Buy Murder on the Last Frontier–Charlotte Brody Mystery #1
Buy Borrowing Death–Charlotte Brody Mystery #2
Buy Murder on Location–Charlotte Brody Mystery #3
Buy Caught in Amber!
Buy Deep Deception!
Category Archives: SFR
ETA: The giveaway period is now over. Thanks SO much to all who entered!!! There were over 1,100 people who put in for a copy of Caught in Amber and I appreciate each and every one of you. Congrats to Wanda and Erin who will be receiving their signed copies soon. I will definitely do this sort of thing again 🙂
In belated celebration of the two awards Caught in Amber won at the 2014 FF&P Chapter Prism Awards in July, I’m giving away two signed copies. I had entered the RITA Awards but didn’t final, so Carina Press/Harlequin sent the unused copies to me.
Check out the details on Goodreads here:
Thanks to all!!!
I recently received hard copies of my SFR Caught in Amber from the head office at Harlequin/Carina. I had entered CiA in this year’s RWA Rita contest, but it didn’t final, so the hard copies are sent to the authors to do with as they wish. But since CiA DID win TWO Prism awards (Best Futuristic and Best of the Best) I wan to celebrate.
I’ll sign the copies and give them away. Well, most of them. I want to keep one for myself : ) Being published in ebook format has great advantages, but I will admit a certain joy in holding a hard copy of my book. And I want to share that joy!
At some point in the near future, I’ll be giving away three or four signed copies.There are only so many in existence, so that should mean something, right? Maybe I’ll throw in a little something to celebrate Deep Deception taking third in the Futuristic category of the Prisms as well.
But how to do it? Comment on a post? A Twitter contest? Make suggestions in the comments here and we’ll figure something out together ; )
You may have noticed that my Sci Spanks 2014 post Jen & Maddy is no longer up. That’s because
is here! The ebook anthology containing 15 of the 17 stories/authors featured in last month’s Sci Spanks event are in one volume. My story, Jen & Maddy is among them. And for only $0.99 you REALLY can’t go wrong here : )
There’s something for everyone, if you like a little naughty or a little more ; ) I had a lot of fun creating my story and loved reading the others. Here’s the Goodreads description.
***Warning, Part I: The contents of some of the works associated with this event are meant for ADULTS ONLY! If you are under 18, please skedaddle. Thanks!***
Love Spanks 2014 is finally here! You’ve tasted us, and now you get to sample free stories from top F/F authors. Please visit Governing Ana for the prize list, sign-up sheet, and free books. You can win from a prize pool valued at over $1,000, including a Kindle Fire or Nook HD!
Many authors will also offer a contest on their individual blogs. Your comment on their blogs automatically enters you in both the main contest and the individual contests!
What’s the catch? Absolutely nothing! We love writing for you and want to thank you for your readership. Perhaps someone might get a spanking or two, but that’s a reward rather than a catch, right?
How do you play?
1. Visit each blog between Friday, February 7 and Sunday, February 9 to read the posted stories and excerpts.
2. Leave a comment answering the story question on each blog. You will receive one entry per blog for the grand prize drawing. You will also be automatically entered in that author’s individual contest, if she has one.
3. If you have visited all of the blogs, visit Ana’s blog to sign up for FIVE bonus entries to the grand prize.
4. Deadline is midnight EST (UTC -5) on February 9!!
5. If you successfully completed a previous challenge (Spank or Treat 2013, Spankee Doodle 2013, Love Spanks 2013, or Spank or Treat 2012), you may add “VIP” to your comments. You will earn THREE bonus entries toward the grand prize. (Yes, we will be doing this again. Yes, if you successfully complete the Love Spanks 2014 challenge you can become a VIP for our next activity!)
6. If you are a F/F author or thinking of becoming one, please add “FF” to your comments. That way, your name will be entered in the special F/F author prize drawings.
7. If you are Love Spanks 2014 Ambassador, please add “Amb” to your comments to receive your extra prize drawing.
8. Visit any of the participating blogs on Friday, February 14 to find out the lucky winners. Will it be you?
Like these events? Want to support your friendly F/F authors? Become a Love Spanks Ambassador! In exchange for promoting this event, you will receive one extra prize entry, AND you are still eligible to participate and win prizes! To find out the details, send an email to email@example.com, with the subject line “Love Spanks Ambassador.”
For more information, updates, and a list of participating authors, please visit Anastasia Vitsky’s blog.
Tweet #lovespanks on Twitter!
For more spanking fun, visit Saturday Spankings for additional snippets.
So, now that you know where all the Spanking fun can be found, here’s MY contribution. I hope you enjoy it : )
***Warning, Part II: The excerpt below is rated for ADULTS. It is a bit racier than normal fare found on this blog.***
I’ve Never Done Anything Like This Before….
When Ana invited me to participate in this event, my first thought was “OMG! None of my pubbed stories involve any sort of spanking or the like! What would I post?” Then I remembered I was working on a Science Fiction Romance that did, indeed, involve a little hand to bum (and then some) activity.
I usually write one or two relatively sedate (but hopefully sensuous!) love scenes in a book, so what had possessed me to attempt a scene with more graphic action? Well, I could blame the erotica romance writers I hang out with on Twitter (you know who you are). But I don’t think “blame” is the right word. I enjoy reading saucier love scenes. Maybe the better word to use is “inspired.”
When I came up with the idea for this story, I knew Bijou and Faris would have a very physical relationship. In fact, that’s ALL their relationship was going to be in their minds, but we know how that really works in romance land ; ) And for them, physical meant a little more than what *I* generally have in mind for sex scenes.
Below is an excerpt from their story. The set up: Bijou is a pilot who runs a courier/cargo service between planets. She’s hired by a man named Doc to deliver a box to Faris. Instead of giving Bijou a response, Faris decides she wants to return with Bijou. Bijou is used to flying alone, and is more than a little uncomfortable with having a passenger on her ship for two weeks. But the money offered is good, so she agrees.
As expected, the proximity becomes a bit too much for both women…
Bijou set the half-empty bottle on the table with a thud. No label, which meant home brew. Two shot glasses followed and she sat down opposite Faris. She poured a finger of clear liquid into each glass and slid one over. “Truth or Dare,” she said.
Faris eyed the drink. “Ale with dinner, now this? Are you trying to get me drunk?”
Bijou raised her glass, her dark eyes fixed on Faris. There was a glint of amusement there, but behind it was determination. She wanted something.
“Just killing time. You playing?” She tossed down the drink and refilled her glass.
Faris lifted the shot and sniffed. No discernible odor, but her eyes watered. What the hell was this stuff? Under Bijou’s unwavering gaze, she swallowed the alcohol. It slid past her tongue and down her throat like water. At first. Two seconds later, the bite-burn exploded at the back of her throat and into her sinuses. She closed her eyes to keep the tears from falling, her throat tightening against the assault. Three years ago, she would have drank twice as much without a hitch; living on Kepler had softened her.
After a few moments, she opened her eyes. Bijou watcher her, judged her. “Dare.”
A slow smile curved the other woman’s sensual mouth. “Actually, you already took on the first one.”
Faris cocked her head and poured another round. “I thought you were just offering me a drink. You didn’t say we’d started.”
Bijou shrugged. She raised her glass, and the silver buckle of her fingerless glove caught the light. “Call it a warm up. Besides, you’re a guest. You get to ask first.”
Faris met her gaze. “Truth or Dare?”
She nodded toward Bijou’s hand. “Tell me about the gloves.”
The pilot hesitated, shot glass at her lips, then sipped. She set the glass on the table. “When I was six, my sister and I were playing tag in the engine room of our family’s cargo ship. Dad told us to stop, but we didn’t. I slipped and fell, and put my hand out to catch myself. Right into the open engine casing.”
Faris winced in sympathetic pain. “Oh, no.”
Bijou unsnapped each glove. “Yeah. Mangled it pretty good. I don’t remember much, thanks to the painkillers, but there were surgeries and regen therapy and grafts.”
She tugged off the gloves, showing Faris the backs of her hands. Long, slender fingers that appeared agile enough to play an old-fashioned harp as well as they danced across the nav panel of her ship. She turned them over. Perfect. Unmarred.
Faris looked up. “They’re fine. So why the gloves?”
“The damaged hand, the palm in particular, didn’t really heal right,” she said. “It looks and works like the other.” She opened and closed her hands. “But very sensitive to temperature and touch. The gloves allow me to function without distraction.”
Bijou gave her a sly smile. “You already asked your Truth question.”
Faris drank her second shot. “Fair enough. Your turn.”
“Truth or Dare?”
She had the feeling Bijou knew what she was going to say, but said it anyway. “Dare.”
Bijou finished her drink and licked her lips. Faris’s gut warmed. The pilot laid her hands palm up in front of Faris. “I dare you to figure out which one.”
Faris quirked an eyebrow at her. “Why? What happens if I do?”
Bijou leaned across the table until all Faris could see was her eyes, nose and mouth. God, what a mouth. “Try and you’ll find out,” she said in a husky whisper.
She sat back, her hands open before Faris. Oh, this was going to be much more fun than reading up on the political wranglings between Kepler and Jarvis IV.
Faris moved their empty glasses aside. She slid her hands under Bijou’s, all the while their eyes remained locked. “I promise to be gentle,” she said as she stroked the other woman’s palms with her thumbs.
Bijou swallowed hard, but she didn’t twitch or try to pull away. “Not too gentle, I hope.”
Faris smiled. “Only if you like it that way.” The pilot laughed. Faris lifted her hands and looked closely at the skin of her palms. “Beautiful.” She glanced up. “And the cosmetics are amazing too.”
Something in Bijou’s gaze changed, heated. There, behind the effort to not reveal which hand had been damaged, desire.
Faris pursed her lips and gently blew across Bijou’s palms. Bijou tensed, but no obvious reaction of one hand over the other. Faris touched her lips to the left palm. Bjiou trembled. She flicked her tongue against the smooth skin then blew again. The black of Bijou’s pupils expanded and her breath hitched. Faris waited a moment then repeated the test on the right palm. Expecting the second flick and blow, Bijou’s breathing remained even. The look in her eyes didn’t change. But that didn’t matter.
Faris laid her hands on the table and sat back. She poured them each a third shot and passed Bijou her glass.
Bijou drank it fast and blew out a cooling breath. “Figure it out?”
“Maybe.” Faris swallowed her drink then rose. She moved to the other side of the table, in front of Bijou.
The pilot turned in her chair and looked up. Faris sat on her lap, straddling Bijou’s thighs. She grasped the other woman’s wrists and ran Bijou’s hands along her own thighs, up her sides to her breasts. Bijou’s palms were hot through her thin shirt and Faris shivered.
“Which one?” Bijou asked quietly.
Faris scooted closer, pressing her breasts into Bijou’s hands. Bijou stroked her from nipple to side, slow, sensuous caresses that tightened her nipples and sent pulses of need into her groin.
Hands on the pilot’s shoulders, she tilted her head and touched her lips to the other woman’s mouth. “It doesn’t matter.”
Bijou captured Faris’s lower lip between her teeth and flicked her tongue against it. “Are you conceding the game?”
“Would you like that?” she asked. She trailed kisses along Bijou’s jawline, felt the woman trembling between her thighs. “Do you want me to surrender to you?”
Bijou lowered her hands to Faris’s hips and pulled her snug against her body. She nipped the juncture of Faris’s neck and shoulder. “Yes,” she said, her breath hot on Faris’s skin.
Faris leaned back. “I don’t submit easily. Make it worth my while.”
The smile Bijou offered was at once amused, intrigued and…hungry. She eased Faris off her lap and they both rose. The pilot took her hand and led her to Faris’s cabin down the short hall off the galley, not her own, which was closer.
“Yours is cleaner,” Bijou said by way of explanation. Faris had seen Bijou’s cabin. She was right.
She guided Faris to the narrow cot. They faced each other an arm’s length apart. Bijou’s gazed dropped to Faris’s mouth, her throat, her breasts. Each shift of the woman’s focus increased the tingling heat of Faris’s body.
Faris moistened her lips. “What do you want, Bijou?” That brought the pilot’s gaze back to hers. The desire in her eyes had grown to an almost fevered glint. “Tell me, and I might do it.”
“Undress,” she said simply.
With deliberate slowness, Faris slid her fingers along the closure of her trousers. Bijou followed her every move as she lowered the garment down over her hips and to the floor. She stepped out of them and pushed them aside with her bare foot. The hem of the blouse she wore brushed the tops of her thighs. She started to unbutton the first button.
“Wait,” Bijou said. Faris stopped, her finger toying with the bit of plastic. “Let me.”
Faris’s heart thudded hard in her chest and heat pooled between her legs. She lowered her hand. Bijou stepped closer. Eyes locked on hers, Bijou started at the top and slowly unbuttoned Faris’s blouse. She didn’t touch Faris anywhere else, didn’t let her fingers come in contact with Faris’s skin, though she felt the warmth radiating from Bijou’s hand.
When the shirt was unbuttoned, open to reveal a path of bare skin, Bijou lowered her hand and rubbed her thumbs along her fingertips. “Turn around.”
Faris’s first inclination was to disobey, but a shimmering thrill ran along her spine. She’d told Bijou it would have to be worth her while to submit to her. What did the brash pilot have in mine? Only one way to find out. She turned around.
Bijou’s fingertips glided up her arms to her shoulders. Faris felt warm breath against her right ear. “Close your eyes.”
Heart fluttering, she complied. Bijou feathered delicate caresses across her collar bones. Her fingertips stroked Faris sternum to breasts, across her nipples. Slowly, Bijou removed the blouse, kissing the side of Faris’s neck, along her shoulder, following the path of skin as it was revealed. The material brushed Faris’s back and shoulder blades, down her arms to where the cuffs prevented the blouse from coming off. Bijou eased Faris’s arms behind her, bringing her wrists together.
Faris’s breath caught and her eyes flew open. She turned her head. “Bijou.”
The pilot brushed her lips across Faris’s. “I won’t hurt you. I promise. Trust me?”
She’d known this woman for barely a week. Doc had trusted her to bring Faris’s documents, to keep her task of finding Faris on Granger to herself. But that was for money. What would Bijou want for her trust here?
Faris swallowed hard. Her next word came out in a dry whisper. “Yes.”
Bijou smiled and kissed her. Her tongue flicked against the seam of Faris’s mouth. Faris parted her lips, let her in. She leaned into Bijou, enjoying the soft press of the other woman’s breasts against her back. Bijou ran her hands up Faris’s sides and caressed her breasts. She pinched Faris’s nipples, sending licks of electricity through her.
The pilot broke the kiss. She wrapped the shirt around Faris’s wrists, binding her securely enough that she couldn’t easily get free but loose enough that her shoulders didn’t ache.
“Kneel down.” Faris knelt. Bijou nudged her knees apart. She touched Faris’s shoulder with one hand and her cheek with the other. Faris turned her head and kissed Bijou’s palm. The pilot caressed her jaw. “Lay your head on the cot.”
Faris leaned her forehead on the soft blanket covering the lumpy mattress. Her breathing had increased and she had to consciously slow it down before she hyperventilated. Naked, on her knees and arms bound, she’d never felt more vulnerable. Even during questioning by Stannish Prime’s security agents, Faris had felt some sense of control. She wasn’t sure she’d have it here.
Wasn’t sure she wanted it.
Yet she also felt powerful. One word, one indication that whatever Bijou had planned wasn’t fun anymore and she trusted the pilot to stop. For her.
Bijou moved away and the air around Faris immediately cooled. The quiet zip of her trouser closure made Faris smile. Soft rustling told her Bijou was undressed as well. The equality of nudity eased her mind some. She felt Bijou kneel beside her, her small breasts pressing into Faris’s right arm. Deft fingers stroked her from navel to breast.
“What would make you surrender to me, Faris?”
“I thought I was surrendering.”
The sharp pain of the swat Bijou delivered to her bottom made Faris gasp and her heart race.
“I think you’re following direction, but not quite surrendering.” Fingertips skimmed along Faris’s spine. Up. Down. She tickled the top of the cleft of Faris’s ass. “Would you like me to touch you some more?”
Faris nodded. Bijou’s hand landed on her buttock again. The delicious sting traveled up Faris’s back, making her shake. Wrong answer. Or rather, wrong way to answer. “Yes,” she said hoarsely.
Cathy Pegau’s muse almost always finds some sort of science fiction, fantasy or paranormal bend to the stories it offers. Her debut novel, Rulebreaker, was released in 2011. Caught in Amber in January 2013, and the third installment of her Nevarro books, Deep Deception, came out in May 2013. Rulebreaker and Deep Deception are F/F romances.
Cathy enjoys chatting with other writers and readers. Drop her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter @CathyPegau.
It’s been WAY too long since the lovely and talented Jody Wallace has visited. She has a new book out, THE WHOLE TRUTH (fab cover, isn’t it????), as well as a bunch of other fantastic stories. Jody is one of the most creative, smart and funny people I know.
no images were found
Recently, we got into a little conversation about writing “The End” and self-publishing. TWT is one of her indie offerings. She also has books out with Carina Press and Samhain.
JODY: So, Cathy, tell me about your recent accomplishment of writing “THE
END” on a new novel?
CATHY: Wait, I thought this was a guest post about YOU? OK, fine, I’ll start. In a few simple words, it was a relief. I was months behind where I wanted to be. But in my defense (pathetic as it is) there was a lot of research required.
What about you? How do you feel when those two little words get added?
JODY: Relieved that I wasn’t fooling myself all along about this book idea, since I just made a book out of it. I plan to write THE END on a manuscript this week, in fact.
CATHY: Yay to that! But I get what you’re saying. Sometimes, the more I read through a work in progress the more I think, “Man, this is the dumbest thing ever!” then the manic writer in me wakes up and is all, “Holy cow! This rocks!” I’m very VERY glad you put out THE WHOLE TRUTH. It’s definitely in the “This rocks!” category.
JODY: Thanks! It’s a very cross-genre book — light urban fantasy mixed with chick lit snark mixed with Southern fiction mixed with romance subplots –so I opted to self-publish it. Publishing a manuscript is kind of the ultimate THE END, or it used to be. Once you contracted it, you were forced to quit tinkering with it, aside from official edits or the anniversary revised edition twenty years after the fact.
Self-publishing is mostly like that–although the temptation is there to continue revising a manuscript once it’s published, because you have good ideas and because you can. I’ve found a few typos in my self-published work so far and, of course, I’ve updated the “About Me” section on occasion, but I’ve never given into the urge to really tinker.
Do you think you could resist that urge if you self-published?
CATHY: If I found typos, I’d fix them, or other formatting/mechanics issues. But I’d like to think that would be about it. Sure, after a book is out, I sometimes think, “Oh! I should have____!” but having it in someone else’s hands has helped me let it go.
What’s been the best aspect of self publishing for you?
JODY: I’ll get back to you on that when I get rich quick. Or slow. I don’t care. I just want a tornado shelter.
Until then, I can tell you a few things I like, without them being “the best”, right? I enjoy working with the cover artists myself instead of hoping the publisher gets it right. I appreciate being able to change my book blurb, my key words, and so on, tweaking that information, if not the book itself, to increase visibility. I also like being able to give free copies away willy-nilly. If only more people wanted them!
CATHY: I’d take a get rich slow scheme too. Well, in my lifetime, anyway.
Those are great aspects of self publishing. What about the not so great? (Other than the get rich too slow times). What do you find to be more frustrating compared to “traditional” publishing?
JODY: When you’re self publishing, it all comes down to you and the decisions you’ve made. So if your book doesn’t move, it’s you who made the “bad” calls, so to speak. Granted, publishing, especially self publishing, is so erratic that the same author could do the exact same thing with two equally polished books, and one could bomb and one could fly off the cybershelves. That’s partly true with traditional publishing, although in those instances, there are even more factors out of an author’s control than in self publishing. So you can change things in self publishing…but all the stress and blame are yours, too.
Why don’t you tell us about your latest project and then I’ll tell you about THE WHOLE TRUTH?
CATHY: Wait, aren’t you the guest? Why are we talking about *my* project? I can do that any time.
Tell us about THE WHOLE TRUTH. I’ve read this a while ago and LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Without spoilers, give us a little insight in to the types of folks who populate TWT.
JODY: I asked you first.
CATHY: *rolls eyes at Jody* Fine. It’s a cozy murder mystery set in 1919 Alaska, the town I currently live in, specifically. The story is sort of based on the murder of a “sporting woman” and her baby that happened in the ’30s or ’40s, but for some reason I decided earlier in the century sounded more interesting. It’s not like any of my other stuff. No space travel, ghosts or anything like that.
JODY: THE WHOLE TRUTH is what happens when you love chick lit, paranormal, urban fantasy, superheroes, snarky heroines, unexpected settings, office politics, food, cats and espionage all at the same time. Our heroine, Cleo, can see lies — a shadow forms in front of a liar’s face and mouths the true words. She thinks she’s the only person in the world like herself, but eventually, her unusual web searches and pointed commentary on internet blogs gets her caught, NSA-style, by a group of suprasensors who want to hire her.
But the group who hired her aren’t the only suprasensors in the world. And somebody out there seems to want to put suprasensors in comas. Or worse. It’s up to Cleo to get to the bottom of the mystery, and it really, really shouldn’t be up to Cleo, because she’s only a superhero in her abilities. Or that’s what she thinks
CATHY: I love Cleo. She’s a great snarky, reluctant heroine. My favorite kind :). And I’m sure once someone reads THE WHOLE TRUTH they’ll want more more more!
Do you have plans for other suprasensors’ stories?
JODY: That’s one of the worst pitfalls of self publishing and writing “on spec”, so to speak. You have to decide how to invest your energies. THE WHOLE TRUTH is not a short book. A sequel would consume months of my work-time to finish. (And by the way, anybody who snarks that books shouldn’t take that long to write can jump in a lake, because we’re ALL DIFFERENT, from process to product, thank God.) So, just like with any business, you have to decide if there’s enough probable profit to merit the project. Pleasure, yes, there would be pleasure in revisiting Cleo and the gang, but is that how I should spend six months of my time? Do my sales merit it? Or would I be better off investing my time in something else?
To make a long answer short, I don’t know.
CATHY: I can understand the reasoning behind that not so short response.
So while you’re busy promoting TWT and your other fab works, what are you writing? Can you share?
JODY: Letters to my children’s teachers. The book I’m about to write “THE END” on is the sequel to Tangible, which is through Samhain Publishing.
It was written on spec, it’s very long, and it’s taken a lot of time. I have no guarantee of a contract, but I enjoy working with my Samhain editor and have high hopes! After that? I want to write something short. What’s next for you?
CATHY: Good luck with the spec book! It’s great to have an editor who “gets” you, isn’t it?
For me? Good question I have a short, probably freebie SFR in mind as well as a longer SFR and a paranormal historical I’ve been chipping at. And others. I’m in a sort of limbo state, so I need something to really grab my attention. Unfortunately, what grabs *my* attention isn’t necessarily something that will be sellable ; P
JODY: I know that feeling well! And on that note…
Thanks so much for chatting with me, Jody!
Thanks for having me as your guest today, Cathy! I’m happy to say my new Science Fiction Romance novel, ESCAPE FROM ZULAIRE is available now. The story takes place in the same universe as WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, but the two novels aren’t connected in any way. My heroine in the new book, Andi Markriss, does work for the same galactic shipping company that Mara was employed by in WRECK, but that’s the only tiny connection. Good old Loxton Galactic Trading – they like to hire strong willed, independent women who stay cool in a crisis.
Here’s the book’s blurb:
no images were foundAndi Markriss hasn’t exactly enjoyed being the houseguest of the planetary high-lord, but her company sent her to represent them at a political wedding. When hotshot Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane barges in on the night of the biggest social event of the summer, Andi isn’t about to offend her high-ranking host on Deverane’s say-so—no matter how sexy he is, or how much he believes they need to leave now.
Deverane was thinking about how to spend his retirement bonus when HQ assigned him one last mission: rescue a civilian woman stranded on a planet on the verge of civil war. Someone has pulled some serious strings to get her plucked out of the hot zone. Deverane’s never met anyone so hard-headed—or so appealing. Suddenly his mission to protect this one woman has become more than just mere orders.
That mission proves more dangerous than he expected when rebel fighters attack the village and raze it to the ground. Deverane escapes with Andi, and on their hazardous journey through the wilderness, Andi finds herself fighting her uncomfortable attraction to the gallant and courageous captain. But Deverane’s not the type to settle down, and running for one’s life doesn’t leave much time to explore a romance.
Then Andi is captured by the rebel fighters, but Deverane has discovered that Zulaire’s so-called civil war is part of a terrifying alien race’s attempt to subjugate the entire Sector. If he pushes on to the capitol Andi will die. Deverane must decide whether to save the woman he loves, or sacrifice her to save Zulaire.
So the idea for ESCAPE’s plot is based in a real life incident that happened in India in 1857. The events in India during this period go by many names, depending who’s telling the story, but one common term is the Sepoy Rebellion. I was always fascinated how so many British women and children in India at the time were caught totally unaware, suddenly in the middle of a really awful war, and the people they trusted and looked to for help were the very ones determined to kill them. I always wondered how it would feel to be in the middle of such a situation and what I’d do.
My novel is not a retelling of the Sepoy events in any way. Unlike WRECK, which was loosely based on the sinking of the Titanic, ESCAPE only takes the very basic idea and then runs with it. When the book starts, the heroine knows things aren’t quite right, she’s a guest at an isolated compound hundreds of miles from safety…and then one afternoon Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane shows up and says it’s time to leave now.
Here’s an excerpt from that conversation:
“I forget you’ve been out of the loop.” Sitting down, Deverane leaned forward, putting his hands on his knees and taking a deep breath. “Two days ago I got urgent orders, relayed from Sector Command, diverting me from my primary mission. The new priority was to come five hundred miles out of our way to extract you for a safe return to the capital city.” From the dry tone in his voice, Andi guessed how little he’d appreciated the change. “Now, if you could get your things together, I’d like to be on our way before dark.”
She blinked. Today? He wants me to leave now? Andi shifted back into the chair’s embrace, crossing her legs. “Get my things—what are you talking about? I’m the guest of Lord Tonkiln’s family, and I’m expected to present a significant gift from Loxton at the reception tonight with due ceremony. I can’t ride off with you on literally a moment’s notice without some compelling reason. Why is your Command issuing orders concerning me anyway?”
The captain got up in one smooth motion, like a great cat uncurling, paced to the fireplace and back, then half sat on the edge of a sturdy table. I bet he’s a person in constant motion—discussing anything in patient detail doesn’t appear to be his style. Well, I’m not one of his soldiers and I don’t take orders from him, so he’d better explain himself.
“Call me Andi.” And let’s get this discussion on a less military, more personal level so you stop trying to give me orders.
The quick, meaningless smile crossed his handsome face again, never reaching his eyes. “Andi. In case you haven’t heard, this entire planet is about to be embroiled in a devastating Clan war.”
Andi didn’t hesitate. “Ridiculous. The Obati and the Shenti have been at peace for four hundred years. Everyone has been satisfied with the status quo for four centuries. How long did you say you’ve been on Zulaire, Captain?” She raised her eyebrows, drumming her fingers on the arm of the chair. “You’ve been here—what? Two weeks?”
He drew himself up to his full height, probably a foot taller than she, hands clasped tight behind his back, and glared at her. “I’ve been here long enough to see that this place is approaching critical mass, which apparently escapes your scanners. You’re the only offworlder on Zulaire right now who isn’t military, diplomatic, or mining personnel. And all of them are either safe in the capital or behind the defenses of the West Vialtin mine. Except you.” His index finger stabbed the air in her direction. “Along with my men and me. I intend to correct that situation in short order. Now, if you will please get your things—”
This is ridiculous. Not intimidated but curious, Andi shook her head. “We would have heard something out here. My office would have gotten in touch with me.”
Deverane walked closer, leaned on the table. “Have you received any communications from the office, or anyone since you came out here?”
“No, but it’s the summer slow period. Even the Loxton office is all but closed.” She gave him a challenging glare. “Look, on the basis of what you’ve said so far, I don’t appear to need rescuing. You still haven’t told me anything to justify leaving tonight, missing the reception, insulting my hosts, and driving back to the capital like a prisoner.” Wishing the deep upholstery didn’t make rising such an ungraceful process, Andi left the chair.
“You aren’t getting the picture.” Jaw clenched, he took a few steps to stand next to her. The glare from his green eyes was scorching, and Andi recoiled from the intensity. Apparently taking note of her unease, the captain gentled his voice. “Though why that should surprise me, I don’t know, considering the warnings Lord Tonkiln and the other members of the Council have ignored.”
“Warnings?” Andi took a step back, crossing her arms over her chest.
“To get their families the hell out of this isolated, inde¬fensible spot and into safety at the capital.” Deverane took a deep breath. He walked over to stare at the carvings on the mantel. Andi got the impression from the rigid set of his broad shoulders he was trying to control his temper. After a minute, he came to sit near her again. “I was told your boss made numerous attempts to get in touch with you, right until the moment he and the rest of the Loxton staff took a ship offworld.”
“Dave left Zulaire? They’ve all gone?” Now Andi fell back into the chair, raising a small puff of dust from the plush cushion beneath her. A wave of nausea rippling through her gut, she ran a hand through her hair, looping the tendrils behind her ear. “I don’t understand any of this. Why would my boss and my co-workers leave without me? Why wouldn’t the Tonkilns tell me? You’re still not making sense.”
Deverane came to hunker down in front of her chair, caging her with his arms, invading her personal space. Inhaling sharply, she caught a whiff of musk and forest and man, threaded with some delicious spicy note. She glanced down at his hands, strong, capable, locked on the chair close to her body. As if to calm an upset child, his voice was soothing and low. “Relax. We can get you offplanet in a military transport once you’re safely in the capital.”
She lifted her head, gazing straight into his eyes. Half-formed thoughts chased each other in her mind. The longer he talked, the more nervous she got, but it was still all too much to take in. Loxton only pulled staff offworld in the most serious situations. I haven’t heard a whiff of trouble. Dave wouldn’t have left me behind. Would he?
Deverane touched her arm lightly. “There have been incidents all summer. People disappearing, vehicles abandoned on the transportway with no sign of the occupants. There have even been some small-scale massacres in isolated villages, both Obati and Shenti. The violence keeps escalating. Command thinks a full-blown war is only a breath away, waiting for some convenient incident to touch it off. Lord Tonkiln and the others have chosen to keep things quiet, leaving their families at risk out here in order to demonstrate their belief in their own supremacy. Putting on a pretense of things going along as usual. Or else they refuse to see what’s coming. Civilians.”
He might as well have said idiots.
Deverane frowned at her, three deep wrinkles marring the strong sweep of his forehead. “Are you prepared to take the same risk?”
He’s invading my personal space, damn it. I don’t intimidate that easily, pal. She pushed at his rock-hard shoulders. Standing, he moved away a pace or two, still keeping his eyes locked on her. Licking her lips, Andi smoothed down her silky skirt. “You’re insinuating my hosts have deceived me and deliberately put me in harm’s way? I find that insulting.”
Eyes closed, he pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’re a pawn to them.” Now he reopened his eyes and flung his arms out, hands wide open. “You mean nothing to them. If you’re going to refuse my offer of evacuation, then you’d better be ready to take care of yourself, because I guarantee you the Obati won’t.”
GIVEAWAY!!!! Veronica has kindly offered a $25 Amazon gift card to a random commenter. What do you think of this exciting new SFR! Comments will be open for the giveaway through Wednesday (9/4) evening and a winner will be announced Thursday (9/5). So comment now, people!
ETA: Thanks for dropping by and commenting! We have a winner…Jody W.! Congrats, Jody! Buy lots of cool books! : )
I’m not one to wear a lot of jewelry. Earrings, because I have five piercings to fill. My wedding ring, of course. A watch if I’m not typing, because otherwise it’s quite uncomfortable. And a necklace I bought several years ago.
Why is this special? Why do I never take it off, except to clean it (or take a picture : )? Because it’s a symbol of love. Each of those tiny stones represents someone: the birthstones of my children, my spouse and myself. No matter where I am, my family is with me. On a recent Tart Sweet post, Limecello asked about my five most prized possessions. My wedding ring and this necklace were first and foremost on my list.
Necklaces are worn by characters in all three of my Nevarro novels, but differ in significance. In Rulebreaker, Zia Talbot wears a gold ring strung on a chain. It matches another piece of jewelry she never removes. Liv sees them but doesn’t learn the meaning of them until later in the story.
“I’ve worn these rings…since I was a girl, waiting for the right person to share all I have and all I can be. I’ve found that person.”
For Zia, the rings are a symbol of the future life she wishes to live. Not one of riches and power—she has those—but of love.
The necklace Guy Christiansen gives Sasha James in Caught in Amber carries a completely different connotation. First, note that Guy is not the hero in Caught. When Sasha comes to him in an effort to help Nathan Sterling, Guy presents Sasha with a pinky-nail sized ruby strung on a gold chain. It matches the ring he wears. Here’s a bit of her reaction after he secures it around her neck.
The cold stone and metal chilled her while his warm fingers lingered at the base of her neck. “Just a token,” he said lightly.
His offhand manner didn’t fool her for a moment. She looked up. In his blue eyes was exactly what she’d expected: triumph. Satisfaction. Possession.
Guy sees it as a representation of love. Sasha knows it’s more sinister than that. But she has no choice in accepting it for Sterling’s sake. Slight spoiler alert: She doesn’t keep it : )
Genevieve Caine isn’t very forthcoming with information in Deep Deception, but the pendant she wears tells quite a bit about her character and motivations. It represents something she isn’t willing to share with Natalia Hallowell. At least not at first.
A silver pendant on a delicate necklace rested between her breasts. Gennie saw Natalia looking at it and quickly slipped it under her shirt.
The significance of the pendant isn’t a plot spoiler, but it has more of an impact if you read it in context so I won’t tell you anymore about it here. Suffice it to say, it’s an important piece of jewelry to Gennie, and becomes so to Natalia.
These pieces of stone and metal have more than monetary value. The emotions attached to each of them, for better or worse, make them more than what they are.
In celebration of my latest release, Deep Deception, I’m holding a giveaway for a silver locket reminiscent of Gennie’s pendant and a copy of the book. I will ship internationally! Just tell me if there’s something you own that holds more meaning and value than what it’s “worth.” If you want to share why, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too : )
If I asked you to name a famous ship wreck or ship sinking, you’d probably come up with the Titanic at some point in your short list, right? I mean, who wouldn’t, with all the books, movies and other discussion still surrounding the event, even 101 years later?
So true enough my SFR novel WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM is loosely based on Titanic, although set in the far future, on a space liner, but I also took inspiration from some other sinkings and wrecks in history. When I was deciding what to write for this guest blog at Cathy’s (and thank you for having me today), I researched famous shipwrecks in Alaska and found the “unsinkable” SS Islander, with water tight compartments, built for the luxury trade, which hit an iceberg (or a rock) on August 14, 1901 and sank in twenty minutes. Forty people died, possibly more since there were at least eleven stowaways. (VS sez that’s a lot of stowaways!). The ship is rumored to have gone down with great riches in the hold, just as Titanic took treasures of all kinds to the bottom of the Pacific, including a jeweled copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. My own doomed Nebula Dream has unspecified wonders in its cargo hold.
Lifeboats and who gets into them are another constant theme when researching wrecks and sinkings. The biggest lifeboat, meant to hold 50, was reported to have left the Islander with only eight people aboard. Titanic’s lifeboats are legendary for being lowered underfilled. I always wondered about that, why the crew was so concerned about not putting too many people into the boats, until I just this year read several accounts of earlier tragedies at sea where the lifeboats did split as they were lowered, which the crew of Titanic must have known. My Nebula Dream has lifeboat problems of her own…
Even getting to a lifeboat didn’t always mean a person survived. In the accounts of the White Star Line RMS Atlantic, which sank in 1873 with terrible loss of life, all the women and children died, even though many were put into lifeboats but the life boats capsized or were smashed against the rocks. Interestingly, one of the crew members of the Atlantic was discovered to have been a woman in disguise as “Bill,” a sailor who liked his grog and tobacco, and who had done three voyages on the ship. Now there has to be a novel there, right?!
We writers LOVE doing research and it often takes us down rabbitholes, like I just did just then with the sailor who was a woman, sorry! Then we have to force ourselves back to the original topic we were pursuing. How about the White Star Line’s Republic, known as “The Millionaires’ Ship” because so many rich Americans liked to travel back and forth to Europe aboard her? When she had her mid ocean catastrophe in 1909, the Marconi crew broadcast the “CQD” emergency call and another ship did arrive in time to take off nearly everyone aboard. This explains a lot about why the passengers on Titanic just three years later were so sure they had plenty of time, weren’t in all that much danger and had no need to go into the tiny lifeboats. Even the Board of Trade expected there would always be another ship conveniently nearby to take the passengers from a disabled or sinking cruise liner. Well, the Californian was near the Titanic all right (within ten miles) but never got word of the sinking. One of those very sad “what ifs”.
I made sure the circumstances of my spaceliner’s wreck placed her far away from where she was supposed to be and amped up the difficulty of anyone coming to their rescue in time…
And one final thing, in a very old, low budget movie about a fictional shipwreck (not Titanic) which my parents allowed me to see on TV (and be traumatized by but hey, that’s par for the course as a kid!), a poor woman is trapped under wreckage as the ship sinks. Her husband struggles to get her free in time. (It’s “The Last Voyage” with Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone, if you’re interested.) I made sure to put a scene into WRECK where something similar occurs and my hero Nick has to come to the rescue of trapped children, thus exorcising my personal lifelong demons from viewing that movie!
Here’s the book’s story:
Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.
All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.
But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?
You can find me at:
Thanks for having me as a guest today, Cathy!
Some have asked about the title of my new release Caught in Amber from Carina Press. To be honest, it was one of the easier titles to come up with, if not the easiest. Which is unusual for me. Getting the title to fit the story can be a struggle. But this one popped into my head practically from day one of sitting at the computer and typing “Chapter One.” It fit. It was meaningful. I loved it.
To be “caught in amber” means to be addicted to a very powerful drug in my fictional world. It’s insidious, prompting the user to everything and anything for the next hit. Sasha James, the heroine of the story, did a lot of things she’d rather forget to score a dose. Not pretty. But at the time, she couldn’t resist the lure of the drug. And after a stint in rehab, it requires the help of nanobots to keep the need at bay.
Whether it’s physical or psychological, addiction is like that. A user doesn’t *want* to be a slave to the drug, but the pull is too strong. They are stuck, unable to break free without help.
And this is where the science geek in me comes in : ) The moment the phrase “caught in amber” hit my brain I thought of actual amber, of course. Critters stuck in beautiful golden resin, perfectly preserved. I imagined these creatures, millions of years ago, going about their business. At first, perhaps, their tiny legs were able to pull out of a thin layer of sap as it flowed. But then, intent on whatever they were doing, didn’t realize they were stuck until it was too late. More sap flowed, engulfing them, and eventually the viscous substance hardened. Caught, forever, in amber.
To celebrate the release of Caught in Amber, I thought along with a copy of the book I’d offer up a couple of super pieces of amber.
So how do you get these amazing bits of million-year-old copal and a copy of CiA? Leave a comment, with your email addy, telling me the best geeky thing about yourself. No geekiness is too big or too small. I WILL ship internationally, if laws allow. And if there are restrictions on the ebook file we’ll figure something out : ) The comments will remain open through February 3 and I’ll announce the winner on Monday, Feb. 4. Thanks for stopping by!
Hi, all! I wanted to share a short piece set after Rulebreaker featuring Zia and Liv. It’s a holiday story originally posted on Jessica Subject’s blog last year. Bit of a warning, there is some girl lovin’, so if you’re underage or just not into it, don’t read.
Otherwise, I hope you like the piece. Happy New Year!
Zia drew in a long, slow breath, letting the warm salt and floral tinged air of Pacifica fill her lungs, and released it with a contented sigh. The cooling pad beneath her provided the perfect barrier between the hot, lavender sand while countering the heat of the sun’s rays baking her from above. Optimum comfort was promised and delivered. Somewhere in the distance, she heard shouts and laughter of others, but no one close enough to bother her mid day repose.
She’d never allowed herself time to relax like this back on Nevarro. It was always work work work, stress stress stress. But since coming to the resort planet two months ago, she’d slowly let go of the natural drive that had seen her become VP of Research and Development for one of the top mining companies on Nevarro before she’d reached her thirty-fifth standard year.
Correction: Former Vice President.
Being on Pacifica was the result of her forced departure from Exeter Mining, but she was so very lucky to be here. And even luckier to be here with the woman she loved. Those last few months on Nevarro had been strenuous, and had nearly killed both her and Liv. They were safe now, taking a short holiday while they figured out where to go next.
Eyes closed, her breathing and heart rate synchronized with the lulling sound of the surf against the soft sand. Zia forced herself not to dwell on the worries of what they’d do to make their living after the visit to Pacifica was over. They’d figure it out soon enough. Right now, she just wanted to soak in the sun while she waited for Liv to join her.
“Happy Founder’s Day.”
Reluctant to rouse from her doze, but responding to the familiar voice, Zia opened one eye just wide enough to see Liv standing over her. Liv’s short dark hair flittered in the sea breeze, haloing her head. Like Zia, she wore a snug one piece outfit. The strapless garment showed off Liv’s lithe body, and Zia smiled in appreciation. “We’re not on Nevarro anymore, hon. They don’t celebrate Founder’s Day here.”
Every day was a celebration on the resort planet. How could it not be in a world marketed specifically for its just-hot-enough beaches, placid oceans, and low, rolling hills?
“I know.” Liv held out a red and silver box slightly larger than her fist. “Here.”
Zia rose to lean on her elbows. She’d assumed that leaving Nevarro meant they wouldn’t celebrate. Apparently she’d been wrong. “Sweetness, I didn’t think we’d be observing the day. I didn’t get you anything—”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She shook the box. “Just open it.”
Zia sat up and crossed her legs as she gave Liv a reproachful look. They often exchanged gifts—flowers or small tokens—without the expectation of reciprocation, but Founder’s Day was a major holiday on Nevarro, with parades and parties scheduled across the planet. Not that she’d participated in many. Work had always come first, and the few times she had someone to share the festivities with, she’d felt a certain amount of resentment if she had projects pending.
But things were different now. She was different now. And it was all because of Liv.
Smiling, Zia took the box and gave it an experimental shake. Neither heavy nor rattling, whatever it was thumped against the sides. Slowly, she ran her finger under the edge of the paper.
Liv bounced on the balls of her feet, sinking deeper into the sand. “You’re doing that on purpose.”
“What?” Zia asked, widening her eyes in mock innocence. Liv was not the most patient person; in some things, anyway. She finished loosening the paper and set it on the pad. Lifting the top off the box, she stared down at the circle of white fur inside. “Is it alive?”
“No, silly.” Liv huffed dramatically and reached in. With a flick of her wrists, she held a furry disc in each hand connected by a springy, flat band wrapped in the same material.
“Put them on.”
The grin on her face made her look like a kid, and Zia couldn’t help but smile back despite her confusion. “It’s over 34 degrees. Not exactly ear muff weather.”
A sly glint lit Liv’s brown eyes. “Put them on and come with me.”
What was she up to? Zia set the furry head gear over her ears, muffling the sound of the ocean waves. Liv extended a hand to help her up. When Zia was on her feet, she kissed Liv’s cheek. “They’re great, but—”
Liv covered Zia’s mouth with her own, eliciting a moan of desire from Zia as heat flashed from her breasts to her groin. God, she loved kissing this woman. Before Zia could deepen the kiss, Liv broke away and started toward the cottage they shared, tugging Zia along by the hand. “Come on.”
Feeling a little silly mincing across the scorching sand while wearing ear muffs, Zia wondered what Liv had in store. The breeze off the ocean tossed her long hair over her shoulders, but the ear muffs kept it out of her face. Another change since being with Liv; she used to wear her hair up and controlled.
The sweet scent of the false hibiscus blooming beside the cottage drifted on the air as they walked to the rear door. Like the other dwellings further along the beach, the white-washed exterior reflected the sun’s heat while the blue roof tiles collected and converted its energy for use.
Liv stopped on the slate porch of the rear entrance and let go of Zia’s hand. Instead of opening the door, she reached behind the carved stone bench beside it. She turned around, a long, puffy coat the color of putty in each hand.
Zia took a coat from her, one eyebrow cocked in a silent question.
“Humor me,” Liv said. She shrugged into the other coat, closed it up to her throat, and withdrew her own ear muffs from the deep pocket. “And hurry up before I melt in this thing.”
Zia donned the garment as Liv reached behind the bench again. The coat came down to Zia’s shins. It was already getting too hot, and she was grateful for the cool stone beneath her feet.
“These too.” Liv handed Zia a pair of fur-lined boots.
She brushed the sand off her feet and did as she was told. The boots felt awkward and alien after weeks of running barefoot on the sand or with the thinnest of sandals when propriety demanded shoes.
Liv put on her own pair, a grin still splitting her face. “All right. Now, close your eyes.”
Zia complied. She had an idea what Liv had done, considering the cold weather gear she currently wore on a beach planet, but didn’t want to spoil it. Part of a gift was the giver’s anticipation. Goodness knows she was just as delighted to give Liv some trinket as Liv was to receive it. She felt Liv’s fingers entwine with her own and gently squeezed them. Liv squeezed back.
The door clicked open. A burst of icy air hit Zia’s face and she instinctively sucked in a breath. Beneath the coat, her body gave a reactionary shiver, even though it was well protected. Her sudden inhalation brought with it a distinct metallic hint to the air. Just like Nevarro’s. How had Liv dropped the temp in the short time Zia had been out of the house? How had she managed the very taste of the air? The enviro controls must be pushed to their limits.
“Don’t open your eyes,” Liv admonished.
She ushered Zia in and the door closed behind them. In her mind’s eye, Zia saw the layout of their little cottage by the sea. They’d entered the enclosed porch with a long, low couch she and Liv often used during their evening meal so they could watch the peach and purple sunsets. From the outside, the one-way windows appeared to be solid walls, giving them complete privacy while enjoying the view. And each other.
Through the arched doorway and to the left was the kitchen where Liv sometimes cooked their meals, but more often than not they had the Compu-Chef whip up something.
Liv led her to the right, into the small living room. After a day in the luscious heat of Pacifica, Zia’s cheeks felt frozen even though it was probably only ten degrees C. A trace of some tantalizing scent came to her. Cinnamon? Hard to say with her nose as cold as it was.
“Over this way.” They approached the place where a low table sat between two chairs and a short couch. Instinctively, Zia swerved away from what would be the corner of the table.
“Now sit,” Liv said, taking her shoulders and easing her down to the couch.
Trusting her lover, though still not quite sure what to expect, she sat on the edge of the seat. Liv moved away and busied herself in front of Zia. Though she listened hard, she couldn’t determine what Liv was doing. A few taps, a muted beep. The urge to peek nearly overwhelmed her, but she didn’t want to ruin Liv’s surprise. Whatever she had planned was important to her, and that meant it was important to Zia. After a moment, Zia felt a wave of warmth cut through the cold.
“Open your eyes.”
Zia opened them and gasped in delight, the cold all but forgotten. The entire living room was lit with strings of tiny white lights. The table had been moved aside, and on the bare floor in front of her was a roaring fire encircled by smooth stones. The hologram looked and felt so real, Zia’s nose warmed. Liv stood near the table. On the honey-colored surface waited a platter of pastries, a basket of huskberries, and a colorful coffee pot with two matching mugs.
“I couldn’t find a Founder’s Day flag here,” Liv said, her breath coming out in a silvery puff, “and getting one shipped over was more credits than I could justify.”
“It’s amazing.” Zia’s voice caught around the lump in her throat as a surge of love squeezed her chest. “I can’t believe you did all of this.”
Liv shrugged, but the smile on her beautiful face told Zia she was pleased with Zia’s reaction. “I programmed the Chef with a recipe I found for the pastries. They’re pretty close. And the cocoa is good. Had to fight to override the temp setting. Seems the Chef couldn’t quite understand why I wanted such a hot drink here.”
Zia laughed. Leave it to Liv to argue with a kitchen appliance.
Liv’s grin faded a little as she continued. “What happened on Nevarro probably isn’t stuff either one of us wants to remember.” She knelt in front of Zia and grasped her hands. Cool skin warmed quickly when their palms came together. “But it’s where we met, and I never want to forget that. By leaving like we did, we never had the chance to share one of my favorite holidays.”
She released Zia’s hands and rose to pour cocoa—the Nevarro Founding Father’s preferred beverage and a tradition of the holiday—into each of the mugs. Passing one to Zia, Liv sat beside her. The mug radiated enough heat to warm her hands while the delectable scent of chocolate made her mouth water.
She sipped the rich beverage and smiled. Careful of the hot drinks, Zia kissed Liv’s cheek. “I will never forget this. Thank you.”
Liv took the mug from her and set both back on the table. “There’s one more thing.”
She rose, taking Zia’s hand again, and led her toward the bedroom.
Zia’s smile broadened. This was definitely going to be one of her better Founder’s Days.
Liv glanced at her as she pushed the door open and moved aside. Zia stepped into the room and her mouth dropped open. Flames flickered from dozens of white candles that filled every flat surface except the white fur-covered bed. The scent of wax and cinnamon tinged the icy air.
“How?” Was all Zia could manage.
“I’ve be getting things together for the past two weeks,” she said. “It’s not easy keeping surprises hidden from you.” Liv took Zia’s hand and led her to the bed. She ran her fingers under the closure of the coat and pushed the garment off Zia’s shoulders. The chill air on her chest made her shiver. “I took advantage of your time down at the beach. Now I’m going to take advantage of you.”
Eyeing the promise of the fur on the bed, Zia’s nipples tightened from the cold and from the anticipation of what was to come. She covered Liv’s mouth with her own as she opened Liv’s coat and ran her hands up her lover’s arms to her shoulders and neck. She threaded her fingers through Liv’s hair and deepened the kiss. Liv’s arms came around Zia’s waist, one hand at the small of her back, pulling their bodies together, and the other working the closure of her beach frock.
“Hurry,” Zia said as she lowered her hands to Liv’s clothing and did the same. “I’m freezing.”
They peeled each other out of their clothes and kicked off the fur-lined boots. Despite the cold, Zia stopped for a moment to stare at Liv. The Pacifica sun had darkened her skin to a golden brown that glowed in the candlelight. Cold and arousal made her nipples pebble, and Zia couldn’t stop herself from reaching out to caress Liv’s breast.
Liv sucked in a breath and moved closer, her hands skimming along Zia’s sides and up to her chest as their mouths came together. Tongues twined and heat blossomed throughout Zia’s body. Liv’s scent filled her, increasing Zia’s need to have her.
One hand at Zia’s breast and the other at her waist, Liv eased her around and guided her backward toward the bed. Zia’s legs hit the side. As she lowered herself, still kissing Liv, she reached out and flipped back the fur blanket. They broke the kiss only long enough to get into bed, but kept one hand on each other as they moved, neither willing to lose contact with soft, hot skin even for a moment. Zia realized they both still wore their ear muffs, but didn’t care.
Liv covered Zia’s body with her own, her weight and they way they fit together giving Zia a sense of contentment she’d relished for the last two months. Breast to breast, stomach to stomach, thighs pressing between legs, she couldn’t think of any other place she’d rather be than in the chilled room with the woman she loved.
Liv pulled the fur around the two of them, creating a cocoon of warmth. Only their heads were exposed, and Zia delighted in the contrast of the nip in the air while her body heated beneath Liv’s as they kissed. After several breathless moments, Liv lifted herself away, her gaze wandering over Zia’s face from brow to eyes to lips.
Zia cocked her head. “What? What are you thinking?”
Their gazes met and Liv smiled. Zia’s insides melted. “I’m thinking,” Liv said, “how I’m very grateful Carmine Nevarro discovered keracite on that cold rock, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. I love you.”
Zia ran her fingers through Liv’s hair and drew her back down for a kiss. “Love you too. Happy Founder’s Day.”