Monday, July 28, 2014

Pocket Star-E Nights is featuring Deceptive Innocence by Kyra Davis with an Excerpt & Giveaways

Tonight Pocket Star-E Night is featuring Deceptive Innocence by the very talented Kyra Davis. If you haven't tried one of Kyra's books, this is the perfect opportunity for you to do so. Just be warned, her books are erotic, so be prepared for some sizzling hot romance.



Kyra Davis, the New York Times bestselling author of Just One Night, returns with book one in the thrillingly erotic Pure Sin series featuring a beautiful young woman out for revenge—until she falls in love with the one man whose secrets are as dangerous as her own. (Note: this volume collects Parts 1 - 3 of the previously serialized Deceptive Innocence ebook series.)

Ever since Bell’s mother died while serving time for a murder she didn’t commit, Bell’s been focused on one thing: revenge. She knows her mother was set up by Jonathon Gable, the head of both the powerful Gable family and an international banking corporation. Now she’s determined to take him down—from the inside.

Bell needs access to the Gable home and offices, so she poses as a bartender to seduce her way into the bed—and life—of Jonathon’s rebellious youngest son, Lander. He’s not a typical Gable, spending more time in the dive bars of Harlem than the posh cocktail lounges of the Upper East Side. He has an attraction to danger, a vulnerability Bell isn’t shy about exploiting. It should be easy to uncover the secrets she needs to destroy his family and clear her mother’s name.

But it turns out Lander is much more complicated than she ever imagined. He’s enticing, intelligent, mysterious—plus their sexual chemistry is off the charts. Even though Bell knows he’s the enemy, she can’t help but be moved, both physically and emotionally, by the man she swore was just a target. When he finds out the truth she’s sure both their hearts and her plan will be crushed...until she begins to realize that Lander might be hiding his own secrets, darker than she ever imagined.


My heart’s beating a little too fast and my eyes keep darting toward the door. He’ll walk through there any moment now. There are only a handful of barflies to distract me, and the kinds of drinks they order don’t take a lot of thought to make. This is not a Mojito Sparkler type of crowd.

Most of the people who come to drink at Ivan’s are men. They come to lose themselves in alcohol and sports. The few women who show up are looking for a special kind of trouble. This isn’t the place you come to in hopes of picking up a nice guy.

I know these women. Maybe not personally, but essentially I know who they are and what they’re about: disheartened or damaged, looking for men who can inflict enough pain to help them forget the pain that’s coming from within. Screwing assholes, making themselves vulnerable to emotional predators—it’s just another form of cutting, really. Every time they smile at a Hells Angels type I can see the unspoken words hovering over their heads.

Here’s the knife. Hurt me so I don’t have to hurt myself. Take away the responsibility and just give me the pain.

I get it, I really do. But it’s not my game, not anymore.

So I just pour the beer, keep the whiskey flowing, keep my smile evasive, cold enough to scare away the more aggressive ones, warm enough to coax the tips out of the passive . . . and keep my eyes on the door.

And then it happens. At exactly seven fifteen, he shows up.

I feel an acute pang in my chest, right where my heart is.

Lander Gable. How many times have I seen this man walk into this bar while I was sitting across the street in a cab or rental car? But now, today, I’m in the bar, and he’s walking toward me, not away. I’ve never been so close to him before. I can almost touch him!

And soon I will.

The ringing of the phone momentarily distracts me.

I pick up and ask, “Ivan’s, can I help you?” The person on the other end mumbles an embarrassed apology for calling the wrong number and hangs up, but I keep the phone pressed to my ear long after hearing the click, pretending to listen while I study the perfect specimen in front of me: a clean-shaven face, bronze skin, a watch that’s worth more than everything I own . . . Only he’s replaced the suit he wore to the office today with a pair of Diesel jeans and a sweater. Less conspicuous, but still a little too clean for this place. His physique hints at time spent at a gym, not a dockyard.

You’d think some of the other guys would kick his ass just for entering their bar.

And yet absolutely no one gets in his way.

It’s not until he’s almost at the bar stool that we make eye contact. He doesn’t smile, but there’s something there—curiosity maybe, perhaps surprise at finding a woman bartending, definitely appraisal.

I’ve gotta give myself a major pat on the back for that one. I must have spent two hours putting myself together today for him. He’s why I’m wearing my wild black hair down, letting it cover my bare shoulders. He’s why I matched the loose, low-slung jeans with a fitted tank that subtly reveals the benefits of my new push-up bra. He’s why I’m wearing thick mascara and sheer lip gloss. I know this guy’s tastes.
He takes his seat, pulls out a ten, and gestures to the bottle of whiskey still in my hand from the last drink I poured. “On the rocks, please.”

“You sure?” I ask even as I fill a glass with ice. “I could make a whiskey sour if you like. Maybe throw in a cherry?”

He raises his eyebrow slightly. “Mocking a patron when you’re new to the job? Risky, isn’t it?”

“How do you know I just started?”

“I’m here a lot.”

“Every day?”

“A few times a week.” He reaches for his drink, brings it to his lips. Over the glass he offers a bemused smile. “I like your prices.”

“Really?” I ask. “Drinks more expensive where you’re from?”

“You make it sound like I’m visiting from some far-off land.”

“Are you?”

His light-brown hair looks darker in this room, his eyes brighter. “Upper East Side,” he says.

“Ahhh.” I take a step back and cross my arms over my chest. “That’s about a million dollars from here.”

He winces. “Not necessarily.” On the other side of the bar a few men burst into cheers as a UFC fighter’s arm is broken on live TV.

“You living at the 92nd Street Y, then?” I quip.

“No,” he answers, his smile returning. “I’ve managed to avoid that fate.” He studies me for a moment, trying to gauge what he’s dealing with. “How ’bout you? You live here in Harlem?”

“Occasionally. I’m a bit of a drifter.” I fiddle with a glass, playing at cleaning it. “So why do you really come here . . . I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

He gives me a quizzical look. “Considering how coy you’re being about what part of town you live in, I feel like maybe I shouldn’t volunteer my name just yet. That way we both have an air of mystery.”

“Oh, I’m only coy about inconsequential things.” I lean forward, put my elbows on the bar, and cradle my chin in my hands. Ever so slightly I arch my back. “I’m very straightforward about the things I want.”

“Really?” He takes another sip. “And what exactly is it that you want?”

“Tonight?” I pause for a moment, pretending to think. “Tonight I want . . . your name.”

His smile spreads to a grin. “You think you can coax it out of me?”

“Maybe.” Out of the corner of my eye I spot one of the regulars on the other side of the bar waving his empty glass in the air. “When I have the time.”
And I walk away to pour the next drink.

The foreman needing the refill is too drunk to notice that I’m trembling while taking his money.

God, is this working? Am I being too forward? Too much of a tease? My mother would have chewed me out for behaving like this.

You may read more of the excerpt at XOXO After Dark by CLICKING HERE

Remember, wherever you go, Pocket Star-E Nights are guaranteed to make your evenings shine! Don't forget to check back next week to see what pocket Star-E Nights is featuring next. This summer, Seduced By A Book will be hosting excerpts and giveaways for XOXO After Dark’s special Summer eBook program. Look for this feature every Monday through August.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Early Review of I Adored a Lord (The Prince Catchers, #2) by Katharine Ashe

Title: I Adored a Lord: The Prince Catchers
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Prince Catchers
Format: Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (July 29, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0062229834
ISBN-13: 978-0062229830
Author's Website:
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher via Edelweiss 

“This ring is the key to your destinies,” (...) “This ring . . .” the Gypsy intoned, “belongs to a prince.”(...) “The rightful master of this ring,” she said soberly, “is not of your blood.” (...) “One of you will wed this prince. Upon this wedding, the secret of your past will be revealed.” ('I Married the Duke' by Katharine Ashe)

Twenty-two years ago, a mother sent her three daughters to England in the accompaniment of their nanny when their ship sank. They were the sole survivors. The villagers of the area tried to find their parents, but their search was in vain. The nanny they'd been traveling with had drowned and, with no one to claim them, the girls were sent to a foundling home. They were later adopted by Reverend Caulfield who had lost his wife and daughters just months earlier to fever. The only clue as to who the girls might be is a ring worthy of a king.

While the Reverend was a good, but somewhat strict parent, Arabella, the middle Caulfield sister, was desperate to learn about their real parents. That is what led her to approach a gypsy in the hope she could shed some light on who they might be. The gypsy's response, however, was as mysterious as their past. She foretold of a prince who would have the answers they seek which he would reveal upon his wedding to one of the sisters. While many would think the prediction of a gypsy was nonsense, Arabella, grasp on to it, and years later was still determined to see one of her sisters, as she was happily wed, married to a prince. That was how Ravenna, the youngest of the Caulfield sisters, came to find herself at the bride-hunting party of Prince Sebatiao of Portugal. Ravenna, unlike her sister, didn't believe the gypsy's prophecy and had planned to never marry. Tricked into attending the function by her sister, Ravenna soon finds herself at the center of the handsome Lord Vitor Courtenay's attentions and in the middle of a murder mystery. An uninvited guest is found murdered in a suit of armor with a note in his pocket suggesting he was there to rendezvous with one of the young ladies attending the festivities. With a house full of potential suspects, the question upon everyone's mind is, "Who did it?"


Created with a nod to the classical style of  murder/mysteries by Agatha Christie, Ms. Ashe has spun her own delightfully enchanting historical murder/mystery with an added dash of romance. Set in France, at a winter gathering at the Chateau Chevriot, not everything is as it seems as secrets abound. Ravenna is not new to mysteries and has, in the past, assisted in discovering the who and what of a murder. She's ahead of her time as a smart independent woman who is knowledgeable in both veterinary and human medicine with a keen eye for details.

Having discovered the body, Ravenna is not going to let Lord Vitor dismiss her from helping solve the crime just because she's a woman. Using the logic that she, as a woman, is more likely to be able to extract information from the ladies in the party as they'll be more willing to talk to her than a man, she convinces Vitor and the local police that they need her help. As they question the suspects and attempt to piece together what happened, Ravenna finds her own life in jeopardy as she gets closer to the truth.

Lord Vitor Courtenay has secrets of his own. Celibate for two years, he was on the verge of taking vows and joining the monastery before he changed his mind. As his attraction to Ravenna grows, he knows he made the right choice. While originally not happy about her joining the search for the murderer, he finds it a convenient way to get closer to the object of his affection. As the two work together, he comes to admire not just her beauty and spunk, but her intelligence as well.

Overall, I gave this book 4 out of 5 roses. It was fun, at times sweet, and contained quite a few twists. I enjoyed the mystery and the romance even more. I thought Ravenna and Vitor made a cute couple and loved how Vitor liked her just the way she was.  It was fun seeing these two worked together as a team to solve the murder. I could definitely see this turning into a husband and wife crime solving team spin-off, in the vein of a historical 'Hart to Hart' (the TV show) series. If you haven't read the previous book, you can get away with reading this one first. Be forewarned, however, you're probably going to want to read it after you finish with this one. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Order of the series:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Early Review of Personal Target: An Elite Ops Novel (Elite Ops #2) by Kay Thomas

    Title: Personal Target: An Elite Ops Novel
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Romantic Suspense
    Series: Elite Ops
    Format: Paperback; 384 pages
    Publisher: Avon Impulse (September 2, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0062290886
    ISBN-13: 978-0062290885 
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher via Edelweiss.

"They're coming after yours, and you can't stop them." The dying man laughed, his laughter changing to a cough as his damaged lungs filled with blood. Even so, he managed to rasp out one last threat. "It's personal now. Your family will be dead in six weeks."

Nick Donovan, a former Navy SEAL and Black Ops specialist, recently left the NCS, a component of the CIA, to join the Armored Extraction Guards and Investigative Security, AEGIS works under the radar of most governments and specializes in private security, risk management, and the recovery of people and assets from foreign countries. While performing his job, Nick was caught on the security camera of one site leaving the area and on the camera at another setting a listening device. His identity compromised, the cartel mistakenly thought he'd set the bombs which had exploded shortly after his departure from each of the scenes killing first the Drug Lord's sister and later his brother. Believing he had held a part in their deaths, Nick's family members were now the personal targets of one of Mexico's most ruthless and lethal drug cartels.

While Nick was successful in warning his brother and getting his family out of harms way, the cartel had managed to get their hands on a family friend, whom they'd mistakenly believed to be his sister-in-law. Jennifer had been asked to watch the house and feed the family pets. While not family, Jennifer and Nick had once been close and so while the cartel missed their target, they still managed to hit their mark, if only by accident. Since the kidnapping, the cartel has gained intel that drones were used in the bombings. If Nick can find who is responsible, the cartel says they'll release Jennifer, but for each day she's with them she'll suffer a fate most won't wish to live through.

Now Nick's in a race against time to find Jenny, get her out, and keep her safe. Jenny is the only woman he's ever loved. The only woman to ever truly understand him. This one's personal and Nick Donovan takes care of his own.

This book was a fast paced roller coaster of a ride with a lot of action, twists and turns. It held my attention and I didn't want to put it down until I finished. I loved the story line of a past love--the one that got away--accidentally being sucked into Nick's dangerous world. How despite the fact she broke his heart, he still goes in to rescue her.

Dr. Jennifer Grayson is a Southern Methodist University professor specializing in paleontology who is recently divorced. She's smart, brave, and when she finds herself in a bad situation, she immediately realizes revealing she's not Angela could get her into worse trouble than holding her tongue. She decides to try to figure out what's going on before doing anything she can't take back. But things quickly escalate from bad to worse as she finds herself in a Mexican brothel where she's told she'll need to pay for her stay.

Nick has never forgotten Jennifer and when he sees the picture of her bound, he almost immediately realizes who Vega has kidnapped. Having worked in the field for years, Nick calls on his contacts and within a relatively short period of time has a lock on her location. I loved the impatience he displayed and how he had a hard time hiding his emotions as he attempts to rescue Jenny and keep her from harm.

While Kay Thomas has all the potential of becoming one of my favorite authors and I enjoyed the story, I did have a couple of issues with it. First, Nick believes that while in captivity, Jennifer might have overheard something that put her life in danger. Instead of sitting down with her and questioning her about what transpired, like most government operatives would do, he never does. I found this very odd. Perhaps if he had communicated his concerns a little better, he'd have had better control over the situation, and she'd have realized just how much danger she was in. Still, I thought Jennifer should have realized how serious things were when things starting blowing up. I personally thought that was a pretty huge tip off, but I guess she let her emotions overrun her logic.

A second item I had issues with was Nick's reaction to finding out that years ago, after a summer romance, Jennifer had gotten pregnant with his child and had a miscarriage. I felt his reaction to this news was a bit extreme. While I could see him being upset with Jennifer for breaking up with him without officially doing so--she just broke off all communication with him--his being upset because she never told him about her pregnancy just irritated me to no end. Most women would not want a man to feel obligated to marry them because of a pregnancy, and Jennifer knew Nick well enough to know that's the type of man he was. I can understand how she would feel insecure and unsure of how to handle things. I seriously doubt that Nick ever inquired if she could be pregnant after he left and joined the Navy. Whenever two people are intimate, there is always the possibility of pregnancy and if a guy really cares for a woman, he should ask. I personally think this is something all mother's should instill in their sons. So while he had a right to know, I could see how she'd drag her feet on telling him. It would be an awkward subject to breech, especially from long distance over the phone or through a letter, so she put it off.

Anyone who's gone through a miscarriage knows how emotionally upsetting it is. Whether a pregnancy was planned for or not, its still has a profound effect on a person. Pair that with having a hysterectomy and you can just imagine the emotional trauma someone who wanted children would suffer. A miscarriage at five months is a very painful experience as is a hysterectomy, She probably wasn't in her right mind for some time after. If she had trouble telling him about the pregnancy, how could she be expected to bring up the subject of a miscarriage? I just felt he had very little grounds to be mad at her and rather should have been upset for not being there for her. At the very least he should have felt bad for not letting her know how he felt about her before he left. If she'd felt secure in their relationship, I'm sure she would have had no trouble telling him what was going on.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. While I had some issues with the way certain things were handled, they didn't have a huge impact to the overall story. Every time I thought things were starting to settle down, another deadly situation would arise. There was plenty of action, mystery, and suspense combined with ongoing story lines which thread the fabric of the series together. You'll want to read all the books as each book builds upon the other to create what I believe will be a larger all encompassing story which will fit together like a puzzle containing bits and pieces of all the books at the end. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Order of the series:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Early Review of Fast Track (Buchanan-Renard, #12) by Julie Garwood

    Title: Fast Track
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Contemporary Romance
    Hardcover: 352 pages
    Publisher: Dutton Adult (July 29, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0525954457
    ISBN-13: 978-0525954453
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I received and eARC via NetGalley

Cordelia Kane and her dad had always been close. It was as if he felt the need to be a super dad to make up for the loss of her mother when she was only two. While some would leave their child at home with a sitter, he took her to work and taught her the mechanics of what goes on under the hood of a car. By the age of 5 she had enough knowledge to give advice on what was wrong with a car.

Her father, while she was growing up, went from being just another mechanic under the hood to owning a million dollar company when he retired. Later, he helped out at the school where Cordelia taught, he himself teaching an automotive class, and becoming a favorite among the students. He earned the respect of all and even became the mentor to kids who would have otherwise made poor choices which would have landed them in trouble with the law. His funeral was packed with family, friends, and students alike.

Cordelia thought she knew all there was to know about her father, but just before he died he made a startling request that she not be like him--waiting for a love that would never be. His request revealed her mother hadn't died like he'd always told her, but had abandoned them shortly after she was born. The revelation sparked a curiosity about the woman who birthed her. What she never expected, was that by tracking her mother down, she'd be putting her own life in jeopardy.


One of the things I love about Ms. Garwood's books is that many have a fairy tale type of charm about them. I love how we get a glimpse into Cordelia's childhood before we see the woman she grows up to become and how she and Aiden first met. It's something you rarely see in romances, but I think it gives us some added insight into the character and endears them to us.

When Cordelia hears her mother is alive, she wants to know more about her, which is only natural. Upon trying to track her down, however, she finds her mother doesn't exist. She used a false name to marry her father and on Cordelia's birth certificate. Her mother never wished to be found and had never intended for the marriage to Cordelia's father to last. Unlike most people, Cordelia isn't discouraged by this, if anything it spurs her on to meet the woman who could do such a thing to her husband and newborn baby. What she never expected, was that in doing so, she'd unleash a Pandora's box full of trouble on herself. Thankfully, she has good friends with great connections to help her out.

Aiden Madison is the man whom Cordelia has had a crush on since she was little. He'd always indulged his sister's best friend, but had never encouraged her. There was a sizable age difference between the two and he'd never really seen her as anything other as his little sister's friend. One night, however, changed all that when an accident paired with an unlocked door left him to find Cordelia wearing a skimpy nightgown paired with an open robe. That spurred a spontaneous kiss which opened his eyes to the woman she'd become. Aiden is the serious type who rarely smiles and tends to hide his emotions. He reminded me of the story a friend told me of how her and her husband came to be engaged. We'd been exchanging stories of how we'd met our husbands and how they'd proposed and her story made me laugh.They'd dated for a year or two when one day he told her he'd been offered a position out of state and was moving. She thought he was breaking up with her until he starting talking about where they'd live. That was her first clue he was assuming she'd be going with him. As she started to question things and wonder how to handle the situation it eventually came out he expected they'd get married. I'm not even sure if he actually proposed. He just assumed that through his actions she'd know what he was thinking. That's the kind of logic that Aiden seemed to display and I have to admit it made me giggle as I read.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses.There was suspense, drama, humor and, of course, a happy ending. I loved that in the end Cordelia's family got what they deserved. If only that always happened in real life. lol On the Lisarenee Romance Rating this one gets a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Monday, July 21, 2014


This summer Seduced By A Book will be hosting excerpts and some giveaways for XOXO After Dark’s special Summer eBook program. Look for this feature every Monday during July and August. Today they're showcasing a wonderful book and two great novellas--HOW TO REPRIMAND YOUR ROCK STAR by Mina Vaughn, ATTACK THE GEEK by Michael R. Underwood, and DRIVING MR. DEAD by Molly Harper. These sound too good to miss.  SoGrab your e-reader and enjoy these and many more e-books this summer. Wherever you go, Pocket Star-E Nights are guaranteed to make your evenings shine!

by Mina Vaughn

About the Book:
 In this fun and saucy romance novel, all-star college basketball player Thea dominates on the courts—and off—with a rock star who is determined to win her over.

Thea is a star basketball player at UConn on track to be Rookie of the Year. That is, if she can stay focused on the game. Lately that hasn’t been going so well, as her knee has been bothering her. But that’s not the only thing on her mind…

Ever since rock star Keaton Lowe surprised her in the girl’s locker room, Thea can’t stop thinking about him. On top of his status and enticing ways, he seems to know everything about her. But some of his actions cross the line, and Keaton needs to be punished. Will Thea keep her head in the game, or get distracted by her other favorite pastime—reprimanding her rock star?


The locker room welcomed me with the smell of freshly washed uniforms and leather workout equipment. The familiar scents tickled my nose and I envisioned my locker room back home. I remembered giving speeches to my team, rallying them against our foes. I felt like a general sometimes. Here, I just listened. Sure, I liked everyone, but I really wished I could just be myself. I rolled my stiff shoulders and decided that tape wasn’t all I needed—a long hot shower would do my body a world of good. And I didn’t want to let the guards have the satisfaction of getting me out of their hair so soon.

I dropped my clothes at the threshold of the locker room and the adjoining shower room. I was never weirded-out by the team showering together. It was what athletes did. When you’re there, making jokes under the steaming water, splashing and commiserating, it was almost better that you were naked. It showed your trust. The team saw you at your most vulnerable. I wanted them to know they could trust me, so, therefore, I let them see my boobs. Common sense. It did kind of make me sad that even though we’d been playing together since September, I couldn’t really call many of them my friends. Except for my roommate, Callie.

The weirdest thing was the only person I had met besides Callie that I really felt a connection to was the team’s landlord, whom they had nicknamed the Red Devil. Her real name is Scarlett. I had actually never spoken to her, but something about her drew me in. She was intimidating as hell—tall like us basketball folk, flaming-red curls that hung to her waist, and heels that could kill small animals that skittered into their path. The team hated her strict curfews and neat- freakery. I liked her. Powerful women were cool, and it pissed me off when they were labeled “bitches” just because they knew what they wanted. Plus, I liked that she owned a little new-age shop in town that, rumor has it, has a secret back room. So yeah, Scarlett was cool. Scary, but cool.

I made my way across the white tile floor, dodging cold puddles, and cranked my lucky showerhead number thirteen to a scorching blast. Every time I had picked this one, we won, so I never showered anywhere else. Except at home—my real home, that is. I stood under the scalding deluge and tipped my head up to feel the hot spray in my mouth. I had to
singe off the thin layer of failure from last night’s game. I grabbed a loofah and scrubbed my skin to a near polish. Rolling my shoulders, I took a squirt of the lavender-scented shampoo and worked it into my long curls.

Sighing, I let my naked back slouch against the cold tiles as I worked my scalp. My ex, Ty, had loved giving me massages. But that was all he wanted, touching. College was supposed to be a fantastic dating scene, but all I ever got were guys who wanted me for the wrong reasons. Boys who were lazy and easy. Not that I had an ideal guy in mind, but I just wanted to work for it. I wanted the hunt. Lamenting my permanently single status, I watched the last few soap bubbles drop from my hair to the floor. Absentmindedly, I turned and reached for my towel and found nothing. I glanced around the empty room. Always, without fail, I’d put my towel within arm’s reach of my lucky showerhead. How could I forget that today? I really was off my game on several levels. Padding wetly, dripping like a mermaid, I made my way toward the locker room’s entryway where my clothes sat.

Only, my clothes weren’t there either.

I took a tentative step into the locker room and turned toward my locker, where at least a practice uniform would be waiting for me. Or maybe I left my clothes there. Get your head together, Thea.

Every time I saw that locker, I’d chuckle. My obnoxious Greek last name was too long to fit on the nameplate, or my jersey for that matter, so instead of reading PAPASTATHOPOULOS, it just said PAPAS. That’s why the team had taken to calling me “Pops.”

But instead of seeing my truncated name or a pile of clothes, I saw a guy.

 Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:

by Michael R. Underwood

About the Book:

A side-quest novella in the bestselling Geekomancy urban fantasy series—when D&D-style adventures go from the tabletop to real life, look out!

Ree Reyes, urban fantasista and Geekomancer extraordinaire, is working her regular drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s bar-and-gaming salon when everything goes wrong. The assorted magic wielders of the city’s underground have come to test their battle skills via RPGs like D&D, V:TES, White Wolf, and the like. All the usuals are there: her ex-mentor Eastwood, Drake (the man-out-of-time adventurer), and, of course, Grognard himself (her boss and a brewer of beer that act as magic potions). However, it’s the presence of these and other “usuals” that makes all the trouble. For, a nemesis from Eastwood and Ree’s past decides to finally take her revenge not just on those two, but on every self-styled “hero” in the city who happens to have crossed her at one point or another. When wave after wave of monsters besiege Grogrnard’s store, if Ree & Co. are going to survive, they’re going to have to work together. And avoid the minotaur. That’s always a good rule of thumb.
 The mass of gnomes looked like a beehive. They were stacked on top of one another, falling and scrambling over one another to get to the group.
Uncle Joe raised several cards over his head, tore them with a whoop, and a wave of fire pushed forward, enveloping the gnomes. They screamed and scuttled backward, and the group stepped forward into the sewer. Eastwood tossed out a handful of industrial-grade glow sticks, which filled the tunnel with yellow light.

Ree did her best Steve Ditko Spidey-fingers, unleashing a net of webbing that pinned a handful of gnomes to the far wall. She jumped forward and swung up, the blue blade strobing across her vision. She caught two of the gnomes, but several more leapt out of the way. As soon as her blade swung past, more of the miniature monsters scuttled forward. Their nails clicked on the concrete floor with the strange familiarity of her golden retriever, Booster, trying to get purchase in the linoleum kitchen back at her dad’s place.

She let loose another dose of webbing, then jumped and stuck to the ceiling, leaving her sword arm free to continue swinging.

Ree’s spider-shtick attracted a dozen of the gnomes’ attention as they tried to climb over one another to get to her. Even with their considerable ups, they fell short, putting them just in range of her lightsaber.

From her vantage point, she saw the rest of the group as they fought, each in their own style.

Out front, Grognard tore through the creatures, swinging the glaive-guisarme around as easily as a broom at closing time.
Talon covered Grognard’s back, following his movements and keeping the gnomes from sneaking through legs and flanking the group as they formed a semicircle out from the door. She fought with practiced efficiency, the longsword always striking and blocking at once as her hands moved in concert, levering the pommel around for maximum precision.
On the other side of the group, Eastwood fought with lightsaber and blaster in perfect harmony, managing not to chop his hand off even as he wove and dove through the crowd at a breakneck pace. He was a jerk sometimes, but he’d earned his Badass bona fides years ago. Gnomes jumped at him by the dozen, like they’d all decided he was the most delicious dish on the menu.
Drake stood back, picking his targets quickly but deliberately, squeezing off shots that thinned the herd rushing at Eastwood.
Wickham hugged the side of the door, taking shots where she could. She wasn’t comfortable in a fight, but she’d logged plenty of practice time somewhere—range or arcade—so her shots connected more often than not. Trouble was, her peashooter only seemed to stun the gnomes.
A musty wind hit her cheek, and Ree looked down to see that the gnomes clustered beneath her had started to get smart. Two gnomes held their hands together, boosting up the others. Ree wanted to know where they’d picked up cheerleading techniques, but that would have to wait. She flattened against the ceiling to avoid a tall gnome’s swipe, which fell just inches short.
The magical energy from Spider-Man was waning, as she’d only gotten a quick dose of the film. Rather than spending the energy on another burst of webbing, she cut the arm off the next gnome that got a boost. The gnome crashed into its accomplices, which would scatter them for a bit. Ree pulled out her phaser and zapped a few more, then turned and dropped one that had managed to Xenomorph its way along the ceiling, just a few feet from Wickham’s head.
The sizzling gnome fell to the sewer ledge in a heap at Wickham’s feet, and the model looked up to Ree, who saluted.
“That’s two you owe me,” Ree said with a grin, then turned back to her cheerleader gnomes. She picked off the two boosters, hoping that they were the bearded brains of the operation. If Wickham responded, the sound was lost in the din. Gloating was hard to do when you were dead, so she could wait.
“How you feeling, boss?” Ree asked, her voice echoing in the sewer over the sound of clanging metal, exertion, and snarling.
“They don’t seem to be running out of friends! Somebody pour on the AoE!” he called.
“On it!” Uncle Joe flipped through a card binder, then pulled out several cards, which he tore in half and then threw, Gambit-style. The card shreds flew true, exploding on impact. The blasts engulfed a dozen gnomes, but as the dust settled, more had filled the space, hopping over their charred compatriots.
“I didn’t think there were that many in the whole city!” Ree said.
“Recent surveys put their numbers at under a hundred. We’ve seen at least twice that,” Drake answered, his voice level even as his firing routine had become more harried. He stopped as one of the crystals in his aetheric rifle went dark, and cleared the gem, replacing it with a ruby red one that Ree knew as his flamethrower mode.
“Clear!” Drake called, and Talon cycled right, opening up a space. The inventor knelt forward and the rifle belched a cone of flame that took another cluster of the gnomes. The repeated blasts turned the sewer into a sauna, including the concrete she held on to with Spider-fu. It was either burn her ass off or lose the higher ground, so she dropped from the ceiling, cleaving through several gnomes as she landed.
When she hit the concrete pathway near the group, the sewer shook.
“Someone needs to lay off the lagers,” Wickham said.
“That wasn’t her,” Grognard said, looking down the tunnel.

A roar shook the walls of the sewer, making it very apparent that the gnomes were no longer the worst of their problems. If possible, the smell in the tunnel got worse.
That’s never a good sign. In her nine months of hero-ing, she’d noticed a clear correlation between “smells bad” and “likes to snack on humans and suck the marrow from their bones nom nom nom” types of creatures.
“Boss?” Ree asked, closing ranks with Drake between one of the adventurer’s bursts of flame. The gnomes on the roar side of the tunnel parted. Even worse sign.
Grognard buried the head of his blade in a gnome’s shoulder, the butt of the haft held down with his foot. Then he used the weapon like a lever, slamming four gnomes into the wall with one heave. “Anyone got a land mine?” he asked.
“Let me check!” Uncle Joe said, flipping through his binder. “I just had a big order for a Direct Damage deck, haven’t had a chance to restock.”
A second roar gave way to the sound of charging and splashing sewage. The gnomes on the far side vanished into the shadows.
On one hand, it gave them a breather. On the other hand . . . “Faster would be better!” Ree said, quoting her favorite space cowboy.
Eastwood holstered his blaster and leveled his Green Lantern ring at the right side of the tunnel. Ree pointed her blaster in the same direction. The group formed their best imitation of a pike formation, reinforcing their position in the direction of the oncoming . . .
. . . Minotaur.
Really? Just what I f****in’ need.
****Sensored  by Seduced By A Book to keep it family friendly.
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark:

DRIVING MR. DEAD by Molly Harper

About the Book:

A standalone novella introducing a new side of Half Moon Hollow—featuring a freewheeling courier and the stuffy vampire she has to transport.

Miranda Puckett has failed at every job she’s ever had. Her mother just wants her to come home, join the family law firm, and settle down with Jason, the perfect lawyer boyfriend. But when Jason turns out to be a lying cheater, Miranda seizes on a job that gets her out of town: long-distance vampire transportation. Her first assignment is to drive vampire Collin Sutherland from Washington to sleepy Half Moon Hollow without incident—no small feat for a woman whom trouble seems to follow like a faithful hound dog! And she has to do it without letting her passenger—the most persnickety, stuffy, devastatingly handsome vamp she’s ever met—drive her crazy. As she and Collin find disaster on the roads, they also find an undeniable spark between them. Could Miranda have found the perfect job and the perfect guy for her? 


 I was used to far more pleasant interactions with vampires. I’d worked as a waitress at a vampire bar called Bite for six months. The nonbreathing clients were a lot friendlier than those with pulses, and they left better tips. And in the days after I’d accepted the assignment, Iris, an old high-school classmate, had had me do a series of test runs, ferrying local cross-country to drive her friend Jane from Half-Moon Hollow to Nashville for a booksellers convention. Jane had been downright sweet, keeping me entertained on the brief drive through Tennessee with her absurd life story. None of these experiences had prepared me for Mr. Sutherland’s hostile, monosyllabic reception.

In his absence, I saw that the house was comfortable and quaint. The open floor plan gave visual access to nearly everything, including the spectacular view afforded by the back windows. Rough-hewn polished pine stairs led to a bedroom loft. Comfy-looking leather chairs the color of melting caramel flanked a river-stone fireplace. Bookshelves stocked with leather-bound editions stretched floor to ceiling on the opposite wall. There was no stuffy furniture, no
useless dust catchers beyond a red and gold military insignia framed and displayed on the  mantel. A lion devouring a snake.

A thump from above snapped me out of my decor ogling. I focused on the little pile of luggage near the foot of the stairs, and I slung a dark leather designer overnight bag onto my shoulder.
When I bent to pick up a sleek silver suitcase, there was a blur of motion, the force of which swept my wet hair over my eyes. I lurched to my feet, pulling the damp strands out of my face, just in time to find Mr. Sutherland snatching the case out of my hands.

You do not touch this case,” he said sternly, shoving a pristine white towel into my hands. He swept across the room to blot my puddle from the floor with a clean cloth. “I am responsible for transporting this case to Ophelia Lambert at midnight four nights from now—a deadline that your tardiness has put in jeopardy, I might add. Therefore, only I touch the case.”


“Only I touch the case,” he said.

I was starting to suspect that he had unnatural feelings for that case.

I raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to be handcuffing it to your arm?”

“Very amusing, Miss Puckett,” he said, looking me up and down. “Of course, I’m forced to assume that you are the Miss Puckett described in Miss Scanlon’s correspondence, since you have not, in fact, introduced yourself to me.”

Something about the way his silky voice slid over my skin triggered my “authority figure” complex. And suddenly, I was having some very unwelcome, very naughty images of Mr. Sutherland and his hypothetical handcuffs.

“Oh, right, sorry. Hi, I’m Miranda Puckett. I’m the driver for Beeline.” I reached out my hand to shake, a hand that he pointedly ignored as he swept past me.

Shocked by his rudeness, I merely followed in his wake, muttering to myself. “Nice to meet you, too. Oh, yes, I’m sure we’re going to end up lifelong friends after this road trip. We’re off to such a great start. Feel like I’ve known you my whole life,” I grumbled, toting the bags to the car while he checked and rechecked the locks on his front door. “And I’m talking to myself again. Super.”

I stared at the warm, dry house with longing. A kinder client might have offered me use of the restroom or even coffee. But I was hardly in a position to ask for perks.

To add insult to injury, my tardiness and the weather ruined my plans to introduce Mr. Sutherland to the fabulous features of the Batmobile, which I’d thoroughly rehearsed with a very patient Jane. A decommissioned Council vehicle that Iris had purchased for a song at auction, the Batmobile was built for comfort and safety. While it looked like a mild-mannered SUV from the outside, the Batmobile boasted a light-tight cubby that took up most of the
rear compartment’s floorboard, like a compact coffin, allowing the passenger to ride comfortably while I drove us in full sun. Tucked between the front seats sat a cunning little cooler/warmer for blood. It worked a bit like a bottle steamer, using hot water on a timed switch to bring the blood to an even 98.6. The windows were tinted with SPF 500 film so that he would be safe inside the cab if necessary.

I’d become familiar with those features on the three- (OK, four-) day drive to pick up Mr. Sutherland. I’d planned to make him familiar with them before we started the drive back to Half-Moon Hollow so he could deliver a parcel to an official with the World Council for the Equal Treatment of the Undead. But clearly, Mr. Sutherland preferred that we just get on the road. I couldn’t blame him, I supposed. We absolutely, positively had to be back on time, or
Mr. Sutherland would not be paid . . . which meant that Iris would not be paid . . . which meant that I would not be paid . . . which would be upsetting.

Using the boatload of upper-body strength it took to close the rear door, I slammed it down. I noticed a pale flash out of the corner of my eye at the last minute. The gate came crashing down on Mr. Sutherland’s fingers with a sickening crunch.

This was a hallucination. I could not be looking at a vampire’s hand caught in a car door, crushed like something out of an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. I clapped my hands over my mouth and let out a horrified shriek.

“Open the bloody gate!” he roared.

I scrambled for the key fob and clicked it, popping the door open. Mr. Sutherland groaned and flexed his mangled fingers, bent at bizarre angles, obviously broken in several places. Sure, they would fix themselves rapidly with his vampire healing, but it would hurt like a bitch.

“I’m sorry!” I cried, rushing forward to help him. He hissed like a cat and turned his back on me. “Shit! I’m so sorry!”

“Language, Miss Puckett,” he growled over his shoulder. “Did you not see that my hand was in the way?” He grunted as his fingers stretched and snapped back into their proper places.

“Not until the last minute,” I said. “Why didn’t you move your hand when you saw I was closing the door?”

“I thought you would stop the door,” he shot back.

“How was I supposed to do that? I don’t have vampire reflexes!”

“From now on, I will keep your limitations in mind,” he seethed, and pivoted on his heel toward the car door.

Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Every Which Way But Dead (The Hollows, #3) by Kim Harrison

Title: Every Which Way But Dead (The Hollows, Book 3)
Classification: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Hollows
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: 501 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reprint edition (June 28, 2005)
ISBN-10: 006057299X
ISBN-13: 978-0060572990
Author's Website:
Notes: I own it.

Life will probably never be easy for Rachel Morgan. After putting Piscary behind bars, she's earned a reputation of being the area's big bad witch. With Cincinatti's biggest supernatural crime lord, Piscary, temporarily out of the picture, things are heating up. A turf war is ensuing for the area's coveted Brimstone and gambling trades. Kisten is struggling to keep Piscary's holdings secure while Saladan makes a play to take them over. Trent Kalamack's secondary brimstone business is also being threatened by Saladan. He's positive Saladan is behind all the batches of bad brimstone that have been plaguing the area of late. He's attempting to get it off the street. Both Trent and Kisten will need Rachel to help intimidate the competition and keep him at bay.

Rachel, however, is having problems of her own. Since accidentally making Nick her familiar, he's been avoiding her and it looks like their relationship might not survive. Worse, in order to get Piscary locked up she had to make a deal with the devil, er, demon, and agreed to become Al's familiar. Now she's attempting to elude Al to prevent him from taking her into the Ever After and making her his permanent slave. Can she out wit the demon and save herself from a fate some say is worse than death?

In the previous two books we've gotten to know Rachel and her crew, but now we really start to get a sense of each of the character's vulnerabilities. They remind me a touch of the Island of Misfit Toys where a group bands together who don't truly feel they fit in with what is expected of them and are trying to find a place where they do. Rachel seems to be the glue that binds this group together, but she's not invulnerable either. In the last book Piscary insinuated Rachel was afraid of desire. I don't believe that is totally accurate. Someone in this book suggests she's afraid of herself. I'm thinking it's a combination of the two. Rachel is a powerful witch and some people (like Nick) find that intimidating and a bit scary. She needs people around her that won't envy her her powers and are secure enough in their own that her strength and power don't scare them. While the same traits in a man would earn him admiration, esteem, and respect, those same traits in a woman tend to have the opposite affect on some individuals. When Nick starts to pull away from Rachel, he pulls up all those insecurities Rachel has acquired over the years.

Kisten, surprisingly, identifies Rachel's vulnerability and we get to see him do what he does best--seduce Rachel. I can't help but feel that Ivy may have been a little too free with her tongue in regards to what she told him about Rachel. He and Rachel had spent so little time in one another's company prior to that, that it's the only way I can see how he could have figured out which of her buttons to push. This is where the relationship, so many have commented, on begins. What makes Rachel so appealing and admirable is that she doesn't compromise herself in anyway to conform to what society or any other individual feels she should be. She stays true to herself, and you can either accept her or not. Kisten is willing to accept her just the way she is, or so he says. I have to admit, after reading this book I'm not in the Kisten fan club at the moment. I'll be curious to see this relationship develops and am curious if my opinion of him will change? There were so many things that he did in this book that I had objections to. Granted, the chemistry between these two was flammable, but I'm not convinced he'd make good boyfriend material. I also have a question about what's up with the anklets that both Ivy and another woman have acquired from Kisten? Does it have some significance? It struck me as rather odd.

Kisten is also the one who identifies what makes Ivy tick. While we already knew that she doesn't like being a vampire, Kisten surprisingly reveals that to vampires, "Trust is a feeling we don't get very often, Rachel. Living vampires lust after it almost as much as blood. That's why Ivy is ready to kill anyone who threatens your friendship with her." Yet another insight into Ivy's mindset as well as vampires in general. I have to give Kisten credit, he's got balls to pursue Rachel when Ivy's so territorial about her.

Jenks also reveals his soft spot. Pixies are at the bottom of the supernatural totem pole. I've found this rather odd, because in book one we clearly see Jenks and his crew fight off assassin fairies rather easily. You'd think fairies would rank less, but for whatever reason it's pixies. I think Jenks was drawn to Rachel because she's always treated him with respect and as an equal. In his book, that goes a long way. In Dead Witch Walking, we saw how touched Jenks was when Rachel offered him and his family the garden to live in. To him that was everything. It gave his family security and a better chance at surviving. When Rachel keeps Trent's species a secret from him, it brings those old feelings of being inferior. Jenks, as Ivy states, "has and ego the size of the Grand Canyon." and Rachel not trusting him with the secret hurt him more than anything else could. While I feel he overreacts to the news, I loved how telling it was.

This book was filled to the brim with action and new characters. David Hue, an insurance adjuster makes his debut, and due to being in the wrong place (Rachel's) at the wrong time, he ends up becoming an ally and friend. Ceri, an elf who's been at Al's mercy for a thousand years, makes her appearance as well. Let me just say, I'm baffled that Rachel would put her in the protective custody of someone she (Rachel) knew so little about. This was by far one of the oddest things I've found thus far in the series. Newt, a female demon, also makes her first appearance and she is crazy scary, but hints that she knows things about Rachel. I look forward to finding out more about the only female demon alive.

I gave this one 4 1/2 our of 5 roses. I'm not sold on Kisten, but I'm keeping an open mind. I love how Rachel is acquiring good friends as the series progresses. I think the friendship between Rachel, Jenks, and Ivy will become stronger and more secure in the future even if at the moment Jenks is still mad at Rachel. I think his anger dissapate and he'll come to his senses. Ivy and Rachel's relationship seemed to take a big step in the right direction where Rachel and outside male relationships are concerned. I don't think she ever saw Nick as a threat, but her acceptance of Rachel's relationship with Kisten seems to indicate she's come to terms with it. At times this friendship has seemed a bit risky, but risk seems to be Rachel's middle name.  On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Order of the series:

And coming September 9th, 2014:

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