Some News and A Pain in the Neck

So once again, I’ve let too much time pass between posts. I’m sitting propped up with pillows and a neck pillow to try and ease this really, really painful stiff neck. I can barely move at all. Spent entire day yesterday nursing my little guy, thankfully he seems to be much better. Never a dull moment.

But I woke to a wonderful surprise this morning. Noble Romance Publishing has offered me a contract for Healing the Mage, the sequel to In The Devil’s Arms. Some of you may remember the snippet I posted a couple of months back, and my critique partners are very familiar with Lily and Aidan. As you can imagine, I am thrilled! I will have more details as they become available. At this moment, I have two other books planned in this series, characters and plotlines on my spreadsheets, and I have a glimmer of an idea for another. For now, though, those are on hold as I work on revisions for two others, The Night Club, my next vampire story, and the medieval Scottish tale I wrote during NaNo. It doesn’t really have a title, been calling it Passion’s Vengeance, but I really need to come up with another. Hmm, just got an idea. Stay tuned. 🙂

To celebrate this good news, here’s another little snippet from Healing the Mage:

The crack of leather against flesh, followed immediately by a muffled grunt from the submissive bound to the bench, cut through the hushed murmurs of the spectators. The spotlight bore down on the couple in the center of the room, the viewing area shrouded with dark shadows.

Ignoring the scene before them, Aidan Marchand stared at his soon-to-be former business partner. The man had finally cracked. Another strike of the submissive’s flesh, and the scene ended as she writhed on the bench, clearly reaching the desired climax, her cries filled with heat and tears. Aidan turned again to the pair being observed by many eager eyes, but he barely noticed the way the Dom unbound his submissive and drew her into his arms.

“Think about it, Marchand,” Eddie Orvano said, his own beady gaze focused on the pair scening before them. “The money we can make — “

Aidan held up a hand. “Not here.” He glanced around, though no one paid them any attention.

Eddie led Aidan to a somewhat secluded corner. The party wasn’t as crowded as earlier, many of the single attendees having left or found a partner to play with. Aidan closed his eyes against the throbbing in his head. It only grew worse, intensifying with every passing hour. As soon as he let Eddie know he planned on ending their partnership, he would head home to his comfortable bed and a long night’s sleep. He had too many other issues to focus on, and getting caught up in Orvano’s depraved scheme would ruin everything.

“Look at all these girls. They’re playing,” Eddie said. He waved a hand about, indicating several single women perched at various places near the doorway, all subs based on the ribbons pinned to the right side of their outfits. The one in the middle, a striking Creole enchantress. Aidan had seen before. He and Eddie had had a three-way with her several weeks ago.

“That’s what these parties are for. To play.” Aidan emphasized the word. What the fuck had he been thinking to come tonight? He’d had no inclination to scene with anyone, but Eddie had lured him with the hint of a new business venture. At first intrigued, now he wanted nothing more than to get away from the man who had finally let his fascination with the dark arts overcome him. This wasn’t just playing with mind control and pushing the limits with magic and sex, what Orvano planned crossed so many lines, at the least unethical, at worst, illegal. And insane.

“That’s not what I mean. How many of these women really have any idea what it’s like to be a true slave? No rights, no say in their lives. Merely a possession.” The eagerness in Eddie’s voice, the unholy light gleaming in his tiny eyes, sent another flash of fiery pain through the center of Aidan’s brain.

He shook his head, then stopped when the pain worsened. “You’re a sick fuck. That’s not what this is about. What the hell happened to you?”

“Nothing happened to me except a need to make money. Do you know how much some of those rich foreign dignitaries will pay for American women? I’d prefer non-Magiste women, but think about it. All these lovely enchantresses and low-level witches are easy enough to subdue. You bind their magic, they’re the same as mortal women. I’m telling you, Marchand, we’d make fucking boatloads of money! I’ve got a business plan all laid out, the equipment and locations selected. Now it’s time to put the plan into play. That’s where you come in.”

“No way. You’re not getting me involved!”

“You’re involved Marchand. I need your money to secure everything and get this operation running. I’m this close to hiring a manager to oversee the daily workload. I’ve got a few trainers lined up, too. It’ll be slow at first, but once we pick up a few girls, things are gonna get real busy real fast.”

How Aidan possessed the strength not to lose his dinner right here on the floor, he’d never know. “You’re not getting one dime out of me. I’m having my lawyer draw up papers to dissolve our partnership.”

Aidan turned to leave, but Eddie’s grip on his arm stopped him. He turned and stared into Orvano’s twisted face, thin lips curled with rage, eyes darkened with menace.

“You’ll stake me, Marchand. That pretty Creole over there? She told me she wasn’t really willing with you. She’ll testify before the Tribunal if it comes to that.”

“What are you talking about? She was more than willing with both of us and everything we did.” Aidan remembered the night. While the evening had at first started out as enjoyable, he’d quickly grown tired of her attempts to top from the bottom. His annoyance had led him to perhaps be harsher with her than he intended, but he knew she’d loved every minute of the way he whipped her.

Eddie shrugged, the skin-tight black shirt pulling over his shoulders. “You should see the video I got of you with that whip. Left some nice marks. She’s got photos of every one you put on her.”

Aidan clenched his fingers, trying to force back the thumping in his head, which continued to increase with each passing second. He needed to get out of here. Now.

“Eddie, leave me out of this,” he hissed through clenched teeth.

“You’re in. Until I say otherwise.”

He scowled at the triumphant gleam in Orvano’s eyes and turned, his head near exploding. If he didn’t get some air, he would pass out. He finally made his way outside to the street, gulping in deep breaths. The pain in his head spread down through his shoulders and along his back. More than a headache bothered him. Il Relache. Why had the damn process chosen now to kick in?

He needed to get home, before the process rendered him weak with the pain of his growing powers. Where the hell was the nearest Portal? He didn’t see any signs of the magical glowing arch used for travel by the Magiste. Damn! The closest one was through the park. He straightened, forcing himself to concentrate on reaching the Portal.
* * * * *

Lily walked along the deserted street, wishing she’d left the bar earlier with her friends. Why did the wrong sort of man always attract her? Each time she let one get close, he hurt her in some way, proving her judgment had not gotten any better. No more. She was done with men.

Now, long after midnight, she found herself alone again, even Chartres Street dead silent and empty, unusual in this party town on a Saturday night. The faint sounds of Bourbon Street bars, the odd mix of jazz, blues and rock and roll, punctuated by drunken shouts and catcalls, faded as she approached Jackson Square.

The park, a favorite place to hang out during her teenage years, seemed eerily deserted. She’d timed this perfectly, so no one would see her tear-streaked makeup.

For a moment, Lily longed to go home to her parents and cry to her mother, to listen to the older woman’s advice and comfort as she had during her horrific teenage years. She shook her head. She’d cut those ties but good a long time ago. Her mother no longer offered the haven of reassurance she’d once been. Regret still burned in Lily’s gut, but she would prove to all of them she could survive without magic. Her job skills served her well, and she didn’t need magic to achieve what she’d accomplished in the last three years. If only her family could be proud of her. Why couldn’t they ever see her as worthy? Her parents’ success had always been an impossible goal to strive for. Lily sighed and kicked the air, wishing she had something more satisfactory as a target. Her doubts in herself always came back to her parents’ unreasonable expectations, always when she –

Something stabbed into her side, like a knife burning into her body, twisting, ripping her apart. What the hell? She looked down, expecting to see spurting blood, but the pain stopped. And slammed into her again. She doubled over, her stomach heaving.

An agony-filled groan sliced through the humid night. She looked around. No one. No wounds appeared on her body. Could this all be in her mind? Mon Dieu, what could it be? She wanted to scream against the rising volume resonating in her head, each throb and pound like crashing cymbals inside her brain. She couldn’t be imagining this agony, it hurt too much.

Another twist of fire along her spine and she cried out, falling to her knees. She pressed her hand against her mouth to prevent the scream from escaping. What was happening? She could barely see through the suffocating distress.

More cries, moans. She looked around again. There. Behind the statue of Jackson. She sucked in air and forced herself to stand on shaky legs. Each halting step jarred, each rasping breath scorched as she inched closer to the statue. She leaned heavily against the stone and panted. The soreness in her side receded a little and she crept around the monument.

A man lay huddled on the ground, curled into a fetal position. She forced her concentration on him, forced herself to ignore the pain still pulsing throughout her, though different now. The hoarse whimpers continued to increase. Lily crawled closer, each movement slow and careful, so as not to startle him. Another rough shout pierced the night and Lily froze momentarily before continuing to approach. The man clutched his head and gave a violent shudder, another deep cry torn from him.

Hesitating but a second, Lily knelt beside him, reaching out. He writhed with pain, but the instant her hand touched his shoulder, he calmed. Her fingers burned where they came in contact with him, but surprisingly, it didn’t hurt. Instead, a burst of energy coursed through her, flowing from her fingers and into the man.

His violent movements slowly stilled. He turned to her and opened his eyes. She froze, pinned by his silvery gaze. She should have known, should have recognized the pale blonde hair plastered to his head with sweat.

Aidan Marchand.

It had been years since she’d seen him, even longer since she’d exchanged more than a word or two with him. Her godmother Helene’s stepson. She’d barely known him, he’d been a few years ahead of her in school. She’d never given him more than a passing thought. What was wrong with him? Had he been cursed? She needed to get him some help.

She drew her hand away, and he immediately cried out, his body wracked once more with shudders. The sharp stabbing started again in her side, fiercer than before. She bent over, seeking some way to ease it. He reached for her and before she could back away, had grabbed her wrist. Even in the throes of whatever madness held him, his grip remained strong, too strong to break. But he calmed once more.

“Don’t let go.” She barely understood his slurred words.

“Wh-what?”

“You’re a Healer. Don’t let go.”

“I . . . but . . . . ” She couldn’t break free if she tried. He was right. She possessed the gift of healing. And she could deny it no longer.

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A Brief Excerpt – Caution: NC-17

I’ve been working on writing the last little bits of my current WIP, Healing the Mage. I have maybe another page or two worth to write, then it’s time to begin the dreaded revisions. My hard copy has so many notes, it looks like it’s bleeding! But the progress has been worth it. But I have to say I haven’t been too pleased with how the love scenes are working out.

Usually writing the sex is the easy part for me, making all the rest come together coherently often poses a challenge as I tend to over-complicate things. but as I’ve been working through some earlier scenes, I haven’t been satisfied with how they’ve come out. Last night, I did some tweaking to the first love scene in Healing the Mage. I think it works better, then again, maybe not. So because I like to share my agony, I thought I’d post a snippet here. If you think it works, let me know, and if you think it doesn’t, I’d like to know that too, and why. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bubble and not hitting the high notes as I should.

Anyway, here are Lily and Aidan, shortly after Lily has stumbled over a very ill Aidan and brought him home in an effort to help him. Things don’t turn out quite as Lily planned, but then again, if they did, there wouldn’t be any story to tell would there?

Heat. It broke through her foggy slumber, flooding her with warmth. She inched closer. A soft moan near her ear tore through the veil of hazy dreams that had left her restless, seeking the promises carried on intense swells of feverish intensity.

The warmth of a solid chest, strong, alive, seared into her awareness. Powerful arms folded around her. One large hand rested on her belly. Her eyes snapped open. Aidan.

He’d buried his face against her neck, his warm breath tingling and tickling her skin. A shot of excitement slithered along her spine. She stared at the hand on her stomach, the long, strong fingers. The thought of them running over her body drew a little shiver of excitement. She raised her hand, gently touching his large one, meandering over his fingers, sliding to the wrist. His warm skin was sprinkled with a light dusting of gold hair, soft under her touch. His lean forearm rested on her waist, burning her through her dress as she continued her exploration, finding his upper arm muscled and solid under the black t-shirt. She shifted slightly, and he gave a soft snore. She froze, cautiously turning her head to look at him. He still slept. Her fingers resumed tracing a vein on his arm and she let out the breath she’d been holding.

It felt nice having him wrapped around her like this. Zut! It was a whole hell of a lot better than nice. There was no pain this morning, there was just his warmth, his presence surrounding her, calming and invigorating her at the same time.

She wanted to laugh. Last night she’d sworn off men. And here she was with one on her bed. Granted it wasn’t exactly how a woman wanted to get a man in her bed, and she was sure he wouldn’t be here any other way, but it was still completely at odds with her promise to herself.
Her hand drifted again, lingering on his bicep, tracing down past his elbow. She imagined him leaning above her and… What was she doing? She needed to get him out of her bed. At that moment, the fingers on her stomach flexed, ever so slightly. She gasped, her nipples hardening as the fingers moved again, the caress growing more insistent and seeking. Her hand tightened on his arm.

She held her breath as he moved slowly, massaging with a light touch that unsettled her in more ways than she cared to admit. The power scorched through her, settling in her core, making her pussy throb. What was happening between them?

“Aidan, wake up,” she said, hoping he would stop, at the same time, hoping he wouldn’t.

“I am awake.”

His sleep-roughened voice only sparked more fire in her veins. How could he do this so easily? She hesitated, then turned to face him. His silvery-blue eyes were wide open and watching her, and a hint of a smile played on his lips.

“Like what you see?”

“How long have you been awake?” she asked.

“The whole time.”

She closed her eyes and swallowed. Her heart threatened to explode, both from embarrassment and the knowledge that she had indeed, liked what she’d found. There was no graceful exit from this one.

If only she hadn’t felt his pain last night, heard his moans of agony. She sighed and looked away, knowing she needed to get free of him, even as she wanted to stay wrapped in the cocoon of desire he slowly built.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have ….” His seeking touch moved more insistently, sliding up toward her breast. She held her breath, knowing she should stop him, yet wanting to feel his caress. She closed her eyes against a half-hearted denial, fighting the need to press even closer, to touch him as he touched her.

“I’m glad you did.” His slow progress was maddening, even as he passed his lips along her ear, his words a vibrant whisper that left her gasping.

“I didn’t mean… oh, it’s too much.” His fingers slid still higher and ignited her yearning, more intense than she’d ever known before.

“It is, isn’t it, Lily? Too much and not enough.” His low voice was a caress of its own. “Even in pain, I recognized the attraction and had to have more. You felt it too.”

“I… no, I didn’t.”

His chuckle sounded like thunder in her ear. “Don’t delude yourself, little Healer. Your touch did more to me than ease my pain.”

With that, he cupped her breast and she couldn’t stop from arching into him. At the same time, his lips moved along her neck, and she was suddenly on fire, aching and desperate for more of his touch. She bit her lip to keep the moan from escaping, but his hand squeezing and caressing her breast had her head swimming. With a start, she realized he was under the blankets with her, pressed against her ass. Even clothed, she could feel his erection, hard and insistent. Another bolt of lightning sizzled along her skin, his lips now on the curve of her shoulder, easing the strap of her tank dress away.

She quickly gave up the effort to remain motionless. Instead, she pushed into him, turning and allowing him the freedom to touch her, to bare her skin as he did. Finally, he eased up on one arm and she found herself completely underneath him, his crotch pressed into hers. She let the moan escape then, her pussy throbbing in sudden need. This shouldn’t be. He was a stranger, really, a pureblood Zyndevine Mage just coming into his powers. She was a former Enchantress who’d turned her back on magic and all of its trappings. But the desire would not be denied and she reached for him, sliding her arms around his neck and pulling him near for a kiss.

She meant to keep it slow and gentle, but Aidan consumed her with his mouth, his lips and tongue wreaking havoc on her senses as he dove deep into her mouth, teasing her, making her quiver wildly. She let the last of her doubts go as she met his tongue with hers, her body curling around him.