He didn’t want to go through that pain, not now, not ever.
He watched the woman turn and walk away, her shoulders hunched as if she felt the weight of the world pressing down on her, and perhaps she did. He wasn’t certain he could help her, but Thrace was a good place to start…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child writing her first stories in crayon. Today she’s a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and she firmly believes that love will find you at the right time, even if Mr. Right is literally out of this world.
When Krampus’ gingerbread men bring him a man caught in one of his nets, all thoughts of eating him fly from his mind. Krampus learns his guest is Cupid, the Incarnation of Love. With Cupid missing from the real world all love is at stake of evaporating. But Krampus intends to claim Cupid for his own — even if it kills him.
Praise for Claiming Cupid
“If you like stories set in imaginary worlds populated by well known mythological figures who act in somewhat unexpected ways, if you want to know how Krampus and Cupid get on when they meet, and if you’re looking for an entertaining, naughty read with a few surprises, then you might like this short story.”— Serena Yates, Rainbow Book Reviews
“If you are looking for a quick, sexy story that includes mythological creatures as well as domination and submission, then you may have just found your next read… a quick, fast paced short story filled with sexy scenes and even a few surprises.”— Danielle, Love Bytes Book Reviews
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Crymsyn Hart is a National Bestselling author of over eighty paranormal romance and horror novels. Her experiences as a psychic and ghostly encounters have given her a lot of material to use in her books. Vampires, grim reapers, shifters, and other paranormal creatures tend to end up in her books no matter how hard she tries to keep them away.
She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her hubby and her three dogs. If she’s not writing, she’s curled up with the dogs watching a good horror movie or off with friends.
Valentina Cupid has always despised her name and the stupid holiday that goes with it. Starting over in the small town of Blossom Creek, she’s hoping for a miracle. Down to her last few dollars, she has no choice but to sleep in the car with her two kids, hoping to blend in with the other cars parked at Gleason Auto. But one sexy mechanic definitely notices.
Jesse Jameson is no one’s idea of a knight in shining armor. With a checkered past and a trail of broken hearts, he’s not anyone’s ideal. Still, when he sees the single mom sleeping in her car, he knows he can’t just walk away. But Jesse underestimates the temptation that is Valentina Cupid, and one kiss ignites a passion that won’t be denied. He’s going to prove to Valentina he’s not like her loser exes, and he’s going to give her a Valentine’s Day to remember.
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2018 Paige Warren
“You want a table or a booth?” the waitress asked.
Max tugged on her hand. “Can we have a booth, Momma?”
The waitress nodded. “I know just the spot.”
She grabbed a menu and three rolls of silverware before leading the way to a booth in the window. Max and Katy both needed booster seats, but once they were settled, Valentina slid into the other side. She was so damn tired the words on the menu ran together and turned into black fuzzy blotches, but she fought to focus and remain upright. Her kids needed her.
She read off the menu choices they could afford and let Max pick his meal. Katy hardly ever ate anything but mashed potatoes and mac ‘n cheese. As much as Valentina wanted to order the biggest burger with the largest order of fries on the menu, she settled for a cup of soup and some crackers.
After she placed their order, the waitress returned with some paper and crayons for the kids.
“Thought they might want something to do while you wait for your food,” the woman said. “I’m Barb. Just holler if you need anything.”
“Thank you,” Valentina said with a tired smile.
When their food was delivered, Barb set down a large salad with chunks of grilled chicken and a side of ranch. Valentina opened her mouth to protest that she hadn’t ordered it when the woman held up a hand.
“You need more than soup,” Barb said. “Won’t do your kids any good if you pass out from hunger.”
Valentina’s cheeks flushed.
“You sticking around town or passing through?” Barb asked.
“I thought we’d stay for a while.”
“Diner’s closing in an hour. Why don’t you wait until the customers are gone, and if you’d like, you can help me close up. I’ll pay you cash.”
Valentina’s face burned with embarrassment as she nodded in agreement. Was it noticeable that they were on their last leg? She hated accepting charity, but if Barb would let her work for the salad and a few extra dollars to get them by a little longer, she couldn’t say no. They ate their food and the kids colored a little more while they waited for the diner to empty. When the last customer had walked out, Barb locked the door and flipped the sign to Closed.
“You ever worked in a diner before?” Barb asked.
Barb snorted. “None of that ma’am nonsense. Just call me Barb. I’m going to let you refill the napkins and condiments at each table. Then you can sweep and mop the floor. I’ll be in the kitchen helping Hank prep for tomorrow. Come on. I’ll show you where everything is.”
It took almost two hours for Valentina to get everything done, and her kids had fallen asleep at the table by the time she was finished. Barb insisted on paying her twenty dollars in addition to the salad she’d already provided, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Valentina pocketed the money and carried her kids to the car one at a time, fastening them back into their car seats. She had no idea where they’d go for the night, but fatigue pulled at her.
Valentina drove until she found a darkened parking lot by a large building marked Gleason Auto. It seemed to be closed for the night, and she hoped to blend in with the other cars in the lot waiting for repairs. She turned off her headlights and shut off the engine. She’d have to wake in an hour and run it again to warm the car back up, but she didn’t have enough gas to leave it running all night.
She reclined her seat a little and closed her eyes, after making sure the doors were all locked and the windows all the way up. Her body felt like lead weights were pulling her down and her eyes burned from exhaustion. She knew pushing herself so hard wasn’t good for the baby, but she had little choice right now. Barb hadn’t mentioned a permanent position tonight, which meant Valentina would have to spend some of her money on a local paper and see if any jobs were posted. It was that or walk up and down the main strip checking with every store along the way. Not that she had any idea what she’d do with her kids while she worked. She couldn’t afford daycare without a job, but she couldn’t work without someone to watch the kids.
Valentina let sleep pull her down, sleeping harder than she had in days. A slight chill in the air woke her a while later. Valentina looked into the backseat, and her heart lurched when she saw how flushed Katy looked. Her daughter had kicked off her blanket at some point and shivered in her car seat. Max still dozed, but looked fine. Valentina got out of the car and opened the back door. Katy was burning with fever, but Max felt cool to the touch. Her heart ached as she realized her heavy sleeping had likely gotten her child sick, since she hadn’t been awake to turn the heat back on, all because she couldn’t afford a motel room.
Booted steps came toward her and she spun to face the person, her hand at her throat as her heart raced. A man, who didn’t look much older than her twenty-two years had a scowl on his face as he approached. Despite the cold February air, his short sleeve shirt displayed the tattoos on his arms. The man drew nearer and brushed his long hair out of his face.
“This is private property,” he said, his deep voice sending shivers down her spine.
Not another bad boy, Valentina. Get a grip. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize we were trespassing.”
“We?” he asked as he came to a stop in front of her. The man peered around her shoulder and his eyes widened a little when he saw her kids in the backseat. “Holy shit. Did you sleep in your car last night?”
Valentina’s cheeks burned. “Yes.”
“Bring the kids inside and warm them up,” he said, turning to head toward Gleason Auto. “I have some hot chocolate they can drink.”
She bit her lip. “Is there a free clinic in town?”
He paused and turned to face her again. “A free clinic?”
“My daughter. I think she’s sick.”
The man came closer again, peering into the backseat. “Blossom Creek doesn’t have a free clinic. Do you not have insurance?”
“No, we don’t.”
“Old Doc Johnson owes me a favor. Bring your kids inside and I’ll have him stop by on his way to his office this morning. The three of you can get warm while you wait.”
“I don’t even know you. Why are you helping us?” Valentina asked.
“Let’s just say I have a soft spot for kids. Why isn’t your husband here helping you?”
“I’m not married,” she said softly.
“And their dad?”
“Max’s dad left two years ago. Katy’s dad took off right after I told him I was pregnant.”
“Two different dads?” he asked, his eyebrows lifted.
Valentina placed a hand on her stomach. “Three.”
He studied her a moment and seemed to come to some sort of decision. “You need help getting the kids inside?”
“You’re still going to help us?”
“Figure someone should. Sounds like you’re the type to attract assholes.”
Valentina bit her lip. He wasn’t wrong.
“My name’s Jesse Jameson, almost like the outlaw, and I promise you and the kids are safe with me.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paige Warren is a contemporary romance author who believes in happily-ever-after for everyone. Sexy, steamy stories about mobsters, cowboys, inked bad boys, and interracial couples… sometimes with a bit of kink. If you like alpha heroes and strong heroines, then you’re in the right place! No matter the odds, in a Paige Warren book, true love conquers all. Watch for Paige’s new MC Romance series Reckless Kings MC with International Bestselling Author Harley Wylde.
When her husband, children, and furbabies aren’t demanding her attention, she’s typically either writing or reading. Paige enjoys reading a variety of genres from young adult books, to general fiction, and of course, romances! But when it comes to movies, she’s a big-time horror fan — especially the ‘80s slasher flicks. That being said, ghostly movies are her favorite regardless of when they were made, like Rose Red or The Amityville Horror.
Third Century Rome
Believing single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, Emperor Claudius II outlaws marriage for his soldiers. A priest by the name of Valentine defies Claudius, performing marriages in secret for young lovers. For his bravery and his belief in love, Valentine, the priest, is put to death… but the legend of St. Valentine lives on.
North Dakota, 1918
St. Valentine. Dead since the 3rd century, he’s never experienced the love he’s made possible for so many young couples. God takes pity on Valentine and sends him to earth, and a woman who needs him, a woman he has to rescue before her grief and despair lead her to ending her own life.
No longer a saint, or a legend, he’s just a man. Can the man do what the legend could not?
My Valentine. A picture only Kate Douglas could paint.
All rights reserved.
An Authorized ExcerptNorth Dakota, 1918
One minute he’d been enjoying the sweet song of angels and a bit of celestial cheer, the next he was slogging through a freezing blizzard on the back of a shivering white stallion.
Val glanced skyward and shook his head. What he’d really like to do was shake his fist at the Boss, but he figured He wouldn’t take that sort of thing lightly.
Especially now. Not if what Val suspected had actually happened.
Be careful what you wish for…
He’d wished for love, for the chance to understand and experience the emotion, the passion and the physical, sensual side of love. Val never dreamed it would actually happen.
For whatever reason, his Lord had seen fit to release him from his vows. Val accepted the knowledge with a soul-deep certainty that left him feeling strangely empty. To have existed so long with a finite set of rules — now to have those rules changed without warning or preparation… He sent a silent word of thanks skyward, careful to hide whatever misgivings he felt.
Why now? Now, when he was finally getting used to the lifestyle, the perfect weather, the sameness of days, always clear and warm, the sense of “otherworldliness” one felt when no longer attached to a temporal existence.
An icy blast hit him. Val shivered and hunched his shoulders against the wind. Couldn’t get more temporal than this. Val hadn’t been cold since, oh, around the third century. There was that icy dungeon just before Claudius had him put to death. Water running down the walls, cold blasts of wind through a metal grating. Not a particularly pleasant spot to spend his final days, though he didn’t actually remember dying.
Waking up surrounded by angels… now that was memorable.
Angels who were a lot warmer than he was about now. Val glanced skyward and shivered again, almost missing the camaraderie, the fellowship and friendships he’d found over the millennia.
Powerful winds blew ice crystals horizontal to the ground. If it weren’t so blasted cold, he might appreciate the beauty, the power of a storm like this, but whatever clothing he was wearing, though it was definitely better than a linen tunic, wasn’t sufficient to keep him warm.
Val glanced down at his legs, covered in rough blue britches. The fabric was stiff, like the cloth used for sails on fishing boats. His coat was more familiar, made of some type of hide with fur around the collar. Wool gloves protected his hands, leather boots covered his feet and lower legs. A woolen scarf wrapped over and around his oddly shaped, wide-brimmed hat. It appeared to serve the double purpose of holding the hat down on his head and the blowing snow out of his collar.
Whatever the purpose, it wasn’t enough to keep him warm, and from the look of the storm in the fading light of afternoon, he’d better find shelter, and fast.
He gave the horse his head, figuring at least one of them would know which way to go. Val certainly didn’t have a clue. He had no idea when this was, much less where. At least he had some idea of why, though the details weren’t clear.
A blast of icy air practically lifted him off the saddle. He clamped his knees down tight and leaned close against the beast’s neck.
A few moments later, the horse snorted and jerked to a stop. Val raised his head. A small building with a porch across the front stood directly in front of him, barely visible through the swirling snow. White drifts blocked the door, but at least the cabin would offer shelter.
Slowly, stiffly, Val crawled off the horse. Grabbing the halter, he led the animal around behind the cabin in search of shelter. He found a small lean-to, pulled the saddle off the large beast and led him into a protected stall out of the wind. From the musty odor, this had obviously been home quite recently to at least a cow or two.
Val couldn’t find any grain, but he did find a few flakes of hay. It wasn’t much, but should keep the horse happy for now. Val broke the ice on the water trough. The stallion snorted, as if just being out of the frigid blast of wind had raised his spirits.
Val spotted a heavy striped blanket neatly folded over a sawhorse, grabbed it, and covered the horse’s back. The animal turned his head and whinnied, as if in appreciation.
Rubbing his hands together, Val walked once more into the howling blizzard and around to the front porch. The cabin appeared empty, cold and dark without fire or light, but with any luck he might find enough dry wood inside to start a fire. Then and only then would there be a chance to figure out what he’d been sent back for. Freeing a man of his vows, returning him to the mortal plane… neither was an act lightly taken.
Pondering the potential challenges facing him, Val headed up the stairs to the front door.
He almost fell over the woman’s body. Buried in drifted snow, she slumped against the porch railing, as cold and still as an ice sculpture. Her hands were frozen, clasped around a thin shawl that barely covered her shoulders. Her eyes were closed, her dark hair stiff with sleet.
Heart suddenly heavy in his chest, Val carefully lifted the woman in his arms and carried her inside the tiny cabin. He couldn’t tell if she still lived, saw no sign of pulse or breath, but finally he understood.
This fragile being was the reason he’d been yanked back to life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Douglas really likes to write hot. Known for her sexy Wolf Tales series that began here at Changeling Press, she’s known for pushing the envelope on those larger than life stories. She’s a mom, a grandmother and a wife of over 40 years to a really terrific guy who puts up with all her “writer-related” idiosyncrasies. Still, her fantasy world keeps her smiling as she creates off-the-wall stories with sexy heroes and kick-ass heroines.
Be sure and “like” Kate at www.facebook.com/katedouglas.authorpage and follow her on Twitter @wolftales. You can read excerpts of all of Kate’s books at www.katedouglas.com. Just click on the erotic romance link, and if you’re interested in winning the occasional free book, join her newsletter at www.groups.yahoo.com/group/KateDouglas.