Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
This October 30, I’ll be saying goodbye to one of my favorite characters. Dana Arthur and her two lovers/bosses, Simon Dirk and Ethan Cowell, first invaded my brain in TRAINING THE RECEPTIONIST. They heated things up even more in RESTRAINING THE RECEPTIONIST. They took a time out for a vacation in THANKING THE RECEPTIONIST, a short free read. And now it’s time for UNLEASHING THE RECEPTIONIST. And that will be that. After one last raunchy, sexy, sassy visit to the outrageous firm of Cowell & Dirk in “Low-Life, Long Island, I’ll be moving on to other series, other characters, other settings.
I’m both happy and sad about this. I’ve had a lot of fun writing these characters and I’m going to miss them. Dana the Receptionist is a sassy, smart-alecky survivor who has learned to embrace her sensual side under the tutelage of Simon Dirk. Both Simon and Dana acknowledge the mastery of Ethan Cowell, the charismatic senior partner and mystery man. The interplay between them is fascinating to write; so is Ethan’s imagination. After three books, I feel I know these characters so well. I think they’ll always be with me.
But every good thing must come to an end. I feel I would be doing them wrong if I dragged their story out too long. I enjoyed resolving things for these characters, revealing secrets and letting them reach their ultimate happy ending on all levels. But I didn’t realize how tough it was going to be to write the last sentence and know … that’s it.
Then again, isn’t that the great thing about books? All you have to do is open them up and there are your beloved characters again. There’s that familiar world, just waiting for you. So it may be goodbye for now … but not forever. Dana, Simon and Ethan, we’ll meet again!
You can tie a girl up, but you can’t keep her down…
…the Receptionist, Book 3
In the year since Dana joined Ethan and Simon’s firm, the three of them have found the perfect balance of power and pleasure in their three-way, work/play relationship. Not only that, but it’s been the firm’s most successful year financially.
Except something is missing. Her men won’t tell her anything about their past. How they met, or how they formed such an unconventional business and personal partnership. Until they start sharing their secrets, Dana fears she’ll always be the odd girl out.
Everything changes when a vengeful former partner resurfaces. Suddenly, both the business and their idyllic relationship are under siege. With a tax auditor watching their every move, the three must be on their best behavior.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Dana seizes the chance to prove herself—and finally win her sexy bosses’ full trust and confidence. Now the race is on to root the evil nemesis out of their lives once and for all—before her dream relationship cracks under the pressure.
Contains hot three-way M/F/M sex, highly inappropriate office behavior, a shocking secret, a kinky accountant and some really bad girl-on-girl porno reenactments.
On a typical work day, if I’m chained to my desk it’s with silk cords and for one purpose only: because it leads to screaming orgasms for me and my two delectable bosses, Simon and Ethan.
With one exception. Business plan time.
During business plan, I’m chained to the desk in the usual, strictly metaphorical way. You know, working. Needless to say, it’s not my favorite time of year. It’s tough to spend all day and half the night shut up inside an office with two sexy gods when neither has touched you once. But maybe that’s just me. Not every receptionist has been trained to receive pleasure as well as incoming calls.
“Dana,” said Ethan, jolting me from my sexually frustrated daze. “Can you put another pot of coffee on, luv? And then I’ll need the P & L’s again.”
I hid a sigh as I trudged to the kitchenette. “Coming up.”
At least the profit and loss statements were good. Cowell & Dirk had had a very satisfactory year. Especially if you asked the only actual employee, me. I had experienced a blissfully high level of job satisfaction since Simon had hired and trained me.
“Mu shu pork okay?” called Simon. “I’m ordering from Great Wok.”
Now that was more like it. My mood brightened as I put on the coffee and gathered up the files. I’d do anything for my bosses, we all knew that. But I certainly preferred some duties to others.
“Food’s on its way,” said Simon when I returned with the coffee pot. “If I could only tear Ethan away from that spreadsheet.” He shot me a green-eyed pirate wink. His hair was a tousled black mess, but I loved my Simon in all his moods.
I gave him a questioning glance, wanting to make sure I’d interpreted correctly. Simon and Ethan had a strange bond, one I couldn’t quite figure out even though I was closer to them than anyone. They seemed to read each other without words. Simon gave me a go-ahead cock of his head. With his wrinkled white shirt open at the neck, he looked half-drunk, as if he’d been swilling expensive brandy all night instead of crunching numbers.
“Maybe we need to spread something else in front of him,” I suggested. I put down the files and the coffee and prowled toward Ethan, who barely looked up from his swivel chair. He wore his reading glasses, his grizzled blond head bent over the desk. I challenge you to find anyone hotter than a sexual beast like Ethan with a pair of wire rims perched on his much-broken nose.
I knew from the tilt of his head that he was tracking my approach. Ethan was like a wild animal picking up scents, especially the scent of eager Dana. His nostrils flared as I came close to the desk.
“We wouldn’t want our Senior Partner to burn out. Occasional breaks are healthy. I’m sure that’s in the employee manual somewhere.” I circled behind him and trailed my finger across the back of his neck. He tensed. I felt the tendons go taut as elevator cables. “This poor man has been working far too hard. If we don’t get him to relax, his head might explode.” I ran my hand through his thick hair.
“Sounds dire,” Simon agreed. “Urgent, even.”
“Oh, yes, I’d say it’s an emergency.” I slid my other hand inside his shirt, under the T-shirt, where rough curls greeted my fingers. “There isn’t even time to call a doctor. We’ll have to do what we can all on our own.”
Ethan let out an amused growl. “Nice try, luv, but it won’t work. Can’t mix business plan with pleasure.”
I snorted. The three of us had been mixing business with pleasure for over a year now. “You’re so right, boss. I’m being bad, aren’t I?” I rubbed my nipples on the broad plain between his shoulder blades. Obedient little soldiers, they peaked right away from the heat of his body. Or maybe from the memory of all the things Ethan had done to them. “There’s probably something in the manual about this. In the punishment and correction section.”
“I’m warning you, Dana.” But I heard the heat in his voice. I knew the game was on.
I aimed a cat-who-ate-the-cream look at Simon, inviting him to join me. He rose to his feet and ambled toward me, taking off his belt. I shivered at the sight and instantly went wet. “Perhaps our lovely receptionist needs a refresher course in obedience,” he said with a frown. “Hands behind your back, Dana.”
“But, Simon, I’m just trying to relax him …”
“Hands behind your back.” His stern voice made heat shoot to my pussy. I straightened up and put my wrists together behind my back.
“It’s not her hands that are causing the trouble.” Ethan swiveled around so he faced me. “It’s her nipples.” He gave my chest a smoldering glare, which ignited little aching flames inside each breast. “They need to be taught a lesson.”
“Quite right,” said Simon.
Ethan flicked open the buttons of my blouse, pop pop pop, until it hung open. Underneath I wore their favorite kind of undergarment, a pushup teddy that barely covered my nipples. One quick move of Ethan’s hand and it didn’t cover them at all.
From behind me, Simon ran the leather belt through his hands. It made a rough, hissing sound like a snake sliding across gravel. “Keep your hands behind you, disobedient Dana. Nipples out.”
Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Welcome Victoria Blisse and her newest release. And it’s a hot one!
Take away the control and what do you have left? Desire.
Melissa is smart, confident and head strong. She has her dream career and is a step away from becoming a partner at Grimly and Vimes. Richard ruins her perfect plan when he uncovers a serious indiscretion in her past and forces her to be his office sex slave for a week in return for his silence.
But Melissa finds out that she enjoys being told what to do. She craves punishment and adores to be put in her place and Richard does it so perfectly. It was not in her plan to fall in love but how will she cope when it happens anyway?
I love playing around with power in my stories. I want to surprise my characters and my readers but in a pleasant way of course! Switching the Control is filled with twists and shocks and was great fun to write because of that. I really enjoyed playing with two confident, dominant business people and making them submit to me and, at times, their lover was a great delight! I hope it comes through when you read the story. Now, here’s a little excerpt to whet your appetite!
“Okay, I take no pleasure in this—well, actually, I lie, I’ll take a lot of pleasure in this actually but really, I’d enjoy it much more if in future you’d just obey me straight away.” He stood up and walked around the table. The tailored jacket he’d worn earlier was hung on the back of his chair and I could see the outline of his torso through the white of his shirt as the light of the setting sun streamed in through the wall of glass behind him. He was well built, if you liked that kind of thing, but I was certain that my pulse was racing because of the heat in his room. I knew it had nothing to do with wanting to run my hands over his hard pecs.
“Now, all you need to do is bend over when I tell you to and hold on tight to the desk. I will do the rest.”
He moved the chair from between me and the table and gestured with a hand that I should step closer to the desk.
“Okay, bend over. This won’t hurt, well, it won’t hurt much. Probably.”
“Well, gee, thanks for the pep talk,” I mumbled.
“Ah, did I ask you a question?”
“No,” I hesitated a moment then added, “sir.”
“Then you shouldn’t have said anything, should you? I’ll be adding strikes on to your punishment for that, pet. Now bend over, let’s get on with this. I have a bottle of puligny montrachet at home waiting for me and I’m rather looking forward to drinking at least some of it.”
I bent over and held onto the desk. Insufferable as he was with his poncey wine and his arrogance, he was right. We needed to get on with it so that I could go home and forget about him and this whole stupid affair for a few hours whilst I slept.
I inhaled sharply when he pulled up my skirt and tucked the hem into my waistband. I almost screamed out when he yanked down my underwear with barely a care. I felt his nails scrape down my flesh. I wondered for a moment what I had become. In the course of one day I’d gone from being the ice bitch, the woman people didn’t mess with, to a slut who masturbated on the office floor and allowed herself to be spanked. How the fuck had that happened?
I waited restlessly and worried about my arse. I was pretty certain it was one of the least attractive of my assets and it was aimed directly at Richard. It made me feel vulnerable and exposed and I really didn’t like it. That’s why I shuddered and wiggled. It wasn’t that I was feeling hot and bothered and maybe just a little aroused, definitely not.
The first spank really did surprise me. There was nothing and then the air moved and an impact of flesh on flesh followed with a sharp sting that made me gasp. I didn’t have time to gather my thoughts or brace myself before the next slap shot through me then the next and the next.
It definitely hurt. Richard was not holding back and my buttocks stung. I yelped with each new impact and tensed every time he pulled back his hand. I hated it and I loved it. I certainly didn’t understand it. But, with each painful slap, pleasure surged through me and lit me up from the centre of my clit to the very tips of my fingers and toes. I couldn’t stay still, each slap hurt so much, but I couldn’t wait for it.
“Dear God, I do believe you’re enjoying this, you surprising little minx.”
To read all of Melissa and Richard’s story pick up Switching the Control now at 10% discount exclusively at Total-E-Bound.
And it will be available from all good online booksellers from the 1st October.
Victoria Blisse is a mother, wife, Christian, Manchester United fan and award winning erotica author. She is also the editor of several Bigger Briefs collections, Smut by the Sea and Smut in the City.
She is equally at home behind a laptop or a cooker and she loves to create stories, poems, cakes and biscuits that make people happy. She was born near Manchester, England and her northern English quirkiness shows through in all of her stories. Passion, love and laughter fill her works, just as they fill her busy life.
Monday, September 24th, 2012
A man at the center of power. A woman who won’t be ruled. They call her Magique.
Sought out by the District’s elite, she’s no ordinary call girl, deciding who will pleasure her for the evening. Her preference is for several men at once. Games of bondage and submission heighten her arousal and desire to have a strong male take her.
Hunter is only looking for a good time, not a woman who unleashes a hunger so deep it changes his world. He won’t stop until Magique is his alone, a prisoner of his lust, powerless against his growing need for her body and heart.
With this man, resistance isn’t allowed. For this woman, he’ll create a world of sensual delight and yearning like none she’s ever known.
Reader Advisory: Magique’s sensual journey includes some brief ménage and BDSM elements.
On the other end of the room was a wet bar. And Magique.
Hunt stepped closer, unable to help himself.
Her back was to them. She made no move to turn around despite David’s nervous throat clearing.
Her hair was glossy and black with blue highlights, worn so long the ends dangled over her ass. From his vantage point, Hunt could see her right leg. She wore strappy gold heels, three inches high. He estimated her to be about five-seven or eight without them. Her dress, a simple sheath, was of an amazing gold material, slightly shiny and so snug she might as well have sprayed the damn thing on.
It wasn’t gauzy lingerie, but it did reveal her every curve.
Adrenaline pumped through Hunt, making it difficult for him to stand still. His mouth went dry.
Her figure leaned more toward a Victoria’s Secret model than the waiflike look of high couture. The dress’s left strap had fallen down, making her seem more accessible, oddly vulnerable. Light glanced off her bare shoulder and arm as she moved, lifting a glass, tipping a bottle. Her skin was an ivory shade, looking delicate and seductive as hell.
He pulled at his tie’s knot, needing to loosen it so he could breathe more easily. The air, so fresh a moment before, seemed suffocating now. His fingers ached. He’d been making fists. To control himself? Damn right.
He longed to cross the room and turn her around so she’d notice him, her expression saying she not only approved, she wanted him more than the others, her actions affirming her reckless desire.
Tina Donahue is an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic, paranormal, contemporary and historical romance for Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, and Kensington. Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly,Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised her work. Three of her erotic romances (Adored, Lush Velvet Nights, and Deep, Dark, Delicious) were named finalists in the 2011 EPIC competition. The French review site, Blue Moon reviews, chose her erotic romance Sensual Stranger as their Book of the Year 2010 (erotic category). The Golden Nib Award at Miz Love Loves Books was created specifically for Lush Velvet Nights, and two of her titles (The Yearning and Deep, Dark, Delicious) received an Award of Merit in the RWA Holt Medallion competition (2011 and 2012). Take Me Away and Adored both won second place in the NEC RWA contest (different years). Tina is featured in the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. She was the editor of an award–winning Midwestern newspaper and worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company.
Sunday, September 23rd, 2012
Hello everyone! Thank you for hosting Dare and I on your blog today, Desiree!
Today I’m sitting down with Darren “Dare” Shalvis, the hero from my latest release, DARE. This is a Contemporary Romance that I had a lot of fun writing. Not only because of Dare & Olivia’s relationship but because of the secondary characters who I think might just get their own stories.
I shift on the couch and face Dare sitting beside me.
Kacey: Hello, Dare
He grabs my hand and smiles that gorgeous grin of his.
Dare: Hello, sweetheart. Good to see you.
Kacey: How have you been?
Dare: Oh you know what it’s like, busy work schedule. The law firm keeps me pretty busy with cases.
Kacey: You’re a P.I., and work a lot of cases for Presley & Monroe. Do the cases ever seem open and shut to you?
Dare: Well, I was fairly confident in the Lombardi case, certain of the accused’s guilt. As you know, there was a surprise in that one that we never saw coming. But that’s part of the fun…never knowing from one case, one day to the next, what will happen.
Kacey: You met Olivia at the law firm, what was your first impression of her?
Dare: Oh, man. She was…is…smokin’ hot. I walked into the office that day, she was bent over the desk talking on the phone and writing something down. Geez, that long black skirt tight over her ass, black heels and stockings…thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Her long dark hair just flowed down her back. All men should be so lucky for such a sight when walking into a room.
Kacey: Thanks to her girlfriends, the two of you finally got to…reveal your feelings for one another. Of course, no relationship is easy and you ended up pissing those girls off. Are things okay with Candy, Jessica & Holly now?
Dare: Hell, Candy’s a ball-buster isn’t she? She still gives me a hard time, glares, rarely has a good thing to say about me, but she’s important to Livvy, so I’m still trying to the bridge the gaps with her. But Holly, Jessica and I are fine.
Kacey: Okay, since I can’t let you give too much away about your journey with Olivia, how about some fun and maybe some personal questions?
Dare: Anything for you, sweetheart.
He lifts my hand and kisses the back. Damn the man for being so drop-dead gorgeous!
Kacey: Okay, simple…Boxers or briefs?
Dare laughs, then says: Boxers for sure. Need the room. He winks
Kacey: If you had to choose – Dodge Challenger or a Charger?
Dare: Challenger all the way.
Kacey: What is Olivia’s favourite flower?
Dare: Orchids. Hard to find but I try to get her some as often as possible.
Kacey: Horror movies or dramas?
Dare: Old Westerns. Love John Wayne movies.
Kacey: Me too. I watch them as much as possible. Okay, hmmm I shouldn’t ask this.
Dare: You can ask me anything.
Kacey: Favourite position during sex?
Dare laughs. But you already know this, sweetheart.
Kacey: Yes, but not all readers do yet.
Dare: True. I like to be on the bottom. Nothing like watching the woman I love astride me, riding. To watch her face, the pleasure and passion in her eyes. Her long hair scattered around her, hmm, definitely what I prefer.
Kacey: Chocolate covered strawberries or whipped cream?
Kacey: Sexy lingerie or tank top and shorts?
Kacey: Last question…if you could change one thing about your relationship with Olivia, what would it be?
Dare: That I didn’t wait so long to act in my feelings. Things happen as they should, I know, but I wish we could have spent a lot more time in bed.
Kacey: Thank you for sitting down with me today, for readers to get to know you better.
Dare leans over and lays a soft peck on my lips.
Dare: My pleasure, sweetheart. My best to all your readers.
By Kacey Hammell
Contemporary Erotic Romance
Availableat Evernight Publishing
Legal secretary, Olivia Warner enjoys being single and, aside from her closest gal pals, usually keeps to herself. But the night of her thirty-fourth birthday, she and her friends spend a fun-filled evening at a local bar where her friends dare her to approach a man, and spend the night with him. Olivia’s not one to turn down a dare, especially from her old college pals. She only hopes the man in question is in for some good conversation, because that is all she’ll give him.
Darren “Dare” Shalvis has given up on women. He’s tired of being chased for his money, good looks, and prowess in bed. He prefers to meet a woman who, for once, wants nothing more from him than mere conversation. If only the woman asking him to spend the night with her wasn’t his favorite legal secretary.
Accepting a dare has never been so tempting…
Excerpt © Kacey Hammell
Olivia burst out laughing without reservation.
Dare had heard it a lot tonight and the evening couldn’t be going any better.
Before taking separate cars from Countess, they’d agreed to meet back at her place for a late dinner. She had the job to pick up Chinese food while he had run his own errand.
When he’d walked her to her car and mentioned the need to stop at the drugstore, he saw her turn scarlet even in the dark. It was refreshing to find a woman who didn’t come on strong and found the slightest flirtation blush-worthy. He didn’t know many women like her.
The urge to kiss her nearly choked him. Yet before he could act, she’d whispered goodbye and hidden in her car. But the night was still young and he planned to take full advantage of the fact.
Once settled at her place, they instantly dived into their food.
He watched her smile between bites, and fought the impulse to take her lips with his. Olivia didn’t have Angie Jolie lips but they were still lush and fuller—cherry red and wet—than most women’s.
As she pushed more food into her mouth, her lips wrapped around her fork—she’d given up trying to master chopsticks, which they’d both found hilarious—Dare imagined her mouth around his cock as she sucked him deep over and over again.
“You know, chopsticks are dangerous.” Olivia’s voice brought him from his musings.
“Dangerous? I’m not sure about that, but if you say so.”
After he watched her struggle with them for fifteen minutes, Dare agreed to some extent. She was very different from other women he knew. Some never relaxed enough to laugh at themselves the way she did. Most were self-conscious and obnoxious.
But the more Olivia tried, the worse her coordination became and the more they cackled about it. Dare couldn’t recall a time when he’d had such a great time with a woman. Olivia was easy to be around. He also hadn’t felt so laid-back in ages. Most dates were full of tension and what-ifs. But with her, perhaps their honesty and knowing what the night held put them both at ease.
Dare knew she was a bit nervous, but the underlying sexual tension was electric. There was still a calm atmosphere as minutes ticked by. He was happy with that but wished he’d taken the initiative before now and asked her out. He really enjoyed her company.
“Yes, dangerous. Twice now, I’ve nearly poked my eye out with those things.”
He held up his own chopsticks, having mastered the craft years ago. He eyeballed the unintimidating weapon and then scrutinized her, brows raised. She looked serious. He had to hold in a laugh. “Perhaps you’re not feeling them.”
She frowned. “Feeling them? They’re in my hand, Dare, how can I not be feel them?”
Pleased she now used his nickname—it had never sounded so sweet—he shook his head. “No I mean, feel them. Hold them gentle, yet firm. Let your fingers slide against them like a caress.”
He lifted his hand higher, slid his fingers gently, and moved the chopsticks with grace and ease.
Dare watched her gaze darken as it followed his movements, and her cheeks flushed. He never thought showing a woman how to use chopsticks would be arousing, but desire was clear in her gaze.
She couldn’t have any idea just how hot she looked when turned on. His cock thickened. His pants grew uncomfortable and tightened over his burgeoning erection.
Shifting on the couch, he set the box of chow mein and his sticks on the coffee table, and leaned toward her.
“Olivia,” he whispered.
She stared into his eyes. The deep green of hers deepened, and her breath quickened. “Yes?”
He took the box of chicken fried rice from her hand, set it on the table, his gaze never leaving hers. He cupped her cheek, drew her closer to him, their lips an inch apart. “Do you know how many times, how long, I’ve wanted to kiss you?”
Readers can learn more about Kacey’s books/contact her via …
Thursday, September 20th, 2012
I’ve been a romance reader for as long as I can remember. I devoured hundreds of Harlequin romances in high school before branching out to look for something with a bit more depth in college. That’s when I discovered Marion Zimmer Bradley’s sci fi/fantasy series, Darkover, and later Anne Rice’s amazing vampires, witches, and other supernatural beings, all with a romantic bent to them that I gobbled up. And for all the years I’ve been reading, I’ve also been writing. Only until five years ago, I’d never finished any of the stories I wrote!
My first book was a hetero erotic novella, “From the Depths.” I wrote it more as a challenge to myself to see if I could write explicit sex scenes. Yep. I could. And I found that I really loved writing them! My second book was a gay romance and fantasy story that had been running around in my brain for months—a love story between a genie and a prince, “The Dream of a Thousand Nights.” I hadn’t considered publishing either, really. On a lark, I sent “Dream” to Dreamspinner Press. I still remember my husband saying, “Don’t feel too bad if you get a rejection letter.” I also remember how my jaw dropped when I saw the email from Elizabeth North that said, “Contract” on it!
I loved writing both “From the Depths” and “Dreams.” But, as with my writing, I realized I wanted something more than just fantasy escapism to write about. Don’t get me wrong—I still adore fantasy and fluffy/angsty stories like “Dream.” I just wanted to explore what it was about romance that I loved so much. And I decided I preferred doing that writing gay romance. That’s where the Blue Notes Series of novels comes in.
“Blue Notes” (Blue Notes #1) and “The Melody Thief” (Blue Notes #2), like my book the similarities end. The Blue Notes Series is about relationships. Real relationships. Sure, there’s romantic fun in the novels, as well, but at their heart the novels are about making relationships work and how relationship (good and bad) can help people grow and change.
“Blue Notes” is the story of violinist Jules Bardon and lawyer Jason Greene. It’s set in Paris, my favorite city, and draws upon my own experiences living in France as a teenager. Jason runs away from everything that’s supposed to be right in his life—a beautiful fiancé, a high-paying job—because he realizes that everything is really wrong. He wants more, and he needs to come to terms with things in his life he’s avoided: his sexuality, his relationship with his fiancé, his work. Through Jules’s eyes, Jason begins to see himself differently.
“The Melody Thief” is the story of world-renowned classical cellist Cary Redding. Cary lives a dual life: he plays with the best orchestras and is sought after by the best conductors, but he’s also addicted to anonymous sex and spends his free nights cruising the gay bars. Cary’s two worlds collide when he is mugged on a deserted Milan street and rescued by lawyer Antonio Bianchi. Antonio and his young son steal Cary’s heart, and Cary’s life is forever changed.
The same themes—classical music and personal growth—are also the hallmark of the upcoming Blue Notes novels, “Aria” (Blue Notes #3) and “Prelude” (Blue Notes #4), set for publication in December, 2012 and April, 2012, respectively. And with each book, I too have grown as a writer, demanding more of myself and my characters, and exploring aspects of love and relationships through my writing. I hope you’ll join me on my continuing journey! -Shira
In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 30’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
Shira can be found on Facebook, Goodreads, or on her web site, http://www.shiraanthony.com. You can also contact her at email@example.com.
Excerpt: The Melody Thief (Blue Notes, #2), now available on Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and AllRomanceEbooks
Blurb: A Blue Notes Novel (Note: Each Blue Notes Series novel is an independent story, set in the same classical music universe. Books can be read in any order.)
Cary Redding is a walking contradiction. On the surface he’s a renowned cellist, sought after by conductors the world over. Underneath, he’s a troubled man flirting with addictions to alcohol and anonymous sex. The reason for the discord? Cary knows he’s a liar, a cheat. He’s the melody thief.
Cary manages his double life just fine until he gets mugged on a deserted Milan street. Things look grim until handsome lawyer Antonio Bianchi steps in and saves his life. When Antonio offers something foreign to Cary—romance—Cary doesn’t know what to do. But then things get even more complicated. For one thing, Antonio has a six-year-old son. For another, Cary has to confess about his alter ego and hope Antonio forgives him.
Just when Cary thinks he’s figured it all out, past and present collide and he is forced to choose between the family he wanted as a boy and the one he has come to love as a man.
Chapter One: The Melody Thief
He screwed up his face, trying to ignore the bright lights at the edge of the stage, which burned his eyes and left multicolored imprints on his retinas. Cary Redding was barely fifteen years old, but he sat straight-backed, schooling his expression to reveal only calm resolve. Unlike some of the well-known performers he had watched on video, he did not move his body in time to the music, nor did he bend and sway. The cello became a physical extension of his body, and he had no need to move anything more than his fingers on the fingerboard and his bow over the strings.
When he played, he was transported to a place where it didn’t matter that his face had begun to break out or that he seemed to grow out of his shoes every other month. When he played, he forgot his fear that he was different—that he was far more interested in Jerry Gabriel than in Jerry’s sister Martha. When he played, he felt the kind of warmth he had horsing around with his brother in the backyard, chasing after a football.
For the past three years, he had studied the Elgar Cello Concerto, a soulful, intensely passionate composition, and one he adored. His cello teacher had explained that it had been composed at the end of World War I, and the music reflected the composer’s grief and disillusionment. At the time, Cary hadn’t been really sure what that meant, but he felt the music deep within his soul, in a place he hid from everyone. In that music, he could express what he could not express any other way, and somehow nobody ever seemed to understand that although the music was Elgar’s, the sadness and the melancholy were his own.
At times he was terrified the audience would discover his secret: that he was unworthy of the music. But then his fingers would follow their well-worn path across the fingerboard, and his bow would move of its own accord. The music would rise and fall and engulf him entirely, and the audience would be on their feet to acknowledge the gangly, awkward teenager who had just moved them to tears.
Tonight was no exception. The Tulsa Performing Arts Center was packed with pillars of the community come to hear the young soloist The Chicago Sun-Times had proclaimed “one of the brightest new talents in classical music.” Cries of “bravo” punctuated the applause, and a shy little girl in a white dress with white tights and white shoes climbed the steps to the stage with her mother’s encouragement and handed him a single red rose.
He stood with his cello at his side and bowed as he had been taught not long after he learned to walk. The accompanist bowed as well, smiling at him with the same awed expression he had seen from pianists and conductors alike.
In that moment, he felt like a thief. A liar. The worst kind of cheat.
“Young man,” the woman in the red cocktail dress with the double strand of pearls said as she laid her hand on his shoulder, “you are truly a wonder. You must come back soon and play for us again.”
He knew how to respond; he’d been taught this, as well. “Thank you, ma’am.” His voice cracked, as it had on and off for the past six months. His face burned. He was embarrassed he could not control this as well as he could his performance.
“He’s booked through the next year,” his mother told the woman, “but if there’s an opening, we’ll be sure to let you know.” She would find an opening, no doubt, even if it meant sacrificing his one free weekend at home. His mother never passed up a chance to promote his career.
Back in the green room, his mother looked on as he wiped down the fingerboard of his instrument and gently replaced it in its fiberglass case, then carefully secured his bow in the lid. He’d barely looked at his mother since they’d left the small crowd of well-wishers who had gathered in the wings. He didn’t need to see her face to know she was displeased. He didn’t really want to know what he’d done wrong this time, so he started to hum a melody from a Mozart sonata he’d been studying. Humming helped take his mind off his guilt at letting her down again.
“You rushed through the pizzicato in the last movement,” she said. “We’ve been over that section so many times, Cary Taylor Redding. You let your mind wander again.”
He tried not to cringe; she only used his full name when she was very disappointed in him. “I’m sorry.” His voice cracked again, and he inwardly winced. He didn’t have to fight back the tears anymore. He’d stopped crying years ago.
“We’ll just have to practice it some more.”
He’d also long since stopped asking her why she always said “we” would practice something when he was the one doing the practicing. The one and only time he had pressed the issue, she had responded with a look of long-suffering patience. For days after, the guilt had pierced his gut and roiled around inside until he had apologized for several days running.
“Hurry up now,” she told him. “We have a long drive back home.”
“Did Justin call?” he asked with a hopeful expression.
“Why would your brother call?”
“He said he’d let me know if his team won tonight.” He pulled on his thick winter jacket, grabbed the handle of the cello case, and dragged it across the floor on its roller-skate wheels.
“He can tell you all about it tomorrow.”
He fell asleep in the front seat of the minivan as they headed back to Missouri. He did not dream, or at least, he didn’t remember what he had dreamed about. He never did.
Chapter Two: Best Laid Plans
Milan, Italy—Thirteen years later
“Oh fuck, yeah!” Cary shouted in English as he pushed back against the other man’s hips. The skinny Italian kid he’d picked up grunted and thrust harder, ratcheting up the pace, so Cary gripped the toilet to keep his balance. Sweat dripped down his neck. He never enjoyed kissing. He didn’t need it. He liked it like this: rough, fast, and anonymous.
Someone in the next stall laughed, but Cary didn’t give a shit. This was how it was supposed to be in a place like this, and someone else listening in only made it so much hotter. Here, he was just another nameless fuck, and that suited him just fine.
“That’s it. Oh God, yes!” he cried as the kid nailed his gland again. He stroked himself in rhythm with the young man’s thrusts, groaning as he came with a strangled gasp into his sweaty palm. The smell of come mingled with the faint scent of urine and toilet deodorizer. Years ago, the combination made him sick. Now, the seediness of it just made it more of a turn-on.
His partner grunted as he came hard, his body shuddering and his breaths coming in stutters. A minute later, the kid pulled out. Cary saw the used condom hit the water of the commode, and heard the sounds of a zipper and the latch being released on the stall door. He had already forgotten the kid’s face. It was better this way. He didn’t want anything but sex anyhow, and he didn’t want to be forced to make small talk. In Italian, no less.
He leaned against the grimy wall and wiped himself with the cheap toilet paper, then added it to the condom in the water and flushed it down. His stomach rumbled—a few more drinks and he wouldn’t remember he was hungry. He’d reheat something when he got back, or maybe he’d just sleep it off and grab something in the morning instead. It was usually better to nurse a hangover with an empty stomach. He knew from experience.
He walked back into the bar and sat at a table in the corner, making eye contact with the bartender. A minute or two later, he nursed a scotch and soda, his fourth that night, and leaned over to the man at the next table.
The man grunted and handed him a cigarette, then lit it for Cary as they leaned toward each other to span the short gap between tables.
Cary hated cigarettes. He only smoked in bars, and only after sex. At least that was what he told himself. He preferred the unfiltered variety—it gave him a more immediate buzz. They were easier to find here than in the States.
His hand shook slightly as he brought the cigarette to his lips and inhaled the acrid smoke. It was better than the drugs, right? He’d tried those too, but he’d given them up because they interfered with his playing. He could always sleep off the booze and the nicotine.
One of the regulars walked through the entrance, and their eyes met. Silvio. Nice ass. Terrific bottom.
It was turning out to be a great night.
At nearly three in the morning, Cary stumbled out onto the empty Milan side street. His ass was sore and his thigh muscles were tight. He liked it that way. He needed to feel it in his bones the next morning or he hadn’t gotten enough.
A light fog hung over the city, the fall air cool and damp. Cary shivered, his thin T-shirt little help against the chilly breeze. His housekeeper was right—curse Roberta, she was always right—he should have worn his leather jacket. He looked around for a cab, but there were none in sight. He’d walk over to the main avenue, via Padova, to catch one.
Fuck, he thought, tripping over the uneven pavement as he turned the corner onto another small street. He didn’t notice the two men huddled in the doorway of a darkened building until one of them grabbed him by the neck. He caught the glint of a knife in his peripheral vision. Fucking hell.
“Soldi,” hissed one of the thugs, the one standing in front of him smoking the remainder of a joint.
“I don’t understand,” Cary said in English. It was a lie. He was fluent in Italian. “I’m American.”
“Money,” the man repeated, in English this time. “Give.”
“Don’t have any.” He didn’t pull his wallet out and hand it over. Maybe it was the aftereffects of the alcohol. Or maybe it was the rough sex and the feeling of empowerment that still lingered at his frayed edges. Either way, he wasn’t going to let these assholes push him around.
The man’s response came in the form of a knee to his gut. Cary doubled over, coughing and spluttering. Shit. Was that blood he tasted on his tongue?
“You’re fucking insistent, aren’t you?” he blustered. The man behind him wrapped an arm around his neck and pulled him upright once more, pressing hard on his Adam’s apple and making his vision swim with tiny specks of silver.
The man standing in front of him nodded. A hand reached into Cary’s jeans pocket, pulled out the soft calfskin wallet, and held it up to the light. “Expensive,” he told his partner in Italian.
“You come with us.” The other thug’s expression was one of triumphant glee. He pulled Cary’s ATM card out of the wallet and waved it in his face. “Bank.”
“No fucking way,” Cary shouted. He wrenched himself free of the headlock and backed toward the curb.
The lights of via Padova were visible a scant block away. If he could just make it there, he might be able to get help or maybe scare them off. He turned to run, but something hard hit him in the kidneys, and he fell to his knees. He struggled back to his feet.
Before he could defend himself, one of the thugs’ fists connected with his chin, and he staggered backward. He tried to maintain his balance but failed miserably. He hit the concrete hands first, and something in his left wrist snapped. He vomited up what little food was left in his stomach as a wave of intense pain washed over him.
“Get away from him,” someone warned in Italian. The voice came from nearby, but the pain in Cary’s gut was still so bad he couldn’t look up at the newcomer’s face. He heard what sounded like a scuffle, a groan, and then footsteps running down the pavement.
He pushed the hand on his shoulder away without thinking. The world spun and the pain in his wrist shot up his arm. “Oh shit,” he groaned, clutching the wrist.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” the man said, this time in lightly accented English. “You need help.” The voice was calm, reassuring. “You need a hospital.”
“No hospital,” Cary gasped and tried to stay alert. “Leave me alone.”
He got back to his feet, and the lights from the boulevard blurred at the edges. The last thing he remembered before he passed out was two strong arms as they caught him.