Sunday, April 30, 2017

Blog Tour Book Review: Arranged by Lexi Blake

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Author: Lexi Blake
Series: Masters and Mercenaries #13.5
Audience: +18
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, BDSM
Publisher: Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated
Release Date: April 25th 2017
My Rating: 4 Cups
Source: InkSlinger PR
Blurb (from Goodreads):
Kash Kamdar is the king of a peaceful but powerful island nation. As Loa Mali’s sovereign, he is always in control, the final authority. Until his mother uses an ancient law to force her son into marriage. His prospective queen is a buttoned-up intellectual, nothing like Kash’s usual party girl. Still, from the moment of their forced engagement, he can’t stop thinking about her.

Dayita Samar comes from one of Loa Mali’s most respected families. The Oxford-educated scientist has dedicated her life to her country’s future. But under her staid and calm exterior, Day hides a few sexy secrets of her own. She is willing to marry her king, but also agrees that they can circumvent the law. Just because they’re married doesn’t mean they have to change their lives. It certainly doesn’t mean they have to fall in love.

After one wild weekend in Dallas, Kash discovers his bride-to-be is more than she seems. Engulfed in a changing world, Kash finds exciting new possibilities for himself. Could Day help him find respite from the crushing responsibility he’s carried all his life? This fairy tale could have a happy ending, if only they can escape Kash’s past… 

*Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from InkSlinger PR in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my rating or the content of my review in any way.

It's not a secret that I love this series, and I was super excited to find out that the playboy king would get his story told.

The thing that I loved most about this book was how it touched on the delicate subject of male submissives from a cultural point of view. It's true that society believes that men should be the dominant ones, while women should be 100% submissive, at least from a sexual perspective. Seeing Kash try to reconcile his status as king and a sexual sub was really interesting. I also loved how Ian, the ultimate Dom, gave Kash a really great speech about that. Blake really knows how to deliver some really powerful words, and she managed to do just that in this book.

Day was a wonderful heroine and I would have loved to have more scenes with her outside of her relationship with Kash. I would have wanted to see her battle her way through politics and changing the lives of so many women and girls with her ideas.

Kash was an interesting character. It's really great to see he's not just the playboy I thought him to be, he was pushed by circumstances out of his control into that life, as a way to hide from his problems. I don't agree with how he did that, but I get it. I would have wanted to see a more complex scene following a certain really dramatic scene between these two, because I feel like the way it was dealt with wasn't as dramatic as what happened between them, but in the end it all works out.

I totally didn't anticipate who the bad guy of this story was. I had my eye on another character, and I'm very happy that in the end it turned out to be someone else.

All in all a great addition to the world of Masters and Mercenaries, and, as usual, I cannot wait for more!



Amazon  | Amazon Print

 
  “Are we a happy couple?”
“I don’t think we’ve had time enough to be sure of that yet, but I know we were once.” She’d thought it through in a way she never had before. She had a much different view of those months with Kash in England. “You were courting me back then, weren’t you? You wanted me to be your girlfriend.”
He sat down in the plush chair that dominated the sitting area portion of his bedroom. Normally they stayed in the living room, but he’d wanted more privacy. This was the only place in his suite that wasn’t covered by CCTV, the only place where they could truly be alone. Everything about the space was masculine and decadent, including the man himself. With his hair disheveled and his chest on display, it wasn’t hard at all to see him as a primal male.
One she’d dearly enjoy taming.
“I don’t think you realized it at the time.”
She was willing to admit her faults. “I didn’t. I had my nose in a book most of the time back then and I had little experience with men. No, I had no idea you were interested in me beyond copying my notes from class when you slept in.”
“It would surprise you to know that I often thought about sleeping in with you.” His voice had gone low and gentle. “I was crazy about you back then, Day. I find myself in the same position today, but I don’t want to scare you. I know you think we should take this slow and I will honor your wishes, but I want this marriage to work. You see me as a playboy, but I don’t want to be some forty-plus player who trades on his money to keep young girls around him. I think it might be time for me to find out if I can be the king my father would have wanted me to be.”
It was all she needed to hear. If he wanted to try, she was ready. Despite his reputation, she’d fallen right back into a peaceful friendship with him. He’d been the old Kash, supporting her when she needed it. He’d asked her questions about her work with the education department and then gave her ideas on how to handle the parliament. He hadn’t told her what she should do. He’d suggested, debated.
“I think you’ll find me less averse to giving this marriage a real try than you think. I was planning on talking to you about using the Palm Ceremony to begin to explore what we could be as a couple.”
He frowned. “I’m not sure what that means. You want to talk? Or have counseling? Because that sounds terrible.”
“I was talking about sex, Kashmir. I thought we could use this time to see if we’re sexually compatible.”
He popped up out of his chair like an eager puppy. “Yes. I think that is a brilliant idea. We should start now. Don’t worry. I intend to be gentle with you.”
She didn’t move at all. “Like you are with your lovely flowers?”
“Women deserve a man’s care,” he said quietly. “Day, I can’t erase my past.”
“I don’t want you to.” He misunderstood her problems with his statement. “But I do need you to understand that I’m not one of those flowers. I’m not here to sit at your side and bat my eyelashes in the hopes that you’ll buy something for me. I don’t work like that. I don’t care about your money.”
“That is easy for you to say. You’re about to have access to all of it, aren’t you?”
He had a point. “Even if I wasn’t, that wouldn’t be why I would want you, Kash. Sit down. We have some things to talk about before we get started. Come here close to me.”
He moved to the chaise she was sitting on, lowering himself down with a sullen frown. “I knew there would be talking.”
She was fairly certain his lovely flowers did very little talking, but he would get used to it. “Why did you want me back then?”
“I liked you. I liked talking to you. I liked being around you. I rather liked who I was when I was around you.” His expression softened. “I don’t think you knew how alluring you were to someone like me. You didn’t understand how beautiful you were, so you didn’t use it against me. Most women do.”
“Well, that happens when you surround yourself with women who are mostly valued for their looks. I don’t blame them. They’ve been told their beauty is the only thing worthy about them. If you want to meet women who don’t feel that way, you should probably expand out of models and actresses.”
“Well, you would be surprised how many gorgeous, sexy physicists turn me down because I’m not smart enough for them.”
       

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog int eh world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.

FACEBOOK / TWITTER / WEBSITE / AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Comic Book Tuesday #21: Justice League, Volume 1: The Extinction Machines by Bryan Hitch, Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea, Tomey Morey

Author: Bryan Hitch, Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea, Tomey Morey, Richard Starkings, Sean Parsons, JesΓΊs Merino, Matthew Clark
Series: Justice League, Volume III #1
Audience: +16
Genre: Comic Book, Graphic Novel
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: January 18th 2017
My Rating: 4 Cups
Source: Netgalley
Blurb (from Goodreads):

A part of DC Universe: Rebirth!

A new day dawns for the Justice League as they welcome a slew of new members into their ranks. The question remains though, can the world's greatest superheroes trust these new recruits? And will the members of League be able to come together against an ancient evil that threatens to reclaim not just the world, but the entire universe!

Masterful storytelling, epic action, and unbelievable art come together in Justice League from best-selling comic book writer Bryan Hitch (JLA) and superstar penciler Tony S. Daniel (Batman, Detective Comics).

Collect: Justice League 1-5, Rebirth

*Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley and DC Comics in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my rating or the content of this review in any way

After reading my first Flash comic book, I tried to keep my excitement and my expectations under control, because I feel like the hype surrounding these comics, both due to the various forms they exist in, and the fans themselves, can influence the experience of reading them a lot. And as I manage to do that, and as I read more and more of the stories from the DC universe, I'm starting to understand why are these comic books so well-loved.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. I was able to understand most of what was going on, even without knowing some of the most important details, like Superman's backstory. The story is a pretty simple one, with someone attacking Earth, trying to destroy the planet, and the superheroes trying to save the day. But I loved the aspect of "stolen powers". The creatures attacking the planet kept going on and on about how each superhero stole the powers they had, making some of the guys from the team doubt themselves a little bit. It was a really interesting idea, seeing all these really famous characters doubting themselves and also seeing how they dealt with it all. I am also intrigued by the fact that, even though they saved the day, the heroes didn't manage to find out who was attacking the planet. I liked that a lot, because it just means I'll definitely check the next volume out.

As far as the art goes, that one was fantastic. Each panel was more beautiful than the previous one, and there wasn't too much text, which I also liked. There were panels where the art seemed a bit different and it seemed as if the drawings for certain characters had some changes in them, but other than that I pretty much liked this issue. I'm curious to see what some of the older versions of the Justice League looks like, as opposed to this one. All in all, I was pretty surprised to how enjoyable I found this book, and I'll definitely keep an eye out for the next volume.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Release Day Launch Book Review: Razr by Larissa Ione

RAZR - RDL banner    

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Larissa Ione, comes RAZR, a passionate and spellbinding novella from the Demonica Underworld Series, brought to you by 1,001 Dark Nights! Be sure you grab your copy today!

   
RAZR - coverAuthor: Larissa Ione
Series: Demonica #11.8
Audience: +18
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated
Release Date: April 11th 2017
My Rating: 5 cups
Source: InkSlinger PR
Blurb (from Goodreads):
A fallen angel with a secret.

An otherworldly elf with an insatiable hunger she doesn't understand.

A cursed gem.

Meet mortal enemies Razr and Jedda...and the priceless diamond that threatens to destroy them both even as it bonds them together with sizzling passion.

Welcome back to the Demonica Underworld, where enemies find love...if they're strong enough to survive.

*Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from InkSlinger PR in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my rating of the book or the content of my review in any way.

Every trip back to the Demonica world brings me so much joy, and Razr is no different. I have to be honest and say that, since it's been a while since I've read the Horsemen part of the series, I don't remember much about the heavenly weapons that the angels used, especially not the Gems of Enoch. I do assume it's mentioned in Revenant, but I haven't read that one yet. I'm rereading the entire series, so I'll get to it pretty soon.

It always surprises me how the world of Demonica shifts and manages to get bigger and bigger with each new story. Jedda is a creature I haven't even thought of being possible, to be honest, and I'm truly truly excited because that means there is new stuff that can be explored within this world *winks*.

Razr also was really interesting, and I don't remember much of him from before, but I like how his story sheds some more light into the truly mysterious world of the angels within the Demonica series. We might know a few angels, but I feel like the more angels are brought into this story, the more we get to discover about the creatures.

The pacing is great and I didn't feel like I was reading a novella, although I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed for new, longer novels within this world *fingers crossed*. I wonder if this story somehow will influence the events in future books or if they somehow set the scene for more stories. I'm definitely looking forward to new stories, even if just novellas. Anything to keep me coming back to this world.




Amazon **Amazon UK ** Amazon CA ** Amazon AU **Paperback


  couple kissing on motorbike    
EXCERPT : “I want to know why you wear a damned burlap sack and flip-flops every damned day. You have access to anything you want, but the only times you aren’t dressed like a medieval monk are when you leave Sheoul-gra.” Azagoth cocked his head and intensified his focus, leaving Razr feeling like a germ under a microscope. “Is it part of your punishment?”
Razr started. He’d been living in Sheoul-gra and working in Azagoth’s employ for over a year now, and this was the first time his boss had asked him anything that wasn’t work-related.
“Yes,” Razr said, but it was a simple answer to a complex issue.
“Your situation is unique. You aren’t fallen, but you aren’t a Heavenly angel, either. You aren’t even Unfallen,” Azagoth said, referring to the in-between state of an angel who had lost his wings but who hadn’t entered Sheoul, the demon realm, to complete his fall from grace. He glided over to the wet bar and splashed rum into two glasses. “Heaven created a new designation of angel just for you.”
“Yeah,” Razr drawled. “Ain’t I special.” Except he wasn’t. There was another who had shared his status, his former lover Darlah, presumed dead after failing to return from a mission.
A mission that was now Razr’s alone.
Azagoth handed him one of the glasses, and Razr struggled to hide his surprise. And suspicion. The male rarely acknowledged his existence, let alone treated him like an equal. “For some reason, you are special.”
This was really getting weird. Azagoth had never shown any interest in him, but honestly, Razr was shocked that the guy didn’t know more about Razr’s story. He’d figured Heaven would have given Azagoth the full scoop, but apparently not.
“What I can’t figure out,” Azagoth continued, “is why you haven’t managed to take care of your business and get back into Heaven.”
Unable to remain still under this bizarre scrutiny, Razr swirled the rum around in his glass. “It’s not like you give me a lot of free time.”
“So it’s my fault?” Azagoth’s voice was smooth as velvet and just dark enough to raise the hair on Razr’s head. One didn’t just accuse the Grim Reaper of stalling shit. Not if they liked wearing their skin.
“Not at all,” Razr replied carefully, because his skin was pretty useful right where it was. “It’s just that I have limited resources in Sheoul-gra. I need more time in the human and demon realms.”

   
       RAZR - RDL teaser 2    

Larissa Ione - author image  About Larissa Ione: Larissa Ione is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. An Air Force veteran, she traded in a career as a meteorologist to pursue her passion of writing. She now spends her days in pajamas with her computer, strong coffee, and supernatural worlds. She believes in celebrating everything, and would never be caught without a bottle of Champagne chilling in the fridge…just in case. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her U.S. Coast Guard husband, her teenage son, a rescue cat named Vegas, and her very own hellhound, a King Shepherd named Hexe.  

Website | Facebook | Twitter | 1001 Dark Nights

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Release Blitz: Twist by Kylie Scott

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twist
   From New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott comes the second sizzling stand-alone novel in the Dive Bar series!

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot bearded bartender Joe Collins only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, fascinating, and pretty much everything he's been looking for in a woman—except that she lives across the country. Soon they're emailing up a storm and telling each other their deepest, darkest secrets...except the one that really matters.

When Alex pays Joe a surprise visit, however, they both discover that when it comes to love, it's always better with a twist.


Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AUS | Amazon CA | iBooks | B&N | Kobo | Google Play

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“I wanted to talk to you a bit more about what happened between us online,” he said, his mouth a serious straight line. “How I came to use my brother’s profile.”
Ugh. “I’m pretty sure I found out everything I needed to know last night.”
“I didn’t mean to lie to you, Alex.”
“Once is a mistake.” I crossed my legs, kicking my black leather bootie back and forth. So I was a little aggravated. Sue me. “Months’ worth of e-mails is not. You could have introduced yourself to me, Joe, told me who you really were. You chose not to. Christ, no wonder you kept putting off meeting. I should have known something was wrong.”
“You’re right. I shouldn’t try to sell you excuses.” A big sigh from my “friend.” “Truth is, I’m not used to being the bad guy. Usually I’m the one cleaning up my brother’s messes.”
“Lucky me.”

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kyliescottimageKylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet. You can learn more about Kylie from http://www.kylie-scott.com/   FACEBOOK | TWITTER | FACEBOOK FAN GROUP | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Blog Tour Book Review: Beauty Of The Beast by Rachel L. Demeter




Author: Rachel L. Demeter
Series: Fairy Tale Retellings #1
Audience: +18
Genre: Adult, Historical Romance, Fairy Tale Retellings, Gothic Romance
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: March 15, 2017
My Rating: 5 Cups
Source: Author
Blurb (from Goodreads):
Experience the world’s most enchanting and timeless love story—retold with a dark and realistic twist.

A BEAST LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF HIS PAST

Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.
A BEAUTY IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER FUTURE

Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…

Perfect for fans of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty of the Beast brings a familiar and well-loved fairy tale to life with a rich setting in the kingdom of Demrov and a captivating, Gothic voice.

Beauty of the Beast is the first standalone installment in a series of classic fairy tales reimagined with a dark and realistic twist.

Disclaimer: This is an edgy retelling of the classic fairy tale. Due to strong sexual content, profanity, and dark subject matter, including an instance of sexual assault committed by the villain, Beauty of the Beast is not intended for readers under the age of 18.
*Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my rating of the book or the content of my review in any way

I am so happy I got to read this gem of a book guys! After I stared at the cover a little bit, because let's face it, it's gorgeous, and read the blurb, I knew I had to read this book and I'm happy I did.

The first thing that stands out when I think about this book is that this is a retelling with a twist. It's a gorgeous story about two people falling in love, without any kind of magic in the mix. I wasn't exactly sure how that would work, but it did, and it was a fantastic ride. What is a fairy tale retelling without magic, you ask? A historical novel set in a really dark time in history, told in such beautiful prose, that it makes it seem impossible for at least a few elements from the story to not have happened in real life. I love the attention to detail that the author had for creating the kingdom of Demrov, from the geography of it, to the historical context of the story. And I love how refreshing the author's voice was. I haven't read many Gothic novels, but if this is how most of them sound, I'll definitely delve into the genre more.

I loved Isabelle so, so much. Her story is tragic, and yet beautiful at the same time. She was willing to sacrifice her entire future for the good of her family, even if her two younger sisters are selfish brats and don't really deserve anything beyond a good time-out. Some of the things that Isabelle goes through are really painful and hard to read about, but I feel like that makes her stronger. I also like how she sees past Adam's scars, and tries to understand him, to be civil with someone who has not had that much contact with the outside world in decades.

Adam's story is the one that I loved the most. For someone to not end up a madman after seeing the horrors he experienced at a young age, that speaks of a truly strong individual. I loved his sense of duty, even if there was no one who truly knew of his existence. The saddest part of his story is that, when you think about it, some version of it might have actually happened to someone during the French Revolution, or during any revolution really. Which is another thing that Demeter did beautifully, in my opinion, making sure that in some corner of their mind, the reader knows that this story is set in that historical time.

I am absolutely in love with this book, and I am truly, truly excited for the future of this series, to see what other fairy tales the author will tackle and transform them into literary gems. This book actually reminded me that once upon a time I used to love reading historical romances. All in all, I truly hope you guys will read this book, as it is one of the best retellings I've read so far and probably will be for a long time.




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~ The East Tower ~

Arms sprang out from the darkness. They spun her full circle and slammed her body against the king’s portrait. Isabelle gasped, more in shock than from pain, as she stared into Adam’s deformed face. The lantern flickered behind his massive form, casting his cloaked body in silhouette. But she saw enough to know he was far from pleased. Rage and frustration radiated from his body like a palpable force.

“I warned you to stay out of here,” he said, his voice dangerously cold and deep. Those rugged vocals vibrated against her body and seeped into her marrow. “What part of forbidden didn’t you comprehend?” His voice lashed out from the darkness like a hurtled knife, and the word “forbidden” seemed to whisper another meaning altogether. Isabelle tried to answer but failed to find her voice. Indeed, her vocal cords had turned to solid ice, as numb and cold as the blood rushing through her veins. She couldn’t breathe; she felt like she was suffocating.

“My mother gave me that musical box on my fourth birthday,” he said, the sensual lull of his voice causing the fine hairs on her nape to stand erect. “And now your recklessness has destroyed it. Have you nothing to say?”

“I—I’m sorry.” He offered no reply; only the ragged sound of his breathing and the hammering blizzard broke the silence. “Please—I didn’t mean any harm.”

She struggled under the weight of Adam’s colossal body and battled to free herself. He merely gave a low chuckle and pressed her firmly against the portrait. He looked otherworldly at that moment, like an angel of death seeking vengeance. Both beautiful and monstrous, his cool, sapphire eyes overflowed with warring emotions. In spite of his harsh and ruthless exterior, she detected a quaver in his voice and saw that his large, cloaked shoulders trembled. The darkness in his soul cast a shadow that embraced her; as she peered up at him, she knew he was drowning in the turbulent waters of a past time.

“What a disappointment,” he went on, his voice growing deeper still, mocking her words from so many days ago, “You’re like any other woman.”

“I—I’m sorry. Please, Adam. I—” Her gaze shot past his body and over the wreckage of a past life. She thought of her private chamber again—of the stale perfumes and outdated garments.

Her flight or fight instinct seized hold of her. She attempted to scramble free, but he merely grabbed her shoulder and whirled her back against the portrait. Gloves wrapped his hands; his long, silk-clad fingers grasped her shoulder and kept her firmly in place.

He stood intimately close.

Far too close.

As close as Raphael had been that night.

“Going somewhere, ma belle? After you’ve worked so hard to find my East Tower?”

Hands like two steel bands held her wrists in place. Hot breaths, which faintly smelled of wine, seared her cheeks and assaulted her senses. Her breasts flattened against the pressure of his strong chest, and she felt that same chest swell and deflate in perfect sync with her own. One large hand slipped down her elbow and glided across her extended arm. The lush material of his gloves drew a shudder from her heaving chest. His breathing grew more ragged, shallower, and the erratic beat of his heart banged against her own.

Anger and desire warred on his face, twisting his features into a mess of both monster and man. “Find anything of interest, aside from my musical box? Come, come. You went through such great trouble to get here,” he asked, his voice now threaded with both anger and something else.

Yes, Isabelle recognized that something else. It was the same note that had entered Raphael’s voice that night…

She attempted to duck under his arm, but he moved swiftly, capturing her in the crook of his elbow. Reeling her toward him, he emitted a low, haunting chuckle that swelled the eastern tower to its rafters. She was back where she’d started—pinned against the portrait, Adam’s body serving as a flesh-and-blood blockade.

Hunger radiated from him, enfolding her in a current of sizzling power. His silk-clad hand grazed the curve of her breast as it moved down her body in a painfully slow caress. Even more alarming was her reaction to him. Her treacherous body responded with a crush of hot and cold pulsating waves. Then he whispered a taunt in her ear, and his liquid baritone slid down her backbone like honey; it swirled inside her, finding its home in her most intimate area.

He leaned closer still. His face’s uneven skin brushed against her neck, the black waves of his hair tickled her chin... His thick arousal expanded against her, reminding her of what he was capable of—and of her sheer vulnerability.

His lips teased the base of her throat. Cursing her traitorous body, Isabelle gasped at the gentle scraping of his teeth. His tongue and lips tormented her throbbing pulse—just barely, stirring her skin in a mere ghost of a touch.


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~ Adam and Isabelle’s ballroom dance ~

Isabelle entered the ballroom at precisely eight o’clock. Moonlight, bone white and lustrous, threaded through the grand windows like prying fingers. The illumination set the medallion flooring aglow. Columns lined the oval-shaped room and graced a domed ceiling. A handsome grandfather clock towered in the corner, ticking off the seconds with a pulsating drone. Candelabras reached around the edge of the circular room and lurked like quiet sentries. Their wavering candles mated with the moonbeams and threw golden patches across the intricate marble floor.

Incredible silence surrounded Isabelle, pressed into her very being, as she slipped into the heart of the ballroom. She could almost hear the gay whispers of ladies and the delicate swishing of their lace fans. She smelled the sweet scents of their exotic perfumes and could hear the distant, ghostly echo of a pianoforte. And she knew that, despite the castle’s neglected state, it had once been a place of unrivaled beauty and glamour.

Much like Adam himself.

Isabelle spun around full circle, her mind transporting to a past era that brimmed with elegance and luxury. She felt the darkly romantic pull of the castle and its numberless mysteries... felt herself falling in love with its shadows and secrets. Dust motes danced in the shafts of moonbeams and wavering candles. Faintly she hummed beneath her breath, testing the acoustics in the spacious room. Her voice carried, swirling around her in an echoing cyclone.

 

Then she came to a standstill as a soft touch grazed her bare shoulder. Large, silk-clad hands rotated her body with a startling gentleness. A breath escaped her lips as she drank in Adam’s proud, towering form. Her mind slipped back to the previous day and night—to their sensual kiss in the stables.

A navy, double-breasted coat hugged the muscular curves of his body, offset by shimmering golden buttons. They looked like small glowing suns floating against a sky of rustic blue.

He resembled a flesh-and-blood prince. Proud. Formidable. In full command of everything and everyone in the room. Even a hint arrogant. Her heart hammered, threatening to burst. Suddenly she felt like she’d been thrust into a world of magic and romantic hushed secrets. The scars look out of place on his smirking features, she mused with a pang of sadness. And dressed in a cascade of cornflower damask and lace, the sparkling tiara half-buried in her curls, she felt like a princess.

Then it began.

Adam took a deft step backward, sank into a shallow bow, and outstretched his gloved hand. Isabelle grasped her flowing skirts and dipped into a curtsy, her heart madly pitter-pattering. Feeling like a young girl during her first ball, she accepted the invitation and abandoned her silk-encased palm in his own. Strength surged through his fingers, sending chords of awareness thrumming through her body.

Am I dreaming? If so, then let me sleep forever.

A muscled arm snaked around her torso and tugged her intimately close. Everything seemed to fade away while the heat of their bodies mingled as one. Her heart banged against her ribs as she sought the depths of his eyes. At this range, flicks of gold contrasted against his sky-blue irises. Much of the sadness seemed to have vanished, leaving an almost boyish delight in its wake. The right side of his face was devastatingly handsome, his hair so black it drank the twinkling candles.

Keeping her body pressed to his own, he swung her into the scandalous waltz dance. Her small fingers curled around his bicep as he lifted the other hand in midair. He swept her across the smooth marble floor, twirling her body, his large hand securely on the center of her back, his footwork extravagant and exact. Cords of muscle bunched and slid beneath her fingers, and light from the candelabras flashed over the mismatched sides of his face.

Isabelle felt clumsy—as if she had sprouted two left feet. She’d spent her youth traveling the countryside and coastline with Papa—not blushing behind a lace fan or dancing in lavish ballrooms. Adam, however, danced with a haunting grace; his movements executed with a fine, cultured polish. He clearly hadn’t been raised in the back of a wagon, she mused. Prince-like and regal, he’d danced this dance many times before; maybe it had been in another place and another life, but his confident, masterful steps gave the truth away.

Isabelle struggled to keep up with his graceful strides, though she knew she was making a fool of herself. She stumbled as Adam swept her into an unexpected twirl again; he reeled her back to his side, so they stood intimately close, then chuckled in her ear with the audacity of a pirate. The decadent sound rippled through her veins and mingled with the wine. His lips pressed against the shell of her ear, and the whisper of his warm breaths sent chills thrumming down her backbone.

I am falling for him—falling fast and hard.

Indeed. She’d been falling for him for some time.

“You’re a dreadful dancer,” he murmured against her ear. Paired with the husky baritone of his voice, the insult sounded rather like an endearment.

 

Regardless, she returned the blight with a swift and playful vengeance. “Perhaps my partner is to blame.” She cocked her head back and captured his bright gaze. He offered no retort aside from the arch in his thick brow.

Her face reached the height of his shoulder and not a centimeter more. She curled her head against the security of his chest and inhaled his essence with a reverent breath. A tangle of emotions welled in her gut, blurring everything but the moment... everything but the exquisite feel of Adam holding her. As he swept her across the smooth marble floor, the world whirled by in a beautiful, dreamlike mosaic.

She felt like she’d fallen into one of her fairy tales.

“Oh, Adam... I never want this moment to end,” she heard herself whisper against his coat.

“It doesn’t have to.”

Adam shifted back and forth in a tantalizing rocking motion, slow dancing to a melody only he could hear. As she melted into his embrace, the candelabras crackled and seductively flashed, accompanying each of their steps. Then he bowed his chin and hummed a beautiful tune against her forehead. It sounded achingly sweet, like a tender lullaby from the depths of a dream world. The force of his vocals resonated deep inside her, massaging Isabelle’s body with delicious caresses. Her heart resembled a drum—and she trembled in time with its beat. That immaculate baritone stoked her imagination, igniting an inferno deep within her soul.

Closing her eyes, she rubbed her cheek against his coat’s rugged material and sparkling buttons, abandoning herself to his rhythmic sways and husky baritone. Drawing her into its sultry, comforting depths, his voice surrounded her like liquid velvet. With increasing pressure, his palm swept up the length of her back, down and up, tickling her spine with each soothing movement. Heated breaths wafted against her hairline, stirring the curls about her shoulders. His every gesture felt numbingly gentle, executed with a startling grace. Isabelle had to remind herself to breathe, lest she faints from the pleasure of it all.

Emotion claimed the best of her. Isabelle exhaled a shaky breath as tears singed the corners of her eyes.

They danced like that for close to an hour, moving in perfect unison to the calming melody of Adam’s voice, the slick medallion floor sliding beneath their feet like some magical carpet. The marble ground reflected their waltzing images with the ease of a looking glass.

Everything felt dreamlike. Peaceful. Beautiful.




πŸ₯€ Meet the Author πŸ₯€

Rachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and her high school sweetheart of fourteen years. She enjoys writing poignant romances that challenge the reader's emotions and explore the redeeming power of love. Imagining dynamic worlds and characters has been Rachel's passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mother would record them for her. She holds a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances. Whether crafting the protagonist or antagonist, she ensures every character is given a soul. Rachel endeavors to defy conventions by blending elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness. Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words.

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