Category Archives: Belaurient Publishing

Mid Week Tease: Uncertainty Principle #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with the opening to Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2). It picks up a few weeks after the end of Degree of Resistance, and follows Evie and Ben as they try to adjust to life with each other outside the Pacifica Protectorate. Needless to say, their relationship is about to get complicated, particularly when Ben starts having flashbacks to his time as a brainwashed Osiris Corps agent. This teaser isn’t very sexy, but don’t worry — hot times are acomin’, yes they are!

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

The office wasn’t as nearly luxurious as visitors expected it to be. The walls were smooth white plaster interspersed with hand-width bands of stone ranging from olive to gold, all of it native to the West Coast. A few tasteful pieces of art had been placed here and there, lit by overhead LED spotlights; a Hopi Kachina figure, a shimmering beaded fiber sculpture from Keller’s Siren period, Bernini’s marble bust of Medusa. The floor was a prosaic pine that had been stripped and sealed with a polish that gave it nigh-diamond hardness. It looked more like the office of a corporation CFO, perhaps, or a Shareholder who had reached the age where she didn’t need to show off her wealth anymore.

Which was why John Ballardie liked it. Staying one step ahead of people’s expectations was not only something he enjoyed, but helped to keep both his political allies and enemies on their toes.

What he didn’t enjoy was having those same tables turned on him. “What do you mean, Song Lin’s body is still missing?” he asked.

His personal assistant Eve stood in front of his desk, unflappable in her custom business wear and red-framed SmartSpex. “Her body was never found after the attack on Gold Rush. It was assumed to have been,” she paused, making a polite face, “rendered unrecoverable. The investigation was closed when Song Dae-Jung had his sister declared officially dead. The park officials were eager to repair the damage and reopen, so they went along with Mr. Song’s wishes.”

This wasn’t the first time Song Dae-Jung had tried to sneak a private interest under the board’s nose. He’d thought the man had learned his lesson by now, but apparently that wasn’t the case. “Have the investigation re-opened. It doesn’t stop until they find a body. In fact, have them keep an eye out for her bodyguard and PA as well. I don’t care what Song says—I doubt his sister’s dead. She’s too damn smart for that.”

Eve’s SmartSpex flickered as the thin layer coating the inside of the lenses tracked her eye movements and translated them into computer commands. “There’s another issue, sir. Benjamin Drake is also missing.”

He felt himself grow still. “From where?”

“Gold Rush, sir.”

Annoyance and suspicion flash-heated into rage. “What in God’s name was he doing there?”

“There was a request to have Osiris personnel assigned to Gold Rush as security,” his PA said. “Mainly due to the number of Shareholders and other notables scheduled to attend the anniversary celebration. General Camden approved it and Drake was sent to the park. According to park records Drake’s chancellor was upgraded with a new persona after his transfer and he was assigned a street character. Tracking records show that he was in the Palais Hotel at the time of the attack, but his body hasn’t been located in the debris, either.”

A missing Shareholder who was sister to one of the most powerful board members in Pacifica was bad enough. To have Drake go missing from the same location at the same time—the situation stank to high heaven. “I want Camden here today,” Ballardie ground out. “I don’t care where she is or what she’s doing. She’s in my office before midnight.”

Eve blinked and her SmartSpex lightened momentarily. “She’s at the Eugene Toyshop. I’ll summon her immediately.”

He dismissed the PA with a curt nod. Alone, he stood and went to the only window in the office, a western exposure where he could see the bulk of downtown Redding at a glance. 30 stories below, the wide blue band of the Sacramento River was barely visible against the thick greenery of the parks on either bank of the river. If the city wasn’t covered by a dome he’d be able to see the mountains of the Shasta Cascade off to the west from this elevation.

He didn’t need this now, not with Alhambra so close to completion. Camden would simply have to turn the protectorate upside down and shake until his missing citizens—or their bodies—dropped out.

****

Flashes in the dark. The yellow cruciate rose of old-fashioned automatic weapons, and the bluish glow of modern bolt rifles. One side was better equipped than the other, but it didn’t mean the weaker side was going to give up.

Not until the last one of them was dead. And they would die. Those were his orders, and he would follow them.

He walked through the darkness, night goggles betraying the sullen silhouettes of the desert landscape. On either side were other soldiers in identical armor, his siblings in arms. They were there to serve the good of the Pacifica Protectorate. And the good of the protectorate called for the destruction of this enemy camp.

A form darted across his field of vision. It didn’t meet the parameters of those who must be protected. Enemy. He brought his rifle up and fired. The form toppled over, momentum giving it one last step on its path before gravity tumbled it to the ground.

He marched to the now-still body, finger on the rifle’s trigger in case it was a trick. But his aim had been good. A black, burnt hole the size of a golf ball adorned the ragged jacket on the enemy’s back between the shoulder blades.

He kicked the body over. Now-blind eyes stared at the night sky. He estimated the enemy’s age to be between twelve and fourteen. Parameters satisfied, he rejoined the other soldiers on their advance through the camp as they continued to kill the enemy. Those were his orders. He would follow them—

Ben jerked up, a muffled scream rasping in his throat. Cold sweat covered the parts of his body that could still produce perspiration, and his chest ached from the rapid thudding beat  of his heart.

Fuck. It was a dream. Just a bad dream.

He lay back down and closed his eyes, rubbing at the sockets until they made soft clicking noises. It didn’t help. In his mind he could still see the dead boy sprawled in the rocky dust, face turned to the heavens as if expecting a savior to arrive.

But there hadn’t been a savior. Only the Osiris Corps following orders.


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Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! I’m back, and this week I’m teasing you with some more from the third installment in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl. Some background: Jack Hawthorne is a ex-SEAL and wolf shifter who shows up in Esposito County looking for work at his former commanding officer’s ski lodge. He never expects to find his mate there as well — except that Kate Chandler is a cougar shifter, can’t smell due to a childhood accident (and thus can’t recognize Jack as her mate), and is the daughter of Jack’s former commander. As I like to say, hijinks ensue!

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

“I like you, Jack. And I’d like to go to bed with you. I hope that doesn’t shock you.”

He choked back a laugh. If his dick got any harder it was going to break the zipper on his jeans. “It doesn’t.”

She leaned forward, celadon eyes glowing in the soft light from the fireplace. “And I get the impression you want the same thing.”

Oh, Christ yes. His wolf raised its muzzle and howled. It took every ounce of self-control he had to stay on his side of the couch. “Yeah, I do,” he said roughly.

Her eyes narrowed. “Then why do you keep holding me off? Did my dad say something to you?”

And there it was. He let out a long breath through his nose, struggling to keep his desire on a tight leash. “Pretty much. You know what he’s like. You’re a no-fly zone as far as he’s concerned.”

Her lips pursed, making them even more plump and kissable. An insanely hot image of them wrapped around his cock as her tongue massaged the underside of his shaft surged through his mind, making him want to howl along with his wolf. “I’m thirty years old, Jack. I can assure you, I haven’t been a virgin for well over a decade. And while I love my dad, he doesn’t get to decide who I sleep with.” She pushed the popcorn bowl towards him and stood up.

Before he could ask what she was doing, she took her sweater’s hem and pulled it up in a slow, teasing motion. It revealed smooth, creamy skin over sleek muscles and a set of small, round breasts cupped in a scrap of blue lace that was more confection than bra. His mouth went dry at the sight, hands burning to rip off that lace, free those perfect tits, kiss and suck them until all he could taste was her.

Smiling, she shook her hair free of the neckline and let the sweater drop onto the great room’s rug. “I’m going to my room. You can join me, if you want, or you can watch the rest of the movie. It’s your choice.”

Turning, she sauntered off, hips swinging hypnotically. It took him two tries to find the remote control and turn off the TV before he followed.


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Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with some more from the third installment in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl. Some background: Jack Hawthorne is a ex-SEAL and wolf shifter who shows up in Esposito County looking for work at his former commanding officer’s ski lodge. He never expects to find his mate there as well — except that Kate Chandler is a cougar shifter, can’t smell due to a childhood accident (and thus can’t recognize Jack as her mate), and is the daughter of Jack’s former commander. As I like to say, hijinks ensue!

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Jack shook the worst of the snow from his parka, stamping his boots to dislodge more of the cold white stuff on the back porch before closing the door. “Getting a little deep out there,” he said laconically.

Kate smirked. “You think this is deep, you should be here during one of our blizzards.” She leaned against the mud room door frame, trying not to ogle as the hunky wolf shifter peeled off more of his outer layers. “You’d have a problem getting through the snowfall.”

He grinned as he hung up parka, hat, and scarf. “You’d be surprised. We get bad winters in North Carolina, too. I’m pretty good at dealing with snow.”

She wondered how he was going to deal with the news that her father would be staying in town overnight. It left them alone together in the house, with a nice little snowstorm blowing outside, and if that wasn’t a recipe for falling into bed and fucking their brains out she didn’t know what was–

Her next thought fled as Jack finished stripping down to a thermal T that outlined his broad shoulders and rock-hard pecs. His battered old jeans fit like they had been tailored for him, and she couldn’t help staring at the large package under the fly. Oh, yum.

Even with him fresh from outside, the heat from the big wolf shifter’s body drifted across the space between them, warming her skin. What would it be like if she moved closer, put her arm around his neck? Would he take it as the invitation it was, or would he back off on orders from her father?

I am an adult. I make the decisions in my life, dammit. And if I want to go to bed with Jack, I will.

She allowed herself a wry smile. Assuming he wants to, of course. But she was ninety-nine percent sure that he would be more than happy to visit her bedroom and relieve the growing desire that had been hitting her with increasing frequency since the day he showed up.

Use your words, Chandler. “So,” she said after clearing her throat, “Dad’s decided to stay in town and ride out the storm there, which means we’re on our own tonight. What do you want to do?”

He glanced down at her, and she was sure she saw a flicker of desire in those blue depths. And then he smiled. “Can we watch a movie?”

She wanted to growl in frustration. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. I like movies. Haven’t been able to see a lot of them recently.” He shrugged. “But if you don’t want to, that’s okay.”

Her cougar yowled in protest. Bed! Now! Before the Alpha gets back!

She pushed it back, thinking. The wall of the Chandler great room was one huge DVD collection, and that didn’t include all the films they had in streaming format. If she played her cards right, snuggling up on the couch with Jack while they watched something could definitely turn into something more. “What kinds of movies do you like?”

He considered it. “Believe it or not, I’m not big on action movies,” he admitted. “I like comedies, SF, and fantasy, given my choice.”

Fantasy. A brilliant idea popped into her head. “We have the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Plus I have popcorn. We could make it a marathon.”

He grinned, teeth white against the tan of his skin. “Ma’am, you had me at popcorn.”

****

Jack tossed a buttery popcorn kernel into his mouth as Bernard Hill magically changed from an aged husk back into a vigorous Theoden on the Chandler’s huge flatscreen TV. “I love this part. I’m a total sucker for a redemption story.”

Kate sat cross-legged on the couch next to him. In a soft moss sweater and brown leggings, she looked like a gorgeous little forest sprite, and keeping his hands off her was becoming more and more a test of willpower. “Yeah,” she agreed. “Wormtongue was a sleazy bastard. And I had such a crush on Theoden when the movie first came out.”

That surprised him. “Really? You must’ve been a kid at the time.”

“Mm, no. I was fourteen. Just the right time for puberty to strike with a vengeance.” She stole a handful of popcorn from the large bowl between then. “All my friends were crazy about Viggo or one of the hobbits, but I thought Theoden was seriously sexy. Must have been all that angst and leather armor.”

“I guess.” A gleam of hope flickered to life. She liked brave, strong leaders who weren’t perfect. And you’re a packless Alpha. Lucky you, you were pretty much made for her.

He ignored the snarky voice. “Hey, don’t eat all my popcorn,” he said, grabbing a handful for himself.

“That’s our popcorn, specialist, and I can always make some more,” she teased, pushing his hand aside with her own. The contact was platonic, but it still sent warmth rushing over Jack’s skin and nerves. He was grateful for the throw pillow he’d casually arranged over his crotch, camouflaging the semi he’d been sporting on and off since Kate had sat down next to him. Her proximity and the heat coming from the fireplace filled the air with her scent, locking onto every pheromone receptor he had and urging him to claim her. Watching an extended cut of the Rings trilogy with her sitting next to him had somehow become a strangely enjoyable form of torture.

As long as he didn’t have to stand up at any point. “So Viggo didn’t do it for you?” he added.

She shrugged. “He’s handsome. But he’s not my type.”

The words left his mouth before he could stop them: “What is your type?”

He winced, worried that he’d overstepped his bounds. But Kate smiled. “Someone who’s capable, confident, but not a macho Alphahole. A little vulnerability is nice. He doesn’t always have to be the strong one. I like to be leaned on once in a while, as long as I know I can do the same thing when I need help. And he has to have a good sense of humor.”

Jack ignored the sudden cascade of dirty limericks and jokes tumbling through his head. “Okay,” he said, readjusting his pillow. “In that case, I guess Aragorn is a little humorless.”

“Exactly. He’s so damn driven. But you can imagine Theoden having a beer and relaxing with some shield maidens once all the fighting was done. It also helps that I saw the outtake where Viggo cracked Bernard up by reminding him about being turned into a LOTR action figure.” She dropped her voice into an accented growl. “‘They’ll make ten thousand at least, for children to play stupid games with.’”

Jack grinned. “Now that has to be weird, knowing that someone made you into a doll.”

“Right? I mean, think of the potential for voodoo misuse.”

They both laughed at that before settling back, watching as the Fellowship persuaded Theoden and the rest of the Rohirrim to help out Gondor. But Jack couldn’t help mulling over what Kate had said. Since the moment he’d learned that she couldn’t smell him as her mate, he’d been worried that there was no way he could attract her, especially with his packless status. But it seemed that the sexy cougar shifter was far more open minded than he’d thought. And she likes capable, confident men. If that’s not a SEAL, I don’t know what is.

He reached for more popcorn and once again met her hand doing the same thing. This time the contact send a burst of heat through him, raw and hungry for more contact with his gorgeous little cougar. Underneath the throw pillow his cock surged up, tightening painfully against his jeans.

Kate left her hand touching his over the nubbly kernels. “Maybe we should talk about the elephant in the room?” she said slowly.

He took in a breath and wanted to groan at the deliciousness of her scent. “Yeah, maybe we should.”


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Mid Week Tease: To My Muse #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m featuring one last snippet from To My Muse where Tom and Lily hit the big Hollywood party thrown by Sir Nathan. God, I had such a good time writing this book. In the coming weeks, I’ll be back to posting snippets from Shifter Woods: Snarl and Uncertainty Principle.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

We heard the hum of party noise before we reached the main foyer. It was seriously different from my family’s parties—for one thing, there was a decided lack of Bollywood hits and I-pop blasting through the air, and waiters were walking around with trays of full champagne flutes. Not a single harried teenaged girl fetching some lassi for a thirsty auntie in sight. Dadi would be so disappointed in Sir Nathan.

Tom snagged a pair of flutes for us, passing one to me. “Drink up,” he advised. “It’ll make the evening a bit more enjoyable.”

I sipped my champagne. Naturally it was delicious. “Yeah, no, I’m still nervous,” I whispered after swallowing.

“Give it a chance to circulate.” He looped his arm around my waist and guided me towards the people standing in discreet groupings of two and three. “Smile and nod, darling.”

Great. Now I had the penguins from Madagascar caroling in my head. Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave. Biting back an insane urge to call Tom “Private,” I did as he suggested.

The damnedest thing was, it worked. Complete strangers nodded back at me, with the occasional assessing glance thrown in for good measure. Only this time the assessment added up to “one of us.” I felt Matthiu’s work on my face like a mask. They had no clue.

Tom led me through a thickening crowd into the main entertainment area that I’d seen last night. All the lights were on this time, set to low, and the room was full of people chatting to each other with the occasional laugh sparkling in the air. Underneath the chatter was a soft medley of cocktail bar classics coming from the grand piano in the corner.

To my surprise, Sir Nathan was playing it. “Thought so,” Tom murmured, guiding me over. “You couldn’t resist performing, could you?” he said to our host.

Sir Nathan gave us a genial smile as his fingers moved over the keyboard. “The pianist is taking a break, so I thought I’d fill in for him. You look lovely tonight, my dear,” he added to me.

I had to stop myself from curtseying. “Thank you, Sir Nathan. You look pretty spiffy yourself.”

He chuckled at that. “It’s all Ana’s doing. I’d look like a right scruff if it wasn’t for her. And you cleaned up well, lad.”

“Also Ana’s doing,” Tom said, glancing around. “Any hotspots I should know about?”

Sir Nathan peered at the crowed without losing a beat. “Rob Valentine from the network is here—you know him, I believe—and some of the European producers are drifting around as well. I haven’t seen the lovely Claudine yet, but I’m sure we’ll hear the trumpets once she arrives.”

I knew I liked him. “Where’s Ana?” I asked.

“Giving the caterers their final instructions, then she planned on holding court in the Tuscan Room. You should be able to find it,” he said to Tom.

“I may need a GPS, but I’ll find it,” Tom said acerbically. “We’ll let you get back to tinkling the ivories.”

“Good man.”

Sir Nathan swung into a jazzy version of “Piano Man” as we wandered off. “Okay, so what’s the plan?” I asked as quietly as I could.

“We circulate, chat with the people I know, and casually strike up conversations with various producers and studio execs,” Tom explained. “I’ll mention that we have a package we’re putting together with Nathan and feed them the elevator pitch. Hopefully that’ll be enough to get me some meetings, and then we build from that.”

I knew what an elevator pitch was—a brief but catchy overview of a plot meant to be delivered in thirty seconds or less: ‘She’s a rich girl engaged to an abusive capitalist, he’s a poor artist looking forward to a future in America. Against all odds they fall in love, but an iceberg crashes into their plans as well as their ship.’ That’s a crappy version of an elevator pitch for Titanic, but you get the idea. “So what’s the pitch for Right Hand?”

He spread his hands. “After World War II, a progressive pope shocks the Vatican by taking a nun as his chief advisor,” he announced.

I considered it. “Eh.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Well, it’s factually true but there’s no oomph to it. How about, ‘As Europe rebuilds from the ruins of World War II, a rebellious Pius XII shocks the Vatican by taking on an advisor they can’t control—a nun.”

He considered my phrasing. “But couldn’t they control her? I mean, if they talked to the head of her order.”

“Yeah, but if Pius was giving the orders he kind of outranks the head of her order. Okay, how about, ‘From the ruins of World War II, a controversial pope and a stubborn nun’s relationship will shock the Vatican—and change the world forever.’”

“I like it. Naughty enough to get people’s attention without tipping over into outright salaciousness. We can go into details about the relationship once they’re interested.” He kissed my temple. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

I felt warm all over, which was a good thing because the house AC was cranked to handle the crowd. “So am I.”


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Mid Week Tease: To My Muse #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week To My Muse was released, and I want to feature a rather nice scene between Tom and Lily.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

If I’d had to spend the time before the party alone with Tom, we were not staying out of that amazing bed, and once that happened I’m not sure I’d have the strength of character to get dressed and go to the party. I wouldn’t put it past our hostess to realize that and take steps.

I followed Ana’s assistant to the other side of the house, where she showed me down a hallway to a luxurious bedroom suite done in shades of teal and cream that was easily large enough to host one of my grandparents’ parties. Nathan was nowhere in sight, but what sounded like a Bach cantata drifted out of a side room. “She’s waiting for you,” Sue said, waving at the doorway.

I poked my head in, and immediately fell in love with one of the most gorgeous old school dressing rooms I’d ever seen. The dominant tone was a warm, feminine peach that went beautifully with the immaculate white woodwork along all the walls. More white woodwork surrounded glass-fronted shelves over wide drawers and an amazing number of closet compartments. An elegant black ironwork chandelier with frosted glass lampshades rimmed in terra cotta hung from an oval cutout in the ceiling, and a huge custom vanity table had been built into another wall with more shelves on either side of a ginormous mirror in an antique square silver frame.

Ana sat at the table wearing a silk robe with her hair skimmed back behind a head wrap, calmly dabbing some cream onto her face. I wasn’t used to seeing her without makeup on; I knew she was somewhere in her late sixties, but she had that Helen Mirren gift of good skin that had held up extremely well over the years. There were wrinkles here and there, yes, but they looked tasteful and appropriate, as if a completely smooth face would have been unbearably gauche.

She smiled at me in the mirror. “Hello, Lily. Did you have a pleasant time today?”

“Yes, and thank you so much for sending us to Huffington’s,” I said. “Wait until you see the dress Tom bought.”

“What color?”

“Deep sapphire blue.”

Her eyes lit up. “Oh, that will look marvelous on you. And that works out well for me, too. Sue, bring the Bulgari Festa set, please.”

The PA disappeared through yet another doorway, returning with a black velvet case. She opened it and I gasped. Inside was a spectacular pendant necklace made up of what I had to assume was white gold, with sprays of diamonds and sapphires around a perfect cushion-cut sapphire that was big enough to choke a horse. The chain was constructed of white gold teardrop loops crusted with more diamonds and sapphires, each loop interspersed with a solitaire diamond.

“Oh, Ana, that is completely gorgeous,” I said, every sparkly-loving atom of my being lusting after that magnificent necklace. “Are you wearing this tonight?”

“No, my dear. You are.”

Screech. “I—what?”

She smiled. “If you’re wearing the sapphire blue Christian Siriano that Taffy mentioned to me, then this will go perfectly with it.” She turned to Sue. “I believe the Le Magnifiche Creazioni earrings will go well with this.”

Sue beamed at me. “They’re in the bottom of the case, madam.”

“Excellent. I do appreciate your foresight, my dear.”

Aaaaand motor functions came back on line. “I can’t wear this!” I squeaked. “This is Bulgari!” I knew Bulgari jewelry, had mooned over it in Vogue and other fashion magazines, but never thought I’d be allowed within touching distance. To wear it? Holy Kali and all her hands, this one necklace had to be worth more than everything I’d ever owned put together. “What if I spill something on it? What if I drop it?”

“Well, if you spill something on it, you can always wash it off,” Ana said practically. “It’s the nice thing about metal and gemstones—they’re very hard to stain. And the latch will make sure it stays in place.”

The practical side of me recoiled from the very idea of touching that gorgeous pendant, much less hanging it around my neck. The princess side of me wanted to squeal and go show it off to Tom. “Ana, I can’t—”

“Yes, you can. In fact, I’ll be very disappointed if you don’t wear it tonight.” She gave me a faux-stern look. “And you don’t want to disappoint your hostess, do you?”

I swallowed hard. It would be rude to turn down such a generous gesture, that was true. And it wasn’t as if I’d be wearing it outside where something bad could happen. They’d have security at this party, right?

“No, I don’t,” I said in a small voice. “Thank you.”

“There, that’s settled.” She tapped her lips. “I thought you might want to get ready here, since there’s plenty of room. Sue will show you to the shower and you can freshen up, then we’ll have Celeste get to work on your hair while Matthiu does my makeup, then we’ll trade. It’ll leave Thomas with your bathroom to himself. That way, you won’t need to dance around him to get at the mirror.”

The thought of Tom getting ready in the bathroom, fresh out of the shower with a towel wrapped around that muscular waist, made my eyes cross a little and a whole lot of regret gush through me. Before I could say anything, a gorgeous black woman in a sleek black pinstriped smock and a man with a purple-tinted beard came in. Ana gave them air kisses and introduced me while Sue bustled around pulling more items out of the closets.

Celeste clicked her tongue as she studied my hair. “Oh, you’re going to be a handful, gorgeous,” she said in a cheerful East End accent. “What products do you use?”

I rattled them off with an apology for presenting her with my nightmare cloud of hair. She waved it off. “Don’t fret, pet. I’m an expert with curls. We’ll tame them into something spectacular, wait and see.”

Meanwhile, Matthiu stroked his beard as he stared at my skin. “Absolute silk,” he declared. “What are you wearing tonight?”

“Um, a dress?”

“I meant color, angel.”

“Cobalt blue,” Ana advised. “With a fairly deep V neckline, so make sure the makeup carries over onto her chest.”

That earned her an eye roll for the ages before he turned back to me. “Right, you. Off to the shower, and I want your face clean and bare. Don’t moisturize—I’ll take care of that.”

“Uh, okay.” This was starting to remind me of family weddings where various aunties would pull me into a bedroom and get me dolled up in proper Hindi maiden finery since that was out of Mom’s wheelhouse. At least tonight I didn’t have to worry about someone hovering with a giant needle and wondering if they had time to pierce my nose.

I hoped.

****

After a long shower and a relaxing orgasm assisted by a fantasy of a naked and very enthusiastic Lily, I touched up my shave and cleaned my teeth. Once that was done, there was nothing else to do but wander into the empty bedroom, a towel wrapped around my waist in case my spunky screenwriter came back early. Although I doubted that was going to happen. Ana had clearly taken her in hand and was going to work some supermodel magic tonight.

Which, if I was being honest with myself, bothered me a little. I’m sure the results would be spectacular, but I rather liked Lily in her capris and Vans, hair loose and curling around her face. If Ana did the job that I knew she could do, Lily would wind up suitably coiffed and dressed for the cover of Vogue. Worse, she could well wind up the belle of the ball tonight. Assuming that Nathan invited his usual mix of industry movers and shakers, vencap types, and a few out and out billionaires, it meant that there would be any number of rich, handsome men at the party tonight who would take one look at her and offer to sweep her off to a Vail ski lodge or Lake Como palazzo without a second thought.

Whereas I couldn’t even pay her for a script treatment. The more I thought about it, the more I regretted haggling on her points with Theresa. I must have come off as a skinflint bastard.
Well, that settled it. Even if it had to come out of my share, I was bumping up her percentage to a full two points. I’d let her know as soon as she got back. Hopefully that would be enough to stop her head from being turned by some A-lister with a private jet.

Grateful that I’d remembered to pack dress socks, I got dressed from the skin out in my new duds. Once the fancy silk tie was in place, I settled back down with La Popessa, running through the now-familiar text and mentally casting various roles. I had just hit on Liam as a good fit for one of the monsignors when the door opened and I looked up. “Finally. I thought I’d have to send the fire brigade—”

The joke died on my lips as I stared at the vision that floated into the room. Oh, Ana, you wicked, talented woman, you. I wasn’t going to have to fight off studio execs and venture capitalists. I was going to have to fight off every straight man in the place, and probably a few lesbians for good measure.

I already knew that the ridiculously expensive but gorgeous frock skimmed Lily’s curves like a McLaren performance vehicle on an Alpine road. But Ana hadn’t stopped there. A professional had taken brushes and makeup to Lily’s face and made her skin glow and her eyes sparkle. Her dark curls were now twisted and tamed in an elegant updo that let delicate little ringlets frame her face, and whatever scent she was wearing should have been marketed as “Devastating” and only sold to licensed dealers.

If that wasn’t enough to throw me for a loop, the sapphire that hung over her deliciously plump décolletage could have choked a Christmas goose. “My God,” I murmured. “You’re beautiful.”

She bit her lips gently as her blush deepened. “I feel like Cinderella.”

“Good. You should.” I stood, tugging my jacket straight and trying to will my libido down. Thank God for tight boxer-briefs is all I can say. “I take it the jewelry is Ana’s?”

Lily touched it gingerly. “She insisted I wear it. I’m freaking out just thinking about it.”

“Don’t. She was right.” I went to her, pulling her into my arms. “It makes you even more stunning.”

Close up, her eyes were captivating pools of rich brown with the tiniest flecks of gold around the iris. How had I gone for so long without looking into them? “Are you ready?” I asked.

Her arms went around my neck, holding on for dear life. “Do I have a choice?”

“I’m afraid not.”

She took a deep breath. “Then I’m ready. Let’s do this.”


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Ever do something really, really dumb?

When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put Lily Nayar’s romance novel Feast of Lovers into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, Lily is horrified. Now she’s determined to get her book back, even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room to do it.

With the help of a strategic lie and an Oscar-winning knight, Lily’s screwball plan catapults her into the middle of her very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. But will a vengeful actress ruin Lily’s shot at a real life HEA with Tom?

I still get nervous

To My Muse is my ninth full-length novel, not counting the various novellas, novelettes, and short stories I’ve written since becoming a professional writer in 1995, and the fifth I’ve self-published. I should be used to the process by now, but I still get anxious the night before release day. Did I cross all my Ts and dot all my Is? Are there errors in the finished version (there are. There always are. I have come to accept this as part of being human)? Did I send out ARCs to all the reviewers? Am I doing enough promo? Am I doing too much promo?

Will people like it?

That’s the big thing, of course. Will people see my amusing ads and catchy blurb and think, “Yeah, I’ll splash out on this, what the heck.” And if they do that, will they like it or think, “Aw, man. I should’ve gotten a venti Frappucino instead.”

I’m hoping people like it. I’ve gotten a response already from one reviewer (which shocked the heck out of me because I didn’t think she’d be able to get to it until June) and she’s giving it five stars. The betas all liked it, the editor liked it, the sensitivity reader liked it (Lily’s half-Indian. You bet your ass this white lady used a sensitivity reader, AND I fixed the things she told me to fix). But I still worry. That’s normal. And I know there will be people who don’t like it, and that’s also normal. I can’t entertain all of the people all of the time. Mainly, I hope I won’t offend anyone with my story of Lily and her family. Indian culture and diaspora is magnificently detailed and exhaustively extensive, and I’ve very much enjoyed my research into it in order to create the Nayar family in as accurate and respectful a manner as possible. I also know, however, that there will be things I missed, and for that I apologize and ask your indulgence.

Contemporary romantic comedy is a new subgenre for me, but hopefully Muse won’t be my one and only entry in it. I have other books planned, in between new entries in my existing series. I promise you, I will make the time to get them written.

And now, back to work on Shifter Woods: Snarl.

Dream Casting TO MY MUSE

I’m assuming that we all heard the bad news about Lucifer today (WHY, Fox. WHY?). That being said, it did occur to me that this meant certain actors I had mentally cast as characters in To My Muse were now available for work. And since my editor and at least two beta readers have told me that 1) they laughed their asses off while reading it, and 2) this really needs to be turned into a script, I clearly need to win the Powerball and produce the damn movie myself.

Keep all sharp objects away from my reality bubble, please. I’m allowed to dream.

And in case you don’t know the plot to the book, here you go: Ever do something really, really dumb?

When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put Lily Nayar’s romance novel Feast of Lovers into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, Lily is horrified. Now she’s determined to get her book back, even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room to do it.

With the help of a strategic lie and a charismatic knight, Lily’s screwball plan catapults her into the middle of her very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. But will a vengeful actress ruin Lily’s shot at a real life HEA with Tom?

So, anyway, let’s take a quick trip into Nic’s mind and see who she would cast for the movie version of To My Muse:


LilyNayarLily Nayar (played by Liza Koshy). Funny, snarky, wannabe screenwriter working as a tech writer by day and romance writer by night.

She never meant to send a copy of her romance novel Feast of Lovers to its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison. When tequila shots and an enabling BFF bring this about, however, a horrified Lily is determined to get her book back — even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room while he’s on location.

Needless to say, hijinks ensue.

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Tom Morrison (played by Tom Ellis). Third lead on the dystopian steampunk series GearShifter, he’s flattered when he learns that he’s inspired a romance novel by “Lilian DeVries.” The last thing he expects to find, however, is Lily facing off against his sexually rapacious costar Claudine Ellery in his hotel room.

When he pretends that Lily is his girlfriend in order to discourage Claudine, it triggers a series of events that wind up with him hiring Lily to write a spec script for his dream project, a biopic of Pope Pius XII. As you do.

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Sir Nathan Chapman (played by Sir Ben Kingsley). Oscar-winning actor, knight, and Tom’s costar on GearShifter, he’s also Tom’s first choice to play Pope Pius XII in At the Right Hand.

The genial actor gets an earful from Claudine first, however, and assumes that Tom and Lily are dating when Tom introduces her as AtRH‘s screenwriter. When he tells Tom to bring Lily to the Chapmans’ anniversary party in Palm Springs, Tom convinces Lily to come along in order to keep Nathan happy.

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Lady Ana Chapman (played by Dame Helen Mirren). Former Ukrainian supermodel, businesswoman, and leading light of LA philanthropy, she and Nathan are old friends of Tom. She’s delighted to meet Lily and takes the younger woman under her wing for the party, lending her a stunning Bulgari necklace and earring set to complete her transformation to successful young Hollywood elite. Why, yes, she plays the fairy godmother in this Cinderella re-telling, why do you ask?

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Theresa Eastridge (played by Quinta Brunson). Lily’s BFF and Senior video producer at ThruPut, the social media company that turned into a global juggernaut when nobody was looking.

No-nonsense but empathetic as all hell, Theresa gets sucked into Lily’s insane plan because it was her idea to send Tom the copy of Feast of Lovers in the first place. She also writes the contract that gives Lily 1.5 points, gross, on Right Hand, because that’s just how she rolls.

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Claudine Ellery (played by Charlize Theron). Fourth lead of GearShifter. Blonde, beautiful, bitchy, and more than a bit sensitive about the fact that she’s on the wrong side of 40.

Claudine is slated to star in a movie scripted by Lily’s ex-boyfriend (one eensy thing — Lily wrote 2/3 of the script). Oh, and she really wants to add Tom’s notch to her bedpost. Needless to say, she does not appreciate Lily cockblocking her (or threatening to cunt punt her into Arizona).

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Marion “Bubbles” Warner (played by Rachel Dratch). Lily’s manager at Golden State Bank, she’s a micromanaging nightmare. God forbid you put the wrong header on an email. She clearly needs to get drunk, laid, and a life outside of the bank, not necessarily in that order.

Why, yes, I may have had managers like this in my tech writing career. Never piss off a writer, for they will use you in their books years later, and they will be ruthless.

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Liam Hennessy (played by Louis Herthum). A respected character actor and Tom’s costar on GearShifter, he gets drawn into the At the Right Hand michigas when Tom decides to cast him as a monsignor in Right Hand.

Also, Lou is kinda responsible for To My Muse in the first place so I wanted to give him a cameo. The similarity in initials should be a big honking clue about that.

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SanjayNayarSanjay Nayar (played by Jay Chandrasekhar). Lily’s engineer dad, he’s responsible for most of her good habits as well as her storytelling skills. Plus he bails her out of a tight spot with his parents, so he’s getting the extra large Best Dad Ever mug filled with chocolate-covered espresso beans this year for Father’s Day.

The fact that I would pay to watch Jay read the phone book has nothing to do with this mental casting choice, truly.

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Dr. Helen Nayar (played by Ashley Judd). Lily’s thoracic surgeon mom and referee for the Family Dinner battles between her kids. Patient is her middle name, and not just because she’s a doctor.

Helen loves her husband and kids, appreciates her in-laws, and enjoys her life. She just wishes Lily would do something a bit more constructive with her life. Which, considering her engineer husband and CTO son, is understandable.

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Derek Nayar (played by Suraj Sharma). Lily’s younger brother and CTO at Limner FX. A hard-charging executive who thrives on pressure and deadlines, he really, really, REALLY wants Lily to come work for him. Lily would rather orally service Steve Bannon. Also, she still remembers making Derek dress up as a Power Puff Girl for Halloween one year, which would just cause problems at work.

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Diya “Dadi” Nayar (played by Suhasini Mulay). Lily’s paternal grandmother, she wants her family to be happy, successful, and enthusiastic about their Indian heritage. Great-grandkids wouldn’t hurt, either. But she won’t hesitate to take a slipper to a grandchild if it becomes necessary (looking at Derek).

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Arjun “Dada” Nayar (played by Anupam Kher). Lily’s paternal grandfather, he’s the successful CEO of an import business. He’s not overly thrilled with Tom, however, when Lily and Tom run into her parents and grandparents while shopping in Palm Springs.

Sick? I don’t have time to be sick. I have a book to edit.

Bah. Virus, be gone. I have too much work to do.

So, To My Muse is off to the betas and editor, I have the media packet put together, it’s currently churning through Amazon for pre-order, and I’ll brave the Smashwords Meat Grinder tomorrow to get the doc ready for that so that I can collect all the non-Amazon buy links, put them in my media packet, and send that off to bloggers, reviewers, and other folks who might talk up my work.

This was … a scarily easy edit. I’m not sure if that’s good or not. As I explained to Ramón, editing is normally more like wringing each page until blood drips out of it and the words reluctantly fall in a pleasing order. For TMM, it was more like, “Oh, that’s funny … and that’s funny … hee!” There were definitely things that needed to be edited, but it wasn’t nearly as soul-wracking as it usually it. I don’t know if it’s because this is a standalone, a contemporary romance, or a romcom. Getting feedback from the betas and my editor will either reassure me that I didn’t do anything wrong, or explain gently but firmly that I was fooling myself about this story and there’s lots I need to fix. We’ll see.

But in the meantime, I think I’ve pretty much done everything I can apart from the Meat Grinder for promo prep. Part of me wants to go make jewelry. The other part wants to collapse in bed and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. Decisions, decisions…

Some news on TO MY MUSE

It’s done! Yes, I finished it on Friday, and it’s currently simmering while I get pending jewelry projects done and generally play catch-up on things that fell by the wayside during my final push (like the housework, the laundry, paying bills, getting my car’s safety inspection done, making calls to various people to get things sorted with them, you know the drill). I have to say, I’m very happy with how the story turned out, and I’m really hoping that everyone likes my first stab at a contemporary romcom. I think it’s funny as hell, but I would — I wrote it. Also, it has a running Penguins of Madagascar joke in it, because I’m all about the pop culture.

Now, onto more important stuff — the release date is scheduled to be 5/15, and I’ll be putting together a Facebook launch party with giveaways and all kinds of fun and frivolity. I also need to set up  advertising, put together ARCs and get those off to bloggers/reviewers, plan out the print version, and generally run around like a headless chicken for the next two weeks (hence my spending THIS weekend doing cleaning and laundry).

Although I did take a break this evening to watch Westworld. I think I may know where they’re heading with Glory and why it’s so important to Dolores and William/MiB (let me just ask you this — what would rich people who already have all the money and power in the world really, really want? And how could a place like Westworld deliver that to them? And how does Robert keep speaking through all those hosts, anyway? GREAT cameo by Giancarlo Esposito, by the way — I’m really hoping he turns out to be someone they bring back in later episodes/seasons).

But that’s the lovely thing about Westworld. There are layers within layers within layers, characters who are literally played by different actors, games with time, location, and consciousness, and it all spins like this beautifully intricate Victorian clockwork piece. It’s a freaking joy to watch, and SO much fun to tease out what I think are the narrative threads. Even if I’m wrong, hey, who cares — I got a book series out of it!