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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Running with the Pack


Running with the Pack

By Pat Cunningham



INTRO ~ Hi Happily Ever After animal lovers, I thought a lot of you might like a peek at the realities of wolf pack life. Plus, Pat’s understanding and research is great information for all of us romance authors who run on the shapeshifting wild side.

Pic from ~ http://naturescrusaders.wordpress.com/2009/03/07/ ~

I’ve always been an animal lover. As a dog person, I picked werewolves as my supernatural being of choice when I moved into paranormal romances. Fortunately I live in an area with a unique research opportunity – the Speedwell Forge Wolf Sanctuary of PA, right up the road from me, so to speak, in Brickerville, Pennsylvania. The Sanctuary consists of 25 acres and is home to 40-odd wolves, divided into packs/family groups, each with its own roomy run. I stopped in recently for one of their weekend tours and picked up some info and anecdotes to give my howling heroes and their world some verisimilitude. As I discovered, even with wolves truth can be weirder than fiction.

First off, the biggest wolf in the pack doesn’t necessarily become alpha. The sanctuary has a family of four eastern timber wolves, all zoo born. Because the pup was bottle fed and received better nourishment growing up than his parents, he’s the largest of the group. That doesn’t mean Pop can’t make Junior submit when he’s of a mind to. Attitude more than size is what makes an alpha wolf. The smaller wolf dominates the larger because he’s got the drive and the mindset. The Dog Whisperer is right – it’s all psychological. The muscular six-foot werewolf might find himself taking orders, and having to like it, from his 5’2” mate. That could make for some funny scenes.

We’ve all got this picture of alpha wolves clawing their way to the top of the pack and ruling with an iron paw. That ain’t necessarily so. The sanctuary’s pack of thirteen gray wolves is led by Murphy, possibly the laziest wolf on the planet, according to his keepers. Murphy does nothing and makes no effort to maintain his leadership. The pack follows him because they like him and they want to. His brother Winston could probably kick his butt and take over the pack, but he just isn’t interested. As beta, Winston does the heavy lifting in pack administration. He keeps the others at bay while the alphas feed, then determines who eats next and in what order. If your alpha hero’s smart, he’ll have a loyal beta to watch his back so he can focus on running the show.

Another myth blown out of the water is wolf monogamy and the idea of the alpha male in charge at mating time. When a gal’s in season, the keeper said, the boys take notice, regardless of her rank or theirs. “She gets up, they get up. She walks off, they follow. She stops, they stop. It’s hysterical to watch.” She, not the males, decides who’s going to father her litter. She picks the wolf she deems most likely to sire the strongest pups. If that turns out to be the alpha male, and it probably will, so be it.

As long as there’s no alpha female on hand, the pups might even make it. Alpha females tend to kill other females’ litters, both to secure their own pups’ survival and to demoralize possible rivals, to keep them too depressed to challenge her authority. If your story needs an antagonist, you need look no further than the literal queen bitch determined to hang onto her position. And hide your kids.

At the other end of the hierarchy exist the omegas. You can’t really call it living for them because they have to take everyone’s crap. The omega in the gray wolf group was easy to spot: the tips of her ears had been chewed off and the end of her tail was missing. The keepers had to move her into a separate pen or the pack might eventually have killed her. She shared her new home with two other wolves and seemed a lot less stressed. Got any werewolf omegas? Might they be harboring resentment and plotting against your alpha hero?

Finally, take this one for what it’s worth. Glacier is a big handsome gray wolf who comes from a showbiz family (his grandfather played Two Socks in “Dances With Wolves”). He’s also something of a diva. Glacier has been known to go off and sulk if he isn’t the center of attention. His last girlfriend had to be removed from the pen; Glacier bit her because he was jealous that the keepers were petting her more than him. Glacier shares his pen with Chipper, a diminutive male who’s suitably submissive enough to satisfy this prima donna alpha. “We think he’s gay,” the keeper said.

And on that note, I’m heading back to the keyboard. Happy writing!
~~~~~~

Coyote Moon

Blurb ~

It's that time of the month -- the full moon -- when Willy Alvarez's moods go wonky and her dreams fill up with wolves. A time for hungers she doesn't dare fulfill because they lead to violence. She's resigned herself to a manless life, then Cody Gray arrives.

Cody is cute, funny, charming, and a werecoyote. His nose knows what Willy doesn't: she's half werewolf. He's convinced this repressed half-human she-wolf is his perfect mate. Now he just has to convince her. And quick, because her long-lost pack has learned about her existence, and they've come to town to claim her...

COYOTE MOON by Pat Cunningham at ~ http://bookstrand.com/product-coyotemoon-14959-330.html ~ NOW full-moon rising on Siren-BookStrand’s bestseller list.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dark Clouds and Silver Linings


Hey everyone! Time for my little stopover once again… Having just clawed and crawled my way through the month from hell – the one where every silver lining seems to have at least three dark clouds – I got to thinking about all kinds of stuff, which seemed to take me down some weird and convoluted path to the issue of HEA. I know. I did say weird, didn’t I? But really it’s not such a giant leap from one to the other.

When I think about it, a large chunk of life is spent in pursuit of Happily Ever After, however we may define it (I think it’s safe to say the definition is related to our particular circumstances at any given time, and the “need” that goes along with them). Maybe good old Oxford or Webster got it all wrong, and “hope” should actually be spelled h.e.a…

On the surface, HEA maybe appears to be a “destination”, a place we arrive at and it’s all fairytale from there. In reality though, it’s as much a journey as the “getting there” is. It simply isn’t a suspended state of being. It has to be lived, experienced, and sometimes even lost in order for us to explore its full potential. Like everything else in life, it is subject to change – sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometime indifferent, change is in fact the only thing (outside of death) that we can be assured of in life.


So why then, even bother to pursue it, or to read and write it? Surely it effectively (if we accept the above) cancels itself out, makes it simply a “fairytale”? The question nagged at me so I turned to a classic fairytale, Cinderella, which epitomizes and is often used as the “rags to riches” storyline in so many lives. Like a lot of people out there, Cinderella and Prince Charming had to endure a lot – personal loss of a loved one, family abuse, injustice, over-controlling parents, meddling and family betrayal… The fairy godmother excluded (not many of us are fortunate enough to have one of those) there story is not that much different to any of ours.

And, like all of us, the hope (pursuit of HEA) keeps them going, gives them courage, helps them to see beyond the circumstances to better things. Finally, after almost insurmountable obstacles, a great deal of courage and determination and a healthy dollop of true love, they reach the HEA. Uh huh, that’s what the story says, I checked. “And they lived Happily Ever After”.


Interestingly enough, it doesn’t say the wicked stepmother and her obnoxious offspring suddenly morph into perfect in-laws. It doesn’t say that the King and Queen do the 12 step course on becoming model parents and stop trying to tell their son what to do. It doesn’t say the palace roof didn’t spring a leak in the rainy season, or that Charming and Cinders had model children who never got chicken pox, worked hard at school and always got straight A’s and didn’t need orthodontics. Or that the Kingdom wouldn’t ever have war or a recession.

It says that they LIVED Happily Ever After. To live assumes taking the bad along with the good. So why “happily”? Are we simply back to square one, and HEA just a meaningless and empty thing that we constantly strive after, much like the Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Grail? Is a large portion of the romance book industry founded on something that actually doesn’t exist?

On the contrary, it’s founded on the two greatest powers in life. First, Love, and second, Hope. HEA is the thing that lifts us beyond our circumstances, the hope that gives us the courage to endure and the power we have to transform even the most ordinary or painful of experiences into something lasting and worthwhile. No-one said Happily Ever After was easy. Living it is about as easy as getting there. The difference is that we have the ability to look beyond the pain and find hope, that in writing and reading towards HEA we are affirming the positive, celebrating the courageous, and establishing the enduring quality that sets us apart. Hope. Or HEA. Spell it whichever way you like…

Thanks for hanging with me!
Jude

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Long Road to Romance and Murder

As authors we’re used to enduring the long bumpy roads that, hopefully, lead to success. The long road of writing our romance novels, then finding that right publisher, of going through the editing process... you get the picture, especially if you’ve traveled, or are traveling down those long writerly roads. Yes, often, being published is *partly* a matter of sheer dogged persistence.
It’s been one dang long *roller coaster* journey from the point of inception to arriving at this moment. My American Title IV manuscript is now in print. When the idea for MURDER BY
HAIR SPRAY IN GARDENIA, NEW ATLANTIS hit my brain like a lightning bolt... yes, that’s the best description I can come up with... it was supposed to be just an erotic romance novella. You know, the heroine and hero have to stay together at Gardenia’s only hotel in order to catch the Hair Spray Killer.
Yeah, right. My Muse can be naughtily deceptive.
New Atlantis came alive as a character immediately. Larger than that, Sheriff Kalypso Sun Wing and Federal Agent Zryphus Dolen Vasquoz were much more emotionally complex and rich in character than I’d originally envisioned. Plus, the Hair Spray Killer wasn’t about to be captured that easily. Not only that, the Killer’s puppet strings were being pulled by bigger enemies determined to conquer New Atlantis.
Thus, was born a novel that is over a hundred thousand words and is the first book in the New Atlantis Trilogy.
Every road I’ve traveled with this futuristic novel has been a long one and definitely *hang onto your hats* bumpy. Yet, the long road to romance and murder has also been emotionally rewarding and satisfying at a deep level. Yep, right down to my soul.


Here’s the promo ~

Murder by Hair Spray in Gardenia, New Atlantis - IN PRINT

So, if you're into a futuristic look at the risen land of Atlantis, a mystery with lots of action... and how about a love story where the battle of sexes incites extreme passion... this might be the erotic romance novel for you.

Murder by Hair Spray in Gardenia, New Atlantis

~ This story spun and formed in my imagination, turbulent as a sea storm ~ then sprang forth onto paper and onto my computer screen like Poseidon’s powerful emergence from the ocean, during a time lost to history when gods and goddesses ruled the world and the heavens above.

Gardenia, New Atlantis... The future begins here...

The story of beginning a new world on a legendary land...
The beginning of a love Sheriff Kalypso Sun Wing never believed was possible for her, especially not after a hundred years on Earth...
The beginning of a love Federal Agent Zryphus has arrived on Earth to find, only he didn’t plan on remaining in a land where women are in charge...

First Line:
The evil cloud of hair spray dominated the air in guest room 666 at Gardenia’s only motel, The Eternal Magnolia – so named because it was surrounded by a park-like acre of Magnolia trees, saved despite the cataclysmic weather, wars and land changes on Earth.

Heroine and Hero:
Sheriff Kalypso Sun Wing is 100 years old in the year 2051. A rebel at heart, an artist by soul, she survived the sterile fifties’ suburbs, the revolutionary turbulence of the sixties, the disco guru seventies. After the suicide of the man she loved, Kalypso barely survived the designer eighties, the fast-forward nineties. In the 21st century Mother Nature rebelled. Kalypso battled for freedom. She never knew why she survived. Until Atlantis rose. Once again.

Agent Zryphus Dolen Vasquoz chose an enforcement career on Earth for several reasons – his fascination with primitive worlds, to make his own way outside the family heritage, to keep official watch for his own Worlds – and, Zerculeon men find Earth women highly desirable, like the gods of old they rival in strength. Since there aren’t enough Zerculeon women, it’s a match made in intergalactic heaven. Especially when Zryphus gets a real eyeful of the Sheriff.
~~~~~~

Excerpt ~

The evil cloud of hair spray dominated the air in guest room 666 at Gardenia's only motel, The Eternal Magnolia—so named because it was surrounded by a park-like acre of Magnolia trees, saved despite the cataclysmic weather, wars and land changes on Earth.

"Reminds me of seventh grade, after gym class. When I avoided the noxious fumes of spurting hair spray," Sheriff Kalypso spoke to her deputy.

"We sure can't go in yet. Till some of this evil stuff airs out," Deputy Anna agreed. Holding up her Video Multi, she stood in doorway, scanning the room before they entered.

"Lucy," Sheriff Kalypso yelled, her voice aimed toward Gardenia's only enforcement van, parked near the bottom of the steps. "You got International linked up yet?"

"The operator's comin' on shortly," Deputy Lucy hollered up.

"Track down the Agent-slash-agency that's in charge of the Hair Spray Serial Killer, will ya? Anna, you finished scanning yet?"

"Almost, Sheriff. Large number of odor pixels installing now for later analysis at the lab. Looks like two males so far. One she entertained, sexual wise, that is—nothin' kinky I can pick up, though."

"Too bad. The Tribune needs a sensational story," Sheriff Kalypso half-joked, half-mocked.

"Murder by hair spray isn't kinky enough?" Anna drawled. "Hell's little bells, Marzzie would dance one of her jerky bar jigs on top of her news table."

"We'll give her whatever exclusive we can. But I gotta feeling the Federals are gonna request some private investigation time. Unless it's a copycat? Other than who she was with, any of our people been in the room since our victim occupied?"

"Naw—only with her and trace genes from before. Elsie's cleaning crew looks like."

"When exactly did Elsie's assistant click on the room camera?"

"Barb got concerned when the guest, now victim, didn't ring down for breakfast. She'd been here for an old-fashioned week, and always rang at eight. Waffles with fruit, rice milk and dark chocolate souffle. Barb clicked on at about eight thirty. Took her a time to find the body on the floor. Medical monitor never chimed emergency. She did a med scan immediately, then called us."

"Yeah, our poor victim is stiff as a board with hair to match, apparently." Sheriff Kalypso carefully stepped into the guest room, gazing around for any detail the Video Multi couldn't retrieve. "Go ahead, deputy. Video her body as is."

"This hair spray stench is demonic, I swear. One can of the stuff is by the body, Sheriff. Looks new. But this nasty crap hasn't been made for several decades." With meticulous precision the deputy scanned the face-down victim, inch by inch. "She was gone in sixty seconds. Death by hair spray asphyxiation."

"Any chance of a blast from the past? That stuff is highly flammable. I remember reading it on the back of the cans."

"Don't light a candle for her," Anna suggested, her tone pure irony. "She was definitely here to have a private good time. Multiple sex partners. Most of them male. Earth human or hybrid human." Anna inhaled sharply. "Oh my Goddess! She was with child. Twelve days since conception."

"Still viable?" Sheriff Kalypso moved toward the corpse."Checking status."

The hair spray victim was a small slender woman with mother-of-pearl skin. She wore an early sixties Jackie O blue shift and pumps, with the hair style to match.

"Shellac for the hair," Sheriff Kalypso commented. Kneeling, she sat back on her haunches, observing the body. "Shiny and not one strand has moved."

"We have a two hour window, if we can round up the proper womb incubator."

"Sheriff," Lucy hailed from the doorway. "Head Agent Vasquoz will be here by portal, to quote 'soon as I'm shaved and down a cup of coffee'."

"I take it Vasquoz is male and didn't mean his legs. Lucy, get Dr. Victoria up here now. We need her expertise. Tell her we have a viable twelve day pregnancy. Then go meet 'Head Agent Vasquoz' for me."

"Sure as shootin' fish, Sheriff." Deputy Lucy athletically ran down the steps, already signaling Dr. Victoria with her Handheld.

"You know Georgia's been seeking a viable fetus. She's in the mood for motherhood again. And she's the best." Deputy Anna completed her corpse scan. Leaning back on her calves, she studied the results as they appeared on screen.

"She is the best. I didn't know she was seeking again. Though, I hate to put her through the process if there's another claim on file. You know how heart-vulnerable she is."

"Yep, she is. Let's see what Dr. Victoria recommends. Sad, haven't had a murder in over a year. And the last case was a boundary dumped body...an escaped rapist."

"Yeah, nothing to mourn there, except his soul and his family."

Sheriff Kalypso frowned. "Our Jackie O's real identity hasn't even popped yet. We may not own the time to find out who she is."

"Sheriff," Anna crooned with excitement, and absolute surprise, "the fetus is Venutian hybrid, female. Someone wanted our victim pregnant."

"Yeah, the bio father wanted her pregnant. Or it never would have happened. Check the International missing partner list. Venutians are extremely protective."

"Checking. Unless it was done by nefarious deception."

"Absolutely on target, Anna, thanks. The perpetrators could have stolen the semen, treated it with the right bio hormones, then inseminated her."

"Whoever she is. Her ID still hasn't popped. She was taking whole-food pregnancy nutrients."

"Why would a woman who knows she's pregnant, using natural nutrition, even come close to decades-old hair spray?" Sheriff Kalypso stood, studying the woman's body for a moment. "I'm looking around for any form of ID."

"The Vid Multi picked up a personal bag in the bottom chest drawer."

Watching her step, Sheriff Kalypso moved to the small bureau. "It's not just her hair. She's entirely coated with the stuff. But lightly, like an artist's touch."

"Like a death portrait. Great moons away. Some poor artist type gone round the bend for whatever good reason. And there are a lot of good reasons in this world."

"Conform or it's time for a psychological lobotomy. Could be. Or it could be the killer gene was stimulated, like during the Conflicts."

"The super soldiers, bred to be killers, and hyped up on adrenaline. You had to blast their heads off to stop them," Deputy Anna recalled.

"Sheriff," Dr. Victoria hailed from the doorway. "How do I help?"

"Stay there. Anna will show you her results. We'll go from there."

"Sheriff," Anna summoned. "Got an ID on one of the males in here. Brody...Lavern's son."

"Crap and snap! He's only sixteen. Ring Lavern. Have her bring him to the constabulary office. I'll get Woodson to talk with them. He can get the full story out of most anyone, the easy way, with no harsh chemicals involved. Woodson, that you?" Sheriff Kalypso spoke into her wrist vid unit.

"Yeah, Sheriff. What's going on at the motel? The town's buzzin' like a beehive."

"Keep it on suppression, deputy. Nasty scene. Need you to work your dialogue magic with Brody. He was here. Might have shared some saliva and seed. Keep it friendly for now. No use stirring up a hornets nest of feelings yet."

"Will accomplish, beautiful. Let you know if I discover what you need."

"Thanks, Woodson. Later." Sheriff Kalypso slid on her working gloves, then used one finger to open the bottom drawer, just in case the vid scan hadn't picked up all the evidence. The bag perfectly matched the woman's pumps. Since it was unlatched, she gingerly opened it wider. She could see makeup, lipstick, and grooming accessories, all early 60's period reproductions. Then, as she leaned over peering deeper inside, she spied the piece of folded up paper, a rarity these days. Especially because it didn't look like a love letter reproduction, a trendy sentiment currently.

Nope, it was plain white note paper, the kind the Sheriff knew about. She'd had a recent birthday, turning one hundred years old. As a shared joke, one hundred cupcakes had been delivered to her from the people of New Atlantis, each with its own tiny candle. Actually, the pastel candles had been miniature fireworks' sparklers. She'd lit them all, one at a time, at the impromptu party her friends had insisted on.

"Anna, you and Victoria decide on anything yet?"

"We need to turn her over, Sheriff, for removal. Location of the fetus," Dr. Victoria explained. "The vitals indicate survival in a temp incubator will be for thirty minutes, only."

"Anna, did you talk to Dr. Victoria about Georgia's possible availability?"

"We have Georgia on contact now," Anna answered. "She's willing. Understands the hybrid genetics. Says she'll be a surrogate if necessary. But does want the child."

"Let me check what's on this piece of paper, in case there's ID info." Sheriff Kalypso unfolded the strip of paper, which had been precisely creased four times. There was only one handwritten word or name, Beatrice. "Beatrice," Sheriff Kalypso spoke. "That's it, all that's written here. Go ahead, remove the fetus for Georgia."

"Sheriff." The man's voice commanded first, and announced his presence second. "Sheriff Kalypso Sun Wing."

"Yeah, that's me." Turning, Kalypso's gaze gave no quarter, hard as diamonds on the outsider. "Agent...?" Dang it to hang, he was a tall and broad drink of water. She'd expected the usual tight-ass wimp, with grim lips and eyes that were mirrors, reflecting nothing but the orders the been given. No, this man burned with sheer vitality. His gaze assessed, a damn force of nature. She'd bet if she struck a match and tossed it toward his eyes, they would sizzle like her birthday candles, then explode at his will. Yep, he was definitely a whole load of nano dynamite, unlit.

"Agent Zryphus Dolen Vasquoz," he answered. "Give me your evidence retrieval. I'll take over from here."

Audible gasps burst from Anna and Dr. Victoria at the man's patriarchal and patronizing tone.

"No, you won't, Agent Vasquoz. You're here at my invitation. Only. You follow my rules or you don't get to play 'Find the Hair Spray Killer'. Do you understand?"

"Wowzi Powzie," Deputy Anna whispered, watching her vid screen light up with the sparks flying between the Sheriff and the outsider Agent.

"It's a Federal Union case, Sheriff. I have priority investigation." The Agent's gravelly deep voice filled the entire room.

"You have nothing, Agent. Unless I say so. You can turn around, hit the portal. Or you can cooperate. You'll have full access. Anna will give you all she's retrieved so far. If you want, I'll even act friendly, let you 'analyze' this bag more closely." Sheriff Kalypso approached, a lioness with no fear. "I'll even sweeten the pot, Agent Vasquoz—let you do a quick exam of the body before we save the fetus. As they used to say, deal or no deal?"

"Whirlwind in the room," Deputy Anna whispered to Victoria, who still watched her vid screen.

"Deal. For now, Sheriff." Focusing his gaze like a cannon laser, the Agent straightened his over-large shoulders, his latent power obvious.

"Pull anything against my authority, Agent Vasquoz, and I guarantee you won't like the results. Deputy, feed your vid evidence to the Agent's data base, will you, please?"

Once Anna stood, he handed his data vid to her without looking. His gaze relentless, Agent Vasquez followed the Sheriff's arm wave to the corpse. Moving easily in the small confines of the room, despite his size, he knelt with deliberate care, scrutinizing every detail of the body.

Sheriff Kalypso couldn't deny his concentration was impressive. She watched him turn the victim over with gentle precision.

Awed, her heart tripping rapidly, Sheriff Kalypso moved closer. "Even her face resembles Jackie O."

"How do you know?" Agent Vasquoz demanded, not looking up.

"I was born in 1951. Check out your history data base, Agent."

"Call me Zryphus."

He stood, gradually moving around the corpse. His gaze never deviated until he halted, and faced Sheriff Kalypso. Immediately, she nodded toward Anna and Dr. Victoria. Kneeling, they worked as a team, rescuing the fetus.

"Got an ID on her, Zryphus?" Kalypso ignored his intense study of her.

"I know who she is. Vrilesa Corzinski. We've been looking for her ever since she disappeared. She fits the Hair Spray Killer's profile. Before she discovered her ability to bear children easily, she was an elite prostitute. Baby-making is a premium moneymaker in some circles."

"Who reported her 'disappearance'?"

"Her brother. He became suspicious of an ongoing vid relationship she had. He was worried when she just packed, and went on vacation, and wouldn't confide where. He claimed it was unusual behavior for her, even when she was pregnant."

"Then there would be parents for the fetus."

"No one on official record. She may have just conceived, and decided to keep the pregnancy."

"Twelve days ago. A Venutian hybrid is the father. That doesn't add up to a 'let's have sex fun' conceived child. Unless you know something I don't."

"Point accepted, Sheriff. May I call you Kalypso?"

With the fetus safe, Anna grinned and checked her vid. Sure as the sky, the Agent's voice suddenly registered as masculine velvet.

Kalypso hesitated. Dang and wolf's fang, was he putting the moves on her? "Why not? We try to stay friendly around here."

"Fake charm or real charm?" Dr. Victoria whispered.

"He's for real," Anna spoke near her ear.

"Now that I have new leads, Kalypso, I'll research later, discover if there are waiting parents. Where's the victim's handbag?"

"Down in that drawer. I used gloves, and had a look inside. Found this folded piece of paper at the bottom." Sheriff Kalypso handed over the evidence. "If the handwriting doesn't belong to our victim, your resource base is larger than ours. I expect full knowledge of whatever you find out."

"Mutual giving. It's a deal," the Agent purred, his meaning obviously beyond investigative cooperation. He gazed down at the unfolded paper, as if it could be the key to solving his case.

"Mean anything to you?" Sheriff Kalypso finally prompted.

"No. Not any connection to a 'Beatrice' that I've come across."

"We have a volunteer surrogate for the fetus." She arched a brow. "Do you object?"

"I can't offer a surrogate soon enough. No, Kalypso, I don't object. What autopsy methods do you have here?"

"Dr. Victoria, let me know how insertion goes, will you?"

"Sure, Sheriff. On my way."

"We have machine autopsy. Holo program or real cutting. Our town butcher knows her way around the human body. She worked forensics in Chicago before the permanent break up of the United States. You got a preference?"

"Start with Holo. From my examination it looks like 'the Hair Spray Killer'. Not a copycat."

"Anna, give a holler to Deputy Lucy. You two take the victim to autopsy after you've scanned her clothing, and all her personal items. Once the Agent and I have satisfied each other on the collection of evidence, I'll check in."

"Sure as fire, Sheriff. Sorry, bad joke. No sparks allowed in here with all these fumes. Heck, the corpse could still explode from all that hair spray covering her. We'll keep the ride real cool."

"Lost several of our victims that way, Kalypso. One static spark before we arrived, the body burned," Zryphus seriously stated. "Leave the hair spray can here. I need to do an analysis."

"How many victims so far?"

"Twelve. If this proves out, it will be unlucky thirteen. Or lucky thirteen. I have a feeling you're a very persistent woman."

"Truth, justice. That's our way here, Zryphus. Play it that way, we'll get along. Once Deputy Anna finishes scanning, you can take her data, or follow in her footsteps, and get your own." She eyed him, wondering if he was a wolf dressed in wolf's clothing, as he appeared. There was no pretense of wearing sheep's clothing that she observed. "Do you usually work alone?"

"Back up team for forensics, investigation. Yes, I work alone. No partner. You're the exception, Kalypso. Let's investigate the contents of her handbag together."

"From what I can tell. the makeup and lipstick cases look like replicas of the early sixties era. We have lab verification and analysis, if you want use of it."

"Let's see what we've got first." Agent Zryphus carefully dumped out the handbag's contents. After scanning each item, he professionally murmured, "Just her prints and bio cells. Take a look at the lipstick. Is it the color she's wearing?"

"Wouldn't your scan data verify that?"

"Wrongly phrased. You're the period expert. I wanted your impression of how real the lipstick and the makeup itself are to your recollection."

Sheriff Kalypso uncapped the lipstick. "It's been ages, but it looks real. Smells real. Not the same color she's wearing."

"The color of lipstick has been the same on each victim. Never found a container."

"How could you tell on the burned victims?"

"Enough residue remained for holo reconstruction. Take a look inside the other cases," he suggested.

"Why the nice treatment, Zryphus? I was dirt under your shoes when you first arrived." Sheriff Kalypso did some burning of her own while she picked up the mascara wand. "Black, black. Just like I remember."

"Sheriff," Deputy Anna called out, "finished the personal item scan. Got the body ready for transport. We're on our way. I'll leave the door open. Keep airing the room out."

"Thanks, Anna. You know where I am." Kalypso picked up a compact case, solid rich elegance in design. Opening it, she studied the pasty heavy covering. "Looks real. But I never used this stuff. Couldn't stand it. I used the sheer version they came out with, when I used makeup. Except when I acted in college theater. We used the heavy stuff because of the lighting. You haven't answered my question, Zryphus."

"Bluntly, Kalypso...I want you in my bed."

Placing the compact case down delicately, Kalypso absorbed the shock. "No, I don't think so," she slowly enunciated each word.

"Do you have a lover?" Zryphus handed her the powder case.

"None of your business, as they used to say. Looks real. Mind if I test it with my finger?"

"Please. You don't have a lover. Neither do I."

"Probably because you're married or in a committed partnership. Or you just ended an affair. Something like that. No!" Kalypso shifted gears. "Feels real, smells real. Are you aware of a company, or maybe a small business, that creates these replica products?"

"Three, to be exact. I can't tell where these originated. I'm a one woman man, Kalypso. You'd have all my attention."

"No thanks. I politely decline. Eyelash curler. Never used one. They always looked so barbaric. Hmmm, brow tweezers. Unfortunately, I tried this a few times. Way too painful."

"I'll convince you. What's this?"

"Eyebrow darkening powder. No, you won't. I don't like men when it comes to relationship crap. Perhaps you don't know much about our social structure here. Women rule."

"I dominate in bed. In our passionate relationship."

"No. Make me say 'no' again and something ugly will occur to you. Eye shadows. Definitely not the colors she had on. Let me see the blush."

"Ever been married, Kalypso? Which one is the blush?"

"I'm not answering. This case." Snatching it up, Kalypso lifted the lid. "Looks like the same color she had on. But we'll have to test. What's in the white satin bag?"

"Rings, three of them. They scan out at the same time period." He answered as if they were merely investigating together.

"Those have to be worth a fortune. To an investor who can pay."

"Approximately four ounces of platinum on the investor's market."

"Inscriptions?" she asked.

"Jim loves Mary forever on this one."

"Wonder if they're family heirlooms?"

"Intuitively, how do you read it, Kalypso?"

"Our Jackie O look-alike, was searching for something. I don't know if these rings are part of what she was looking for. Or maybe they were just an insurance policy."

"Insurance policy?"

"Like 'diamonds are a girl's best friend'. But since they're period, maybe they hold more sentimental value. Maybe a way of life she wanted to create for herself. The sixties Camelot of the Kennedy's, which wasn't, of course. But it was certainly a lovely shining hope at the time. Until the day certain powers-that-be at the CIA killed him, President Kennedy."

"Diamonds are a girl's best friend?"

"Come on, how old are you? Don't you ever watch vintage movies?"

"I'm 150 in Earth years. I have inhabited Earth for thirty-two years. Vintage suspense and crime movies. Dinner later? I'll bring diamonds."

Well hell and do tell, that explained his bull-massive size. He wasn't Earth human. "I'm ignoring you, Mr. Space Man. Except for a temporary professional relationship. What next?"

"We check out her clothes. You tell me your favorite kinky sex acts."

Kalypso decided a scowl in his direction wasn't worth the energy. "Only if you tell me why your behavior is so reprehensible toward women. Her clothing is mostly hanging in the closet, except for her underwear."

"What is reprehensible about sexually pleasing you? Several Jackie O outfits, I believe. You tell me."

"I don't want you 'sexually pleasing' me. That's what is reprehensible. Yes, three more. Travel clothing, as if she arrived by auto-bus rather than portal. English horse riding outfit circa late twentieth century, early twenty-first. Yoga exercise garments. Wow! negligees. Too bad you missed out on those vintage movies. These are early sixties styles, too. Boas, shoes to match everything. Find any stray hair that doesn't belong to her?"

"These aren't the clothes she wears with a sexual partner. Let's check the drawers. Yes, you do. You want me to do all those fantasy carnal acts you play out when you orgasm."

Used to commanding men during the Conflicts, Kalypso didn't flinch. "Meet me at our training gym. I'll show you what I want. To mash you like potatoes, into a begging pulp." She opened the first drawer. "Oh, my Goddess...she came equipped to play out fantasies. You should have asked her about favorite kinky sex acts."

"See what you mean. No new evidence recovered on the vid. Same males that were in bed with her. Two women. One-on-one, far as I can tell by the evidence. Actively used, however. Maybe enthusiastically would be a better description."

"Must be the type of woman whose hormones leap to insatiable when she's pregnant."

"Promise not to make you pregnant, Kalypso. If that's a worry for you."

"Why would I trust you? Next drawer?"

"You open. I'll vid any evidence. You'll learn to trust me."

"You'll learn to trust my incredible dislike for you." Sliding the drawer open, Kalypso gasped, poignantly. "Baby clothes, early sixties. She was planning on keeping the baby. At least, that's the way it appears."

"It does," Zryphus gently uttered. "Maybe she wanted to raise her child here."

"It's happened before. A mother who wants to change her life, start over. She decides to live in New Atlantis. Maybe she was searching for a life partner, also. By the way, we've got one of our own people coming down to the office for an interview. He's only sixteen, though."

"Why didn't you inform me earlier?" Zryphus growled.

"Why should I? It wasn't the priority. I've got my best person handling the interview. Male, if that makes you happy. He'll let me know immediately, if anything vital to the case plays out."

"This male want you as a lover?"

"Geez Louise, you're a bore."

"You won't say that after I kiss you. Bathroom, let's check it out."

"Picture my knee plowing into your male jewels." Kalypso pictured it with great satisfaction as they moved toward the bathroom door.

"You've got the most exquisite lush ass. Doggie lust at least once a week."

Kalypso whirled, feeling her face ignite to red. Her rage barely suppressed, she demanded, "What woman has ever responded to that degrading approach? Never mind!" She whirled back toward the bathroom, and forced her fists to unclench. "Obviously they have or you wouldn't be using it on me."

"You're the first. Believe it or not. What's that overwhelming smell?"

Pausing, she inhaled deeply, just to make certain. "It's Chanel #5. A popular perfume during that era. Personally I never liked it." Wishing she could jab her knuckles into his throat, a shot that would knock him off his big fat feet, she snapped, "Of course, I don't believe it. Men usually lie. Why would you be an exception to that rule?"

"What was your favorite perfume during that era?"

He'd spoken as if they politely conversed. Figuring she'd be rid of the monstrously framed irritant soon, she answered, "Emeraude it was called. Don't like perfumes now. Too synthetic still. Even with the revolution toward eco life styles. Look at all this replica stuff. Electric hair curlers, ancient hair dryer for heaven's sake. I wonder if she was trying to live the way she remembered her mother or grandmother? She showed up about half my age on the bio data. Do you know her birth date?"

"April 26, 2000. Five life path."

"Yeah. Lookin' for adventure. Never the bored girl. But she needed roots somewhere, if she was planning on keeping her daughter."

"Your town, Gardenia, and even your settlement area here on New Atlantis, remains isolated. Was it a new life or was she running from something?"

"If she was running, she should have kept on going. Maybe she could have outrun the Hair Spray Killer. The Hair Spray Killer, male or female, or both sets of genes, do you know?"

"All indication is male. Although the bio isn't conclusive. One male's presence looms larger than the others in here. A primary lover, do you think?"

"Client? Whatever. We don't tell people how to live their sex lives here. Keep it away from the children. Keep it private from those who don't want participation—and you can do whatever consenting adults do. Should be right up your preference alley." Kalypso knife-inserted her voice. "Get enough bio on the primary male for ID?"

"He's a Venutian hybrid. Maybe the baby's father? Nothing pops on immediate ID. Sending the bio to world search." He glanced at her professionally. "Got a local bio bank of all your people?"

"No. Just those who want ID for safety purposes. That's how we knew it was Brody, and his age, sixteen. You won't put his bio in your system." She stressed won't. "If you do, which we will discover, I'll make certain your systems are fried. All of them. In fact, you will not put any of our people in your federal system or any system—without permission. Do you understand?"

"Sure, gorgeous. You got sovereignty. Curious though, how are you planning to southern fry our systems?"

"Intention. Ever get a group together...a little concentration? A whole lot of intention. The system fries up like catfish. And if that doesn't do it...well, we always have a backup plan. Which I won't divulge." Kalypso half-turned away, before her itching kneecap enjoyed some exercise between the tree trunks that were his thighs. "Where's her underwear drawer?"

"Where's her underwear?"

"Good question, crazy man. She was wearing a bra, panties and hose circa the period. Showed up on the vid scan. I'll check all the drawers in here. You check her luggage, since there was none in the chest of drawers."

"Rather have you squeeze past me, our bodies in mutual contact...gorgeous." Zryphus grinned in that overbearing male, highly irritating way.

"Deviant. Why don't you advertise? There are women here who would 'appreciate' that particular lack in your character. 'Male Deviant. For sexual hire and doggie style pleasure. Top dog position required'," Kalypso sarcastically crooned, and shrugged one shoulder.

"Ruff, ruff, baby." He spun out of the bathroom before Kalypso could sock his jaw with her balled-up fist.

"I'd probably break my hand on his square rock-hard jaw," she muttered, then leaned over, and pulled open the first drawer. Lotions, nail polishes, and a manicure set were neatly arranged. "It would be worth it," she groused.

"I heard that, gorgeous."

"I hope so. If you know what's good for ya." Kalypso opened the next drawer. Anti-aging health supplements and creams lined the bottom. Most of them she was familiar with, and used.

After years of deliberate misdirection, and lies by the Global Elite-run corporations, the truth had finally come into full raging spotlight. There were three basic corrections that could be made naturally, which would effectively reverse aging back to a peak state of youth and beauty. A truth that had come to 'cosmic light', in part, because of Contact. Contact with the ancient Humans, who had returned to Earth as visitors. Many of them had departed before the destruction of the Atlantean empire, one more story of biblical proportions on the billions-year old Earth.

Deciding the fantasy-playing Jackie O may have hung her 'unmentionables' in the shower, Kalypso slid open the shower door. Only a pair of red lace thongs hung from the shower head. "Darling," she called out as if she was in a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie. "In here...with your equipment, please."

"Our first sex act in the shower, darling?" His low gravelly voice seized her.

Kalypso whipped around. "Get your equipment up, stud dog, for these."

"Not worn long," he stated, watching his vid scan. "And not worn by our victim. Must be one of your citizens. She's not showing up on my ID. I can analyze her gene material, give you a profile, unless that's contrary to your sovereignty, Sheriff gorgeous. By the way, no underwear, anywhere." He fastened his gaze on her. "You're not wearing any."

"Don't like it." Kalypso averted her face, and twisted the corner of her mouth. Men! "Except on special occasions," she added for affect. "Give me a profile on our red lace gal. My prerogative as Sheriff of our fair land and town."

"I like it. That you're not wearing any...underwear. It'll take a few minutes. I have to use the central program."

"Really don't care what you like. And don't like," Kalypso grouched. "Anything else you want to investigate here?" She shoved past his great hulking frame, and breathed in the air of freedom, from him, even if it still reeked of hair spray.

"Feeling trapped by our ferocious attraction?" Zryphus sauntered toward her, his gaze locked on the vid.

"If I have to personally tromp through hell, I'm finding the killer just so I don't have to be around you!"

Zryphus raised one dark ruthless brow, then both brows. "If I were the killer I'd be quaking in my killer boots...my killer shoes, or my killer bare feet."

"Is that the diabolical plan? Make me hate you so much, I'll do whatever I have to do to get the killer, despite my duty to the sovereignty of New Atlantis?"

"No, the deviant diabolical plan is to trap you in my bed, take advantage of every carnal thrill with that exceptional and sweet body of yours."

"Disgusting doesn't cover it!" Kalypso marched toward the door. She grabbed a breath to calm herself. "Before I touch the door handle, do you want a second close-up scan?"

"Better scanning-safe than sorry. You've got me slightly off my game, gorgeous. Or I would have thought of that." He strode to the front door, watching her pivot to one side, then fold her arms tightly against him. She tapped her foot impatiently, while he thoroughly ran his super vid over the entire surface. "The handle, it's been intentionally cleaned, on the inside and outside of the room."

"Cleaned with what? Top dog detective," she sniped.

"It reads out as old-fashioned Windex. Effective enough."

"Defeated by Windex. Great holy cow!"

"I see your Deputy Anna scanned the direct area around the room outside."

"Yep, when we arrived. As we walked up the steps to the room. The camera feed from the motel is already in process at the office. The little amount there is...we don't spy on our people here!" Kalypso heatedly defended at his hard glance. "Do you want to view it, or not?"

"Anything to stay next to you, gorgeous. The profile on your red lace gal is coming up." He flashed a small cock-of-the-walk grin at her.
~~~~~~

Happy Summer Reading...
May your most romantic dreams come true...


Savanna

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~
~~~~~~
~~~ Kalypso & Zryphus invite you to read their love story ~ a match made in intergalactic heaven ~~~

MURDER BY HAIR SPRAY IN GARDENIA, NEW ATLANTIS ~ 2051 suspense futuristic, erotic romance ~ American Title IV finalist ~ One hundred years later Sheriff Kalypso despises relationships. Zryphus has found his one woman. The Battle of the Sexes begins. Rising from Siren-BookStrand ~ the future begins here... ~
http://bookstrand.com/authors/savannakougar ~ IN PRINT ~ available at Barnes and Noble & Amazon.
~~~~~~

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rocks Aren't Only Rocks



Yesterday, I was sitting out on my hokey bench visiting with Buster. After some lovin’, some rolling around playing with my fingers and swatting at the long strands of my hair moving in the breeze, he went off to play in his amusement park. Our backyard. As he played on the nearby woodpile and with the ornamental grass next to it, I looked down at the rocks covering what I call our ‘bench area’. I was trying to come up with an idea to blog about today. I didn’t want to just promote an anniversary of a book.

I’ve always enjoyed looking at rocks, looking for the unique and the beautiful. But then, at that moment, I saw it. For every unique rock there is, a writer can write about an equally unique character. Wow! No more carbon copies – what an amazing concept? Not every person is alpha or beta, wimpy or strong - there are other types of characters, all those personalities in between.

However, as my toes moved the rocks around allowing me to see those beneath them, I laughed. Those beneath the visible are the supporting base for what we’re meant to concentrate on. The pebbles, the secondary characters we surround our heroes and heroines with give them a layer of realism.

From the response I’ve received, I think I’ve managed a few unique rocks in my work and for that, I have to thank the characters themselves.

The first series I wrote, the workplace-the work family, is the primary backdrop. I wrote the stories over a twelve-year span, though ten of those years, I didn’t write at all. [altogether a story in itself] In this series, I knew who the main characters were for the first three stories. I knew who the supporting team members were. I also new who one of the main characters would be for the fourth story, but as for other, I had no clue. It was tricky as I had an idea of the plot, too. Ha-ha-ha – the jokes always on me when I think I know. Even at that point in my writing, I knew better than to have my own ideas.

Well, anyway, I was writing book three back in 2006, when the heroine’s sister came into the picture. OMG! She wins the award for ‘Best Supporting Pebble’ of the twentieth century. At least in my work.

Summer is an attorney, funny, open-minded, she was educational in ways most older sisters wouldn’t dream of. My mind literally spun with delight as she came alive. She had me laughing my butt off, while the heroine had me shedding tears. I recall I did a jig around the house. I had my counterpart for the fourth story.

Realignment of Unity
The Fraudulent Colonel
Crossed Circuits
Camouflaged & Explosive

Sounds military, doesn’t it? It is. My husband was a Radar Technician in the Air Force. He was part of the Communication Squadrons at Williams AFB, Kuang Ju AB, Ellsworth AFB, did a TDY in the Azores, and Robins AFB, where the series is set in the years of 1996-1997, before major implementations began.

I went on from this series with the intent of doing something totally different. I wrote a story with a hero and heroine who were different than I’d been writing. I went on from this story to another, and another, and another, writing to my hearts content.

What I’d done without realizing it was write another series with the workplace as the backdrop. Crazy how it happened without my knowledge, but I’m never in control.

Servin’ It Up book two came out one year ago today. I think of Last Glass of Wine with sadness and fondness. The man I dedicated it to had been my boss. I didn’t know him well, but enough in my spirit to know he had the potential to not only handle a GM’s position, but more. Why didn’t he take it? Why didn’t he? I honestly didn’t know the reason he left instead. The story is my tribute to the man without actually writing the man I did know. However, I did insert an instance that seared him in my heart forever. Memories keep people alive. He came through the door, sliding on one knee singing the chorus to a song embedded in my mind and wouldn’t go away. Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler.

The excerpt I’m going to leave with you today is one I share very little. It’s realistic of many of my family get-togethers over the years.

Here’s to summer fun:


She stepped up and swung her arm back and let the shoe go on her forward motion. It went wide, again.
Cole waved his arms in the air. "Holditholdit!" His words slurred together.
He staggered over and stood behind the pole in the sand. When he bent over, he nearly fell to one side, but her partner caught him. Damn! Could he be any sexier than he was right now with that goofy grin? She set her empty hand on her hip and laughed.
"Lana, the shoe…goes here," he instructed.
"Where does it go?" She held up the shoe and framed his face in it, then swung her arm back.
"No, wait'll…" Cole dove out of the sand pit as she let the shoe go. It landed next to him. Laughter filtered across the yard.
"Kind of hard to tell which gray pole she's supposed to aim at," someone said.
"Yeah, you shouldn't wear gray shorts," Lana told him.
"Ok." Cole grabbed the waistband and started to push them down.
Janet jumped up. "Cole, don't do it!"
He shrugged, picked up the shoe and started across the yard. Lana shoved her thumbs in the back pockets of her jeans. "I told you, I don't play."
Cole put his arm around her waist and, with his mouth almost touching hers, told her, "I'm showin' you how to play."
"Don't promise what you can't back up." She tried to step back, but he held her there.
"Sweetheart, when I finish with you, no one'll match us." He moved around her and put a horseshoe in her hand, his fingers covering hers. With his face next to hers, she could smell the vodka and cranberry mixture; it drew her eyes to his mouth. She wanted to taste it on his lips. It had to be better than over ice. She felt herself closing in to find out.
"It's all in the wrist," he told her.
"All in the wrist," she repeated. She could feel his body pressed into her backside when he drew her arm back.
"Keep your arm close to your side, and don't wait until your arm rises above your waist to let it go."
"You're going to give a tent show when you move away."
"You'll have to take care of it, since it's your fault," he replied.
Her mouth went dry, and her crotch became wetter. "If you're willing to reciprocate."
"Give it a try and see how close you come."
Hell, if he continued to rub his cock against her, she was going to come. She shivered and watched him step away from her, face the forest and attempt to hide his erection. Lana quickly inhaled and let the air out before she concentrated on the fuzzy site of the far pit. The pole stood somewhere in the center. She let the shoe fly and heard the clang of metal hitting metal.
"All right, a ringer!" Jerome cheered.
Cole staggered over to her with a raised hand. She smacked it and walked over to where her glass sat. Hot, she fanned herself, eyeing the strong muscled calves as he returned to his side. If she shoved him against the tree and rode him, they'd hold them.
After a long drink, she set the empty glass down, took a deep breath and watched Jerome and Cole toss the shoes back to her pit.
"Want another drink, Lana?" Taylor asked.
"No. I'm good. Thanks." And I'm going to get better in a little bit, from all signs of things. She picked up her horseshoes and waited for Taylor to toss his.
When the game ended with Cole and Taylor winning and Cole doing his little winner jig, she walked over to the pool. She wanted nothing but a cold shower, but the cool water would do. Splashing water on her arms, she found herself being lifted and landed in the water.

Last Glass of Wine
ISBN 1-60601-050-9
Bookstrand.com
Here’s to many, many years of with rocks building on pebbles. And the acceptance thereof.

Bekki
Contemporary romance with sizzling sensuality
Jewel of the Sun’s BLOOD DESTINY – coming soon
LOVE, Stalker of the Heart - AVAILABLE NOW
Last Glass of Wine AVAILABLE NOW
A Psychic Hitch AVAILABLE NOW
Servin’ It Up Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
http://home.mchsi.com/~bekkilynn
www.myspace.com/bekki_lynn






Friday, July 10, 2009

Kisses For You

They say Hollywood taught many of us how to kiss. I’m not so sure about that. I think women, more than man look at the scenes where almost kisses and heart melting kisses occur with our emotions. We’ve invested in this couple and waited with baited breath for it to happen. When it does, nothing matters but what it makes us feel. The movie can end right then.

It’s A Wonderful Life has the ‘almost kiss’ and the ‘kiss’ that we all love to experience. Remember the dance where they fell in the pool and were walking home afterwards. They were singing and then they stopped to throw rocks at the old house, making wishes, and went to talk of their futures. The entire scene is pure, wholesome delight, but then there is that moment when they’re staring at one another and George asks her what she wants. Mary smiles. We’re waiting, hoping for the kiss, but it doesn’t happen. I loved the old man on the porch who says ‘love is wasted on the youth’, even he sensed what we knew. [ok, so it’s scripted, but give that to me.]

Poor, poor George. His plans once again foiled by his baby brother, so he takes a walk in ends up at Mary’s. She, of course, thanks to his mother, is expecting him and sets the scene in hopes something will happen. Oh, but George is in a mood. And then there’s the phone call from the traveling and self-made man he envied, maybe resented. It further angers him, but he talks to him sharing the phone with Mary. The nearness and I imagine feeling his breath on her, his body so close to hers about did her in. He’s unhappy about his feelings toward her, because she’ll keep him there. Still, the need, the pull is strong. He has to taste her. That moment of surrender by George is one of the best I’ve seen on screen.

I haven’t mastered the masters, but this is a short little first kiss scene between Lana and Cole in Last Glass of Wine. On this day, he had learned treatments weren’t helping his ailing father and he was going to lose him. So, he’d resigned himself to do the one wish his father had before he passed away. He’d turned in his resignation and was going to be leaving Rogan’s, and Lana.


She went toward the back door.
He caught up with her at the door and pushed it open for her. “Thanks,” she said as she stepped out into the heat. “I guess it’s not going to cool down tonight.”
“No, it’s not!”
She glanced at him to see why his voice had suddenly become sharp. He had the despondent look he’d had earlier in the day. With a hand on his arm, she stopped him. “Cole, what is going on? And don’t tell me nothing.”
He faced her, staring, searching her eyes. Then he reached out as he stepped closer. He held the back of her head and brushed his lips across her forehead. “Everything’s fine.”
Surprised by his tenderness, she laid her hand on his chest and felt his heart racing. She lifted her face to tell him he was lying, but his mouth was so close. Her lips touched his, sending quivers down into the apex of her thighs. The kiss started off gentle, but he deepened it, his mouth as hungry as hers. She slipped her tongue between his soft, supple lips and found his willing to tangle. He groaned and she moved closer, cupping the back of his neck. Trembling with a fiery need, she pressed into him. His erection pulsed against her as he swallowed her moan.
Then he pushed her away and stepped back. “I’m sorry.” He rubbed his head.
Her chest heaving, Lana backed against the brick of the building. Damn it. Why did he have to be sorry? He wanted to take her the other night.

This is the first kiss from Jewel of the Sun’s BLOOD DESTINY, coming from eXcessica Publishing. It’s a contemporary paranormal, my first paranormal, about a spiritual triad of matchmakers. Keep in this is an unedited extraction.

The butterflies returned to her stomach, but not from worry. The way all this was playing out was responsible. The trickle of information she had to pull from him like a splinter under the skin raised many more questions.
Elan finished with the screens and before he could tell her what she was to do next, she had to try to get more answers. “You obviously know more than I do. Tell me what you know. How did this happen? Who would do this to two strangers?”
He stood before her and caressed her forehead with the pad of his thumb, smoothing a frown she supposed. “It’s complicated.”
He scanned her face making her feel as if he was memorizing her features, her bone structure, but then he focused on her mouth. His eyes didn’t falter. He simply saw, caressed without touching. Cassandra parted her lips in anticipation, he came closer his breath fanning her face. She raised her chin wanting him to close the distance, her eyes searching brown circles intent on her mouth. Her breasts rose and fell. Her tongue ran over her lips and a groan slipped from him. His lips brushed hers, left her, touched again and then covered them completely. She moaned as she leaned in for a deeper connection, feeling like she was slipping down wet, grassy hill. Unable to stop herself, she sank into him and when she started to wind her arms round his neck, his mouth left hers.
“Answers will come,” he said. “Now we follow through.”
“I don’t know if I can.” The very real feelings rising in her from his being this close to her caused a sting behind her eyes, She bit down on her lip, then remembered his words. The camera sees things, so she stopped herself.
“You will.” He ran a thumb over her lips and pulled out the tube to reapply the lipstick. “We must do this.”
She lowered her lids, somehow knowing he was right. Still, it didn’t sit right. Nor did what his nearness and touch did her. Her body screamed for more of him as her stomach knotted with the wanting and the common sense saying to run.

I think sometimes, we writers know what we want give the readers, but we often forget to pull back from whole picture and look at the individual parts to be sure we’re giving the entire package we envision. It takes time, patience and a constant awareness. I hope one day, I can match the masters who portray it so perfectly on screen. You see, I read books as if I’m watching them, and I watch movies like they’re a book I’m reading. To me they’re interlocking.

If I had to choose between the ‘almost kiss’ and the ‘first kiss’ – ‘almost kisses’ hands down. I love the elevation of my heart rate, the awe catching of my breath and the over-all adrenalin pumping through my body in anticipation.

In looking over the many works I have in my files, I’ve found it’s often not the first kiss that knocks your socks off. They’re a test-the-waters moment for one, catching the other off guard. Often it might be the second, third, or even the fourth kiss where they are really to give that mouth-watering, timeless kiss.

This has been a fun theme to blog about. I’ve not had a chance to read everyone else’s blogs, but I will as soon as I’m free from pre-edits.

Bekki
http://home.mchsi.com/~bekkilynn
www.myspace.com/bekki_lynn

The Honesty of a First Kiss....


Oh, my...that first kiss! A first kiss can make you swoon, fill your tummy full of zingy tingles, take your breath away. It’s fireworks and fiesta, marching bands and ticker-tape, all the bells and whistles...or maybe it’s as gentle as lingering summer sunshine and the soft touch of a whispering breeze. What is more wonderful than that first kiss? I’m telling ya, people – nothing!

The kiss that follows in this excerpt from A Different Kind of Honesty is a little different. It’s not the first kiss this couple have ever had - not as themselves, anyway. They kissed six months before this (and did a little more than just kissing...) but that was a one-time only event. Way back then, neither of then truly knew who the other person really was. Maggie Lawless only knew her one-night lover by his undercover alias, Joey Pescolloni. Undercover FBI Agent Tony Valentino – aka Joey – struggled with the fact that he had to keep his real identity a secret, for Maggie’s protection as well as his. It meant their one-night relationship couldn’t go any further, no matter how much they both wanted it differently. That 'first kiss' lingered in both their dreams from that day on.

Now, the truth is out. All bets are off. The theme of the book is, of course, honesty. And here, knowing for the first time the real truth about each other, Maggie and Tony can at last have that truly honest ‘first kiss,’ the one that will change their lives in ways they could never have predicted all those months ago. I hope you like it.


'Maggie leaned past him and pressed the start button and a solo, sultry horn smoked its way into the room. Tony recognized the song from some TV ad or movie soundtrack or something. He thought it was Dinah Washington.

Maggie lifted her glass and took a tiny sip. “Talking about things changing,” she said, moving across the room, “everything must have changed for you. The job, I mean.” She perched against the back of the sofa. “Ramon told me they pulled you out fast.”

Tony lifted his hands and his shoulders in a ‘that’s-the-way-it-goes’ gesture.
“Could’ve happened any time. Well, goodbye to it. It won’t happen again.”
He stretched over and chinked his bottle against her glass. Too much space between them again, but it didn’t seem to matter any more; he had all the time in the world to get closer to her.

“Do you miss it?” she asked.

He puffed a breath out between his lips and settled against the counter. “No.”

He ran his finger around the lip of the bottle. The bubbles in the beer made a fussy, hissing sound. “It’s done. They won’t be putting me undercover anywhere for a while, even if I wanted to go. Not in New York anyway. And the legal eagles have been working it for some time now, even before I came out. The whole court process starts off in a couple months. Or so they tell me.”
Maggie nodded. “I don’t know how you did it. I mean, the name and everything, for all that time. Being someone else.” She glanced away and a look he couldn’t identify crossed her face. Confusion, perhaps? Anxiety. The space between her eyes corrugated in concern. “Were you someone else?”

Tony thought hard, shook his head. “I don’t think so...not entirely.” He rubbed a finger across his brow. “It was like being both, me and Joey, all at the same time. Him on the outside, me on the inside.” He looked out across the room to the lights of New York, wondering. He’d never thought of it before, the way she’d asked, at least not coherently.

“And you know something?” he said, still staring out of the window. “That was fine. Until one day something happened and I started to hate that name. Joey Pescolloni.”

Her voice was no more than a whisper. “What happened?”

“I met you,” he said simply. “I met you and I wanted to tell you everything. What I was doing, who I was. All of it.”

She lowered her head and made a little stifled sound, a release of something. “But you couldn’t.”

“No.”

He closed his eyes, remembering that chilly, fall morning. The cream and gold corridor outside her room, her kiss still hot against his mouth as he started to walk away from her door. Something stopping him; a fine, invisible chain unraveling behind him and snapping him back, strained and taut. He’d slumped against the wall, head tipped, his eyes running over the stupid, over-elaborate plaster cornice that roped along the edge of the ceiling like icing on a wedding cake. His fists bunched against his sides, pressing down as if he could push himself down through the floor, down into the earth till he had nowhere else to go but up, screaming the truth. The physical effort he’d made to stop himself from banging on her door and grabbing her to him, telling her everything, just to hear her say his real name over and over as he made love to her. When he pushed himself off the wall, the heel of his shoe had left a dirty half-moon on the flock paper.

He opened his eyes. He was still here in her room and she was there, quiet and unmoving. Just waiting for him, giving him his time, his space.

“No one knew everything,” he said. “Not my supervisor or the men I was with. Not my wife, my family. Only I knew it all and it filled me up, but it was okay. I was sorta big enough to hold it all, you know?” He lifted his beer to his lips, but changed his mind and put it down.

“And then...you. You happened and that was somehow too big for me. I needed you to know it all too. I wanted you to have the truth.”

Behind him, Dinah began to sing again. Embraceable You. Maggie moved towards him and set her glass on the counter beside his beer. She touched her fingertips to his face.

“I can have it now.”

Taking the half step that brought him close enough to lean his forehead on hers, he laid his hand over her fingers on his cheek; his mouth so close to hers he felt her light, hesitant breath against his lips.

“Maggie,” he said quietly and he felt her breathe in. “Six months...six months of dreaming about you, thinking I’d never see you again.” He slid his hand behind her head, the scent of her hair the same one from before of roses, of something rich and heavy he didn’t know the name of and he buried his face in it, filling himself with her.

“I thought it’d kill me...but now, it’s like I died and came to life again.”

“I didn’t even know your real name.” Her fingers rested lightly against his chest as her voice wrapped itself around his insides. “All that time, thinking of you as Joey.”

He touched a finger lightly against her lips, hoping against hope. “That’s a figure of speech, right? All that time, thinking of me?”

She looked up, and her eyes were full of something he recognized deep inside, something familiar he tried to name, but the word escaped him.

“No,” she whispered. “Not a figure of speech.”

As he kissed her, the word came back. It was something that had eluded him all his life except for one short, perfect night, and never again since...the one thing he needed above anything else, and he knew now just as he’d known then that she was his only source; she was the beginning and the end.

It was honesty.'


A Different Kind of Honesty is available in print and digital editions from the Amazons, Fictionwise, etc, or direct from The Wild Rose Press.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hey everyone! It’s good to be back here, and to be a part of Kiss Week here on the HEA blog…

Kisses, wonderful kisses – the “tell-all” beyond-the-words moments that are the “sticky stuff” of all romances! Nothing says “everything” by saying nothing at all quite like a kiss. We read avidly, waiting for the first, hold our breaths through the almost moments, sigh with relief when it finally happens… Somehow, the kiss has the power to sweep away the surface stuff and reach deep within. A bit like soul-talking, beyond the here and now and onto a much deeper level of connection. Romance just wouldn’t be the same without it.

It’s also a way of exploring, of characters stepping beyond the boundaries and adventuring in unknown territory, of raising questions and finding answers in the simplicity or the complexity of the moment and the emotions it arouses.

In The Look, Morgan is swept into an unfamiliar place of simple truth that challenges her preconceived ideas and theories and has her questioning everything she has believed most of her life. Confronted by complications and conflicting emotions, she struggles through the process of having her life stripped, layer by layer, until she is at a place where she has to redefine her beliefs and convictions. Blake, with his uncanny ability to see through to the heart of her, recognizes that and instinctively knows her deep personal struggle. But the reassurance of his strength and insight also presents a whole new set of conflicts…

“You’re confusing me.” It sounded petulant, but it was true. He was confusing her, not by being confusing, but by upturning all her thoughts, her rules, and her foundations.
He reached out, gently cupping her face in his hands so she was forced to look at him. “I’m not trying to do that. I’m trying to reach you. Somewhere inside is a woman of sensitivity, passion, and strength. A woman who feels things in a way that is all-consuming and all-embracing.”
“Now you’re confused,” she said, husky and uncertain because the look had appeared, slowly devouring the ability to reason and resist.
“No. And nor are you. Not really. You’re just afraid of it, because it’s so much bigger than the person you’ve trained yourself to be. But we can fix that.”
“We can?” It slipped out, barely a whisper, a faint, wondering thing that seemed lost before even being spoken. She hadn’t meant to say it, because in that moment she wanted him. The thought in itself was a sign of an unfamiliar gathering need and she didn’t want him to know. “How?”
“Like this.”
His kiss, calculated and gentle, became more demanding, a drawing, deepening thing that both assaulted and aroused, teased and compelled,eroding everything but the completeness of the moment. Relentless, with a knowledge and power that came from some deep and ever-growing thing, he brought her senses to that place where suddenly, in a moment, nothing mattered but the touching, and owning, and the holding of him.
Incredibly, the tears spilled, rolled unnoticed down her cheeks, became a hot salty taste that seemed somehow part of the tide of emotion that swept through her. Shaking, her knees weak with the heat his nearness stirred up, Morgan reached to steady herself against him, drawing his strength into her trembling so she felt held just by the nearness of him.
Then, reluctantly, slowly, he moved away.
“Goodnight, Morgan.”
He was gone. She stood, staring with wide, unseeing eyes into the darkness, wondering at the sense of loss and regret that engulfed her.

Voted LASR’s Book of The Week, The Look is a life story and a love story, and its kisses won’t disappoint! “Unpredictable and engaging from the start, "The Look" is a page turner.” (To see the full review, click here).

The Look is available at: http://www.bookstrand.com/product-thelook-13952-330.html

Thanks for visiting with me! I'll see you all soon.
Jude
http://www.judahraine.com
http://www.classicromancerevival.com/blog

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Kiss is Just a Kiss, or is it?


Given that kissing is one of my all-time favorite activities, penning romance stories has its delightfully vicarious moments and scenes. And a kiss is never just a kiss.
I admit it. I’m definitely a kiss fanatic. I don’t care if it’s a sweet little peck from a friend or my parents, I adore it. Just as I adore a deep passionate kiss that gets the ole love motor revved up.
Yes, I could kiss for hours and I’ve done it on occasion ~ wonderful ecstatic yes-yes occasions... not nearly enough of those occasions, but that’s life.
There are, at least, a thousand and one ways to press, to pucker, then to kiss. There are open-mouth kisses and french kisses, nibbling kisses and battle-of-the-allstars tongue kisses.
If I could, I would sample kisses the way some people sample wine. Instead of a wine-tasting tour a gourmet kissing tour. Line up those men and let’s have a taste of those virile eager lips.
I ask you, what’s not to love about that idea?
Oh! I know, how about a Love Boat kissing cruise?


Warning: the above *flights of kissing fancy* are only recommended for the single’s crowd.
~~~~~~

Here’s the *first kiss* between Kalypso and Zryphus in MURDER BY HAIR SPRAY IN GARDENIA, NEW ATLANTIS, my 2051 futuristic that takes place on the risen land of Atlantis.
Kalypso is the Sheriff of New Atlantis and Zryphus is an OtherWorlder, who works as a Fed Agent, the old USA.
The 13th murder victim of the Hair Spray Killer occurs in New Atlantis, where murder is rare. Zryphus has been the lead investigator on the case. To prevent the serial killer’s next murder, Kalypso and Zryphus come to a professional understanding about tracking him down.
Zryphus has come to his own understanding. He’s finally found the woman he wants as his wife.
Kalypso has sworn off all men. And she means it.
~~~

Kalypso took her time as she moved toward the scowling, pondering and mountainous Fed Agent. “Know anything about a diary?” she whispered, keeping her eyes locked and loaded on his. “Neglect to tell me something?”

“I knew she claimed to have found a celebrity’s diary. Thought it might be her own ‘memoirs’. Or that it belonged to one of her lady-of-the-evening friends. You know, reveal all for enough cashola.”

“Cashola?”

“What’s in the diary?”

“You tell me. She had the handwriting analyzed.”

His gaze leapt, then darkened with surprise. “Missed that angle,” he admitted.

“Give me your ear, Agent.” Kalypso toyed with him,imitating a woman’s provocative promise.

Zryphus stared hard for a brief moment, then turned his ear toward her lips. “Jackie O’s diary. The real thing. Supposedly. Don’t look shocked,” she cautioned as he started to jerk his head around. “We want to keep this a secret. For as long as possible...don’t you think, Agent?”

Her nearness brutally tempted him. “Yeah, the smart move.”

Gods of Mating, she was cream and flame gorgeous. Feeling like a nova sun inside, Zryphus grabbed the back of his woman’s head. He whipped her down to him, her stunned face beneath his. His passion like lava, he arched her over his lap, her mouth beneath his mouth. He kissed her, plundering her warm perfect lips for a long time.

Completely dazed—the scene of Rhett Butler forcefully kissing Scarlett playing in her head—Kalypso didn’t move, even when his mouth released hers. Not at first. Then she whirled, angry as a full-blown tornado. Her fist aimed for his jaw. His hand shot up, halting her punch just before it landed.

Cupping her fist with his mitt-like hand, he held gently.

“Superior reflexes, Sheriff,” he softly growled. His darkened sapphire eyes gleamed with appreciation.

“Yeah...always had ‘em. Cad,” she evenly replied, her underlying tone deadly as a rattlesnake. Who cared if his kiss still sizzled her lips.
~~~~~~

HAVE A WONDERFUL SUMMER

~ MAY ALL YOUR READING DREAMS COME TRUE ~

Savanna Kougar

~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~


~~~ Kalypso & Zryphus invite you to read their love story ~ a match made in intergalactic heaven ~~~

MURDER BY HAIR SPRAY IN GARDENIA, NEW ATLANTIS ~ 2051 suspense futuristic, erotic romance ~ American Title IV finalist ~ One hundred years later Sheriff Kalypso despises relationships. Zryphus has found his one woman. The Battle of the Sexes begins. Rising from Siren-BookStrand ~ the future begins here... ~ In Print soon ~
http://bookstrand.com/authors/savannakougar ~
~~~~~~

Monday, July 6, 2009

KISS IT BETTER


I drove my husband to hospital this morning. He tore one of the crossed ligaments in his knee during a ski race a couple of months ago, and after dozens of sessions of physiotherapy, the doctor finally decided surgery is the best option if he wants to continue to ski, play tennis, water-ski, etc. It’s the first time Mr Prescott has ever been admitted into hospital, which is somewhat surprising considering he’s played some pretty intense sports in his life. But this morning, my poor sweetie has to have knee surgery.

I’m something of a veteran when it comes to surgery. I’m not talking anything major (touch wood...), just a fair share of close encounters with surgical instruments. I’ve had my appendix out, two C-sections, and a couple of other little tiresome interventions. I’ve also always been somewhat accident prone, and seem to have a knack for getting maximum damage from the most insignificant falls. I broke my leg in two places sledging down Verbier’s baby slope at a snail’s pace. I broke my arm playing “What time is it Mr. Wolf?”. I broke my left foot running upstairs (I didn’t want to miss ER’s season finale!). I tore the ligaments in my right ankle lugging my washing basket downstairs. I exploded my left shoulder falling off my horse (one of my more spectacular falls!). Basically, I know how painful certain boo-boos can be. I know about general anaesthetics, allergic reactions to morphine, and, well, post surgical pain! Just thinking about him waking up in a few hours time makes me wince. So I’ll be rushing back to the hospital later today, lips puckered, ready to kiss him better!

In the meantime, I’m leaving you with a “kiss it better” excerpt from my romantic comedy, “Mucho Caliente!”, which is set in Ibiza. In this scene, Gemma and her friends Celeste and Laura are on board a sailing boat with Latino superstar Emilio Caliente and his band. Everyone wants to go and spend a couple of hours at some natural mud-baths, with the exception of Gemma who finds the idea quite unpalatable. Eventually however, Gemma is spared the gloopy experience when poor Emilio suffers a painful encounter with a bucketful of jellyfish. Gemma’s maternal instincts kick in, with somewhat steamy results!

I hope this excerpt makes you smile! And I hope my husband’s surgery goes well...

***

Lying on the deck, with Emilio stretched out beside me, his eyes closed, his eyelashes shading half his face, I shudder as my twisted mind concludes that the polished skin one obtains after marinating in this natural cesspool is the result of direct contact with an amoeba festival with the munchies. But then again, maybe my aversion to anything less than squeaky-clean stems from prolonged and repeated contact with Richard’s pristine Swissness. Maybe it’s time to get my nails dirty, to imagine how my skin will feel to Emilio when he runs his fingers down my spine after a muddy rub-a-dub.
“Hola, guapa,” says Emilio softly, sleepily, in a voice that immediately transports me faraway from muddy microorganisms with fervent appetites, to a place where a burnished sunset warms the golden sand. There we are, lying together, bathed in the flattering light of the late afternoon sun, sipping something exotic and colourful. I know how it’s supposed to be. I’ve seen the movie more than once. I want to touch his biscuit-coloured skin, to tickle the tiny, sun bleached fuzzy hairs that curl so adorably in the small of his back. I want to lick the salty deposits that decorate his body like diaphanous lace.
He opens his eyes and smiles at me. I pretend not to see the little trickle of drool he hastily wipes on the towel. He may find it threatening to his image. I find it reassuring. Somehow, it restores the balance of power between us.
“Ready to get really, really dirty?” he says, wrinkling his nose to the max.
Oh God! Where has my stomach gone this time? Overboard! Could someone please go and retrieve it?
Then he goes and spoils everything.
“Hey, Philip, quit showing off with ropes. Kirsten’s an expert at tying men in knots. Literally.” Emilio props himself up onto one elbow, waggles his eyebrows and heaves one of those horrendous, deep throated haw-haw-haw laughs, the kind typical of a man trying to let his buddies know how much testosterone lies beneath his underpants. I knew it! He’s slept with her. Or something.
I’m emotionally seasick.
Testosterone levels on board soar as Jorge, David and Philip hoist the flags in frat-style camaraderie. Big belly laughs ensue. Haw-hawity-haw.
Maybe she’s done them all.
“Emilio! You naughty boy,” says Kirsten, tossing her hair, getting up, grabbing a bucket of water and rushing towards him. Nothing wobbles as she sashays towards us. Amazing, really.
Even more amazing is that Kirsten has failed to notice four gelatinous creatures with trailing tentacles floating in the bucket, who seem to fancy tasting Emilio’s salty deposits as much as I do. Kirsten realises her mistake just as she empties the contents all over him. She screams. I manage to jump out of the way and, thankfully, am only blasted with half a bucket of lukewarm seawater. Emilio on the other hand, his eyes screwed up tightly, his body braced in expectation of pleasant refreshment, is in for a shock.
Four jellyfish land on top of him.
I don’t know what Emilio says as he shoots to his feet, but it doesn’t sound good. Kirsten stands there, holding the bucket, wide-eyed, open mouthed, horrified at what she’s done.
“Emilio! Shit, I’m sorry. Let me see…Oh my God!” she shrieks as angry looking welts flare up on his chest and back. “Quick, does anyone have any cream?”
I almost smartass that someone might want to pee on him but think better of it. Kirsten might oblige.
Everyone comes rushing as Emilio collapses onto the deck, writhing exaggeratedly, like a soccer player in need of some TLC. Laura hands me her first aid kit.
“Why me?” I mouth at her, stalling.
“Aller,” she hisses, with stern, get-on-with-it eyes.
I kneel down and take out the familiar tube of cream. “Here, be still.” My voice is surprisingly assertive, very stop-this-nonsense-ish. I’m on top of this. Gently, I rub anti-sting salve into his poor, sore skin. It’s almost as if I’m kissing him better. In fact, maybe I could kiss him better. If I kissed him now, would it be taking advantage of the situation?
“Gemma, I think I need to go down into the cabin.”
Oh. Is this a polite way of saying get your big, clumsy paws off me?
I turn into Thumbelina.
“Would you mind coming down with me?”
I’m Gisele Bundchen, Queen of the Amazon.
I can’t risk eye contact with anyone. It might break the spell, make me lose my nerve. Hiding behind my hair, doing my best to appear casual, I mumble “no problem” and follow him below deck. Hey, no big deal! I go into cabins with glamorous, injured celebrities all the time! I’m only going down there to make sure he’s all right. Jellyfish stings hurt. I know. I’ve been there, experienced that.
I can feel a dozen eyes burning into the back of my neck, each offering a different message.
“Go girl, woof woof woof!” say Laura’s eyes.
“Go girl, just be careful,” say Celeste’s.
“Enjoy,” say Jorge’s.
“Whatever,” say David’s.
“Don’t make a mess,” say Philip’s.
“Is there anything I can do?” offers Kirsten, the only one to speak aloud. “Anything at all?”
But we’re already in his cabin. He’s shut the door. I can hardly breathe.
And he’s kissing me...
**

“Mucho Caliente!” is available in print from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.
It is available as an ebook from BookStrand, Mobipocket, All Romance Ebooks.
It is also available in Kindle from Amazon.com


Have a wonderful, boo-boo free summer!


Lots of love,


Francesca


Francesca Prescott
"MUCHO CALIENTE! - Wish upon a Latino Superstar"
An effervescent romantic comedy
LASR: Best Long Book of the Year 2008: "Laugh out loud hilarious!"
NOR: Reviewer Top Pick: "A seriously fun book with more twists and turns than expected"
CRR: Hard to put down”
http://www.francescaprescott.com/

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kiss Week at HEA! A shy kiss....

As writers of romance and readers of romance, we all savor that 'first kiss' moment. Here as a celebration of romance and sweet kisses, we are each posting a kiss excerpt from out novels all this week.

Here is mine, taken from the ancient world historical romance, 'Bronze Lightning'. The heroine Sarmatia and the hero Fearn are now reunited after many trials, but both are still a little shy of each other.

(The sacred hill mentioned in this excerpt is based on where I live. I can see it from my window.)

EXCERPT
One hill was separate from the rest. It rose out of a wooded valley and lay like a curved shield upon the land, with no tree or bush growing on its sides to mar its smoothness. Sarmatia was looking at the hill sidelong. The view pleased her. The hill was so open. Mist and rain had obscured it before, but now she could see far in this amber-colored air. 'What's that hill called? I'd like to go there.'
Without a glance, Fearn did not look up. 'You can't. We're going to the Mushroom Wood today.' He finished tying the leather thongs of his shoes and rose, turning to damp down the fire embers.
Sarmatia was annoyed. Fearn did not usually stamp out the fire but let it die naturally. Then there was his refusal to take her where she had asked to go, his curt response to her questions. She drummed on the hurdle gate with her fingers. 'But I'd like to go. Why not?'
'We need more food. I know where there's plenty in the wood.' He would not have spoken so to one of his warriors, thought Sarmatia.
'We can do both: search the wood this morning and climb the hill at noon.' Sarmatia stepped away from the gate to open it.
Fearn whipped round and reached her in a few strides. He threw the gate shut, standing before it. 'Remember, Sarmatia, that I'm no more your slave than you're mine. The hill is sacred. We can't go there for your pleasure.'
Sarmatia sank back against the sharp hurdles. She had not seen Fearn like this, harsh, like a king, like Carvin. Despising her own fear, she spat back, 'Fine. You should have told me at once!'
Fearn gave a bark of laughter, the hard planes of his face dissolving. 'You're right, that was unfair. It's just—' He stopped, coloring up slightly.
Moved by his shyness, understanding now why he was on edge, Sarmatia put her hands up towards him. 'Fearn?'
She could ask no more. He drew her close, lifting and sitting her on top of the gate post. 'Shall we begin again? Now that you've said my name, which you speak so rarely and I listen for so hard.'
As though it had never been, his ill humor had vanished. Fearn held her lightly, one hand at each side of her waist, and from being afraid, Sarmatiafelt she was floating. Impulsively, feeling like a bubble, she leaned forward to kiss Fearn. She missed and bumped noses, her lips resting on his moustache. She could feel his heart quickening, his fingers tightening round her middle. 'You'll not span my waist with your hands.' Her face pressed hotly against his cheek. She had tried to kiss him! And he was not moving or speaking. Was she wrong? Did he feel only pity for her?
'No, Sarmatia!' Fearn rebutted her thoughts. 'No, Sarmatia.' His beard pricked and tickled against her mouth and then his lips, gentle at first and fumbling. They told her she was beautiful to him. Sarmatia closed her eyes and gave herself to the kiss, winding her arms around Fearn's neck.
When they broke apart both were shivering. 'We'd best stop.' Fearn spoke in Atterian, his voice furred, but Sarmatia understood. She too, was ready to stop, a little nervous, though she put her lips to him again, teasing him. His mouth was fresh. He hadn't kissed many women before her. She hadn't kissed many men. They would learn together.
'That's enough!' Laughing, Fearn lifted her from the post and set her down, turning then to make a dash for the summer house with a muttered excuse about forgetting something. Sarmatia was not displeased by this. She hung her flute across her back on its thong and pushed the four wooden armlets past her elbows to her wrists, so she might feel them rub together on her flesh. Then she went to fetch the horses.

The cover and buy details can be seen here:
http://www.bookstrand.com/product-bronzelightning-13933-223.html