Reprieve — House of Rae Book 2

House of Rae franchisee Marie Argenta is on the run after her estranged husband Ned inflicts unimaginable tortures. Leaving her Paris House to hide out in the U.S., she ends up at the San Francisco House to serve as temporary manager. The very first day, her gaze lands on the most arrogant man she has ever seen, Adrian Velasquez. He’s also the most compelling devastatingly attractive, over-the-top pleasure partner the universe could ever conjure, which makes her think twice about the rules forbidding employee relationships.

Adrian knows what he likes and this new House manager Marie ranks above and beyond anything he’s ever imagined. Too bad his life is already crammed too full of family troubles, work overload, and finishing his law degree to even consider stretching the rules with this irritating woman. But a touch here, a kiss there, might be too delicious to refuse and she’s, well, she wants him. He knows it.

What Marie and Adrian are soon to discover is that Ned knows where Marie has fled and plans to take her back no matter what.

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EXCERPT:

As she rounded the court in her return route toward the entry, a couple of men splashed to the edge of the pool, evidently completing a race from the other end. Laughing, they grabbed the steel ladder at the same time.

Water sluiced from the first man’s body as he slung himself up the steel ladder and onto the deck at the same moment she tried to hurry past. They slammed into each other and if he hadn’t grabbed her arms to steady her, she would have fallen. His wet chest crushed against the front of her tidy gray suit. Her pulse fluttered in her throat like a captured bird. Adrian.

Struggling to catch her breath, Marie tried to speak. But words did not form. Water dripped from his dark eyebrows as his glittering blue eyes stared at her. Her mouth went dry as she stood immobilized against the virile lines and planes of his muscled body. He was wet. Heat poured off him, warming her through every point of contact.

She wrenched away from his grip and stepped back, trying to regain her composure. But her mind blanked as her gaze haplessly skimmed down his body. Then back up. Impossibly wide shoulders tapered to trim hips. Tendons wreathed his forearms from his hands up to his bulging biceps, and from there his broad chest tempted her to touch its scattering of dark hair and tiny brown nipples. His abdomen rippled with waves of muscle, taut and smooth before leading her eyes inexorably to the tiny strip of black cloth stretched over his … Mon Dieu, son encroyable excitation.

She licked her lips at the thought of tasting him, and the monstrous prize encased there grew even larger until its continuing entrapment in that band of black fabric defied the laws of physics. Her eyes flicked up to see him watching her, a brooding fire of awareness burning in his blue eyes. Her body instantly responded with a rush of liquid heat to her center.

Gasping, she put a hand to her flaming cheek and without uttering a word, turned to hurry past him.

He grabbed her arm, his grip burning through the fabric of her clothes. “Did you see what you needed to see?” he growled, his voice vibrating through her body.

Monsieur, s’il vous plait.” Her words came out thready and weak, as if she already lay under him with nothing but hot skin between them. Her mind had reverted utterly to the French language, unable to stumble through the process of translation. Really, she seemed unable even to think of what to say next, or of how to extricate her wrist from his iron grip, or of even whether she could possibly tear herself away from him when she wanted nothing more than to be pressed against him. He was hot, hard, and towered over her like a conquering lord, his blue eyes glimmering down at her, his nostrils flared.

The corner of his mouth curled in a seductive half smile. “Do you like it?”

Mon Dieu, he must have such an ego to brag like this, to think just the sight of him would cause a woman to swoon. Never mind that she was in fact in a kind of swoon. She would not let him take advantage of the situation. This time when she jerked her arm away, he let go. She took a step back and brushed down the front of her clothing where the dark gray marks of his wet embrace remained.

Marie leveled her most chilling gaze on him, eliciting his amused grin.

“Well played,” she said, hot anger rushing up her cheeks. “That is, for someone who needs constant adoration, évidemment.”

He laughed, a deep robust laugh that sent chills down her arms and peaked her nipples. “So you adore me?”

She huffed, straightening her jacket and aligning the cuffs of her blouse. “That is not what I said,” she sputtered, “but of course you will hear what you need to hear. Coureur de jupons,” she finished under her breath as she turned to walk away.

Apocalyptic Romance

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Okay, 2016 is over. Hopefully we’re not barreling toward a complete apocalypse. I kind of predicted this in my House of Rae series. The good news? Sex for hire is legal. The bad news? The world is on fire.

Here’s an excerpt from Book I, Salvation, set in 2060. Smashwords coupon WF94N puts this book at $1.99 (half price) through January 5. This is not a cliffhanger, fully standalone. Don’t miss it!

~~~

Lu wrangled his vintage Harley through heavy Kansas City traffic of early evening, coming in off Oak Ridge Road and onto the Loop for several miles before exiting to Ward Parkway. Red taillights and blue-white headlights glared on his face. The rushing air dried and heated his skin, poured over his head and pounded like a hard massage, whipping his clothes and hair.

A car whizzed past with its moto-tunes turned up way beyond the legal limit. Kids. Lu laughed. Night had always been their time to play. Off to the left, light poured up from one of the sports arenas. Like so many other activities, sports happened now in the protection of night. Construction, road repairs, athletics—anything that took place outside had become too dangerous in full sun. The mixing of worlds remained a congested and uneasy one with nighttime recreation now butting heads with work hours for so many.

The venerable Plaza district vibrated with activity. He loved the art deco buildings with their decorated facades and ornamental towers. A European village atmosphere made the shops and restaurants a uniquely appealing destination in the old town. People clustered along the sidewalks and around the splashing fountains and their bronze statuary—a mermaid blowing her conch, bare-breasted Pomona clutching ripe fruit, Poseidon amid rampant stallions. Lu parked the Harley and started toward the dance hall.

Absently, he looked at faces as he ducked and shouldered his way through the crowds. The mood here buoyed him. It had been one of the first places in the state to embrace the new agenda with buildings that accommodated energy collection and direction. The Plaza Energy Center had become a healing mecca for people from all over the region as well as the gathering and distribution point for energy sent out over the grid. Even now, he could see people crowding the entry to the three-story building and feel the buzzing furor of the energy healing process underway there. Above the roof, the air crackled. If he ever had time, he wanted to see the stats showing how much of the metro area population was covered by the Plaza grid. It had to be a major contributor, and that gave him deep satisfaction.

At the glossy red doors of Figaro’s, Lu waited in line until he faced the muscled attendant.

“Tiberius.” He grinned at the big man.

“Hi Lu, good to see you.” Tiberius flipped the switch and the door opened.

Lu pushed through the doorway and stood momentarily in the lobby.  Music crashed through from all directions, momentarily louder when one of several doors opened. The walls glistened and throbbed with a kaleidoscope of lights and sound. People came and went: men in tuxedos escorting elegant women in silk gowns, a cluster of enthusiastic young people with wildly coiled hair and fake buckskin clothing, two women with jeweled bracelets and ruffled flamenco skirts.

“Lu!”

He turned as he recognized the voice.

“Randy, how have you been?” He embraced the older man and exchanged a quick hug with the woman beside him. “Amber. You guys working a shift here?”

Randy nodded. The braid of his long reddish hair had partly frizzed out around his ears and neck, creating a coppery halo. “Tiring, though, for old geezers like us. Lots of energy pouring up the lines.”

They laughed, enjoying the company.

“Hell, it’s tiring even for young geezers,” Lu observed. “New adept at the House—and we need to hire at least another two subs.”

Amber nodded. “Next shift is training a new one here, lots of good people learning these skills. All the institute branches have waiting lists, especially for the dimensional stuff. Really gives me a lot of hope.”

“Me, too. But I wish science would catch up with us. What the hell is a dimensional shift, anyway? Are we hallucinating or are we really jumping past the fourth dimension?” Lu shook his head.

“I know, it bothers me, too,” Randy agreed. “Makes me wonder what we’re missing. I think we could be accomplishing more.”

“Need some kind of get together one of these days,” Lu said as they started their separate ways.

“Absolutely,” Amber called back, her long turquoise and pink skirts flaring as she strode off.

Lu smoothed back his hair, straightened the white silk shirt, and brushed his hands against his black slacks before pushing through the door marked “Tango.” Subdued light outlined the long room and its crowded dance floor. Once inside, all the building’s other music and noise died away leaving only the compelling strains of “Gallo Ciego.” He cruised along the tables of people before stopping by a woman sitting alone. Her dark eyes settled on him.

He bent at the waist in a formal bow. “Lieutenant Whitman.”

“Mr. Haverson.” She gave her hand, standing and smiling as they strolled to the dance floor without talking.

Her long fitted dress split to the hip, framing her left leg in shimmering yellow. Lu dropped her back against his arm, waited for the beat, and then they were off. Their dance with its rigid poses and abrupt turns became another of the many on the gleaming dance floor, elongated and rhythmic as their bodies pulsed to the tight drum and guitar thrums. Her skin brushed along his, her legs matched his steps thigh to thigh.

After a time, when their breath had quickened and outpaced the pulse of the music, they returned to the table.

“Fabulous, Lu,” she said, fanning herself with her hand and sipping from her tall frosted glass. “Been too long.”

“My pleasure, Cass. I love dancing with you.”

“Now, of course, you want to know what I found.”

“Yes.” Lu leaned forward, apprehensive about what she would say.

“Nothing. That’s the short answer. The long answer is a wreck about four days ago out on I-70 East. Might be a terrorism connection. The guy carried large quantities of explosives, looks like C-4, but the event didn’t leave a lot to pick through. Domestic thinks there was some kind of self-destruct mechanism involved. Driver evidently fell asleep, wrapped his ass quite neatly around an overpass support.”

~~~

And now, a glimpse of the bad boy of our tale, Josh Carter:

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