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Mid Week Tease: Lady of Thorns #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies, and many thanks to the lovely and talented Angelica Dawson who makes Mid Week Tease possible!

This week I’m featuring a rather intriguing scene from the third book in my Two Thrones series, Lady of Thorns. In this teaser Amelie is trying to talk Alain (who is quite sought after by the noblewomen of Mons for his skills in the bedroom) into going to bed with her–for science! Or at least for experience. Will Alain agree to this most unexpected request? Keep reading to find out, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!


LaPorte blinked once, slowly. “I … beg your pardon?” he finally said.

Amelie stiffened her spine. “You heard me,” she said evenly. “I would like you to take me to bed.”

The counselor blinked again, leaning back in his chair. “Yes, that’s what I thought you said,” he murmured, his voice slightly faint. “My lady—”

“Before you refuse, hear me out,” Amelie said quickly. She had to get this out before her courage failed. “I don’t mean this to be some sort of grand affair. I like and admire you, and I find you to be a handsome man, but I have no romantic feelings for you.”

If LaPorte’s eyebrows rose any higher, they would merge with his hairline. “No?”

“No.” She licked dry lips. “I mean this to be—a course of study, for lack of a better word.”

She waited, watching him. To her relief he didn’t burst into laughter, or seem angry. In fact, he seemed more curious than anything. “Study.”

“Precisely.” This next part would be exquisitely embarrassing, but there was no other way except through it. “Lierdhans are comfortable with sensuality. Clearly, I don’t share that same sort of ease, but I believe it’s from lack of practice, not any sort of inherent lack in myself.” The thought of the pleasure that had sent white sparks shooting across her vision the night before danced in her memory, and she could feel her cheeks heat even more at it. “If your earlier statement is to be believed, I do possess certain … charms.”

His head came up slightly at that, but he said nothing.

She took a deep breath and plunged on. “I would like to feel more comfortable with physical intimacy. But I can’t gain that experience without a willing partner. And few men wish to brave the Lady of Thorns, so I sit here at an impasse.” She tried to smile, but felt it quirking towards bitterness. “And throw myself on your mercy.”

“Ah-ah.” The counselor lifted one finger. “First off, you needn’t throw yourself on anyone’s mercy, least of all mine. I believe I already said that what you require is a man of stronger mettle than those you’ve encountered to date. If they aren’t willing to risk the thorns, they don’t deserve the rose at the heart of the briar.”

Tears rose in her eyes at the unexpected compliment, and she quickly blinked them away. “Thank you.”

Another finger joined the first. “Second, are you sure you don’t wish to save this sort of exploration for the man you will marry? I can assure you, few husbands would be horrified to find their wife virgin on their wedding night.”

She imagined Daniel climbing into bed beside her, while she lay there like a corpse from sheer embarrassment. “That’s assuming I marry at all, which doesn’t seem to be likely at this point.” Yes, snap at him. That will entice him, I’m sure. She took a breath and softened her tone. “Counselor, I know how strange my request must sound, believe me. But at the moment my virginity is more of a millstone around my neck than something I can gift to a man I don’t know I’ll ever meet. I wish to be relieved of it by a man of experience and tact.”

LaPorte didn’t smile, but a certain glint entered his eyes. “While my colleagues at the Law College might wish to debate you on the topic of my tact, I do admit that I possess a certain amount of experience in the pleasures of the flesh.” The glint sharpened. “Do you use childbane?”

Her cheeks felt even hotter if that was possible. “Since my first courses. It’s common practice for Lierdhan girls once they become fertile.”

“Good. Then we won’t have to wait for you to procure a dose or for it to take effect.” There was something in his expression now that made her heartbeat speed up. “We can start after dinner tonight.”

Her mouth dried. “Tonight?” It came out as a squeak.

“Unless you have an objection.”

She hadn’t expected him to agree this quickly. She’d racked up a number of arguments, logical reasons why their bedding would be a mutually beneficial arrangement. For him to say yes so easily came as a shock. “No, no objection.”

The smile he gave her had a definite predatory cast. “Good. After you retire for the evening, come to my room.”

Your room?” That, she hadn’t expected. In her mind, their encounters had always taken place in the familiarity of her own bed.

“For the purposes of discretion. This being your home, you would be able to explain your presence in the halls late at night better than I could. Also, there may be some blood. If your sheets are stained outside your courses—”

“That would be difficult to explain,” she concluded, wishing she would stop blushing. He was being logical, dammit. “Although I can lift blood out of fabric with a spell easily enough.”

“Good to know if it becomes necessary. There’s also the fact that I’m at the far end of the guest wing, while you reside in the family wing. There’s less likelihood that someone will interrupt us in my room, or hear any—noises.”

Her embarrassment dimmed as a soft heat bloomed to life between her thighs. “Eminently sensible,” she got out.

He gave her a brief, appreciative nod. “I do my best, my lady.


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Mid Week Tease: Lady of Thorns #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with another snippet from the third book in my Two Thrones series, Lady of Thorns. Please note that this story will NOT be about Danaë and Matthias (their parallel adventure will be in Book 4), but it does feature Lady Amelie le Clerq, the young, prickly Terra magistra and heiress to the Lady of Lierdhe, and the eminently sneaky Counselor Alain LaPorte from Palace of Scoundrels. The best way I can describe it is, imagine Lady Mary Crawley from Season 1 Downton Abbey and Alan Shore from Boston Legal going head to head.

So to speak. Ahem. And while I know I promised some hanky panky this week, I thought I’d give you a peek at the other half of the romantic equation. Next week, naughty business for sure!

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!


Alain LaPorte studied the business contract, lips pursed in thought. “You were right to bring this to me,” he said to the man seated on the other side of the desk. “It’s a sweet bit of legal chicanery.”

“I was afraid of that,” Ser Olaoye Jogimo said. The glassblower was known throughout Mons for his elegant work, particularly in mirrors, and supposedly had the ear of the king himself. “The terms were just this side of too reasonable, and Ser Rorche made it clear that he wanted it signed as soon as possible before he left on a trip to one of his lavender fields. He’s too good a businessman to offer a contract like this so quickly unless it benefits himself, but I couldn’t see where the trap was.”

“Unsurprising.” Alain tapped the offending clause. “He’s using a very old business law called familia onus, where a failure on an artisan’s part to fulfill a contract could be passed on as a debt to a family member, if that family member was wealthier than the artisan. Enough well-to-do businessmen and noblemen alike were stung by it that they reached a rare agreement and had the law changed so that none of them could be held to account for the poor business decisions of their relatives.”

The glassblower’s eyes narrowed. “There’s a but in that statement.”

Alain nodded. “The revised law only applies to guild members and businessmen. Ser Rorche, however, must believe that you have a relative who is quite wealthy in his own right but is not a nobleman nor a guild member. If you have any issues fulfilling this contract, Ser Rorche could have demanded restitution from that relative.”

Jogimo let out a slow, hissing breath through his nose. “That would have been extremely foolish on his part.”

“Mm. I assume that you do have a rich relative?”

“You could say that. My mother is an Aqua mage, and she’s done quite well for herself over the years.”

Alain winced. “Oh, dear. Yes, she would definitely be affected by the familia onus rule. And of course Ser Rorche could elect to have the debt discharged in non-financial ways.” Meaning Ser Jogimo’s magistra mother could be required to work magic, most likely expensive magic, at Rorche’s request. As Jogimo had already pointed out, that would have been foolish in the extreme, but most businessmen didn’t know the many ways a mage could make their irritation known.

Alain, on the other hand, did. He still remembered the former client who had tried to legally force an Aqua mage into creating a freshwater spring for him on his estate. The mage had finally acquiesced, and the client triumphantly took the first drink of water from the spring. And the last. Alain wondered if the man was still celibate due to the now-unfortunate color and consistency of his semen.

“However, we’re assuming that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the contract,” Jogimo continued. “I’m confident that I can produce the number of jars Ser Rorche needs.” He toyed with a silvered glass pendant hanging around his neck. “The thing is, counselor, I’m in the middle of expanding my shop. This particular deal would help fund that greatly. I don’t want to pass it up if I don’t have to.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t. Rorche is a well-respected perfumier and purveyor of fine toiletries. He was just trying to be clever, as any self-respecting businessman would. You can be clever right back at him.” Alain plucked a sharpened quill from a cup and dipped it in ink, then struck out the offending clause in the contract, writing something in the margin. “This removes the familia onus clause and offers a cash guarantee of 25 per cent of the full amount of the contract in case you cannot supply enough jars for Rorche’s creams and unguents. That being said, don’t offer this unless you’re sure you can produce the goods or the cash guarantee.”

Jogimo’s mouth curled in a thin, determined smile. “I can do both. Any other traps I should be aware of?”

“Not that I can see.”

“Good. Then I’ll have this rewritten by my clerk and sent back.” The glassblower got to his feet, straightening his elegant Ghobian robes. “As for your fee, counselor.”

He pulled a small wash leather bag from an inner pocket and handed it over. Alain noted the bag’s weight and peered inside to confirm his suspicions. “That’s more than half again of what I charge for this type of consultation, Ser Jogimo,” he said mildly.

There was a hint of amusement in Jogimo’s expression. “Consider the extra a retainer fee. I suspect I’ll be returning to you for more consultations, if you find that acceptable.”

“I do.” Alain stood and gave the glassblower his hand. “In which case, consider me at your service.”

Another of those thin smiles, and Jogimo left with his revised contract and an idea of what he could expect from his new business partner. Alain took his seat again in satisfaction, opening a drawer in his desk and dropping the clinking wash bag into it. Behind him, he could hear the clock tower that stood at the center of the Law Court striking the hour. Just enough time to get back to his rooms, have a wash, change into clean clothes, and meet Lauranne for dinner at her townhouse. If business kept up like this, he would have to think about buying something nice for her, assuming he could find something that her husband wouldn’t notice—

A knock at the door sounded, and a weathered face topped with a mop of greying hair peered around the edge. Under normal circumstances Petyr Colombe had the sangfroid of a professional gambler, but today the law clerk’s eyes seemed a bit wild. “My apologies, counselor, but you have a visitor,” he said, his customary rumble low and whispered.

Frowning, Alain checked the ledger that served as his desk calendar. Jogimo had been the last scheduled client of the day. “If it’s a new client, ask him to come back tomorrow.”

Colombe shook his head as minutely as possible. “It’s the king, counselor.”

“Oh.” Alain tugged his robe straight. Lauranne would simply have to wait. “By all means, show him in.”

Colombe nodded and disappeared. A moment later the door swung open and King Matthias IV of Ypres entered. Alain got to his feet, giving the monarch a respectful bow. “Your majesty.”

The king held up a hand. “I apologize for showing up unannounced, counselor. I had planned on coming earlier but the day got away from me.”

Everyone in Mons knew that the king was preparing for his annual visit to Hellas to see his wife Queen Danaë. Now that the queen was six months’ gone with child, it was no surprise that the king’s thoughts were focused on crossing the Apennines and reuniting with his wife and incipient heir. “I’m at your service, sire,” Alain said gallantly. “Before we get down to business, however, let me take this opportunity to congratulate both you and the queen on your happy news.”

The king’s expression changed, becoming ever so slightly awed. “Thank you, LaPorte. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it myself. I’m not sure what I’ll do with a brace of babes. Dandle one on each knee, I suppose.”

Alain’s attention perked at that. City gossip had it that Queen Danäe was expecting two babies. “So the queen is having twins, then?”

“Oh, yes, and a most active pair they are, as well,” King Matthias said, then coughed. “At least, that’s what I understand from the queen’s reports. I’m looking forward to seeing her in person.”

Alain tried to imagine the tall, slender queen of Hellas with a belly full of twins. The image was unnerving. “Completely understandable, sire. Now, as to the purpose of your visit?”

“Yes. I was wondering when you planned on heading to Lierdhe?”

Oho. Alain suspected he knew where this was going. “I was leaving tomorrow, sire.”

“I see. And how long do you think it’ll take for you to finish negotiations on the countess’s new irrigation system?”

Of course the king knew about the plans in Lierdhe. “I shouldn’t think more than a week, with a few days travel time on either side.” In truth Alain hoped to cut it down to five days, but even his brief contact with the Lady of Lierdhe was enough to illustrate the force of her will. If she came to loggerheads with the Earl of Bertram on any point, the negotiations would almost undoubtedly run long.

King Matthias nodded. “And you will keep me apprised of your progress, of course.”

And there was the crux of the matter. Lierdhe, the most prosperous farming province in Ypres, had been used by the countess as a bargaining chip to settle her debts. If things had gone according to plan, the province would have become part of the Earl of Leuven’s holdings, making him an extremely powerful man and a possible threat to the throne. Clearly the king didn’t want to risk something similar happening again. “I would be happy to keep the palace updated on my progress, sire. But I thought you yourself started out for Hellas tomorrow.”

The king allowed himself a small smile. “I do, but the prime minister has ways of getting in contact with me. If anything strikes you as odd, send a bird to him immediately.”

Alain bowed. “Of course, sire.”

“Good. I’ll leave you to your preparations. I have my own to complete. Save travels.”

“And to you as well, sire.”

With a brisk nod, the king left. Alain silently counted to ten. Before he reached the final number Colombe slid into the room, closing the door behind him. “I’ve never seen his majesty that close up before,” the clerk said, sounding moderately impressed. “He’s a tall man, isn’t he?”

“Quite tall.” Alain picked up a sheaf of papers and slid them into his satchel. “And he’s made a specific request of me. Once we reach Ardenhaal, you’ll need to find a public bird cote. I may need to send word back to Mons quickly.”

Bushy brows rose at that, but his law clerk was, as always, discreet. “As you wish, counselor.”

The college tower struck the quarter hour. “And on that note, I’d best leave before I have more any last minute visitors,” Alain said, grabbing his black velvet beret and donning it. “I’ll meet you at the gates of the college at first light.”

“Aye.” Colombe threw him a vague salute. “Tomorrow at first light.”

Satisfied, Alain strode out of his office. He still had to pack a few odds and ends, but first he had an appointment to keep at Lauranne’s townhouse.

****

The beautiful blonde next to him in bed stretched lazily, looking like a cat who’d just had an excellent saucer of cream and was now preening in a patch of sunlight. “That was lovely, darling,” she said throatily.

“That was rather good, wasn’t it?” Alain said, only slightly breathless as he rolled onto his back and tucked his hands behind his head. “You quite outdid yourself, my dear.”

“Yes, well.” She flipped over, her pert bottom pale and enticing in the candlelight as she traced his lips with an elegant finger. “I wanted our last hurrah in bed to be a memorable one.”

His mind thew off the post-coital fog, clicking back into its usual speed. “Last hurrah?” He kissed the tip of her finger. “I’ll only be gone for two weeks or so. Surely you can wait that long for me?”

I would, but I’m afraid it’s not up to me.” She pulled away, sitting up and reaching for a filmy robe. “Bernard has finally been reposted to Mons, and he’s quite insistent on starting a family. And frankly, I’m not getting any younger. I’ll be stopping my childbane as soon as he gets back, and I’m afraid that continuing our little dalliance might confuse the issue.”

Alain watched her lush curves disappear under pale peach silk with a mild sense of regret. “Ah. I see.” And if he was ruthlessly honest with himself, he did. Lauranne Fontaine was the wife of a Ypresian cavalry colonel, a wealthy heiress in her own right, and one of the brightest lights of the capital’s social scene. Theirs had been a most enjoyable affair, but he knew it came with an expiration date. “The queen’s fecundity seems to be creating quite the fashion among the nobility.”

“You wouldn’t be wrong.” Lauranne finished tying the robe’s belt, toying with one end of the delicate silk. “At least six other noblewomen I know are all pregnant or trying to fall pregnant. Their majesties’ offspring will have quite the age cohort to choose from when it comes time for a betrothal.”

He imagined all those clever Ypresian noblewomen jockeying for a chance to get their children on the throne. It would be a scrum for the ages. “If she’s even half as lovely and talented as her mother, I’m sure your child will have the best chance at a royal wedding,” he said gallantly.

Lauranne gave him a flirtatious look from under her thick lashes. “You do have the most marvelous way with words, counselor,” she purred, reaching over and stroking his shoulder. “I truly am sorry about this, you know. If there was any way around it, you know I’d much rather stay with you.”

He captured her hand and kissed it. “I know. But as you said, our affair would risk confusing the issue. Best to make a clean break of it and give your husband’s seed a clear field of battle.”

She made a face. “That’s an unfortunately accurate comparison. Bernard makes love like he wages war—all sound and fury, with him as the winner in the end. Perhaps once I have the child and get my figure back, we can pick up where we left off?”

It was never wise to burn a bridge if it wasn’t necessary. He let a polite leer cross his face. “You know where to find me.”

“Indeed I do.” She dropped the tie end and considered him. “We do have time for another glass of wine before you go, if you like. Bernard won’t be arriving until the morning.”

Her sultry meaning was clear. His penis felt enthusiastic about the idea, but his brain reminded him of all the things he still had to pack. In the end, practicality won out. “I would, but tomorrow’s journey will be long and tiring,” he said, rolling out of bed and locating his scattered clothes. “And I probably should get at least an hour or two of sleep. I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait until you’ve produced the newest blossom on the Fontaine family tree.”

She pouted endearingly, but he continued to dress. Ten minutes later he kissed her goodbye and rode back to the law college and his rooms, mind already on the trip to Lierdhe. He would miss Lauranne’s wit and sensuality, but living in the capital of Ypres meant that there were always more rich, charming women who appreciated a man of his skill and discretion.

He decided to send Lauranne a silver teething ring when the time came. We may well take up where we left off, after all. And in the meantime, I’ll just have to find some way to entertain myself…


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Mid Week Tease: Lady of Thorns #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with the opening to the third book in my Two Thrones series, Lady of Thorns. Please note that this story will NOT be about Danaë and Matthias (their parallel adventure will be in Book 4), but it does feature Lady Amelie le Clerq, the young, prickly Terra magistra and heiress to the Lady of Lierdhe, and the eminently sneaky Counselor Alain LaPorte from Palace of Scoundrels. The best way I can describe it is, imagine Lady Mary Crawley from Season 1 Downton Abbey and Alan Shore from Boston Legal going head to head.

So to speak. Ahem.

And voila, hijinks ensue! Next week I’ll post a snippet of their first love scene together, so stay tuned, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!


A crisp autumn wind blew through the village of Greatham, fluttering the leaves of the great apple tree in the square and making it look as if the tree was waving at the gathered villagers. As today was the official beginning of the Harvest Festival, everyone had been fortified with mugs of ale and hot pasties courtesy of the Duchess of Lierdhe while they waited for the day’s main event. A ragged but happy cheer rose when the duchess’s carriage finally rolled into view, the grand vehicle coming to a creaking stop next to a wooden platform where the mayor and other village officials waited for their esteemed visitor.

Lady Amelie le Clerq swallowed hard as she peered out the window of the carriage. She had tried to argue that the village was close enough to walk to from their castle, but Countess Henriette le Clerq, the Lady of Lierdhe and ruler of the province, had decreed that her heir would arrive in a dignified fashion for her first Ripening Ceremony and that was simply that.

Hence the carriage, not to mention the dress. Amelie scowled down at the diaphanous copper silk gown with its golden girdle that was the Lady’s ceremonial garb for this day. On her mother the gown looked both beautiful and dignified. On her…

I look like I’m playing dress-up. She had a woman’s curves, barely, but they weren’t balanced the way her mother’s were. Too much flesh across the hips, not enough across the breasts, and then there was the good hand’s span of exposed ankle between ground and hem. Worse, there was muscle underneath the softness, a result of her daily walks and the occasional stop to help a milkmaid or farm hand with a task. Amelie believed that a better understanding of her people’s daily lives could only aid her when it came time to govern Lierdhe, but her mother had been horrified the day she came home with one arm slimed to the pit from helping out with a difficult foaling.

Despite all that activity, she still had an exasperatingly round face with an upturned crabapple for a nose, as well as the dark eyes and hair that were a legacy from her father’s family. She couldn’t help feeling like a plump, drab wren next to her glorious cardinal of a mother. And now, wearing the Lady’s garb and about to perform her first Ripening Ceremony, she felt like an impostor as well.

Stop being ridiculous. You’re a fully qualified Terra mage and can perform this ceremony in your sleep. She studied the crowd again and tried to will her nervous stomach to calm as she stepped down from the carriage. The surprised faces in the crowd made it clear that not everyone had been informed about the change in the ceremony.

Squaring her shoulders, she headed for the mayor, a stocky man whose bushy eyebrows and red nose gave him a fatherly attitude. He bowed at her approach. “Lady Amelie, welcome,” he boomed. “It’s an honor for our village to host your first Ripening Ceremony.”

Her answering smile felt stiff, but she had no time to come up with something better. “And it is my pleasure to perform this ceremony for Greatham, mayor,” she announced, hoping no one could hear the tremor in her voice. “Shall we begin?”

“Of course.” He snapped his fingers and an official handed him a carved wooden cup full of spring water. “So that our lands may always be nourished and fruitful,” he announced, handing the cup to her.

Amelie had watched her mother perform this ceremony since she was a toddler. At the center of the square, a doubled circle of children ringed the gnarled apple tree. The children would part and pass the Lady through into the center, then begin dancing in a circle while singing a hymn praising Lierdhe’s autumn bounty. The Lady would pour the water onto the roots of the apple tree, symbolically nurturing it, and release the binding spell placed on it after it had bloomed in the spring. Using her Terra magic, she would then coax the tree into bearing fruit within minutes, a visual representation of the province’s fruitfulness.

This year, however, her mother had decreed that Amelie should take on the Ripening Ceremony in Greatham, the village closest to their home of Ardenhaal and the traditional site for opening the Harvest Festival. “You’ll have to do it eventually, and it’s best that you get some experience,” Henriette had said blithely. “Besides, it will be good to let the people see you performing magic, don’t you agree?”

Amelie felt the barb hidden inside her mother’s offer. The Terra magic involved in releasing the binding spell wasn’t difficult. Getting the tree to produce ripe apples at an unnatural speed was more challenging, but not beyond her capabilities. It was doing all of that while wearing a ridiculous scrap of copper silk and being watched by a crowd that made her stomach cramp.

She tried to dredge up some saliva, wondering how horrified the onlookers would be if she took a sip from the cup. You can have all the water you want later. Just get through this now. The older villagers gathered closer, many of the adults holding mugs of ale in one hand and pies or pasties in the other in celebration of the holiday. Under normal circumstances she enjoyed the smell coming from the food and drink, but today it set her already cramping stomach on edge. She swallowed hard, willing herself not to throw up in front of her mother’s subjects. I can do this. I can.

Taking a deep breath, she called, “Children of Greatham, let the Lady pass.”

Two sets of girls, most likely chosen for their good behavior, dropped their linked hands on cue. Amelie stepped past them into the cool shade of the apple tree’s spreading boughs, ignoring the giggles behind her. The tree’s life force reached up to her, a rich golden stream steadying her nerves.

Tipping the cup, she poured the water over the gnarled roots while saying a silent prayer, watching the dry brown earth turn moist and black. Depositing the now-empty cup on the ground, she straightened and looked up at the knobby branches and their clusters of green leaves. Her mage senses perceived the binding spell like a sticky caul that covered the branches, holding back their bounty. The tree ached with the need to bear its fruit, and she could feel that pain deep in her own belly.

Raising her arms, she murmured the releasing spell under her breath. Slowly, the caul began to peel back from the tip of each branch, gathering speed as it reached the trunk and unraveled towards the ground. She took in a deep lungful of air as she waited, noting all the scents; the moist dirt at the bottom of the apple tree’s roots, the dry spice of healthy wood, the odor of sugarplums, milk, and a hint of urine from the children, clean sweat, pasties, and ale from the adults, the pungency of manure and other odors that came from living together in a village, and above it all the smell of plants that knew it was time to give up their gifts and bow to the farmer’s scythe.

Within a minute the tree was free from its binding, a light breeze ruffling the leaves and making it seem like the branches was stretching in relief. Amelie allowed herself a sympathetic sigh. The first part was done. Now came the fiddly bit.

She let her hands drop to her sides, spreading her fingers wide, and lowered her mental shields to the ground under her feet. For her, every contact with the earth felt like a low, thrumming note that ran over her long bones, singing to the part of her soul that connected with her element. Today the earth welcomed her, cradling her in its slow, unstoppable immensity.

It was time. Sinking her mental reach deep into the earth, she drew upon its power, letting it stream up through the soles of her feet, filling her to overflowing. The spell she held in her mind would flow outward onto the dusty grey-brown bark, spreading over the trunk and branches, finding the tiny fertilized buds and prompting them to swell and ripen into red-gold apples. All she had to do was let it go—

An outraged squeal startled her, breaking her concentration. Annoyed, she turned towards the source of the interruption and spotted a tiny girl who was trying to tug her long russet braids out of the grasp of a boy in the outer ring.

He dropped the braids when he saw Amelie’s glare, giving her his best innocent smile. She remembered her male cousins doing the same thing before her Terra power manifested, thinking it was great sport to try and make her cry.

Locking gazes with the boy, she crooked her finger. After a quick check to make sure she wasn’t summoning one of the other children, he came over, hands clasped in front of his holiday smock.

“Yes, Lady Amelie?” he piped, eyes wide and ingenuous.

She leaned over so that they were nose to nose. “If you ever pull a girl’s braid again,” she said quietly, “I’ll turn you into a tree and have you chopped up for firewood. Do you understand?”

She didn’t mean it, of course. For one thing, she wasn’t even sure if it was possible. But the threat was effective. “Y-yes, my lady,” the boy gulped, ingenuousness vaporizing into fear.

“Good. Now get back into the circle.”

He dashed back to his place, and the scent of urine intensified. Drat. She tried to smile at the now-quiet children, but they stared at her as if she was about to turn into a monster and eat them. Double drat and damn for good measure.

With no other option, she turned back to the waiting apple tree and quickly rebuilt the spell. It wasn’t as easy this time and she had to make an effort to smooth the rough edges of the magic. Taking a deep breath, she gestured towards the tree as she released the spell, waiting to see the buds swell into ripe apples.

Nothing happened.

A soft murmur built behind her, and a creaky old man’s voice muttered, “Aye, what’d you expect from t’ Lady of Thorns?”

Amelie’s cheeks prickled in embarrassment at the old nickname. Gritting her teeth, she did her best to ignore the waiting crowd and went through the steps of the spell again, finding the word she’d left out.

The murmuring behind her increased as she rebuilt the spell a third time, casting it at the tree harder than she meant to. The gnarled branches swayed under the impact, their nubs exploding under the force of the magic into apples.

In some cases quite literally exploding, showering the ground with sprays of juice and pulped fruit. The children squealed at the arboreal attack, breaking formation and dashing back to the safety of their parents. A startled Amelie wiped a smear of apple from her cheek before she turned around to face her people.

The expressions on their faces were … memorable. “May Greatham have a fruitful harvest,” she called, wishing she could crawl into a hole and pull it shut behind her.

#

“Well, it could have been worse, milady,” Jeanette said judiciously, holding up the stained copper silk and studying it. “At least you didn’t make the entire tree blow up.”

“That’s not nearly as helpful as you think it is,” Amelie muttered, getting the last bit of sticky juice out of her hair. She slid under the water in the tub to rinse, shaking her head from side to side to sluice out the suds, then resurfaced. “You should have seen their faces.”

Her maid made a noncommittal noise. “But the apples ripened.”

“Yes, the apples ripened, which means the Harvest Festival is officially underway. Hopefully that will keep Mother satisfied.” Amelie stood up, accepting a bath sheet and wrapping it around herself. “And I can get back to my real work.”

Jeanette helped her out of the tub and shooed her over to the vanity table. “Excuse me for being blunt, milady, but these will be your duties someday. You can’t stay in your office forever.”

Amelie wished she was still young enough to stamp a foot, petulant as that would be. Instead she dropped onto the padded stool, allowing the maid to work on her hair with a drying cloth. “Perhaps Mother should have made Sibeal her heir after all. She could have blown up the entire square and everyone would have congratulated her.”

“Mayhap, but Lady Sibeal isn’t a Terra magistra,” Jeanette reminded her, pulling out a comb and running it through Amelie’s damp locks. “You are. And frankly you have the better mind for governing a province.”

“So you say. Mother says I’m too cold and analytical.”

The maid sighed. “Her ladyship has a different view from yours on what makes a good countess. It doesn’t meant that hers is the only correct way.”

“Oh, isn’t it?”


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*smacks self on forehead* Wait, I had a release this week, didn’t I?

It probably would be useful if I told you that Shifter Woods: Roar is now widely available at online retailers, huh? I blame exhaustion from repairing and reinstalling the pool pump motor; we spent most of Monday afternoon and evening trying to get it reattached to the pump, to no avail. After getting eaten alive by bugs and retreating inside in disgrace, Ramón did more research on Google and found some tips. The next morning he went out there by himself, and in his own words, “I just slathered everything in lube, and now that I could see what I was doing it popped right in!” Words to live by, folks.

Anyway, the pool pump is now functioning (ironically, the garage door opener failed that night, but more research indicated what was wrong and Himself fixed that as well), the second novella in the Esposito County Shifters series is out and selling nicely, and I’ve gotten a pleasing amount of reviews on it as well, so a huge Cameron thank you to everyone who’s bought a copy and left a review. And if you haven’t, just click on that link up there and it’ll take you to the book page where you can select your choice of ebook retailer. I’m all about making things easy for you.

And because I don’t think I told people about this, Shifter Woods is going to be a four-part novella series. The first two novellas will be followed by Shifter Woods: Snarl, which deals with cougar shifter Andrea Lochter, whose father Jim (the Alpha of their pack and a former Marine) owns a ski lodge on the mountain. When Caleb picks up John Rockwell, one of Jim’s itinerant service buddies, for vagrancy and drops him off at the lodge at Jim’s request, Andrea makes it a point to stay as far away from the homeless wolf shifter as possible. But the pull of a heart’s mate is hard to resist, especially when Andrea and John have to team up for a search and rescue mission involving a little girl.

The fourth novella, Shifter Woods: Scream, is about Deputy Jane Carey, the golden eagle shifter introduced in Howl. When drug dealers somehow “lose” their pet tiger while stopping for food and gas in Esposito County, Jane takes to the air to spot the big cat. But when she learns that the escaped animal is actually tiger shifter and FBI agent Eric Cho, things get particularly sticky, especially when a local zookeeper with a secret of his own gets involved.

Once all the novellas are done, I’ll be combining them at the end of the year into a box set and print version, and at some point early next year I’ll be doing a full-length novel set in Esposito County (first I have to finish the novellas, Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4), Lady of Thorns (Two Thrones 3), Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2), Do No Harm, and The Chevalier’s Dilemma). Yeah, the rest of 2017 is gonna be kind of busy.

It was *perfect.* #MWTease from Shifter Woods: Roar #PNR #MMromance

Mid Week Tease buttonWoohoo, happy Summer Solstice, y’all! It’s also Wednesday, which means I have a pyroclastic new teaser for you from the next entry in the Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Roar, now available for pre-order from Amazon and available everywhere for 99¢ on June 27th.

As always, fulsome thanks go out to the glorious Angelica Dawson for hosting MWT. Make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

On the run from armed lowlifes in New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains, news photographer Gavin Leeds is rescued from certain death by local company owner Mike Ivanov. When a snowstorm strands them in Mike’s cabin, Gavin discovers to his shock that his enigmatic rescuer is also an Alpha bear shifter who believes that Gavin is his heart’s mate. Some hot and dirty sex with the gorgeous shifter who saved his life is one thing, but Gavin doesn’t believe in fated mates or happily ever afters.

Mike has enough problems with his pack as it is; they’re not thrilled that he won’t be siring the next Alpha, and now he has to answer a challenge from one of his pack members. Having his heart’s mate show up on the same night doesn’t help. Finding out that his mate is a snarky, rebellious human with a commitment problem and an ass he wants to bite?

Nobody ever said an Alpha’s life was going to be easy.


It was perfect.

Gavin’s mouth watered as he studied the cock that pulsed gently in front of his face. Thick and wrapped in veins, Mike’s shaft bulged a little in the middle before tapering to the upturned plum head, already crowned with a bead of salty honey. Gavin could smell the meaty, musky scent coming from it, and had to swallow a mouthful of sweet water before he could do anything else.

Resting his hands on Mike’s thighs, he leaned forward and licked a delicate, wet stripe up the sensitive underside, using just the tip of his tongue to paint warm saliva on that soft, soft skin. A faint tremor ran through Mike’s muscles and the thick pole bobbed again, the roadmap of veins standing out just a little more in relief.

Time to show off his mad skills. This time Gavin flattened his tongue, dragging the flat of it up that warm, hard flesh to the little triangular notch under the crest and scrubbing it, finishing off with a teasing little lick. Mike made a muffled noise that could have been pain if Gavin didn’t know better.

And the way he tasted was amazing. Salt, musk, a hint of something sharp and bitter, a warm and primal taste that was pure male, yes, but there was also something resinous as well, like rosemary rubbed over the skin. Gavin had grown up with pots of rosemary blooming in his momma’s kitchen window, and the taste reminded him of warm Texas mornings when the day would stretch out in front of him without a care in the world.

He flicked his tongue against the edge of the corona, licking up to the tiny eye hidden in the slit. Salt and more of that wonderful woody taste flowed over his tongue and he swallowed, smacking his lips.

He needed more. Opening his mouth, he sucked in the thick rounded head, closing his lips behind the ridged corona and running his tongue around it in a lazy spiral. More precome pearled onto his tongue and he swallowed it greedily, increasing his suction as his head started to bob.

Overhead, he heard Mike’s breathing pick up, short exhalations that were broken up by soft, wordless sounds of praise or pleading, he couldn’t tell which. Gavin concentrated on what was in his mouth, humming softly now as he massaged the proud flesh with his lips and tongue. He fucking loved doing this, taking a big man and making him helpless with something as soft as a kiss.


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#SexySnippets: Shifter Woods: Roar #PNR #ParanormalRomance

Sexy Snippets are seven sentences, taken from a work in progress, or published book, brought to you every Sunday. Allow me to present a teaser from my new paranormal shifter romance Shifter Woods: Roar (Esposito County Shifters 2), out on June 27th and available for pre-order.


Gavin Leeds was maybe an inch or two taller than him, and leanly muscled without being bulky from what he could tell through the jacket and jeans. Classic All American boy with his strong jawline, shock of dirty blond hair, a nose that looked like it had been broken once, and direct green eyes.

And the lips. God, what Mike wanted to do with those full, firm lips. Nibble them, suck on them, slip his tongue between them. Watch them wrap around his dick and slide up and down while Gavin’s tongue massaged the underside of his shaft. Listen to them moan, gasp, and beg as he sank into Gavin’s tight ass and rode him to ecstasy.


After getting separated from his colleague Laurie Rivera and being chased by rifle-toting rednecks through the Sandia Mountains, photojournalist and former UFC fighter Gavin Leeds is shocked to learn that the enigmatic man who rescues him is not only an Alpha bear shifter, but believes that Gavin is his heart’s mate. Gavin’s down for some hot and dirty sex with the gorgeous, dangerous shifter, but he doesn’t believe in fated mates or happily ever afters.

Mike Ivanov has enough problems with his pack as it is; they’re not thrilled that he’s gay and won’t be siring the next Alpha, and now he has to answer a challenge from one of his more homophobic pack members. Having his heart’s mate show up on the same night doesn’t help.

Finding out that his mate is a snarky, rebellious human with an attitude and an ass he wants to bite? Well, nobody ever said an Alpha’s life was going to be easy.


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“Should I keep going?” #MWTease from Shifter Woods: Roar #PNR

Mid Week Tease buttonWhee, it’s Wednesday! Which means I have a hot little teaser for you from the next entry in the Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Roar.

After being chased through the snow-choked Sandia Mountains, former UFC fighter Gavin Leeds is shocked to learn that the enigmatic man who rescued him is not only an Alpha bear shifter, but Gavin’s new mate. Unfortunately, other members of Mike Ivanov’s Green Pine bear pack aren’t happy about their Alpha mating a human, and Gavin and Mike must overcome differences of their own to rescue Mike’s beta from an icy death.

Thanks go out to Angelica Dawson for hosting MWT, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Mike straightened up and a spike of pain dug into his side. “Look, I need that bath. I’ll explain everything afterwards.”

“Shit.” Gavin hesitated, then nodded. “Okay, how can I help?”

“Don’t worry about it. I got this.”

“Bullshit.” The words were firm. “I know when someone’s hurting from a fight, dude. What do you need?”

Mike sighed. He had expected Duncan to stay behind and help him get patched up. If Gavin wanted to do it, he was in no shape to say no. “Go fill the bathtub. Not boiling, but a few degrees above body temperature.”

“Got it.” Gavin headed to the bathroom and Mike followed, grimacing now at the burning pain from the claw marks along his side. They weren’t life-threatening, but they were going to slow him down significantly. And of all nights, this was not the one he wanted to be hampered by challenge injuries. You should be damned lucky I didn’t bounce you out of the pack tonight, Barnson.

By the time he shuffled into the bathroom Gavin was running water into the oversized clawfoot bathtub. It had been Mike’s real indulgence with the cabin, and was big enough to fit a person at each raised end if they were willing to be friendly. He liked soaking in it after pack meetings and runs, giving both his brain and body a chance to unwind.

He hadn’t told anyone about his fantasies of sprawling in it with his mate. With any luck, his fantasy was going to come true tonight.

Gavin turned at his entrance, frowning. “Jesus. You really are banged up.”

“I’ll live.” Mike shrugged, immediately regretting it when the movement pulled on the claw marks.

His mate snorted. “Yeah, right. What kind of painkillers do you have?”

“Aspirin’s in the medicine cabinet.”

Gavin dug through the cabinet until he found the prosaic plastic bottle filled with white pills. He rattled it. “Okay, you’re gonna take four of these—“

“Four?”

“Nurse’s dose, prescription strength. I wish I had some gummies on me, but we’ll make do.”

Mike watched as Gavin shook out four aspirin and handed them over, followed by the bathroom glass full of cold tap water. “You mean pot gummies?” New Mexico had legalized the use of medical marijuana, but most shifters didn’t have to worry about chronic pain or the other ailments that could be eased by the drug.

The shaggy blond head nodded. “Although I use the ones that mainly have CBD in them instead of THC, the stuff that gets you high. I’m not trying to get wasted, I just want to keep my pain under control.”

Mike frowned at that. He could deal with his own pain, but he didn’t like the idea of Gavin hurting. “What kind of pain?”

“The hit that put me in a coma left me with some spinal damage and residual nerve pain. Regular NSAIDs don’t help a lot with that and I’ve seen too many fighters get screwed up on opioids, so I got a medical marijuana card. And since I don’t like smoking, I stick with the gummies.” Gavin flashed a grin. “Don’t worry. It’s not like I sit there eating Cheetos and watching cartoons all day.”

Mike tossed the aspirin into his mouth, following them with a slug of water. “I didn’t think you did,” he said after swallowing. If nothing else, chronic pain would be one thing Gavin wouldn’t have to worry about anymore once he was claimed. “Um. I’m gonna need to get undressed.”

The air between them changed, growing charged with a mutual awareness of each other. Gavin’s head quirked to the side, green eyes glinting. “Already saw you naked. Want some help getting the shirt off?”

Mike tried raising his arms and hissed. “Yeah.”

“Okay, then.” Gavin moved into his personal space like he’d always been there. Despite the pain, Mike was acutely aware of his mate’s scent, a mix of clean sweat, the aromatics of Texas brushwood, and something green. That scent, the heat from Gavin’s body, and the visual of Gavin’s hands undoing his shirt buttons one by one sent desire trickling through him like slow honey. His dick started to thicken in his jeans and he fought a powerful urge to pull Gavin against it. Yeah, no. With your luck, he’d hit your side and it would hurt like hell. Just be patient for once.

Gavin opened the shirt and eased it over Mike’s shoulders, glancing downward. He grimaced. “Dude. He whaled on you.”

Mike looked down at the multicolored bruises spreading across one side of his ribcage. The claw marks were crimson against them, and stung even in the increasingly humid air. “Part of being an Alpha. I have to take on all challengers. They’ll be healed by tomorrow, I promise.”

“If you say so.” Gavin finished pulling the shirt off and tossed it onto the bathroom counter. He turned back, resting the tips of his fingers on the edge of Mike’s belt. “Should I keep going?”

Mike licked his lips. If he got any harder, injuries or no injuries, he was going to pull this cocky, gorgeous human onto the floor and fuck him silly. “Yeah.”

Gavin’s irises contracted, turning into a band of moss green around a dark center. He undid the belt, letting the clinking buckle dangle. The back of his hand brushed against Mike’s growing erection. “Yeah, you must be feeling better.”

“You know how it is. Fight, then fuck.”

“Yeah.” Gavin’s hand turned over and he cupped Mike’s bulge. “You sure you’re up for it, though?”

There was no way he was letting Gavin leave the cabin without being claimed. “Did you want to have sex with me tonight?”

Gavin laughed shortly. “Yeah, I was hoping you’d be interested. But I didn’t expect you to have to fight a freaking bear first.”

“We all have our little challenges.” He thrust lightly into Gavin’s hand. “Keep going.”


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An update, because I know you love those

This has been one fraught week, angels. Last week, Ramón learned that his mom had broken her thigh bone (ironically, it happened in the doctor’s office which she was visiting to determine why her leg hurt). She was taken to the hospital and received multiple scans, after which it was determined that she needed surgery to install a plate on the thigh bone to hold everything in place.

And then a consultant took a closer look at the scans to figure out what was causing the pain in the first place. He discovered a tumor. More were found, and suddenly we went into full “Get Ramón back home to see his mom NOW” mode, which was complicated by work duties and a very welcome house guest who just happened to show up at a difficult time. But the house guest is now on her way, the work duties have been fulfilled, Ramón is packed and I’ll be schlepping him to the airport in a couple of hours, and he’ll be landing in the UK tomorrow. Any good thoughts/prayers/white light/whatever you have directed to a very nice lady in Chesterfield would be quite appreciated at the moment.

In other news, I posted polls on Facebook and Twitter to ask people what series they would like me to work on next. To my surprise and gratification it turned out that Olympic Cove was the clear winner, so I’ve put the Pacifica Rising and Two Thrones books on hold and am back at work on Cross Current (Book 4). I hope to have that off to Evernight by the end of May, so for everyone who’s been waiting for the continuing adventures of the gods, mermen, disciples, and other residents of Olympic Cove and their battle against the Mad Goddess Thetis, you’ve got something good on the way!

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

Hello, chumrades, and welcome to Mid Week Tease! This week I’m featuring a snippet from my new paranormal romance Shifter Woods: Howl. As for this scene, well, let’s just say that my Alpha sheriff is dishing out a little sensual retribution for three days of worry. Because Caleb’s like that.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Caleb dropped to his knees, pressing kisses into the dark floss at the juncture of Laurie’s thighs before breathing in her scent there. “I’ve been dreaming about tasting you again,” he said, urging her legs apart. She gasped in delight as he laved more kisses across the sensitive flesh there before applying his tongue to her clit in sensual flicks. Electric sparks raced through her body, pushing pleasure ahead of them, and she moaned when he dipped his tongue inside to taste her wetness, pushing one thigh up and over his shoulder for better access.

He raised his head and smacked his lips. “Like dark honey with a touch of salt. I think you just became my favorite dessert.”

He returned to eating her out with heated abandon, his tongue wickedly talented on her clit and his fingers just as skilled as they slid inside her. She had to clutch his shoulders in order to stay upright, her one leg was trembling so much. She wasn’t sure if it was the muscle strain, the position, or simply Caleb between her legs, but the orgasm that rocked through her and made her scream like a banshee almost blew the top of her head off.

She finally had to push him away or fall over. Licking his lips, he guided her down to the rug and shucked out of his own clothes in record time. She took the opportunity to kiss him while his hands were occupied, enjoying the primal combination of their tastes in his mouth.

He urged her onto her back and moved between her open thighs, his erection a thick, warm weight over her clit. He teased her with a slow pump of his hips, wetting himself with the slickness flowing from her, and her inner muscles clenched with need.

“Stop teasing me, damn it,” she panted.

He paused, grinning at her. “Honey, you’re lucky I’m not spanking your luscious little ass for letting me worry for three straight days. If I want to take some time teasing you, I will.”

And he did, sliding over the sensitive nub until she wanted to scream. “Okay, you want me to beg, fine,” she gasped. “Please fuck me.”

“Ask nicely.”

The order made her squirm. “Please, Caleb, I need you inside me.” Happy tears pooled in the corner of her eyes and she struggled to take in a breath, her need for him was so large. “Please, make me yours.”

With a growl he hitched back, then slid into her in one thick, lung-emptying thrust. “Mine,” he ground out. “You’re all mine. No one else’s, you hear me?”

She let out a high wailing cry at his invasion, wrapping her legs high around his hips so that he had room to move. And he did, each stroke filling her body and soul with him. She felt the tears overflow and trickle down her temples. He lapped at them, licking up the salt water before kissing it onto her lips. “Love you, mate of mine.”

“I love you, too.” As another round of that marvelous heat began to grow between her hips, she dug her nails into his back. “God. Please, Caleb, harder!”

He sped up his rhythm, pushing into her with a heavy, almost punishing stroke, the delicious ferocity pounding her into the thick rug. The stimulation was just this side of too much but he wouldn’t stop, couldn’t stop until she was shattered and scattered, ashes of pure sensation. “Caleb!”

His head lunged, mouth opening on the crook of her shoulder. She felt his canines sink into her flesh as she came, blinding bright this time. The biting pain mingled with the incandescent pleasure and she shrieked as it tore through her, changing her forever.


Where to Buy

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU


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#SexySnippets: Shifter Woods: Howl #PNR #ParanormalRomance

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Sexy Snippets are seven sentences, taken from a work in progress, or published book, brought to you every Sunday. Allow me to present a teaser from my new paranormal shifter romance Shifter Woods: Howl (Esposito County Shifters 1), out on Tuesday and available for pre-order.


Long practice and years of working as a law officer were the only things that allowed Caleb to keep himself under control as he sat across the table from Laurie, trying not to think of her naked and under him as he sank into the welcoming heat of her body.

He knew he’d been spending too much time at the MacComber jail, sleeping in his office or prowling around the cells, but he didn’t want to return to his empty house and the memories it held of Anna. At least Longmire had a dog in the books to keep him company. All Caleb had was a life of dry duty to the people of Esposito County and his pack that stretched on into the foreseeable future.

Until this afternoon, when he found a shivering, disoriented reporter standing in the creek and caught her scent.

My heart’s mate. And I promised I wouldn’t claim you.


Laurie wants a news story. Caleb just wants to be left alone. But when the coyote shifters’ paths cross in New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains, Fate steps in and gives them something they never expected—each other.

Reporter Laurie Rivera is on the trail of a white slavery ring when she’s forced to run for her life in the foothills near Sandia Crest. Widowed sheriff and Alpha coyote shifter Caleb Lynch comes across the exhausted reporter and discovers to his shock that Laurie’s also a coyote shifter—and his new heart’s mate.

But Caleb never expected to have another chance at love, and Laurie has a good reason to fear being claimed, especially by an Alpha. As a snowstorm traps them in the sheriff’s cabin, Caleb must find a way around the barriers surrounding Laurie’s heart, and Laurie has to confront her past—and the humans who want her dead—if she wants a chance at her very own “happily ever after.”


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