The winner of those lovely Patric Michael and ZAM books from yesterday is….Tina M P! Yay!
My Christmas Eve book isn’t even a holiday story. In fact, it’s not even a single book. This is a trilogy that features two of my must read authors. Dee Carney and Mina Carter write some of the hottest books out there. And they are really great people and good friends of mine, I’m proud to say.
Every year Dee comes up with some project for all of us (a group that includes L. Shannon, Moira Reed, Eliza Gayle, Dee, Mina, and me.) In the spring of 2009, Dee hatched the idea of she and I and Mina doing a trilogy where one book was M/F, one M/F/M, and the other M/M. And the Phoenix Prophecy was born.
Prologue for all three books
The Phoenix rose from the flames, the scent of charred feathers stinging Ancelin’s nose. Darkness held him tightly, the only light coming from the eerie wavering form of the Phoenix and the fire. He tried to move his limbs. Nothing. Awareness flooded his brain as the light from the Phoenix grew brighter.
“I’m dreaming,” he said.
“Of course,” the Phoenix replied, although its beak never moved.
“This is a prophecy.” Ancelin’s heart thundered.
In all the years he had been mated to Nix, her phoenix-driven prophecies had never touched him. Every night he slept beside her and knew she dreamed of the destinies of others. Yet, not once had she dreamed of him. Tonight, the world as he knew it shifted on its axis as her phoenix–her soul–came to him as he slept.
“You have no need of explanations, Ancelin,” the Phoenix told him. “You know what I tell you shall come to pass.”
Ancelin might be a demi-god, but the power of the Phoenix was beyond his control. “Just tell me and get it over with,” he gritted out arrogantly, unwilling to admit fear crept into his heart.
The Phoenix’s flames burned hotter, the image glowing brighter. “Your transgressions shall be the vehicle of your end, Ancelin. The pain you have caused others will turn on you. The trinity will break you, and you shall be no more. Your fate is at hand.”
Ancelin swallowed hard. If he had been able to feel his limbs, he knew they would be trembling. A phoenix prophecy could never be reversed. It always came to be.
The Phoenix’s voice grew cold and disdainful. “Three and three have you used for your own ends. Three times have you broken your vows. Your life force shall be the payment for your transgressions, and three hands will bring about your death. With your passing, new lives will be wrought for those whose lives you’ve torn. With your blood, the circle shall be mended. It has already been decreed.”
With a start, Ancelin awoke, gasping for air. Beside him, the flame-haired form of his mate lay still as marble, barely breathing. Anger flooded him, and he wondered if he could break the prophecy by killing her as she slept.
Her eyelids flickered. “You have not the ability to snuff the Phoenix’s flames, Ancelin,” she murmured, her turquoise eyes boring into his as she sat up in their bed.
Rising to his feet, Ancelin yanked the silk sheet and wrapped it around his hips. He glared at his mate left sitting on the wide mattress, her naked skin glowing in the moonlight. “That’s what you think. And even if I couldn’t kill you, that does not mean I cannot change the prophecy by snuffing out the lives of those who seek to end mine,” he snarled.
“I did not dream that on purpose, my lord.” His mate’s words were cool, but respectful.
He stormed toward the bathroom, fury riding his heels. “You did, Nix. You knew I was unfaithful, and this is your punishment.”
She shook her head, the red-gold curls tumbling around her shoulders. “Ancelin, you know I have no control over the dreams, over the Phoenix…”
“Fuck you. I always knew you were a cold-hearted bitch. Why do you think I sought comfort from others?” Ancelin sneered. He went into the bathroom and slammed the door.
Left alone, Nix rose from the bed. The moonlight showcased her perfect form as she crossed the room to an escritoire. From a small drawer, she withdrew a hand mirror with a gilded frame shaped like a phoenix.
She brushed her fingers over the glass and a vision appeared in the oval. A young man with dark hair and argent eyes stared at the ocean, watching the movement of the waves. Nix touched the mirror where his arm was, and he flinched. There on his skin appeared a phoenix mark. He blinked in shock and stared at the tattoo-like artwork that swirled over his bicep.
Nix swept her palm over the mirror, and the vision changed. This time, two men, obviously twins, one dark and one light, materialized on the glass. They stood in the forest gazing at the moon. Nix’s fingertip touched the mirror, over the right side of one’s chest, then over the left side of the other. Both flinched as black tribal lines, the mark of the phoenix, wrote themselves onto their skin.
Again, Nix’s palm passed over the mirror. She closed her eyes for a moment, a spasm of pain crossing her beautiful features. Opening her eyes, she gazed at the image of a man with hair as fair as the moonlight, his eyes glittering like jet. He stood beside a fire, his face turned toward her. Her fingertip pressed the glass gently, as if she actually touched the side of his throat. Unlike his brothers, shock did not show on his face. Instead, his eyes seemed to bore into hers.
She passed her hand over the mirror, and it darkened. Putting it away, she returned to the bed she had shared with Ancelin for the last century. A loveless bed. A loveless mating. Soon the prophecy would come true and she would be free. Ancelin thought he could break it. Nix knew it was possible under certain circumstances, but she was determined that it would not happen this time. The Phoenix would win. It almost always did. And this time, if she were to survive, it must.
Deeper Than The Ocean
Liquid Silver Books
M/F erotic paranormal novella
The life of a merman should be relatively simple, but not for Danyl. His mother’s been murdered, his father’s responsible and now he’s out for blood. Thank the gods, the key to doing so rests in the hands of a beautiful human who is his pleasure to pursue.
Di has hit pay dirt. Years of solo dives on a barely functioning boat has yielded an ancient coin certain to secure her financial future. A chance rescue by a merman knocks her plans awry. Falling for him certainly was never a part of those plans.
Now, the two must depend on each other–extending a little bit of faith, and a whole lot of trust–in a quest for vengeance and their ultimate survival.
Contains: Mixed species coitus
Danyl used the powerful muscles of his tail to push through the water. He would not let them see his disappointment. Or his anger.
Another pairing ritual and another humiliation he’d been forced to live through. Coupled with everything else he’d been through recently, he didn’t know how much more he could stand.
Of course. He didn’t have to turn to recognize to whom that voice belonged. No one else would bother to seek him out.
He slowed enough to allow Gagan to catch up. He remained facing forward though. If he had to look upon his best friend’s luminescent skin or the perfection of his silver fluke right now, he’d vomit. The only things really silver about himself were his eyes. Of course, they weren’t quite natural either. Every other mer-person had mesmerizing blue eyes.
No point in mentioning his own tail, which for years had the disappointing habit of becoming legs at a moment’s notice until he’d learned to control it. Legs. Who in Hades had need for human legs underwater?
“What?” he snarled, forcing the cool ocean through his gill sac. Despite being located in the back of his throat, he could feel it wave in the water with the effort. Yet another thing that marred him as not quite like the others. To them, breathing was just another natural act. For him, it was an ongoing agony.
“Danyl, be patient. You will be mated–”
He whirled on him. “When Gagan? When the maids have decided that they wouldn’t mind being mated to a freak? When their curiosity about fucking me overrides their common sense?”
What could he offer a mate? Unnatural sex and perhaps, deformed children who had legs, too. If nothing else, choosing to mate him guaranteed a lifetime of ridicule for any maid, for sure.
Gagan shooed at a school of fish daring to linger and eavesdrop. “Danyl, you are a good man. If none of the maids have realized that yet, it’s their loss. When the time is right, you will be mated. And I have no doubt, you will love her with a passion that is unrivaled. With an intensity that will be the envy of merfolk for generations to come.”
Good old Gagan. Ever the poet, who wore his heart on the outside for the world to see.
Danyl looked away, for if he looked into his friend’s eyes a moment longer, he would fall under their hypnotic spell. His friend believed so truly that a mate existed for him, while Danyl’s hope in that belief faded with each passing day. His friend believed so deeply in love and forever that he’d convinced Danyl to attend a pairing ritual yet again, as he had time and time before.
Danyl kicked and rode the undercurrent away from Gagan. “I don’t have the stomach for this,” he muttered.
“Gods damn it, will you wait?”
He wouldn’t wait. Everything about his life had reached a crux. The ridicule, the alienation and now the abandonment and the loneliness left him shattered in ways that made him an unsuitable companion, anyway. Why this desperate hope for shelter and acceptance he could never dream of attaining?
Danyl pulled his shoulders forward as he swam. He knew why.
Because without the sliver of hope still shining through, he no longer had anything worth living for.
Gagan managed to catch him up, his lean length an enviable sight as he swam. Few of the mer-people could match his strength or speed. How they’d become fast friends was anybody’s guess. He didn’t so much as breathe heavily when he called out to him again. “Danyl!”
He made a show of swimming beneath Danyl, rising up to his other side without breaking his cruising speed. Fucking show off.
When he did it again, Danyl surged forward, determined to not be outdone. Damned mermen were always playing games. Why couldn’t the idiot see he wasn’t in the mood for friendly competition? He didn’t want to have fun. He wanted to find some dark hole where blind fish nestled and hide from the world.
Putting on another burst of energy, he sliced through the water, almost daring Gagan to match him around the jagged edges of coral and through the stinging wisps of grass growing in crags. Despite his very best effort to not enjoy it, stretching out and gliding through the water at breakneck speeds sent a thrill through him. He thought little of safety or boundaries. He gave no care to mermaids or matings. He almost managed to discard thoughts of family and home, too.
The two mermen whipped past startled schools of fish, scattering them in various directions before they reassembled. Jutting rocks from cliff ledges gave Danyl opportunity to dodge and put distance between them. They swam through hot spots only to be greeted by frigid cold spots moments later. Through it all, the vast ocean fanned out around them in a kaleidoscope of greens, blues and blacks.
By the time Danyl slowed, his earlier disappointment had worked out of his system. Chest heaving, he waited for Gagan to catch him up. To his complete surprise, he’d manage to out-swim his friend by a few lengths and they’d swum at least three nautical miles if not further. More energy must have been penned up inside him than he thought.
“That was awesome,” Gagan called as he neared. “I didn’t know you could do that!”
That made two of them. “It wasn’t a race. I was trying to get rid of your sorry tail.”
Gagan chuckled before his face straightened, becoming serious. “I wanted to talk with you alone, Danyl, and out here,” he glanced at their sparse surroundings, “is probably a better place than any. It’s about your mother. And your father.”
Danyl almost looked away, but forced himself not to move. “What is it?”
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but we’ve looked into your suspicions.”
“You were right.” Gagan reached for his shoulder and clamped a supportive hand around it. “The evidence is stacked against him. Based on what we’ve found, we agree that he most likely murdered your mother.”
He wasn’t surprised. He couldn’t be. And now, he wouldn’t let the news affect him.
No–that wasn’t true.
He would let it affect him, for now he had something to live for.
He needed to stay alive long enough to kill his father.
* * * *
Di ignored the sweat hanging off her brow and wound the winch as hard and fast as she could. It would do no good to wish yet again that she had a crew to do the heavy work. The Sea Anemone was hers free and clear. So was the work that went with operating her.
She gritted her teeth and ignored the pull in her muscles. The anchor had to come up now because she wanted to get back to land immediately. The weather had dropped unexpectedly since she’d arrived this morning and made staying out here miserable. Besides that, three years of searching were now over! True, she still hadn’t found the true object of her intent but if that little silver coin was any indication, she was damned close.
Cold, salty water splashed over her hands and face as she worked on getting the anchor up. It must have been hung on something. She took a step back and tugged the lead rope directly opposite the winch.
Damn! Whatever it was hooked on had it wedged good and tight. She wasn’t going anywhere unless she managed to dislodge it. Most likely, the anchor had found a nice comfortable spot in between two rocks and now made her late afternoon wretched.
She made quick work of donning a mask and jumped over the side. The water temp was an instant reminder of why wetsuits were a necessary luxury, but she’d hoped to be in and out before it made too much of a difference. That wish didn’t stop an immediate eruption of goose bumps to overtake her. Better make this quick. It was way colder than she’d thought it would be.
Swimming around to the front of the boat, she located the long length of rope with ease and used it to lead her down to the anchor. By the time she reached the large piece of metal, her body felt like one big ice cube. She was further down than where the depth finder indicated the ocean floor should be. Working as quickly as her numb hands would allow, she freed the heavy weight and let it drop to a sandy area. She’d have to work fast to get inside the boat before it drifted, taking the anchor with it, into another inconvenient location.
As she started the ascent, she caught movement, or what she thought was movement, off to the side. A claustrophobic’s nightmare, the mask was the ultimate definition in tunnel vision. She had to turn her entire body to face whatever the movement might have been. Probably some curious fish wondering why an air-breather had the nerve to venture below.
Speaking of, her lungs began to remind her that she needed to move a little faster. The slow burn might be a thrill to some divers, but if she allowed it, instead it meant that her anxiety level cranked up a few notches.
Maybe it was the anxiety. Or perhaps a touch of oxygen deprivation. Hell, it might have been a touch of hypothermia. But when she turned to meet the movement head on, she could have sworn there was a man swimming in the distance.
Di blinked twice and squinted through the condensation forming inside the mask. He was gone now, but she was so sure…
Never mind. Get on the Sea Anemone and back to land. That coin needed to be dated and confirmed. Visions of men swimming beneath the water also indicated she definitely needed a good old romp in the hay–if only it were that easy.
Pushing aside frustration with her nonexistent sex life, she focused on what had to be her priority now. She kicked her legs, expecting to slice through the water. Instead of an easy graceful movement, her ankles groaned in protest, muscles in her lower legs burning with the effort. She’d left the fins on board, and truthfully she didn’t know if they would have been a help or a hindrance. Her body was so tired. Still, if she wanted to get back to the boat, she had to swim.
She kicked again. Nothing happened.
Medals and trophies from swim meets lined the otherwise stark walls of her apartment, but right now her legs scissored with the grace of wooden logs during a river drive as she tried to make some progress.
The fatigue was only one part of the problem. Di was so cold too. She brought her hand to the mask and noted the blue tinge outlining her nails.
Her lungs burned. Her body refused to gain speed. Goose bumps covered her everywhere. She was underwater with only a mask and none of her other diving equipment.
So not a good place to be.
Don’t panic. She would get back inside the boat in short order. Focus on one thing at a time. There wasn’t a damned thing she could do about air, but she could kick her legs. She would, damn it.
There. One little kick, but it was something. She just needed to do it again and in a short while, she’d reach the boat, right?
Di looked up and despite her instructions to herself, panic rocketed through her.
The surface was a hell of a lot higher up than she thought possible. Oh, God … all of her friend’s admonitions about being in the boat by herself came back to haunt her in that single moment. Divers worked in pairs, they’d told her. Boaters knew better than to go out alone. But determined as ever, she’d ignored them all. Finding the sunken Greek transport had become almost an obsession and that meant working without the benefit of a partner.
Now she might pay for it with her life.
The spots in front of her eyes appeared in a variety of colors, her brain desperate and conjuring more reminders that hey, some air would be good. Slamming her eyelids shut, she wanted to cry, but she kicked feebly again instead. If anything, her body drifted down instead of up.
She was not going out like this. Not like this!
Di kicked again, but she couldn’t tell if she moved because she couldn’t feel her legs. Thoughts of the Sea Anemone, the silver coin and her life’s goals filtered through her mind. For some reason, she thought of that man who’d been swimming underwater with her a few minutes ago.
And then she thought of nothing at all.
Liquid Silver Books
M/F/M erotic paranormal novella
Twin wolves Ryder and Jayce share everything. Their job, their cars, their women. There’s many a woman happy to spend a night or weekend of passion with a couple of handsome bad-boy bounty hunters. But there’s one woman they won’t touch … the woman who sets them on fire like no other.
When Caitlin crashes through the doors of Honey’s bar she sets off a chain reaction that has the twins facing their mother’s death, their long lost father and their deepest desires.
Life will never be the same again, if they survive.
“Fuck me, I need to get laid.” Jayce flicked a glance up from the cards in his hand and suppressed the exasperated sigh that wanted to escape his lips. Across the table, his partner in crime, Ryder, glared at his bottle of Bud, grumbling.
Jayce shrugged. “You say that every night.”
“So? Doesn’t make it any less true. Do you know how long it’s been since we saw any action? Th–”
“Three weeks, four days and sixteen hours,” Jayce replied promptly, cutting Ryder off without looking up. He didn’t need to look up, he’d heard this every night for three weeks and three days. If there was anything on this planet Ryder liked more than tracking prey it was sex.
“And it’s your own fault. If you hadn’t pissed Ramona off, she’d still be here and perhaps I’d get some peace from your belly aching and your over-active bloody sex drive.” A groan from the other side of the table told Jayce his remark had hit home.
“Oh God, you had to remind me of Ramona didn’t you? That woman’s got tits to die for and a cunt so tight–”
“Yeah, yeah. What am I? A fucking monk?” Jayce snapped back, feeling the sexual frustration as keenly as Ryder. That was the problem with bonded wolves, both partners felt what the other did. Which could be fantastic–if they were lovers.
Jayce and Ryder weren’t. They couldn’t be, ever, even if they were that way inclined–and both liked women far too much for that–because they were brothers. Not only brothers, but twins. Twin wolves, a genetic abnormality unheard of before their birth.
“Ugh, sorry bro. Didn’t think.” Ryder picked morosely at the label on his bottle and pouted. Jayce shook his head and carried on laying cards out in a game of patience.
Patience. That was a laugh. Jayce had zero patience and he knew it. He was playing to keep his hands occupied as they whiled away the hours waiting for something to happen. Either a bar brawl–always a possibility in Honey’s roadside bar and grill–or for a call telling them another job had come in.
As though Ryder was reading his mind, he spoke again. “Wish Sally would call. Now there’s a piece of ass I’d take a crack at. Reminds me of Ca–”
“Don’t even go there.” Jayce curbed his annoyance, his voice clipped and brooking no argument. He knew full well who Sally looked like and it was a no-go area.
Ryder shut up and fast. Jayce was the more sensible brother, less given to temper and impulse. He used “that” tone to let Ryder know to button it.
Ryder leaned back in his chair, his long fingers turning the neck of his bottle round and round, while Jayce dealt the cards. Jayce looked up. He and Ryder were night and day, something which never failed to amuse him. They had the same face, the same body, but where his hair was golden blond, Ryder’s was as dark as the raven’s wing. Which made no difference because both kept their heads shaved to the scalp. Necessary in their occupation. Bringing in the bounties on bad-ass paranormals was dangerous business even for a couple of werewolves. Long hair begged for someone to grab a hold of it and use it to introduce a face to a hard surface, not something Jayce found fun.
Other than hair color, nature had made them identical. They both had their mother’s green eyes, the same height, the same well-muscled physique. One Jayce knew was more due to good genetics and their werewolf blood than exercise and good nutrition … unless his brother’s long-held dream had come true and alcohol and junk-food were the recommended diet these days.
Life and their own choices made them different. Ryder preferred the biker look, black leather pants and a skinny-rib T-shirt showing off his impressive body to best advantage. It was a good look but Jayce couldn’t put up with all that leather. Way too hot. He preferred the casual look. Combat pants and heavy boots, with a tight vest revealing an identical build to his twin. Both sported various tattoos and piercings.
Jayce slapped the last card on the table. Ryder’s expression was a combination of discomfort, longing and deep, dark need. “I know what you’re thinking and fucking quit it or I’m gonna need a cold shower again. Unless you can convince one of the girls they want an afternoon of sex with two horny wolves.”
Jayce snorted, nice boys they weren’t. One reason they couldn’t think of the woman their handler in the office, Sally, reminded them of. She was nice, sweet, innocent and she deserved better, far better than the Vanir brothers. Didn’t stop Jayce’s body burning just at the thought of her.
He looked up and considered the crowd in the dingy bar. Crowd was an overstatement, it was too early for anything approaching a crowd.
A few of the regulars were in the booths, communing silently with their pints, and the normal girls were on waitress duty.
Ryder sighed in defeat. “Like that’s going to happen.”
The waitresses knew the brothers of old. Unless they could get one of them drunk they wouldn’t be seeing any action from that quarter.
What they needed was a group of girls on a road-trip prepared to get down and dirty with a couple of bounty hunters. Girls liked the dangerous type, something Jayce knew from experience and was an old hand at capitalizing on.
The door banged open and his head shot up in hope. Perhaps the fates had heard his silent prayer and a horde of fresh-faced college girls just ripe to be corrupted would spill through the doorway.
The signs looked good, the figure silhouetted in the frame was feminine–slender and graceful. Then she stepped into the bar and he got a look at her face.
This was such a bad idea.
Caitlin stood for a moment in the dim and grimy bar as she waited for her eyes to adjust from the brightness of the desert sun outside. The men she was looking for had to be here, their scent–a unique musk she’d been tracking for days–lay heavy on the air. If they weren’t then she’d missed them by mere minutes.
Squinting, she turned in a half circle and tried to make her stubborn eyes focus quicker. If only she hadn’t forgotten her glasses in her haste to leave she wouldn’t be in this predicament. When the opportunity had come though, all she’d had time to do was grab a travel pack of clothes and her paws had hit dirt. She hadn’t stopped running since, trying to find the Vanir brothers.
Her vision cleared and she peered short-shortsightedly into the booths. Interested looks met her gaze, ranging from polite inquiry right down to lascivious leers. None yielded the men she was looking for so she moved on, her footsteps ringing on the dusty floor. Her eyes flitted across the room, swept across the bar and beyond into the back.
Cat stilled. There they were, sitting around a small table, but neither looked happy to see her. Biting her lip she headed towards them. A shiver ran through her as she approached them, both watching her in silence, their eyes hard and unwelcoming.
Swallowing nervously, she stopped next to the table and looked down at them. Neither wolf moved, watching her with unreadable eyes. They’d always watched her, she realized. She liked it, a shiver of something, not fear but something else, running up her spine.
“Jayce, Ryder. How’ve you been?” She wanted to start polite before she dropped the bombshell.
“What are you doing here Caitlin?” Jayce’s expression was tight as he answered.
“I came to find you two.” Great, two … okay, three … could play the uncommunicative game.
“So, you found us, now turn around and get your pretty little ass back on out of here. Before your granddaddy comes looking and finds you with us.” Jayce concentrated on his cards, his whole attitude dismissive.
Cat’s lips compressed as anger battled with fond memories of the brothers. Ten years older than her, she’d idolized Jayce and Ryder from the moment they’d joined the pack with their mother, both gangly cubs on the edge of puberty. Unlike the others of their age group, they had never brushed off the inquisitive toddler Cat had been. They’d always made sure she was okay and took her back home when she’d toddled after them.
“Got rid of the leading strings a long time ago, Jayce. Not that they did any good in the first place.”
His reply was a contemptuous snort. “Tell me about it. You always were a pain in the ass.”
Cat was nothing if not tenacious though. So much so her grandfather had often joked she was more terrier than wolf. She’d followed the twins so much, they’d stopped taking her back to her family and simply included her in their escapades, the big brothers she’d never had. When they’d hit their teens and gotten a car between them the first ride had gone to Cat. A wistful smile curved her lips. That summer had been the last perfect summer she could remember. In the fall everything had fallen apart and changed Cat’s view of the world forever. Jayce had challenged another wolf for his mate, Vanessa. He’d lost, as everyone expected, but it had been the last fight he’d ever lost. From then on the brothers had been hell-raisers, always in trouble with the pack and the human law. Then her grandfather had banished them. They hadn’t argued, just walked out of town without a backwards glance, shattering Cat’s teenage heart.
Anger coiled in her breast. Here she was trying to do something for them and she got this reaction? Well, screw them. Slamming her hands down on the table she glared at the twins.
“Grow up, Jayce. I’ve run three nights tracking you two. I’m not being patted on the head and turned back around again until you’ve heard me out,” she snapped, frustration and anger making her voice tremble before she got it under control.
She’d surprised them, she could see that much from the small start Ryder gave and the way his brother went as still as a statue.
Ryder whistled lowly. “Oh what do we have here, kitty-cat’s grown some claws?”
“Shut the fuck up Ryder,” Cat and Jayce chorused in unison then glared at each other. Jayce’s eyes locked with hers, fury in their green depths. Cat frowned a little, he was angry. What had she done to make him so mad at her?
“You shouldn’t swear Caitlin, it’s not ladylike.” Ryder leaned back in his chair, his eyes intent on her.
Cat glared at him, annoyed at the trite response. “Perhaps I don’t want to be a damn lady! Perhaps I’m bloody well sick of being a lady.”
Jayce looked at her, his expression unreadable. Danger and tension swirled between them as Cat lifted her chin, refusing to back down. Why should she? She’d come here to help them, not be treated like the kid they remembered her being. She was a full grown woman now. One with her own mind.
“There are two types of women who come into places like this. Ladies and women who aren’t ladies.” Jayce’s voice dropped low and husky, his green eyes as unreadable as his expression. Cat’s fury mounted. He’d better not be about to say what she thought he was going to say. “Believe me sweetheart, in here you don’t want to be the second type.”
Cat set her jaw and jeered. “And why’s that? Because I might–shock horror–hear someone swear or see a drunk?”
She was deliberately needling him, an act as sensible as baiting a tiger but she couldn’t stop. Even so, she wasn’t prepared for the reaction she got.
Jayce exploded into movement, surging to his feet and capturing her wrist in one big hand. Ruthlessly he hauled her up against his hard body, the breath knocked out of her lungs as her breasts were mashed into the brick wall of his chest.
Excitement struck low and deep, making her knees weak. Arousal and awareness surged through her body with each beat of her heart, her nipples tightening in response. His lips were so close and her gaze riveted on them for a second. Sensuously full they should have made him look feminine, made both brothers look feminine, but they didn’t. Instead they highlighted the virile masculinity of their other features.
God, is he going to kiss me? I want…no, I need him to.
“No, because women who aren’t ladies in here are fair game.”
His eyes bored into hers, their green lit with a dark heat that made her go weak in the knees. For years she’d wondered what all that solid muscle would feel like, wondered whether he, if either of them, actually noticed her as a woman.
Now, held against him from breast to thigh, she had her answer as the bulge at his crotch pressed against her soft belly. Oh, he was noticing her as a woman alright.
“Women who aren’t ladies in here get fucked. Good and hard. You want that, pretty little kitty-cat?” he taunted, pressing his erection against her. Cat gasped in shock, her hands clamping onto his upper arms to push him away. Something stopped her. He wasn’t just big, he was huge. The scent of an aroused male wolf swirled about her and made her head swim. Cat bit back the whimper welling in her throat as her wolf–usually a meek and mild creature–rose in response. Oh God yes, she wanted some of that, a rush of liquid heat slipping from between her thighs as her pussy clenched.
“Fuck me, she’s getting off on it.”
Ryder’s surprised whisper behind her reminded her they weren’t alone. Cat blinked, breaking the spell between her and Jayce. His lip curled as he pushed her from him with force. She stumbled backwards and ended up on her ass in front of the table, looking up at him dumbly. His expression was hard and arrogant as he looked down.
“Leave,” he advised, “unless you want to end up flat on your back servicing us both. Because there’s no granddaddy here to protect you now kitty-cat.”
Jayce felt like a shit, a complete and utter shit, as Caitlin’s beautiful golden eyes filled with hurt. A groan welled up and was ruthlessly suppressed. Cat was his secret vice, she always had been.
Six years ago he and Ryder had had to leave the pack because of this woman–or girl as she’d been then–because sooner or later one of them was going to make a move on her and then all hell would have broken loose.
He nodded towards the front of the bar. “There’s the door sweetheart, don’t let it hit you in the ass on the way out.”
Tears welled, spearing him through the heart. He could cope with everything but her tears. He’d never been able to stand it when Cat cried. Even as a child she’d been able to wind him around her little finger but thankfully she’d been too innocent to realize what she did to him and use it to her advantage.
“Jay…” Ryder started warily. “She found us. Surely…”
“No!” Jayce snapped, knowing what Ryder was going to say and rejecting the idea before it could take root in his head. That way lay madness … and long hot nights of passion.
Because all he wanted to do was grab Caitlin by the wrist, haul her out to one of the rooms Honey rented out and spend all night balls deep in her softness. He knew once he’d had a taste of her, he’d never be able to let her go.
Caitlin looked from one brother to the other and held her hand out for one of them to help her up. Jayce cut a glance to his brother, a look that said plainly if he did, Jayce would take his hand off at the wrist. She sighed and climbed to her feet, dusting her hands off on the seat of her jeans. Jayce’s body tightened savagely. She’d found them…
“But she’s a big girl now Jay–” Ryder’s tone was mulish but Jayce ignored him. He wanted Cat as well but … she was pure. Not for the jaded games they played with their women, sharing them, fucking them in a hundred different and dirty ways. She deserved romance which was something neither Vanir brother had an ounce of in their bodies.
With a growl he turned on Ryder, slamming him up against the wall as he vented his anger and frustration on the only viable target in reach. “I said no,” he hissed into his brother’s face, his own tight with barely controlled need and lust.
Ryder didn’t fight back, the air knocked out of his lungs by the powerful blow. Instead his hand curled around Jayce’s neck as understanding filled his eyes.
“Hey, you wolves back there. Any of the kinky man-on-man shit and you’re barred. Take your bitch and go screw about somewhere else,” Honey yelled from the bar. “I run a clean place here and don’t you forget it.”
Jayce laughed as he dropped his hold on Ryder and stepped back. He knew the laugh was bitter, perhaps even a little on the maniacal side but he was past caring. He walked past Caitlin without looking at her. “Sure Honey, if you run a clean joint then I’m the fucking pope. And she’s not our bitch.”
“Well, if she isn’t then you won’t mind if someone else claims her.”
Caitlin snapped her head around at the new voice, one full of slick charm and smarm that raised the hackles on the back of her neck.
Four new arrivals stood just inside the door, one still holding it open for others outside. Tall, and heavily built, they all wore the dusty leathers of bikers. Their eyes were all fixed on her, lust and interest burning within them. Inside, her wolf snarled a low growl of warning, one which spilled over into her human form as she caught the scent.
Her growl was echoed by both the brothers as Ryder stepped in front of her protectively. “She’s taken.”
Blond and handsome at the front smiled and revealed canine teeth far too sharp for Cat’s liking. A shiver wormed its way down her spine, the cool wash of fear filtering through into her scent. Only a little as she battled to control the emotion, but enough for Ryder to turn his head. Her senses on high alert, she caught the small movement and looked at him.
He winked to reassure her, his eyes full of easy charm, and Caitlin couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief. However much Jayce hadn’t wanted her around, she knew they’d give up their last breath protecting her.
“Yeah, what he said,” Jayce pitched in. The were-cat’s gaze flitted from one to the other, noting the similarities. Then he smiled. It wasn’t a nice expression.
“You’re Jayce Vanir, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
The cat reached inside his jacket and pulled out a snub-nosed handgun. Cat screamed as he pointed it directly at Jayce. “Got a message from your dad.”
Where There’s Smoke
Liquid Silver Books
M/M erotic paranormal novella
A murderous father. A son with a price on his head. Zander’s year-long affair with a mysterious woman ends when she tells him that her abusive mate is the father he’s never known. The woman, a prophesy-dreaming immortal known as the Phoenix, explains that Zander has three brothers and that his father killed their mothers. Now, the Phoenix has dreamt of her mate’s death and Zander’s destiny. Voth is the Phoenix’s successor and Zander’s true mate. The two set out to find Zander’s brothers while eluding the assassins sent after them by Zander’s father. Passion burns hot between them, sealing their fate, as their journey leads them to fulfill the Phoenix’s prophecy.
Zander loved a nice pair of thighs. His current lover had the best thighs of anyone he’d ever been with. His tongue snaked its way up the smooth skin that lined the inside of her left thigh. Her breath hitched in her throat, but other than that, she didn’t even tremble at the onslaught of his agile tongue. A chuckle rose from deep within his chest.
Her cinnamon spice scent rose on the warm air, commingled with that of her arousal. Zander pushed her thighs farther apart and flicked the tip of his tongue over her hairless mons. His mouth quirked in a grin as, finally, a tremor shuddered through her.
“Tease.” Her husky voice caressed him as surely as the brush of her fingertips over his shoulders.
“You love it,” he chuckled and parted her damp folds with his fingers, exposing her engorged clit. Breathing in her rich perfume, he pressed forward, his mouth opening over her sensitive flesh.
A choked cry escaped her, and her hips bucked. With one palm braced across her lower belly, he held her still as his tongue languidly circled her swollen nub. As always, the salty sweet flavor of her burst on his taste buds, sending his lust soaring and making his cock hard as stone.
“I love what you do to me, Zander. You make me feel alive.” Her voice held a note of despair that was nearly lost in the husky overtones of arousal.
Zander had heard that despair before. He knew what it stemmed from, if only in the general sense. Her mate didn’t have a care for her. Abused her and tormented her mentally at every turn. Zander wished he knew who the guy was so he could end her ties to the asshole. Then he would take her for his own.
This time her voice was firm and businesslike, not a single note of passion in it. He raised his head and met her turquoise eyes. “What’s wrong, Nix?”
She pushed herself up and away from him, scooting to the side of the bed. “You know what’s wrong. I told you to stop those thoughts.” She glared at him, her frustration plain to see in her expression.
Zander’s eyes flicked over the tumble of red-gold curls, the creamy skin, tip-tilted breasts, the heart-shaped face, and gaze sharper than a razor. “He doesn’t deserve you. Let me take you away,” he urged.
She shook her head. “It is not your place, Zander. He will reap what he has sown. The Phoenix has spoken. The prophecy is in motion.”
A frustrated sigh escaped Zander. Now, his cock throbbed heatedly in time to the angry pounding of his head. Nix’s mate had always been a sore spot between them. She refused to tell him who the man was and refused to allow him to free her. For the thousandth time since he’d met her, he wondered how powerful her mate was. She seemed determined to protect him from the man. As if he needed protecting.
“From this man, you do require protection, Zander. You cannot take him alone, and drawing his ire would bring about your death. I cannot have that,” she said coolly.
The way she so easily read his mind didn’t bother him. When they’d first met it had been disconcerting, but a year later he was used to it.
Rubbing the Phoenix mark on the side of his neck, Zander rose from the bed. His stiff cock bobbed as he walked over to the huge plate-glass window of his bedroom. He leaned one forearm against it and stared out at the storm that lashed the coastline.
“Nix, I care for you. What is between us is good, but this situation with your mate…” He glanced over his shoulder at her. “It can’t continue.”
White teeth sank into her lush pink lower lip. Her shoulders rose in a silent sigh of acquiescence. She turned her head, looking away from him. Slowly, she rose and began to dress. Once clothed in black jeans, a black cashmere sweater, and boots, she turned, her arms raised as she pulled her fiery hair back into a ponytail. Gathering up a black leather jacket and matching gloves, she walked toward him, her movements economical, yet graceful.
“You’re right, Zander. This can’t continue. I should have done this long ago, prepared you months ago, but I didn’t want to leave you,” she said in a low, worried tone.
He frowned and pushed back his long, unruly blond hair. “You don’t have to leave me, Nix. Just tell me who he is and I’ll free you from his tyranny.”
She shook her head. “Already you don’t understand. Get dressed. We need to go somewhere.”
She turned and left the bedroom. Zander grabbed his jeans and yanked them on, buttoning them hastily. He sensed the tension in her and that surprised him. She’d shown him many sides to her personality in the last year, but she’d never shown fear or tension. He tugged a T-shirt over his head and grabbed his leather jacket, padding silently into the living room.
Nix stood in the bland stainless steel of his kitchen, a water bottle in her hand. Sitting on the leather sofa, he began to put on his boots.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” he asked, getting to his feet.
“No. I’m going to show you something that is right.”
Zander followed her to the door, and they stepped into the dimly lit garage attached to his cliffside home. Nix tucked her long hair into her jacket and zipped up, reaching for a black motorcycle helmet. Zander did the same. He adjusted the helmet so that the built-in mic was near his mouth, then turned on the radio that allowed him to communicate with Nix. He hit a button on the handlebar of the sleek black motorcycle in front of him, and the garage door rose.
He swung a leg over the heavy bike and settled into the leather seat. Nix hopped on, balancing herself easily behind him. Her arms wrapped around his waist, and the visor on her helmet dug into his shoulder blade. He started the engine with a roar and backed carefully out of the garage onto his private drive.
The rain had stopped, but thunderous gray clouds still filled the sky. Gravel spurted from beneath the wide tires of the bike as he put the heavy machine in motion. They sped down the winding road, moving in unison through the curves. By the time they came out on the main highway, the rain threatened once more.
“Take the coast road.”
Nix’s disembodied voice whispered in his ears. Her body pressed tightly to his back as the bike turned toward the rocky coastline. A huge truck rumbled past them, passing swiftly on their left and shaking them like a terrier with a rat in its mouth. Zander held the bike upright through sheer force of will. Bikers and truckers never seemed to get along on the road. He’d learned that the hard way many years before.
Turning off the main highway onto a twisting road that led to the beach, Zander felt Nix tilt her head back, looking upward, her body stiff with tension. Unable to take his eyes off the road, he had no clue what she was looking at. When they reached the road that paralleled the rocky beach, Zander stopped. The motorcycle’s engine growled loudly in idle.
“Which way?” he asked.
A soft sound, almost a sob, came through the speakers. Then Nix’s voice filled his helmet. “Left.”
They roared south on the coast road, the wild beach stretching to their right, the surf crashing with insane abandon as the next wave of the storm approached. The shifter inside Zander ached to be released. The urge to soar through the sky with the storm fired every nerve ending he had, and adrenaline coursed through him. The elements drew him, the wilder the better, and he loved flying in them. Grounded and in human form, the freedom of his bike with its closeness to the elements was a perfect fit for him.
Zander maneuvered the heavy bike around a strange rock formation that sprung up out of the sand. He glanced over his shoulder. A huge bird drifted in the sky, its feathers dull in the half-light, the long tail floating behind it like a cloak.
Nix’s softly spoken words had Zander scanning from left to right looking for “there”. The bird glided closer, and Zander saw a campsite. With more rocks than sand on this part of the beach, the only area of hard-packed sand held a small tent and a fire pit. Nearby, behind a scattering of huge black rocks, stood a monster of a black motorcycle, golden flames licking their way over the fenders.
Pulling in beside the other motorcycle, Zander cut the engine and took off his helmet, his shoulder-length hair blowing in the wind. Nix hopped lithely off the bike and removed her helmet, securing it to the back of the bike instead of setting it on the seat as Zander did. He looked at her curiously. Her action inferred that she would not be returning with him. His jaw clenched. Maybe it was time for answers. For a year, he’d welcomed her to his bed whenever she appeared. He would do almost anything for her and not just because he bore her mark on the side of his throat. Emotions he’d never known he had were vested and bonded to her, although he was positive he was not in love with her.
Zander followed Nix to the fire pit where the flames rose a bit higher than they should have for an ordinary fire. They swelled when Nix came closer, and he realized they were responding to the presence of the Phoenix. A draft of cold air brushed his face, and he looked up, his eyes tracking the movements of the pale brown bird with the long tail as it circled the campsite.
“Why are we here, Nix?” he asked quietly.
Seating herself on a smooth boulder, she looked at him across the width of the fire pit. “Because it’s time for you to know the truth and meet your destiny. Your path no longer lies with mine,” she said simply.
Anger poured through him in a rush and heated his cheekbones. Silently, he cursed his pale skin and hair. “I hate it when you go all phoenix on me. What truth and what destiny?” He stomped closer to the fire pit, and the flames leapt higher. The bird circling above swooped lower.
“My mate is your father, the demi-god Ancelin.”
Nix’s words hit him like bullets, and he recoiled, taking several steps back from her. Cold air swirled around him and the brown bird dove toward the fire pit, the long tail brushing his cheek. As the bird entered the flames, a small explosion occurred, and the flames swelled higher, out of control for a split second. Then they calmed, burning with an eerie glow Zander had never seen before.
“So you’re my step-mother.” Zander’s jaw clenched.
At first, he wasn’t sure what to make of Nix’s confession. He’d always known his father was an asshole. What decent man seduced a presumably innocent girl then abandoned her once she was pregnant with his child? It didn’t matter that Zander’s mother had used her more-than-considerable shape-shifting powers as well as her magic to deceive his father into thinking her innocent. To Zander’s knowledge, his mother had never had a chance to show his father her true face. The man had simply appeared every night for a week, got his rocks off, and then bailed.
Nix grimaced. “I dislike that term. It implies I’ve treated you in a motherly fashion as befits the wife of your father. My position with regard to your father is tenuous at best. When I mated Ancelin, I thought he would be faithful to me and treat our bonding as sacred. I thought he respected and cared for me a little. I suppose I was naïve, because I was wrong on all counts.” She shrugged, her slender shoulders rising and falling gracefully. “It doesn’t matter now. Ancelin’s fate has been decreed. The Phoenix has spoken to him in his dreams. He lives on borrowed time.”
Zander pondered her words. He had spent the past year since his mother’s death searching for his father. Almost the entire time he’d been searching, the answers had lain in his arms. He’d been fucking Nix for a year, and she’d never told him the truth. Fury lashed him, but he tamped it down. After all these months, he knew a little something about Nix. She had reasons for her silence. Apparently, the time had come to find out those reasons.
“So my father mated you and then cheated on you. Now, he’s dreamed of the Phoenix and knows his death is coming, is that correct?” he asked, drawing the words out slowly and thoughtfully.
“Yes, but there is more,” Nix replied.
The cool tone of her voice told Zander she held her emotions on a very tight rein. She sat as if relaxed, but her pose didn’t fool him. A maelstrom of emotions rode her hard. He walked around the fire pit and sat on a rock near her, looking into her turquoise eyes.
“Tell me,” he whispered, his mind racing. So far, her revelations had been only a little shocking. Whatever else she told him couldn’t be nearly so surprising.
A flicker of anguish registered on her face momentarily. If Zander hadn’t been watching her closely, hadn’t known her so well, he wouldn’t have noticed that spasm of emotion at all. “Your mother was not the only girl Ancelin seduced after he mated me.”
Nix hung her head in a shamed manner, almost as if her mate’s acts of infidelity had somehow been her fault. Zander’s eyes narrowed. Why the hell would she feel responsible for what that bastard had done? Had she rejected him, leaving him to seek pleasure with another?
Her head shot up, her eyes flashing fire. “Of course not!” she exclaimed. “In the beginning, I loved him. Until he betrayed me with your mother. Even then I forgave him and welcomed him to my bed. But he didn’t want me. He spurned me yet again and left to seduce another. When his seed took root, he left her and took another lover. He stayed away until he had impregnated her as well. Only then did he return to me, bragging of the fertility of these women.”
Nix’s long, slender fingers stroked her flat abdomen. “The Phoenix sometimes cannot procreate. There is always another waiting in the wings should this be so. I have no children, therefore, my successor has been chosen,” she murmured almost to herself.
The flames in the fire pit swelled once more, and Zander frowned at them wondering if Nix controlled them. He knew she had the ability. Every phoenix controlled fire. It was as if they were fire.
“So you’re telling me I have siblings. Brothers? Sisters?”
“Brothers,” she whispered, her eyes closing for a split second.
His mind tried to sort out her confessions. Three women, three sons. One prophecy. Leapfrogging from one set of ideas to another, a sickening truth occurred to him, and his eyes widened.
“Fuck me,” he breathed. “Did my father kill my mother?”
Nix bit her lip, then she nodded. “The prophecy said that three hands reached for his throat. He took that to mean that each of the women who bore him sons would try to kill him. So he killed them first.”
A fury greater than any he had ever experienced began to grow inside him. “You knew I’d been searching for my mother’s killer, yet you kept this to yourself.” The flat tone of his words conveyed absolutely no emotion. He knew it would tell Nix just how angry he really was. “Why would he kill the women? Why wouldn’t he think it was his sons after him?”
With a sigh, Nix stood and paced around the fire pit. “Your father easily believes women will betray him. In your mother’s case, she truly did, although not out of maliciousness. When he discovered the truth of who she was, her days were numbered despite the prophecy, Zander. Your father does not take betrayal well.”
Irony rode her expression as she paused in her pacing. “He must always control everything and everyone around him. Betraying him in any way is a death sentence.” She shook her head a little, her long ponytail swaying. “He has no trust in women so his first thought after the prophecy came to him was that I arranged for it because of his infidelity. His second thought was that I would use the three women who bore him sons as the instrument of his death.”
“He doesn’t have much imagination, does he?” Zander muttered sourly. The whole story left a bitter taste in his mouth. He knew what his mother had done in order to have him and had wondered if her deception had brought about her death.
A soft bark of laughter escaped Nix. The rusty sound told him that her amusement wasn’t the pleasant kind.
“Once he killed the three women, the prophecy came to him again. It was then that he began to seek out his sons. Even if he knew the truth, you and your brothers would not be safe.” She waved her hand toward him, and his skin burned with power where her mark lay. “The truth is that your father has four sons not three. One woman bore twins. You have three brothers, Zander. Already there is a connection between you in part because of Ancelin’s blood and in part because you all bear the mark of the Phoenix. I am not sure if your brothers feel this connection, but I know that you do. You have dreamt of them.”
Zander sucked in a breath. Over the past six months he’d had dreams of a merman and two werewolves. Men who also bore the mark of the Phoenix on their bodies, but in different places. The werewolves were marked on the opposite sides of their chests. The merman was marked on a bicep. His own mark was more personal, caressing the skin at the side of his throat. His gaze caught and held Nix’s.
“You marked us.”
She nodded. “The night your father had the Phoenix prophecy. The marks help protect you from him.”
“He wants to kill us.”
Again, she nodded. “I marked each of you more than a year ago. Your brother Danyl’s mark did not physically appear until I met him and touched the spot where I knew the mark lay. Your brothers, Jayce and Ryder, had their marks appear when Ancelin tried to kill them.”
Zander narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “Mine appeared the first time I made love to you. I thought you did it,” he murmured.
Nix smiled. “I did. But not then.” She sat on the rock beside him. “After Ancelin killed the three women who’d borne him sons, the prophecy again came to him as he slept. Once more, it told him of three hands reaching for his throat, that his death drew near. So he knew he had not stopped anything by killing those women. That is when he decided to kill his sons.”
“Why are you telling me now? Why didn’t you tell me when I met you for the first time?” Zander’s head ached from the info dump. He’d fantasized of taking Nix from her abusive mate and keeping her for his own. Now, he knew it would never happen. Best a demi-god and take the man’s mate? No way. Zander had a lot of gall, but tempered it with the wisdom to know when he faced a losing battle.
“It will never happen, not because you cannot best your father, but because I am not destined to be yours, Zander,” Nix said with quiet emphasis. “Your mate is another.”
Zander’s breath hissed in sharply. Her tone conveyed a gravity that spoke to him of prophecy. Yet, the Phoenix had never come to his dreams.
She smiled at him, the corners of her bowed mouth curved upward with a spark of amusement. “I came to you in person, Zander, because a prophecy came to my dreams. The Phoenix is your destiny, your mate, but I am not.”
He hadn’t thought she could surprise him any more than she already had, but her words stunned him. Shaking his head as if to clear it, Zander deliberately caught her gaze with his and held it.
“How can that be, Nix? You are the Phoenix.” He kept his voice pitched low, hoping it didn’t give away the turmoil within him.
“But Zander, did I not say that the Phoenix has come to my dreams? It has foreseen my death. The one who takes my place is your mate.”
The soft cadence of her voice washed over him, and he shuddered. The finality, the surety in her words rocked his world. Nix was going to die. The reality of it made his chest ache. His lungs burned with every breath he took. His father would bring about her death. Every cell in his body knew it, and his hatred for the man who gave him life flared anew.
“I cannot deny your reasoning, Zander. Ancelin does figure into my end.” Her smile gentled as she shifted on the rock, leaning forward slightly as she spoke. “We are all part of a larger destiny, you know. Every life is entwined with another, affects others. Each act of destiny affects many. The universe is much more than the sea and shore before you. Beneath the waves lie things you have never seen, and beyond the stars lie things you cannot comprehend. Each thing is a piece of the puzzle that knits together the fabric of this universe and beyond. What your eyes see is a miniscule part. What your heart feels is a much larger, grander portion. What your soul knows is infinite.”
Zander clamped down on the urge to tell her being cryptic and going phoenix on him wouldn’t stop him from trying to prevent her death. Instead, he focused on the words that had the potential to fuck with his carefully balanced existence.
“Since you know who my mate is, why don’t you clue me in?” He tried to keep his words from sounding edgy with the sense of betrayal that had crept into his emotions.
The fire glowed brighter, and the flames rose impossibly high. Zander suddenly wondered why the nondescript brown bird he’d seen earlier had done a kamikaze into the fire. Realization sparked inside him, and his eyes went from Nix to the strange glow in the fire. The outline of the bird appeared and morphed into the shape of a person. A man stepped from the flames.
Today, you can win all three books of the Phoenix Prophecy. For your chance to win, comment on this thread by midnight Eastern/9 pm Pacific tonight, Christmas Eve.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday!