Friday, February 28, 2014


Tightening the Ropes (Dark Days Ranch 2)
Knox has guarded his heart from ever getting close to anyone. Intelligence work was supposed to keep him away from people, but a pull to be closer to the ranch leads him to discover Lewis. With one look at the horse trainer, Knox can feel the walls he’s put up begin to crumble. The damage only gets worse when he gets pulled over by Officer Lynna Gordova. Upon sight, he knows the three are meant to be together.
But things aren’t as they appear with Lynna. What led her into law enforcement so long ago has returned in the form of their rival enemy. As things heat up between Dark Days and Hidden Hills, the three of them are thrown right into the middle of a fight Knox isn’t sure he’s ready for. Will the Alpha in him be ready to step up to the plate, or will Lynna’s long lost brother be able to convince her that his corrupt plans for her are in Lynna’s best interest?


Lynn is a human on the local police force. Lewis is a human working on the Dark Days Ranch. know is a werewolf intelligence agent for the Dark Days Pack. The three come together to form a bond that pushes them into an adventure no one expected. In this case, the adventure involves a vampire.

I like the premise of Tightening the Ropes. I did have a bit of trouble with how easily Lynna let go of her training as a cop to give into the magic. It's not a bad story or a badly written story. I've known a lot of cops. They tend to be no nonsense and very practical. They would struggle a bit more with the magic before giving in to it. Once I set aside my misgivings about Lynna, the rest of the story went by without much of a hitch.

Knox's abused past make loving and being loved a difficult thing. Only a great deal of patience and care on the part of his bonded partners can save him. We get to see the big tough loner turn into a real hero. Lewis and Lynna bring out the best in him.

Then there's Lewis. He's the steady glue holding it all together. We've all meet those sort of people. They're good at being the calming factor, the rock everyone leans one, and the one friend to call in a crisis. Although he is a human in a werewolf world, he takes the whole notion in great stride. Lewis turns out to be one of my favorite characters in the story.

I enjoyed the tension and Knox's anxiety. Those moments where he struggles with himself over his past and what it means for his future are insightful and interesting. The sex scenes certainly did raise the temperature of the room a few degrees. The ending leaves the reader with a happily-ever-after with an edge. The broken Knox becomes a healer. It's a nice touch. I give Tightening the Ropes 3.5 stars!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Break Me In (Dark Days Ranch 1)
Myles Baker thinks she has everything under control. That is, until she meets her mates, Logan Harrison and Ty. Paired with a human, and member of the enemy pack, Myles knows that things are about to get complicated for Dark Days. But that’s only the beginning of her problems. There’s a scandal that lies deep within Dark Days Ranch, and for years Myles and her brother have been able to hide it. But it’s only a matter of time before everything is exposed, and the true leader of Dark Days is revealed.
Between Ty and Logan, they’re quickly learning the secrets to their new pack. But they have trouble of their own. Logan isn’t who he seems, and Ty is dealing with his evil ex-Alpha, Samone. Can these three overcome their problems before everything catches up with them, or will Samone, the Alpha of Whiskey River Ranch, accomplish her take down of Dark Days?


What happens when you throw hot cowboys and sexy werewolves together? Jenny May's Dark Days Ranch series, that's what. And what a combination it is!

Myles and her Alpha brother have been keeping a dirty little secret for years. He's the big, tough alpha of the Dark Days Ranch werewolf pack, but is he really? Myles is his elder twin and, by rights, the packs Alpha. Magic may have ordained Myles an alpha, bu tit forgot to check with her as to whether or not she wanted the job. No one else seems to notice, as long as she keeps a lid on her power. But how long will that last when she finds her mates?

Ty is from a neighboring enemy pack. He, too, was born a werewolf and know Myles for what she really is. He's been a ladies man for just as long. When the magic draws him to Myles, he's happy to plot a way to take her back to his pack. He doesn't count on the magic drawing him together with Myles plus one. His other problem lies in what to do if she refuses to go with him. His pack isn't likely to take to kindly to a defection.

Logan is a human who happens to work on the Dark Days Ranch. He loves breaking horses and working with animals. He keeps a secret of his own. Something deep inside of him speaks to the animals. He knows just what they need to bend them to his will. Myles is no exception. The magic chooses him to be the third mate. One little problem. He's always been interested in men. Being attracted to Myles has throw him for a loop.

I enjoyed the complex dynamic for the relationships. Logan and Ty both have some soul searching and exploring to do. Myles is a virgin being guided by magic she has no control over. There are a few more secrets that make this an interesting read and will provide a number of plot twists and turns. The sex is hot, the story pace is quick, and the ending is just as satisfying. I'm giving Break Me In a full 4 stars!

Sunday, February 23, 2014



Getting help to promote your book just got easier. Public Relations for Authors Take Hold of Your Own Promotions will help you locate that special publicist who will help you promote your book the right way. As a Publicity Director for two publishers Babs brings knowledge to the book.

Public Relations teaches you why you need a publicist and how to find the right one for you. To understand what you need she covers:

How publicity can help sell books
What you need to know about publicity
Writing Pitches
Media Kits
Press Releases
Where to find a PR agent
What to send to your PR agent


So, you've written a book. Congratulations! That's no small thing. Lots of people talk about writing a book. Some even start, but you finished! Now what? That's right. I asked you about your next step.  I don't want to be a downer, but writing the book was the easy part. Not to worry. Babs has some helpful tips, hints, and answers for those sort of questions.

This is a short, easy to read manual of what to do after you type The End. PR and marketing are essential to getting your book to sell. She provides information helpful to authors of every genre and skill level. With a few time saving tricks, you can get ready to blog tour, book sign, and promote yourself and your book. Remember, the book is the product. You're the brand! And Babs helps you market both!

I liked the short format with layman's terms. It's clear Babs is a veteran in the publishing world, but she doesn't overwhelm the reader with heavy, inside jargon. The information is sound marketing advice and provided with examples, making it perfect for the novice author on a budget. This as must have addition to any author's digital reference shelf. I'm giving Babs 4.5 stars for this insider gem!

About the Author:

Babs Hightower has been helping authors since 2000. She owns a book review blog Babs Book Bistro which got her started in PR and helping authors promote themselves. In 2012 she started working for Entangled Publishing and worked her way up to Publicity Director of the Scandalous Imprint. She is also the publicist for World Castle Publishing. She is also known as Morgan Kincaid writer of Historical Romance.
Author Links:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


When Nicholas Herron, Duke of Berwick and his best friend, Rolf Torgesson, two of King Edward III’s most powerful and respected knights, discover a badly beaten young woman hiding in the forest, they swear to protect her.  By the time they learn that she is Lady Kathryn Weston, and that her attacker is none other than her betrothed, Robert Walford, the powerful and ruthless Duke of Pemberton, it is too late.  They have both fallen in love with her and she with them—a love so forbidden it could cost them everything, even their lives.
Set amidst the turmoil and pageantry of 14th-century England, Dark Warrior weaves a vivid tapestry of three lost souls bound to each other with a deep, abiding love.  But will that love survive Walford’s evil plan to attack Berwick Castle, take it apart stone by stone and ultimately destroy everyone who lives there?



They were upon her before she could flee.
Rudely snatched up out of the deep sleep of exhaustion, she lay huddled, still and frightened, trying to disappear into the hard, frozen ground. The piles of leaves and pine boughs she had carefully piled on top of herself now seemed totally inadequate to conceal her. The nightmare she’d so desperately tried to escape was finally upon her.
It surrounded her. She could hear it in the form of men shouting, hounds barking, mail clanking, hooves pounding. She could smell it in the form of sour sweat, overheated horses. She could taste it in the form of bitter bile rising in her throat—Sweet Merciful Virgin! He’s sent an entire army after me! To hunt me down and run me to ground like a helpless animal!
Nearly out of her mind with fear, she curled up into a tight ball, making herself as small as possible. She pressed her face into the frozen dirt, hoping against hope that the brown and tan of her stolen clothing would help make her invisible.
Don’t let them find me. Merciful heaven, don’t let them find me. Please don’t—
She let out a shriek as a growling dog sank his teeth into the rough cloth of her sleeve and yanked viciously, sending leaves and twigs flying. Others, barely kept in check by their handlers, lunged at her, snarling and barking, nipping at her with their slavering jaws. She could feel them buffeting her, felt the heat from their bodies. Sweet, merciful God! She threw her hands up in a desperate attempt to protect her face and neck from the animals’ razor-sharp teeth. There was no escape. If she so much as moved, they’d rip her to shreds.
Rough hands seized her, jerking her up out of her hiding place amidst a flurry of pine branches, dirt, and dried leaves. She tried to scream, but no sound came from her ravaged throat. Blessed Virgin!
“Whewwww! God’s blood, boy, you stink! By my oath, pigs smell better than you!”
General male laughter greeted this comment, sending her into full-fledge panic. Heart pounding in her breast, she pushed against the beefy hands lifting her. Dear God, she had to get away. She just had to! Frantically she started to kick, managing to land a few blows with her wooden clogs.
“Here now, lad, none of that. Oww! Hold still, damn you! God’s teeth, you’re as slippery as an eel!” He tightened his grip, wringing a cry of anguish from her throat at the sharp, stabbing pain that robbed her of her breath, even as she continued to twist and writhe and kick. But her attempts to break free were in vain. Whoever was holding her was much too strong, and much too determined.
“Cease your struggles, damn it!” It was a raspy growl right in her ear. She could feel a coarse beard prickling her neck. But she was too frightened to heed the words. Too terrified to hear the underlying kindness in the gruff voice. She continued to twist and kick helplessly against the imprisoning arms, succeeding only in increasing her excruciating pain and exhausting what little store of strength she had left.
Rock-hard, muscular arms closed around her abdomen, pulling her back against a chest as hard and unyielding as a stone wall. “We’re trying to help you, lad. Cease your struggles!”
She stopped abruptly, gasping desperately for breath, spent and shivering with both fright and cold. Despair settled over her like a shroud, clogging her throat with unshed tears. Any further struggles were pointless, and she knew it.
Tears burned her eyes, sliding silently down her cheeks, leaving tracks in the dust and dirt. Every breath ended in a sob. Her worst fears had come true. The nightmare she had sought to escape was all around her, dragging her back to Hell. Back to him. And this time he would finish what he’d started three nights ago. This time, he would kill her.
She swallowed hard as her shoulders slumped in defeat. She was well and truly caught and her brief, miserable time on this earth was about to end. Her mind ground to a halt as the utter hopelessness of her situation bore in on her. And as hope died, so too did her resistance.
Suddenly the man holding her leaned forward, loosened his arms and set her on her feet. She stumbled forward on the uneven ground, nearly sprawling face first in the dirt and leaves.
“Here, lad, steady now. Don’t fall.” Thick male fingers bit into her upper arms, turning her around to face her captor. She heard a gasp. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” One hand released her and she knew he was crossing himself. “What happened to you? Who beat you like this?” Without taking his eyes off of her, the man shouted out, “Your Grace! Come at once!”
His Grace! She swallowed hard, her body stiffening, bracing itself against the blows she knew were coming. The blows she knew she was powerless to stop. Sweet, merciful God, how much more must I bear? Keeping her head lowered, she grabbed the tattered woolen scarf she’d wound around her neck for warmth and quickly pulled it up over her chin, mouth and nose. Mayhap he won’t recognize me. Mayhap he’ll let me go. She gave her head a slight shake. Mayhap pigs will fly.

Eight years ago Jesse Colter fled his small town, leaving behind eighteen-year-old Sarah Marshall, broken-hearted and devastated.  Now a retired Navy SEAL, he’s back and he wants only one thing—Sarah Marshall—preferably bound, naked, and on her knees before him.
She has never forgotten Jesse.  He’s been the object of all her sexual fantasies since she was fifteen, as well as the star of nightly dreams that have become increasingly erotic over the years.  So when he suddenly reappears in her life, she is torn.  Can she trust him not to hurt her, or will he once again break her heart?  Warily, she agrees to let him introduce her to his world—the world of bondage, Domination, and erotic slavery.  When he also introduces her to his best friend, Adam Sinclair, Sarah faces a daunting future of sexual submission to two powerful alpha males.
But Sarah faces an even bigger challenge.  Someone is stalking her.  Is it the old enemy who’s just been released from prison?  Or is it someone else from her past who is determined to destroy any chance she has at happiness?  Can Adam’s and Jesse’s love protect her?  Or will her world explode in a cataclysm of betrayal and violence that will destroy them all?

Owning Sarah, back cover blurb
It’s been a month since Sarah Marshall was kidnapped and held at knife-point by her ex-fiance.  But Jesse Colter and Adam Sinclair, her two loving Doms, know that there is an even deadlier threat still out there—Ryder Malone.
He blames both Sarah and Jesse for sending him to prison eight years ago for attempted rape, and he’s determined to make them pay.  So, he begins a systematic campaign of terror and intimidation against them.  But the danger he poses doesn’t end there.
Set against the deepening love and commitment between Sarah, Jesse, and Adam, Owning Sarah is more than just a sexy, sensual, BDSM love story.  It is a harrowing race against time for Jesse, Adam, and a team of former SEALs to stop one of the biggest arms-for-drugs deals in U.S. history.  And to rescue Sarah before Malone sells her to a human trafficker and she’s lost to her men forever.


Barnes & Noble:




Barnes & Noble:


Twitter:  @JulieCShelton

Amazon Author Page:

Julie has been writing her entire life, but it wasn’t until November of 2012 that she burst onto the erotic romance scene with her sizzling hot first novel, Loving Sarah, followed by its sequel, Owning Sarah, ten months later.  Her third novel, Dark Warrior, set in 14th-century England, is her first historical romance.
Julie lives in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.  Now retired after a 25-year dream career, first as a children’s librarian then a professional storyteller and puppeteer, she once again has time to devote to her new love, writing erotic romance, the steamier the better, thus following the career path blazed by so many before her—from kiddie lit to erotica. J

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Today, we have A. D. Roland joining us with her fabulous book, Winterborn! Now, let's hear what A. D. Roland has to say!

A. D. Writes:
When I was a kid, one of the first books I read was Funhouse by Dean Koontz. When I say ‘kid,’ I couldn’t have been more than nine or ten. Of course, the elementary school library didn’t have an adult book section. I sucked down all the R.L. Stine Fear Street books I could find. Lois Lowry, Christopher Pike, and William Sleator ended up in my backpack over and over again. Any book with a hint of horror or even just a supernatural thrill captivated me. Middle school and high school were awesome for me, because I could disappear into the library (with or without permission!) for hours. The librarians loved me. They special-ordered Stephen King and Dean Koontz books for me. I read Peter Straub, Robin Cook, Michael Crighton, all the big horror and thriller stars of the 90’s, and their entire backlists.

I fell in love with the horror genre. It’s been my dream to write it and have fans of the same authors I loved as a kid read my books. I started out writing corny B-horror-style stuff in the early 2000’s. I started hanging out with horror authors at conventions and even met Brian Keene, one of my writing role models. Being surrounded by like-minded people, I finally felt ready to tackle a serious ‘scary’ novel. It would have to be more than just a haunted-house story. It would have to be about family, about the bonds between people, and how they could overcome insurmountable odds. It would have to be about loss, and most importantly, hope found in the darkest places.

Winterborn started out, like most of my books, as a Nyquil-induced dream. It took a while to take full form, but thanks to my awesome friend R.J. Sullivan (author of the fantastic Haunting Blue series from Seventh Star Press), Winterborn was brought into the world.

Here’s what people are saying about Winterborn:

“… this book will not disappoint you.” ---Lacy, Amazon Reviewer

“This [book] reminded me of times when reading Stephen King books I would be aghast at the horrors occurring but knowing I had to turn the page to see what happened next…I am recommending this to all my friends.”-- Amazon Review

“Ten stars and two thumbs way way up!” --Gabby, Amazon Reviewer

“Roland conjures up a tightly written, fast paced supernatural thriller seamlessly woven around one woman's struggle with addiction and a cheating husband. Winterborn reads fast and stays with you long after. I wholeheartedly recommend this ambitious supernatural thriller--especially to anyone who needs a break from their steady diet of zombies and vampires. 8 out of 10.”--- RJ Sullivan, author of Haunting Blue

Winterborn is a truly terrifying read that I had to stick to reading during the day the sake of a good night’s sleep!”-- Feeling Fictional Reviews

Plagued by vivid, violent hallucinations, a recovering drug addict desperately seeks the truth. Are her waking nightmares a product of her self-medicating, or dire supernatural warnings?

Tamsyn Hallert, an artist, exists in a vicious circle of addiction and recovery, fueled by her husband Sean’s long-time secret affair. The affair ended in his lover's bizarre suicide, but not before she left a surprise on Tam and Sean’s doorstep—Kevin, the son Sean never knew he had. 

Sean moves them to the country, to his familial home near the crumbling Wraithborne Estate, the massive old house with a terrible mythos. The twisted attempt to save their marriage only makes matters worse as Sean’s obsession with his dead lover deepens, and Tam’s grip on reality grows more tenuous. A horrific plot to summon the dark spirits that possess the Estate comes to light, with Tam, Sean, and Kevin in the center of it all. Will Tam be able to save her family, or will the lure of the spirits’ promises be too strong to resist?

Here’s an excerpt from Winterborn.

      Kevin was in his bedroom with the door shut. While he’d been in the bathroom, Tam used Sean’s cordless drill to put a sheet of plywood across the broken window in his room. She went downstairs and nailed the broken cabinet door in place, then drilled two two-by-fours across both doors.
Thank God Sean never started repairing the back stairs. There was plenty of wood to bar up the broken cabinets and windows.
Tam considered putting a padlock on his door. She settled for locking herself in her bedroom with all the knives, guns, matches, and candles from all over the house. Just to be on the safe side, she tied a bell to a long piece of yarn and taped it to the top of his doorjamb, and then to the doorknob. If he opened the door, the cheap tape would come away from either the handle or the frame, and the bell would ring. She slept lightly without the benefit of drugs, so the slightest sound would wake her.
You know you’re overreacting.
“Shut up, brain.”
Tam showered and dressed in soft pants and a T-shirt. She stretched out on the bed, right in the middle, and crossed her ankles, then crossed her hands over her chest. Not once in the entire year they lived in the house had she been alone all night. When Sean worked for the sheriff's department, he managed to stay on the day shifts. He always knew she hated being alone with Kevin.
She rolled on her side and looked at the clock. Ugh. It was too late to call Sean.
Decisive, Tam slung her legs over the edge of the bed. Sean wasn't going to save them. He was weak. Too lost in his grief. He surfaced sometimes, and she believed that maybe he really tried during those times.
In the end, his pain would always be too strong.
Stronger than me. Stronger than his love for me―or whatever attachment to me he has.
If she didn't step out and do something herself, she would lose him.
Do I really want him?
After he'd cheated on her for ten years with no remorse—or have I been the other woman the whole time?—did she really want a man whose loyalty was compromised so deeply?
She heard Sharla's voice in the sounds of the night. “You could walk away right now. Leave him to me. He's happy here.” Her voice slipped into the bedroom, sugar-sweet. “You want him to be happy, don't you?”
“Not with you,” Tam replied. The sound of her own voice startled her. She looked around the room. Empty, the lights blazing, the window blinds open to the moonlight. She climbed up on the bed and stepped on the headboard, hanging on to the lower edge of the window ledge. She pulled herself up just enough to see out into the back field, the acre of grass bordered by ominous, black woods. The wind blew and made the trees sway and dance. A fox bolted across the yard, a moon-silvered streak in the grass. Her biceps quivered a warning, and she stepped off the headboard to the mattress.
Sleep would be good. Her body yearned for it. Her mind sought the relief of dreams, of the oblivion of a good, deep rest. With a heavy sigh, she double-checked her bedroom door. It was locked, and she tucked a straight back chair beneath the knob, just in case.
Just in case what? A skinny eleven-year-old tried to bust down the door?
Tam patted the handgun under Sean's pillow. Reassured, she stretched out on the bed and pulled the sheet over her hip. She tossed aside the blanket. Stress and tension made her blood pressure high, and that made her hot. Plus the thermostat was in the hall, and the huge empty house creeped her out way too much to venture out of the nest she'd turned her bedroom into. The overhead light glared into her closed eyelids. The more she tried not to, her eyes kept focusing on the bright spots. Annoying.
Can't sleep like this.
When the lights went out, the crazy came back, though.
The shadows under the bed would grow and begin to move. They would creep up the dust ruffle and under the covers, where they would find her bare, vulnerable flesh. They would come out from under the closet doors, from beneath the furniture. From the room down the hall, where the axis of evil lived and breathed.
I want to sleep.
She tossed and turned for another twenty minutes, trying to ignore the burning craving kindling in her belly. No, no, no. I’ve worked too hard—
Tam barely felt the cold floor beneath her feet. Stop, stop, stop! She dropped to her knees next to her nightstand and wrenched open the drawer.
There has to be, has to be, has to be something in here!
In the back, she made out the cylindrical shape, the dull orange color, of a plastic pill bottle. She reached in and pulled it out, reverently. Pills clicked together, against the sides.
She read the label, praying it wasn’t an old antibiotic prescription.
Sissy little brother to what she really wanted, but at the moment, she chose not to be picky. She popped off the lid. Four pills.
Good enough. She swallowed them dry and sat back against the bed. The frame dug into her back.
“Why am I doing this?” She hugged her knees to her chest. A tiny black spider crawled up the wall by the closet. She watched it until it crawled into the closet.
Her gaze traveled around the bedroom. Shabby and old, no matter how many candles she used, she could never completely eliminate the musty, aged smell. The wallpaper peeled near the top of the walls, water stains darkened the ceiling. The plumbing barely worked. During the summer, the drafty old house kept them cool enough, but in the winter, they froze.
I’m leaving. I don’t love Sean enough to spend the rest of my life in this dump.
The drugs kicked in, wrapping foggy ribbons around her brain. “You can come with me, Seanie-poo, and…not. Stay here with your demon spawn.”
She sat on the floor long enough for the medicine to take full effect. Heavy-headed, she walked over to the light switch and flicked off the overhead light. Next, the bathroom light. Barely able to walk, she crawled into bed. She flailed out with one hand and hit the touch-lamp. She rolled over and did the same to the lamp on Sean’s side.
Sean’s side.
Tam stroked his pillow. I want to think about this. I want to weigh the pros and cons. Love Sean, stay here with him, and live in a dead woman’s shadow forever. Leave, and force him to choose. Me, or his ghost.
She wanted to figure it all out, but she realized she really didn’t care.
This is why I eat pills like candy, so I don’t have to care.
Immediately, she heard the rush and scrape of scales, the minute click of claws on the floor. “I'm not scared of you,” she whispered.
The sounds stopped. They were still there, waiting. Waiting for her to get scared again. When she did, they would be all over her.
She couldn’t focus, couldn’t truly grasp the concept that swirled around in her head. Fear? Was that it?
Yeah…they can’t get me if I’m not scared.

Friday, February 14, 2014


I know it's Valentine's Day. Hearts and flowers and balloons have been floating through the office all day. Maybe you really like seeing all the outward trappings of love and romance. Maybe you're looking forward to that romantic dinner for two. But what if you're not? What if you're looking for the darker side of love? Fear not! A. F. Stewart has put together the perfect solution for those of you who want to read about the bad boys and girls of Valentine!

Just for the occasion, I have stepped away from the usual romance and written something a little different. Nothing But Frogs has a romantic element but don't expect the happily-ever-after ending! Be sure to download your free copy of Nothing But Frogs from Smashwords. Visit the other blogs in the hop by visiting and scroll down to the list of other participating blogs.


Alisha is a beautiful, intelligent, red-head with a fiery passion for amphibians. She studies them for a living, keeps them as pets, and dates them. Wait! Dates them? That's right! Conner Davis should have thought twice before playing a sexual scavenger hunt with Alisha. Now, he'll never be the same again!
Originally written for the 2014 Bloody Blog Hop, Nothing But Frogs doesn't come with the usual happily-ever-after ending. Instead, we get to see the darker side of love. Yes, there is a romance element, but the ending is anything but romantic!

This short story can be downloaded in its entirety for free at Smashwords. It is available on Amazon for $0.99. Let Amazon know you found it free at Smashwords!


“Ow, ow, ow. Hot! Hot! Hot!” Her fingers burned.
Sitting in front of her vanity, Alisha McKenna carefully curled her long, red tresses around hot rollers, securing them in place with the U-shaped pins. The spikes dug painfully into her head, but the effort was well worth the suffering.
She hummed to herself in time with the croaking of her pet frogs a catchy little tune about a bullfrog named Jeremiah. Being a herpetologist seemed unlikely for a beautiful young woman, especially one without the slightest hint of tom-boyishness. Studying amphibians and reptiles felt like more than a passion than a calling. The high-pitched trills of their throaty calls fit her mood, happy and upbeat. She turned to the wall of terrariums lining the back shelves and made a kissing noise toward her collection of frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders.
Having spent the entire previous weekend in the arms her new lover, Alisha's insides trilled with excitement like her singing pets. After three long months of waiting, she gave in and allowed a man nearly half her age to take her to bed. She fell for him hard. Several times during the course of their marathon weekend she told him she loved him, and he said it back. Just thinking about hearing the words brought a smile to her face.
With the curlers in her hair stinging her scalp, she turned back and leaned in close to the mirror to applying her makeup. Swirls of flesh-toned base evened her skin. Powders and crème tinted her eyelids and cheeks, bringing a summer-like glow to her winter complexion. A deep, rich red lipstick painted her mouth, drawing attention to her naturally full lips. The dark eyeliner made her vivid, green eyes standout against her pale skin.
She stood, pushing the short vanity stool back, and turned to the full length dressing mirror next to her closet. Behind her the bed reflected in the mirror, conjuring up memories. She thought about seeing him getting dressed late Sunday night. Smiling to herself, she dropped her robe and really looked at herself in a new way.
The curvier form bothered her in years past, ensuring she kept herself hidden away under layers of unflattering clothes. The roundness of her thighs and backside, the voluminous cleavage seldom ever saw black lace like she donned just for tonight's special occasion. She wanted him to unwrap her like a gift, and she wanted to surprise him with the pretty packaging.
The alarm clock flashed as the beeping started. She gasped and hurried to turn it off. Usually, she would be just getting up to go to work. Studying nocturnal creatures required keeping to their schedule, but tonight was all hers. She reminded herself that humans were social creatures, too, and getting out of the nearby swamp once in a while was essential.
Alisha held up the daring, black, satin dress she bought and looked at herself in the mirror again. She never wore such things. Even laying the shimmering material against her body felt naughty. Unzipping the back, she stepped into the pool of fabric and pulled it up. The fluttery cap sleeves left her arms bare. The short, flirty skirt just covered the tops of her black stockings. It took a little effort to get the zipper back up.
"Why do they always make these things stick halfway," she wondered aloud. With a little extra stretching, she managed to get the little sliver of plastic up to her neck.
She hurried into the matching satin shoes. Sitting back down in front of her vanity, she quickly removed all the rollers. Her thick, dark hair bounced in tight ringlets. Running her fingers through separated the individual rings, giving her a full-bodied head of long curls. The final spritz of hair product went on just as the door bell rang.
Alisha's heart nearly stopped. Her date had arrived right on time. Her soul practically sang out, "He's here! He's here!" She worked hard to not run to the door like a small child excited by the prospects of a visitor. She grabbed the bottle of perfume off the vanity, gave the atomizer a squeeze by her neck, and hurried to greet him.
She paused by the door to gather herself. Heart pounding, she took a deep breath and let it out slow. A smile she hoped didn't seem overdone spread across her red lips. Giddy as a school girl, she allowed the knob to twist, opening the door.
Standing on the stoop, Conner Davis held a dozen blue roses with a plastic, bright blue frog with black spots on its back tied around the stems with a black satin ribbon. His dark-brown eyes rimmed with long, black lashes drew attention away from the rest of his face. Carefully sculpted black hair framed his tanned features.
Alisha took a moment to admire his crisp, gray, pin-striped suit and wing tipped shoes. His tapered waist and broad chest set her soul on fire with desire. She wanted him but regained her composure, stepping back to let him inside.
“These are for you,” he said, offering her the flowers.
“Thank you! They’re beautiful! You do know the blue poison dart frog is one of the most toxic amphibians in the world, don’t you?” Alisha asked.
“You don’t say,” Conner said, sounding amused. “I just thought it matched the flowers, and since you have a thing for frogs, you might like it.”
"I love it. Just let me grab my purse. I'll be right back!" She tried to walk calmly to the kitchen and put the flowers in the sink with a little water, promising herself to find a vase when she returned. She picked up an old beaded purse with a silver-toned, metal tassel dangling from the clasp off the table. Most of the time, it and the antique, art deco mirror inside stayed locked up with the rest of her treasures, but since he told her to wear something semi-formal, she decided to pull it out of the mothballs.
“Okay, I’m ready,” she said, picking up her beaded shawl and keys off the entry table on her way back to the foyer.
Conner offered her his crooked arm. "Tonight, I'm the dashing gentleman, and you are my trophy date," he said lightly, giving her a sly wink.
He escorted her to his little, red, sports car, holding her hand as she sat down in the low, bucket seat. He let go of her hand and closed the door. For a moment, his cheerful façade fell, but by the time he sat down in the driver's seat, the coy smile came back.
Halloween remained Alisha's favorite holiday, but St. Valentine's Day came in a close second. The heart and cupid décor splashed about shops and cards brought a smile to her face. It seemed like the one time of year people let their hair down and played with all their deepest, darkest fantasies involving sex, romance, and lust.
Valentine’s dinner invitations rarely came these days, and she didn’t want to start the evening off on the wrong foot with questions. So, she decided to let go of the nagging feeling something wasn’t right. Problems are always happy to wait, she told herself.
After a few minutes, Alisha hoped to break the awkward silence and asked, “How was your day?” She shifted in her seat to get a better look at him.
“Not bad,” Conner replied blandly and turned on the radio. He bumped up the volume a few notches.
Conversation seemed impossible without shouting. Taking the hint, Alisha looked out of her window. She wonder why he didn’t seem like himself.
Thirty minutes later, they pulled up to a French restaurant in full swing. Every light seemed filled the windows and a line of lovers stood outside waiting for seats.
“This is the trendiest place in town,” she commented. “We’ll be in line for hours!”
Conner got out without saying anything and went around to her side. He didn’t bother opening her door, like he usually did.  He tossed the keys to the valet and walked off ahead of her.
She hurried up the sidewalk behind him. Catching up, she took he hand and tried to get in line with the others for the long wait. A tug pulled her in another direction. She stumbled a bit in the unfamiliar heels before regaining balance.
He pulled her to the door and turned to face her. “We’re meeting friends. They came ahead to reserve a table. They don’t know about you. So, let’s keep this on a friendship level tonight. Okay?” The look on his face said that wasn’t the only secret he kept.
Alisha swept a long curl out of her face and carefully placed her purse’s wrist loop over her hand. She sniffed a dismissal and nodded in agreement. She reminded herself how much younger Conner and his friends were. She already held a PhD, while most of them were still undergraduates at the liberal arts college across town.
As they found Conner’s friends, a bouncy blonde leapt up and rushed forward, throwing her arms around Conner’s neck. “Hey! You’re here!”
He pried her loose and pushed her away. “We agreed. No more touching. Remember?”
She pouted her lower lip. “I know. I’m just so excited to see you! You never call anymore,” she said, hinting at a previous relationship. She gave Alisha a stern once over and asked with less enthusiasm, “Who’s your friend?”

“Oh, Leslie, this is Dr. McKenna from the science department at the state university. She a field researcher with the local swamp study project,” Conner said, rather formally.
Alisha felt static building along her fingertips. This night kept get better and better. The uneasy feeling she had in the car grew to clanging warning bells. Something with Conner shifted from hot lover to cold fish. Resisting the urge to walk swiftly back out and go home, she held out her hand to the younger woman.
“Please, call me Alisha. This is a dinner party, right?”
Leslie nodded her hand with a fake smile plastered to her face, made a sharp turn, and retreated to her seat. She made a big show of hanging on her male companion.
“Just ignore her. We broke up last year. Now, let’s sit and order,” Conner said, gesturing for Alisha to take one of the empty chairs. “This is Greg and Ian, my best friends since high school. We played football together.”
Each of the boys quickly put out a hand and greeted her across the table. Greg was blue-eyed with black hair hanging over one eye. Ian looked cleaner cut, sporting short, brown hair to go with his light-brown eyes. None of the others bothered to introduce the last girl sitting at the table, not that she was paying attention to the introductions anyway.
The restaurant's music came from a live jazz band playing slow numbers while couples twirled around on the hardwood dance floor. Crystal chandeliers hung from the tall, painted ceiling sporting reproductions of the great European masters. The wood-paneled walls held expensive art work and gilt-framed mirrors, making the candles burning at the tables seem like floating flames on the walls. The atmosphere was cozy and romantic.
Alisha looked around the table, not recognizing anyone.
“Hey! Dr. Mac!” A skinny kid in a waiter’s uniform said coming to her side. “I thought that was you! Cool handbag!”
“Hi, Gerald! Thanks. I’m glad to see a familiar face. Have you met Conner Davis?” She gave Gerald a warm smile.
“Yeah, we’ve met. I’m surprised to see you here, though,” Gerald said with a hint of worry in his voice. He forced a smile.
Alisha nodded. “You’re right. I’m usually too busy thinking up homework assignments and miserable labs to celebrate.” She laughed as he chuckled nervously. “Actually, Conner brought me. I normally don’t go out for Valentine’s, but I couldn’t refuse the invitation.”
Gerald’s face fell. “You came with Conner Davis?” A look of sorrow crossed his face. “Are you going out with him?” The worry suddenly shifted to horror. “I’m so sorry! That was way too personal to ask. Forget I said it. Please?”
Conner turned his attention from the lovely young lady on his left to Gerald. “Are you going to take our order or what?” His tone made it clear he didn’t think much of Gerald.
“Oh yeah, right!” The skinny boy pulled out his note pad and began taking down the orders that flooded in from all directions. He finished the final entry and leaned in close. “What can I get you, Dr. Mac? I mean ma’am.”
“I’ll let it slide this time,” she teased. She looked around once more and dropped her voice to a whisper. “You’ve piqued my curiosity. Why did it bother you to think I might be seeing Conner?”
“It’s none of my business. Please, just forget I said anything, and don’t fail my lab,” he begged. His sad, puppy eyes pleaded with her.
Alisha sighed. “Okay, I won’t fail your lab unless you blew it for real. Now, will you please tell me what’s wrong with going out with Conner?” She watched Gerald’s expressions rage from worry and anger to determination.
“Alright. Okay. I’ll tell. Rumor has it Conner and his two best friends there have a running scavenger hunt list they try to fill,” he said, as if this explained everything.
“I’m going to need more to go on than that,” she told him. The possibilities ran through her head. Was anything missing from her apartment? Her office? What about her lab?
“You know. They like to see who can bag the most partners by May. I heard one of the sororities had to ban their members from dating them last year. I didn’t want to say anything, but you’re my favorite biology professor to intern for. I don’t want to see you get hurt by a guy like that,” Gerald said as low as possible and still be heard, his cheeks turning a vibrant shade of red.
The air suddenly refused to move in Alisha’s lungs. A sexual scavenger hunt? Of all the things Gerald could have said, this one took her breath away.

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About the Author
I started my love affair with vampires as a kid by reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was the only vampire book our little local library branch had back then. Then, I discovered mail order books and fell in love with the tortured characters in Interview with a Vampire.  In the mid 80’s, the most amazing thing happened! My family bought a VCR, and I was finally able to see movies! All the vampire flicks I could beg for flickered across the screen, making the love affair into a passionate, lifelong relationship. Today, I write fantasy and paranormal romance and never pass up a chance to pair up vampires with the less-than-usual characters. Witches and elves currently top my list. I love weaving vampires into legends and myths where none exist. It’s my private world of the erotic, weird, and wonderful, and I invite every reader to go along for the ride.