TALES OF MOONSPELL by Jessica Coulter Smith #NewRelease #werewolves #shifters #vampires #PNR #threesome #EroticRomance @kitcatjms @changelingpress

Tales of Moonspell (Moonspell Vol. 1) by Jessica Coulter  Smith

Four women find the mates of their hearts as wolves battle vampires for control of Moonspell.

Belonging to Hayden: Daniela has been captured by the local vampire nest in her small hometown. The last thing she expects to find at the mansion is the Alpha werewolf of her dreams.

Between Two Wolves: Falan has lots of curves, and a little extra. She’s never been anyone’s ideal before. Now she’s suddenly faced with not one but two hot men ready to be at her beck and call. Can she be woman enough for both of them?

Serenity’s Wish: When Serenity surrenders to the local vampire nest in order to save the alpha werewolf’s mate, she knows it won’t be long before her body betrays her and gives up the battle she’s been fighting for months. But there’s one thing Serenity doesn’t count on. How is it possible that she’s falling for the enemy?

Their Sinful Seduction: Sin finds herself pregnant and alone after a single night of passion. The two men responsible made it quite clear they aren’t ready for fatherhood. But once the werewolves find out she’s expecting their child, they’ll stop at nothing to claim the woman destined to be their mate.

Publisher’s Note: Tales of Moonspell (Box Set) contains the previously published novellas Belonging to Hayden, Between Two Wolves, Serenity’s Wish, and Their Sinful Seduction.

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EXCERPT FROM BELONGING TO HAYDEN

Impenetrable darkness surrounded her, the air was dank and musty, and the plink of water dripping was the only sound in her tomblike space. She felt dirty from sitting on the cold, stone floor for God only knew how long. Thick, heavy manacles encircled her wrists; a chain was looped through them and fastened to the wall. Her mouth felt like cotton and her head was throbbing. She had little doubt she’d been drugged. The question was why? And where the hell was she?

Terror gripped her as possible scenarios bounced around her mind, none of them good. She’d only been awake for what felt like an hour or two, but she hadn’t heard or seen anyone in all that time. As far as she knew, she was alone. Her captors were obviously elsewhere in the building.

A door creaked open and light spilled into the space, casting everything into shadow. What was illuminated scared her. She was in a cage, not unlike the many other cages lining the walls. It looked like she was in a basement, but that still didn’t tell her where she was. The last thing she remembered was having drinks with her friends at the local club. Moonspell being so small, one human club was all they had.

Light footsteps descended the stairs and a tall, thin man came into view, illuminated by a shaft of light. His long, silvery white hair shimmered even in the darkened room, his pale skin glowed like a beacon, and ice blue eyes pierced right through her as he pinned her with his gaze.

He unlocked her cage and roughly pulled her to her feet. Removing her chains, he gripped her arm firmly and began leading her out of the cell and up the stairs. The bright light hurt her eyes, and she squinted at her surroundings. Plush oriental rugs covered gleaming hardwood floors, the furniture looked like something out of an antiques catalog, and the paint on the walls was varying shades of blue.

The man dragged her up a large curved staircase to the second floor and down a long hallway. Pushing open a door at the far end, he shoved her inside. He shifted his grip and pulled her across the room and through another doorway into an opulent bathroom. After opening the glass door on the shower, he turned it on and steam started billowing out almost immediately.

“Strip,” he commanded.

Her eyes widened and she clutched her shirt together at her throat. He wanted her to undress in front of him? She took a step back as if to flee, but she had nowhere to go. He’d closed the door behind them. And even if she did manage to make it through the door, she had no doubt he would catch her before she could reach the stairs.

His eyes narrowed. “I said strip,” he growled. “Or I’ll do it for you.”

She squeaked and took another step backward.

Advancing on her, he gripped her shirt in both hands and ripped it apart, sending buttons flying everywhere. He tugged the material down her arms and tossed it on the floor. Reaching for the button on her jeans, he unfastened them quickly and jerked them down her legs. She tried to pull away from him, but he held her tight as he finished stripping away her clothes. Lifting her into his arms, he set her down in the shower.

“Wash yourself.”

With shaking hands, she did as he commanded. As the dirt washed down the drain, she should have felt better, but all she felt was stark terror at what might be about to happen to her. He seemed so calm and cool, so very in control.

The man turned off the water and held out a towel, wrapping it around her as she stepped out of the shower. He helped her dry off, then slipped a skimpy satin nightgown over her head. The stark white material clung to her slim curves. He handed her a comb, and she pulled it through the long, black, curly locks. When she was finished, she set the comb down on the counter and faced her captor.

He pulled her back into the bedroom, but they were no longer alone. A tall, dark-haired man lounged on the bed, wearing nothing but a pair of unbuttoned jeans. There was a hint of silver at his temples, but it only enhanced his good looks. His arms and chest were heavily muscled, his legs long. He watched her intently, but unlike the man holding her prisoner, this one didn’t terrify her. His gaze skimmed over her, caressing her. His eyes narrowed when he saw the man’s hand clamped on her arm.

A growl rumbled from him. “Release her.”

She was suddenly free, yet she still had nowhere to go.

The man beside her moved toward the door. “I’ll give you twenty-four hours, dog.”

Dog? As in… No, he couldn’t possibly mean the other man was a werewolf! It was no secret that there was a werewolf pack in Moonspell. She wasn’t sure if she had anything to fear from him or not.

The werewolf rose from the bed and came toward her. He circled her, checking her out from every angle. Stopping behind her, he leaned in close and sniffed her neck. She heard a low growl rumble in his chest right before he kissed the sensitive skin below her ear. He placed his hands on her waist and addressed the man again.

“You’ll give me longer than twenty-four hours. No one else will touch her.”

The man hissed, showing a set of very sharp fangs. She gulped as she realized she’d been in the presence of a vampire this entire time. He could have drained her at any moment, and she’d have been powerless to stop him.

“You forget your place. You may be an alpha, but here you’re just a prisoner. Aiden has a thing for dark-haired women. She’ll service him tomorrow night.”

“No! She’s my mate and will bed no one but me.”

The vampire looked surprised. “Your mate? You’ll have to pardon me for not taking your word for it. I’ll need proof.”

“You know there’s only one way I can prove it. After we sleep together, we’ll be marked.”

“Very well. I’ll give you a week. After that, you lose the opportunity to be free.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child writing her first stories in crayon. Today she’s a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and she firmly believes that love will find you at the right time, even if Mr. Right is literally out of this world.

Find Jessica on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / jessicacoultersmith.com.

Harley Wylde is the “wilder” side of award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith. You can find Harley online at harleywylde.com. Jessica also writes gay romance under the pen name Dulce Dennison.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Dear Wolf by Laurie Keck #PNR #TBT #shifters @Lauragkeck

 

Dear Wolf (The Harbor Pack Series Book 1) by [Keck, Laurie]

Publisher: Coastal Escape Publishing
Genres: Paranormal, Romance Suspense
Length: 102 pages

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“We all have something inside us we are fighting. Some have the primitive beast while some are just beasts without it.” ~ Jillian Turner.

Jillian Turner is exactly as her name suggests. She turns, and she is the youngest in a family of wolf shifters. She has found it difficult to embrace what her family refers to as their gift. To her, it has been a curse. From an early age, she’s kept her inner wolf deep down inside. After the loss of their parents, she and her brothers perceive the wolf differently. Jillian feels it to be as misunderstood as she. She also has a love of deer and believes it to be her animal spirit guide, which only contributes to shredding the family further apart. More like the woodland creature, a loner and a dreamer, Jillian begins to hide in the shadows and, in doing so, has learned to manipulate both the light and shade to her own needs.

Jack Malone was raised in the shadow of an abusive father. After an accident that killed both his mother and his younger sister, things became more violent and occurrences more frequent. Planning to move out of his childhood home right after graduation, he makes a last trip with his two best friends to the mountainous region of North Carolina. It is there that they plan to relax and be one with nature. And it is there that things go terribly wrong. They become one with nature. However, for one, it is much more than they bargained for.

When Jillian meets Jack ten years later, each has been harboring feelings and secrets. However, each will have to come to terms with the other’s past, as well as their own, if they are to ever survive in the life they hope to make for themselves. Can they accept the mistakes that have been made, or will one, or both, retreat back into the shadows?

Purchase at Amazon

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laurie Keck lives on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She frequently visits the beach with her two small dogs, and enjoys quiet time in natural surroundings. As much as Laurie enjoys the ocean, she is equally at home amidst the forest and wildlife. Her passion is writing stories about love, romance, and fantasy. She is also a certified card reader and Angel intuitive. You can learn more about Laurie and her work, at LaurieKeck.com

Throwback Thursday: Tiger’s Claim by Kenna McKay #ScottishRomance #ContemporaryRomance #shifters #TBT @AuthorKMcKay @CoastalReads

 

Publisher: Coastal Escape Publishing
Genres: Highland Romance, Contemporary, Paranormal
Themes: shifter (other), pregnancy romance
Length: short story

Tiger shifter, Brochan Kinley, is tired of waiting for his destined mate, but maybe asking his current girlfriend to marry him wasn’t the best idea – especially when she leaves him standing at the altar! But despite how much that messes with his mind, it doesn’t excuse what he does next.

Fenella Sinclair didn’t mean for things to go so far, but she’s always admired the beta of the local ambush. She’s been infatuated with him ever since she saw him shift several years ago, and doesn’t care if he claims she’s too young for him. But her one moment of stupidity has consequences.

When Brochan realizes Fenella is carrying his cub, he knows he should step up and do the right thing, but he’s still feeling the sting of her sister’s rejection. What’s a tiger to do when everything he’s ever wanted is within his grasp if only he’d dare to reach for it?

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Purchase at:

Amazon /  Kobo  / iTunes 

 

EXCERPT

Her hand caressed her belly. What would it be like to have Brochan’s child? Would they become one big, happy family? Or would he be appalled that he’d gotten his ex-fiancée’s baby sister pregnant? If the snores coming from him were any indication, he’d already passed out for the night. What if he didn’t remember what happened between them? She’d just die of embarrassment if the most magical night of her life could be so easily dismissed by the man she’d always adored.

Fenella put herself back together, gave Brochan one last lingering look, then headed out. She drove home quickly, wanting to shower and assess the situation a bit more. When she pulled into her driveway, she was more than a little surprised to see Iona’s car parked outside. Her sister should have been far from this area by now. At the very least, they should have stayed in Inverness overnight and continued on to Glasgow in the morning.

She stepped inside the house and followed the sounds to Iona’s bedroom, where she found her sister stuffing everything she owned into the boxes scattered around the room. The room was in complete chaos, with clothes and purses tossed about, her books dumped haphazardly into a box by the door, and wads of newspaper scattered across the bed as Iona wrapped her breakables.

“What are you doin’?” Fenella asked.

Iona startled and looked up. “I didnae hear you come in.”

“Obviously. But that disnae tell me what you’re doin’.”

“Packing. Alec disnae want to come back here for a while, at least, no’ until Brochan is over my leaving him at the altar like that. Did you explain to him why I had to leave?”

Fenella folded her arms over her chest. “Aye. It was so great of you to leave me with the task of telling your fiancé that you no longer wanted to marry him. On your wedding day!” she screamed. “Jilting him the way you did was tasteless and cruel. You’d obviously known for a while that you had feelings for Alec. Why’d you wait so long to tell Brochan that you wouldnae marry him? Why no’ stop things before they got so far?”

Iona looked chagrined. “I didnae know what to say to him, and I wasnae certain how Alec felt. He sought me out this mornin’ and told me he didnae want to live without me. He proposed and everything.” She held up her hand, flashing a diamond easily twice the size of the one Brochan had given her.

Suddenly, it all made sense to Fenella. She hated to think ill of her sister, but it was obvious to her that marrying Alec had nothing to do with love and everything to do with his bank account. Iona had always been obsessed with owning the best of everything, and now she’d found a man who could provide that for her, far better than Brochan ever could. The sexy tiger was well-off by town standards, but he didn’t make nearly as much as Alec apparently did. And appearances were everything to Iona. She’d always wanted to grow up and be someone important. Little did she realize that had she remained with Brochan, she would have been the beta’s mate. Maybe there was a reason he’d never told Iona about himself. Maybe deep down, he’d always known how shallow she was.

“Leave your keys when you go,” Fenella said. “You already signed the house over to me when you planned to marry Brochan, and once you have your belongings boxed up and in your car, I want you out of here. Forever. I cannae condone what you did to Brochan today, but I can say I’m very glad he didnae marry you.”

Iona snorted. “That’s because you’ve had a crush on him since you first met him all those years ago. You were barely more than a teen when Brochan first came into our lives, and still in university when I started dating him. He didnae want a child for his girlfriend, and he willnae want a child now. Brochan needs a woman, something you willnae be for a long while yet. You have a lot of growing up to do, Fenella. The world is no’ all sunshine and roses like you seem to think.”

“I’ve never thought of the world that way, Iona, but you’ve always been too self-absorbed to think about anyone but yourself, much less consider my thoughts and feelings on anything. If you’d truly cared about me at all, you’d never have dated Brochan. I told you after that first meeting that it was love at first sight, and even before you started dating him, I told you those feelings had grown. But you didnae care. You only cared about yourself.”

“It disnae matter any longer. I’m gone. But donae think you can get Brochan to ever feel anything for you. He knows what it’s like to be with a real woman, and he willnae want to be with someone as inexperienced as you.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to tell her bitchy sister that she’d already been with Brochan and had consoled him in every way possible tonight, but something held her back. Iona was unpredictable and Fenella couldn’t be certain what she would do when faced with that situation. In her sister’s world, men worshiped the ground Iona walked on and never looked at another woman again. She didn’t realize that people moved on once they realized how selfish, shallow, and bitchy her sister could be. Truthfully, Fenella couldn’t understand why Brochan had stayed with her for so long, much less asked Iona to marry him.

Then again, he was a sweet man and probably only saw the good in people. She chewed on her lower lip. Well, maybe not all people. As beta of his ambush, it was his responsibility to dole out the punishment when someone did something wrong. He couldn’t be sweet and loving all the time, so she knew there was a harder, tougher side to Brochan. It didn’t mean he had a clue when it came to women though. Men saw a pretty face and little else mattered, especially if they were getting laid.

“Mark my words,” Iona said. “In less than week, he’ll be whoring around again, tossing up whatever skirt walks past him. Any skirt but yours.” She smirked. “You’ll never be good enough for the likes of Brochan Kinley. He’ll always be too much man for you.”

The words hurt, but Fenella buried them deep. Fighting the urge to flip off her sister, she turned and headed toward her room, firmly shutting and locking the door behind her. Her shower would have to wait because she refused to step foot outside of her room until her horrible sister was gone. This time for good. That was one set of taillights Fenella couldn’t wait to see. If Iona never darkened her door again, it would be too soon.

 

Tiger’s Claim is book 3 in the Highland Shifters series. Each book can be read as a stand alone, even though you may enjoy the series more if they are read in order.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kenna McKay is a lover of all things Scottish—especially men in kilts! There’s just something sexy about Scotsmen. The Scottish burr, perhaps? Their rugged good looks? Maybe it’s not just one thing, but everything combined into one mouthwatering package.

Kenna didn’t start out wanting to be a writer, but she’s loved the written word for as long as she can remember. Writing stories from a young age, it wasn’t until 2014 that she decided she wanted to be a published author.

Kenna loves to interact with her fans! You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.  To hear about new releases, please sign-up for her newsletter.

Kenna’s Favorite…
 
Book – Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
Movie – Labyrinth
Band – The Munros
Color – Purple
Flower – Yellow Roses
Drink – Coffee
Perfume – Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf

Sexy Saturday: Sexy & Kilted by Kenna McKay #ScottishRomance #shifters @AuthorKMckay

 

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Publisher: Coastal Escape Publishing
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal, Highland Romance
Themes: shifter (other), curses
Length: short story

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Tiger shifter, Fergus Macleod, had thought he’d found his mate, only to have the woman dump him for a laird. But if Elspeth wasn’t his destined mate, who is? At thirty-seven, he’s getting a little old to be waiting around for Mrs. Right. Now that his brother, the alpha, is settled, Fergus wants a mate more than anything.

Robina Bruce has not had an easy life. The night her father sells her to pay off a debt, she thinks her life is over. But then something wonderful happens…she’s rescued by a knight-in-sexy-kilt. Robina will do anything to repay Fergus, and not just because the Highlander rescued her. Robina has a secret she was told to never share with anyone, but there’s just something about Fergus that makes her trust him.

When Fergus and Robina divulge their secrets, will it be a match made in heaven or will it drive the two apart?

 

Purchase at:

Amazon  / B&N  /  Kobo / iTunes 

 

ADULT EXCERPT

Fergus lavished her with attention and this incredible need built inside of Robina. She’d heard stories before, had read romances, but until that moment, she’d never believed a word of it. Her body felt like it was on fire and she knew that only Fergus could quench the flames. And yet everything he did seemed to make the fire burn brighter and stronger. His touch was gentle, his kisses sweet. He worshiped her body until she thought she might explode.

“Fergus, I need more,” she whispered. She knew enough to know what went where, and she could only hope that once he was inside of her, the ache growing inside would ease.

“Are you sure you’re ready, Robina? I ken it’s going to hurt the first time, and I donae wish to hurt you.”

“Now, Fergus. I need you now.”

He kissed her hungrily as he settled between her legs. She felt his cock brush against her wet folds and gasped against his mouth as he began easing inside of her. It burned as he stretched her, filled her, but he took his time. He’d push forward a little, then retreat, then push forward a little more, until he was finally seated all the way inside of her. She hurt, but it wasn’t as bad as she’d feared.

When he started moving inside of her, the pain began to lessen and pleasure swept over her once more. The flames came back, engulfing her from head to toe, as each stroke drove her higher and higher, pushing her toward something she’d never felt before. Her body tightened, prepared for something wonderful, and then she cried out as her release broke, ecstasy filling her. She felt euphoric! Alive! And well-loved.

Fergus drove into her harder and deeper, her body squeezing him tightly, until he gave his own cry and came inside of her. Robina held him tight, praying with all her might that they had created a child together. It was the only thing that could possibly make her world even brighter in this moment.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kenna McKay is a lover of all things Scottish—especially men in kilts! There’s just something sexy about Scotsmen. The Scottish burr, perhaps? Their rugged good looks? Maybe it’s not just one thing, but everything combined into one mouthwatering package.

Kenna didn’t start out wanting to be a writer, but she’s loved the written word for as long as she can remember. Writing stories from a young age, it wasn’t until 2014 that she decided she wanted to be a published author.

Kenna loves to interact with her fans! You can find her on Twitter and Facebook!  Be sure to sign-up for her newsletter!

Kenna’s Favorite…
 
Book – Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
Movie – Labyrinth
Band – The Munros
Color – Purple
Flower – Yellow Roses
Drink – Coffee
Perfume – Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Ashton Grove MC (boxed set) #werewolves #PNR #shapeshifter #bikerromance

A motorcycle club has rolled into Ashton Grove, trying to make a place for themselves. A motley crew of shifters, fucking and fighting are just a way of life. But if there’s one thing they can’t stand, it’s anyone who abuses a woman.

 

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Published by JCS Books
Cover Artist: Jessica Coulter Smith
Genres: Paranormal Romance, MC Romance, Werewolves/Shifters
Length: 183 pages

VIPER: When Viper sits down to a game of poker with the Red Devils M.C., and their Sergeant at Arms tosses a woman in as his bet, Viper knows he has to win at all costs.

AXEL: Axel Bloodmoon loves his life in the M.C. Danger abounds and there’s lots of willing women to be had. But when he goes on a mission to rescue some abducted women, things don’t turn out quite as he’d planned. One sniff of Amelia and his cat is convinced she belongs to them. Stubborn beast!

GHOST: When Ghost realizes Shelly is being forced to sell her body, and that her pimp is a little too free with his fists, he realizes he can’t sit back and wait any longer. Charging in on his Harley, he swoops in and rescues the damsel in distress. There’s only one problem. Who’s going to rescue him from her?

CRIMSON: When Crimson nearly loses Holly, he realizes that he will do anything to keep her by his side – and when a bear gets an idea in his head, he’ll stop at nothing to make it happen. What’s a love struck shifter to do when his mate has cold feet?

 

Purchase from Amazon, B&N, iTunes, or Kobo

You may also borrow this title through ScribD

 

 

#NewRelease – Remus (Watchdogs 2) by @GaleStanley #LGBT #GayRomance #shifters #PNR @changelingpress

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Remus (Watchdogs 2) by Gale Stanley

Cover art: Bryan Keller

BIN: 08356-02699

Genres: Gay, Werewolves, Shapeshifters, Paranormal,
Action Adventure & Suspense, New Releases, Romance

Length: Novella

Page Count: 42

 

 Ray has always been a little wild in bed but can Jared handle his animal tendencies?

 

Ex-hitman, Ray Miller got immunity in exchange for testifying against Sarge, his former handler. Grateful for the second chance, Ray and his lover, Jared open their own P.I. agency and call it Watchdogs. But their happily ever after doesn’t last long.

Jared is having nightmares that seem all too real, and someone is stalking him. Ray suspects Sarge wants revenge, but he soon discovers a more dangerous foe is after them. How can he protect himself and Jared, when their enemy is a wolf?

 

EXCERPT

Jared huddled under the covers until the smell of coffee drew him out of bed. First stop, the bathroom. He glanced in the mirror, and did a double take. What the fuck! Gripping the small sink, he leaned in for a closer look. Teeth marks.

Suddenly, a naked Ray appeared behind him, and strong muscular arms circled Jared. “Do you want coffee or a blowjob?” Ray stroked Jared’s flaccid penis back to life.

Jared melted back against him. “I want to get fucked.” Then he remembered. “You bit me.”

Ray inspected his handiwork. “So? You know you like it rough. You were so fucking hot, you didn’t even feel it.”

“You broke the skin.”

“Don’t be a wuss. I had my rabies shot.”

“Very funny.”

Ray kissed the mark. “It’s a love bite. Means you’re mine. Forever.”

Jared sighed. “I don’t need a mark to remind me. I love you.”

“Love you, too. Come back to bed and I’ll prove it.”

Happy Reading!

 

Available at

Changeling Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

 

About the Author

Gale Stanley grew up in Philadelphia PA. She was the kid who always had her nose in a book, her head in the clouds, and her hands on a pad and pencil.

Some things never change.

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Website | Blog | Twitter | FaceBook | Instagram | Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight: Desire Island (boxed set) by Shelby Morgen, Treva Harte, and Stephanie Burke #PNR #TimeTravel

Desire Island — a gateway to the heart’s deepest desire, to passion’s heat, to love.

 

2nd Edition: Desire Island (Box Set) by Treva  Harte

Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller
Genres: Paranormal, Futuristic, Time Travel
Length: 284 pages

Desire Island
A gateway to the heart’s deepest desire,
To passion’s heat, to love.
The wind-tossed sign at the front gate always reads “Vacancy.”

Stephanie Burke: Take Me With You
Lost in a futuristic desert, Gray finds himself surrounded by his worst nightmares and falling for an exotic creature who stirs up memories of his dark past. Gray will stop at nothing to ignite a passion that will unite their souls as one.

Treva Harte: Reflections
The perfect trophy wife. Mason’s given Lilli everything she’s asked for. And she’s given him — everything. Now her mirror shows her a truth she’d rather not see. And is the hunk who beckons to her from another life in her past, or is he her future?

Shelby Morgen: The Summoning
A spell so powerful — and dangerous — its use is forbidden. Marylin accidentally steps into a future that’s not her own. Roanen appears to be the fulfillment of Marylin’s every sexual fantasy, but are the visions that haunt her memories of past lives and past loves…or mistakes she’s doomed to repeat?

Buy at Changeling Press, Amazon, B&N, iTunes, or Kobo

Excerpt

“Good evening.” The trim blonde woman’s voice held all the warmth of a bottle of Chablis on ice. She nodded her head once in greeting as she passed through the inn’s front parlor, both acknowledging and dismissing them…

And leaving them alone.

They hadn’t wanted company anyway.

Marylin turned away from the window to study the figure on the old settee just as thunder cracked loudly in the background. Gray wouldn’t want her to remember how much thunderstorms always frightened him. But he went rigid for the moment it took for the lightning to follow the thunder.

He didn’t say anything. Just sat there stoically, his hands wrapped around his tumbler, a tall, lean man, slightly shadowed in the light from the fireplace. She didn’t need to see his face to read him. She knew him too well. Dear Gray. Always trying to be a hero for her… she could have loved him for that alone.

Damn. She had such lousy taste in men.

No, that wasn’t fair. At least not to Gray. Gray was a fine man. Tall and graceful and handsome and — gay. Well, bi maybe. He’d been married, once upon a time, at least for a while. Just not to her.

It wasn’t Gray’s fault she’d fallen in love with him all those years ago. He’d warned her not to. Told her often enough all they could be was friends. She hadn’t listened. Hadn’t understood. She was a rescuer, after all. She always fell for that wounded look. She’d been so in love with him once… or at least infatuated. Maybe that was why now he was the only one she felt would really understand.

She took her time crossing the room, reminding herself that he was a friend. Just a friend. That’s all he’d ever really been. All he could ever be. Sort of like a really great girlfriend. One who was actually taller than she was.

“I don’t know what went wrong or just exactly when, but one day it hit me. I could ignore the flirting with his students. I could ignore the not-so-subtle innuendoes from other professors. I couldn’t ignore my own feelings. People don’t change. We are who we are. I wanted Don to be someone he’ll never be. I wanted him to care about me. To need me. The real me, the one inside he never got to know. Twenty years, and we were still strangers. Don had some image of who I should be, the perfect wife, and it was soooo not me! I just don’t care enough to live with the lies anymore. Maybe I never did. Sometimes I think I married Don because I just gave up. I quit looking for that one perfect man I was meant to be with. My soul mate.”

Because I thought my soul mate was you, and I’d already lost. I settled. For too little. Yeah. I settled for way too little. Marylin swallowed two fingers of Amaretto, ignoring the burn. She’d never been much for subtlety. There was a time for sipping, and a time for getting drunk. This night was definitely the latter. “Do you still believe in soul mates, Gray?”

Gray raised his glass to his lips and drank deeply of his favorite poison, aged Canadian whisky. Marylin cringed. “I used to. I wish…”

His deep, deep voice seemed to purr as he turned to lift his gaze toward her. Light filtered over his face. The color struck her once again, odd and fascinating and vaguely wrong for this world. How many people had violet eyes? Gray was the only one she’d ever met. His eyes were true violet, not some deep shade of blue that seemed to take on a purple cast — a deep, rich, violet framed by eyelashes the color of midnight.

“What?” Marylin took another long swallow of Amaretto. “Sometimes you have the oddest way of not saying things.”

“Nothing.” He smiled that deep, sad smile that always got to her. “I was just — never mind. It was a long time ago. I’m sorry, Baby-Girl. I hoped things would work out better for you. I thought things were going swimmingly between you and what’s-his-name.”

“Swimmingly?” Marylin threw her head back and roared with laughter as she sprawled on the couch next to him, her long legs bent double under her. “Swimmingly! I like that…”

No, nothing subtle — or fake — about Mary. Gray tossed back the last of his whisky, praying it would give him the courage and the power to forget. He pointed to her bottle of Amaretto. Maybe it was time for a change.

Still laughing, Marylin poured them each a triple shot. “I’m so glad you could come, Gray. I’ve missed your friendship… I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too. No one else understands my sense of humor anyway. I love your smile. And I love the fact that I don’t get a cramp in my neck trying to give you a hug. And for the record, you’ve always had my friendship. No matter what, that will never go away.”

He lifted the glass to his lips and took a quick gulp. Then he winked at her before his face twisted into a visage of disgust. How could she drink this crap? But when the warmth hit his stomach, he remembered. Amaretto had always had that effect on him.

“You didn’t bring Carlos. I thought you might…” Marylin tried to maintain her smile for his benefit, but he knew what she was really asking.

“Carlos… Carlos is gone. For good. It’s just you and me this weekend, Baby.” He stared down into his glass before a wry smile twisted his full lips. When did the forgetting start? Maybe he needed a bit more. He took another drink.

“Damn, I’m sorry, Gray. That was one beautiful man. Just the way we both like ’em. Tall, dark, and handsome. It’s not just a cliché!”

Did she sound a little relieved?

Did it matter?

Not anymore. He wouldn’t let it matter. “Tall, dark, handsome, jealous, and colder than a witch’s tit in January. I always seem to fall for the betraying type, and most of that breed seems to be tall, dark, and handsome.” Gray pulled her over against his side with a gentle tug on her wrist, jumping slightly as another crack of thunder split the night.

The lightning followed closer this time, lighting up the beach and the tossing waves beyond with a pale wash of fire. She snuggled against him, maybe for warmth, but he suspected it was as much for his benefit as hers. She knew how much he hated thunderstorms.

“What do you think’s wrong with us, Gray? We have such lousy taste in lovers…”

Gray laughed at that, his mood lightening. Man, did his Mary-Baby have a gift for understatement. The logs settled in the fireplace, sending out a wave of small, bright orange sparks. “We’re too good for this world, Baby. We would have to go to an alternate universe, back in time, another planet or something, to find people who are good enough for us. We’re a special breed, Baby-Girl. The last of the heart-hungry people. We want… we need more than a quick roll and a few fake words of love. We want it all.”