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Friday, December 30, 2011

Romancing the New Year at the Midnight Stardust Supperclub


2012 New Year's Eve greetings, everyone.

Here's a flash scene that takes place in our shapeshifter world at SHAPESHIFTER SEDUCTIONS. Dante, a werewolf who runs on the good side, has created an underground complex called the Pleasure Club, where every manner of pleasure is catered to. As well, there are several different nightclubs and restaurants. Dante also owns a biker bar that sits atop his subterranean complex. The Midnight Stardust Supperclub is his latest creation.
~~~~~~

Dante's Midnight Stardust Supperclub

"Only my beautiful Kitty is missing," Dante growled low and quiet out of habit, even though he was alone. Everyone else had left after putting the finishing touches on the newest addition to the Pleasure Club, the Midnight Stardust Supperclub.

For long moments, Dante imagined his lovely catwoman, Kitty, dressed in an elegant slinky gown, dancing in his arms. He whirled them over the smooth-as-glass ballroom floor -- over the rainbow shades of pearl in time to the sophisticated swinging music of a big band.

When he'd first began sketching out the design for the supperclub, he'd had Kitty in mind with each stroke, and with each idea he'd written down. Of course, once he'd finalized the plans, and began to build, the Midnight Stardust had taken on a grand and resplendent life of its own.

Standing in the center of the dance floor, Dante gradually spun around, scanning the interior of the huge geodesic structure that glistened with a subtle, snow-white luminescence. His only regret had been the necessity of keeping the supperclub underground. He'd wanted the romance of dancing and dining beneath a canopy of sparkling stars in an inky sky.

However, more important had been keeping the Midnight Stardust away from prying military-industrial-complex eyes. While the HAARP Tesla technology in Alaska could detect many underground compounds, there were ways to disguise the frequency waves, keeping his complex hidden.

To compensate the domed ceiling had been created to look like a fanciful midnight sky. Specialized filtered lighting made it appear as if stardust fell from the celestial black heavens. Often he would envision Kitty in his arms and their passionate kisses as the diamond glints of light surrounded them.

Kitty. His Kitty cat girl. More and more each day he was ferociously tempted to send her a gown, and everything a woman would need to dress for an elegant evening, along with a plea that she celebrate New Year's Eve with him.

Close, he was so close to being able to protect her from his sire and the killing fangs of his werewolf mafia. Dante growled savagely for several minutes as he swept his gaze over the second tier of the supperclub, setup for dining, enjoying drinks and viewing the dancers, and the band.

On the suggestions of many others, Dante had also installed a whole array of movie-tech affects that included a dawn sky and also twilight. He'd foregone a bright full moon just in case there were some werefolk who would be adversely affected.

The entire supperclub, or only one section, could also be infused with a golden radiance or a silvery glow. Then there were the bubbles of light, as if the dancers were inside a glass of champagne. For grins, and because he'd seen delight in the eyes of his women staff members, he'd included fizzy pink champagne light.

Not only had his ever-growing staff painstakingly put together a long playlist of romantic, big band era music, they'd searched high and low for a suitable band, finally discovering a group of Immortals who quickly became enamored with the idea of playing together once again.

Yeah-grumbles, their price had been over the top, but Dante figured it was well worth it to make the New Year's Eve grand opening one to remember and treasure. Especially if... Kitty... his Kitty gorgeous in a beautiful gown that flowed over her sexy sweet curves... if... so far, he'd managed untraced calls to her, and his Kitty's advice in designing the interior of the Midnight Stardust had been invaluable.

Tortured with thoughts of his only love, Dante strode toward the supperclub's kitchen and winery. Hiring enough competent staff had been a real, chase-the-moon challenge, as had been the menu selections. After all, catering to the tastes of werewolves, humans, paranormals, and shapeshifters of every type, carnivore and herbivore, presented problems unknown in a strictly human establishment.

Dante swiped one hand through his waves of hair, pausing to take in the sight of the second tier tables all dressed in pristine white linen with golden taper candles inside a glass globe, waiting to be lit. He'd had one helluva of a time deciding on what scents to infuse the air with, eventually choosing to keep the air purified since the ladies would be wearing various fragrances and perfumes -- the men colognes. He'd also provided a large smoking room, separate from the rest of club, but splendid in its own right.

With the reservations pouring in, Dante figured he might break even. But that was the least of his concerns. It was getting the supperclub off on the right paw, a haven for those who enjoyed a sophisticated atmospheric night out.

To encourage patrons he'd hired several dance instructors for private or group lessons in ballroom dancing. He'd also made certain there would be gallant and gentlemanly dance partners for all the ladies who were unescorted. His Vampire friends, a special breed unlike Hollywood's version of the blood drinkers, had traveled from all over the world, especially willing to meet and dance with any available woman.

Dante grinned, recalling their palpable excitement as he'd told them about the Midnight Stardust. Of course, he'd promised them real blood wine, always a particularly good inducement, given their refined palates. As well, staying at the Pleasure Club and enjoying the amenities had worked its magic over them.

Having consulted Lamar about same-sex couples, Dante had made arrangements in that regard. Although, at this point, he didn't know how much interest there would be with all the other New Year's Eve celebrations happening around Talbot's Peak.

After a quick inspection of the kitchen and the food lockers simply to reassure himself, Dante poured a dark ale he favored into a tankard, then let the irresistible lure of his secure phone line to Kitty pull him in that direction. He had to tell her the wind machines she'd suggested for the four intimate balcony dancing areas, located on the third and top tier of the supperclub, provided a breezy and dreamy romancescape for couples in love, and falling in love.

Besides, he wanted find out what color she preferred most for an evening gown.
~~~~~~

Wishing you a magickal New Year...

And, may your most romantic dreams come true...

Savanna

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rites of Winter - Medieval Christmas Revels

By Lindsay Townsend
Make we mery, both more and lasse,
For now ys the tyme of Chrystymas
(From a 15th century carol)

When Christianity developed in the ancient Roman world, the winter solstice was already marked at 25th December. Followers of Mithras believed in the ‘unconquered sun’ and also held a feast-day for the sun on December 25th.

Pieter Breugel the Elder - 'The Visit of the Magi at Christmas'
The gospels did not give a date for the birth of Jesus, but ancient beliefs in the Roman Saturnalia, the solstice and sun-worship led to the church choosing December 25th as the time of his nativity.

‘Christmas’ means ‘Christ’s Mass.’ In England in the Middle Ages three masses were celebrated on December 25th - the Angel’s Mass at Midnight, the Shepherds’ Mass at dawn and the Mass of the Divine Word during the day.

Before the three masses of Christmas there was the forty days of Advent. Advent was similar to Lent, a time of spiritual reflection and preparation for the coming of Christ. Feasting and certain foods such as meat and wine were meant for be abstained from during advent (something the evil Denzils ignore in my historical romance, The Snow Bride, set at this time).

The feasting and revelling time of medieval Christmas began on Christmas Eve and lasted 12 days, ending on Twelfth Night. There was no work done during this time and everyone celebrated. Holly, ivy, mistletoe and other midwinter greens were cut and brought into cottages and castles, to decorate and to add cheer.

The most important element of the revels was the feast. Christmas feasts could be massive – Edward IV hosted one at Christmas in 1482 when he fed and entertained over two thousand people. For rich medieval people there was venison or the Yule boar, a real one, and for poorer folk a pie shaped like a boar, or a pie made from the kidney, liver, and other portions of the deer (the umbles) that the nobles did not want – to make a portion of ‘umble pie'. Carefully hoarded items were also brought out and eaten and other special Christmas foods made and devoured. Mince pies were made with shredded meat and many spices. ‘Frumenty,’ a kind of porridge with added eggs, spices and dried fruit, was served. A special strong Christmas beer was usually brewed to wash all this down, traditionally accompanied with a greeting of 'wes heil' ('be healthy'), to which the proper reply was 'drinc heil'.

There were also other entertainments apart from eating and drinking – singing, playing the lute or harp, playing chess, cards or backgammon and carol dancing.

Presents and gift giving was originally not part of Christmas but of New Year. Romans gave gifts to each other at Kalends (New Year) as well as a week earlier at Saturnalia, and by the twelfth century it seems that children were already receiving gifts to celebrate the day of their protecting saint, St. Nicholas, and the practice soon began to extend to adults as well, initially as charity for the poor. As the Middle Ages wore on, the custom grew of workers on medieval estates giving gifts of produce to the estate owner during the twelve days of Christmas - and in return their lord would put on all those festivities.

Wes heil!

Lindsay Townsend
http://www.lindsaytownsend.net/

Friday, December 23, 2011

Romancing Santa, the Night Before Christmas


With the hope of spreading some holiday cheer, here’s my version the popular Christmas poem, “Twas the night before Christmas”, written a couple of years ago.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through my home
Only I was stirring, to pen my romance tome.
My best black silk stockings were hung, ready to wear,
In hopes, my miracle Santa stud would soon be here.

The pets are nestled all snug in their places,
With visions of holiday treats making them run dream races.
Their mamma has just slipped into her red lace teddy,
And is settling her brains to continue writing her fantasy.

When out on the lawn I hear such a loud clatter,
I spring up from my desk to see what is the matter.
Away to the window I trot in my boa-trimmed slippers
To take a peek through the curtains. Oh no, is that drunk Mrs. Kippers?

The full moon shines on icy slush, instead of new-fallen snow
Giving a natural spotlight to celebrating Mrs. Kippers below.
Yet, what to my wondering gaze does appear?
But an old-fashioned sleigh, and eight majestic reindeer.

With a Viking driver, so handsomely tall and magnificent,
I knew in a moment I must be dreaming this whole event.
More rapid than jets, his stags flew the midnight sky untamed,
His long mane blew wild as he shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! soar on Donner and Blitzen!
Fly to the top of each roof! Above the city walls!
Now race higher and faster! And sail over all!"

As autumn leaves that before the approaching blizzard fly,
When they meet with a whirlwind and spiral to the sky.
So up to my rooftop, the brown and white stags they flew,
With a sleigh full of glittering gifts, and Viking Santa too.

And then, after a blinking of my eyes, I heard on the roof
The precise landing, then the pawing of each jingle-belled hoof.
As I drew in my dreaming head, and spun around,
Down my fake chimney the Viking arrived, with an impressive bound.

He was splendidly dressed in red and faux fur, down to his boots,
And his garments remained perfect, despite all the ashes and soot.
A bundle of shiny presents he had flung behind his back,
And he looked like a romantic hero as he dashingly opened his pack.

His darkening eyes, how they naughtily twinkled! And at his dimples I gawk!
His features are sternly carved, reminding me of a beautiful proud hawk!
His full sexy mouth slowly turns upwards, a knowing grin,
As I continue to stare like a vixen at his strong virile chin.

With a saunter he approaches, making me weak in the knees.
His searing gaze travels the length of my body. And I freeze.
Without a word his powerful arm captures my pliant waist.
Crushing the lace against my skin, he has me tightly embraced.

Oh, how stalwart he feels, his muscles like hot heated ropes
And I sigh, then softly pant as I give free reign to my hopes.
His half-lidded gaze takes in my face, then settles on my parted lips
While his palms slide in a caress and boldly seize my hips.

“Oh, Santa,” I softly exhale, before his mouth claims mine in a torrid kiss.
“Wear those black silk stockings,” he rasps. “I promise bliss
When I return from leaving presents beneath every sparkling tree.”
After plundering my eager mouth with another kiss, he spins from me.

I hear him spring to his sleigh, to his stags give a fierce long shout,
Then, from my window I watch them depart like a meteor flaming out.
Still, I hear him exclaim, as he disappears from my sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to my gorgeous woman, leave on the light!"
~~~~~~

Have the merriest of holidays!

May your most romantic dreams come true...

Savanna

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Warm up your winter: 'The Snow Bride'

She is Beauty, but is he the Beast?

Elfrida, spirited, caring and beautiful, is also alone. She is the witch of the woods and no man dares to ask for her hand in marriage until a beast comes stalking brides and steals away her sister. Desperate, the lovely Elfrida offers herself as a sacrifice, as bridal bait, and she is seized by a man with fearful scars. Is he the beast?

In the depths of a frozen midwinter, in the heart of the woodland, Sir Magnus, battle-hardened knight of the Crusades, searches ceaselessly for three missing brides, pitting his wits and weapons against a nameless stalker of the snowy forest. Disfigured and hideously scarred, Magnus has finished with love, he thinks, until he rescues a fourth 'bride', the beautiful, red-haired Elfrida, whose innocent touch ignites in him a fierce passion that satisfies his deepest yearnings and darkest desires.

Coming Dec 27th from Bookstrand Publishing 2011
15% discount until January 3! Pre-order here.

Read Chapter One

Here is another excerpt to tempt you:

Magnus was worried. The fire he had made should have brought his people. It was an old signal, well-known between them. His men should have reached the village by now—that had been the arrangement. They were bringing traps and provisions in covered wagons, and hunting dogs and horses. He had been impatient to start his pursuit of the Forest Grendel and so rode ahead, returning with the messenger until that final stretch when the man turned off to his home. He had ridden on alone, finding the wayside shrine.

But from then, all had gone awry. Instead of the monster, he had found an ailing witch, and the snowstorm had lost him more tracks and time.

Magnus shook his head, turning indulgent eyes to the small, still figure on the rough pallet. At least the little witch had slept through the night and day, snug and safe, and he had been able to make her a litter from woven branches. He would give his fire signal a little longer and then return Elfrida to her village. There he might find someone who could translate between them.

Perhaps she did have power, for even as he looked at her, she sat up, the hood of her cloak falling away, and stared at him in return. She said something, then repeated it, and he drew in a great gulp of cold air in sheer astonishment, then laughed.

“I know what you said!” He wanted to kiss her, spots and all.

He burst into a clumsy canter, dragging his peg leg a little and almost tumbling onto her bed. She caught him by the shoulders and tried to steady him but collapsed under his weight.

They finished in an untidy heap on the pallet, with Elfrida hissing by his ear, “Why have you done such a foolish thing as to burn all our fuel?”

He rolled off her, knocked snow off his front and beard, and said in return, “How did you know I would know the old speech, the old English?”

“I dream true, and I dreamed this.” She was blushing, though not, he realized quickly, from shyness.

“Why burn so wildly?” she burst out, clearly furious. “You have wasted it! All that good wood gone to ash!”

“My men know my sign and will come now the storm has gone.” He had not expected thanks or soft words, but he was not about to be scolded by this red-haired nag.

“That is your plan, Sir Magnus? To burn half the forest to alert your troops?”

“A wiser plan than yours, madam, setting yourself as bait. Or had your village left you hanging there, perhaps to nag the beast to death?”

Her face turned as scarlet as the fire. “So says any witless fool! ’Tis too easy a charge men make against women, any woman who thinks and acts for herself. And no man orders me!”

Magnus swallowed the snort of laughter filling up his throat. He doubted she saw any amusement in their finally being able to speak to each other only to quarrel. Had she been a man or a lad, he would have knocked her into the snow, then offered a drink of mead, but such rough fellowship was beyond him here.

“And how would you have fought off any knave, or worse, that found you?” he asked patiently. “You did not succeed with me.”

“There are better ways to vanquish a male than brute force. I knew what I was about!”

“Truly? You were biding your time? And the pox makes you alluring?”

“Says master gargoyle! My spots will pass!”

“Or did you plan to scatter a few herbs, perhaps?”

He thought he heard her clash her teeth together. “I did not plan my sickness, and I do not share my secrets! Had you not snatched me away, had you not interfered, I would know where the monster lives. I would have found my sister! I would be with her!” Her voice hitched, and a look of pain and dread crossed her face. “We would be together. Whatever happens, I would be with her.”

“This was Christina?”

“Is Christina, not was, never was! I know she lives!”

Magnus merely nodded, his temper cooling rapidly as he marked how her color had changed and her body shook. A desperate trap to recover a much-loved sister excused everything, to his way of thinking.

She called you a gargoyle! This piqued his vanity and pride.

But she does not think you the monster, Magnus reminded himself in a dazzled, shocked wonder, embracing that knowledge like a lover.

Lindsay Townsend
http://www.lindsaytownsend.net

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Romance for the Holidays ~ Santa Baby, Several Stars Away


Consumed by curiosity, Kaily gives herself to a mystery man for Christmas.

Will Dylan be able to resist her waiting naked, but gift-wrapped beneath his tree?


~ A Short Shapeshifter Erotic Romance ~

Santa Baby, Several Stars Away

by Savanna Kougar


Excerpt ~


Chapter One: Santa Baby, Waitin' Just for You


Rarely reckless, Kaily flung off the negligee she'd first thought to wear. It landed in a red ephemeral heap beside the tastefully trimmed Christmas tree.

So what if she'd just broken into his house...well, she hadn't exactly broken in...more like she spied on him until she found out where he hid the extra key...lodged in a crack of the frame above the door of the Victorian mansion he'd resurrected from certain crumbling death, and now obviously treasured

There was only one thing Kaily could see amiss in the traditional holiday atmosphere he'd created with the help of the town's local historical club a garish red ribbon. The long sash had a simple bow attached to one end, and practically shone despite the low lighting.

Kaily stared at the unexpected invitation.

Certainly, the river of red ribbon didn't belong on the floor as a decoration, and she couldn't see anywhere else it belonged...except wrapped around her.

Since she was giving herself to him as a gift for Christmas...well, why not?

~~~~~~

Blurb:

Kaily has been consumed by curiosity ever since Dylan suddenly appears in her small town. Surreptitiously, she watches the mystery man restore a rundown Victorian mansion, all while his charm and sincerity gain him the good will of most everyone. This is especially true when he volunteers to become the annual Santa Claus for the children at the town's park.

The problem for Kaily: No one really knows anything about Dylan's past or where he came from. With her attraction to him growing day by day, she becomes a driven woman. On a desperate whim, she gives herself to him as a Christmas present. Will Dylan be able to resist her waiting naked, but gift-wrapped beneath his tree?

~~~~~~

Now Available ~ SMASHWORDS & AMAZON

Coming Soon to other ebook vendors.

~~~~~~

Have the merriest of holidays!

Savanna

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest blog. Lysandra Press, a new romance and women's fiction publisher

I’m excited but nervous about the launch of our new website http://www.lysandrapress.com/ today but after a year in development working closely with our authors, I am feeling pretty confident that we have a smashing website and some excellent titles – hopefully something for everyone. - Ruth Little

Here is a taste of what’s on offer:

Fiona Dalrymple is shocked to learn on the death of her grandmother that Doreen Dalrymple was not her grandmother at all. Her real grandmother, her grandfather's first wife, Ellie Marsden is still alive and when Fiona meets up with her, Ellie has a further shock for Fiona. She also has a brother. What is more Tim has disappeared and Fiona is charged with the task of finding him.


Pippa Cavendish is blonde and beautiful and no one's idea of a conventional nanny, but Lilly Fontaine loves her. Marc Fontaine her father suspects Pippa is not all she appears to be and he is right. Pippa is harbouring a secret, one she is determined to keep hidden at all costs.

Behind manicured lawns and bourgeoning gardens, the apartment building is much like any other in the community. The contrast of its aging structure and decorative foyer reflect the charm of Springfield Place – its elegant lobby prominent; its deteriorating corners hidden from view. Home to an intriguing array of characters who pass in elevators and along pathways, its residents – secrets intact – exchange vague greetings, then continue on their journeys. Some find the casual acknowledgement enough. For others, chance encounters and their pleasantries offer salvation.

Stop for a moment at Springfield Place. Share a glimpse within its walls.


Widow of a professional yachtsman, Cassie Lewis is busy running the family boatyard in Devon. When catastrophe strikes, Cassie has to accept she can’t change the inevitable.

‘If you refuse and leave, you will have thrown away your son’s inheritance.’ With those words Nicola is blackmailed by Henri her ex-father-in-law, into moving to France with Oliver her young son.


Wildlife expert Susannah Stevens has landed the perfect job at a hotel on the coast of Kenya. But the last person she expects to be working for is Greg Fairchild, the man who deceived her years ago and who believes she’s just a gold-digger. With the future of the hotel at stake, they agree to work together. But can they put past feelings behind them?


Young widow Val Baker restores musical instruments, but fears her relationship with her Greek-Italian family on Corfu is broken beyond repair. Returning to the island to work on a rare piano belonging to her Greek friend Alexia, she finds her dreams haunted by memories of Hilary; a young English girl raped and murdered ten years before. Val determines to uncover the truth about the case, and set to rest her own doubts about the involvement of her father, Yiannis, and half-brother, Markos, both policemen who were involved in the original investigation. Joined by her friend Harry, Val begins to unravel the threads. When two strange tokens arrive, one for Alexia's daughter Chloe and one for Val, it becomes clear that Hilary's unknown killer is on Val's trail. Her search for the truth becomes a race for life.


I hope to keep you posted on twitter of our progress. In the meantime, if you are a new author, or an established writer who would like any of your printed books to reach a wider audience through epublishing, we would love to hear from you - submissions@lysandrapress.com .

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Some great romance offers for Thanksgiving from Bekki Lynn

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Bekki Lynn has put together some great stories and offers for you. Please see below for the blurbs, covers and links.

Absentee Love Returns - contemporary, non-erotic - only 99c!

Gail Green's world is turned upside down when an alleged mobster gives her an ultimatum; lose her newborn son or follow orders. The choice she chooses puts both of them in danger she had never believed possible. When they are kidnapped, she has no idea which of the Galletti’s enemies is behind it, if any. That is until Rico Galletti turns up with a wild story of working with a covert organization that works in conjunction with military field operations. Before she can comprehend the whole sordid story, he's shot. [mainstream/contemporary, non-erotic]

ISBN - 978-1-4580-4338-2 -

Purchase Bekki's books at:
Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, Lulu, Diesel, SonyBarnes and Noble.

Annie and the Young Master - an erotic historical fairy tale - only 99c!
Banished from her home, Lillian Basford picked herself up and set out to start a new life. When Samuel Wadkins came along and gave her a real-life taste of what her dreams with him had teased her with, she became torn between her life as it was and what it’d now become. [erotic historical]

ISBN: 978-1-4524-3636-4 Purchase at: Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, Lulu, Diesel, Sony, and Barnes & Noble.

Purchase Bekki's books at:
Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, Lulu, Diesel, SonyBarnes and Noble.

Cornflower - BDSM - only 99c!

Max and Erin escape to their cabin for a weekend of fun and games. While in the midst of heated passion, a rope slips and she's injured. Max insists they take a break, but when games resume, the out of control fire within her disallows her to use the safe word. When he sees the pain etched in her face, off comes mask, the restraints and slave jewelry. Will they be able to get past the betrayal of trust? [BDSM]

Purchase Bekki's books at:
Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, Lulu, Diesel, SonyBarnes and Noble.

Jackie's Boys - menage trios - only 99c!

Jackie's used to the antics of her husband, Lenny, and his twin brother, Randy, but this time they decided to include her in their latest bet. She had forty-eight hours to figure out which one of them she was married to. However, she decides to turn the game around on them by following through on a long-time fantasy to have both brothers at the same time.

ISBN: 978-1-4524-7898-2

Purchase Bekki's books at:
Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, Lulu, Diesel, SonyBarnes and Noble.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Romancing the Rise of Magick ~ A Flash Scene by Savanna Kougar


Wednesday greetings, everyone. I thought I'd share my last flash scene written for the SHAPESHIFTER SEDUCTIONS blog.

When Magick Rises Once Again

Hearing the crackle-rustle of autumn leaves, Zalasdair halted and watched the cottontail rabbit dash away from the intruding human. In this case, the intruding warlock.

The young buck rabbit ran as if a demon grabbed for his tail, and Zalasdair admired his speed. Likely he would survive despite the large population of wolven, big cat, and other predator shapeshifters.

Zalasdair used his force and that of the Mother Earth to gift the rabbit with greater speed and more endurance. Afterward, he closed his eyes and silently intoned his gratitude to Gaia for their deep connection, one that had lasted since the end of the Mage Age -- as Zalasdair thought of it, to his sardonic amusement.

“What prize-ass fools,” he darkly muttered. With a twirl and flick of his power staff, Zalasdair spoke the short incantation destroying the satellite tracking him. “Machines are never a match for magick.”

“Never?” Attired like a mock version of Robin Hood, the woman, curvaceous as an hourglass, regarded him, one hand planted on her cocked hip.

After a leisurely scan of her feminine figure -- from the tip of her suede-laced boots to the feathered cap perched atop her flyaway auburn tresses that she’d untidily tied back -- Zalasdair settled his gaze on the delicate yet blatantly sensual features of her face.

“My record ‘against the machine’ as they say, remains one hundred percent. Do you have a challenge? A technology you wish to see rendered useless, little dryad?” Zalasdair arched his brow, a match for hers.

“Human and Dryad,” she corrected, her tone dulcet and deadly.

After an assessing gaze that swept over his tall length, the woman sauntered toward him. She didn’t need an archer’s bow to fire arrows. Zalasdair suspected she possessed the power to shoot lightning from her fingertips. Or create it at will as a thought-form.

Taking her sweet time, Maid Robin Hood walked around him, looking him up and down as if judging him worthy of purchase. Knowing it would be to his later advantage, Zalasdair placed his cantankerous ego aside. Immediately, he felt the human-dryad’s energy as pelting sparks of white light.

Having been in what could be called a dimensional stasis until his recent emergence into this critical period of time, Zalasdair wasn’t surprised at the sudden animation of his cock. After all, the woman owned a lusty nature, one he would like to explore with the art of pleasure.

“As you must know, Mage, I have been sent by the Golden Oak Circle to act as your guide.” She lifted her gaze to him, her hazel eyes shining like sunlight on water.

“Warlock. Here, at this time when magick rises once again, I wish to be called a warlock.”

Her eyes narrowed while her softly pointed chin aimed at his face like a drawn arrow. “I suggest you begin, warlock, by disabling the GPS units that have been attached as spy devices to many of the vehicles in Talbot’s Peak.”

Zalasdair let a small smile tilt the corner of his mouth before he spoke. “Lead on, merry maid.” He paused to take note of her expression. When she twisted her mouth and glared, he asked, “May I know your name? Or, perhaps, the title you desire?”

“You toy with me as if I am autumn’s leaf and you are the wind.”

“You invite my wind to buffet you, my autumn leaf. However, since the matter of the GPS units are crucial to you, and to the welfare of those in Talbot’s Peak, let us attend to them.” Zalasdair lifted his power staff then struck the ground for emphasis.

Like an affronted warrioress, his human-dryad faced him. She planted her fists on her hips as if she channeled Errol Flynn. “I didn’t ask for this assignment... warlock. I didn’t want this assignment.” She huffed out a breath. “Given your reputation...”

“Ah, yes, one’s reputation. Sometimes a blessing. Sometimes a curse. However, I assure you I live up to mine.”

Hearing the sudden drone of several helicopters, and knowing they searched for him, Zalasdair opened himself to the strength of Mother Earth. As he raised his staff directing it toward the infernal flying machines, Gaia quaked her force through him. Zalasdair married his power to hers and closed his eyes.

“A soft landing you will achieve. Only if you turn and leave.” His tone thundered even though his voice remained low -- almost a whisper. “Remain my enemy, if you dare. And I will have no mercy to spare.”

“What are you doing? You can’t make them crash,” his autumn leaf snapped.

Zalasdair cracked one eye open observing her flushed angry face. “But, I can make them crash. Shall I demonstrate to your satisfaction?”

“Stop it. Stop it right now.” She stomped her foot, the sound muffled by the moist thick bed of colorful leaves.

“What if I refuse your command?” Toying with her was a wicked sort of joy indeed.

“Your crotch becomes my target,” she threatened. “I am responsible for --”

“My crotch is yours to target as you choose,” Zalasdair interrupted as he listened to the helicopters retreat, a slight hitch in the sound of their engines.

Her gaze flared brilliantly, and with her rage barely contained, she demanded, “What’s your actual name since I’m stuck being your guide? I refuse to call you Magician of the Sacred Woods. Or ‘Warlock’ of the Sacred Woods.”

“Sacred wood... yes, I must confess I am feeling quite wooden at the moment in the area you intend to target. Since you ask, my autumn leaf, you may address me as Zalasdair.”

His human-dryad flitted a few steps back. Fright darkened her eyes.

Frowning with his concern, Zalasdair asked, “What’s wrong? Certainly, I have never harmed --”

“You have! My grandfather...”

“Explain.” Zalasdair raised his voice in a manner that did not allow her refusal.

An immense sigh burst past her lips, and her shoulders slumped forward in defeat. “There is no need to explain. Your... your magickal retribution was justified. It’s just that I...I can’t forget. Won’t forget.”

Zalasdair refrained from weaving his power around her. To bring forth a confession of truth would not serve him now. Her emotions already swirled like barbs around him, and likely she would never forgive him.

No, he would wait. Although, patience had never suited him. “Shall I request another guide from the Circle?”

Raising her chin high, and stiffening her spine, his autumn leaf faced the trail that led to Talbot’s Peak, the trail he had been traveling to meet his current destiny.

“I will do my duty, warlock.” She spoke without looking at him. “There is no one else. As you said, magick rises once again. We are needed to bring down the machines. The human and shapeshifter soul is very much in peril. Evil has ascended, and the old ways are their salvation.”

“Yes, the old ways. Yes, truth passes your lips. Salvation is needed from the mad brutal beasts who would use the magic of technology to enslave instead of enlighten.”

Once she turned and moved onto the trail, Zalasdair followed yet kept a goodly distance. With his gaze on her light tread, he wondered about the beauty of her dryad wings.

No doubt lived within him that his Maid Robin Hood could manifest them if she so desired.

However -- while an asset to being his guide in the shapeshifter and human world, it was as clear as his ring’s ancient, all-knowing crystal -- his autumn leaf favored her human side.

“Kellyn.” Her voice floated back to him, becoming part of the gusting wind. “My name is Kellyn.”

“Lovely.” Zalasdair dared utter no more words. She had offered him a fragile truce.

To gain more patience, and keep his bond with Gaia strong, Zalasdair swept his gaze, his senses over the Montana forest. His own ability to shapeshift would serve him with the locals, so he assumed. He witnessed evidence of them everywhere.

Perhaps, on a whimsy, he would present himself as a turkey on the day that was called Thanksgiving. From his dimensional window Zalasdair had studiously observed life as it played out on Earth. Helpful, and necessary to fulfilling his destiny, yet he fully realized it was a poor substitute for all that he had missed as real life experience.

Moving ever downward, Zalasdair fondly gazed at the bare-limbed trees who prepared themselves for the rigors and the resting time of winter. Whipping in the stiff wind, a large russet leaf refused to let go, despite being all alone.

In that moment, Zalasdair realized to the depth of his being, he felt all alone.
~~~~~~

Have a Magickal Autumn!

Savanna

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~
~~~~~~

Monday, November 7, 2011

'Voices in the Dark' now reissued

My romantic suspense novel 'Voices in the Dark,' first published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1995, is now re-issued as an ebook and is available for all the usual formats (including Kindle) on Smashwords.

UPDATE: Both Voices in the Dark and Night of the Storm are now available from Amazon.com and Amazon UK.


Here are the details:

Julia Rochfort, a young opera singer, visits Italy to take part in a competition judged by Roberto Padovano, a world-famous bass. When he and Julia meet and fall in love, the consequences will be devastating. Julia and Roberto are already connected by terrifying events that took place before they were born: the atrocities inflicted on a Tuscan village in 1944 by a torturer known only as 'Scarpia' after the villain in Puccini's opera Tosca. As they uncover the intricate web of betrayal, deception and guilt, the danger grows. For Scarpia and some who share his guilt are still alive - and desperate to keep their past secret for ever.

Smashwords 2011
$3.99

Buy the ebook: Smashwords
Amazon Kindle (US)
Amazon Kindle (UK)


Reviews from the original UK print edition:Birmingham Sunday Mercury:Lindsay Townsend's mixture of arias and skullduggery turns into a highly readable thriller.

Yorkshire Post:Confident debut.

Grimsby Evening Telegraph:She obviously has a passion for writing. This is a book you will not be able to put down.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Romance ~ Never tell a vampire, 'bite me'.


Flash Fiction by Savanna Kougar

“Damn, no. Not what I need.” Karoline scowled as the traffic light turned red.

She nearly uttered a quick spell to change it. But, instead hit the brakes hard. There’d been a rain shower earlier in the evening and her tires skidded a bit.

Once Karoline came to a full stop, she glared at the ticket camera. “I’m making it my business to fry your circuits. Tomorrow.” Gripping her steering wheel mercilessly, she muttered, “I should have been speeding, I would have made the effing – “

Smack! Crunch. The loud dull sound that meant another vehicle had struck her bumper charged through her an instant before her car rocked back and forth like a boat.

“What the freaking crap now?” With anger streaking down to her toes and blazing out the top of her head, Karoline threw open the door.

Blown by the strong gusting winds, wet autumn leaves struck her face, and glued themselves to her black velvet cape. Hiking her gown’s voluminous skirt, she launched outward. Her loose hair danced wildly, the strands slapping her cheeks. Heedless of any danger, Karoline marched toward the back of her car.

“Oh, wonderful, some prize idiot thinks he really is Batman.”

For a split second, Karoline hesitated taking in the futuristic, sleekly styled, black-as-midnight car. “At least, whoever, might be rich enough to pay for the damage. If not, I’ll add his ‘bat wings’ to my cauldron, and throw some gasoline on the flames.”

“Please, beautiful witch, not my bat wings.”

Startled that he’d heard her since he appeared to be coffin-sealed inside his bat car, Karoline was even more taken aback by the rich-as-dark-chocolate timbre of the man's voice.

Still, propelled by pure fire, she firmed her chin and approached as he rose upward. Good Goddess did he ever quit? Apparently not. He had to be well over six feet. Agile as a ballroom dancer, he stepped from behind the door’s long gleaming curve, and closed it with an elegant flick of his wrist.

Her head tilted backwards at a ridiculous angle just to see his face, and Karoline stopped in her tracks. Not that she could see his features since they were shadowed by the large cowl of his vampire costume. “What?” she snapped. “No bat wings springing up. Just a regular door.”

“I must apologize for our abrupt meeting. However, it seemed the only certain way to gain your attention.”

“Attention!” Karoline sputtered, burning at the stake of her own fury. “You run into my car to get my attention. Unbelievable.” Letting go of her skirts, she balled her fists. “One good aim,” she derisively muttered.

“Ah, yes, your athletic spunk is quite renowned within my circle.” He took a courtly step toward her. The unusual glitter of his pale eyes had her taking a mental step back. “I recall,” he suavely continued, “betting on you to win the cage match – “

“How did you...?” she interrupted. “No one knows about my fights.” Jerking in several breaths, Karoline assessed him. “Except my manager...because...”

“Yes, Jahrundi. Because he is your kind.”

Once she’d absorbed the shock, Karoline countered by narrowing her eyes. “What do you want, bat boy?”

She caught the hint of a smile before he lowered his head. He swept downward, and bowed in some sort of French, old-fashioned manner. At least, from the period epic movies she’d seen, that’s how it appeared.

Rising with more elegance than any man had a right to, he extended a card. When she didn’t take it, he deftly slipped it inside a vest pocket. “Ah, yes. One never knows the sorcery that could imbue a card of introduction. Is that not so, my beautiful Egyptian cat?”

A growl rumbled up from her belly, but with practiced ease, Karoline stopped her shift and kept her cat from clawing its way out, then leaping for his oh-so debonair throat.

“I am Viscount Zavoyon Dicarlo, recently of Vhulferth Court.”

Ignoring his sinfully sexy voice, Karoline arched her brows high. “Not Count Dracula?”

“Would you like me to be Count Dracula on this All Hallow’s Eve?”

Her heart stopped and started, all while it felt like bats flapped their wings in the belfry of her loins. Damn! That was so not a good sign.

“I have a date. And I’m late. No thanks to you.” Noticing she stood on the balls of her feet, Karoline clicked down on the moderate heels of her witch shoes, as she called them. “I asked you a question. Viscount,” she enunciated snarkily.

“Indeed, may I address you as Karoline?”

He leaned forward ever so slightly, and Karoline suddenly had a full view of his face. She swallowed, hiding her gasp of appreciation. He certainly looked like some otherworldly immortal designed to excite a woman’s deepest passions.

“Oh, great, the tall, dark and mysterious Viscount, knows my name.” Shaking her head vigorously, Karoline sought to fling her hair back, now plastered to her face by a blast of wind.

“I must insist on escorting you out of the arriving storm.” He offered his arm.

Gripping a swathe of her hair, Karoline stared at him as both of their capes billowed and whipped around them.

“Insist all you want. You know what. I’m leaving now.” She took several steps backward and prepared to dash to her car. Already drops of rain pelted her. Worse, he pelted her with those eyes that reminded her of perfectly cut peridot.

“I am in need of your assistance in removing a particularly vile curse from my sister.” His arm remained in position.

Karoline heaved in a breath, then shoved it out as fast. He didn’t lie. Not that she could tell, and she was good at knowing lies. Very good.

“Find another witch. I promised to help a friend tonight. I don’t break promises.”

Thinking she’d convinced him since he remained silent, Karoline pivoted toward her car door.

“Plesyntauz.”

The name of the warlock shapeshifter who had almost possessed her own sister’s soul caused Karoline to spin around. With her heart tripping painfully, she gazed at him. Keeping his arm in position, he approached her with the arrogant assumption that he had won her over.

“There is no need to break your promise. I will act as your date. Then we will depart for Vhulfeth Court.”

“I told you, Viscount. I already have a date.”

“Shall I use my powers of persuasion to dismiss him?”

Karoline gaped for a moment. Then, the force of a bonfire filled her, and livid, she snarled, “Bite me.”

“Never tell a vampire, ‘bite me’.”

He hauled her against him, his mouth crushing hers with such bold passion, Karoline didn’t fight. And, even as his fang slid down the side of her neck in a long slow caress, she clung to him.

“A small taste only, beautiful witch,” he rasped.

Dazed, almost delirious with desire, Karoline felt the needle-sharp prick of his fangs as they sank into her tender flesh, where her neck met her shoulder. As quick, the point of his tongue laved her wound, sensual and warm.
~~~~~~

Have a Magickal Halloween!

Savanna

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~
~~~~~~

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkins and Jack O'-Lanterns


What's Halloween without pumpkins?

Ah, pumpkins, those usually orange squash piled high in grocery stores and farm stands this time of year. Large, small, rounded, not-so-round, orange, yellow, white and striped. There are all kinds of pumpkins. Some you can eat, some are for show, but they're all pumpkins, and they all say fall. In the form of jack o'-lanterns, they also say Halloween.

Although pumpkins are native to the Americas, their usage in Halloween traditions originated in Great Britain. Lighted vegetable lanterns have long been part of Britain's harvest festivals. The vegetables most often used were turnips and mangelwurzels, which are relatively small, solid and hard to cut. Columbus introduced to Europe many of the Americas' plants and animals, pumpkins among them. Called pompions in Tudor England, pumpkins made their way to Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Since pumpkins are hollow and easy to carve, they replaced the turnips and mangelwurzels as the vegetable of choice for harvest lanterns.

"Jack o'-lantern" itself is an English term originating in East Anglia in the 1660's, and meant a night watchman or a man who carried a lantern. Later the phrase attached itself to the ignis fatuus, or will-o'-the-wisp, a bobbing sphere of marsh gas ignited by spontaneous combustion. Not until 1837 did its modern usage of "vegetable lantern" arise.

The Irish legend of Shifty Jack adds a layer of Halloween evil to the various meanings of jack o'-lantern. Shifty, or Stingy, Jack was an Irish blacksmith who used a cross to trap the Devil up a tree. Jack refused to let him down until the Devil promised not to take him to Hell. Secure in the knowledge he would never burn in Hell, Jack wasted his life in evil. But when he died, God denied him entrance to Heaven. With nowhere else to go, Jack implored the Devil to take him in. The Devil, abiding by his promise, refused, condemning Jack forever to walk the earth. But the Devil gave him a hell-coal to light his way, which Jack secured in a vegetable lantern. Jack's bobbing light as he wanders is a Halloween reminder of the wages of sin.

Pumpkinnapper, my Regency Halloween comedy, incorporates pumpkins, bobbing lights and things that go bump in the night into the story. Blurb and excerpt here. Pumpkinnapper is available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks and other places eBooks are sold.

Thank you all and Happy Halloween,
Linda
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!
http://www.lindabanche.com

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Romance or Death by His Fangs


While not the heroine and hero of this Flash Scene, this picture sets some of the mood.

Romance or Death by His Fangs
by Savanna Kougar

‘Why did I ever agree to this?” Shandra cracked the door of her sporty, low-slung Mazda. Mist hugged the ground and the Victorian-style mansion, while festively lit, was starkly etched against the midnight sky.

Streaming banks of silvery and charcoal colored clouds played hide and seek with the snowy-white quarter moon, heightening the Halloween moodiness of the scene before her.

“I don’t do spooky,” Shandra muttered. Mentally, she frowned at her friend, Liza.

Yesterday, Shandra had reluctantly agreed to cover the Vampire wine-tasting party for Liza’s online magazine. Her long-time friend, and their staff of four, covered the local events of their small but spread-out, eclectic community, located southwest of Portland, Oregon.

Spooky-ooky or not, what else could she have done? Since Liza’s young daughter had come down with a bad case of the flu.

A shudder slid through Shandra as she slowly widened the car door, then placed her feet, encased in black lace-up Victorian boots, onto the estate’s semi-circular drive. Drawing in a deep breath to calm herself, Shandra stood.

Once she’d eased the door shut listening to the click of the locks, Shandra tightened her grip on her evening bag. Half-expecting a lurking ghost to pop up and fly at her with a demonic grin distorting it’s incorporeal features, she hesitated.

Good lord help her! Already chills goosebumped her arms.

As she’d been told, the elite were out tonight judging by the lineup of BMWs and other high-end cars. Shandra had arrived late on purpose. No valet to deal with, and hopefully, there would be no formal introduction as she’d been told occurred at the Rathbone’s social events.

Not to mention, throughout the day, she’d had to keep convincing herself to attend. As she now convinced herself to stay.

Feeling the night’s cool breeze on her bared bosom, Shandra drew her white velvet cape closed. She’d worn her burgundy velvet gown, a favorite for Halloween parties. The tight, sweetheart bodice laced up the back, and the bias-cut skirt draped beautifully over the flare of her hips. Even now, the gentle swing caressed her calves.

As Shandra forced her steps toward the mansion’s glistening sweep of steps, she caught a whiff of night-blooming gardenia, yet saw no evidence of a flower garden. Other than the wide expanse of lawn, illuminated by gaslights, the only landscaping she observed were the neatly trimmed hedgerows lining a pathway near the front of the mansion.

Carried by moist breezes off the Pacific ocean, a symphony of lush fragrances now wafted around her. Heady, a promise of passion...the descriptive words wrote themselves inside Shandra’s head for tomorrow’s article.

Once she reached the steps, Shandra’s steps faltered. Icy pricks stabbed up her spine as she watched a Goth couple in full Vampire regalia move inside the mansion.

“May I be of assistance?”

The man’s rich baritone voice, his slight foreign accent, replaced the cold fingers seizing her middle. Shandra whirled around. Her breathing halted for seconds.

He seemed familiar, yet not. However, way beyond that, the tall man was a feast for all of her feminine senses.

Shandra reeled inside, and tried not to stare. She’d never felt comfortable around overly handsome men, and now her tongue felt like a wad of cotton.

“I am Z’Pollo Vhettanini,” he introduced himself. His gentleman’s manner compelled her to respond in kind, while the pale glint of his eyes caused her to feel weirdly spellbound.

“Shandra Windgate,” she answered automatically. “Uh...no, thank you. I’m fine.” She’d meant to turn away, mount the steps, but his riveted gaze on her face immobilized her.

Shandra couldn’t help noticing the vintage top hat he held at his side. His Victorian-inspired waistcoat and trousers were obviously tailored, and enhanced his elegant frame -- his athletic build.

“Sorry for staring,” she mumbled, and took a step back.

That proved to be disastrous. Her boot heel caught the bottom step, then slid off propelling her forward. Her caught her as if she’d been thrown at him like a passed football. Muscular and strong, his arms wrapped around her, then trapped her only enough to steady her. Simultaneously, his top hat landed on her butt.

“I don’t usually throw myself at men,” she cracked as a sort of joke, then shoved against his chest.

Another damn mistake. Hell, she’d never felt such boldly carved strength -- even beneath his brocade vest and what appeared to be a linen shirt. And double hell, her two brothers had been college football players.

In moments, he’d loosened his hold, but kept her in the circle of his arms. A blush stole over Shandra’s cheeks as she tried to remove her hands. The traitorous things wanted to explore his chest. Thoroughly.

“Miss Shandra, I simply cannot allow you to throw yourself at another man.” His tone teased, yet there was an undercurrent that sizzled the pit of her stomach, and other regions she preferred to ignore.

An instant later, Z’Pollo Vhettanini deftly placed her beside him. With his hand firmly cupping her elbow, he moved them up the steps.

So, he was the take-charge type. A place inside Shandra swooned with excitement. Another side of her shied away. She’d had enough of guys who didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, and tried telling her what do. Worse, acting like they owned her.

Of course, who was she to think Mr. Z’Pollo Vhettanini had any real interest in her? Okay, she couldn’t deny he kept her closer to his side than necessary. Whatever... Shandra mentally shrugged. She was far better off without a man in her life.

Once they reached the imposing double doors, ornate affairs with large brass handles, they were opened, and a man dressed as a liveried servant gestured them inside. Immediately, several pairs of eyes swung toward Z’Pollo as they walked through a grand-sized archway, then into the main-floor ballroom.

Shandra recognized Mr. Rathbone, his son, and their immediate social group. When their gazes didn’t retreat, and remained focused solely on Z’Pollo, she withered inside. Wanting only to disappear, sip some wine, enjoy the atmosphere, then get her story, Shandra halted in her tracks. She tugged against his grip.

Not relinquishing her elbow, he pivoted before her. “I’m fine,” she announced to his chest. Goddess... god, she didn’t want look directly at him. Not and meet his mesmerizing gaze.

“Miss Shandra, I must attend to several business matters. However, I will join you shortly.”

Before she could utter one word against him ‘joining’ her, Z’Pollo’s palm caressed her forearm, and she felt him enfold her hand. As he lifted her hand, warmth sparked through her, zapping her like electricity.

Shandra’s gaze flew to his face. His features -- what she hadn’t seen outside -- slammed a place inside her she didn’t want to awaken or arouse. Ruggedly handsome wasn’t an apt description for Z’Pollo Vhettanini. He reminded her of a bygone-era nobleman.

And his eyes -- piercing as a hawk, but the color of aquamarine -- a paler shade than her own, and probably more green-hued.

“I don’t believe it,” she murmured, startled because his hair, a lion’s mane, was a rich shade of burnt sienna -- several shades darker than her own red sorrel tresses.

“We are similar in coloring. However, my skin could be called a light teak. While yours, Miss Shandra, is pearl that has been dusted with gold.”

Shandra frowned, despite the poetic praise of his words. “Are you a mind reader?”

“Perhaps. In this instance, I followed your eyes.”

Before Shandra knew it, his lips were brushing the top of her hand. He lingered a kiss, one that tingled all too deliciously -- all too wickedly. For an instant, his eyes seemed to blaze, and Shandra glimpsed the point of a white fang.

Her heart tripped a mile a minute. Despite the warning bells clanging inside her mind, her feet refused to budge. “Vampire,” burst past her lips.

Without a word, he languidly caressed his lips where he’d kissed her. Then, as he traveled his mouth back again, the side of his fang lightly slid against her flesh.

With his gaze radiant, fiercely passionate, he lowered her hand. Shandra trembled briefly, violently. Her blood rushed so fast she thought she might faint.

Worse than that, desire now consumed her. An overwhelming feeling of ‘want’ flamed her insides, then coursed through her entire body.

Shocked, Shandra felt raw heat flood her sex. Her inner thighs moistened. Then her mind went blank.

Still, she felt Z’Pollo gently release her hand. In moments, bolts of energy surged into her limbs, and Shandra felt renewed. Confused, she imagined fiery stars were filling her bloodstream.

A moment later, she blinked and awakened as if she’d been in a trance. “Are you a vampire?”

How damn crazed was she to ask that? To her advantage if Z’Pollo thought she was crazy, he wouldn’t want anything to do with her.

Plus, Shandra had the distinct feeling once she was no longer in his presence, this terrible and amazing state of lust would vanish. So she hoped.

“It is a Vampire-themed wine tasting.” His lips quirked a small secretive smile.

Since he hadn’t taken the opportunity to politely escape, Shandra ventured, “Costume? Dental work?”

“I am in costume.” With a step back, Z’Pollo indicated his attire. His eyes darkened, and Shandra felt his gaze stroke her. “I suggest enjoying the selection of regional organic wines, Miss Shandra.”

After an old-world bow of his head, he pivoted from her. Unmoving as a damn stupid statue, Shandra watched him move with a powerful yet light stride until he shook hands with the elder Rathbone.

“Okay, that was my adventure for the week. For the year,” she whispered to herself. I need to get the story and get out of here.

Shandra flung back her cape, and lifting her gown, she decisively whirled toward the area of the ballroom where the wine-tasting was in progress. Feeling embarrassed and frustrated, she tamped down the desire that still raged.

How could she be so turned on by a fake vampire fang?

As Shandra moved through the room, a fantasy enchantment lit by candelabras, she realized there were very few of the splendidly costumed guests she knew. But hey, at least, she’d worn something that fit in reasonably well -- if not quite as elaborate and bedazzling as most of the guests.

Comforted by the nods of acknowledgment from Vance and his girlfriend, Shandra gave them a small wave, then followed Renee’s point to their table where she could leave her cape and evening bag.

She’d known Vance since high school, had even dated him briefly. Since Renee had become the head librarian, they’d come to know each other, gabbing whenever Shandra looked up historical documents for her online articles.

Some thirty or so minutes later, after speaking with the couples she did know, Shandra strolled along the perimeter of the ballroom. She cradled her ruby red wine as she made mental notes about her surroundings and all those in attendance.

Unlike a typical wine-tasting event, she’d been offered several different wines to sample, along with a selection of creamy gourmet cheeses -- the very kinds she adored but rarely purchased.

Her wine choice, likely an organic Pinot Noir -- there had been no labels -- had been poured with a flourish by a personable young man. Most probably in his early twenties, he resembled Lestat from “Interview With a Vampire”.

As Shandra wandered, enjoying the classic elegance of the ballroom combined with Victorian design elements, she felt a sense of relief. Likely it was the affect of the superb, richly aromatic wine.

For a time, her gaze remained on a small group of guests. They were fabulously and uniquely dressed. Most fascinating to her, they possessed the type of charisma that invited notice and appreciation.

After several more sips of the wine, Shandra felt her tension melt away. For the last five years, she’d taken on the responsibility of managing her mother and father’s financial affairs. It had saved their marriage and brought harmony to the family, but of late, the burden had become super heavy.

Hearing a violin, then the strains of lovely chamber music, Shandra moved toward what appeared to be an anteroom. Suddenly, Z’Pollo appeared at her side. He cupped her elbow, and her heart thumped rapidly at his stealth, then thumped from the caressing touch of his fingers on her arm.

“Miss Shandra, I have frightened you. My apologies. In my world silence of step is an advantage, and has become second nature.”

Halting her steps, Shandra snapped, “What are you? An international spy? The consummate corporate spy?” she added a split second later, as the thought struck her.

Holy damn, the compulsion tidal-waved inside her. But, Shandra knew better than to look up, meet his unusual aquamarine eyes. She’d be lost, and already, his very nearness spun desire through her like a whirlwind.

“Spy.” He poured the word inside her ear, a masculine purr that further undid her. “No, I am not a spy except as my eyes seek you.”

“I’m off the market,” Shandra blurted out. How, or why that quaint phrase... well, maybe because she’d come across it doing historical research.

“That is good to hear. I need not concern myself with rivals.”

Shandra considered lying about having a boyfriend, but that thought was fleeting since she lied poorly. Besides, her sense of Z’Pollo told her he would know the truth regardless. Now the hell what?

“The music charms the soul, does it not?” Grasping her elbow firmly, Z’Pollo gently propelled her toward the anteroom.

“Okay, I give. Where are you from? I can’t place your accent.”

“Currently I reside on the Greek Island of Santorini. However, I was raised in the Basque region of Spain. Exporting foods, wine, and herbs is the family business. And you, Miss Shandra, I understand from the Rathbones, you are an internet journalist, and are here to write about our wine tasting.”

“Yes,” she answered softly. They’d entered the anteroom through a half-moon archway.

Six musicians, dressed in formal Victorian attire, played to a small audience. Lyrical music, rich and graceful in tone, filled the elaborately decorated room. Shandra glanced around, and her breath flew inward with appreciation. Ice blue brocade drapes glimmered and framed the delicately flickering candlelight. A cascade of small taper candles were held by four silver wall sconces.

“Enchanting,” Shandra murmured, then noticed her hand now touched her throat.

“Mrs. Rathbone will be pleased. She enjoys bringing about such pleasure.” Pivoting toward her, Z’Pollo reached for her nearly empty wineglass. “Shall I pour you another glass?”

Their fingers brushed, and Shandra nearly jerked her hand back from the sensation of being burned alive by passion. In the next moment, she found herself facing him. “No, thank you,” she breathy managed. “That’s my limit, especially since I’ll be driving home.”

Oh god, no! Why did she crave the feeling of his fake fang on her skin again? It’s not like she’d ever been a Goth girl. Or been drawn to the Vampire scene.

In slow motion, Shandra raised her face to meet his gaze. Her heart raced too ridiculously fast. She flushed as if the heat had been switched to high, all while her pulse rapidly thrummed.

What was wrong with her?

“Shandra.” Z’Pollo languidly threaded his fingers through her hair. His thumbs caressed beneath her chin, and he tilted her face so their gazes immersed into each other. “You are an irresistible force, my beautiful woman.”

“I should be saying that about you... not the woman part.” The words freed themselves from her lips. Yet, how could she have ever stopped them? Compelling her past any resistance, his eyes flared with jewel-like brilliance -- flaring with a power Shandra didn’t understand.

“A glimpse of heaven,” he rasped. “Your eyes.”

Shandra couldn’t doubt his sincerity. She heard only truth. Of their own volition her palms pressed against his chest, and she leaned closer until their breaths touched and mingled.

Z’Pollo stroked his hands down her back with finesse and strength. And all Shandra wanted to do was to throw herself against him like a wanton. So desperately, she wanted to seize his mouth with hers. Kiss him. And never stop.

He brought her closer, his arms claiming her waist. The hard sculpted length of his body only fanned the flames of her clearly out-of-control desire.

Shandra raised to her toes, molding her body against his. “What are you doing to me?”

His eyes flashed and blazed for a bare instant. “I have decided upon you.”

As if she weighed nothing, he swept her into his arms. Z’Pollo carried her with long rapid strides, his manner utterly dominant.

Stunned to her core, all Shandra could do was cling to his neck. A strange dizziness possessed her head. Yet, she knew when he stepped onto a balcony.

Cool night air washed over her face and arms, and the sweet potent fragrance of gardenia swirled around her. Z’Pollo placed her on her feet, and immediately his tender embrace steadied her.

Once Shandra raised her gaze, she stiffened and couldn’t move a muscle. Appearing all too real, his vampire fangs gleamed in the gauzy moonlight.

In the next moment, a force that felt like warm, slow-moving honey surged through her. Utterly helpless, unable to do anything but yield to his will, Shandra whispered, “Why... why?”

“Time is short now, my beautiful one. Before the world explodes into hellfire and brimstone our community, our new families must be formed. Must be kept safe. Now, I must --”

Z’Pollo didn’t finish. Instead his needle-like fangs lengthened and glinted, reflecting the fragile moonbeams as he sought her neck.

Freaked out to the max, Shandra opened her mouth to scream. But it lodged in her throat and refused to move.

His fang slipped down the side of her neck with agonizing slowness, and with a seductiveness Shandra had only fantasized about. Despite her shock, her fear, Shandra languished against him. Wanting.

If this was the end for her... if death loomed... she felt the stabbing-prick of his fangs, and welcomed it.
~~~~~~

Have a Magickal Season of the Witch!

Savanna

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Medieval vampires - dead or alive...

Philip Burne Jones, 'The Vampire' (1897), sourced from Wikimedia CommonsDid people in the Middle Ages really believe in vampires? They certainly believed in ghosts, which they called revenants, from the Latin meaning ‘to return’. It was believed that the unquiet dead, particularly those who had died by violence or by reason of a grudge, would return to haunt the living and try to take revenge on them. These revenants might haunt a graveyard or a particular area, known to them in life, and terrorize the living.

They also believed that the dead could be commanded to rise again and spirits or demons compelled to do a wizard’s bidding, through the dark art of necromancy. A surprising number of priests were interested in these dubious practices as a means of gaining power or knowledge. Priests might also seek to exorcise spirits possessing people, by means of prayer or sacred herbs or charms.

Vampires, however, do not really make an appearance until the fourteenth century. Why then?

In 1348 the Black Death struck Europe. Thousands died and thousands of rotting corpses had to be buried, often in mass graves. Sights of these bodies was often grisly and bloody, and so the idea of the vampire, feeding on the blood of the living, came into force.

Recently a body in a medieval Italian mass grave on the Venetian island of Lazzaretto Nuovo was found with a slab of rock slammed between its jaws – a crude anti-vampire measure. The dead woman was suspected by the grave-diggers of being a vampire, possibly because of gruesome sights around her decomposing body when they had re-opened the mass grave to bury more plague victims. So the frightened grave-diggers put a brick in her mouth to stop her chewing through her shroud and escaping the grave to infect others. A very grisly measure!

In my forthcoming medieval historical romance, The Snow Bride (due out Jan 2012), I don’t mention medieval vampires but I do deal with witchcraft and necromancers. My heroine, red-haired Elfrida, is a witch and wise-woman and through the ‘magic’ of love she helps my scarred hero Magnus. Both Elfrida and Magnus must battle against an evil necromancer – a medieval wizard who summoned spirits and demons – and, in a desperate race against time, recover Elfrida’s younger sister. In The Snow Bride I show medieval magic and beliefs, but not medieval vampires. Maybe in another story?

Happy Halloween!

Lindsay Townsend
http://www.lindsaytownsend.net/
http://www.twitter.com/lindsayromantic

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Lighthouse Keeper - paranormal flash fiction by Stephanie Burkhart


Audrina knocked on the wooden door. "Mr. Edwards?"

Nothing. A cool breeze blew in from the Atlantic Ocean and Audrina tugged on the shawl around her shoulders. Where was Mr. Edwards?

She twisted the knob to the lighthouse door. It turned, but stuck. Glancing up, she noticed rust on the hinges. Leaning her shoulder against the door, she pushed it open. Built in the early 1800's, the lighthouse captured the ambience of the past, standing proud against the Maine coastline.

"Mr. Edwards?" Her voice rattled throughout the lighthouse. Audrina tucked a stray tendril of her auburn hair behind her ear, pausing near the entrance. He had to be here. Her aunt's diary related that he rarely ventured from the antiquated lighthouse. Fishermen and cruise liners depended on the light and audible signals from this building – especially when the weather became foggy.

Looking around, she spied a set of metallic steps in the middle of the building which led up to the Frenzel lens and fog signal. Across the entrance, to the right, was another door partially opened.

The autumn wind whipped around the windows, making a high pitched whistle. A wave of uncertainty coursed through her bones. Was Mr. Edwards in that room? What would she find? She crossed the floor, hesitating next to the opening. Oh, she was being ridiculous. What did she expect to find? A ghost?

Audrina eased the door open, revealing a compact room. A single bed rested next to the curved wall. A young man lay clasping a picture frame next to his chest.

She ran to his side. Sweat dripped down his temples. Gently, she removed the frame, putting it on the nightstand, and placed her hand on his forehead. Hot. He had a fever. How long had he been sick?

"Mr. Edwards?" She shook his shoulders.

The young man's lids snapped open, but his eyes were glazed over from fever. "Esther?"

"No, I'm Audrina, Esther's niece. You're sick."

"Esther – where's Esther?"

"She passed away two weeks ago."

"No." The man's voice faded away. Had he lost hope? Her heart went out to him. She squeezed one of his hands between hers, studying him. His hair was thick and curly, framing his ruggedly handsome face. His square jaw and broad shoulders exuded a raw masculinity and vitality, despite his fever. Audrina found him appealing. Despite his illness, his muscles were hard. Stubble grew around his chin. God, there was no denying the attractiveness of his feral looks.

Departing the room, she discovered a kitchen, but the food was bad. She needed to make a trip to the grocery store. She also needed to treat the fever. Turning her attention to the sink, she found a washrag and dampened it. Who knew how long he'd been ill. She returned to his bedside and wiped the rag over his face.

"I think I should call for the paramedics."

"No!" His eyes snapped open, fierce and adamant none be spent. His voice was rough with anxiety.

"A paramedic can treat you better than I—"

"No. I don't want doctors. I hate them. None of them can help me."

Audrina crossed her arms. Her expression stilled and grew serious. Mixed feelings surged within her. He had to know that a doctor could help him. Why didn't he want to see one? What was he hiding? Should she be worried?

He opened his eyes, staring at her. She couldn't look away, spellbound by his expression. He possessed such unusual eyes – deep malachite green surrounded by a golden ring hugging his irises.

"No…you're not Esther. You smell different. Perfect," he rasped.

His comment raised her curiosity, but she ignored it for now. "I'm Audrina."

"Esther's dead, you said?"

"Yes. I'm sorry."

"Why did you come?"

"She left me her manor in her will. I arrived a few days ago, but only found her diary today."

He struggled to sit up in the bed, his expression a mix of pain and pleasant surprise. "You're beautiful."

"Mr.—"

"My name is Damian."

"Damian." She squeezed his hand again. "Lie back down. I'll return shortly."

He returned the pressure from her grasp, then collapsed onto the bed. "Please…"

"I promise." Audrina stood.

He nodded and closed his eyes.



Audrina drove her car up the dirt access road and parked next to the lighthouse. Twilight darkened the clouds over the ocean, casting deep orange and red shadows over the horizon. A waxing gibbous moon crested over the stormy waves. She hadn't explored her aunt's manor to the extent she would have liked, and had only partially read her aunt's diary – specifically the last couple of pages which expressed concern for Mr. Edwards – Damian.

Her aunt knew she was dying, she had cancer, but she believed Mr. Edwards would become inconsolable and possibly lose his mind if she revealed the nature of her illness and therefore she hadn't confided in him. Audrina believed her aunt didn't want to break Damian's heart. What Audrina found odd was that Damian was a young man. Her aunt was eighty-two when she passed.
Grabbing her bag with the food and medication, she walked through the brisk New England chill and entered the lighthouse. Quickly, she prepared a bowl of soup and a light meal.

Damian still lay in the bed, clutching the washcloth. God, he looked so vulnerable – and oh, so handsome. Her heart constricted in her chest.

"Damian?"

He mustered a smile. "You returned." His voice ached with longing.

"Take these." She handed him some antibiotics she hadn't used from a recent prescription and a glass of water. He swallowed them and sat up. Audrina spoon fed him the soup. He ate the crackers, never taking his eyes off her.

"Thank you. I was hungry."

"You need to rest."

"I'm cold, then hot, then cold."

"It's the fever. Do you have any extra blankets?"

"No. Can you lay beside me?" His gaze fell to the creamy expanse of her neck.

Audrina bit her lower lip with her teeth. Her heart ached under her breast. His eyes mesmerized her. Something intense flared between them – a spark. Desire? Mutual attraction? Fascination? His eyes drew her to him, despite only having just met him.
She said nothing, but lay down next to him, resting her head against his chest.

He kissed her temple. "Thank you."

Closing her eyes, she drifted off to sleep.


The rain struck the window in a rhythmic fashion, waking Audrina. She left the bed, found a candle on the nightstand, and lit it. The inky shadows faded away and the candle cast a soft light over the bed. The picture frame she'd taken from his hand earlier rested next to the pewter candleholder. Curious, she picked it up and turned it over.

The photo was black and white. Damian appeared the same with a head full of curls. A vibrant grin curved his lips. He stood next to a young woman who possessed long brown hair and a passionate smile. Audrina wrinkled her brow, confused. From the clothes she would date the photo in the late forties or early fifties. Who was the woman? Why did her features look familiar?

"Audrina?"

She clutched the frame to her breast and looked at Damian, uncertainty splayed across her face. Who was he?

He pointed toward the picture. "That's Esther and I years ago. I loved her very much, but…" his voice trailed off.

"But what?"

"She didn't want to be my lover, choosing to remain my friend."

"Lover?" Audrina arched an eyebrow.

Damian stood and held out his hand. "I've lived for over one hundred and fifty years, but Esther's loss almost destroyed me."
The flame flickered, casting stark eerie shadows over his cheekbones, giving him a feral appearance.

"What are you?"

He snared her eyes with his intense gaze. "I am a werewolf. Stay with me."

Attraction tumbled next to apprehension. "Why?"

"Because you feel the attraction between us, like I do." He paused. "I've been waiting lifetimes for you. I thought Esther might be my mate, but she was not."

"I don't understand."

"Esther's scent was close, but you, your scent, it's driving me wild, giving me hope. No one else has ever made me feel like this. You're my soulmate. Please stay."

Audrina couldn't deny the ache that thrummed throughout her body, despite the tension that coursed through her. What should she do? Dare she believe his claim? After several long minutes, she remained in her seat.

Word Count: 1376


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