Friday, December 27, 2013

Griswold moments and an impromptu GIVEAWAY!


I'm baa-aaaaack. Bet you didn't even know I was gone! Hahaha. A few days before Christmas I actually decided to take a few days off for real. Not pretend off. But actually off. Since I was still yammering online, no one probably noticed. But I did. No writing, no editing, no hardcore promo, just off. 

Lovely!

But, alas, now it's over and I'm sitting here working on a freelance piece. 

I figured I'd pop in and post a hello and give you a few Christmas highlights. 

1. We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner here with Jim's family. Our Astro Weenie Trees were a big hit again. (This is our third year and I dare say girl child and I have a solid tradition now). We discovered the tiny cocktail swords worked! So we had swashbuckling fruit fasteners for sure. The trees were even more fun this year seeing as my nephew (the youngest) is seven now and discovered how fun they are. 
2. My big surprise gift from him was a Team Ichabod sweatshirt which is tres cool. I will eventually provide a photo. I also got this little guy. It's okay, you can be jealous now.:


3. Christmas morning was awesome. Including watching girl child open the "Weasley Sweater" I got her. I went to the thrift store and found the drabbest, most misshapen, striped monstrosity I could manage. Cut out her first initial from Christmas paper and taped it to the front before wrapping it. We've been reading (she's way ahead of me) the Harry Potter books (we're a wee bit behind the...entire world) and I couldn't resist. Second best was watching boy child unwrap his yearly ugly gift. A very scary knick-knack. A large bunny in a suit holding an umbrella...you'd have to see it to believe it. *Some other faves were mugs I got them. Girl child's said: Tea. Earl Grey. Hot. And boy child's: Respect the Chemistry.
4. Day after Christmas we saw family from out of town. It was a long gathering and it had it's Griswold moments but one of my favorite bits was my parents telling the story of Christmas night. Apparently, after we left, they went to see more family. It was at a new house and they'd only been there in the summer in the daytime. So here they show up in a neighborhood with bare trees, Christmas lights and it's pitch black. Yeah...they walked into the wrong house. Just...walked in! To another family in the wrong house on the wrong street it turns out. LOL. Funniest part is, one guest at that party, upon seeing my mom was carrying a tray of Baklava, offered to make them a drink and let them stay. Ha!
5. Boy child went out shopping with his friends last night (because he is INSANE). I got  text: 'they have three copies of your book here mom!' My night was made.

That covers most of it. Hope yours was lovely. If you feel so inclined, let me know your favorite bits in the comments!

IMPROMPTU GIVEAWAY: Tell me the reference for girl child's mug and boy child's mug (info on mugs found above in the blog). If you get them both right I'll enter you to win two choices of paperbacks from my cabinet of contributor copies. Lots of good anthologies in there to choose from. Send your answers to sommermarsden[at]gmail[dot]com with MUGS in the subject line. Contest ends 12/29. I'll draw from any answers that morning and contact the winner!

Merry day after, day after Christmas!

XOXO
Sommer

Friday, December 20, 2013

you deserve a treat today...(A Christmas extravaganza!) UPDATED!

*Author's Note: Apparently my email does not know a good person when it sees one. I found three lovely authors in my SPAM this morning. So please go all the way to the bottom to see the three I missed! Fa-la-la-la-la!

I have a problem! I admit it. I always have had this particular issue. I can curb it some years, others it's hopeless. When I shop for Christmas I have a one for you, one for me routine. This sweater for mom and oh...I like these socks. I have not done that this year, I simply can't. But I do feel after all the insanity and running and added stress in preparation I deserve something! So I bought a little book on iBooks to read. I stuffed my reader, if you will.

I think we all deserve a treat. All of us should have a tiny break. So I propose you pick up one of the ebooks below, find a quiet chair, make a cup of cocoa and tell the world to Fu--erm...Fa-la-la-la-la for an hour or three

Just a suggestion. And your Kindle, Nook or similar will be thrilled you didn't forget him...um...her? It!

Christmas/Holiday reads to check out:

The Kindle version is on sale right now (yes, right this very second, go look!) for $1.99. Seriously. $1.99. What else can $1.99 buy you? Oh, wait. I already covered that on my blog. Okay, so The Merry Xxxmas book is a tinsel-tinged tome of tawdry tales. Emerald says, "In turns, intimate, entertaining, poignant, and passionate..." and all for $1.99. BUY THE MERRY XXXMAS BOOK OF EROTICA




From the obligatory office party to a cabin in the woods, Christmas celebrations come in all shapes and sizes. The ladies in this Christmas anthology like to keep it original though, and get their festive groove on in bed shops and the Australian outback, not to mention the ‘Mermaids and Mistletoe Masquerade Ball’… A Christmas to Remember contains five lesbian erotica stories that will make your Christmas merry AND hot. BUY A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER




"Christmas break is supposed to mean relaxation. A respite. Time off from stress and insanity. Instead of the break she should get, Phoebe Briggs ends up with a storm that took a left when it should have taken a right. A definite snafu in her plans to be home for the holidays. Her plans of food, family, and friends turns into a nightmare of deserted snow clogged streets and a very unfortunate form of shelter. That, it turns out, she must share with a headless stranger. Okay, so Boone Edwards isn’t headless. It only seems that way at first.

A night of snow and sleet and “life saving sex” brings a morning of rescue. And a Christmas day full of surprises- some naughty, some nice. It’s a holiday that neither Phoebe nor Boone will ever forget. Whether their meeting ends up being the best Christmas present ever or a huge lump of coal."
BUY CHRISTMAS BREAK

 After surviving a battle with her mother, Rosemary is excited about her nest's first Christmas together. She has grown to love all seven men, even more than she needs them to feed her hunger for lust. When they surprise her with a trip, just her and her Prince, she refuses. But does she really want to fight against the seven men who know not only what her heart wants, but also what she needs? GET ROSEMARY AND MISTLETOE HERE FOR FREE!







 

 

A collection of sweet,sensual and hot stories from the queen of festivities, Victoria Blisse.


A sexy indulgence for you to enjoy this yuletide with all the sights, scents and tastes of Christmas without the calories and hard work. Snuggle up and relax into stories of sleigh rides, snowy interludes and Christmas couplings. A truly festive treat just for you. BUY THE BLISSE CHRISTMAS COLLECTION HERE.


Kimber Daniels knows what they say about assuming and how a person should never do it. But she can't help but assume her new neighbor Charlie Brewster is gay. What with is matching curtains, brand new filigree bird bath and that pink flamingo on his front lawn dressed in its cute little holiday Santa outfit. It's wrong to assume, but she does anyway, especially when he answers the door in a bright pink tulip covered robe.

It seems only logical that Charlie's a safe guy to be around when all other men are on her naughty list. While her best friend Sarah is trying to convince Kimber to make the moves on Charlie because he's a good guy, Kimber's trying to convince Sarah that Charlie is totally off limits and is simply the kind of man that sugar plum dreams are made of.
BUY PRETTY IN PINK HERE. 

When sexy red-head Bradie Clements comes home from Washington to nurse a broken heart and build bridges with her estranged father, she’s certainly not on the lookout for romance.  After catching her boyfriend Kris in bed with her best friend and boss, all she wants to do is run and hide.  But a chance encounter with local tattoo artist Colton Bassett leads to an unexpected appointment with his needle.  Even though it’s cold outside, the temperature rises to boiling point as the two discover an irresistible attraction.  But then Kris arrives on the scene to claim her back in time for his family Christmas and Bradie starts to remember what she saw in him.  Tormented by jealousy and suspicion over Colton’s pregnant business partner, Bradie starts to wonder if her new romance is over before it’s begun...BUY THE CHRISTMAS TATTOO HERE.


From the naughty minds of three of today’s top erotica authors—Andrea Dale, Sophie Mouette, & Teresa Noelle Roberts—comes a collection filled with winter holiday delights! So curl up in front of a roaring fire, sip some eggnog, and tell Santa that on Christmas morning, you want to find something…Sexy in Your Stocking! BUY SEXY IN YOUR STOCKING HERE.


The perfect gift comes in the perfect package.

This Christmas, Lynn receives more than she asked for when her lover Carlie decides to step out of her comfort zone and gives Lynn a new set of “tools” for her toolbelt.

Carlie and her straight friend Beth set out to enhance the gift with a few sexy additions and meet Jay, the experienced, knowing – and butch – owner of TOYLAND, who takes Carlie’s idea to a whole new level.

When Christmas is over, each woman has gotten exactly what she wanted – even if she didn’t know she needed it.
BUY BABES IN TOYLAND HERE

KINKY FOR CHRISTMAS brings you two tales of holiday heat. approx 6,000 words

In "Accosting Santa", Abigail Halpern wants a nice quiet Christmas Eve alone. Instead of attaining peace and her favorite dinner, she spies a false Santa creeping through her neighbor's yard. Her single-mom neighbor with a small daughter who Abby happens to adore. So, she does what any woman would do, turns spontaneous hero and tackles the stranger. Turns out, he's there for a very good reason. And when he's done his good deed, this particular Santa ends up making Abigail's snowy Christmas Eve hotter than her little fireplace ever could.

In "I Can Stuff Your Stocking", Prudence has to prove that she's still fun! The divorce didn't suck all the life out of her, did it? When she finds herself in line at the mall to prove her "fun-ness" by sitting on Santa's lap (plus there's a ski trip as a prize!) she doesn't think it can get any worse. Until she finds out the Santa is her ex-husband Jack. But it isn't as bad as it seems because this faux Santa might have a van instead of a sleigh but he remembers how to jingle her bells and sugar her plums. Jack's out to prove to Prudence that things can still get hot for them no matter how cold the weather
. BUY KINKY FOR CHRISTMAS HERE.
All my life I’ve been the quiet bookworm, the office mouse. It hasn’t bothered me. Immersing myself in erotic novels has kept me wriggling on the edge of my seat at work and firmly entrenched in my own fantasy world at night.Though one thing is bothering me—my damn virginity. If only I could find a sexy bedroom expert to introduce me to the delights of having a lover. Someone handsome and charming, who can rival the hunky alpha males in my books. I have a very vivid, very well-fed imagination—he’ll have to keep up.Then, one bitterly cold night, thanks to a devious, conniving, so-called friend, the perfect opportunity to rid myself of this pesky virginity problem comes along. Before I know it, the heroes in my novels have come alive in the person of Shane Galloway, who’s pleasuring me with every trick in the book and wheedling into my heart in the hottest ways possible. BUY COLD NIGHTS, HOT BODIES HERE.

A Christmas short: Denise has found a teeny weenie fixation that she didn’t know about. It seems spotting random and stray erections at various parties turns her on—makes her crazy, makes her randy. Causes her, in fact, to either accost her poor husband or take matters into her own hands. So she’s faced with two issues, a) it’s party season what with the holidays and family functions and there’s a plethora of spontaneous arousal to be spotted and b) eventually she’ll have to confess this little fascination to her handsome husband Thomas…who knew he’d react quite the way he did. BUY FIXATION HERE.

Top advertising executive Rachel was on a roll until hot and sexy Aaron shows up and gives her more than just a run for her campaign budget.Of course, Aaron has the reputation of being a ladies man around their all-male office, and Rachael wouldn't dare touch him…except in her wildest dreams. A terrible winter storm is upon them, and through an unlucky chain of events she finds herself in the arms of Aaron, but when the lights go off…the heat turns up!  BUY SNOWED IN HERE.



Cassie Williams plays sick to skip out of her family’s Christmas Eve gathering. But long-time friend, Sam McLane isn’t letting her have her pity party. There’s a blizzard on the way, and Sam shows up on her doorstep—bearing gifts...BUY UNEXPECTED GIFTS HERE.




What's a girl to do once she's gotten her wolf? Spend Christmas in the belly of the beasts...or at least their Town. Ruby's loving her new life until a single phone call makes her knees go weak, bringing the near past back into her cozy present. Seems an old evil has returned in a brand new nasty package to take another swipe at Ruby. Ellis isn't about to let that happen, and neither are her friends, but Ruby discovers she will be the only one who can really do what needs to be done. And it turns out there are things at stake she never imagined. Things she's willing to die for. *While not technically a Christmas book, Long Lost has all the elements of a lovely holiday tale of love, family and sacrifice. So I'm including it. BUY LONG LOST HERE.

ADDITIONS 12/23:

Cassandra Cross was run off the road after her companies Christmas party. Now, bound, naked, and held against her will by a vengeful Dark Elf, Cassandra only has one hope of escape—Eridus. The White Elf is not just her rescuer, but also the future Elf King. Bringing with him his two brothers,
Cassandra is not only going to find out the truth of her existence, but she is going to find out how good it feels to be taken by not just one hot, hung, hunky Elf King—but three hot, hung, hunky Elves. BUY THE CHRISTMAS ELF HERE.


When Aidan Flynn walks into Cluny’s Restaurant, he can’t take his eyes off his new flame-haired boss, Annabel Frost. With his heart set on seducing her, Aidan can think of nothing but getting beneath her cold exterior.

Known as one of the toughest women in the business, Annabel is impervious to Aidan’s many charms, and his compelling grey gaze and persuasive Irish lilt do anything but captivate her.

But Aidan knows there’s more to Annabel than meets the eye. And he’s not going to stop until he reveals all…BUY MELTING MS FROST HERE.

 


Jack hates going back to the East Texas town where he was raised. Even as a successful chef in Austin, he feels like that awkward gay kid all over again. But his dad is sick, and wants Jack’s famous hollandaise sauce for holiday breakfasts. When Jack finds out his old flame Kent is in town for Christmas, too, he thinks things can’t get much worse. Can Kent convince him Christmas miracles can happen? BUY HOME FOR THE HOLLANDAISE HERE.


And that's it! Buy one, buy all. Snuggle up with a warm cuppa and a hotter book. And to all a goodnight!

XOXO
Sommer

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Authors! Authors!


Authors! Do you have a Xmas/holiday themed book? (old or new!) I'm looking to do a single Christmas extravaganza on my blog Friday. I know it's short notice but if you have a book send me a small (200x300) cover, a SINGLE link (pick a fave: Amazon OR BN OR etc) and a single paragraph blurb. Classic no-no's apply. Please no books that contain underage, incest, animals etc. (shifters don't count). sommermarsden[at]gmail[dot]com Put XMAS in the subject line.

photo credit: Justin in SD via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Christmas Penguin and a Wise Woman...(warning: non-sexy squishy blog)

This is just a random Christmas memory. Or many, to be honest. I have been suffering a infectious period of nostalgia as of late. Someone told me that it was the stress of the current situation ie the man's cancer. I tend to agree.

I've always remembered my childhood fondly. Though it was hard in some aspects (the death of my father when I was 4) it was amazing in others (I had more people in my life who thought I hung the moon than you could shake a stick at. Whatever the hell *that* means). Some of my best memories are Christmas memories. Not only because I was spoiled rotten, but because it was always a period of time in the year that felt magical and utterly stuffed full of love.

There were hitches, don't worry. We had our Griswold moments. There was the year my dad (my mother remarried when I was 9) stained the new entertainment center on Christmas Eve. She was baking sugar cookies--late (she felt)--and possibly saying a few...bad words...and he had stunk up the house to the point where despite quite cold weather we had almost every window open. There was the Christmas I got new clogs, promptly twisted my ankle on the curb running (duh) across the street to show my friends and ended up being carried home (eek!) by the scariest man in the neighborhood Mr. Frank. I almost wet myself that Christmas. And then there was the Christmas I had my first nip of Christmas wine...yeah, that was interesting. I sort of crawled up the steps to bed. From a nip. What a lightweight.

But what I remember most are the books. Pretty much until I moved out on my own, my mother, wise woman that she was (is) would give me a book. See, Christmas was my favorite time of year. I loved the baking, the wrapping (I was often her Christmas Eve wrapping elf, going down and wrapping all her gifts to dad), the crafts, the music, the tree, the lights...By Christmas Eve I was practically vibrating. So on Christmas Eve she would tone down one love with another. Books.

For many years I got a series of Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County Books. Several years. I looked forward to them. There were sometimes books about Christmas. There were books that made me think. But the Bloom County books remain my favorite. And I still have them. And Opus is still my hero!

I remember when I was in my late teens/early twenties and still at home, I received Misery. I'm not sure if it was Christmas Eve or Christmas but I can tell you this, when the festivities were done for the day and we were home and I sat down to read...we lost power. Try reading Misery by kerosene lantern (yes, I was a Walton, didn't you know?) and not freaking out just a little bit.

I have given my kids books on Christmas Eve due to this tradition. They have developed a love for books that almost rivals mine. But my biggest wish for Christmas, especially this year, is that they develop the wonderful memories, feeling of love and safety, and treasure their memories of the holidays as much as I do. I hope they remember their childhoods with the same amazement and gratitude that I do. Even when we had our issues and I had my teenager insanity period that seems to be mandatory...I knew my family loved me. I knew they were my home. Christmas and all through the year.

XOXO
Sommer

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Blissemas Kissmas! A winter snog from Wanderlust

Thanks to Alison Tyler and her stuff-your-stocking blog fun, Wanderlust is currently 80% off. It's 99c on Kindle! Which means after the Christmas magic wears off, this 88,000+ novel will go back to 4.99. Anyway, here's a little winter kiss...well, it starts as a kiss (somehow I always have to say that) and builds from there.

Happy winter snogging, everyone. Check out the rest of Blissemas Kissmas HERE.

 From Wanderlust by Sommer Marsden

It had started to snow-big fat flakes that flew like kamikazes at the windshield. I rolled
down the window and stuck my hand out, the cold wafers of snow melting on my skin.
“You like the road,” he said. It wasn’t a question.
“I do. I like to drive. I like to ride. I like the way the car feels speeding down an open
road. Especially this car. Damn, it’s ugly but it really is like a sofa on wheels.”
He smiled, nodding. “That’s pretty accurate.”
“But yes. My favorite thing to do when I feel all tight and claustrophobic and panicky is
drive. It’s freedom,” I said.
“Ever think of just going?”
“Going where?” We had come full circle to this question from the night before. It must be
something he saw in me, or smelled on me. A secret he could read off of my skin like
invisible script.
“Going.” Johnny shrugged.
“I think the thought of considering that is too big for me.”
“You’ve never had the urge to just keep driving? Go as far as you could go and stop
somewhere and bed down for the night?”
“I think I have. That irrational urge to just move forward at all costs. Like the thoughts I
have when I hold a sharp knife,” I said softly. I had never admitted this to anyone in my
life before. Had never spoken the words aloud. “Sometimes when I hold them I wonder
what it would be like if I ran my finger along the edge. Or if I ran the blade along my
skin.”
He nodded. Not judging me and seeming to understand. It made me feel warm all over,
the look on his face.
“Or the urge sometimes when I’m on something high. The top of a staircase, a roof of a
building, an escalator at the mall, a cliff when I go hiking. That urge to just see what
would happen if…” I shook my head. Afraid he’d turn the car around, take me back.
Maybe drive me to the fucking psych ward.
“If you just stepped off? Jumped? What the falling would feel like?”
I nodded. “Yes, what the falling would feel like.”
He pulled over onto the shoulder of the road so we were nose-in to an old leaning
wooden fence. In the field beyond, two white horses nuzzled each other and then
tossed their unkempt manes in the wind.
Johnny pulled me in, I slid across the bench seat with very little resistance. He turned
my face up to his and kissed me. It was a boyfriend kiss. Gentle and kind and
unassuming. Until I parted my lips and let his tongue slide into my mouth. I was the one
to turn the kiss by putting my hand on his jeans, squeezing his cock gently in my hand. I
wanted him all over again. It seemed I fucking always wanted him.
“Do you want to fall with me, Really?” he growled against my throat.
I undid my jeans and moved away from him. Shimmying my hips, I got them down but
the oversized tails of his flannel that I still wore shielded me from any eyes that might
pry.
“Yes,” I muttered, working his belt. He helped me patiently—his hands calm where my
were hurried “I want to.”
“Just get in this ugly car and go? Go wherever. Follow the road and the snow and the
horses until there are other things to see and do.”
I climbed into his lap, facing him as I had the night before. This time, though, he was
bare under me. His cock hard and ready, his face sober and intent.
“Yes.” I bit his lower lip and he seized my hips in his hands. My wet opening was
pressed to the hard ridge of his sex and I moved just enough to feel his heart speed up
under my palm that I kept pressed to his chest to feel the life in him.
“Diners and hotels and roadside attractions,” he said, nipping me back.
“Yes,” I said, putting him in me, holding his hard length straight and true and sinking
down onto him so slowly that I thought I might scream and I was the one in control. My
thighs shook, my hands too. I anchored myself to him by gripping his shoulder. He held
my hips and thrust up hard and filled me.
We both stilled, eye to eye. I could see his pulse jumping at his throat. I was sure he
could see mine. Snow had started to cover the windshield—had started to gray out the
world beyond. Big wet lacy bits of it clung to the side windows. I could hear that
mysterious hushed hiss that always came with snow.
“Fall with me,” I said this time. I was the one to ask it. “Will you run your finger over the
blade?”
“You know it, Snowflake,” he said. And then he started to move. I was on top but he was
in control, pulling me down even as he moved up under me. His teeth, sharp and even,
sliding along my collar bone so that I shivered with the possible pain he could inflict. He
released my hips for just a second to cup my breasts. He lulled me in with the warmth of
his palms and when I leaned into him, he pinched my nipples through the plain white tee
I wore under his flannel. The pain that shot through me was sudden and perfect and I
came, my cunt gripping up around him making the friction almost unbearable, his cock
stretching me, filling me up.
“Again,” I said.
So he hauled me in by my shirt collar and kissed me, his hips still thrusting up forcefully
beneath me, his cock plunging deep every time. “You want to come again?
“Yes.”
“Let’s see what we can do about that.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Guest Blogger: Elise Hepner



Good morning, good morning. I am just up, there is coffee, I slept in (yay) but so far no snow (boo). For your Saturday morning treat--skip the sugary breakfast cereal--have some of Elise and her brand spanking (heh) new book!

XOXO
Sommer
~~~~

Somehow, I married a German born, blue eyed, fair haired, gangly man—when all I write is tall, dark, and handsome. Go figure. I don’t know how it happened, but I always envisioned myself with someone like Flynn, my hero in A Little Slap and Tickle. He’s towering, sinewy muscle, dark stubble, and chill inducing Irish accent with all finesse of Rhett Butler and cockiness of Damon Salvatore crammed into a svelte, but muscled package. He is scrumditiliumptious. I imagine him like this:


Yet, instead of an undead rogue who just can’t stop talking—or a skilled Dom with life skills and book smarts to rival any PhD, fate threw me a whopper of a curveball. My match is everything I didn’t know I wanted, which plays a heavy hand in A Little Slap and Tickle. Sometimes what you want isn’t adventurous enough and you have to be coerced to something absolutely different. Sometimes there’s no other choice.

When my husband set foot on my doorstep for the first time energies clicked, light exploded in the backs of my eyelids, I could barely breathe. All that super gushy good chemistry stuff that leaves people needing smelling salts happened to me in the span of a minute. My future husband gave me a hug and it was on like Donkey Kong, no going back. Regardless of preconceived packaging needs, that night I came home to my parents’ house where I was staying over winter break proclaiming that I would marry my future husband.

Oh, how they laughed. Silly girl.

Eight years later and four years married and my family’s singing a different tune. But I still can’t squelch my moth to flame love of all things tall, dark, and chiseled. In real life I have my fare haired rogue—but in my books my inspiration will never waver from true north. A dark man to match my dark fantasies and all the naughtiness that comes with it.


Blurb:
Eliza’s stuck in a lacklustre, dead-end slump after coming home with her graduate degree to a slippery job market and her brother’s fold out couch. Unable to circle newspaper ads for another second and desperately crawling into sexual fantasy to escape her dismal reality—Eliza takes her escapism a step further when she agrees to go to the Renaissance Faire with her best friend, Dru. 

Her whole world shifts when Eliza meets Hunter, a quirky, mysterious leather worker who runs a booth at the faire. He’s been a platonic friend of Dru’s for ages and supplies her with homemade BDSM bedroom toys—toys that he’s more than willing to demonstrate with Eliza once the faire closes. But can Eliza give up control in order to trust that one of her biggest fantasies will live up to her expectations? 

Hunter’s skills as a dominant force Eliza to trust herself again and Hunter finds himself with a feisty submissive that pushes more of his buttons than he ever thought possible. Together they push themselves farther than any fantasy, until their lives are never the same again. 

Excerpt:
“I can’t say I’ve ever…participated…in an event like this one before, Dru.”
“Is that a bad thing? Don’t you think you should expand your boundaries outside of your brother’s fold-out couch and a newspaper full of wanted ads? Come on, have a little fun, Eliza.”
Eliza glanced sideways at her best friend’s elfin, petite face speckled with sunlight from the gorgeous afternoon in the woods. Dru’s light blond eyebrows were raised in question, rose lips pursed. The dare for Eliza to question her hung unsaid in the air. A wisp of wind picked up Dru’s red, cork-screw curls and pushed them across her face. But Eliza only cleared her throat—unfocused on Dru’s warm, whisky colored eyes, and refocused onto the crowd in front of them amidst the trees.
At least she wouldn’t feel out of place in her Indian maiden leather get up straight out of some weird S&M store that she’d borrowed from Dru. The skirt brushed mid-thigh with leather tassels that didn’t exactly cover—anything. While the corseted halter top ended at an abrupt triangle showing the whole world that it’d been awhile since she’d hit a gym. What topped the whole ensemble off were more tassels threaded beneath her breasts in a weird attempt at an Empire waist effect. The outfit was an experience unto itself, even without everything to see and do unraveling before her eyes.
For a second it was hard for Eliza to think of their little adventure into unwashed bodies, crowds, and medieval costumes as fun per se. But damn if the food wasn’t out of this world. And her best friend was right. Her status as Master’s degree holding, library science geek hadn’t earned her points on any of her less than minimum wage job interviews this week. Most people in their small town were snug as a bug in their day jobs and there wasn’t much room for more work with positions being pre-filled by family and friends.
She’d been away too long at college. Long enough to lose favor when it came down to a townie and a girl with too much school experience. No matter where she looked, she was overqualified. Facts were facts—libraries were closing like mad. Not to mention they only had one in the area filled with employees who held onto their positions with their last dying breath.
There was proving to be no room for Eliza here. But there weren’t any options in the outside world with no savings and no one to lean on if she continued on her job losing streak. Until she got lucky, she was beholden to her big brother and a nine-to-five job pursuit. Better to get out of the house for a little while. Besides, she’d worn out her traditional red pen circling the newspaper ads in the back of the paper and couldn’t afford to buy another one until Monday.
Two months of moping was enough to fry anyone’s brain and she needed to leave her problems behind. So this trip back in time better offer up merriment and wonder soon. Or at least some free booze. Just because she was out of college didn’t mean she couldn’t indulge in a pint or two.
“At least it’s free exercise,” Eliza chimed in with an easy smile.
Okay, so all the men in kilts and shiny chainmail were a bit distracting and she hadn’t seen this many boobs since Christmas at her sister Cheri’s divorce celebration. But the atmosphere wasn’t that bad. As they circled all the vendor booths with creative, painted signs and traveled beneath the charming forest of old oaks, Eliza could almost forget about, well, everything. Her complete lack of independent direction and purpose in life. As well as the fact that her dreams of an easy life were more than dashed. But this was nice—a swell of happiness.
 A light breeze shifted through her A-line, brunette bob and she took a long, deep breath of carboliciousness. Her mouth watered and she continued following close behind Dru.
“Whoa, did you see that?”
“What? Oh, the woman holding the man on a leash in full bondage gear? They’re here every year. That’s old news, honey. People come to this place to let their freak flag fly high and for the most part no one gives a shit.”
She shifted her gaze away from the treacherous roots embedded into the earthen floor and watched Dru’s retreating—and fully corseted—back. Where was she going?  What could be so important that they needed to rush through the crowds? Eliza was positive she’d brushed up against her hundredth stranger in only a half hour of being in the gates.
Several people must have gotten an up-close and personal brush of her bra-less breasts in her confining, leather get-up. Dru had lent Eliza her costume from last year and as they struggled through the crush of the food court crowds she wished there was a little more of it. Not only was her outfit tiny and skin tight, but the mid-summer air kept wafting up the skirt until Eliza was positive she was flashing the whole park.
“Um, could you—”
Before Eliza could finish the sentence, she glanced up and Dru had alighted two wooden steps into an open air shop front. She was talking to a man in a long leather duster with delicious abs similar to the covers of the romance novels Eliza was so fond of reading in her spare—alone—time. He wore a wide brimmed leather black cowboy hat that obscured his face and matching black leather pants.
Was Dru seriously waving her over there to talk to him?
No, there had to be some mistake. There was no way she was prepared for any kind of social interaction, let alone a handsome stranger. Christ, they hadn’t even hit the bar yet. Not one drop of liquid courage had passed her chapped lips and her stomach plummeted down to her feet faster than when she’d been stood up by her date right before prom pictures. But Dru frantically waved her over and laughed with her head back so her red curls cascaded down her back in a manner Eliza imagined was seductive.
Well, no turning back now. Where exactly would she go? It wasn’t as though she knew the lay of the land. Besides, the minute the man shed his long leather duster to point to a tattoo on his bicep, smiling down at Dru, there was no longer a choice. She had to see him closer. Her mouth watered at the expanse of all that beautiful, almost naked, man flesh.
There was more to him than an intimidating, tight physique. His every movement exuded thinly veiled grace while his smile lit up his sharply masculine face. A contrast of good cheer mixed with a concentration on whatever subject interested him. Until he became riveted, obsessed, with a possessive awareness of his subject. As she got closer, she sensed his gaze snap to her face, expression unchanged. But in that split second Eliza sensed his acute judgment.
He measured her with his shadowed stare while his small quirk of a smile never wavered.
The friends continued to talk but their voices were drowned out by the heavy pulse at Eliza’s temples. All of her flesh seized with goose bumps. This stranger stood as if all the world was his to explore, with a brightness in his eyes that dared nature to defy his dominant curiosity over what he claimed was his by right. He looked as if the whole world would bow down to him. And he wouldn’t be surprised. But nothing about him screamed arrogance—only a self-certainty and a quiet sense of inner peace.
Weird that she should read someone so quickly, but he was an open book. Both hands on his hips, lean muscles stretched in his arms and back until her knees were weak. Dru spoke and he laughed, head tipped forward while one strong hand rubbed the center of his chest. The dark shadow from his hat brim obscured everything but the clean, model-esque lines of his face so she couldn’t see his joy.
But his bark of gravelly laughter hit her as a punch in the gut while her chest tightened. There were enough trees in this place that she should have never lost oxygen. There wasn’t enough air in the world right at that moment. As Eliza fought for composure she focused only on his tattoo.
Yield to life—there is only threat of tomorrow.
His tattoo was inked in thin filigree with woven rope knots all around the words. One breath. Another. Each one became easier even as she grew closer, knowing she had to hide all her ruffled feathers. There wasn’t a single nuance Dru wouldn’t pick up on and exploit.
One step after another landed her front and center next to Dru as her best friend slung her arm around Eliza’s waist.
“Took you long enough,” Dru whispered in mock chastisement.
Before she could get a good look at the man, he turned and rummaged behind his counter, giving them both an all-access pass to perfect ass land. Eliza knew she should keep her eyes closed, but they were glued to the tight, sculpted muscles on the wicked stranger. The faire didn’t seem that bad anymore.
Dru squeezed Eliza’s torso until she met her best friend’s shining eyes, lit up with nothing but pure mischief. These were moments Dru lived for—any opportunity to tease. But it never bothered Eliza, it was all in good fun and her best friend meant well. She remained oddly silent. Despite the fact that Eliza all but flinched while she waited for whatever whispered barb her best friend would deliver on behalf of her less than subtle reaction to the intriguing man.
How could she not have a reaction when his damn presence practically demanded one?
“Ah, here it is.”
His voice rushed over her tingling down her back and she had to stop herself from taking an automatic step back. Irish, too? Oh, no. No, no, no. He was more than perfect and she hadn’t even said a thing to him yet. Why was she even there? So Dru could lord this man over her head—the perfect romance hero—or so they could be set up together for an awkward date and never see each other again?
Hell, maybe she was taking this whole thing too seriously, but their history of set-ups was long and varied. Even throughout college Dru wasn’t satisfied until they each had at least two dates a week.
 This had to be some kind of evil set-up because clearly Dru knew the guy. They must be pulling this to screw with her head because poor little Eliza hadn’t been on a date in forever and who knows if there are cobwebs down there. This guy was some actor from Dru’s troop of players for sure. She’d done theater every summer for as long as Eliza could remember.
He came back up from his crouch behind the counter and turned back to them with something hidden behind his back. One long finger tipped up his hat. Eliza got her first straight on look at the man that she suspiciously regarded with every ounce of her petite frame.
His nose was slightly crooked. An old wound that hadn’t been set, maybe? A five o’clock shadow roughened the strong, square jaw and lips that were better suited on a female than the masculine portrait that acted as if he had nothing to hide. It took every last ounce of her will to gaze up below the brim of his hat.
He wore an eye patch. Whether or not it was for the faire or an actual problem, she couldn’t resist the edge of danger. His good eye—light brown with amber flecks—was bright with unreadable heat fixed solely on her face. She swallowed despite the lump in her throat. Nothing he did betrayed anything of how he was feeling or thinking—only the sharp look that pinned her to the floor.
And whatever he held behind his back.
For a long blink it was hard for Eliza to even remember that Dru’s hand rested around her waist. All she could focus on was the knowing twist of the stranger’s lips. The unwelcome and unexpected blush that seared against her skin when they hadn’t even spoken to each other made her fingers twitch at her side.
How could she resist him when he fit the caricature of an ideal man she’d been reading about in romances all her life? She was only stupidly comparing him to a man that didn’t exist. A string of perfections that couldn’t be real in one man. Left in the dust of her overwhelming horniness, well, she was being an idiot.
There wasn’t any other explanation for the way her hormones were skyrocketing off into different directions. He looked down into her eyes and she couldn’t help it—she giggled. That broke whatever fake connection she nursed in her mind. He plunked an item down onto the counter and shrugged back into his leather duster that had lain on the counter.
Without thinking, she blurted out the first sentence that flew across her scattered brain. An old habit that refused to die. And often led her to want to be buried in the same grave, instead of suffering the mortifying consequences.
“An eye patch, really? Aren’t you mixing genres with a cowboy and a pirate?”

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Bio: Elise Hepner lives with her husband and two eccentric cats in Maryland. She spends the majority of her free time in her basement office concocting smutty characters and sinful situations that leaves readers satisfied. When not writing, she researches everything from automatons in the 18th century to gladiatorial rules in Ancient Rome. She prides herself on being an avid information hound as well as a blog reading addict--which is her favorite way to procrastinate. Her previous publications include books and stories with Excessica, Xcite, Ellora's Cave, Secret Cravings Publishing and Cleis Press.
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Website: www.elisehepner.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/EHepner