“I don’t know what it is about her, but she sets my soul on fire by simply existing.”
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“Deeper…” A chesty chuckle rumbled from him. “Why haven’t you told Wes about us?”
Her next breath got caught in her throat. She stared into his bright eyes, unsure on what to say.
“Is it because he’s your lover too?”
Uneasiness swarmed her, chasing her bliss away. She pulled back from him and maneuvered to the edge of the bed.
Surprisingly, he let her move.
She drew the sheet around her body and gazed out the window. The beautiful city of Atlanta and its sparkling nightlights gazed back at her. “You knew?”
“I’ve known from the day we met.”
She’d lied to him. She told him that she and Wes were just really good friends, but apparently, her false words were only convincing to her own ears. “How?”
“The way you two gaze at each other when you think no one is watching…I only pretended to be oblivious to it because I didn’t want to disrespect what you two had, but the day we kissed, all of that changed. I would’ve said something earlier. Although, I didn’t think I was in a position to do so.” That would explain why he needed to know where they stood relationship-wise.
He fell silent, and so did she.
The erratic pounding beneath her chest had her pulse racing. Her body felt strange. A static charge started at her head and worked its way down to her toes. In waves, it rolled back up her body and left the center of her back pulsating. “What the hell…?”
Bewildered, Rayne reached back under her shirt, and brushed her fingers over her dragon tattoo. She vividly remembered when she got it. It was years ago in Hong Kong. On that day, she was a little tipsy, and feeling mighty damn adventurous.
As she stroked her tatted flesh, it thumped against her fingers like a heartbeat. Weird!
In the thick of her confusion, something really freaky happened. Time slowed down. Rayne turned in a circle watching everything in motion drag to a sluggish pace. After that, everything went mute. She couldn’t hear the sounds of cars driving by, or the chatter of the people walking along the strip, who literally moved in slow motion as they sauntered by.
It was like being caught up in some bizarre dream.
A presence… She felt a presence that made her insides flutter. She’d felt this presence before, in her mind. Could it be him? Demetri? Had he actually found her?
Nervously, she clutched the end of her shirt and scanned the area for just a glimpse of him. No one stood out. No one even looked her way. Was he teasing her, or was her mind truly playing tricks on her? “That’s it, make me even crazier than I already am,” she muttered.
Along the side of the street, a cab pulled up next to her. The driver, a middle aged man with a cropped haircut and a broad smile, stepped out of the car. He trotted around the vehicle to where she stood and opened the back door. Sweeping his hand through the air, he gestured for her to enter.
Without asking any questions, she slid into the cab.
It was a quiet ten minute ride to the beach. Still smiling, the driver helped her out, and then waved for her to follow him.
Her Adidas’ rubber soles dug into the sand as they trudged along the deserted beach.
Off in the horizon, a pale pink tint from the moon beamed over the small waves in the ocean and highlighted the grains of sand. They sparkled under her appraisal like a trillion tiny diamonds in the spotlight.
The driver led her to a small gazebo near the shore. Sheer red curtains covered the openings. Through the transparent fabric a chaise lounge sat in the center of it. On the side, was a tall bucket filled with ice, chilling a large bottle. Probably wine. Long metal torches on either side of the shelter added to the glow already cast from the moon above.
“This is lovely, but why’d you bring me out…?” She turned to find the driver gone. “Ohh-kay, Houdini, where’d ya’ go?”
A gentle breeze blew ripples over the water and pushed the curtains back, as if to welcome her into the cozy enclosure.
Swallowing hard, she moved toward it.
A deep croon brushed the side of her neck. “Do you approve?”
Startled, she whirled around and tumbled backwards. The heel of her shoe dipped into a patch of soft sand and she lost her balance.
A pair of hands caught her by the arms. She was jerked upright and drawn against a hard masculine body. Her breath came out in shorts spurts as his arms circled her waist. “Oh God,” was all she could whimper.
Deathly afraid to look up into his face, she clutched the lapels of his jacket and squeezed her eyes shut. Panic picked at her nerves. Suddenly, she realized she was holding her breath.
Breathe, Rayne, breathe.
This was no dream, or vision. This was actually happening. He’s here! He’s really here!
The enticing scent that made her horny as all hell swirled around her in teasing ribbons of ecstasy. She couldn’t help but breathe him in with every inhale.
His long fingers slipped beneath her chin and tilted her face up to his. “At your request, I am here.”
She opened her eyes and her next breath got caught in her throat. Whoa!
Jet black, wavy hair draped his broad shoulders, and framed his porcelain face. Mid-high cheekbones and a narrow-bridged nose added to the perfection of his features. Accented by a fan of thick black lashes, bright, exotic eyes that shimmered like the ocean were fixed on her.
Plainly put, this man was crazy hawt, a real stunner. Never in her life had she seen a man, or woman, so incredibly beautiful. He was unreal. Just looking at him made every muscle in her body tingle, every nerve quiver and her lady needs increase. “Demetri?” she whispered, giving into the shudders darting up and down her spine.
His plush lips curved up into a sexy smirk, enhancing his beauty as he slowly removed her shades. “Hello, Angel.”
A Kiss of Ashen Twilight Excerpt
At the sound of her name, she immediately turned to Jace. The look in his eyes and the subtle tremor of his hungry voice alerted her of what he really needed. Blood.
Right away she pulled her curly hair away to bare her neck to him.
“No, Ariya,” he said weakly. “I can’t take your life. I’ve never—”
I’ve never fed before without killing in the process.
She silenced him, leaning down to press her lips against his in a kiss. “I trust you,” she whispered into his mouth in a kiss.
I can’t chance it, Ariya, his words echoed in her mind.
Ariya remembered his words about the feed.
With the right person, it is highly pleasurable, but potentially deadly. It’s hard to put into words the heights of bliss one rises to as they are pushed to the edge of death. Unless they share the experience with me, apparently. Then they don’t survive at all.
She sensed him tense with her remembrance and a wash of fear fell over him at the risk. Despite it all, she couldn’t let him die here. She refused to stand by and lose another person. This was the only option, even if she had to force her blood in his mouth to help him stay alive.
His understanding was confirmed as she felt his cold, yet gentle, touch. His hand caressed her skin in reluctant movement as he reached out to cradle her head. Pulling her down to him, he entangled his fingers with her tight, curly locks and sharply sucked in a gulp of air before speaking.
“Ariya, please forgive me.” Jace gripped a handful of locks in a tight fist and opened his mouth to reveal his white, shiny fangs.
With a soft growl from deep within his throat, he sunk his teeth into the soft skin of her neck.
Pain shot throughout her body, mixing with waves of pleasure. Jace held onto her as he fed, taking with her blood not only energy to revive him, but her very essence that mixed with his own. It drained into him as he took more and more.
Ariya’s blood was on fire with a passion she had never felt before. Sensual pleasure shot straight to her core. She wanted more. She needed to have more of him.
Just when she thought her body was ready to explode, he released her and she fell back on the sandy ground with shallow breaths.
Jace’s hands curled into claws and his back arched as he released a loud thunderous roar. His body regenerated itself right before her eyes from a scalded, damaged figure to his youthful, pale handsome form. His breath slowed until he calmed as the night stilled around them. He didn’t waste another moment before rushing over to Ariya.
“Ariya—” He grabbed her arms and helped her sit up. Gently, he caressed the two puncture wounds he had made on her neck.
The pain dissipated under his touch and when Ariya brushed her finger over the tender area, she found it smooth, as if he had never fed. How did he do that?
“Jace?” she said, her voice weak even to her own ears.
“Yes, baby. It’s me.” He brushed his fingers against her hair, smiling as he gave a gentle laugh.
Sirens loomed in the distance and the spell between them had been broken.
“Looks like that’s our cue,” Rich said with a gruff edge to his tone.
Jace looked up at his Uncle watching them in silence. “Uncle, I know you don’t condone–”
Julian held up his hand, silencing Jace. “We’ll discuss this later. Come, you can rest at the Ashen Twilight House.”
Rich tapped Gael’s chest before gesturing to their waiting vehicles.
Gael nodded in response. “We need to clear out before the Mortal law enforcers show up with tons of questions.”
Car engines started up like a musical symphony followed by a succession of doors opening and closing. Jace scooped Ariya up into his arms and rushed over to a nearby limo where Rich held the back door open.
Jace froze as something dawned on him. “Your bike.”
Rich waved him away. “Uncle’s got it taken care of. Come on.”
Jace climbed in the back, settling across from Gael while he set Ariya down in the seat next to him. Rich tapped the top of the limo in short succession before climbing in to join them. As soon as he closed his door, the limo started on its way.
Ariya shifted position to rest on Jace’s chest as he embraced her. Wrapping her arms around his torso, she exhaled softly, finally feeling the weight of the night’s events slip away.
“She lived,” Rich said, smiling proudly.
Jace nodded. “That she did.”
“You know what this could mean?” Gael leaned forward, folding his hands while resting his elbows on his knees.
Jace didn’t respond and Ariya wondered what he was thinking after hearing Gael’s question. As he looked down to meet her gaze, realization struck him like the heat of the sun’s rays on his cold skin.
After tonight and the act they shared, Jace knew his immortal days had been changed forever.
Spirited Away Excerpt
Shanti expected pain, but her whole body hummed, like that glowing feeling after an orgasm. God, it had been so long since she’d felt that hum of electricity between her thighs. If only this feeling were from a man, but it wasn’t.
The last thing she remembered was the blue scorpion coming towards her, then pain in her leg. She’d heard that some predators sent endorphins into their prey as they ate them. If so, she wished she’d gotten stung to death a few months earlier so that she could’ve experienced this kind of release before laying down a chunk of her savings in search of a spiritual release in India. This feeling traveling through her body was the ultimate release.
Oh no, she groaned, she was dead.
That eight-legged freak had killed her.
All she’d been doing was looking for a sign from God. But she guessed God intended to talk to her face to face.
Shanti struggled to open her eyes. When they adjusted she saw the dark blanket of night disturbed only by the stars that poked through. She wondered where she was. That looked like the Big Dipper over there. Was she still on Earth? Maybe she was having an out of body experience?
But…no. It felt like she was still in her body.
The tingling in her leg continued. It radiated down to her toes and up through her spine. There was no pain. Instead it felt…good. Really good.
Her mind turned once more to the sweet release that hummed at the base of her spine. She gave into the need to press her thighs together. But the friction didn’t work. It only increased the pressure. And that wasn’t the only place she felt a delicious pressure.
It radiated up and down her leg. She also felt a pressure resting on head. When she tried to blink, she felt an obstruction on her brow. Her eyes flicked over to the side. A hooded figure loomed over her.
This must be the Angel of Death. Wasn’t that Saint Peter? But she was pretty sure Saint Peter didn’t wear a hood. Plus there were no shimmering wings.
Maybe it was Anubis, the Egyptian god of the Underworld. That was whom her father had expected to meet at the end.
Shanti had spent many nights wondering who greeted her parents at the end of their lives. Her parents subscribed to different religious systems from each other. Her father began his life praying to Jesus, then prostrating to Allah, and finally ended up following a cult that worshiped the ancient Egyptian gods. Her mother had been a different story, or rather the same continuous story. From birth to death, Shanti’s mother continued her lifelong devotion to Shiva. In life, her parents’ different beliefs didn’t interfere with their love. They had been the most accepting people she’d ever known.
Shanti had never subscribed to any particular religion. She’d gone through so many in her youth that they all melded together. She did know that there was a Creator. It was evident in every blade of grass, in the organic systems of all living creatures, in the perfection of the ecosystem.
That is, before humans began poking at it with a stick.
Shanti was surprised to find her easy acceptance of this next stage of her existence. She was health-conscious by birthright. She’d expected to live an active life as an octogenarian as the coach-potato adults and the handheld-device addicted youth in her community withered away after half a century. She’d wanted to be able to say ‘I told you so’ to everyone in her community who went against her and continued to pollute the waterways. She’d wanted to dance in front of them in her svelte yoga body as they all lay in hospital beds on dialysis. But they’d have the last laugh.
Thirty was too soon to go. But so far death was having its perks. For example, that building buzz of an orgasm.
She wanted to hold still and let the waves of pleasure consume her. But then they stopped. The pleasant pressure released from her leg, but not her forehead.
She looked down at her leg. The hooded being had removed his -or maybe her- hand. Shanti tried to peer into the darkness of the hood, but she could see no facial features. She saw no dog muzzle to indicate Anubis either.
“Am I going to heaven?” Shanti asked.
“To Nirvana?” She wracked her brain through all the religions her parents had introduced her to.
“Elysium? Shangri-La? Zion?”
Still no response.
“Well I can’t be going to Hell. Not with all the work I’ve done for the environment and animals.”
The hooded figure pushed his hood back, revealing his face and Shanti let out a blood-curdling scream.
She’d never thought the Creator was a being like her. She didn’t think such a craftsman had a huge ego to craft its highest being in its own likeness. Plus she believed in evolution, which told her that humans were not born first, neither were they naturally the highest on the food chain. Had it not been for a meteor, the dinosaurs would have eventually evolved to write the stories that would make up religious texts and humans would be worshiping a reptilian god.
It was a shock to see such a different being up close and personal.
The closest approximation Shanti could use to describe this being was that he looked like a depiction of the Buddha. Not the human prophet Siddhartha Gautama, who was an Indian human male. This being resembled the cone-headed Buddha depictions with nodes around his dome instead of hair. His skin was a pale shade of blue. His eyes were overlarge and without lashes.
When all the air left her lungs at the end of the scream, Shanti calmed down and caught her breath. As common sense returned, she guessed this all made logical sense. She was in India after all. It was only fitting that one of that culture’s idols serve as her guide into the afterlife.
The being held up his hand. Even his fingers were overlong. It took Shanti’s mind in a different direction, wondering if all of his limbs were long.
God, she was horny even in death.
The hooded figure stretched out his fingers to her as though he wanted her to take his hand. After a brief moment’s hesitation, Shanti placed her hand in his. The second their palms touched, warmth flooded her body.
Pictures flashed through her mind. She saw an Indian woman smiling at her, surrounded by other cone-headed males with big eyes. Blue men, purple men, green men. Then stars. So many stars. And planets. Planets of colors she’d never imagined.
Was this what she could expect after life on Earth? To travel amongst the stars?
Shanti blinked and refocused on the being before her. His lips hadn’t moved, but she got the sense that he was communicating with her.
“Would you like to see the stars?”
Shanti gasped. Her gasp was the only sound in the clearing. His lips still hadn’t moved. The words she’d heard in her head hadn’t really been words, more of an image of the stars in a sea of dark space and a sense of someone welcoming her into that space.
“I have not heard the language of the Earth for many years.” His large eyes probed hers. “My deepest apologies if you find this invasive.”
He went to withdraw his hands from her. Shanti clasped it back, tightly.
“No. Its fine,” she said. “It’s just -I’ve never experienced this before. Well of course I’ve never experienced this before. Unless there’s such a thing as past lives, which my mother believed in, but I’ve never been so sure. I don’t really know what I believe, which is crazy now that I sit here before you and you’re giving me a choice of what to do next with my soul.”
Shanti stopped her tirade and took a deep, cleansing breath. She stared up at his eyes. His deep, soulful eyes.
“Did you understand any of that?” Shanti asked. She waited to hear his response, but it sounded from within her, from somewhere deep within. It began in her gut and radiated to her head. She struggled to concentrate on his words, or were they his thoughts?
“I understand that my touch does not repulse you.”
His thumb rubbed the ridge of her hand. Shanti felt a thrill skitter up her arm. “I like the way you touch me,” she said.
A small smile ticked at the corner of his mouth. His lips were full. She wondered what they would feel like against her lips, her neck?
His hand moved to her neck.
Shanti’s eyes widened. “Oh god, are you reading all of my thoughts?”
He shook his head slowly, his eyes were still fastened to her neck. “I do not understand all of your words.”
His eyes traveled across her lips. Shanti felt the heat. She pulled the corner of her lower lip into her mouth.
His eyes locked on her mouth. “I can read your emotions, you desires, clearly.”
Shanti’s lips parted. His nostrils flared.
Oh God, was she seriously flirting with this…she didn’t know what he was.
“I am Eloheem.”
Shanti knew that word. It was the Hebrew word for angel. So this was it. She really was dead. She looked down at her leg. The wound was closed. Only a red spot remained, but the redness was fading fast before her eyes.
“I sense unease within you.”
Shanti turned back to him. But he was no longer looking at her eyes, lips, or neck.
“Does it still ache?” His hands went to her thigh. When his long fingers brushed her skin, Shanti shivered. That pleasure-filled pressure running to her core once more. Her eyes closed unbidden and a soft moan escaped her lips.
“I sense another ache in you.”
“Yes,” she moaned aloud.
The physical feel of his fingers combined with the mental invasion of his voice threatened to send Shanti over a cliff of pleasure.
“Tell me your name,” he whispered into her mind.
“Shanti.” This time the sound hit her ears.
Shanti opened her eyes. His large eyes roamed over her body leaving a trail of heat in its wake.
“If you come with me,” he said into her mind once more, “you will never ache again. I promise you…”
Shanti watched as his mouth opened. She saw his tongue, saw his teeth clench the second before he sounded out her name once more.
Shanti couldn’t form any words with her lips. Luckily she didn’t have to. He said he could read her emotions, her desires. What she felt was crystal clear. She reached for his hand once more. When their fingers clasped, Shanti knew her life, or whatever this existence now was, would be forever linked to this man, or whatever this being before her was.