A Very Fond Farewell to 2017
Promised Land …
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*** Happy New Year, New Orleans ***
The vintage apartment on Rue Ste. Anne looked festive and, aside from a bit of shimmer on the hardwood floor, immaculate.
“What the—” Steven turned in a slow circle. He was standing in a sea of glitter. “Bloody hell! The staff will throw a fit.”
Coordinating the brush and dustpan was an awkward struggle until a trail of pine needles caught his eye. He dropped the tools and followed the track through a hidden wall panel and down into Lock’s private chambers to find a barefoot man, standing on a ladder.
“What took you so long?”
“You’re decorating another tree?” Steven giggled out loud. “You have two in the parlor already.”
“This is my personal tree.” Lock pointed to a table overflowing with velvet bags and colored ornaments. “All local antiques. I’ve been collecting.”
“Lots of sparkle.”
“I knew you would approve.” Lock pushed Steven into a formal chair and lit the sea of candles arranged around him. “A drink for my honored guest?”
Steven pointed at the cognac decanter.
“Perfect choice.” Lock sauntered to the bar and returned with a snifter. He knelt down, unlaced Steven’s shoes and tossed them away. “Now, relax while I work.”
“You’re seducing me?”
“Between my charm and the twinkling lights.” Lock unbuttoned his white shirt. “I certainly hope so.”
Steven’s eyes grew wide as he watched Lock float across the room and drop his shirt to the floor. “You know, you need to clean each crystal teardrop before you hang it.”
Lock’s glowing skin rippled over his warrior muscles as he fluffed branches. “Always in charge, aren’t you?” He breathed on each ornament and polished.
Wicked mercy. Steven pointed to the other side of the massive tree. “You might need to move the ladder. Lift things.”
“Yes, sir.” Lock climbed down one rung at a time and dropped his jeans to the floor before he repositioned the ladder.
Steven caught his breath and hid it with a healthy sip of cognac. He grinned and nodded vigorously when Lock looked in his direction. “Lovely…big blank space over there. Keep working.” He waited until Lock turned his back before unzipping his trousers and settling deeper into the chair.
Lock ran his hands under the waistband of his satin boxer shorts and slipped them lower on his narrow hips. He leaned across the tree, adjusting each jewel until they twirled flawlessly.
He loves watching me watch him. Steven melted into the romantic room. His eyes wandered across Lock’s sculpted physique. How did I get so lucky?
Lock flashed across the chamber, leaned on the arms of Steven’s chair and whispered in his ear. “Any more instructions?”
“Explain to me, how you’re so tan.” Steven unbuttoned his cuffs and ran his hands up Lock’s chest. “I’m a ghost next to you.”
“I was a surfer in Australia.” Lock brushed his lips across Steven’s mouth. “This is pale for me.”
“Don’t you miss it?”
“I used to.” Lock shifted back and locked gazes with Steven. “Then I stepped into New Orleans and laid eyes on you.”
“Tell me, again, when did you first see me?”
“At the Masquerade Ball—in your tuxedo and black mask, ordering everyone around.” Lock slid his thumb across Steven’s lower lip. “The past vanished that night. Now, I cherish the moments…every moment with you.”
“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” Steven rubbed his nose against Lock’s. “Out of all that tragedy…it’s unbelievable.”
Lock dove into Steven’s lips, lifted him out of the chair and tossed him on the bed. “Believe it.”
“Wait!” Steven seized Lock’s hands just as he grabbed fistfuls of silk. “Custom tailored shirt.”
Lock flashed a smile and bared his fangs. “Take it off or I’ll rip it off.”
Lock leaned against an arched doorway as security shooed tipsy guests from Steven’s apartment. “Gentlemen, one last sweep for stragglers.” He snapped his fingers. “At Mr. Banitierre’s standing request.”
The guards finished scurrying and stood at attention. “All clear, boss.”
“Always remember.” Lock pointed at Steven, obsessively straightening bottles behind the bar. “He, is the boss.”
“Brilliant. I’ll see everyone again on…” Steven sighed at the silence when the door finally clicked shut. He slouched his shoulders and dragged his feet into the bedroom. “On Thursday evening. Can’t wait.”
“That look on your face.” Lock took measured steps across the stone floor. “Makes me want to cry.”
“I loathe these parties.” Steven unsnapped cufflinks and flung them in a drawer. “Juggling maniacs and their fragile egos—”
“Building alliances. We’ll need them when Sorcha comes home.”
Steven ripped his tie off and slumped against the antique armoire. “I lost her.”
“She’s not lost.” Lock place his hand on Steven’s shoulder and squeezed. “Just hiding, for now.”
“I didn’t sleep a wink yesterday. This place reminds me of family…especially during the holidays.”
Lock straightened Steven’s collar. “My apartment is just across the square.”
“Can I just shower first?”
“You smell delicious. But, come over whenever you’re ready. I have a surprise.”
Steven’s eyes followed the vapor trail of energy left when Lock flashed out of the room.
On this longest night of the year, darkness was still waltzing in her own glory when Steven stepped into deserted Jackson Square. Sharp wind swirling down the alleys reminded him of the damp red curls around his neck. He savored rare crisp air while his eyes roamed galleries ringing both Pontalba buildings and holly wreaths adorning empty flower boxes.
This used to be my favorite season. Steven strolled around a wrought iron fence decorated with red bows, and stared up at the spires of St. Louis Cathedral framed by a steel-grey sky.
The best view in the world. His mind flashed back to evenings when he walked the flagstones with an armful of friends and family.
Not a care in the world except shopping and celebrating.
Until the sky fell.
A closer look at the iron barrier revealed crooked and charred rails. Ugly scars left over from that fateful night.
Sorcha’s cape. The Allemand’s spell.
The first shots of a war that crashed an empire.
Exploding Christmas trees. A murdered nun.
Without Raimond, our family will never be…
“Damn it.” Steven collapsed against the fence and coughed so hard, he wheezed.
That was years ago.
He swiped a blood-tinged tear from his cheek and flashed to Lock’s apartment on Rue Ste. Anne. Beyond the plain white door, spiral stairs loomed at the end of a dark and silent corridor.
All right, Lock Dorge. Surprise me.
Melanie Stanford writes romance and YA of different genres. Her first novel, SWAY, a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, debuted December 2015 from Samhain Publishing and was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Since Samhain’s closure, Melanie decided to republish SWAY herself, along with the rest of her Romance Revisited series: CLASH, a Romance Revisited novella, COLLIDE, and a third novel coming 2018. She also has short stories featured in the Austenesque anthologies THE DARCY MONOLOGUES and THEN COMES WINTER.
Melanie reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband, four kids, and ridiculous amounts of snow.
He saved me… And then he blood-bonded me. Now I’m his.
My first meeting with a Chicago vampire went better than expected.
Up until that night, all I knew about vampires was limited to a few common facts: they drink blood, they get a mean sunburn and if you find yourself alone with one, you’re dead.
Except he didn’t kill me.
Sexy, broody Warin clearly had his own reasons for sparing my life and tying me with his blood, but if he’d known how much trouble I’d attract, I bet he wouldn’t have bothered. When he blood-bonded me, secrets even I didn’t know about myself came to light.
Secrets that will pull us both deep into the eternal war between vampires and the witches determined to rid the world of their evil.
We have only one choice now: fight the forces hell-bent on breaking our bond…
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Nora Ash writes the sort of books that have your toes curling and your blood pulsing. Her stories are often dark and always thrilling, with lots of sexy bad boys and the women who spur their desires. When not typing away at a story, Nora paints, eats chocolate or go for hikes around the English countryside with her very own bad boy.
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Releasing my first novel was as nerve-wracking and terrifying as I expected—okay, maybe a bit more—but, what a spectacular and amazing experience!
An author friend once told me that it changes your life…and that is so incredibly, blessedly true.
Scrolling back through my blog is like reading a treasure map and realizing I’m on the right trail, but nowhere near finished.