Friday, September 25, 2009

Last Chapter: UNFORGETTABLE

Unforgettable
Inspired by Leontine's hero description
Penned by Amanda McIntyre

Last chapter:

Crowds bother him. But he'd dragged himself down off his mountain for the solitary chance that this Leontine was his Leontine. She might not know it yet, but a well placed jog to that part of her psyche involving past-life and he was positve she'd remember.


Aidian adjusted his collar, surprised by his nervousness.

"Scotch, neat, sir, " the bartender pushed the glass toward him.

Aidian lifted the glass and drained it, scanning the room again. She hadn't arrived, he would have known it. He had to give the city fathers credit for what they'd done to the ballroom encompassing nearly the entire floor above the library. New floorboards, some restoration wallpaper and a few pictures and the room was a visual transport back to the Victorian era, when the town was at its height with gold mining.



Aidian drew in a sharp breath as if a woman had touched him intimately.His gaze shot to the doublewide entrance of the room and he saw her-the woman who had plagued his immortal existence. His body's response was powerful. He turned to the barkeep. "Another one, and make it a double," he ordered. With a nod of thanks, he took the glass and swallowed the amber liquid in one gulp, closing his eyes to the slow burn searing his throat.

"I see you found a reason to join the land of the living, Mr. Macquire."

Aidian turned to face the feminine voice, steeling himself from taking her in his arms and kissing her senseless. "Miss Cavanaugh, I presume?" he offered his hand and upon taking hers, instead of shaking it, he brought it to his lips, pressing a kiss on her sweet flesh. It was not nearly enough and in fact, made him greedy for more—soon.

"Leontine Cavanaugh," she offered easing her hand away as she stared curiously at him.

"A beautiful Irish name for a beautiful Irish lady," he responded offering a brief courteous bow.

Her eyes, a lush green with gold and brown flecks, sparked with interest and it hit Aidian in the solar plexus.

"You are a lover of old things, then, Mr. Macguire?" she asked

He grinned, able to answer that with utmost clarity. "Indeed, Ms. Cavanaugh, you might say that I am both."

"Both?" she asked tipping her lovely head the side.

Her dark hair sprouted corkscrew tendrils that lay against her porcelain neck. He imagined his mouth nibbling there, his teeth scraping the scent from her skin. Aidian brought himself from his reverie. "Both a connoisseur of old things and a lover, Ms. Cavanaugh."

Her sumptuous mouth dropped slightly, recovering with a quick smile. "They told me you were blunt, but I had no idea of how much."

"I don't believe in wasting time, Ms. Cavanaugh. For the living, it is far too precious to fill with wasted jargon, dribbled words that but delay the inevitable."

Her eyes blinked as if digesting his sexual magic, like incense wafting from his aura to hers.

"You don't believe in the whole getting to know someone first idea?"

"There are some things that two people know without saying a word, Ms. Cavanaugh."

She drew her hand to the base of her throat, her eyes hesitant to look at his.

"Forgive me if my manner is out-of-line. It is rare to find beauty and intelligence in one tantalizing package." He made no pretense of letting her see how he assessed her. "A tantalizing package," he repeated demanding mentally that she look at him.

There was no doubt in his mind that before the night was through, she would be his and to his liking, this time it would be for all eternity.

She swallowed and he could almost taste her lips. "May I get you a drink?" he asked.

"Riesling," she answered.

Aidian put in her order and turned to find her staring at him. He felt confident that it wasn't the suit she was looking at. He gave her an easy smile, one that you'd give your lover across the room. One that held promise that tonight was going to be magical. "Riesling for the lady."

"Thank you, Mr. Macguire." She studied me and shook her head with a smile.

"What is it?" I asked.

"It's strange, but we've never met before, have we?"

Aidian battled with projecting to her mind the last time they were together. Their limbs entwined in a tangle of sheets, her body glistening in the candlelight, the grip of her fingers on his forearms as she arched her back towards him.

Aidian shoved his thoughts back to the present and noted the glazed look in Leontine's eyes—definitely arousal. He sucked in a breath and forced himself to think of other things. It would not do to have her unravel here in the midst of the charity crowd, better to wait in private.

"Would you care to dance?" he asked, lifting the glass from her hand before she answered.

"Oh, well, I suppose—"



He placed his hand on the small of her back and led her to the small dance floor, a fake parquet, that they'd placed in the middle of the room. Above it hung a brilliant chandelier, restored with new, delicate prisms that sparkled with a low effervescence. He took her in his arms, remembering how they once danced together at the local tavern. Then a raucous jig, tonight it was a slow forties tune—Unforgettable.

Her body swayed with mine and if she was uncomfortable with how tightly I held her, not wanting the song to end, she didn't comment. Aidian, breathed in the scent of her hair, her skin, a blend of exotic scents—jasmine, lavender and ylang ylang. It would be easy to dance her into the shadows and by the mere thought of it, transport her back to his bed where he would enjoy finding out how long that zipper was in the back of her low-cut gown.

"The wine must be doing strange things, Mr. Cavanaugh," she said. "I'm feeling a bit shaky. Do you mind if I sit down for a moment?"

"Of course. Perhaps outside on the balcony, where you can get some fresh air?"

She nodded and he was pleased when she curled her arm through his without a word and followed him outside.

The moon, high in the clear night sky, was at three-quarters and a gentle cool breeze blew down from the mountains, lending a near perfect ambience to Aidian's plans.

He ushered her to a stone bench and sat beside her as he stared up at the star-sprinkled sky. He would let her catch her breath before he took it away from her a second time.

"I don't know what happened," she said, her gaze flickering to his. "I hardly know you and yet I feel as though I've known you forever."

He studied her beautiful eyes and then dared to brush his knuckle beneath her chin, tilting it ever slightly to the perfect angle. "Funny that you should say that. I feel exactly the same."

"Is that odd?" she asked, still not taking her eyes from his.

"I prefer to think of it as fate, Leontine." I held her chin. "I don't want you to be frightened, but I want to kiss you."

"Why would that frighten me?" she asked quietly, her voice drifting. Already her mind was fertile to the truth.

"You will know soon and with this knowledge will come a choice that you must make." I leaned closer, my mouth hovering over hers, drinking in her essence, feeling her lifeblood heating with arousal.

The instant my mouth touched hers, the images of our first night together exploded with fury in my mind. She'd taken me to her cottage, speaking little in our hungry quest to satisfy carnal desire. She knew what I was, and wasn't afraid. On more than one occasion while in the throes of passion, I had to reign in my bloodlust to prevent myself from taking her soul by force.

No, she had to come willingly. She had to want a lifetime of my carnal worship. I took her body again and again that night, delighting in her sighs, her screams-satisfying my sexual appetite, ravenous after a 'season.'

Firelight shimmered on her body as I waited for her answer—the one word that would change her life forever, and turn my immortal hell to heavenly salvation.

***

Aidian nipped at Leontine's lip and watched the flutter of her eyelashes as the images seeped into her sub-conscious. "I'm waiting for your answer, my love" he whispered, slanting his mouth over hers again, withdrawing as she sought to deepen the kiss. His gut clenched when a soft cry came from her throat.

"I've waited so long… so long to find you." Aidian pressed his forehead to hers, the need in his loins growing desperate. He needed an answer soon. "Please Leontine, do not make me suffer this life of mine alone." Aidian swore that deep inside he possessed a heart, though he knew it was impossible.

Leontine's chin lifted, her lips moving silently. He listened close, entering her mind, finding himself in the bedroom of her cottage long ago. He saw himself stretched out beside Leontine, his fingers tracing the delicate curve of her neck. She'd not given him an answer.

"Now," his Celtic lover whispered.

The soft sound of her voice, pulled Aidian back to the present. He searched her face. "Are you sure, Leontine?" he asked.

"I remember now." she said quietly."I have been looking for you."

Heat surged through his system and he smiled, his incisors lengthening. He targeted the spot on her neck, where her pulse throbbed with need. "Be sure," he gave her one final chance to refuse.

She tipped her head back, offering her slender neck. Aidian lowered his head, sinking his teeth into her delicate flesh, drawing in her arousal, taking it into his body and offering back with the mental image of what he planned to do with her for a lifetime. Her body trembled, tightening with need. His breathing came in short gasps as he drove her to the edge of immortality and completion.

Aidian held her tight, sucking deeply as she tumbled over the edge and he along with her.

Inside, the band played and he knew they would be coming to find her soon. He stood, swept her into his arms, and closed his eyes. Tonight he would take liberty of the ancient Celt magic he rarely had to use and turn back the hands of time, so that when she entered the ballroom again, it would be with him.


However, he glanced down at his beautiful Leontine resting peacefully in his arms and decided he first had a few thousand years to make up for.

Only the beginning...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday Coffee Talk: Sept.24 Cecile Smith


First, I want to thank Ms. Amanda for having me over today. The coffee is brewing and it smells delicious. I guess I should tell you ladies that Gerard Butler and Hugh Jackman are preparing the coffee and teas today. So, pull up a stool and put your drink order in!

(*blog owner note: just slap me if I get too distracted....oh, look, Mr.G is barefoot! So am I! *swoon...)


Ms. Amanda wanted me to pick a book that means a lot to me and share it with you why it does and how it effected me because of the characters... Inspire or empower... or both??

Now, I knew exactly what book I wanted. This book shook me to my core, made me look at myself and my relationships! This book made me see the highs of my life and the absolute low parts as well. This book made my heart swell with love and devotion and made me cower in a corner because I feel I do not do enough.

That book is BROKEN by Megan Hart.

It's a tragic and uplifting story about Adam and Sadie. They met in college and married soon after. A tragic accident leaves him a parapeligic. Newlyweds left with a decisions and uncertainty of their relations and their future.

Sadie is a woman after my own heart. She's a loyal person and a very devoted wife. She has two different sides to her… the facade she puts on for everyone else and one who wants desperately for her world to go back to normal.

I can really relate to her because don't we all have two sides of ourselves. I have my private side, the one that hardly anyone sees. The side of me that dreams of life being full of passion for my marriage. Then there is the public side of me... the one with a warm genuine smile on my face. (sometimes when life is a little hard, the smile might be fake.) I take things for what they are. I don't complain. I never play the victim of my circumstances. I will always try find the brighter side.

Sadie doesn’t want to bother people with her life. There are the things that cannot be changed. Life dealt her an unfair hand and she is playing those cards the best way she can. I am like that, too, not a complainer. What good does complaining accomplish? If anything it only feeds into bitterness, rage, hostility, and resentment. One thing that life has taught me is that I am the only person responsible for my happiness. No one else can make me unhappy.

Sadie tries to help her husband in many different ways and be there for him the best she can. Adam pushes her away and does not share his whole world with her. I could relate to that. I am a 'share-r' by nature and hubby is not. That is what I do; if I have something and you do not, I will give you mine. If you are sad, I will want to cheer you up... that's just me. I am an emotional person and hubby is not. So, I saw Sadie's hardship with Adam and I understood it. Adam's character made me take another look at my hubby, made me push pass things that I saw on the surface and go deeper. I admit, it wasn't easy, but I wanted to do it.

When I hit a rough spot, in life, I want to run. I love Sadie's character, because no matter what, she never gives up. Not even when things get the worst.

This is where true life for me comes in... because no matter what hubby and I go through, I will always be there... for him, with him, by him. I always tell him that God put us together for a reason, and it is not my reason to figure out... just my reason to go on.

Sadie in this book, inspired and empowered me. She made me take a look inside myself and look at the relationships I have around me. This story made me see what I have in front of me. Their story empowered me because it made me take my life in my own hands and left me feeling like anything is possible.


What book has inspired you... or has left you feeling empowered?

For those leaving a comment today, we'll be passing out a group of five yummy flavored coffee's to one lucky blogger, just in time for fall! Happy autumn everyone!


*from Amanda:
This is a great topic and one I'd love to hear more from you all about! One of my fav books is Romancing the Ordinary, by Saran Ban Breathnach-its an amazing insight to the human mind and spirit.
My thanks to Cecile for coming by to chat and share a cuppa.

You can check out more about this the lovely Ms. C at her blog!  All I Want and More





Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Unforgettable; Part III

Inspired by "Build a Hero" description ; winner Leontine:

Unforgettable; Part III
by Amanda McIntyre




"Um, I think I should go, Mr. Macguire."


Her voice sounded uncertain. He'd maybe gone too farasking about her stockings. "I'm sorry, Ms. Cavanaugh. I admit I am a pushover for a take-charge kind of woman."

She cleared her throat. He could almost envision her stiffening her shoulders and her resolve. She was backing away. "When will you be returning then from London?" he asked, scolding himself for trekking too far into her psyche.

"Not until the night of the gala, I'm afraid."

"Do you have a date for that evening?" He didn't think before he asked.

"You've decided to come?" She did not mask her surprise.

"If you will permit me to escort you, Ms. Cavanaugh."

"I don't know quite what to say, Mr. Macguire."

"Then simply say, yes, Ms. Cavanaugh. I am quite certain you will not be disappointed. I have been told that I am light on my feet."

"Very well, then." She said with a slight lilt in her voice. "I'll meet you at the library, two weeks from today."

"The pleasure will be mine, Ms. Cavanaugh."

"Leontine," she offered quietly.

"Aidian," he responded.

"How will I know you?"

"You needn't worry, Leontine. You will know me when you see me."

***

Aidian tiptoed over the bodies strewn across the smoke covered battlefield. His mission two-fold, to feed and offer his mercy. Upon his arrival through the cords of time, he'd followed the scent of blood, finding the wounded that had no hope to recover. It was to him—as he drank freely, nourishing his body—that he was doing them a favor, putting them out of their agony. He crouched, ankle deep in the rice paddy, long reeds swaying around him, shielding him from view.

Remnant fires caused by mortar attacks burned bright in the distance. The occasional sound of machine guns erupted, causing him to pause, raise his head to the possible danger waiting until it was quiet again to finish feeding. In the distance, he heard the angry shouts of soldiers speaking in Vietnamese. In all the years, having seen so many wars first hand, it never failed to puzzle him that mortals were far more capable of snatching more life than were his people.

The moon shone through the smoky aftermath of mortar fire and he did not have to look at his hands to know they were covered in blood. He bent, swirling them in the rice paddy's murky water and heard a faint sound

"Help me," a raspy whisper came from the dense reeds to his right. Aidian listened carefully and honed in the voice, cautious of those that may yet have life and mistake him for the enemy. A well-placed bayonet could cause more problems than he needed. He sloshed through the water and stumbled onto dry land.

He found the boy laying in a blind of reeds, the full moon illuminating his features. His face was covered in dirt and blood, only his blue eyes shone in the surreal light. Aidian leaned down, his hunger appeased. "What can I do for you, boy?" he asked.

The young man struggled to breathe. Aidian saw the gash that was robbing the boy's lifeblood. He fought a primal urge to dip his head and gorge himself. The boy, likely no more than twenty, if that, reached for his breast pocket with a trembling hand.

"I need you to give this to my wife. She's back in London, still." He coughed spewing up blood. "We've just had our first born…a boy."

He handed Aidian a photograph. Cautiously, Aidian accepted it and glanced down at it. He had to be careful of interaction of the dying unless he was sure they had no more time left on this earth.

"Send it back to her. It's her and my boy, Samuel. The address is on the back. Could you please write for me that my last thoughts were of her and Sam. And too, that I love them both."

He grabbed my arm with amazing strength. "Please tell me that you'll do this, I beg you."

I covered his bloody hand and flipped over the picture, making sure the address was there as he'd said. "I can try," I said, not knowing how I was going to be able to manage the task, if by doing so I could somehow change the course of things to come.

He coughed again, his hand reaching wildly for me and then he stilled. I brushed my palm over his eyes, closing them and turned the photo to read the writing on the back.

"Hurry home, we love you, Leontine and the other handsome Cavanaugh in my life, Samuel."

***

It was a week until the library fundraiser. Aidian had spent hours pouring over his computer screen, searching ancestral links to every Cavanaugh from the mid-sixties to present day. What he found made his own existence pale in comparison. Samuel Cavanaugh had married a woman from Ireland and they lived in London for a time. They had three sons, one who became a missionary to South Africa and went missing, presumed dead. The second became a musician and taught at the University, the third traveled to the States to find his fame and fortune in the publishing business. Well known as both a writer and journalist, he married a young woman from Ireland here for a study abroad program through college….

In rapt fascination, Aidian followed the lineage, waiting for the building suspicion in his gut to be revealed. He clicked the next link and there was the confirmation he sought. He smiled, easing back into his chair and thought how the fates had shown him a path directly to her.


"Born on December twenty-first, in the year nineteen hundred and eighty one." Aidian took a sip of his Loch Dhu, savoring its slow burn down his throat. He licked his lips, not wasting a drop of the charred perfection. "A girl, Leontine Grace, to Mr. Frederick S. and Anne Cavanaugh.

He looked at the photo that he'd taken liberty of making a copy of before he'd found an envelope and slipped it into the Army  mailbag being flown out that night. Aidian lifted his glass as he looked at the young woman and her smiling son. "Thank you, Samuel. Well done."

Part IV : Friday
Thursday join us for Thursday Coffee Talk w/ guest Cecile Smith talking on, of all things, books!! Stop on in for a cuppa and get your chance to ask Cecile what you've always wondered about her!!;))

Monday, September 21, 2009

Unforgettable;Part II Leontine inspired/penned by Amanda

Aidian was pulled from his reverie buy a strange ringing in his ears. He realized that it was his phone. Who would be calling at this hour of the night?


He considered letting the answering machine pick it up. These days it was either tele-marketers or someone asking a donation for some benefit. Something moved him to the receiver and he picked it up, settling it casually on his ear. The moment he did, he sensed the woman on the other end. His sensitive hearing picked up the anxiety in her breathing.

He pushed aside the rush of need in his blood, blaming it on his previous thoughts. "Hello?"

"Is this a Mr. Macguire?"

Her voice, that tone—Aidian blinked, refocusing his efforts on the present. "It is and who might this be?"

"My name is Leontine Cavanaugh. Your name was given to me as a person who might be interested in the preservation of the old library in town."

He was not half as interested in the old building as he was in this woman. But if they came as a package, he was all ears. "I'm sorry, you said your name was—?"

"Leontine Cavanaugh," she responded rather succinctly, as if she hadn't the time to piss around with details. And that was fine with him in view of how his body was responding to the sound of her voice. In all of his days of wandering, there had only been one other woman by that name. It couldn't be coincidence.


"Is that Gaelic, Ms. Cavanaugh?" Aidian asked. He turned to face the picture window that gave a view of the sleepy little town below. Scattered in the pitch black of night was a sprinkling of miniature lights-evidence of the tiny community that existed at the base of his mountain. She was down there, somewhere, maybe in a hotel room seated on the edge of a bed.

A delicious throbbing caused him to shift his stance, bring his mind back from his torrid thoughts.

"Yes, I suppose it is, Mr. Macguire. Though I've never really looked into my heritage before. I've always meant to, but, well, I haven't found the time."

He sensed the regret in her voice. He sensed everything about her, much to the discomfort in his jeans. That would teach him not to go commando. "What is it you want from me, Ms. Cavanaugh?" he asked, praying she would invite him to her room. He ran his tongue over his teeth, flicking the sharpened edges of his elongated incisors.  Other parts of his body were responding with the same enthusiasum.

"We would appreciate your support in a small gala fundraiser we're giving at the library in a few weeks."

He detected the gentle swallow that followed her query. Her anxiety fluttered over the wire. Could this be his Leontine? Finally, after all these years? He'd attended enough past-life sessions to understand the possibility existed. Hell, he was a living example of it. But without aid of the curse. Was it still possible?

He fought the urge to speak to her mentally, delve quietly into her subconscious, and see for himself if she remembered him.


"I don't usually appear socially, Ms. Cavanaugh. But I would be willing to make donation that you'd find most agreeable, to your cause."

"That is most generous of you, Mr. Macguire. Do you believe then in the preservation of our past?"

The question came out of left field. He offered a quiet chuckle. "You've no idea, Ms. Cavanaugh, just how much."

"You're a very interesting man, Mr. Macguire," she said softly.

"How is that that, Ms. Cavanugh?" There was something very erotic in the formality of their words. Eerily familiar, of an era gone by where addressing a man or woman in such a way was commonplace. Yes, stealing kisses beneath a willow, while the lady addressed you by your proper name, causes more than a mans blood to rise.

"So few here in town know about you and yet, you are so generous in preserving what means most to them."

"I love books, Ms. Cavanaugh. Is that so unusual?"

"So, I understand. Based on your sizable contribution of books on ancient Celtic lore and Gaelic legends, I assume you have a deep love for the old country."

The hairs on the back of my neck bristled. "For a woman who has not researched her lineage, you sound almost wistful when you mention the old country."

Her gentle laugh stroked his frustrated mind.

"I suppose its one of those places one feels a kinship to, but for whatever reasons, you cannot get there. Have you ever felt that way, Mr. Macguire?"

"Many a time," I responded, my suspicions deepening that my Leontine's soul, was buried somewhere deep inside this woman. "Perhaps we could meet and discuss your plans for the library?"


"That sounds very nice, Mr. Macguire, but unfortunately our meeting will have to wait until the gala. I'm catching a flight out tonight. I have a brother in London who is getting married."

"London?"

"Aye, London."

"Excuse me?" I gripped the receiver, a breath from transporting myself to her side.

"Oh, I'm sorry. It slips out sometimes."

Aidian sucked in a deep breath, the muscle of his jaw ticking under the strain as he fought not to seduce her right then. It would be so easy. A simple willful thought and he could be there, taking the receiver from her hand, placing it in the cradle. He'd start first with the slow thrum at the base of her neck, just below her ear, still warm from the receiver. From there he'd peel away the blouse he was sure she wore under a business jacket—black, he guessed—with a pencil skirt that hugged her hips. He could almost hear the gentle rasp of the skirt sliding over her stockings at the insistence of his hands. And the sublime joy of finding old-fashioned black lace circling her thighs.
"Do you wear black stockings, Ms. Cavanugh?" he pried taking a precarious step in the direction of his thoughts.

There was a silence on the other end of the phone. He felt her pulse quicken, her body temperature rising steadily. Damn. Aidian steeled himself against the desire to work his mouth up those silky thighs and draw her stockings down with his teeth.

Part III; Wednesday

Build a hero story:Aidian-inspired by leontine's description, written by Amanda McIntyre

Part I; Unforgettable by Amanda McIntyre
*written for Build a Hero winner: Leontine


Aidian stared into the flames. It had been years, no, centuries since he'd felt her body beneath his. Her dark brown hair--a tumble of sensuous curls--splayed across his pillow, her smile teasing, taunting him. Even now, he grew hard to think of the scent of her skin, the taste of her lips. He swallowed, tamping down his frustration. She plagued his thoughts and haunted his dreams as she'd done for an eternity. And he had more of the same torture to look forward to.



He dropped his book on the floor and leaned forward, fisting his hands over his knees. Reading before had been a good deterrent for him, giving his mind something else to think about, but after several years, he'd read and re-read all the classics. Most recently, he'd been forced to find other books, having to try mysteries, horror, even paranormal—though he had to chuckle at their world-building descriptions. Vampyre held his interest for a time, but soon they made him homesick for Carpathia, and hungry to feel Leontine's body writhing in perfect rhythm to his.

He'd immigrated to the Carpathian mountain region with his Celt parents when he was only a boy. It was in the deep, dark wood on a day meant for adolescent fun and adventure that would change who he was—forever. Never go into the woods alone, his mother had cautioned. He should have listened. Upon entering the winding path, it was not long before he became disoriented. When a storm blew in, he searched for shelter finding the small cottage of a dark haired woman. She offered him a roof, a warm blanket for his shoulders and in a moment of passion took his virginity and made him immortal.

He never returned home, but drifted from place to place and-- tutored by the secret society of Carpathian vampyres-- he learned how to survive.

It was several centuries later, when he ran across the real estate ad in a newspaper advertising this cabin, set high in the wooded mountains of upstate New York. The closest town was five miles away, down a steep winding curve that few ventured on a good day, fewer still on a bad. No, this was his mountain and few knew about him up here. He liked it that way. On the full moon, during the time of feeding, he could travel back and forth through time, without being disturbed.

Restless, Aidian stood and stretched his arms over his head. It was a little over a week to the full moon. He always got this way. Maybe he'd go work out or run down to see Oscar, his tattoo guy. Oscar was brilliant, completely eccentric, and off the wall, making Aidian suspicious if the human canvas of ink art had dabbled too much at one time in something more serious than the Clove gum he chewed incessantly.

Cloves and cinnamon. Leontine.

He was on a feed the night he found her…or rather, she'd found him.

He'd traveled back to Britannia, when the Celts still tended the land in reverence to Mother Earth.

The air sucked from his lungs as he raised his head. His eyes met hers. Unfortunately,what she saw was not  a clean kill and the subject had struggled. She stood still, frozen. The basket she was carrying, fell to the ground. A single apple rolled to his knee and he picked it up. For a moment, he stared at it, blinking several times to bring his eyes back to their natural color. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.


"Oh, by the goddess almighty, what evil thing have ye done?" she asked, her eyes wide, but not with fear.

Aidian stood, turning the fragrant fruit in his hand. "It's unfortunate that you came along when you did. In a few hours his body will be dust."

"Yer one of…them, then?" she asked looking up at him. "One of the night folk?"

Her tongue had a lilt that Aidian found titillating and he was curious to know what other skills it might possess. He shrugged, having just satiated his appetite, she was not in danger of becoming a meal. He licked his lips and eyed her voluptuous curves, she was however in great danger of winding up in his bed--and for a good long while if he had anything to say about it.

"You aren't afraid of me?" Aidian took a step toward her. His fingers curved around the apple, squeezing it gently, his gaze drifting a few inches below her chin.

Very nice.

She dropped to her knees, searching the ground frantically for something. He smiled. Unless she had a crucifix or long sword, maybe a stake nearby, it did not appear he was in eminent danger. Not that Aidian didn’t understand her concern--dead corpse notwithstanding, of course.

Without shoes, he stood six foot three, maybe four the last time he'd checked. His preferred clothing for a feed is black jeans, same color T-shirt and a well worn leather suit jacket—borrowed from a nice Italian fellow one evening in Paris, who wasn't going to need it anymore. Other than that, Aidian's eyes had returned to their natural teal blue color and his fangs retracted. He took another step closer, amused by her tenacious spirit. She had not screamed, not run at the sight of him hovering over a dead body. She knew what he was, and yet chose to remain.

Interesting.

"Stop, I say! Not another step closer, mind you. Ah, there 'tis." She grabbed for something behind her, scrambled to her feet, and shoved a long string of garlic in his face.

Aidian grimaced at its annoying and pungent odor, reticent to tell her that he'd traveled back in time to feed and that his body had over the years built up an immunity to garlic.

"Dunna come any closer."

"Right." He frowned. "About that." Aidian scratched my chin, realizing he hadn't shaved this morning in his haste to feed.

She shook it violently, little wisps of garlic skin floated to the ground like snow.

"I don't think I've ever met anyone like you."

"Then I'd just soon keep it that way, if it matters not to you."

"What if I said I wouldn't hurt you?"

She laughed and eyed him, nodding to the dead man on the ground.

"I admit that may taint things, but in truth, my word is my honor." He held out the apple to her. "And you can put that away, it doesn't have an effect on me."

Her storm-filled eyes flicked from the garlic strand back to him.

"Yer word, I have it then?"

There was a measure of fear in her eyes, but she was strong, this one. Her shoulders thrust back, chin held high, her focus squarely on him.

If she'd had a bow tied around her, she couldn't have been a greater gift to his weary soul.

She took the apple and lowered the garlic. Her breasts from his vantage point rose and fell gently as she tried to control her fear.

"I will not harm you, I swear." Aidian lifted a hand to her cheek, soft as a flower petal it was. Her beautiful eyes—the color of a lush forest—drifted shut, her cheek pressed into his palm. He smiled at how easily she surrendered to his power.

I want you in my bed this night. He spoke to her through his telepathy.

"Aye, milord, take me as you wish. I am yours," she spoke in her soft dream-like state.

It was far easier than he'd expected.

Her eyes looked up at him, and she gave him a sweet smile. Aidian took it as her invitation to begin their 'date,' and lowered his head to sample the mouth that had tempted him from the first moment he saw her.

She tipped her head and pinned him with a challenging look.

"Do you think that yer charm is enough to sweep me off my feet, dark one?"

"Dark one?" Aidian scoffed rearing back to look at her. His power over her hadn't worked? Damn and he was so close to scoring.

"Do I look like the type to go to bed with the first man that comes along?" She fisted her hands on her lovely hips.

Aidian glanced over his shoulder at the chap on the ground and made a tsking sound. "I sure hope not. They have laws against that where I come from."

She frowned and then looked him over, her gaze lingering in a couple of key spots along the way.

"Why should I?" she asked.

He blinked. "Why should you come home with me, you mean?" Aidian answered her question with one of his own.

"Aye, give me one good reason, why I should agree to let you take me to yer bed. Ye haven't told me yer given name."

"Aidian," he responded quickly. Her banter was doing strange things to him, arousing him.. It was a different style of foreplay, but he liked it.

"And milady can be assured that the one good thing I can offer you, will give you pleasure beyond your wildest dreams."

Her dark brow cocked. "A braggart are ye now?"

"Just the facts, ma'am," Aidian spoke in his best Jack Webb voice. She eyed me warily.

"And ye wouldn’t be trying any of that sucking malarkey on me now, would ye?"

"Not the kind you're thinking of, milady." He smiled taking her hand and let his lips linger on her delicate skin. "But I cannot lie and tell you that sucking will not be involved." Aidian felt the rapid rush of her pulse, signaling her arousal. Oh yes, they would be good together, he was growing more, and more convinced of it if the tightness in his jeans was any indication.

"All right then, just this once, then you'll be movin' on, I suspect."




But Aidian didn't move on. He returned night after night, except during the feeding season, sharing her bed and her life. On more than one occasion, he pleaded with her to let him make her immortal, so that they could be together forever. She gave him her body freely, but to the rest, she would not relinquish.
 
Part II: Tuesday
*reprint not permitted except by author's consent.
 
Let me know if you're liking this free read? Question: What's your favorite era of vampire?
Amanda

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Build a Hero Inspired short story

During the TORTURED blog tour in August, I had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful readers and discovered the treasure of imagination that is out there! Is it any wonder that authors remain so inspired?
At Romance BookWyrm blog, my good friend, Amy alowed me to play  game which I called, "Build a Hero"-much like the build a bear in the mall...

Being the visual kind of person I am, I was curious to find out what  perception readers had about their "ultimate" hero--his physical description, demeanor--the whole package. The result was not only fun (we had a blast that day) but insightful as well.  There were so many amazing hero descriptions, all different and yet in some ways alike--it was extremly difficult to choose just one!

From that treasure trove of imagination I chose one to write a short story about, using the winners name as the heroine. I plucked a few more bits of information from the winner, Leontine R. from Netherlands and the muse then chose a Celtic vampyre, who time-travels during his feeding season and thus meets the love of his life-only to have her reject becoming immortal and of course, true love being what it is, he wants her to come to him willingly. He will have to wait centuries before a twist of fate brings them together again. Will she reject him again, or will she this time, accept his eternal proposal?

In conjunction with my winner Leontine (Leontines Book Realm) I'll be posting this story, called UNFORGETABLE,  here at House of Muse next week in a continuing story. (Exception will be on Thursday when we have Coffee Talk) the story will resume to its completeion on Friday. There is talk that Leontine is posting it as well on her blog in Novemeber. So if you miss part of it here--check it out there.  I ask that you do not repriont or copy this story unless you first get my approval. You can email me at amanda@amandamcintyre.net to obtain permissions.

I'd like to start off the weekend with Leontine's description  of her magnificent hero. You'll see why she won!

 Here is Leontine's winning description:

Build: 6'4 (I like ‘em tall) teal blue eyes, ebony wavy hair falling onto muscular shoulders. He has sensuous curved lips that hardly smile and a four o'clock shadow.  He is broad chest, tapered waste, long, strong legs and a tribal tattoo covering his right shoulder. His chest is dusted with hair in a V shape and trails down in a small line to disappear in his designer jeans. He doesn’t care all that much what he wears as longs as it is of the finest quality. He is a take charge kind of man, sometimes bordering on Neanderthal behavior. He is confident, oozes enough stamina for men to step aside and women to be immediately drawn to him. He is smart, likes to live on the dangerous side but also enjoys to read the classics in his cabin. He is rough, tough but never forgets his family or his responsibilities.

He can wine and dine a woman as well as tear the panties of her and show the very reason why she is a woman. He is merciless in business but anonymously donates to local charity and whenever he gets tired of the whole world retreats in his cabin only he knows how to find. (Until I knock on that door of course)
He is a dangerous, thrilling, brooding but charming when he wants to and in love when he gives a devilish grin that tells a woman she is in wicked trouble.

See what I mean? In addition, Leontine likes a Celtic flair and has a particular fondness for the name, Aidian. Because my character is able to travel in time, he possesses an array of clothing-but here is one of the visuals I used for his modern day look...(note this is Adrian Paul of highlander series fame.,..)





Watch next week for the launch of a never-before- read, short story, UNFORGETABLE written expressly for Leontine, inspired by her fabulous hero description!

*Authors note: This experience has inspired the creation of a possible new series I'm calling , "The Tribe."
More on this as it develops, with full dedication and love to all who played Build a Hero that day at RBW!

Amanda



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday Coffee Talk Sept. 17, 2009 Guest: Renee Bernard

The lazy sun is just peeking out over the treetops on this brisk small town morn! The coffee's on and the scent of baking cinnamon scones fills the kitchen with an inviting warmth!

Now, I could get all fan girl and gush about this woman that I am blessed to call a friend. It's given that she is a brilliant storyteller (pick up any of her books--preferably all) and you will be smitten. Fantastic heroines, to die-for heroes--the works!  I am so pleased she agreed to stop by and chat this morning, so you can get to know her humor, wisdom and warmth.  In addition, Renee has some of the best covers going and you all know I'm a visual freak when it comes to bookcovers and research! Check out her upcoming release! This one hits the shelves MARCH 2010! Sweet!

Come on in, Renee and find a seat! The coffee's just about done-smell that heavenly aroma!  Heavenly! A warm white chocolate raspberry scone added to the plate and we're good to go...


Wow, I can’t believe I’m here… (I’m that woman who swore she’d avoid blogging since the idea of any silly thought in my head being permanently etched into cyberspace keeps her up at night in a cold sweat.) I am the queen of the faux pas (or fox pass as we affectionately call it in my household), so please be kind. Comedy is my life, but there are days when I wonder how that’s possible and why no one has contacted the authorities.

But for Amanda, I’d walk on burning coals. So having a cup of coffee and “hanging out” seems an innocent enough proposition, yes?

I think every author has strange conversations in their heads with their characters. We fall in love with them, we argue with them, we even have those painful moments where we just have to let them go. We have a unique relationship with every character on the page, even those odd little secondary characters that no one but us thinks about. Or maybe it’s just me. (Maybe I just want to believe that everyone else does this…anything to stay off medication, right?)

And lately, one thing that seems to be coming up in these ‘discussions’ is family. So many heroes are lone wolves, and romance often requires the painful isolation of an alpha male to make him more tragic or more compelling… But I find myself giving my heroes and heroines family more often than not. Though not always family in the traditional sense…I give them friends or a quirky butler that hovers, or nosy but well-meaning neighbors. I’m working on a new series for Berkley and it’s about a group of gentleman who have forged their own bonds through adversity and created an odd sort of family called The Jaded. I wanted to give them someone to talk to, someone to rescue or even to fight so that they could reveal a different part of themselves—outside of a boy-chases-girl scenario.

I want to give them dimension, so I suppose surrounding them with family (for better or worse) is a short-cut. How does the heroine deal with an alcoholic father or a dear and dotty aunt? I hope it would say more about her than any description I can provide.

And as my own situation in life unfolds (with a little touch of drama and comedy in good measure), I look at my family and hope that how I face each day says more about me than any bio I can write or someone’s memory of one of an endless list of embarrassing moments (ah, the fox passes!) In caring for the previous generation and nurturing the next one, I can’t help but hope that I’m giving my family as much as they inherently give me. I keep wondering if all the small moments of the day are defining me in “heroic” terms—and so I just try to keep my head up and do better. And pray that they enjoy humor in their lives…

As for those characters—they are my family, too. In a weird landscape, they’re as real to me as mountains. And despite all the torture I put them through before they can earn their happy endings, I do my best to protect them (usually from themselves). Good news, I’m never alone. Bad news, I’m never alone.

And while the characters are usually complete fiction, I’m guilty of stealing from my walking world now and then, if only out of affection. My first novel’s heroine was blind, inspired by my own grandmother. We’re losing her now as her health fails, and I can’t look at that book just now. I simply love her too much to think of what an imperfect homage that was…

And sometimes I get simple notes from readers…so heartfelt and complimentary, and they always seem to come on my worst days when I need them most. And those ladies’ names inadvertently find themselves on the page, because how do you say thank you when someone reaches out of the blue and reminds you about family?

Writing is a solitary act. I understand that. But for me, I’m inspired by the fabric of friends and family that surround the act and enrich it. Fiction and ‘walking’, my family is unique. And I can’t imagine a life without them.
~Renee

*Get to know more about Renee at
www.reneebernardauthor.com

* It is so true that writing is a solitary act in many ways. Which is why we appreciate so much all those emails of encouragement  and thanks, sharing what one of our stories meant, if it gave you a moment of reading pleasure. How have your friends and family encouraged you in a particular endeavor?  How did it make you feel when you accomplished your goal? Feel free to share your thoughts, or ask Renee more about herself or her writing.
A.M.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Poetry Week: The Woman

I love it when the muse inspires! My good friend, Cecile, sent this to me, and gave me her permission to post it. I find it a lovely affirmation of the romantic soul in all of us who appreciate the power between a man and a woman..now I can't get the song, "When a Man loves a Woman" out of my head! ;))  Its a perfect ending to our week of poetry here at House of Muse! Thanks, Ms. Cecile!

The Woman.

He sees her looking out the window
to touch her, just one touch,
he would be a happy man.
to look into her eyes
to feel her soul
deep and emotional
he can love her the way she needs to be love
he would give of himself till there was nothing left
just for one touch from her

her heart of gold and warmth
for him to feel that would be the prize
he would complete her
she turned to him
and allowed him the touch
and said yes to his love
by Cecile

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Autumn



As I thought about Amys visit today at Coffee Talk. I was reminded by Cecile how very much we all experience similar things. And it boggles my mind that  we live scatttered across this earth and find commonality in so many things. We have our differences as well, and that is what gives spice to this world.
So here's to similarities and here's to differences...and below an ode to Autumn and its changes...
Amber Evening

© Amanda McIntyre
Casting shadows chill the air
A snap of winter preview
The cold swaggers into view
Pompous as a pirate seeking claim
Wrapped warm to its presence
I view the world anew
Alive with change
Jittery with anticipation
Glittering autumn leaves
Burnished red-gold sunset
Darkness shrouds the earth
And I content, watch from inside
.
Autumn of days
Another year of living
Another year of hope
Another year of changes
Thanks to Amy for stopping by today and best to Devin this year in school!
Amanda



Thursday CoffeeTalk-September 10 Guest: Amy Cummings


Today, I've invited my friend, Amy Cummings in for a cuppa coffee and a chance to get to know Amy a bit better.  Many of you know Amy from her beautiful reader/reviewer site, Romance BookWyrm. 

Today she is here, visiting with us about being a parent and that all too familiar "first day of school" syndrome that we've all likely experienced one way or another--for some, perhaps many times over.;) (Oh, that would be me!)  So let me pour Amy a  steaming cuppa fresh coffee and we'll get started!

When Amanda first asked if I'd like to guest blog on her new Thursday segment, I thought, "Yeah! That would be great!" I can't start my day without my morning cuppa coffee!" But then I thought, "Oh no, what could I possibly have to talk about." And then it came to me on Monday as I went through my sons school stuff, making sure all's in order for his first day back to school! And that would be the significance of what a new school year holds for me. Shopping for school supplies and clothes. New shoes. The hair cut. I've already had to rebuy a few things. Either the backpack wasn't the right one or the lunch box was too big. And I still need to by him new underdrawers! Gotta have new ones for the start of a new year! Taking a few days to get us back on a morning wake-up and bedtime schedule.


The big yellow school buses are out and about. The school speed zones are once again flashing. Life is once again in full speed. When you yourself are in school, your life revolves around the school years, but then you graduate, become part of the working world and each day, month, year becomes just another one. None really hold the same significance as they do when you are in school. But then you become a parent, and you revert back to that way of thinking. September and June mark the beginning and end. July and August are times to relax and have fun, be lazy and sleep in. Stay up late with your friends.

Back to school signifies many things. It's actually a very exciting and special time. For me, it marks the beginning of a new year, rather than January. My baby is one grade higher. One year older. And this year is a very special one. It's his last year in elementary school. He's taken on somewhat of a new look with his hair. I've finally stopped shaving his head and am letting him grow it out some, so he can have his own style. Poor kid has curly hair like his mamma! He is his own person and it's time I step back and let him have some more say with respect to his personal appearance. It may seem like an easy thing, but it's not! It means I'm one step closer to letting my baby go and be the man he will be. I do look forward to that, and I don't dwell on him growing up and missing when he was a baby, but it is scary to see how fast time does go by. I know I'm overprotective, and he is even beginning to notice and comment! *Gasp*! My own child is telling me I need to back off ! (just a bit!)

Back to school also signifies the beginnings of Fall. I love Fall. The crispness in the air. The foliage in all its splendor. I love a cloudy day, with a little sun peeking through here and there, shining down on the leaves that litter the yards, the roads. And with the onset of Fall, begins the count down to three most celebrated holidays of the year. Halloween, Thanksgiving and the big one, Christmas! Not to mention it's the time of year that I'm a year older too :). Luckily, my child doens't think I'm old yet! Unlike me with my mom. The other day we were out to lunch and the waiter did that super quick run-down of the salad dressing, you know how they say them so darn fast. Well, he was giving the list to my mom and she just got this look on her face and then she looked at me with total confusion. The first thing out of my mouth to the waiter was, "Umm, she's getting old and hard of hearing, could you please say them a little louder and slower." Oh man, my mom couldn't do anything but laugh! I think I embarrassed the waiter! He apologized and got down to where he was at her eye level and said them again! It was all quite comical :).

Back to school means so much more to me than just another school year for my son. It's a beginning. A countdown. A change of season.

If you have kids in school, what does back to school mean to you? And if not, is there a time of year that holds more significance than any other?
Thank you, Amanda, for letting me be here today and for sharing a cuppa coffee with me!
*Thanks Amy for stopping in at the breakfast table for a quick cuppa!  I've been having a lot of those "moments" these days as I watch all my children getting taller than me!;))  Eek!

We welcome your particular thoughts this morning at Thursday Coffee Talk!

Amanda

Sept.17, On Coffee Talk: USA best-selling author, Renee Bernard

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Midnight Musings- Poems of the Dark

Dark and sensual, the night wraps around us like liquid velvet. She encases us in her black splendor, offering up her very soul so that you may experience her rapturous embrace. She is the haunted whisper in your ear, the hot breath against your cheek, the power of seduction.

These are just a few from a book called "Collections." All poetry is original. Please email if you would like to reprint.

IMMORTAL FLAME
© Amanda McIntyre 2004
Sweet temptress fair
Sweet appetite
Seduced by amber eyes
Drink deep my love
Of passions muse
Cistern of sensual wish
O satisfy, thy lovers mouth
With honeyed nectar come
Blend deep into his warm embrace
Merge passion and soul
The tempest fire
O taste, immortal divine.

HIS EYES
© Amanda McIntyre 2001
Preditors and Editors Best Poem 2001
Her heart stands still
When once she meets
The wolf in darkened glen
Tis but a dream
Torments her sleep
His gaze from deep within
For in her dreams, her destiny
In his eyes, she cannot deny-
To touch his soul and find her own
Of what is meant to be-
SAVIOR
© Amanda McIntyre 2004
Come bring thou love
To ebony's heart
Come bring the light of day
Wisp of radiant peace
Come free my soul of darkened past
Pure love, but show the way
For what can stay
In purity's gaze
What evil shall remain?
Would love be victor?
Temptress? Fate?
Come morning's deadly light.
THE POWER

© Amanda McIntyre 2004
No boundaries, nor time
Dare draw nigh
To dark phantasms reign
Chained immortal
To seductions sighs
Atonement they shall bring


NEXT: MIST ON THE MOORS

Monday, September 7, 2009

Anatomy of a Writer-or why poetry gets right to the heart of the matter.

Writers are  like sponges. We soak up a bevy of emotions in places, people and song that are stored  for use later in developing a character, or a setting.
It's a blessing and a curse;)

When I am stymied about something, stressed out, or just plain pissed (*gasp!) I turn to poetry. It's my release.  For some reason I am able to focus on specific emotions, ideas--take my feelings on a particular matter down to the proverbial gnat's eyebrow. I can get my tangled emotions on paper as it were where they are no longer clattering aimlessly in my brain.

My poetry accomplishments, largely kept hidden are designed for introspection, reflection, but I've had a few that have traveled the long and dusty road to publication. Yes, for a brief moment in time, I had a collection of poems published which actually received at least one great review before the publisher unfortunately closed their doors! LOL
But my inner poet was not to be silenced.;)
In the upcoming prologue for Winters Desire, for example, I wanted to write a poem that tried to capture the loneliness of a grief-stricken Druid priestess, as she faced another Winters Solstice with out her lover:(gratefully, my partners in this anthology liked it well enough to keep it ;))

"Hope reborn, come with the sun
dispel the chill of darkness
bright fire of dawn
reach to our hearts
burn bright of winter's desire

Enchanted stream of brilliant light
amid the crystal ground
dark traverse blending of the night
bring sweet lover's kiss
burn bright of winter's desire.

No wanderer's curse
be he thus beckoned
a slave to passion’s fire
return his head, upon my breast
burn bright of winter's desire."
For me poetry alleviates many a stress, its rhythmic tone--to read or write-helps my perspective, at times has inspired a story or captured the essence of a story.
With fall comes a natural time of reflection--a time to regroup , take a deep breath and look around us.
So this week I'm dubbing POETRY WEEK!   I'll be sharing a few of my original work as well as some of my fav poets. Some of those include Edgar Allen Poe, W.B. Yeats, Maya Angelou and Robert Frost .
Feel free to comment on them or if you'd like to send me a poem you've written, I'd be happy to post it. Send to amanda at amandamcintyre dot net   Do you enjoy poetry? If so, who would you recommend or what is your favorite poem?
Amanda

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Winter Awakening Excerpt

As the change of seasons comes upon us, it is a reminder of the days ahead, when Mother Earth is shrouded beneath the blanket of snow, the seeds of rebirth nestled snug in their burrows, awaiting the warm breath of spring.  In celebration of  WINTERS SOLSTICE, Spice-books brings you the first in a Celtic seasonal series, called  WINTER' DESIRE.  Three authors/three novellas/three eras--each story threaded to the next by the powerful chant of a Druid priestess on  the dawn of a winter's morn long ago...
WINTER AWAKENING in Winter's Desire
Overview--

It was the celebration of the betrothal that would align Wales and England, but Sabeline was aware of her intended's promiscuous ways and so turns to his friend, not looking for more than companionship, but with a stolen kiss beneath a full moon, finding a passion that both deny until they meet years later at the appointed time of her marriage to the Norman Lord. One touch, and a spark ignites between the ill-fated pair. Torn between duty and desire, they succumb to their passions in secret, until fate turns a blind eye and they must seek the powers greater than themselves to quell the evil that threatens their very lives.
Excerpt:
Upon her request, Lord Ranulf agrees to meet Sabeline in private to discuss her concerns...
I leaned my hip on the table and glanced down near my feet where a thick pallet of sheepskin furs lay spread before the blazing fire. No better than Benedict, my thoughts drifted to easing Sabeline to that rug and having my way with her.


I licked my lips as I stared at the temptation and found my fingers curling against the edge of the desk. I was glad that I wore my jerkin over my cambric shirt as it covered the arousal of her cousin’s teasing. Yet with the late hour, my overindulgence with the ale, and that locked door holding us captive, my predicament indeed grew.

“What is it that I may do for you, milady?” I cleared my throat and I shifted so that the fur rug was out of my field of vision. I watched her pace in front of me, lost in her thoughts and completely unaware of how I mentally undressed her, one piece of clothing at a time.

“Sir Ranulf?”

I blinked, brought back to the present by her voice. “My apologies, my mind is elsewhere.”

“That is precisely what I wish to speak with you about.”

Finding it perhaps it wiser to sit than stand, I sat down and folded my hands atop the desk, glancing up at her as she continued to wear a path in the flagstone floor. “Please continue. I fear I do not understand.”

Her gaze darted to mine even as she continue her pace, as if to stop would lessen her courage to speak her mind. If companionship was all I could ever have, I wanted her always to be able to speak freely. I sighed quietly. “What troubles you, Sabeline?” I asked, adjusting my tunic as I tried to focus on the concern etched on her face.

“It is you, Sir Ranulf. You refuse to speak to me—nay, to acknowledge me at all. Lately, you run off after every meal.”

Were it Benedict seated in this chair, I would better understand these reprimands. “Milady, permit me to point out that it is not my attention which you seek?”

She gave me a shocked look. “Are you daft? That, of course, is ridiculous. This is entirely about appearances, milord.”

Ridiculous? I raised my brows to challenge her statement. “Of course it is,” I muttered.

“I am finding it difficult to explain.” She chewed the tip of her thumbnail, lost in her thoughts.

“Forgive me, milady. I would like to help ease whatever troubles you, but how does this involve me?” I shrugged.

“Do you not see how your behavior affects me?” She slapped her hands on the table and pushed her face close to mine.

“My behavior? Nay, milady, I do not.” Curious as I was to hear her plea, I drank in the curve of her cheek, the slight bow of her kissable mouth. Unable to help myself, my gaze traveled to the view offered from her low-cut gown. What sweet warmth I ventured lay in the valley between those breasts…damn.

“For this very reason, sir.” She searched my eyes. “I have noticed how you look at me. How you watch when you think no one else notices.”

“I am truly sorry if I have caused you discomfort.” I narrowed my gaze on hers.

“Were it me alone that noticed, it would not cause me discomfort, though I must confess I do not know whether your looks stem from pleasure or disdain.”

My eyes met hers. “Would it matter?” It was dangerous, I knew, to press her on such matters but the ale had loosed my tongue.

She straightened as if I had struck her. Fear and desire warred in her eyes. Did I truly want her to answer? For three years I had carried this small flickering flame of desire deep inside, resolved that it would never be fanned except but by my imagination and memory. I held my breath as I awaited her answer.

“This was a mistake, milord. My apologies for taking leave of your privacy.”

She turned to leave. I reached out and grabbed her hand, knocking the chair over as I stood. “I need to understand why you sought me out this night.” I did not let her go as I came around the table to face her.

More than once, she started to speak, but stopped each time as she did everything she could to avoid looking at me.

I took her chin between my fingers, holding her gaze firm on mine. It was wrong of me to insist she remember, too, the power of that kiss all those years ago. She was older now, her future clear, her purpose to be the wife of another man. Every reason I could think of to walk away lay before me, yet I could not remove my hand.

She looked up at me then, her soft brown eyes filled with desire. I did not want to know whether the tension between us was a mistake or not. Indeed, I did not want either of us to think at all. I wanted to finish what we had begun those many years ago. I had to know that the torment was not all mine.

“That night, milord…I did not mean for it to happen,” she whispered. Her gaze lowered to my mouth. So she, too, still carried the memory.

“Any more than you mean for this to happen, Sabeline. Let the blame fall on my head, but I cannot walk away this time,” I spoke as I lowered my face to hers. I did not want to think on the reasons I should stop, or to think about the risk I was taking. She could never be mine, not the way I wanted. Even now, I could not be sure that I was not a substitute for her failed attempts with Benedict. Still for one night, to quench the fire she ignited long ago, I would play the martyr and be her substitute.

Her fingers tentatively touched my lips and, had a sword been at my throat, I could not have stopped myself. I captured her mouth to appease the hunger that lay buried in my soul.

A small whimper emitted from her throat as I slanted my mouth over hers, finding the perfect angle to satisfy. She was as sweet as I remembered, pliant and giving with fierce passion, a preview how she would be in my bed.

I plucked the combs from her hair, driving my fingers into the silken strands. I sensed the pulse of her heart beneath my palm as I cupped her delicate neck and held her face to mine.

Fervently pressing for more, our mouths mated as my hands found the lacings at the back of her gown. In silent jubilation, I freed the knots and her gown loosened, slipping with ease over her slender, pale shoulders.

I met her eyes and waited for her to reveal how far we would venture into this dark and dangerous moment. With her gaze locked to mine, she eased the gown lower exposing the gentle swells of her creamy flesh. My breath caught as I traced my fingers down her throat and glided lower still between her breasts.

I held my hands around her waist as I bent to lavish one and then the other of her rosy tips that were stiff with arousal. Desperate to feel her soft flesh against the hard planes of my body, I unbuckled my jerkin and dropped it to the floor. Her hands wrestled with mine as together we drew my cambric shirt over my head.

In all of my life, I had never seen anything so beautiful as the look of appreciation and desire in her eyes.

Her palm came to rest on the firm muscle of my chest, and I closed my eyes at the savage desire welling inside me. My fists clenched and unclenched at my sides allowing her exploration. I closed my eyes withstanding the tenderness of her kiss upon my skin, the warmth of her face nuzzling the curve of my neck, until I could no longer keep my hands off her.

I cupped her face, bringing her lips to mine as I drank deep of this forbidden wine that consumed all reason. Receiving no protest, I drew her down, turning her beneath me on the soft fur cushion warmed by the fire. Prompted by the ale, driven by passion long denied, I took my fill of kisses that would have to serve to carry through the lonely years ahead.

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