Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekend In New England by Jill James

When I was told I needed to write a short story based on a song title I knew it would be a Barry Manilow song. I've loved his songs since I was a pre-teen and got a 45 record of Mandy for my birthday. Weekend in New England is such a poignant song and I love it.

Can Britt and Bethany find true love in a year of weekends in New England? When put between a rock and a hard place, will Britt follow his ambition or his heart?

Rated - Adult - for 18 years and older only.
Genre - Contemporary
Heat Level - Sensual


Weekend In New England
by Jill James

A beautiful drive back to New York City and Britt Mason couldn’t enjoy it as he did every month. His mind was crammed with thoughts of rocky beaches, warm water, and Bethany Wilson. Bethany and that last, ugly fight. It wasn’t supposed to end that way. He’d meant to call it off with class, instead they had yelled, argued, and Bethany had thrown a vase at his head.

He winced. Maybe he had deserved it. It wasn’t as if he didn’t let Bethany know she was his woman. His only one. She had been, totally, until a few weeks ago. Until he made the decision that changed everything.

Britt raked his fingers through his hair, sighed, and wondered how something so sweet could turn so bad. Just one year. Twelve months from amazing to appalling. It was such a short time to fall in love with the right girl, the right place, and so not the right time.

He stared at the traffic ahead. Great, a traffic jam. Concentrating on driving took his mind away from his troubles. Like why he was driving away from the woman he wanted, and driving back to the woman he was supposed to marry.

“Damn, I’ve become a lovesick ballad.” His fist pounded the steering wheel. He pushed the button and watched the window roll down beside him. Fresh, early autumn air flooded his Lexus. The headache stopped pulsating behind his eyeballs. Deep breaths of salt air mixed with honeysuckle filled his chest. Life had been so simple before his trip to Connecticut and St. Peter Island last fall.

* * * 

The sand sat toasty on his buried feet. The laughter of children came to him on the breeze from the ocean. It was perfection. Then, something whacked him in the back of the head. He turned to yell at the kids and fell into deep green eyes.

Britt gazed, dumbstruck, watching her pink, luscious lips move, and not hearing a word. She stopped talking and stared at him. He shook his head, the fog lifting as her hand touched his head.

“Are you all right?” Her fingers tangled in his hair.

No, he wasn’t all right. His heartbeat raced a million beats a minute and he couldn’t catch his breath. This girl, and she was a girl, barely out of her teens, had his brain befuddled and his emotions on overload, and all she’d done was touch him.

He reached up and removed her hand from his hair. An electric shock pulsated from his fingertips to his brain. She didn’t let go of his hand. She held on. Electricity flowed between them, to his heart, to his brain, to his groin.

“I’m Bethany Wilson. We’re sorry we hit you with the volleyball.” She turned slightly and indicated her friends, most with the same worried look on their faces hers wore.

Jeez, they made his thirty years seem like a hundred to their glowing, youthful faces. As if they had hit the senior citizen with the ball. He jumped up from the sand, somehow with his hand still attached to Bethany. 

“Care if I join in? I’m Britt Mason, by the way.”

Bethany smiled and her beautiful face turned drop-dead gorgeous. He gazed at her and wondered if love at first sight might actually exist. His heart skipped a couple of beats and raced to catch up. 
Once they joined in the volleyball game resumed, fast and furious. Britt found he was more than able to keep up with the young guys. He whispered a thank you to his weekly racquetball games with his buddy, Morgan, for the ability to look good today.

The last game wound to an end with his team the winners. Britt put his hands on his knees and caught his breath. He looked up at the silence of the beach. Most of the families with little ones had already left. Britt and the volleyball players were the only ones on the sand as twilight started and the sun continued to set over the bluff behind them. Goosebumps rose on his arms as if to announce the end of the day and the end of summer.

He started when someone touched his shoulder. Turning, he found Bethany at his side with his sweatshirt brought from his earlier spot on the beach. Her smile was like coming home. He reached for his shirt and found her arms around him and her lips grazing his. He sighed. It was so sweet. Her breath tart with a touch of spearmint, her lips slick with strawberry.

He jumped back as if he had touched a forbidden object. “I don’t need the police swooping down on me here.”

She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “Britt, how old do you think I am?”

He felt his face flush with embarrassment. “I’m hoping at least eighteen.”

Bethany’s glare disappeared as her smile grew, until she laughed aloud. “That is about the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. My twenty-eighth birthday is next month. Here I was all upset that thirty was around the corner and I’m about ready to be stuck on a shelf.”

His hand reached out and cupped her face. “You are definitely not destined for spinsterhood. Some man is going to be very lucky and scoop you up.” His lips found hers. The first kiss had been sweet. The second was anything but. His tongue caressed her lips, demanding entrance. She gasped and he took advantage. Their tongues dueled and slid against each other. Their moans swallowed by each other. His blood boiled and his flesh between his legs hardened. He ground them together, center to center. Her hands raked through his hair, pulling him closer to her.

“Britt. Bethany. We’re going to build a bonfire. Are you coming?”

Laughter pealed out from the gathering darkness. They both jumped back as if scalded. Britt groaned. What was he thinking? They weren’t teenagers. Bethany smiled and grabbed his hand, dragging him towards the others and the growing pile of driftwood. He pulled on his sweatshirt, wrapped his arm around her shoulder, and found a spot by the beginnings of a giant beach bonfire.

Two beers later, the bonfire warmed the sand and Britt. Bethany sat in front of him, her bottom pressed against his growing erection. Her hair smelled like strawberries and her body was soft and full. He groaned. Bethany wiggled in front of him with a laugh. The woman knew exactly what she was doing.

He wrapped his arms around her, her breasts cradled on top of his arms. Their weight sent his heart pulsating into overdrive. He waited to hear the zipper on his shorts pop. Bethany leaned back, her hair cascading over his chest. Her whispered words pushed him over the edge. “Do you want to go somewhere alone?”

He set his beer bottle into the sand, jumped up, and pulled Bethany up with him. Her laugh skittered across his mind like fingertips sliding down his flesh to his groin. She grabbed his hand and pulled him away from the fire into the dark beyond the reach of the flame’s glow.

It was cooler away from the fire, but Britt didn’t feel it. His skin was aglow with desire and want for the woman holding his hand. Just the touch of their fingers sent electric shock to his brain. There was a real chance he might expire all together at their lovemaking. But, what a way to go. He smiled.

Bethany stopped. Britt looked around. The moonlight shined on a secluded cove with sand, driftwood, and large rocks. She led him to the back of the cove, with the bluff on one side and the ocean far out across the sand in low tide.

Bethany reached up with long arms and pulled the rubber band from her hair. Long tresses of strawberry blonde hair fell to her hips and to the front playing peek-a-boo with her breasts, still covered in her turquoise bikini top. But, not for long. She reached behind, untied her top, and let it fall to the sand.

Britt licked his suddenly dry lips. Lush pink nipples peaked out of her strands of hair. They were hard and upright with the cool breeze from the sea. His hands itched to touch them, to see if they were as hard and ripe as they appeared.

She bent down and removed her shorts and bikini bottom. The fabric tossed to the sand with the rest of her clothing. Bethany straightened up and Britt saw her in all her naked glory. His breath left him in a rush.

Her long legs led to red-gold curls between her thighs. She was Venus rising from the sea. Suddenly, he didn’t feel worthy of this gift. He was only here for the weekend, on vacation. This would be a mad fling, nothing else. Could he do that to this beautiful woman? She seemed so pure, untouched.

Bethany laid back and reached out her hand to him. It was a wanton invitation he couldn’t resist. His clothes disappeared like magic. One moment they were on and the next he was kneeling beside her, his hands roaming her luscious body. Her skin against his fingertips as soft as he had imagined.

She smiled up at him, her body arching against his hands, and Britt knew he could conquer the world. Her lips parted on a sigh and he claimed them. They still tasted of strawberry as his lips slid along hers. Her tongue slid along his lips. He groaned. Their tongues touched, dueled, and thrust together. Britt’s breath came fast and hard. His heart skipped a couple of beats when Bethany’s hand wrapped around his erection. Her hand soft but sure, moving up and down the length of him.

His fingers trailed down her abdomen, along her thighs, and up to the red-gold curls at the center of her body. He found her hot and wet. Her musky scent carried over the scent of the sea breeze. His pulse quickened as his fingers entered her. The muscles clenched to hold his fingers inside her and his palm tight against her.

“Please,” she begged. Her fingers tightened on his flesh and pulled him over her. Her hand guided him to where his fingers still played. His hand retreated, allowing his erection entrance to her hot, wet, slick center.

He slid in, his fingers moving to her breasts. His fingertips, wet with her juices rubbed her nipples. They tightened and budded with his ministrations. He bent down and took her sweet, musky-scented nipples into his mouth.

Bethany’s body arched as the rhythm built. His mouth at her breasts and his flesh joined with her moving in sync. In and out, in concert with the tide on the beach just a few yards away. Her hands moved to his face, caressing his cheeks, tunneling into his hair, pulling him closer to her.

Her moans filled his ears as he groaned her name in husky passion. He bent down and seized her lips, their moans captured between them. She screamed in ecstasy and her nails dug into his back. The pain sweet as he reached the pinnacle and slid down the other side with a hoarse echo of her sweet cry of his name at her own peak.

Muscles clenched him deep inside her. She squeezed every drop of his pleasure. He collapsed and rolled to the side so he didn’t crush her. Bethany smiled, stretched, and cuddled next to him. The moon shined down on them as the crash of waves lulled him. His heartbeat slowed and he kissed Bethany, sleep rushed up to claim him.

* * *

The sun shined on his closed eyelids, the brightness piercing to his brain. Britt raised his hand to his face to shield his eyes. Something scratchy in his palm cut across his cheek. He peeled his eyes open to a blur and a business card in his hand. Bethany’s Bed and Breakfast in bold script flowed across the card. He jumped up.

Two things became instantly clear. Bethany was no longer by his side and he was as naked as the day he was born. He couldn’t do anything about the first problem, but looking up and seeing two little boys gawking at him had him rushing to fix the second. He yanked on his shorts, yelping as the zipper caught flesh. He grabbed his shirt and sweatshirt and slid his feet into his loafers.

It was an uphill battle as Britt struggled up the bluff as the day’s beachcombers were all trekking down. His anger at finding himself alone this morning added to his frustration. His heart pounded and his face grew hot and dripped sweat.

He slammed into his Lexus and ripped on the air conditioning. The soon cool air calmed his heated body and heated mood. He glanced at Bethany’s business card again. Her bed and breakfast was across St. Peter Island on St. Michael’s Bay.

He put the car in reverse, slid out of the parking slot, pushed the gearshift into drive, and peeled out of the parking lot. He was going to find Bethany and find out why she left him after a night of wonderful, fantastic, amazing sex with not even a kiss good-bye, just a card with her name. 

* * *

Bethany strode across the dining room to serve her guests. She blushed as every slide of her thighs brought back memories of last night. She tried thinking of anything but sand, sex, and Britt Mason. Her face burned with heated memories that had no business during work hours.

“Are you all right, dear?” The elderly Mrs. Kepler inquired, as Bethany slid the basket of muffins onto the table.

“Of course. Why do you ask?”

“Because you look well-loved this morning, dear. It may be many years since Mr. Kepler passed. But I remember that glow very well.”

Her face was on fire. She didn’t think her face could get any hotter without combusting, and then Britt Mason walked into the dining room. Oh my God, just let her die now.

“Oh my, this must be the glow-maker.” Mrs. Kepler’s peppy little voice didn’t help.

Britt came over and touched her arm. A tingle shot all the way through her. She shivered as his deep blue eyes glared down at her. “Can we talk?” 

Bethany murmured an ‘excuse me’ to her guests and led Britt to the hallway and beyond to her office. She shut the door once they were inside and two seconds later found her back pressed up against the door, Britt’s lips sliding deliciously across hers.

She placed her hands on his chest and pushed his away. “I thought you wanted to talk?” She crossed her arms on her chest and put a safe distance between them.

His fingers raked through his salt and sand encrusted hair, grains of sand falling to his shoulders. “You left. Did I hurt you? Upset you?” The worry in his eyes struck her like a hurricane. This man really cared.

Bethany shook her head. “No, I’m fine.” She moved closer, her hand rose to caress his cheek. The stubble tickled her palm. “It was wonderful. But I have responsibilities. I have to be up at dawn to start breakfast for everyone.”

His hand covered hers on his cheek. “I want to see you today.”

She shook her head. “Not until after lunch. I don’t serve dinner, so in the afternoon I’m free.”

“I’ll be back.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck and crushed her lips against him in a scorching kiss. “You better be.”

* * *

Britt shook his head, shocked to find himself in his car, the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline growing close in the coming twilight. He’d been so wrapped up in thoughts of Bethany, of holding her close, of being with her that first time he swore he still smelled ocean breezes, suntan lotion, and tasted salt strawberry lip gloss on his mouth.

Their story couldn’t be ending. It was just beginning. The first visit to St. Peter Island in September had started the magic between them. October found him at Bethany’s Bed and Breakfast for his getaway weekend. November and December had them huddled in front of a roaring fire watching a Nor’easter blustering against the plate glass window, the waves of St. Michael’s Bay crashing against the bluff. The vibrations carried all the way to Bethany’s Victorian and sent her into his willing arms. January, February, and March of this year had been the calmest, warmest in history. They’d walked the island from end to end with no one else in sight. April and May found him tied up with business at the ad agency but he’d burned up the cell phone minutes with calls to her every night, for hours at a time.

June and July were Bethany’s peak times at the Bed and Breakfast and they had to steal moments away to be together. August had seen a new level of closeness between them. They strolled Main Street of St. Peter Island, stopping to look at the new cakes in the bakery, rings at the jewelry store, and laughed at the new styles of wedding dresses in the window of Mrs. Hampton’s.

Parting Sunday morning had been tough; August at work had been tougher. Mr. Adkins called him into the corner office, the one with the view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the river. Britt barely sat down and Tom Adkins laid down how it was going to go.

“I want this to all be yours, Britt. Your’s and Heather’s. Marry my daughter and some day this office will be yours, along with the company.”

Thoughts of Bethany and the island whooshed past his brain. He couldn’t do it. Then, he scanned the office, the view, the thought of owning Adkins Agency. He couldn’t think, sitting here in a cushy chair, surrounded by mahogany and wealth.

He was torn in two. He loved Bethany, there was no doubt. But, when he was in the city things weren’t so clear. He was juggling one weekend a month against a lifetime of having it all. A wonderful fling, but a fling nonetheless against real life, his real life, here in New York and Fifth Avenue.

“Sir, I’m honored. I’ll need time to think about this great opportunity. A time to get to know Heather.”

“You have until next month. I will want to announce your engagement the first weekend of September. That’s all. Back to work, Mason.”

Britt trudged back to his office. His future unclear and his present a mess. At his office, he found his buddy, Morgan in a chair in front of Britt’s desk. Britt threw himself into his chair, gripped his hair, and moaned.

“That doesn’t sound good,” Morgan said.

“Adkins asked me to marry Heather.”

“Wow, hope a benefits package comes with that offer. I wouldn’t marry that woman for half of New York City.”

“He offered me the agency in the future.”

Morgan shook his head. “Yep, hard choice there. Glad it’s you, buddy and not me.”

Britt looked up. “Thanks a lot.”

Unfortunately, Morgan hadn’t been wrong. A few dinners at the Adkins mansion and he wanted to chuck it all and run away to the saneness of St. Peter Island and Bethany. He couldn’t do it. His career was everything to him, the Adkins Agency his whole life.

He wanted to call Bethany just to hear her voice, but that seemed so unfair. It was bad enough that he didn’t call her to let her know he wouldn’t be back to her island and to her. He let her messages go to voice mail. It hurt so much he deleted them without listening.

Any other time the dog days of August dragged in the city, but not slow enough this year for Britt. In a rush, August ended and September arrived with the beginning of fall in New York, with turning leaves and crisp mornings. With his and Heather’s engagement party.

The party was planned for Saturday at Bobby Flay’s restaurant. Big man Adkins had rented the whole place for his little girl. Britt wanted to throw up. He couldn’t do this. Not without a face-to-face good-bye to Bethany. He owed her that.

He left work, grabbed his car from the lot, and once out of the city, raced to Connecticut. He caught the last ferry of the day, arriving at St. Peter Island long after nightfall. A night clerk checked him into the Bed and Breakfast. He tiptoed to his room, praying Bethany wouldn’t spot him. He couldn’t do this in the middle of the night.


Her husky tones pierced right through him. She rushed from a table full of guests and filled his arms. She smelled of breakfast and her own personal strawberry scent. Her red-gold hair spilled over her shoulders and tickled his arms.

Holding her, feeling her, felt so right, why was it so wrong?

He held her out at arm’s length. “Let me help with breakfast. Then we need to talk.

Her deep, green gaze eyed him, her brow furrowed and her smile disappeared. She glanced at him under long lashes as they moved around the dining room and back and forth to the kitchen.

All too soon, breakfast was done, the guests were gone, and the dishes were all cleaned and put away. Bethany threw the dishtowel over the edge of the sink, folded her arms across her chest, and sighed.

“You could have said good-bye over the phone. I would have understood. It would have been better than seeing you again.”

He walked toward her and stopped at her upraised hand in a firm stop motion. “I wanted to tell you good-bye in person. I owed you that. I owed us that.”


He swallowed. This was more complicated than it had seemed back in the city. “This year with you has been . . . unbelievable. But I’m getting married. The engagement party is tonight.”

“What?” Tears filled her eyes and rolled down her bone-white face. His heart broke to see her this way.

“I didn’t know about it last month when I was here. I swear. It happened when I got back to work. It’s the boss’s daughter.”

Bethany started laughing. A pitiful little laugh, full of anguish. “Do you love her?”

He stared at the woman he loved. “Of course not.”

She hiccupped as she laughed and cried at the same time. “Of course not! Get out of here. I hope I never lay eyes on you again.” She picked up a vase and launched it at him.

Britt ducked as the vase sailed over his head and shattered against the wall, shards of glass raining down on the wood floor. “I’m sorry,” he whispered as he went to leave.

“Not as sorry as you’re going to be if you don’t leave right now.”

* * *

Just like that, his life was full-circle. He was putting his car in the lot as darkness fell. Headed to propose to one woman, leaving the one he loved behind.

Britt walked up to the restaurant, still dressed in his khakis and tee shirt. Mr. Adkins stood outside the door, probably making sure he showed. The man sneered, his nose wrinkled at Britt’s appearance. Too bad. They could take him as he was.

The door opened and Heather appeared. His heart didn’t skip. His breath didn’t hitch. He felt nothing for this woman

She opened her mouth, no doubt to screech at him and his appearance. Suddenly, everything was clear. His and Bethany’s story hadn’t ended, it was just beginning. While he’d been running like a rat in a maze, he now saw everything. His ambition was as bad as Mr. Adkins and Heather, buying a husband. And he had been willing to be bought.

He smiled. “Heather, I wish I could say I’m sorry, but I’m not.” He turned. “Mr. Adkins, I quit.”

Before either of them could say anything, Britt rushed across the street, down the block, and got his car back out of the lot.

Midnight tolled on the clock tower dockside of the St. Peter Island ferry as Britt pulled up to the landing. The ferry sat dark and closed for the night. He looked across the water to the few twinkling lights still on at this hour on the island.

He shut off the car, got out, and ran to the ferryman’s house. He banged and rang the bell. Finally, a light came on, along with a gruff ‘who is it?’

“It’s Britt Mason,” he shouted through the door. “I have to get to the island.”

The old man opened the door. “Young man, the last ferry was hours ago. Just pop a squat. First ferry is 6 a.m.”

“I can’t wait,” Britt pleaded. “I have to get to Bethany. I have to let her know I was wrong.”

“Wrong about what, exactly?”

“I was wrong to leave her.”

The man sighed. “Okay. Bethany is a good girl. She deserves some happiness. But, you better not break her heart.”

Britt cringed. “I already did. I’m back to fix it.”

The ferry ride passed in silence as the man took him and his car across the water to the island. Britt tried to tip him an extra $100 bill, but he refused, muttering about true love and all that.

At the Bed and Breakfast, Britt started to rush up to the door but a flash of pale pink blew in the wind on the bluff. He would know that nightgown anywhere. Bethany sat huddled on the edge of the cliff, her gown and hair blowing in the sea breeze.

He rushed to her side. “Bethany."

 * * *

Bethany rubbed the tears from her cheeks at the sound of Britt’s voice in the wind. She turned her face to find him kneeling at her side. She hardened her heart at the sight of him. He’d hurt her once, was he back to finish the job?

“What are you doing here?”

“Following my heart. Sitting here beside the only woman I ever want in my life.”

“You were leaving to get married.” She hated the hitch in her voice.

“The most stupid thing I’ve ever done. Ambition is nothing. A job is nothing. Not when it makes you hurt the person you love.”

“You love me?”

His arms surrounded her, gathered her close. His warmth transferred to her chilled body. “Always and forever.”

The End


Jill James is a debut author with her first book, Tempting Adam, available now from The Wild Rose Press and  

Her website is

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Into the Ocean by Missy Jane

I'm a big fan of music in general and have an eclectic taste depending on my mood. So, when I was approached with the idea to write a story based on a song title I jumped at the chance. What is more inspiring than music? Few things come to mind, but many songs popped into my head as I considered the story. I was born and raised in Texas and knew right off that I wanted to promote a Texas band. When my characters started talking to me (unbidden as usual), I knew this was the song I had to use. It's a song of loss and love, but I found it inspiring for me and my characters. I hope you enjoy the song and the story. Be sure to leave a comment at the end to possibly win the prize in the final photo.


Is it truly better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Nerina has loved Kegan from afar for years, waiting patiently as he mourns a lost love. The time has come for her to decide of he is worth the wait or of his heart was lost at sea.
Rated - Adult - for 18 years and older only.  
Genre - Contemporary  
Heat Level - Sensual 

Into the Ocean
by Missy Jane

Nerina watched Kegan enter the room like he owned it, confidence in every step as his masculine swagger carried him towards her. She steeled her spine and pushed her shoulders back, raising her chin as she assessed him from head to toe. He was in that damn gray t-shirt again. She rolled her eyes and tried to keep the annoyance from her face. But really, tonight of all nights? She understood his attachment to the worn gray shirt, the white letters so faded only his closest friends knew they spelled Galveston. She'd never deny him the reminder of what he'd had, except it was holding him back so securely from what could be.

His strong, long legs were encased in well-worn blue jeans and he had on black military-style boots. He created a tough image, standing six-four in said boots with his broad shouldered build. Most men stepped out of the way when they saw him coming, some women too. But Nerina never had. She'd taken one look at him when they were teenagers and fallen helplessly in awe. Once her heart became irrevocably his, she was at loose ends, unable to move forward even as he continued to look back. But two years had passed in heartbeats and she was tired of sitting in limbo. Tonight she would lay it all out for him and deal with the consequences. She would either lose a great friend or gain a lover. Both prospects terrified her. 

He reached her side and flashed his knee-melting grin. Thank god she was already sitting down. Playing nonchalant with him was always a challenge but she was feeling very vulnerable tonight.

"Hey, beautiful. What's got such a serious look on your face?"

His deep voice sent a shiver up her spine and she rubbed her hands up and down her bare arms. The sleeveless silk blouse had seemed like such a good idea this afternoon when the thermostat read eighty. However, in true south-Texas fashion the temperature had dropped with little notice and was now a cool sixty-eight outside. She'd been sitting by the door waiting for him, but now that he was here the rest of the room was too full to move. 

She looked around with a shrug.

"I have a lot on my mind, Kegan. I wanted to talk to you but the party started early and you're a little late."

It was the only admonishment she'd give him. Not that it mattered. His world ran on Kegan time, as all of his friends knew by now.

His confident grin melted into serious regret and he stepped closer. She hated when his heat warmed her skin, giving her a hint of what she was missing every night in her lonely bed.

He placed his large palms over her smaller hands and moved them up and down in unison. Now she shivered for a different reason as her body instantly warmed.

"I'm sorry I'm late, honey. I had to find the perfect gift to give the perfect gal. It was a hell of a lot harder than I'd expected."

She rolled her eyes again but smiled to ease his mind. She was upset but didn't think it would matter much to him anyway. No use getting worked up.  

"No problem."

Anger flashed across his face so briefly she might have imagined it. He tightened his grip on her arms and gently pulled her from the bar stool she'd been perched on the past hour. She allowed it, more curious than concerned as he pulled her against him and turned her toward the back of the house. It was crowded with her friends and co-workers, who parted like the Red Sea as Kegan navigated his way through them. She smiled and spoke briefly to who she could as they passed, but no one seemed to find it odd that he had her in his grasp as they headed for her bedroom.

His muscular chest pressed against her back and she wanted to melt into his arms. Being strong was a lot harder than she'd thought it would be. How could she say goodbye to him? She would be ripping half of her heart from her chest, but it had been waiting in vain for too long.

They finally reached her room and went inside. She walked to her dresser and looked down at the picture of them at the lake from three months ago. That was the weekend she'd decided to end this farce. He'd seemed so happy until someone had mentioned Angela. Then the rest of the time he'd been distant. 

The lock clicked into place behind her and she spun on her heel to face him. He was leaning against the door with his arms crossed over his chest. She ran her gaze across his biceps, wishing that strength still surrounded her. He was always quick to hug her, but then just as quick to let her go. She didn't want to go.

"All right, now that we're alone, tell me what you wanted to talk to me about."

This was it. The time had finally come and real fear snaked up her spine. Could she really do this? Could she really give him her ultimatum and face the consequences of his choice? Tears burned the back of her throat as she realized she had to. It was now or never and she may as well get it over with. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, opening her mouth to speak, but then he raised a hand to stop her.

"Wait. With the look you have on your face, I think maybe I need to go first."

She closed her mouth and frowned at him, but he just uncrossed his arms and ran his hands through his thick, black hair.


“Nerina, honey, let me talk. I always let you do all the talking while I just smile and nod. I know I’ve been an ass for months and you’ve put up with it. Now I need to talk.”

She refused to let hope fill her. Damn near anything could fly out of his mouth with that introduction. With a huff of annoyance she walked over to her bed and sat down. Her feet were killing her. She kicked off her heels without a thought and looked up to find him grinning at her.


"You have such dainty feet. I've always thought they look so feminine."

Her face heated at the odd compliment and she crossed her ankles as if that could hide the objects of his inspection. His grin widened as he if he knew what she was doing and she frowned again.

"So, what do you have to say?" she asked.

His grin faded and he closed the distance to the bed. She fought the urge to squirm when he sat down on the floor. He pulled her feet onto his lap and ran his hands up and down her calves.

"I've missed you, Nerina."

"I haven't been away."

"Not physically, but ever since we left Lake Conroe there's been distance between us. I don't like it, honey. I know its my fault but I don't know how to fix it. Tell me what I need to do."

It was hard to think with his hands on her legs. Even with the thin stocking separating their skin, she felt a jolt from his touch. Her modest skirt fell below her knees even while she was sitting, but his hands didn't stop at the hem. He ran his fingers up to her knees, tickling the backs ever so slightly until she wanted to scream.

"K-Kegan, stop that."

"Stop what?"

Any other time she would've laughed at the innocent expression on his face, but not tonight.

"Stop...touching me."

She pulled her feet away and stood, pacing across the room to ease her agitation. 

“I like touching you.”

She huffed out a breath and continued to pace. “Sure you do.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

She stopped walking and turned to face him, setting her hands on her hips. 

“Why do you think there’s been distance, Kegan?”

He frowned in thought, and twisted around to lean against the bed and face her. 

“Luke said I’m being an ass and Mark agreed. When I asked them to elaborate they clammed up. Are you going to enlighten me or is everyone just going to continue watching me be an ass and then get pissy with me for it later?”

He was getting angry. She could hear it in his voice. This conversation wasn’t going exactly as planned and now he was on the defensive. She considered dropping it and saying something lighthearted to ease his mind, but she just couldn’t do it anymore. 

“I’ve been offered a really good job in Austin.”

His head snapped up from where he’d been studying his boots, and shock radiated from him. He shook his head, then jumped to his feet and closed the distance between them.  “Are you going to take it?”

“I don’t know yet.”



He grasped her face in both hands and kissed her suddenly. She placed her hands on his but made no attempt to stop him, just held on for dear life as shock filled her. It wasn’t a chaste or quick kiss. He took his time, nibbling on her lips until she opened for him, then he plunged his tongue in deep. She moaned and leaned her body into his, reveling in the sensation of him against her.

“I don’t want you to go,” he panted between kisses.

He made an erotic trail from her lips down to her throat. She let her head fall back to give him full access, and he wrapped an arm around her to keep her steady.

“Say you’ll stay with me,” he whispered.

“Say you want me to,” she whispered back.

He stopped kissing her and looked into her eyes. “Can’t you tell?”

She sighed, and pulled away from him. He seemed reluctant to let her go but she persisted.

“Will her ghost always be between us? Will you be able to dedicate yourself to me without her getting in the way?”

His expression closed down and he took a step back, widening the gap between them in more ways than one.  “What are you talking about?”

“Kegan, you know what I’m talking about. Things are always good with us until someone mentions Angela. Then you shut down and I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall. I know you miss her, and I don’t blame you for that, but it’s been two years.”

He turned away and paced the length of her bedroom. She watched his strong back and silently cursed fate. 

“Sometimes I wonder if you look at me and wish I was her. I wonder if you wish I’d been the one in the water instead.”

He immediately spun around and came to her, grabbing her arms and pulling her against his chest.  “That’s not true. I’ve never…never, felt that way about you. What Angela did, she did to herself. It had nothing to do with you.”

Tears burned the back of her throat. Guilt ached like a knife in her chest and she almost couldn’t get the next words out.

“Sh-she told me.”

He frowned and loosened his grip slightly. “Told you what?”

“She told me she wanted to die. She said she had been thinking about killing herself and I tried to talk her out of it.”

“Did you know she was going out on the boat that night?”

“No. We’d been up all night, drinking wine and talking about stuff. I passed out and when I woke she was gone.”

He continued to look into her eyes a heartbeat longer, then pulled her fully into his arms.

“Oh, honey, it’s not your fault anymore than it’s mine. We were closest to her and couldn’t stop her from leaving us. It was her choice.”

Nerina sobbed against his chest, releasing the guilt and pain she’d been holding the past two years. He rubbed her back and let her cry, holding her up when her knees weakened. After what felt like an eternity, there was a sharp knock on the door.

“Shit, I guess they finally noticed we’ve been missing,” he said.

She sighed and moved out of his arms, turning away to wipe her face with her hands. Kegan opened the door and had a quiet conversation with Mark, then closed and locked the door again.

“Hey, birthday girl, the party is winding down. Mark and Luke are herding out the stragglers. They’ll lock up behind them here in a few minutes.” She nodded but kept her back to him. “You haven’t opened your presents.”

A sigh escaped as she realized what a terrible hostess she had been. The first part of the night had been spent sitting by the door waiting for Kegan to arrive. The second part had been spent holed up in her room with him. She would have many apologies to make tomorrow.

“I’ll do it later,” she mumbled.

“Not mine you won’t. Come on.”

He took her by the arm and dragged her out of her room. True to their word, Mark and Luke had gotten everyone out the door and locked up. A few beer bottles and empty plates strewn around the house proved a party had taken place but it was over now. She was officially twenty-five.

Kegan led her to a table shoved in one corner of the living room where colorful bags and packages were displayed. Her birthday gifts. There were about a dozen in various shapes and sizes, and he took the smallest one from the pile.

“I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d had a hard time getting your gift. I wanted something unique and beautiful, like you. That was damn near impossible. So, I settled for something important instead.”

He handed her a flat, rectangular purple box. She untied the bow holding it closed and opened it warily. It was the type that typically held expensive jewelry but there was only paper inside. “What’s this?”

“Read it.”

She took the paper out and realized it was a computer print out of an itinerary.

“I don’t understand.”

“He took the box and paper from her hand and set them on the table, then pulled her into his arms again.

“We’re going on a trip.”


His slight hesitation made her wary. “Galveston.”

She sighed and tried to pull away but he tightened his grip.

“No, wait. Listen to me, Nerina.”

“I don’t want to go there ever again.”

“Me either, but that’s why we should.”

She stopped struggling but kept her face averted, stubbornly refusing to face him.  “I don’t want to.”

He huffed out a breath and pressed his mouth to her cheek. “We’re going to say goodbye, honey. I’m going to rip this shirt into little pieces and toss it into the gulf. Then we’ll say goodbye to her once and for all, and start fresh.”

She finally faced him, almost afraid to hope. “We?”

“Yeah, you and I. I’m not letting you go without a fight, honey, and if Angela’s ghost is what’s getting between us then it’s time to do something about it.”

Hope was slow to come as she considered the past few months of trying to hold on to it. But this was the first time he’d mentioned saying goodbye to Angela, and he was even willing to get rid of the gray shirt. That had to count for something.

“Okay,” she finally said.


“Yeah. Let’s do it. When are we going?”

He smiled and kissed her lightly. “You’re off tomorrow, right?”


Kegan watched the waves lap against the seawall and inhaled a deep breath of salty air. He’d missed this the past few months, but the pain of returning wasn’t nearly as acute as he had feared. Nerina’s hand in his gave him strength and reminded him that he had too much in his future to keep living in the past. He had loved Angela but she had needed something he couldn’t give. What that was, none of their circle of friends had been able to find out, and now she was gone. 

He’d made Nerina wait on him for way too long. The knowledge that he’d come close to losing her terrified him. Austin wasn’t that far away, but she would’ve started a whole new life there. She would’ve met another man that wasn’t being held back by a ghost. The fact that losing her was so much more painful than this goodbye only solidified his decision. It was time to start fresh.

They left the seawall and walked the beach all afternoon, then returned to the hotel for dinner. Nerina had been quiet most of the day and it worried him, but he knew she would open up when she was ready. As they took the elevator up to their room she finally voiced her thoughts.

“You only reserved one room.”

He smiled to himself. “Yes.”

“So…we’re both sleeping in one bed?”


Agitation radiated from her in waves and he nearly laughed. This was what they both wanted and he knew it. They had waited long enough. They reached their floor and she remained silent as they entered the room. He picked up the remote and turned the TV on while she set down her purse and removed her jewelry.

“Oh, I love that song.”

Her admission brought his attention to the channel he had stopped on, where the video for Into the Ocean by Blue October was playing.

“Yeah?” he asked. “It’s kind of depressing isn’t it?”

She shrugged and kicked off her sandals. “It’s like a sad love song, I guess.”

He listened more closely to the words and set the remote on the nightstand.

“Sounds like it’s about surrendering your heart,” he said.

She shrugged again and watched him warily as he approached.

“Are you willing to do that, Nerina?”

“Surrender my heart to you?” He nodded. “I already have.”

Pleasant surprise filled him at her easy admission and grew into shock as she pulled her shirt over her head. He remained frozen in place as she unzipped her shorts and let them fall to her feet, then stepped from the puddle to stand inches away.

“Are you willing, Kegan?”

For a moment he thought she meant to get naked, but luckily he realized his mistake before answering. He pulled his shirt off and wrapped his arms around her waist, looking into her curious gaze.

“I’m more than willing, honey, I’m eager. I know I can trust you to hold my heart and care for it like I need. Just as I’m willing and able to do the same for you.”

Her amusement melted away and moisture filled her gaze. He kissed her before she could say anything else. It was a few minutes before he could think clearly again. The sweet taste of her mouth drowned him in sensation and he was reluctant to stop. Once he did, he lifted her into his arms and took her to the bed. He placed her in the center and hovered over her on hands and knees, just watching her wait for his touch.

“You are so perfect,” he whispered.

She smiled and ran her hands over his chest. “So are you.”

He grinned and looked at her black lace bra and panties. “I love you in black lace, honey, but I think I’ll love you even more out of it.”

She laughed breathlessly and unhooked the front clasp of her bra. He held his breath as her amazing breasts were slowly revealed to his starving eyes. He'd had fantasies about those breasts.

“Perfect,” he whispered.

As soon as her bra was out of his way, he bent his head and ran his tongue across one of her light brown nipples. She gasped and plunged her hands into his hair, holding him in place. 


He had a thorough tasting of first one, then the other, before licking a path down her stomach. He nibbled on her navel, making her laugh and push on his head, before traveling further south. Her panties stopped his progress but he didn’t mind the interruption. He left the bed long enough to strip off the rest of his clothes and get a condom from his bag.


“Just a minute, honey, I don’t want to forget this.”

She smiled as he dropped the foil packet beside her and rejoined her on the bed.

“Now…where was I?”

She laughed again as he ran a fingertip beneath the top of her panties. He pulled them down slowly to reveal the prize beneath. His heart nearly stopped when he saw she was shaved bare.

“Damn. I’m going to die of pleasure just from looking at you.”

She shivered as he ran his fingers between her legs. He urged her thighs apart and took a moment to just stare.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Just looking at paradise, honey.” She laughed and rolled onto her side to face him. “Hey.”

“Hey nothing. Do you know how long I’ve waited for you to touch me? Let’s get this show on the road, cowboy. You can explore later.”

He barked out a laugh as she pushed on his shoulders until he lay flat on his back. Then she straddled him and picked up the condom.

“Honey, wait—”

“I don’t think so.”

She ripped open the package and made short work of covering his erection. 

“But you’re not ready.”

“Are you kidding?”

“I mean…”

She laughed and moved up to rub herself against him. Moisture glistened on his covered cock, telling him she was definitely ready.

“I know what you mean, but trust me…I’m ready.”

His body was telling him to shut up and let her do as she would, but his heart was still unsure. He grasped her hips to slow her ministrations as she continued to thrust against him.


“Kegan, if you stop me, I swear I’ll…punch you in the mouth.”

He laughed and his hold loosened. She grasped his cock in one small fist, abruptly ending his amusement. He moaned as she began to stroke him.  “All right, honey. Go for it.”

Her face brightened with his permission and he promised himself he would do whatever it took to always get that smile from her. Then she placed his erection at her entrance and slowly sank down. All coherent thought flew from his head as sensation took over. Tight, warm pleasure filled his mind and he groaned in surrender.

She set her hands on his shoulders and moved against him slowly. He let her set the pace as their bodies became acquainted. Her soft skin warmed his hands and he filled them with her breasts. She moaned as he teased her nipples before wrapping his arms around her and pulling against his chest.

“I can’t…move…like this,” she panted.

He thrust his hips upward to show he could continue their movement and held her head for his kiss. She let him control their pleasure for a little while, but soon took over again. She kissed him one last time before sitting up to increase their tempo. He let her ride his cock and watched pleasure wash over her face. She was glorious, with a light sheen of sweat beading on her tanned skin. Her dark brown hair fell in waves to her waist, brushing his thighs when she threw her head back. 

He grasped her hips and increased the tempo yet again, urging her to climax. Her fingertips dug into his chest and she closed her eyes. He knew she was close. He slipped a hand between them and found her hardened clitoris, rubbing it with his thumb. She cried out as an intense orgasm washed over her, clenching her feminine muscles. He gasped when the grip on his cock tightened and in the next heartbeat joined her in ecstasy. 

He held her against his chest and listened to her breathing slow to normal. This was what had been missing in his life. He’d needed to hold her, to love her and know that she loved him. She hadn’t said it but it had been in her gaze, in her voice and in every touch they had shared for months. He would be forever grateful that he’d realized it before it was too late.

She stirred against him and he tightened his hold. He didn’t want to relinquish her warmth just yet.

“We should shower,” she mumbled.

He chuckled. “Yeah, probably.”

“Do I have to get up or will you carry me?”

“I’ll carry you, honey, but I want to tell you something first.”


“Thank you.”

She lifted her head and looked into his eyes. “For the sex?”

He chuckled again and shook his head. “The sex was amazing, but that’s not what I’m thanking you for.”

“Then what?”

“Not giving up on me. You know, the more I think about that song we were listening to earlier, the more I realize just how lost I was. I kind of felt like that, you know? Like I just wanted to float away because no matter how hard I swam I couldn’t make it to shore. But even on my darkest days you were always the beacon that brought me back.”

She sniffed and placed a kiss on his chin. “I’m glad I could. You’re welcome.”

He smiled. “I love you, Nerina.”

Surprise lit her gaze before a small smile brightened her face. 

“I love you too, Kegan.”

“I know, honey, and I’ll be forever grateful that you do.”
He kissed her thoroughly before carrying her to the shower.


Ms. Missy Jane is a native Texan, mother of four and wife of fifteen years. Her most recent release is an erotic short story available through Ellora's cave, titled Educating Macey.

Sex has taken a backseat on my priorities list for a while now—being a single mother never allowed me the chance to dwell on it. But then my daughter grew up and Max moved in next door. Just seeing his sexy-as-hell body and hearing the way he growls my full name, Macey Lane, gets me all hot and bothered. I am not a woman of experience, but Max is more than willing to teach me. His lesson plans may be too delicious to pass on, but is hot sex worth the risk of becoming another of his conquests?

-Missy Jane
*Make reading a guilty pleasure...*

First time here? Don't forget to check out our previous FREE READS. Click on the archive links in the right sidebar for even more Truly Madly Deeply Romantic Fun!!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In Your Eyes by Suzanne Rock

I love music. It has such a powerful influence on your emotions, don’t you think? Whether it’s anger, happiness, love or sadness, there’s a perfect song out there that will reflect the emotion you’re feeling.

As an author, I often use music to put myself in the right frame of mind for writing. One of the songs I like to use for romantic scenes is "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel. When CJ England challenged us all to come up with a song title for our stories, I knew right away which one I'd choose. "In Your Eyes" was one of my favorites songs when it first came out, and I find it to be one of those timeless ballads that still speaks to me now. It’s such a fantastic song, so heartfelt. When I re-listened to it in preparation for this story, all I could think about was the old saying “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” The saying stayed with me for hours after I heard the song and, after a little thought, Julian and Eva’s story was born.

I hope that you like the results!

When Eva's sexy boss asks her to trust him, she can’t rely on her soul-reading abilities to learn his true intentions. She’ll have to focus on her more human instincts to determine whether or not he's worth stepping out of the shadows and taking a leap of faith…

Rated - Adult - Appropriate for ages 18 and over only
Genre - Paranormal / Contemporary
Heat Level - Sensual


In Your Eyes
by Suzanne Rock

“Come here often?” the tall blonde man asked as he slid into the bar stool.

A chill swept over Eva as she turned away from the crowded restaurant and stared at the man beside her. He was tan, much to tan for a natural blonde. His hands were clean and well-manicured, his clothing casual, but neatly pressed. Everything about his outward appearance suggested that he was a friendly, non-threatening guy looking for fun on a Friday night. Was that really his true intention, though?

Eva raised her gaze to the bright green eyes assessing her. Something flickered in their depths, a stain of blue in an otherwise green landscape.

“I’m waiting for someone,” she said.

“I see.” The blue in his eyes flared to life, confirming what Eva had already suspected. On the surface this man seemed charming, but deep down he was selfish and arrogant. When given a choice he'd always take the easy way out, and if he ever saw someone in trouble, he'd turn the other way. Blue wasn't pure evil, but it was pretty close. Souls never lied. This guy, like so many others, was a bad egg.

Her heart sank as she realized that she had hoped the results would have been different. She should have known better.

He looked as if he wanted to say something more, but another woman came up and put her tattooed arm around him. She wore a tube top that showed off her small, perky breasts and a miniskirt that accented her shapely thighs.

“Hey baby,” she said. “Who 'ya talkin' to?” The woman looked at Eva and smiled. Purple smeared her eyes, indicating that this woman’s soul was still in a state of flux.

“I’m just talking to this woman over here.” The guy motioned to Eva. Black flashed through the blue in his gaze, signifying that this guy was not only selfish and arrogant, but violent.

Eva inched back and thought about telling the woman what she learned, but decided against it. She knew from experience that people never appreciated a soul reading. Most got edgy when their true nature was revealed. If this guy was really violent, then she didn't want to provoke him.

The couple moved away and Eva pulled out her phone for the hundredth time. Where was he? Julian was supposed to meet her at this restaurant over an hour ago. He had said that he had something important to tell her.

Not that this was anything new.

Ever since Eva had taken the job at iLock, an identity protection startup, Julian Ross had tried to get her to see him outside of work. She had always thwarted his efforts, not only because her libido went into overdrive every time he walked into the room and made her tongue-tied, but because he was different from everyone else. She could see it in his eyes.

Ever since she could remember, Eva could look into a person’s eyes and read their soul. She knew of people’s intentions, and could read if they were inherently good or bad. Blue and black were the marks of evil, white and gold of good. The rest were souls who haven’t matured yet, and were in some state of flux. Everyone Eva had ever met fell into one of these categories.

Everyone but Julian Ross.

She couldn’t read her boss, because he didn’t bare the mark. He was soulless. Eva had never encountered someone without a soul before. It both intrigued her and made her uneasy. What kind of person didn’t have a soul?

After tonight it wouldn’t matter. She had let Julian talk her into meeting him at this restaurant because she had something important to say to him, too. She was quitting her job. Eva had thought she could handle working with a soulless person -- and Lord knew she needed the money -- but she didn’t need the erotic fantasies the Irishman evoked, or the tingle of apprehension she felt whenever he got too close.

* * *

Julian stared at the curvy red head at the other end of the bar. She still wore that form fitting sweater and khakis from the afternoon meeting, but had changed her hair. At work she had it bound in a tight pony tail, but here, after hours, she had decided to let it down. The silky waves cascaded down her back like a waterfall and caused a deep, primal longing to spark in his abdomen.

A soul reader. He couldn’t believe his luck. They were a rare and precious breed, and Eva Hamilton was more precious than most. In her three months at iLock, Julian had become more and more infatuated with her. So many times he had come close to telling her the truth, yet each time he held his tongue. What he had to say was for her alone, not the others in the cubicles nearby. He had asked her out often enough, but each time she had turned him down. He wondered what made tonight different, not that it really mattered.

He knew she feared him, as well she should, but she also desired him. He felt it in the way she stared at him when she thought he wasn't looking, and how her cheeks stained pink when he said her name. He desired her, too. Even now, from across the room, her body called to him. Would it be enough?

It had to be enough. He had waited so long for this moment. This night, he was going to come clean with Eva. He was going to tell her every deep dark secret, every hope. Then he was going to lay his life in her hands.

Just as soon as he worked up the courage.

Julian finished off his Manhattan and flexed his fingers. The song “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel drifted out from the restaurant speakers, as if the maker himself was telling Julian to hurry up and get on with it. It was now or never. He stood and forced one foot in front of the other. You can do this. He made it about half way across the restaurant before a tingling sensation started behind his ears.

No, not now. He cast a glance at the exit, then back at Eva. Not tonight. After two more steps the tingles spread down his neck and consumed his torso. He glanced up at the ceiling and sighed. Would he ever get his chance? By the time he pulled out his cell phone, Julian’s whole body felt as if it was on fire. He muttered a curse at his bad luck. Hopefully, she’d understand his tardiness. He risked one more glance at the only woman who could ease his torment, then sent the text message. If only things were different… Pocketing the phone, he steeled his jaw and made his way to the closest exit.


Eva felt her phone vibrate. She pulled it out and saw that there was a message from Julian.

Running late. Will be there soon. Wait for me?

Figured. He was always running late for one thing or another. Eva glanced at her watch. She had been at the restaurant for over an hour now and her wine was done. She didn’t care how drop dead gorgeous her boss was in those hip-hugging blue jeans, she wasn’t going to waste one more minute of her life waiting. Whatever he wanted to tell her could wait until tomorrow -- when she handed him her resignation letter. Right now she was officially off the clock.

Eva ignored the flutter of disappointment in her chest and headed toward the exit. The trendy Italian restaurant was like most in the North End of Boston, dimly lit and sparsely decorated. The tables were packed so close together that the people looked more like sardines than customers waiting for their lasagna. A sea of color floated around her as she moved, the blues and golds of people’s questioning eyes shining bright as they glanced her way. The only thing that seemed to stabilize her against so much energy was the song “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel playing over the speakers. It was one of her favorite songs, but not even it could soothe the ache inside her chest tonight.

Something shifted and caught her eye. In a room full of color, a gaping hole moved along the far wall. Eva knew of only one person who had such a dull, lifeless presence.


She followed the dark spot across the restaurant. As she got closer, Eva recognized the mop of wavy brown hair and levi 501’s. He had thrown a black blazer over his usual T-shirt and jeans. It hugged his shoulders and biceps, accentuating the sinew of muscle underneath. He adjusted his gold wire-rimmed glasses and made his way toward the rear exit.

“Julian!” She waved, but he didn’t look in her direction. Was he looking for her? “Julian, I’m over here.”

Patrons close by stopped talking and turned to stare. Eva tried to ignore the flashes of color and hurried to catch up to her boss.

“Julian! Excuse me.” She rounded the last table as he slipped out the side door and into the alley beyond.

The dimness of the restaurant seemed overly bright when compared to the poor lighting of the alley. It took her a few moments to adjust to the change in intensity. During that time she heard mumbled curses and shuffling off to her left. Eva squinted and peered down the alley. Two shadows fought for dominance, their forms tumbling and bending as they wrestled. The colors of their souls flickered around them like halos, one a bright white and the other a royal blue. Why could she see those men's souls outside of their eyes? The intensity of the color rose and fell as each one took turns gaining the upper hand. Eva approached, fascinated.

“I wouldn’t go any closer if I were you.”

That accent... She'd recognize that Irish brogue anywhere. Eva’s heart skipped a beat as she turned to face a third figure, hidden in shadow of the building. He stepped forward, allowing the light from the restaurant doorway to fall on his face.

“Julian.” Eva stared at the chiseled features and deep fathomless eyes. The familiar heat sparked to life in her lower abdomen. Even cast in shadow he looked incredibly sexy.

"I’m sorry I’m late.”

Anger rose up and squashed the heat. “Where were you?”

He glanced at the pair fighting a few paces away. “I was busy.”

Eva followed his gaze. The man with the white glow appeared to be weakening, while the man with the blue glow grew stronger.

“We need to do something,” she said.


She turned to face him. “What do you mean, ‘no’?”

His features softened as he watched the fight. “The destinies of the men have already been written. It’s not my job to interfere.”

“What are you talking about? Your job's with iLock.” She pointed to the fight. “And that man's going to get hurt.”

“This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.”


He closed his eyes for a moment and flexed his fingers. When he opened them once more, he appeared different somehow, but Eva couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

“Look at 'em.”


“Look at 'em.” He closed the distance between them and gently rotated her to face the men at the end of the alley. “Do you see anything?”

Eva’s thoughts turned into a jumbled mess as the scent of his citrus aftershave surrounded her. Her limbs felt watery despite the tingle of warning raising the hairs on the back of her neck. “It’s just two men fighting.”

He sighed, his warm breath caressing her ear. “No. What do you see.”

Eva shivered as his heat penetrated her senses and made her libido do somersaults. This was why she had avoided him. She was attracted to him with an intensity she didn’t understand, and yet he had no soul. What kind of human had no soul?

“Eva, pay attention. Do you see any…color?”

She froze. How could he know? “Yes.”

“Good.” He relaxed his grip around her shoulders. “I see it, too.”

“You do?” Was this some kind of joke? “What color are they?”

“That one is blue.” He pointed over her shoulder. “And that one’s white.”

“What -- what do you think they are?”

“They’re the men’s souls.”

“Yes.” It was such a relief to finally have it out in the open, to be able to talk to someone about it. “How long have you been able to see them?”

"A long time. Normally the glow is only in their eyes, but when close to death, the glow consumes their whole body." He turned her around to face him. “Now look at me. What do you see?”

"What do you mean?”

He leaned in closer until his face was inches from hers. “What color do you see, lass?”

Goodness, he smelled good, like a tropical fruit drink. It reminded her of her reoccurring fantasy involving Julian. Images of sun, sand and naked bodies entwined on a blanket flashed through her mind. Desire slid through her middle, tightening her muscles with anticipation. Would he kiss her? That would be lovely…

Snap out of it. What was his question again? “I-I don’t see any color in your eyes.”

“Exactly.” His shoulders relaxed. “I don’t have any color.” He let go of her arm and ran his fingers down the side of her face. “Eva, there’s a reason for that --”

A loud groan echoed through the alley. Julian muttered a curse and turned toward the fight. Eva followed his gaze and saw the man with the blue glow pull his hand away from his opponent. Something flickered in his hand.

“Is that a knife?” Eva faced the fight as her chest tightened with fear.

Julian rubbed his hand against her lower back, drawing the tension out of her muscles despite what was going on around her.

“I believe so,” he said.

The man with the white soul fell to his knees. Light flickered around him, then extinguished. He fell to the ground.

Julian eased her back against the wall of the restaurant. “Don’t move, and stay quiet. "


He took off his glasses. "I’ll be right back, I promise.”

Julian stepped out into middle of the alley. The man with the blue glow put his knife away and started toward Julian.

“No.” Eva started to move from the shadows, but a hard glare from Julian rendered her immobile.

The man with the blue soul ran right through him.

Eva stared as he ran past her and out into the busy street beyond. What the --

“Who are you?” She turned back to Julian, who had approached the dead man in the back of the alley. He bent low over the victim and placed his hand on the man’s forehead. Within seconds, a white light flared to life. Julian stepped back. The light glowed brighter as Julian took two more steps back and raised his arms out at his sides.

“Be at peace, my friend.”

The light jumped up from the dead body, flickered in the air, and then raced toward Julian’s face.

“No!” Eva rushed forward, but it was too late. The light streamed into Julian through his eyes, then set his entire body ablaze. For a brief, wondrous moment, Julian lit up the alley like the sun. Eva covered her eyes, unable to tolerate it for more than a few seconds. Then the light began to dim. Slowly, she lowered her arm as he turned around to face her.

Eva's breath caught. "Your eyes..." Julian’s dark eyes had changed to bright white. All of the goodness and light that illuminated the dead man's soul was held captive deep within his eyes.

“What do you see now?” His voice sounded hollow and distant, as if he talked through a tunnel.

“The soul of another.”

“Yes.” He looked up into the sky. “I have another, master.”

It started to rain. The sky opened up and water beat down hard and heavy. Eva pulled her jacket up over her head to keep the droplets off her face. She followed Julian’s gaze upward, and saw a lightning bolt flash through the sky. Thunder roared, shaking the ground beneath her feet.

“What’s happening?” she asked, but her voice was carried away by the wind.

The dark clouds parted, revealing a large white beam of light. Julian lifted his hands, and then began to float. Eva stared in shock as his body was taken up into the beam and out of sight. Within moments the clouds closed and the rain ceased. She was left alone.

Eva lowered her jacket and stared at the empty alley where Julian once stood. What just happened?

“I’m sure you have lots of questions.”

She spun around to see Julian emerge from the end of the alley. “I do.”

“I meant to break this to you gently, but maybe it’s better this way.” He held out his hand as he closed the distance between them. “Come on, let’s go inside.” He took her fingers and started to lead her back into the restaurant.

“No. Tell me what’s going on.” She pulled her hand from his grasp. “Why did you take that man’s soul? What did you do with it?”

He hesitated a brief moment before responding. “I’m not human.”

“Obviously. Are you some type of angel?”

"No, I'm not quite so glorious." He smiled, revealing that adorable dimple in his cheek. “I’m what one might call a soul catcher.”

“A what?”

“A soul catcher. Someone who escorts souls to the afterlife.”

“But that's a myth.”

He held his arms out to his sides. "Do I look like a myth to you?"

Eva remembered the fairy tale her mother told her as a kid. Soul catchers were spirits that escorted souls to their final resting places. She had no idea that they could take on human form -- or run a small identity protection company.

“Soul catching is difficult work. There’s a high turnover.” He dropped her hand and ran his fingers though his hair. “The catchers tend to burn out.”

"What happens then?”

“There’s an out clause, but it’s difficult. Catchers themselves don’t have souls, since they need a way to transport the spirits. They have to find someone -- a human -- who’s willing to share their soul with them. Then, and only then, will they have the power to become human themselves and retire.”

“So you’re looking for a human.”

“Not just any human.” He reached out and touched her cheek. “The human has to be able to see our world and understand it. She has to agree to share her soul.”

“Like a true soul mate.”

He nodded. “There’s more. For every soul catcher there’s one and only one person who can release him of his duties.” He inched closer. “Only one who can give him peace.” He relaxed his shoulders and dropped his hand. “You, Eva, are my soul mate.”


“Look into my eyes, lass. You know it to be true." He leaned in closer until his face hovered inches from hers.

All of a sudden, Eva became hyper-aware of their close proximity. She tried to bury her rising desire and do as he asked. It was difficult to think with his lips so close to hers, Her fantasy once again flashed though her mind, and her cheeks heated. Concentrate... After a few moments of staring at the familiar dark, fathomless orbs, she shook her head. “I only see my reflection.”


She leaned back. “I don’t understand.”

"A soul catcher’s eyes don’t reflect light, they absorb it. That’s how we take on the souls of others. Only the true mate of a soul catcher can see her reflection in his eyes.”


"There’s more.” He looked away and shifted his feet, as if gathering courage. “When I first saw you, I didn’t know how to approach you. I followed you around and knew that you had been laid off from your job. I set up iLock as a way for us to connect.”

"What?” Shock raced through her system. This was too much to take in. “What about the other employees?”

He shrugged. “I needed to make the job seem credible. Don't worry, I only hired enough people to keep up appearances, and I'll make sure they are all employed elsewhere before I close iLock's doors.”

"I don't believe this."

He took her hand. “For months I’ve watched you. I know how lonely you’ve been, how you feel that no one understands.” He kissed her knuckles. “I understand you, Eva.” He turned her hand over and kissed the inside of her palm. “I always understood.”

“I --” Eva fought against the delicious heat that slid up her center. It was a lot of information, but somehow Eva didn't seem overwhelmed by it all. There was truth to his words, she felt it within her soul. Maybe, deep down, a part of her always knew that Julian was special, that she was made for this.

"I’m not saying I want to share my soul with you, but if I did…what would it involve?”

An arrogant grin appeared on his face, highlighting that gorgeous dimple. “Let me show you.”


The world spun for a moment and they were alone on a sandy beach in a tropical climate. Julian glanced around at the blue-green waves lapping the shoreline and birds flying overhead to made sure that they were alone. It wouldn’t do to have another soul catcher appear out of thin air and ruin the mood he was trying to create.

“This place…” Eva's words trailed off as she took in her surroundings.

“Recognize it?”

She nodded. “How did you...” Her words trailed off when she noticed the blanket at their feet.

“Get into your head? You forget, we’re soul mates. We share the same fantasies.” He saw her eyes widen and knew she was going through every single erotic fantasy she had since they first met. If he had his way, they wouldn’t stay fantasies for much longer.

“Here, sit.” Julian motioned to the blanket. He had chosen this spot under the palm tree, so that the sun's harsh rays wouldn't damage her delicate ivory skin. "Let me explain."

She did what he asked, and Julian sank down next to her. How to begin? “The blending of souls is very intimate, one that must be shared both mentally and physically.”

“You mean…” She waved her hands between them.

He took her fingers and placed it over his heart. “It would be a great honor. Like I said, sharing souls is a once in a lifetime experience.”

She stared at him, her bright green soul showing in her gaze. There was no indication of what she was thinking, or what decision she'd make. For the first time since seeing Eva, Julian was unsure of his plan. Maybe he pushed her too hard...

He tried to drive back the rising panic. “Look hard at your feelings and tell me what you see.”

“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “This is happening too fast.”

“Is it? Look deep down inside yourself, Eva. What have you always wanted?”


Eva didn’t need to think about her response. She wanted to belong to someone, to feel loved. Because of her ability, it had been hard to get close to anyone. All of her life she had kept to the sidelines, almost as if she had observed, rather than participated. To finally take that leap, to love and be loved in return, would make her feel alive. Never again would she feel alone or misunderstood. She'd have a companion, a friend, a soul mate.

But could Julian give that to her? She desired him, yes. Eva had always desired Julian. He was asking for something much more than sex, however. What he was asking for was so…permanent. She hardly knew anything about him. “How do you know I’m the one you seek?”

He turned away and looked out over the ocean. “Being a soul catcher is much harder than it looks. We wander the world, often alone, searching for souls that need to be brought home.” His eyes lost focus, as if something from his past claimed his thoughts. “During my travels, I get so lost,sometimes. Days pass and this… emptiness fills my heart."

She recognized his words. How could she not? They were from her favorite Peter Gabriel song, the one she heard playing softly in the restaurant. They seemed to take on new meaning now as they passed over his lips. Eva understood his loneliness. She had felt it, too.

“When I want to run away, I drive off in my car,” she said.

He turned back to face her, his whole face brightening. Something flickered in his dark gaze. “But whichever way I go --”

“I come back to the place you are.”

“The song of the soul catcher.” He inched forward. “Once I saw you, Eva, I just knew we belonged together." His gaze flicked to her lips. "I couldn’t stay away from you if I tried.”

The press of his lips was soft, and she felt the question in the kiss.

Eva knew what he meant. Ever since she had first laid eyes on Julian, she knew he was special, that somehow they belonged together. It had scared her at first, but not anymore. There was something about this place, about him, that seemed right and good.

Eva slipped her arms up and looped them around his neck.

He broke away from her mouth. “Are you sure?”

She smiled. “Yes, I’m sure.”

He pressed his lips against hers again. It started off gentle, but soon turned harder, more possessive. She slid her hands over his shoulders, enjoying the feel of the sculpted muscle beneath her fingertips. Heat rippled through her body as she tilted her head and parted her lips, opening herself to him completely. Julian growled, a low, throaty sound that sent desire racing up her spine. He invaded her mouth, his sweet taste filling her senses. She had been kissed many times before, but it had never felt quite like this. It was... incredible.

He undid her clothes, tearing her shirt as it parted beneath his fingers.
The warm tropical breeze kissed her naked skin, making her hot all over. Something primal and urgent surged inside her, and she yanked his jacket off his shoulders. They worked in unison, shedding articles of clothing and throwing them onto the sandy beach.

When they were fully naked, he eased her back on the blanket. His heat formed a cocoon of erotic sensation around her body as he lowered himself on top of her.

Julian tore his lips away from her mouth. “Are you absolutely sure? Once I do this, there’s no going back.”

She looked up into his eyes, still dark and empty. Desire spiraled around her body like a vine, tightening her muscles and setting her nerve endings on fire. “I’m sure.” She widened her legs, inviting him closer.

He positioned himself against her opening. “I don't know if I can take things slow.”

She tangled her fingers in his hair. “I don’t want you to.”

He bent over her body and place a soft, chaste kiss on her lips. “I promise, I’ll be slower next time.”

Eva gasped in surprise as he entered her. There was no pain, only stretching and pleasure. It was as if her body was made for him.

He started to pull away. “Are you okay? I didn't mean --”

She grabbed his hips and pulled him back inside her. “I’m more than okay.” She slid her fingers up his torso, memorizing each dip and rise of muscle.

He leaned back on his knees, then laced his fingers with her own. "Much more of this and I'll finish before we even begin." He eased her hands away from his chest and held them immobile over her head. She wiggled beneath him.


She smiled. "Always."

He slid back and then thrust deep, causing them both to moan. She locked her ankles around his hips, as if by doing so she could ground herself against the onslaught of emotions running through her body. He continued to move in steady, even strokes and soon her mind fogged with desire. Pressure built, and her muscles tightened as she raced toward that unseen goal. Heat and need pulsed in her veins until her cries of pleasure mingled in the air with his. Just when she thought she couldn’t bare it any longer, he shifted his position. On the next thrust he touched a sensitive spot deep inside her core.

Eva arched her back and cried out as bright green light filled her vision. Her soul. She wasn’t sure what it meant, nor did she care. Pleasure poured into every crevice of her body, and she felt as if she was floating on air. She felt Julian shudder, then heard him groan, as he, too, followed her into oblivion.

When it was over he turned their bodies so that they laid side-by-side on the blanket. They stayed like that for a time, and Eva was thankful for the moment to catch her breath. When she finally opened her eyes, she saw a bright green light above their heads.

She tapped Julian’s shoulder.



He glanced up, then turned to face her. “That’s our soul.”

"Our soul?” Eva looked closer at the glowing light. She had always known that it was bright green, but this glow was different than anything she had ever seen before. The light was streaked with lighter shades of pink and white, creating an intricate pattern above their heads.

"It looks different, right?” he asked.


“Because your views about the afterlife are changing.” He kissed her brow. “The white you see is from my creator. It was formed when your soul touched me. Watch.” He lifted his hand toward the light. “Welcome home.”

The light glowed bright and swirled into a completely different pattern, one so beautiful, it took her breath away. Then the light grew until it surrounded them both. Fire, bright and hot, burned through her body. Eva’s jaw locked with pain and she closed her eyes.

Then, as soon as it started, it finished.

She opened her eyes. They were back in the alley behind the restaurant. Cold pavement pressed against her cheek, and the smell of tomato sauce and garlic filled the air. The restaurant. Julian’s warmth was noticeably absent.

She sat up and looked around. Somehow, she had her clothes back on her body, and her hair was not filled with sand.

“Look at me now.”

She turned to the voice. Julian sat a few steps away, his back against the restaurant wall. She went over and knelt until she was eye level.

He tossed his wire-rimmed glasses down the ally.

"What are you doing?"

"I don't need them anymore." He smirked and gave her a quick kiss on her mouth. “Look into my eyes.”

She did. Not only did she see her reflection, but she saw flashes of green, pink and white in his dark depths.

“My soul,” she whispered, fascinated with the complex pattern.

He took her hand. “Our soul.” He pulled her up into a standing position. “What you see in my eyes are in yours as well.” He inhaled deeply. “I’m human again.”

“What do we do now?”

He returned his gaze to her and smiled. “I say we head back home so that we can continue what we started back on the beach.”

Eva shivered. "We can't go back to the beach?"

He laughed and put his arm around her. "Not anymore -- at least not like that. I'm open to driving to the shore though, if that's what you want."

“And then what?” When he gave her a confused look she continued. "What happens with us?"

“With us?” He squeezed her shoulder and drew her closer. “I'll always be there for you, as long as you need me.” He kissed the top of her head. "Whatever life throws at us, we can face it together."

“Together.” Eva wrapped her arm around his waist and nestled against his side. She liked the sound of that.

Side-by-side, they exited the alley and began the long walk home.

The End


After over a decade in the scientific world, Suzanne needed a creative outlet. She tried scrap booking, cooking, crocheting, painting, and piano, none of which held her interest for very long. Then one of her friends suggested writing. Thrilled with the idea of creating her own worlds, she opened up her lap top and never looked back.

When Suzanne’s not writing, she can be found playing with her two daughters, testing her husband’s latest kitchen creations, or curled up with her favorite romance novel in her central Massachusetts home.

Book Trailer for Dark Obsession

Dark Obsession, the second book in the Immortal Realm series, is available from Red Sage Publishing now. Readers can find more information about Suzanne's other releases and sign up for her quarterly newsletter on her website.


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