Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Horns & Halos Collection

Demons and Angels have been among us for thousands of years, in many cultures and in many forms. What happens when you set the Mischief Corner authors loose on the vague prompt "Write a story about angels or demons?" The poor unsuspecting world is about to find out.

Archie's Accidental Kidnapping(Hounds of Hell #1) by Toni Griffin
Hellhounds are tasked with a very important job. Tracking down and killing Nephilim, half human, half angels. They are the absolute worse society has to offer and as such need to be eliminated. As Adze and his pack of hounds hunt the latest lowlife he meets Archie, his heart mate, something he never thought would happen to him. Now all Adze has to do is explain to his very human mate about the world he's just been dragged into, kicking and screaming. Sounds easy right? Not so much.

Internment(Spirit Threads #1) by Freddy MacKay
Alone on his mountain, the kitsune Tadashi only wishes to be left in peace so he can mourn his lost lover and take care of his temple. Unfortunately, several townsmen who have no idea of Tadashi’s true nature have different plans for the "Jap on the mountain" and his land. When they push the kitsune too far, he reacts with horrific violence, leaving tragedy in his wake. Broken and terrified of himself, Tadashi represses his natural drives and shuts himself off from the world.

The intrusion of a lost little girl and her persistent veterinarian uncle, Berg, into Tadashi’s life, turn his carefully ordered world upside-down. The reluctant hero needs to decide whether he is truly happier alone or whether he can once again embrace a truth he used to know, that life is for the living.

Hell For The Company(Brimstone #1) by Angel Martinez
Shax, the Demon Prince of Thieves, has reconciled himself to exile. He has a grand time careening around the galaxy as a high-end, intergalactic purloiner of pretties. Everything's going just fine, thank you very much. All right, fine, the anti-gravity cows are a bit problematic and some of his buyers are bad for his health, but he manages until he comes across an injured angel in a psychedelic alien jungle.

He only rescues the wing boy for his golden feathers, but what Shax doesn’t know about angels could fill an intergalactic encyclopedia.

Archie's Accidental Kidnapping by Toni Griffin
Chapter One
“What’s the deal with the bloody weather today? It’s hot as Hell.” Cacus bitched and moaned as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

Adze shook his head. “No, it’s not, Cacus. You’ve been to Hell, remember?”

“Don’t remind me, Adze. I don’t plan on going back. Ever!”

“None of us do, mate,” Pyro muttered from where he sat.

It was one of those rare days in February when Melbourne’s temperature skyrocketed to over forty degrees. Adze couldn’t wait for the sun to sink below the horizon and the place to cool the fuck down again. You never really knew what the weather was going to give you from one day to the next here. People talked about Melbourne as the city that had four seasons in one day, and they were right. The weather was all kinds of fucked up.

Nicor, Oriax and Daevas had even taken a break from the research they were doing to head downstairs for a swim, hoping it would cool them off.

Adze couldn’t believe how much the big strong hellhounds around him sounded like whiny little babies. As he’d reminded Cacus, they had been to Hell. All six of them had been born and trained down there and had dealt with much harsher temperatures than this in the past. He wondered silently if they were becoming too acclimated to Earth and if that was a good or bad sign.

When the need for a new team to be sent to Earth had arisen, Adze had received notification from Lucifer’s second that he was to choose five other hounds and make haste to Australia. The previous pack that had guarded the continent hadn’t survived its encounter with their last target.

Adze hadn’t liked the sound of that, but he would’ve done anything to get out of Hell. He hated it there, as well as most of the people that either lived or were confined there. He’d gone immediately to gather his friends and they’d all readily agreed to go. They’d been training as a group for a hundred years so Adze hadn’t expected any of them to turn him down. They had all wanted to get out of Hell as much as he had.

Hellhounds had been charged thousands of years ago with keeping the balance on the surface. They accomplished this by cleaning up the damage the angels did every time they visited Earth and couldn’t keep it in their damn pants.

You would think after the first couple of dozen times a child created by an angel and a human went insane and on a killing spree, the angels would have got it in their heads that maybe Earth wasn’t the best place for them to go and fuck their hearts out, but no, that would have been too easy. Instead, they continued to come, continued to find willing women, bed them, and then leave them whether they were pregnant with their offspring or not, heading back to heaven and their angelic duties.

He wasn’t exactly sure what it was that caused the offspring to go off the deep end, but Adze thought it might have something to do with the fact that angels just weren’t meant to procreate with humans. Their DNA didn’t seem to mesh well and ended up creating all manner of evil beings. Homicidal maniacs, terrorists, rapists, serial killers, bombers, arsonists, you name it.

Nine times out of ten, the person responsible for the atrocities would have angelic blood flowing in their veins. The cases of the responsible party being completely human were getting rarer every day.

There were hellhound packs located all over the globe charged with hunting down the nephilim—half angel, half human—and killing them. If the party was found to be completely human, then Adze and his pack didn’t touch them. That was the job of the local law enforcement.

As the angels refused to keep track of every woman they slept with, things were a hell of a lot harder on the hounds than they could have been. There was no easy way to find an offspring from one of these hook-ups. Only when a hound got close enough to the being could they sense the angelic blood in their veins.

Once the hounds got within a couple of kilometers of a nephilim they were able to track it easily. Angels glowed with a white aura that Adze had found in the past to be almost blinding when looking directly at them. Their children’s auras, however, blackened with every evil act they committed, making them stand out amongst all the humans.

Adze was thankful that whatever it was that caused the corruption in their bodies didn’t occur until adulthood. Only in extremely rare cases did this take place sooner. When the corruption manifested in adolescence, school massacres often resulted and Adze hated those the most. The needless loss of life seemed so much worse when kids were involved.

The nephilim they were tracking at the moment, Michael Bates, was wanted for the kidnapping, torture and murder of seven young men. His victims all had light brown hair, but of varying lengths, their eyes had all been differing shades of green and they all stood less than six foot tall, their ages ranging from twenty-two to twenty-eight.

Two of the seven victims had been in Melbourne on either business or pleasure, whereas the other five had lived in suburbs scattered around the city. They didn’t drive the same vehicle or attend the same groups, their professions ranged from a florist to a dentist to a student currently studying at law school.

He hadn’t kept the men for the same period either. Some he kidnapped and tortured for weeks before killing the victim and leaving the body in a public place to be found. Others he kidnapped and their bodies were discovered the following day.

None of it made any sense to Adze and he could feel his frustration growing exponentially along with his discomfort from the heat.

One thing they had going for them was the fact that this one was in their own back yard. Melbourne was their home base, the place they always came back to, and the city they knew better than anywhere else in the country.

Internment by Freddy MacKay
Part One - Monsters on the Mountain
Chapter One
Spring was alive and well on the mountain. Green buds covered the treetops, bushes bounced with the breeze, tulips and daffodils poked through the ground, and the smallest of forest creatures skittered about looking for their treasures from the previous summer and fall. Tadashi smiled as a familiar young squirrel scampered around his feet, chirping and squeaking at him furiously.

"I didn't take your nuts," chastised Tadashi, switching his broom to one hand. "You've forgotten where you've put them. Or they've decided to become wonderful new additions to the forest in the form of trees."

The squirrel stopped its angry barrage of noises and looked up.

"I'm telling the truth, Kou," said Tadashi. "I haven't hidden your nuts."

Kou chirped once.

"Look over there, by the arches." Tadashi pointed at the gate. "Why do you think a Black Oak is sprouting? I didn't plant it there."

The squirrel's nose twitched. He stared at the seedling then took off in the opposite direction for his oak by the temple.

"Aren't you even going to say you're sorry?" called Tadashi, shaking his head.

Kou climbed up his tree and went straight into his nest.

Tadashi chuckled and went back to his sweeping. "Little pest."

He didn't mind the forgetful little squirrel. The temple would seem big and empty without him. Company, in the form of the squirrel, was a welcome reprieve from his duties. Tadashi would have to remember to procure some of Kou's favorite treats. He had some hidden away. The spring was always a rough time of year for the small forest mammals like Kou, the poor squirrel could use a break.

Though he wasn't so small anymore. Kou had just turned a year at the end of April. It felt like just a moment ago that Tadashi had been up nursing Kou back to health after his mother abandoned the litter early. Kou had been the only one to survive. He'd been a fighter and would continue to thrive, though Kou had to be hungry. The winter had been an unusual one, the cold extreme even for the mountain, and food was hard to come by at the moment.

Definitely not an easy time for the animals, their stomachs empty, and they were looking for a mate. Tadashi stopped sweeping the grounds and searched for the squirrel. No wonder Kou was so upset. He must be preparing to lure a female. Were there any around? Tadashi scanned the trees and the forest floor beyond the gates. He couldn't see them, but he could smell them. Quite a few in fact. All of them were scurrying about looking for food.

Kou knew what he was doing, wanting his nuts. Sneaky devil. But then, Tadashi raised him. He only had himself to blame for the squirrel's cheeky behavior and slight, oh, awareness.

A squirrel raised by a kitsune. He must be getting lonely. Him, a messenger of the god Inari, taking in such a small pest. What is the world coming to?

Tadashi picked up his broom and headed back toward the small building next to the temple. At the same time, Kou popped back out of his nest, pinecone securely between his teeth. The little pest did have food. Kou ran by, dragging the pinecone with him.

"Be careful once you pass the gates," warned Tadashi. "It's not as easy to protect you once you leave the shrine."

Kou stopped and tilted his head, observing Tadashi.

"Here at the shrine, my powers protect you," said Tadashi. "Step off the sacred grounds, only my luck travels with you."

It wasn't the good kind though. Hadn't been for years, not since the Japanese engaged the Americans in the World War seven years ago. But Kou didn't need to know that. His happy aura was one of Tadashi's only lights. He didn't want to damper it.

"Go, have fun."

Kou chirped and ran off, scampering away with a sense of purpose.

Tadashi faced the temple and bowed, asking a favor from his god, Inari. "I know you and I haven't been on the best of terms, but please, protect Kou."

Tadashi straightened then resumed his course to the small hut by the temple, ignoring the larger house behind the shrine. He ducked into the doorway and took several long steps to the dresser by his bed. Tadashi rummaged around the top of it. He had kept a stash of Kou's favorite nuts for an occasion like this one… somewhere. A small, brightly colored cloth bag finally peeked out from under a pair of socks.


He had used a little of his magic on the bag so it preserved and kept the nuts fresh. Tadashi grabbed the sack and stepped back. He gently placed it on the floor so he could grab it once he had shifted. Tadashi quickly pulled off his clothes, letting them drop to the floor.

Funny thing about real clothes, they wouldn't just disappear like the ones that formed when he used his magic. Getting tangled in real clothes was cumbersome and annoying. So was having to strip naked to shift.

Hell For The Company by Angel Martinez
Chapter One
Bullets pinged off the rock beside Shax’s head.

Projectiles? Really?

He ducked lower and tapped frantically at his link, hoping it hadn’t taken damage. “Verin! You there, bud?”

A low growl came back through the link. “This better be—fuck! Is that gunfire?”

“Maybe,” Shax conceded as he flattened himself in the dust.

“What in Lucifer’s name did you do now, bonehead?”

“Um, there were pretties…”

Verin’s cussing became too heated and high decibel for him to continue the conversation for a moment. Finally, he stopped the tirade. “Get back here, then! Fast as that damn horse you borrowed can manage!”

“About the horse…”


“Got shot out from under me. I could, ah, use some backup out here, Ver.”

More grumbling came through but this time accompanied by the sounds of engine startup. “You at least get your damn pretties?”

Shax grinned despite the dire situation. “Oh, yeah. Show you when we’re off this dirtball.”

Engine noise drowned the next round of grumbling. Thank hells. Verin was coming for him. Not that a little thing like a gunshot was going to kill a prince of hell but damn it, being shot hurt. Maybe some demons got off on the whole pain thing, but he’d rather skip it, thanks.

“There’s nowhere to go, scum!” the local protector of law and order bellowed. “Give up now and we’ll most likely hang you all nice and humane instead of skinning you alive!”

Oh yes, now there’s incentive for you. The shooting had stopped for a moment, so he dared to poke his head up above his rock cover. “How about a third choice?”

“You’re out of choices, boy!”

Shax rolled his eyes at the incredibly witty rejoinder. “How about I go away and you never, ever have to see me again?”

He offered his most charming smile, then dove for the ground, swearing a black streak when bullets zinged around him. Ow. Shit. He pushed his hat back, probing gently at his scalp near his right horn. His fingers came away bloody. “I am never going into any bar that has a piano player, ever again. Cheap, shoddy, hick town. Stupid humans.”

The roar of the Brimstone’s engines briefly muffled the gunfire. Shax thought his partner would come in shooting but Verin often had more precipitous solutions. He simply set the ship down on the posse.

“Ew. Squish.”

The few townsfolk who were not under the ship galloped off, suddenly keen to be elsewhere. The loading ramp lowered with the bitchy whine of old hydraulics. Verin stood at the top, huge arms crossed over his chest, tapping one clawed foot on the deck plates.

Shax staggered out of his hiding spot, trying hard for an annoyed expression rather than one of profound relief. He pointed to the hull as he stumbled up the ramp. “I am not cleaning that mess off.”

“Idiot.” Verin snorted. “The mess’ll freeze the second we leave atmosphere and burn off the next time we do reentry. So damn planet-bound still.”

“Shut up. Am not.” Halfway up the ramp, Shax stopped. “Why’s the ship crooked?”

“It’s not. Get in here. You don’t look so good, genius.”

Shax was about to admit he didn’t feel so great, either, when the loading ramp inconsiderately leaped up and hit him in the face. The last things he heard were Verin grumble-cussing and soft mooing.


* * * *

The headache wasn’t as bad as the ones after a bad tongue-lashing from the boss. Humans thought that was just an expression. Ha. The Prince of Darkness had some of the most ingenious punishments. Still, Shax wasn’t in any hurry to get up.

Verin had dumped him in his cabin, probably to get him out of the way and secured during liftoff.

“Would’ve been nice if you could’ve taken off the boots, Ver.” Shax swiped at his blankets, trying to get some of the dust and sand off. Filth was not his modis operandus. Wasn’t usually Verin’s either, but sometimes Verin just couldn’t be bothered with small details.

He stripped and put the dust-plagued clothes in the dry-cycler. He’d deal with rips and scuffs later. The shower was sonic, better for water conservation, but it did have the luxury of a warm air jet massage, one of the reasons he had taken the captain’s cabin. Verin had the pilot’s quarters, equally well equipped.

Designed for a crew of six, the Brimstone was more ship than they needed but Verin did well with the flying part and he did well with the mechanics so they had no use for a pilot or crew. Since they had no need for a ship physician either, it was just the two of them, which suited them both fine.

Shax fingered the bloody line that parted his red-gold hair beside his horn. Pissed him off that those idiots had temporarily marred perfection. His horn hurt, for hell’s sake. Otherwise, he still looked good. Oh fine, his black eyes were a little bloodshot and a nasty bruise colored his jaw. He needed rest and pampering, but Verin sure as shit wasn’t going to do any of that and he’d left the minions behind on Earth.

He pulled on comfortable old work pants and a sweater, shrugged on his jacket and shambled off to the kitchen. While he wasn’t really in a mood to deal with computer snark, he needed his damn coffee.

Lights came up as he entered. The bench slid out from under the counter to welcome him. “Ivana, coffee.”

“How about you ask nicely, handsome?” the lisping CG voice purred. The damn computer had been programmed with a drag queen personality and neither he nor Verin could figure out how to change the settings.

“Ms. Ivana Cockatoo, might I have some coffee, please?”

“That’s better. Now why are you out of bed, sugar? You look like five light-years of bad road trip.”

Author Bios:
Toni Griffin
Toni Griffin lives in Darwin, the smallest of Australia’s capital cities. Born and raised in the state she’s a Territorian through and through. Growing up Toni hated English with a passion (as her editors can probably attest to) and found her strength lies with numbers.

Now, though, she loves escaping to the worlds she creates and hopes to continue to do so for many years to come. She’s a single mother of one and works full time. When she’s not writing you can just about guarantee that she will be reading one of the many MM authors she loves.

Freddy MacKay
Freddy grew up in the Midwest, playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since Freddy was small and throwing worms at other kids, expect worm throwing has been replaced with a healthy geocaching addiction. Freddy enjoys traveling and holds the view a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.

Freddy's contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place - Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Freddy's story, Internment, tied for 3rd Place - Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Freddy's steampunk/SF story, Feel Me, was a finalist and honorable mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards for SF.

Angel Martinez
Angel Martinez currently lives part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head. She has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.

Angel's alter ego writes the all-ages science fiction - Sandra Stixrude.

Toni Griffin

Freddy MacKay

Angel Martinez

The Chauffeur by AP Hallmark

Title: The Chauffeur
Author: AP Hallmark
Genre: Romance
Release Date: June 6, 2017
April Sanders is beautiful and educated. She’s also a chauffeur. Her elite client list is quite extensive, and Jason Rowe is one of them.

From the moment he lays eyes on her, he tries to gain her attention, but unlike the other women he’s encountered, she isn’t impressed. Imagine his surprise when he learns she’s been hired to drive exclusively for the family.

Remaining the dedicated professional, April rejects Jason’s advances. That is until she receives the approval of the family matriarch. Her life will never be the same.

When a business deal goes sour between Jason and a competitive business associate, April gets caught in the crossfire. After a series of suspicious and ominous incidents threaten the Rowes’ inner circle, Jason’s possessive and protective nature knows no bounds where Ms. Sanders is concerned.

The Rowe’s are powerful and have powerful connections. When a member of the family is wounded, there’s no stopping the force behind them.

“Sure. Kyle, would you like to join us Wednesday night?” I ask, getting back to work. As I bend over to start emptying the box marked ‘kitchen’ I look at him, seeking his answer, and discover that he and Jason are having a silent conversation.

“Sounds good, April. I’ll bring the wine.”

Good manners dictate that I invite Jason, as well. “Jason, would you like to join us? I mean, if you aren’t busy?”

He pushes off the counter and throws his empty beer bottle in the garbage.

“Thank you, but I can’t. Maybe some other time?” He ghosts his hand down my arm, pulling me to him. “I want you all to myself,” he whispers in my ear, lying his stubbled cheek next to mine. A breathless moan gets caught in my throat.

Straightening, he looks around the apartment. “Your place looks great, April. Welcome home.”


“Good night everyone.”

“Good night, Jason. Thanks for the pizza and beer,” Emily calls.

“Yeah, Jason. Thanks!” Adam shouts across the room, waving. I notice that Sam doesn’t say a word.

I’m angry at his rudeness and head out the door to apologize for his behavior. Just as Jason turns the corner, I hurry to the top of the stairs, and I say it.


He stops and stills for a moment before turning, greeting me with a smile.

“Thanks for your help today and the pizza,” I say, pulling on the long strings of my cut-off jean shorts.

He takes the stairs one gradual step at a time to stand directly in front of me. My heart begins to palpitate, and my breathing becomes erratic. I take a step backward when he angles himself above me, forcing me against the wall. Placing his hands on either side of my head, he lowers his face close to mine. I can feel his warm breath on my cheeks, and when his hand cups the back of my neck, goose bumps cover my body. What I didn’t expect is the strange tingle making itself known low in my belly. Lord, if he knew how my body was reacting to his touch right now, I would never hear the end of it.

My hands search for purchase against the wall and my eyes close when he fists my hair. Gently tugging, he forces my head back even further and just when I think he might kiss me, he stops. His lips are so close I feel their heat. I focus on his mouth and wait, but he just stops. As soon as my eyes meet his, his mouth crashes down on mine, and he holds me captive as he consumes me. A whimper escapes my throat when his tongue touches mine. And just like that, he stops. My heart begins to pound in anticipation when he looks at my mouth, leaning toward me again. Eager, I close my eyes and wait for a kiss that never comes.

When I open my eyes, he’s gone. Taking a deep breath, I release a heavy sigh and rest my head against the wall. As I turn to go in, I’m startled to see Kyle leaning against the doorway, watching Jason’s aftermath.

“You’re in trouble now, April.” He laughs and turns to go back inside.

“Wait. What? What do you mean by that?” I shout, chasing him back inside the apartment.

Author Bio:
A.P. Hallmark resides in Reno, Nevada, near her youngest daughter and four grandchildren. A paralegal in real life, she started her love of reading at the young age of fifteen, beginning with her first Harlequin Romance … and Fabio.

Her male characters are strong and possessive, her women are strong and feminine. With two powerful lead characters, her stories are filled with adventure, romance, and sometimes their will to be the last one standing gives her readers a fun ride.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Running Hot by JL Sheppard

Title: Running Hot
Author: JL Sheppard
Series: Hell Ryders Motorcycle Club #2
Genre: Contemporary Motorcycle Romance
Release Date: June 23, 2017
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Thomas “Cuss” Layne has never wanted for anything, except the beautiful girl he saved so long ago. But she’s a rich girl, and he’s a biker. For years, he hasn’t had a glimpse of her. Still, he's never been able to get her out of his mind. When her life’s in danger, he rides to her rescue once again. This time, he’s determined to do what he should’ve done long ago—make her his, in every possible way.

Tiffany Hamilton has never gotten over the bad boy with the sapphire eyes and midnight hair, the boy who once saved her. She wants him—a touch, a taste—but he’s never wanted anything to do with her. It’s past time to move on. When the sexy biker barges back into her life, saving her yet again and making demands, he makes it impossible to say no to his raw magnetism. She’ll finally have everything she’s dreamed of…but will it be enough?

Movie wasn’t halfway done, and his girl had already passed out. Head on his shoulder, legs on the couch to her other side.

Smiling, he took a breath. Her head on his shoulder slipped lower. He wrapped an arm around her, turning toward her slightly until her head lay on his chest. Either he’d gotten good at doing that or she was a heavy sleeper. Probably the latter, not once when he carried her to bed had she woken.

She let out a small sigh and burrowed into him.

He loved that. She did it a lot, and every time she did it, it made him feel like he had the world in the palm of his hands. Maybe not his hands, but he definitely had the world sleeping against his chest.

His gaze slid from her face to her hair. He threaded his fingers through it. So soft. So thick. He spared a glance at the television and realized he missed an important plot point. Now, he was lost. Nothing new. He never paid much attention to the movie once she dozed off. He just sat there and watched her sleep. Often, he ran his hand through her hair like he was then. Every once in a while, he looked to the screen. And when he did, he remembered the movie would be over soon, and then, he’d have to force himself to stop staring at her, carry her to bed, and head home.

Worse part of the night, heading home.

He hated it, hated leaving her.

And still, it had to be done.

Her eyes narrowed, but she kept her cool, speaking low and calmly. “Go to hell, Cuss. I don’t need saving especially from you.”

The muscle in his jaw jumped. Breathing heavily, each of his breaths hit her face. “Want me to count all the times you needed me?”

Would he? Even the thought sprung tears to her eyes. Truth, she didn’t know if he would. As good a man she knew him to be, he also shut her out of his life.

She wouldn’t stand there and find out. She turned on her heel.

He snaked his arm around her waist, tugged her to him until her back pressed against his chest. Then he lifted her off the ground.

The warmth of his body consumed her. Her body, betraying her, molded against his. She forgot why she was angry, why she had every right to be.

She had to focus, had to remember. “You want to let Blaze, Rake, and everyone who walks by know if it hadn’t been for you, I could’ve been raped, twice? Or no, three times, if you count my stalker.” Her voice trembled.

His whole body tensed. If she hadn’t felt his heart pounding against her, she would’ve thought it’d stopped beating he was so still.

“Fine. Be a dick. I needed you then…”

His arm around her waist tightened, leaving her without breath. Simultaneously, he covered her mouth with the other, muffling her words. “Shut it, Tiff. Fuckin’ shut it before I lose my shit,” he whispered against her ear, voice low and laced in rage.

The flood of tears she held back slid down her cheeks and onto his hand.

Running Wild #1
When the perfect life Alyssa Holden planned turns out to be a life of lies, she runs to her brother, the only person she can trust. She has no idea she’s running straight into a world of badass bikers who live and ride by their own rules. One tatted rebel in particular calls to her wilder side, and while everything in her draws her toward him, every experience she’s had with men warns her away.

Jace Warren is doing what he’s done his whole life—trying to survive, making the best with what he’d been given. The only life that makes sense after the military is Hell Ryder’s Motorcycle Club, but the sweet innocence of his army buddy's sister promises a different life, one a man like him can only dream of. Problem is, being his MC brother’s sister puts her off limits. Hard as it is, he keeps his distance. Then she kisses him, and all bets are off.

Author Bio:
J.L. Sheppard was born and raised in Miami, Florida where she still lives with her husband and son.

As a child, her greatest aspiration was to become a writer. She read often, kept a journal and wrote countless poems. She attended Florida International University and graduated in 2008 with a Bachelors in Communications. During her senior year, she interned at NBC Miami, WTVJ. Following the internship, she was hired and worked in the News Department for three years.

It wasn’t until 2011 that she set her heart and mind into writing her first completed novel, Demon King’s Desire, which was published in January of 2013.


Running Hot #2

Running Wild #1

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Sanctuary by RJ Scott Part 2

Accidental Hero #8
Chicago Cop Simon Grant and Sanctuary operative Cain Brodie, have to be the heroes of their own stories, just to stay alive.

Everyone wants Chicago cop, Simon Grant, dead. Armed with an address, he is on the run and heading for Sanctuary, only to end up at the wrong end of a gun. Is it possible the tall amber-eyed man holding the gun is actually going to be able to help him?

Cain Brodie is in charge of Sanctuary’s new Chicago office, C-Tower. His well organised administration day takes an unexpected turn when he has a man wanted for murder right in his gun sights. Thrust into a situation he has no control over suddenly he needs to be the one in control.

Accidental or not, Simon and Cain have to be the heroes of their own stories, just to stay alive.

Ghost #9
Can you ever hold on to a ghost?

Elliot is tracking an elusive killer, codenamed Ghost, with ties to organized crime. Every time the Sanctuary team gets close, Ghost slips their grasp.

Cole has nowhere left to turn. With his father dying and his sister in danger, he turns for help to the very people trying to track him down. Sanctuary’s assistance is what he needs to punch another hole in Varga’s organization.

When Elliot and Cole meet, it isn’t just passion that consumes them. When lust becomes something more, Elliot realizes that sometimes you can’t hold on to a ghost, and that sacrifice is often the only way to make things right.

By the Numbers #10
Secrets and lies threaten Brandon and Daniel’s new love.

Brandon Hoselton is running scared, finding security in his obsession with patterns and numbers. With his family threatened, he feels he has nowhere left to go, and even considers ending his life to keep them safe. Until Sanctuary, in the shape of the enigmatic Daniel Karnes, gives him a reason to stay alive and offers the possibility of a future free from fear.

Former SEAL Daniel is new to Sanctuary, tasked with watching Brandon, a brilliant geek with way too many secrets. Falling in love with quirky Brandon is easy; now he just has to make sure secrets don’t end up with them both dying.

The only way of destroying Varga is to cut the crime boss’s money, and the two men become part of an intricate take-down involving millions of dollars. But Brandon has a secret he can never share with Daniel, and their new love is at stake.

When the villain has murder in mind, sometimes the only way to stay alive is to lie.

Accidental Hero #8
Original Review January 2016:
I am so excited for this new story arc in the Sanctuary series, as the original is one of my favorite series.  Cain appears to be a bit of a bumbler at times or at least in some of the more physical side of his job but he's more than just a computer nerd who is running the new Chicago office.  Simon isn't exactly too keen on being told this is how things are going to go, don't get me wrong he's glad for the help and grateful someone believes him but he has his heart and mind set on the doing and not the waiting.  Together, Cain and Simon are a match made, maybe not in heaven but definitely made to fit.  Can't wait to see where this arc goes and who else shows up.  With Accidental HeroSanctuary continues to blend romance with action, adventure, intrigue, sass, and characters that will piss you off and make you grin like the village idiot all at the same time as only RJ Scott can.  If you haven't read the original, then this is the perfect time to do so, you won't regret it!

Ghost #9
Original Review March 2017:
Another great read by the masterful RJ Scott! I have not read everything she's written but I have never been disappointed with the work that has crossed my Kindle and Ghost is no exception to that.  I always enjoy a good enemies to lovers tale, okay maybe enemies is a bit harsh for how Elliot and Cole begin but they certainly are not friends, perhaps adversaries is a better word.

Sanctuary does what is does best, protect the hurting, I can't quite say innocent because lets face it, the cases, protectors, and protectees can fall into a bit of a grey area when it comes to the legal side of the table.  The chemistry between the boys is off the charts, whether it's mud-slinging, easy going banter, or just existing within the same four walls, you can just feel the heat emanating off your e-reader.  If you are sitting down to read the print version you better be prepared for spontaneous combustion because Ghost is full-on foreplay.

I won't touch on the mystery aspect of Ghost which is a continuation of the Vargas case that began the Chicago arc in Accidental Hero because I don't do spoilers but I will say it kept me intrigued from beginning to end.  As I type this I am patiently waiting, or not so patiently to be honest, for the next and possibly final installment By the Numbers.  If you haven't read Sanctuary, Inc yet I highly recommend getting your fingers walking, prepare tons of your caffeine beverage of choice, and diving in because you won't surface till you finished.

By the Numbers #10
Original Review May 2017: 
I can't believe it's over but what a way to go out!  Sanctuary is an awesome series that has had a little bit of everything in every installment and By the Numbers is no different.  Brandon's determination to protect his sisters is what fuels his actions even as the fear settles in.  Daniel may only be doing his job as he protects Brandon but he can't help but be impressed with Brandon's resolve even if he has no clue to the man's true intention.  As they butt heads at every turn they soon become more than protector and protectee.

It is very rare when you are able to love the final book in a series as much as the first, truth is I can probably count on one hand how many times that has happened and one of them is definitely Sanctuary.  RJ Scott has created a world that successfully combines intrigue, mystery, and technology stitched together with drama and just the right amount of humor nestled in a cocoon of romance, love and yumminess.

I loved watching Brandon grow throughout the pages of By the Numbers, he may not see it but I could.  One thing that really stood out for me was the stimming, which I'm not ashamed to admit I had to look up. For those like me who is unfamiliar with the term it is a self-stimulatory behavior, the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects often used to calm and stimulate oneself.  For Brandon, the stimming is in the form of counting numbers.  Is it a huge part of the story? Not really but in my opinion it is another example of how RJ Scott doesn't just follow a winning pattern or formula when writing her series.  It may or may not fit the term "outside the box" but it does show the human factor, the details that make us all different and it's just one of many reasons why RJ Scott is one of my all time favorite authors, not just in the M/M genre but across the board.


Accidental Hero #8
Chapter 1
Everyone wants us dead. 

Cops. The entire Drugs & Gangs team. Varga. Any of them, all of them, they all want us gone. 

Simon Grant crab-walked backward, reaching the wall and curling his knees up so that he was as far away from the body as possible. Blood pooled in a macabre circle of scarlet, spreading almost to his feet. What was left of Jamie Harrington’s face was toward him, and Simon couldn’t look. He closed his eyes tight, aware the sight of broken skin and shattered bone would never leave his memory.

I’m telling you, we should talk to someone outside the precinct. 

The last words Jamie had said just a day before. Mere hours before Simon had found this tableau of blood and gore, laid out before him.

A noise had him plastering himself against the wall, belatedly realizing it was he himself who had made the sound, halfway between a groan and a keen of denial. Horror had nausea rising and he tried to breathe to calm his gorge, but all he could smell was cordite and blood.

“I should have—” not said a fucking thing to anyone. Simon finished the harsh words that had begun out loud and ended inside, where he knew he would keep them forever.

He pushed his hand through his hair, anchoring his fingers in the length of it, blood smearing his skin. Then he crawled over, the wetness of blood soaking his pants, and felt for a pulse.

Jamie had half his face missing, his dark hair and skull matted, and one of his eyes blasted away… no face.

He’s gone, and I checked for a fucking pulse. 

Simon froze in place. A gun lay in the blood, obscenely black against the red, just inches from Jamie’s outstretched hand as if he’d been reaching for it, looking up at his attacker and hoping to hell he reached the police-issue gun before he was killed. Why had it been left?

For fuck’s sake, think. Analyze the situation. 

Was Simon supposed to pick it up, put his prints all over it? Was the killer watching, waiting for him to fuck up, waiting for him to be blamed for the death of his partner?

He had to box away the horror, push aside the shock and grief, and think.

He counted down from five and considered what next. The apartment was on the second floor. Whoever did this could be waiting or coming for him next; there was a gun in the blood, and Jamie was dead. What if it wasn’t Jamie’s gun? Simon looked around the otherwise spotless room, grabbed the nearest bag he could see—a brown grocery bag—upending it. The apples and cans inside spilled into the scarlet on the wooden floor. Had Jamie been out shopping? Did his murderer follow him home?

Just to one side, a bouquet of red roses lay half in and half out of the pool of blood. The white paper they were wrapped in had darkened in places; petals lay on the ground, weighed down by blood.

Simon used the grocery bag to pick up the gun. Long strings of sticky scarlet linked the gun to the floor for a moment and Simon pushed back sickness again. He’d seen death before, but never one that hit so close to home.

He turned his head to get some fresh air from the open window. The sound of sirens closing in was enough to have him leaving the apartment, turning left instead of right, moving to the back of the building and the way he knew he would be able to get out. Going up instead of down, he made it to the roof in record time, only a little winded. The gun was in the bag, pushed firmly into a pocket of his jacket.

He stepped back right near the edge and centered himself. Counting in his head again, he sprinted toward the next building and jumped the six-foot gap, landing and rolling onto solid roofing on the other side. He fell heavily on the gun, shoving it into his ribs, but he’d made it across and that was no mean feat.

The exit plan had been formed amid teasing and laughter over beers at Jamie’s last get-together for colleagues, on that clear Chicago night.

“You’ll never make it across,” Jamie had said on a belch. “Your short ass and stubby legs will have you tumbling into the alley. You’ll end up in a dumpster, and don’t think anyone’ll come get your stinking body.”

Simon had shoved him. “Five ten is not short, asshole.”

I can’t think of Jamie now. I made it over. 

He looked around for somewhere to hide the gun. No way was he getting caught with it. He shoved it into the air intake, pushed it a long way back to a small shelf area. Done.

Why am I even keeping it? 

“Because there may be other prints, or a trace, or something,” he answered his own question. “If it isn’t Jamie’s gun, we might be able to….”

To what? Why did you take it? Are you stupid? You took evidence?

With stealth he made his way across the roof and to the stairs, taking them three at a time and landing lightly on the first floor. From there he took a joining walkway to yet another apartment block and finally left that by using the fire escape, stopping only to scrub his face to clear away any blood. Finally he joined the crowds walking the sidewalk with purpose. They parted before him, some acknowledging him with nods, others bypassing him, and some shooting him guilty looks. A couple cursed him as he walked against the flow, but no one stopped him. No one shot at him, no one shouted. There was no recognition of who he was inside the uniform.

He was just another Chicago cop on the beat. Nothing to stand out. As long as he walked steadily and with resolution and didn’t break out into a panicked run, no one would look twice past the badge.

At soon as he could, he stepped into business premises—a coffee shop. He went straight to the bathroom, washed his face and his hands properly, then looked critically at his uniform. There was blood there—Jamie’s blood—but the dark blue of the uniform was enough to cover it. He pulled out his cell and stared at it for the longest time. It was nothing special, but it had all his numbers in there. Including Elliot’s. It also had a GPS chip that could be traced. No way was he calling anyone or reaching out.

He fingered the card in his pocket.

“Here, if you need anything…”

Elliot had told both him and Jamie. Promised them a place where they could get help. Even at that moment Simon had placed his faith squarely in the cops he served with, Jamie as well.

“This is bigger than just you two,” Elliot told them.

Deliberately, Simon placed his phone behind the tank of the first toilet stall. If this were bigger, if he and Jamie had landed in shit so deep he wouldn’t be able to dig himself out, then he wasn’t going to be found because of his cell.

He left the cafĂ©, turned right, and walked. He kept off the main thoroughfares, his focus entirely on one address—the place where people would help him.

No one will help you if there’s a “Be on the lookout” for you like a fucking murder suspect.

He had to expect the worst: that this was some kind of setup.

Calm. Just be calm. This can’t get any worse.

A cop car sped past the end of the next road. Simon didn’t react by running or stopping, but neither did he hesitate. He stayed close to shop fronts and even exchanged pleasantries about the lack of snow on this Chicago November day with a couple of shop owners. He didn’t stop to talk for long; he kept his cap tilted over his face and walked. Ten blocks, fifteen… by now someone could have found Jamie, and was he next?

Simon glanced behind himself as he approached a crossing, his senses prickling with the idea he was being followed. Scanning the people around him, there was nothing. Just a few curious glances. One tourist even snapped a photo of him on her cell phone, shouting to her husband that she’d got one of a Chicago cop. He had ducked his head and turned sharply when he saw this, then crossed as soon as the lights changed.

When he passed through an alley between two old-style buildings, he relaxed a little. Only so he could refocus on where he was heading, but it was enough to have him thinking the bad thoughts that spun inside him.

Who killed Jamie? The cops? Or Varga? Who the fuck knows what’s going on?

He stumbled to a stop at the end of the alley as it opened to the plaza in front of a tower. He didn’t need the card to know the address. And this was it. Fifty or so floors with a glass frontage and in there, somewhere, was a place that could help him. He waited for the longest time, wondering how the hell he was going to get inside and make it look like he was meant to be there.

He didn’t want to be the cop that everyone remembered because Jamie’s death was pinned on him.

Only one of you has to die to keep the other quiet. 

Simon bent at the waist, hands on his knees as the remembered words hit him hard. When Lewis Varga said that, he had been behind glass, posturing, threatening all kinds of shit, Simon had laughed it off as the “bad guy exposition.” So, Jamie wasn’t that impressed with it and Varga scared him, but what damage could Varga do in three days, locked away and waiting for trial?

A flash of light on glass caught Simon’s eye and the sleek form of a blood-red Ferrari stopped at the security barriers. An arm appeared out of the window and pressed buttons. The car was no more than fifty feet from Simon.

With sudden inspiration, he walked briskly across the last bit of the plaza, past the small hot dog stand, and ended up sauntering down the secure entry to the car park as if that was his only purpose in life and he was meant to be there. He slipped in through the closing gates and checked the location of the security camera—an old model that pointed past the gates and to the road outside. The Ferrari circled the first floor, then slipped into a reserved space. Whoever drove that beauty must have been rich enough to own a Ferrari in the first place and to have a reserved spot right near the entrance of the parking garage.

Simon stayed behind the pillar. There was a short walk between him and the elevators, which had a keypad on one side.

There has to be a better way. Just go to reception and ask, for fuck’s sake. Turn yourself into someone you can trust at the station. There has to be someone who can tell us how to get to these Sanctuary people. He could almost hear Jamie’s voice word for word.

If only Simon trusted any cops at all. With the whispers and the messages and the colleagues turning away, how could he put his trust in that institution now? The same people he’d have given his life for before this.

How could he trust that was supposed to be separate from the law? The one company that could somehow be the magic answer to the fear Jamie showed in his eyes.

I’m telling you, they tried to run me off the road, Jamie had said.

Simon hadn’t believed his friend, or at least he’d consigned it to paranoia. Yes, there was harassment for what they’d done, but nothing they couldn’t just ignore until it died a death.

The slam of a door and footsteps had the driver of the car walking his way.

“Nik said he’d cover seven, but he’s in Chicago today. … Just today. … Kayden is backing him up. … It’s a medical issue. … I’ll check in with Manny.” The footsteps grew nearer. “Okay, we’ll open up S19. I got that. … Yeah. … Bye.”

Just before the guy reached the pillar, Simon sauntered out as if his being there was normal, an occurrence that had purpose. He exchanged polite nods with the driver and followed him to the elevator.

“Officer,” the driver said with an incline of his head.

He was tall and slim, blond hair in perfect loose waves, and his eyes, a curious shade of amber, held a focus that zeroed in on Simon with keen attention. His suit was dark gray and probably cost more than Simon made in a year; the collar loose on his white shirt, with no tie. He was cute and preppy, and from the way his eyes lit at Simon’s minute observation, he was checking Simon out.


Awkward that he did that, and awkward that I know exactly what he was doing. 

And wrong. Because Jamie is dead, and this isn’t real life. 

Simon felt separate from reality. This was some kind of horrific nightmare. “Morning,” he forced out in response.

Driver pressed buttons to call the elevator, some complicated code that Simon pretended not to watch. They waited for the elevator, which worked its way down from the forty-second floor at a slow pace.

“Is there a security problem down here in the basement?” Driver asked.

Great, he wants conversation and I don’t want him to place me if the shit hits the fan.

Simon gave a standard response. “Routine checks, sir.”

“Should I be worried about my car?”

“Everything’s fine, sir.”

He hoped that was enough, but pretty, preppy guy, with the intriguing amber eyes, wasn’t stopping with the talking.

“Is this part of the security sweep they authorized last week?”

Simon nodded. He didn’t actually say yes, but the driver smiled at him as if he suspected nothing, and he turned back to the elevator.

When it arrived, Driver was in first, answering his cell as the doors shut behind them. Simon half listened as he checked out the available buttons. The panel was one of those futuristic screens that were digitized and had a square for fingerprint recognition. Elliot had said help was in this building on the top floor and handed him and Jamie a piece of paper with an address. The building he was at now. But, what was this place? Could he even trust Elliot?

He and Jamie had talked about Elliot’s hushed advice. They didn’t know him well, and this could be a trap.

“You have to go somewhere,” he muttered.

Jamie had suggested the easiest way to keep them quiet was to kill them. Simon had called him paranoid.

Jamie wasn’t paranoid, was he? He was fucking right that someone wanted him dead and that Simon could be next.

Grief and anger gripped him and he had to force the turmoil away. There would be time to mourn Jamie when he had the bastard who’d killed him in his sights.

He selected the button for the top floor, then faced front. Driver, in his peripheral vision, hadn’t pressed a single button.

“I’m aware,” Driver was saying into his cell. “What do we know?”

Simon half heard the mumble of a reply but couldn’t quite make it out.

“I’ll deal with it. Can you tell… yeah.” Driver pocketed his cell and shifted a little to lean against the back wall.

The elevator climbed steadily, only stopping twice: once to let in a man carrying an armful of clipboards at floor twenty-three, only for him to get off on twenty-seven. The numbers counted up and up. Thirty-three. Driver moved forward a little, his suit jacket pushed back and his hands in his pockets.

Thirty-seven: that itch of awareness returned. Simon tensed. He was getting closer to whatever path Jamie had set him on, and a healthy combination of fear and relief added in with his already churning belly.

I can trust Elliot. I have to trust him; he says there is help here, and I have to believe him.

Simon’s mind repeated the words again as they passed forty-two, forty-three, and then the elevator slid to a smooth stop on forty-six. Still Driver didn’t step out.

Were they heading for the same floor? A sudden movement out of the corner of his eye had Simon flinching and reaching for his weapon on autopilot, but he was too slow. He turned his head.

And came face-to-face with the barrel of a gun.

Chapter 2 
Cain couldn’t believe this was happening.

Project-manage the setting up of our Chicago office, Manny, the operations manager of Sanctuary, had said, sporting a broad grin. What can happen?

Well, fuck you, Manny, because I’ve seen Die Hard and I know what can happen to a guy in a high-rise. Like a cop with other cops looking for him. Like guns. Like Albany Ops picking up on the fact someone had followed him into the parking garage before the steel gates had fully shut.

And now Cain was faced with whoever the fuck this was, a steely-eyed, spiky-haired, uniformed cop with his hands near a gun.

“Hands where I can see them,” Cain snapped.

He forced his grip to stay steady. Manny was going to laugh at him when he found out Cain was pointing a gun at a cop. Manny’s empty gun. Talking of Manny, he really needed to channel the company’s weapons expert. He imperceptibly straightened his arms and bent his legs slightly. Cain had done the general gun-range training that everyone at Sanctuary was expected to do, but to be fair he’d spent his last visit there fixing the computer network in the office and hiding out.

Guns and Cain didn’t match well. Too loud, too destructive, too deadly.

In his earbud, Albany Ops were asking for an update, but Cain couldn’t answer accurately. He gestured with the gun when the cop didn’t automatically raise his arms.

“Hands. Up.”

The cop shook his head. “I don’t know what’s going on here, buddy, but one word from me and backup is on its way from my colleagues in the atrium,” the cop lied.

He had his hands out in front of him, and was apparently trying for the “innocent good guy in an elevator” look.

Cain was not falling for that. Albany Ops said this man was wanted for suspected murder. Said he was armed and dangerous. Said he was on his own and very much off the reservation.

“Hands behind your head,” Cain ordered with a small, gun-waving gesture.

“You realize this is assault with a deadly weapon against an officer.”

The cop still hadn’t moved his hands and Cain’s chest tightened. This wasn’t exactly going as he’d expected. Manny had assured him that having a gun gave you the edge. That all you needed to do was confidently portray that you would use the damn thing and people would believe you.

Evidently, he was failing big time at looking hard and ready to use the weapon.

When Albany Ops had advised Cain a man dressed as a cop had followed him into the parking area, they’d given him a heads-up that things didn’t look good. That had been enough to have him taking the gun he’d been working on from the lockbox in the car and pushing it into his belt at the base of his spine. Damn thing ruined the line of his suit, but he had at least some kind of bargaining tool to con his way out of a situation.

The cop moved, reaching for the gun in his holster.

“Stop!” Cain shouted.

“Sitrep, Cain,” Ops ordered in his ear.

The chaos was too much.

The cop was staring at him, and where there had been confusion before there was now enlightenment in his dark eyes. “Your gun, you know the safety is on. Right?” He interrupted the words running through Cain’s head and gestured to the gun.

Cain’s stomach sank. He’d forgotten that part of the deception. He glanced at the weapon, wishing he knew what the hell he was doing, and in that second the cop moved. He shoved Cain, and his body weight had Cain pressed back against the elevator wall, the cop’s weapon under his chin. A fully loaded weapon, probably.

“Who the fuck are you?” the cop snarled.

Cain swallowed. He could feel the barrel of the gun against his Adam’s apple. Cain’s turn to lie. “I have backup waiting,” he croaked.

“Did you know Elliot sent me here? Do you work for Varga?” the cop snapped. His dark, fathomless eyes were hard and focused. “Fuck, did you kill Jamie?”

“I didn’t kill anyone,” Cain answered, then swallowed.

And Elliot? Elliot is involved in this, and it’s somehow connected to all the Varga shit going down at the moment?

Cain had seen the reports across his desk, analysis of a situation that so far Sanctuary had managed to avoid. Manny was going to be pissed it had landed on their doorstep. Cain needed to talk to Elliot, because he sure as hell didn’t know who the fuck this guy was.

“What do you want me for?” the cop demanded.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

The cop shook him a little, tightening his grip on Cain’s arm—it hurt like a bastard. “Don’t fuck with me. No lies. Why did you pull your gun?” The cop yanked at the useless Sig in Cain’s hand, hefted the weight of it, then slammed it to the floor.

Cain thought on his feet. “I thought you didn’t look like a real cop,” he said lamely. He went for the pathetic look; the one where he gave the impression that he didn’t know what the fuck was going on. Manny said he was good at that.


“I have a license and I was protecting myself.”

The cold gun pressed harder to his throat. “I say again, don’t fucking lie to me.”

Cain thought on his feet. “Seriously, a real cop would have arrested me by now.”

“Oh, believe me, I’m a real cop.” He twisted the gun barrel and Cain closed his eyes. If this was it, if this was the last moment of his life, he wouldn’t give the cop the satisfaction of seeing the fear in him. “And you pulled a gun on me.”

The cop stepped back, his hard body moving from Cain’s.

Cain opened his eyes cautiously. The cop held the gun unwaveringly, pointing it directly at Cain.

The voice from Ops was soft in his ears. “Simon Grant, Chicago PD, murder. C’mon Cain, sitrep.”

Cain just wanted to ask Ops to leave him the fuck alone, but it was all he could do not to give any indication he was connected to anyone outside this space. Ops would have to make what they could of what they could hear in the elevator.

“Look,” Cain said. “This has all been a massive mistake. Put the gun away.” He tried for understanding, despite the words of warning in his ear.

“I can’t do that,” the cop answered. “I need the top floor, and I know damn well there are more floors above this one. You’re still on this elevator. Why didn’t you press a button? Who are you?”

Cain considered what he was being told covertly and what kind of reply he could give the cop. Simon. Abruptly, as inspiration flooded him, he knew exactly what he needed to do.

“I work on the secure floors,” Cain explained.

Protocols would kick in if he could just get this Simon up to the top floor.

“You know about the security company here?”

Simon stepped closer, and this time the feel of the cold metal was against the upper part of Cain’s chest where he hadn’t buttoned his shirt yet. Cain stiffened and attempted to back up as much as he could. There was nowhere to go.

“I work there,” Cain said. The murdering cop stared right at him. Alleged murderer—doesn’t mean he did it, Cain corrected himself. He refused to focus on anything other than those brown eyes. He wouldn’t look at the gun or the blood on Simon’s neck, darkening his shirt. He wouldn’t imagine that he was facing down a killer. He focused on the protocols.

I can do this.

“Cain?” Ops asked. “Nik in five, hang tight, keep him talking.”

Cain’s stomach sank. Hell, the very last thing this situation needed was Nik rappelling into the elevator using a combination of paperclips and grenades or some such heroic type shit. Simon was armed, and Cain just bet he knew his way around guns.

Think. Just think. 

“Not needed,” Cain said firmly in answer to the whole Nik thing. Hoping to hell Ops understood what he’d just said.

“What?” Simon asked.

“What do you want?” Cain finished smoothly. He raised his hands.

Simon appeared to consider what he might need… what he wanted. “You work there, then you take me to the security company.”

He didn’t look happy. In fact, he had the expression of a man heading for the gallows.

Cain nodded. “I need to… on the screen.” He gestured to the security panel.

Simon stepped from where he was blocking Cain’s view and motioned with the gun. “Do it.”

Cain sidled up to the panel and pressed his entire palm to the screen. The palm print was red, then changed to green, indicating he’d been accepted. The elevator began to rise smoothly. Cain moved from the panel to the doors. When they opened, he needed to be first out if this was going to work.

The doors opened and Cain made to step through, only to find himself yanked back and held very securely around the throat.

“Don’t try anything,” Simon snapped. The damn gun was back at Cain’s throat and he swallowed. “We go out together.”

“There’s no one here,” he reassured.

“I don’t care.” Simon moved them from the elevator into the empty corridor. “And what do you mean there’s no one here? Where is this fucking company?”

“You have to let me go. There needs to be a full-body scan of staff,” he lied. “Otherwise the door won’t open.”

The elevator doors closed behind them, leaving them in a dimly lit hallway.

Simon nodded and released his hold on Cain, still with the weapon high, and still very much in Cain’s body space.

Cain stepped away, judging the distance, and then he stopped and turned to face Simon. He caught expressions of hope, of need, and of fear on the cop, but they vanished so fast he thought he might have imagined them.

Simon wasn’t positioned correctly for this to work. Cain tensed. He hadn’t properly thought this out, and he made a mental note to change things up before they made this place fully operational. Evidently bad guys didn’t always stand where you needed them to.

Cain took a step back, and as if joined by a string, Simon moved a little toward him. And right there—that was the point Simon was his.

“Now,” he murmured to Ops.

Simon blinked and even made to step forward, but it was too late. In an instant, transparent Plexiglas sheets slid from the wall and formed a cell of sorts between the two walls and Cain. Simon was trapped. Bright light filled the hallway when the glass box shaped. Simon smashed the gun against the glass, which was toughened and unbreakable by most anything the bad guys might have in their arsenals.

“Intruder is neutralized,” Cain said calmly to Ops. Then he relaxed in inverse proportion to Simon’s panic.

“Simon Grant,” Cain shouted over the sound of the gun smashing against the toughened glass.

Simon stopped immediately. “Fuck.” Resignation flooded his features. “Fuck,” he cursed again as he slid down the glass to his ass on the ground. Every ounce of energy seemed to have left him in an instant.

“Waiting to report to CPD,” Ops said.

Cain thanked the heavens that Sanctuary didn’t immediately think the authorities were what was needed in situations like this. Why did Simon Grant want the top floor? How did he know about Sanctuary, or rather, what was his connection to Sanctuary? He hadn’t come up armed with missiles and shit, looking for a witness or a vulnerable person that Sanctuary might have here. He looked exhausted, there was blood on him, and his hands were shaking.

Adrenaline overload.

Cain pressed a finger to his ear. “Give me five, Ops,” he said before crouching down in front of Simon. “You want to explain what you’re doing here?”

Simon shook his head. “I need help.”

“What kind of help? Are you looking for someone?”

Simon looked confused. “No. Yes. I mean, fuck….”

Cain shifted a little and the shadow cast by his body lifted. Light flooded the glass cell and Simon startled. Then something caught his attention—the reflection of the company name on the wall, shimmering in the glass. He pressed his fingers to the reflection.

“This. Sanctuary,” he murmured. “Whoever this is.”

“You’re looking for them?”

Simon nodded. “They have to help me.”

Ghost #9
Chapter 1
“This is not going to end well,” his sister warned him, an edge to her voice.

“I just need five minutes.” Cole was aiming for composed and in control, despite the fact his adrenaline was spiking dangerously high. Where was his center? Where was his ability to see events unfold before him with calm consideration?

Gone as soon as your two worlds began to collide with the horrible realization that today would finally be the day you might not make it out alive.


“Do your job, sis.”

“Fuck you, big brother.”

Cole didn’t answer that one. As the controller of the op, she wouldn’t take her eyes off the meeting she was tasked with watching—six of Varga’s key men in a restaurant on Halsted, giving him the heads-up when they disbanded and headed toward the run-down warehouse district for the meeting. He was there to deal with a man who didn’t deserve to live on this earth, and he was already fighting the sickness roiling in his stomach.

Unfortunately, things had taken a turn for the worse, and Cole wished he could say he’d expected the shit to hit the fan, but he hadn’t. He’d honestly thought tonight would go smoothly given he’d evaded Sanctuary again.

He’d been the mouse avoiding the trap for so long that he’d not seen the pattern emerging. Slowly but surely, Sanctuary was getting closer, the proverbial thorn in his side. It was as though they were second-guessing him, tracking him enough to see patterns.

Patterns killed people in his line of work.

He checked his gun, considered holstering it. No one was supposed to die tonight; it was just a deal—money for human lives—something he’d been working on for months. His job was to fix this, but Sanctuary kept getting in his way.

And if they caught up with him again, with their do-good meddling and their freaking unanswered questions, he was way too smart to get caught.


“Bad guys are only five minutes out,” his sister warned again. He didn’t answer, and she wouldn’t expect him to. “And you’ve got company with Sanctuary tracking your way.”


“You need me there?”

Cole weighed his options. She needed to be with their father, who couldn’t be left, so it was just Cole and his gun and his sorely tested wits.

He’d need his gun if he needed to get away from that Sanctuary fucker Elliot. The man was like a dog with a bone, and Cole couldn’t afford to be compromised tonight. Every meeting, every mission, Elliot got closer, yet Cole couldn’t move from his spot or everything would go to shit and he’d lose his chance of getting the best human return for his cash.

Sanctuary was the elite, but he knew he was better, or he’d have died a long time ago. Bravado and confidence had gotten him this far in life, mostly unharmed and thankfully alive. But if Elliot arrived when the shit was hitting the fan, he’d be collateral damage, and Cole wasn’t ready to work on those terms.

He moved even deeper into the shadows, his back against the brick wall, an exit to the street on his right, the parking lot on his left. Above his head was the fire escape pull-down ladder for that apartment block; at his feet, the ground was damp with the rain that had only eased up a few minutes ago, and distant streetlights sparkled in puddle remnants just outside the cloak of darkness. Everything was quiet; but moments away, following fuck-knows-what lead to get there, was Sanctuary.

Or, more correctly, Elliot, with his dogged determination and his uncanny ability to see beyond a scene and know exactly where Cole had gone.

Last time, Elliot had only missed him by a single minute, and Cole wasn’t ashamed to admit that the near misses sent a frisson of excitement up his spine. Too often he’d been the steady one, staring down a scope, a surgical removal to keep others safe, distanced from the kill and the action. The cat and mouse with Elliot was a game that he was enjoying far too much.

Add to which, Elliot was gorgeous and sexy, and all kinds of a hard-ass, and Cole was happy to surveil the guy every moment he could. Elliot was a good guy who didn’t smile much, but he’d broken up with his boyfriend two months before; he shopped organically and lived close to the place Sanctuary called Head Office in Chicago. All things being even, Elliot would score high on Cole’s list of ideal attributes in a lover. There was nothing better than roughing up an organic-loving tight-ass and reducing him to a puddle of goo in the middle of snow-white sheets.

Not that he’d spent a long time fantasizing about Elliot naked and in his bed.

He listened for the tiny noises that would give Elliot’s arrival away, not as close as breathing, but his movement could block sounds from the street beyond, if only infinitesimally.

The cold air promised more snow; Cole knew the only thing that could give him away would be the puff of his breath, so he burrowed down into the scarf twisted around his neck.

A soft scuff of leather on the sidewalk had Cole stiffening, and he briefly tightened his grip on the lethal SIG in his hand. He relaxed only a millisecond later when a woman’s laughter and a man’s voice had him focusing past the light and to the street beyond. He was right on Englewood’s district line, and the whole meeting was playing out in a place where he felt way too exposed. He knew his mark had set this meet here for a reason. Mario was a shifty fucker who played the game of criminal very well. Little did the man know that nothing was going to keep him safe if he fucked Cole over. Not tonight. Not ever.

The woman laughed again, but this time the sound seemed a little off, as if she hadn’t really meant to laugh. There was no real joy in the noise.

Too late he realized what that meant.

Too late when the whisper of a movement to his left turned into the barrel of a weapon smacking his temple.

The wall kept him standing, but the sweep of a foot behind his knee had him landing heavily on one side, in stagnant water. Cole didn’t lay there waiting for the next part of this dance; he was rolling even as he fell, one leg darting out as he rose, catching his assailant in the thigh and causing him to stumble back. Coming to a crouch, Cole admired the way the other man’s stumble turned into nothing more than a sidestep and a twisting motion that missed Cole by inches.

Cole took the initiative, stepping right into the man’s space, up close to Elliot’s face, and in seconds he’d pushed him hard against the wall.

“Leave it,” Cole growled, when what he wanted to do was sit Elliot down and explain exactly why he needed Elliot to leave right the fuck now.

“Fuck you,” Elliot snapped, even as he fell limp in Cole’s hold, then yanked free to shove a knee right into Cole’s groin.

He missed by inches; the force of the shove went to Cole’s inner thigh, hard enough to give him a dead leg long enough to give Elliot the upper hand.

But Cole wasn’t done. He countered with a punch to Elliot’s face, feeling the wetness of fist on skin at the point where Elliot’s head snapped back with a spray of blood. A normal man would be on the ground after that—hell, a normal man wouldn’t have gotten out of Cole’s press against the wall.

Elliot wasn’t a normal man. He was trained, focused, and fucking vicious at it.

“They’re really close now; you need to end this with Sanctuary.”

His sister’s voice in his ear was enough to make Cole follow through with another punch that caught cheekbone and hair and then slid past to slam the wall. He cursed the contact and his stupidity at giving Elliot the upper hand. This time it was Cole himself up against the wall, and he could see dark eyes, focused and hard, and feel the fingers tightening on his throat. He attempted to go limp, but all Elliot did was push harder, which left only one thing. Elliot was close, and with a concerted effort, Cole snapped his head forward, the top smacking Elliot between the eyes.

Elliot crumpled at first, momentarily stunned, and then he stumbled to stand.

But Cole was prepared, retrieving his weapon and pointing it directly at Elliot. “Run,” he snapped.

Elliot said nothing, stepping toward him. Fuck, did the man not care that Cole had a gun on him?

“You have company one minute out.” The voice in his ear sounded a little frantic.

Fuck, this whole thing was going wrong. Cole had his mark and various cronies bearing down on him, and Sanctuary in the shape of Elliot right in the freaking middle.

But if Cole left, then what about the kids? Teenagers the same age as his brother, straight from the boat, working in slavery for the Varga organization. They had a deal, and tonight Cole had the money and the upper hand.

Or at least he had until Elliot tracked him down.

“You have to leave,” he snapped and gestured with the gun.

Surprise made Elliot frown, and only when he saw that did Cole realize he’d fucked up—they were standing under the street light. They needed to get back into the shadows. Cole shoved him back against the wall, wincing at the sound of Elliot’s skull making contact with the bricks before he wordlessly slid to the ground in the darkness.

And then it was too late to think of anything.

At the same time his sister’s frantic voice warned him that a car was turning onto the street, Cole heard a voice from the darkness.

So, his mark had sent an advance guard, and all Cole could think was that if it was his time to die, he didn’t want to take anyone with him.

“Drop the gun, asshole,” a voice said from somewhere beyond the light. He caught sight of the semi-automatic weapon as the person stepped forward; he didn’t stand a chance against that kind of firepower. The barrel of another gun poked at the base of his skull.

Cole dropped his pistol to the ground, feeling abruptly bereft. “It’s done,” he said to whoever the hell was behind him.

Cole lifted his hands and laced them behind his head, looking right into the darkness, not able to see Elliot’s form but hoping to hell he stayed the fuck down. Very deliberately he turned to face the man with the gun at his head.

“Talk to me,” his sister snapped at him, her voice dead and cold, gone past emotional and well into focused.

“You realize I have a meeting with Mario, right? That this was organized? He won’t take it well when he finds out you’re here with a gun on me.”

A nasal voice joined in. “I’m quite happy with the situation,” Mario said.

And right there and then, Cole knew time was up. He needed to confront this; he had a legitimate cover there, and he needed to maintain it. Slowly he unclasped his hands and let them hang loosely at his sides. “What the fuck, man?” he asked.

“Do you have access to the money?”

Cole wasn’t letting the evil fucker get control of the conversation. “How many?” he asked firmly.

Mario looked at him; a group of others, all armed, were crowding around him. Mario was nothing if not the nervous type, twitchy like a ferret, all sharp angles, and meth-head eyes. He’d made it so far in the Varga organization only due to the fact he was Varga’s nephew or cousin, or some such shit.

He was also suspicious as hell of anything and everything, which was why it had taken this long for Cole to get anywhere near him. Tonight wasn’t the night that Cole got to deal with erasing Mario from existence; he had kids to get out alive. That was his priority.

“You can have seven of them,” Mario said, his lips stretching in an obscene grin.

“The deal was for all ten.”

Mario shrugged as if he wasn’t playing with people’s lives. “I have a market for the other three,” he said nonchalantly.

Cole knew exactly what that meant: the younger girls parceled up and sold on. “All ten, or no deal,” he stated, keeping emotion out of his voice.

“Then the price goes up. No skin off my nose who gets them.”

“How much?”

“Well now... just how badly do you want them all?”

One of Mario’s men snickered, and the sound echoed in the otherwise quiet alley.

Cole could play it two ways: show his hand and admit he was desperate to get all ten of the illegals Mario had, or try to call his bluff.

“Fuck you,” Cole said, and drew himself tall. He wished he had his weapon, but he’d just have to hope to hell that confronting was the answer. “The deal’s off.”

He bent to pick up his weapon, slowly placing it back into the holster and straightening his jacket. Varga senior would be pissed with his lieutenant blowing a deal like that. Getting illegals to the city was one thing, offloading them with profit above and beyond what the illegals had probably paid to get there was an entirely different ball game. He could visualize the thought processes going on…Mario was the youngest of three lieutenants that reported to Varga, the one still out to prove himself, and he wouldn’t want to lose the deal.

“An extra ten,” Mario said, throwing it out as if it meant nothing to him.

“Five.” Cole couldn’t give in too easily.

“Hell, I can get double that on the ’net for the seven-year-old,” Mario said.

Cole had to stop the panic pushing at his chest and nausea that threatened to have him vomiting on the sidewalk. The idea of a child as young as seven being under this bastard’s control made him sick to his stomach. He pretended to consider the deal, knowing full well he’d pay every fucking cent. “Seven-five and we’re done, cash in the bank.” He even injected a small note of respect into his voice, which had Mario preening in front of his posse. He’d save face, and Cole would keep his persona of didn’t-give-a-shit human trafficker intact.

“I’ll take that,” Mario said.

One of the posse stepped forward, and intel was buzzing in his ear about twelve souls being inside the warehouse. Not ten, twelve. Two of them were moving around, the other ten not moving much. Twelve heat signatures, so all ten kids were alive—but the extra two? Mario was fucking with him, had likely placed two men inside. Cole would take a step inside the warehouse, and be a dead man.

How had he blown his cover? This wasn’t the first deal he’d brokered with Mario, setting up his cover as a trader in human flesh, looking for ways to save lives and get deep into Varga’s organization at the same time. But something wasn’t right…

Very carefully and deliberately he pulled out his cell, and with a few button presses, transferred the fifty, plus the extra seven-five, into the account he’d been given details of. Next to Mario one of the guys checked his own cell and nodded.

“It’s cleared.”

Mario tossed the key card for the warehouse to Cole, who caught it deftly. “All yours,” Mario said, and then he turned and left, taking everyone with him.

“Heads-up,” his sister said. “The extra two have left the building at the rear. Hovering outside the closed door.”

What the fuck?

Cole crossed to the steel door and waved the card at the lock, half surprised when the door actually clicked and swung open. He pushed his way in to be faced with piles of packing cases and pallets. Pulling the door shut behind him, he cautiously made his way around the piles and checked out the corners of the warehouse. He’d lost contact with outside assistance since he’d walked in there, just one hell of a lot of static and not much in the way of a voice.

He rounded what he imagined was the last corner to find ten—he counted—kids and teenagers, none older than fourteen: six girls and four boys huddled together, bound with chains to a metal framework. Most of them stared at him with dead eyes; only the youngest was whimpering and crying. What had they been through to get here? Torn from their families, placed into shipping containers, and then passed around to their new owners on payment of money?

Immediately he went to a crouch and held out a hand in a gesture of innocence. “It’s okay,” he said in English. “I’m here to help.”

He repeated it in as many languages as he’d learned those words in, hoping to hell he’d hit the jackpot somewhere along the way. He approached the closest child, a boy of thirteen or so who stared at him blankly. Apologizing in soft tones, Cole reached over and checked the chain. He found a simple lock that he could have them out of quickly. He pulled out his kit, dealt first with one lock, then another, his hands shaky at first, waiting to die in a hail of bullets. At least he could get the kids away.

The radio crackled and hissed in his ear; he could only make out a few words. Fire! Get out.

Resolutely he continued with the chains until all ten were free; he realized they’d all gathered close to him, some holding hands, but all looking to him as smoke edged under the boxes and into their corner. Cole was considerably taller than the children, and he could see past the nearest blockage to a hint of fire beyond, cutting them off from the exit.

So, that was how he was being taken out of the equation; that was how Mario deleted him from the Chicago sex trade. Mario was removing a rival, along with ten innocent kids.


“Sis? Can you hear me?” He spoke loudly above the sound of the littlest girl crying. In a smooth move, he scooped her up, holding her tight. If there was no way out of here and they were all going to die, what would he do? He had bullets; he could shoot some of the kids? Fuck, the horror was sick inside him. Think. Think. He wasn’t going to let anyone burn to death.

Stop, he told himself. There’s nothing to be won by planning for the worst.

He looked up at the vents and tiny windows about twenty feet from the floor. He could pile boxes, pass the kids up, smash the window.

The heat was getting noticeable; the huddle of kids pressed tighter. They didn’t have much time. An explosion of glass had them all ducking as panes shattered around them. Had the fire reached the windows?

Then he heard shouting.

“Up here!” a voice demanded, and peering up, Cole could see Elliot scrambling through the space and lowering himself in, dropping and rolling awkwardly. “Get the boxes.”

For a second, Cole was immobile, and then adrenaline flooded into him. Between him and Elliot, they made a pile of boxes and crates. A step up, lifting and dragging, and one by one the kids were out of the window, wriggling through the space. Elliot went next, going out, then reaching back in as fire began to lick at the boxes.

Cole’s breathing became labored. And then he spotted the smallest kid, curled into a ball, her face hidden by her hands and her long dark hair. She was so tiny and scared, way down on the ground, not climbing up as the others had done. Cole thought she’d been first out, but in the chaos, he’d missed her.

“Kid!” Elliot shouted from the window.

But if anything, she curled tighter, her hands over her ears, rocking slowly. “I’m going back down,” Cole said.

“You have thirty seconds before this whole place lights up.”

Cole didn’t hesitate—he wasn’t about to leave a child behind. He jumped lithely to the floor and into a crouch, cursing at the pain shooting up from his knee, as he crawled low under the choking smoke to where the girl huddled.

He grabbed her, but she wailed and fought against his hold. Cole ignored the scratching of fingers and the sheer panic, and climbed the crates up to the window, his chest tight; breathing hard. There he unfurled her fingers, shoving the girl through the space to Elliot, who yanked her through.

“Is that ten?” Cole gasped as the box he stood on wavered; he gripped hard at the windowsill.

“Get out.”

“Is that all ten kids?”

“Yes, grab hold!” Elliot held out a hand.

Cole tried to grip as the pile toppled, their fingers touched, and then the world fell away, stopped in a millisecond by Elliot leaning in and grabbing at Cole. Elliot pulled, and Cole scrambled, and the hungry fire bit at him, burned him even as he fell out of the building and the force of hitting the trash cans below was enough to steal his breath.

“Jesus,” Elliot snapped, smacking at Cole’s jacket to extinguish the flames as Cole shrugged it off in a panic.

As he rolled, he pulled his weapon from its holster and pointed it right between Elliot’s eyes, waiting for him to make a move. All Elliot did was raise his hands and stare at Cole with an expression that Cole couldn’t read.

Cole asked, “Where are Mario’s two goons?”

“Out cold. You’re not the man we profiled. Who the fuck are you really?”

Cole didn’t answer.

 “You should know I called 911,” Elliot said, his expression unreadable.

Was Elliot giving him a chance to leave? A warning? He seemed more interested in hugging the kids to him protectively than in taking Cole down.

Cole looked away from the kids to Elliot and holstered his gun. “Do this for them,” he said. To get involved with the cops at that moment would destroy everything. “The Andreas Home on Windsor Street. It’s a special place for kids taken from their parents like this. Will you take them?”

Elliot nodded. “Yes,” he said, all seriousness. Then he inclined his head toward the sound of sirens.

Cole grabbed what was left of his jacket, and with one last look at Elliot and the kids, he was gone.

By the Numbers #10
Brandon took down the drapes in his room as soon as he was able to. He could have asked his sisters, but they didn’t know just how badly looking at the geometric pattern in the fabric upset his equilibrium. They knew he was weird; most sisters thought their big brothers were weird. But he also had twitches and nervous tics about certain things, and they’d seen it all, even though his list of crazy was something he could manage now.

They didn’t need to know he’d spent three hours last night counting the squares on the drapes and being irritated to the point of stimming that they weren’t even and the stitching was wrong. And Jesus, stimming—having to move his fingers, loosen his muscles, anything to ground himself—he hadn’t done that in years.

And hell if he was going to ask Daniel into his room to help him, because Daniel was someone Brandon did not want in his space. Not taking down drapes, or talking to him, or even breathing near him. There was only so much of Daniel that Brandon could take, because when he was anywhere near him, he lost his ability to form coherent sentences. He didn’t have time to have these powerful feelings of lust that kept hitting him.

Like the time he and Daniel had met on the landing and Daniel had been in just a towel. They’d only been together a few days, but Daniel was funny, and sexy, and dangerous, and exactly everything Brandon should be avoiding in his life.

He had way too much to worry about, and a date written in his memory that he wouldn’t forget any time soon. The deal he had—to stay alive, to hide himself away, and then to present himself to Varga—was just about the only thing that filled his thoughts.

Varga thought that, on a given date, Brandon would join him in his huge mansion, pull together all the funds Varga had hidden in various places, and then join him in whatever country the US didn’t have an extradition treaty with.

Like hell he would. He was meeting with Varga, getting all his money, dispersing it to the right causes, and sending any intel he could get out to the authorities.

And then Varga would kill him for doing that.

Inevitable, really, and something he’d come to terms with. He’d blown his chance to do this when he’d worked for Varga, so he had to make up for it. He was doing the right thing.

He’d been biding his time in Hope, but had been unfortunate to be scooped up by Sanctuary. He just needed to work out a way to get away from them, and in particular Daniel, but he had about ten days to go yet until that magic date when Varga had decided he would be leaving the country.

For now, Sanctuary was safe for him and his sisters.

So yeah, choosing to avoid having Daniel in his room, with his probing questions and his distracting body, was an easy decision to make in among all that crap.

The only downside was that it meant he had to take the drapes down himself.

Trying to shoot himself hadn't gone so well; instead of being dead and gone, he had a through shot and muscle damage which hurt like knives in his skin. He waited until day four, when the pain in his shoulder had lessened to the point where he could at least manage to get out of bed and to the window but he couldn’t handle looking at those drapes any longer.

Today he actually felt capable of dealing with drapes he didn’t need anyway. There were blinds at the windows, and behind the blinds each window was coated so you could see out but no one could see in. He pushed the offending fabric under the bed and clambered back to a standing position, wincing in pain as he banged his shoulder, and sat on the edge of his bed.

The drapes were still there—he could picture them under the bed—and exasperated, he lay back on the mattress and attempted to think of something else. Blue skies, blue mugs, blue eyes. Anything blue, because it was a color that calmed him.

He lasted about a minute.

Huffing, he rolled up carefully and reached under the bed, pulling out the drapes and screwing them into a ball. Opening his door, he threw them out onto the landing, not even checking if anyone was standing there.

Daniel. Of course it would be Daniel, who reacted like a ninja and had the drapes under submission in seconds.

Once they were dead, or at least overpowered with some sort of karate move, Brandon felt like he should apologize.

“My bad,” he said, and shut the door in Daniel’s face.

He expected the knock, but hadn’t quite decided what he was going to say to Daniel when he came in. Maybe if he ignored the request to enter and said nothing, then Daniel might go away.

Daniel knocked again, and this time instead of waiting for Brandon to say he could come in, he pushed his way in, looking irritable. He was shirtless, his hair wet—evidence of a recent shower—his sweats hanging low on his hips and every muscle deliciously tight and toned.

“What the hell, Brandon?” he asked, his dark eyes angry, his lips in a set line. He wasn’t holding the drapes, so Brandon counted that as a win.

“I didn’t want them up at my window,” Brandon explained, and eased himself down into the chair by his bed. He was most comfortable there; he could see out the window and it was easier to keep the pressure off his injury.

“So you decided to throw them in my face?” Daniel sounded less pissed and more confused about getting fabric in his face.

Brandon indicated the door. “To be fair, I didn’t know you were there.” Then he couldn’t resist, “And you heroically subdued them so fast, I knew you could handle the danger.”

Author Bio:
RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn't with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn't like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.


Accidental Hero #8

Ghost #9

By the Numbers #10