Sunday, June 24, 2018

Wolf Pack Newsletter 6/27/18



Do you have what it takes to be a Real Werewife? In this episode--Can this wild cat convince the romance author that happily ever after doesn't only happen in her books? 



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Dela Stonebridge has already lost her brother to The Choosing, and now it is her turn. The grueling journey across the mountains is always dangerous,, but when magic and madness descends, she discovers herself exiled with the leaders of the three other races—the Elvish, Moerians and Norcs.

AmazonUS

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A black panther with a scarred heart. A gutsy waitress trying to hang onto her dreams. And the Darktime isn't over...

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After a narrow escape, Priya runs into the kind of man she shouldn't want...a man with silver eyes, as if the very moon has been trapped inside his gaze. But his help won't be enough when Nicholas finds her...

Friday, June 22, 2018

Taming the Beast by Sedona Venez



She refuses to love. He’ll stop at nothing to have her. Together, can they fulfill their deepest desires?

AmazonUS




~ EXCERPT ~


I was stark naked—again. With huge ebony breasts swaying, ass jiggling, and designer stiletto-encased feet slapping against the dewy grass, I sauntered over to the center of the clearing.

Perching myself on top of the smooth boulder—or what I now lovingly called my rock of shame—I surveyed my recurring fixation.

My heart seemed to freeze and then pound. “Damn. You’re such a beautiful kitty,” I whispered.

Water cascaded off the tiger’s magnificent reddish-rusty coat with narrow dark-brown stripes as he prowled out of the river toward me with rippling muscles. Its chest, throat, muzzle, and the insides of its limbs were creamy with a milky-colored area above the eyes that spread onto his cheeks.

When I extended my hand, he tilted his large head down, rubbing against it with a chuff-chuff sound.

“Hello, my big kitty. I’m happy to see you again, too,” I answered his greeting. My digits trailed up to the white spot present on the back of its ear.

He nudged my hand away before circling me, his fur caressing my bare legs while I admired the prominent ruff on his head and long tail ringed with noticeable dark bands.

Warmth radiated throughout my body as his fur deliciously tickled me.

“Every dream, you bring me here to watch you swim, and I still don’t know why.”

My mouth fell open when a deer pranced up to the river and drank from it, completely oblivious to the tiger’s presence.

The tiger stilled, waited, and then pounced. The deer didn’t even have a chance to run away before the tiger’s big-as-saucers paws latched on to its hindquarters, bringing down the deer. The tiger gripped its neck, delivering a crushing bite to its prey. The deer stopped thrashing.

My fingers touched my parted lips before I closed them. “Holy shit.”

This was a new addition to my nightly dreams. He’d never killed game before.

Wasting no time, the tiger dragged its dinner toward me, laying the carcass at my feet like an offering.

I gave him a weak half smile, trying desperately not to hurl at the sight of the dead deer. “Thank you, kitty, but it’s a little . . . rare for me.”

He flicked his tail, making a chuff-chuff sound, before his limbs quivered, shifted, and morphed into a very naked tall, muscular human.

“Elijah?” I stammered.

This couldn’t be right. Animals didn’t transform into humans, especially not into a man I was crushing on hard in real life.

“Yes, my Hope,” he uttered in a dark, masculine voice.

Moon Promise by Carmen Fox



Kensi dreams of being an alpha werewolf. Her problem? She can’t shift. To make allies that will one day support her claim, she helps the Wild Pack search for a missing woman. Drake, the pack’s protector, proves to be one heck of a distraction, but when Kensi discovers a body, his story unravels.

AmazonUS




~ EXCERPT ~


Drake dragged me to my feet, kissing, caressing, and crowded me across the living room, through the hall, and into a bedroom. He closed the door with a swift kick.

Who would sneak up on us out here in the woods? Yet his need for privacy was a turn-on. He didn’t want to share me with anyone, and to hell with reason.

“You can still stop this.” I twisted out of his grasp and led him by the hand toward the bed.

The room was caught in a time loop. A teenager’s poster of a rebellious rocker vied for attention with a grown-up’s shelf of history books. A wooden box stood on his nightstand, its subtle earthy scent revealed it had been hand-carved recently. A sign, maybe, that Drake was good with his hands?

“I know this isn’t the most romantic of settings.” He swiped a couple of shirts and a book off his bed.

I pushed him onto the mattress and straddled him. “I strike you as the romantic type?”

“Romance comes in many flavors, princess.”

“Don’t call me princess.” I bent over and pushed a kiss onto his mouth. Hot. Fierce. Demanding.

Even though it was my kiss, the feel of his lips and the softness of his tongue obliterated my sass. For one brief moment in time and space, I gave myself to his touch.

But even this small concession irked. From somewhere, I gathered the strength to extricate myself. He was wily, all right, with his panty-melting eyes and his oh-so-agile tongue, but I wasn’t going to submit to him that easily. Or at all.

I cocked my head and winked. “How did you like that flavor?”

“Delicious. Let me get another taste.”

He pushed my buttoned-up jacket over my head and used my trapped arms to ease me back toward to him. The peppermint freshness that typically clung to him faded under his male scent—light, yet alive with vigor and intensity.

Could he smell me, too? Smell that I was ready for him?

Even though his lips remained soft, he was calling the shots. He switched between taking and giving, between bastard and gentleman. I’d been kissed more times than I’d care to remember, but not like this. Never like this.

He stroked my back, teased my spine, and with a swift flick, unclasped my bra.

Too much skill was in that motion. Too much practice. How many women had benefited from his dexterity before me? How many would once I was gone?

He nudged me, and I sat up. His gaze held a predatory glint, and my bare breasts had become his prey. Even though I craved his touch, I stayed back. Would he hold them like a teenager, uncertain of their purpose? Or attack them with a starving mouth, hurrying me toward my climax with eager flicks of his tongue?

He reached out, hesitated, and cupped my breasts like two prized trophies.

I flattened my breath. Waited. My wide-open heart beating down the seconds.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Featured Read: Moon Promise by Carmen Fox



Amazon US

Kobo
Nook
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All her life, Kensi has dreamed of being an alpha werewolf. The trouble is, she can’t shift. And she’s tried everything: meditation, mind-expanding drugs, even squeezing real hard. Despite her lack of success, she’s not giving up. Her plan B? Offering her talents as a private eye to the Wild Pack. If she can locate their missing werewolf, they're bound to support her claim to lead.

Dominant, stubborn and searing hot Drake is assigned to be her guide, and he’s just too damn good at his job. His hard chest bumps into her as he stalks her every move, while his mercury eyes watch her all the time, tearing down her defenses bit by bit. Maybe she got it wrong and being an alpha isn't the only thing she wants...

Featured Read: The Hidden Court

Click to Read The Hidden Court!

Skylar's only dream since childhood has been to become a sentinel, a supernatural agent trained to fight paranormal threats. Unfortunately, it's a role assigned to non-fae only, and she's doomed to a life of babysitting privileged mortals.

When her first year at the PNRU begins, it doesn't take long to discover the magic school has serious issues. Between the rogue vampire attacks in Chicago and a rising student body count, she is convinced something sinister is at large. Too bad the indifferent university staff disagrees.

Befriended by a shifter who is as frustrating as he is attractive, Skylar soon finds herself trapped in the middle of a centuries-old feud and forced to take matters into her own hands... before her first year away from home becomes her last.

The ideal read for fans of strong heroines, Vampire Academy, and Kim Harrison's Hollow series!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Bite Me by Aidy Award



She’s stolen a soul… and his heart.

Ky Puru is the best chance anyone has to get the soul of the Golden Dragon Wyvern back. Nothing will stand in his way - not demons, not witches, not even the king of hell himself. There’s only one problem. Jada, the thief, is a succubus...and his true mate.




~ EXCERPT ~


Jada paced back and forth in the little room, biting her nails and glancing at the decorative clock hanging over the small desk in the corner.
Tomorrow morning would mark the longest she’d ever made it, one week without blood or sex.
It was also the day she was scheduled for her first busy morning shift serving coffee and donuts at the café below her apartment.
She had never been more terrified in her entire life. Not when the demon dragons had attacked her. Not when she was very little and her mother had died. Not even when Leon – King Leonard, Ruler of the Incubus – had shown up mourning her mother and taken her away to initiate her into the coven.
The woman, or rather, witch, who owned Nine Holes Donuts had mistaken Jada for her newly hired help. Jada wondered if the mysterious man and the woman in white had done that. Until someone else showed up, she would take the job and the apartment that went with it, and keep her mouth shut.
And her teeth to herself.
But the cravings were getting worse by the day.
Chocolate covered, Bavarian cream-filled bismarks helped. So far.
She also hadn’t been face to face with temptation. Whatever kind of witch Ninsy was, she was only part human. The other unknown part of her smelled strange. Like a beautiful, but poisonous hemlock flower.
All Jada knew was Ninsy wasn’t edible. She was super nice, so it was a relief that Jada didn’t want to suck her blood. It made her training and the slow early afternoon shifts she’d started with a hell of a lot easier to handle.
Ninsy had asked Jada to join her for tea every afternoon around one, after the not so busy lunch rush. They had tea and scones together, and then Jada practiced on the cash register, and served the very small trickle of customers under Ninsy’s watchful eye.
One customer, or a cute little family in for an afternoon treat, she could resist.
The hot delivery guy was another story. A juicy, sexy, do me in the back of the walk-in cooler while I suck you dry story.
Ack. There she went daydreaming again. Bad succubus. Bad, bad, succubus.
This whole going cold turkey blood and abstinence thing sucked. Not in the fun way.
She had to keep her mind off humans and all their scrumptious arteries and veins and arteries…and veins.
Jada flipped through the recipe cards Ninsy had given her to study and grabbed a blueberry sour cream donut hole, popping it into her mouth. The burst of fruit and sugar exploded in her mouth. These baked goods, combined with anything to distract her brain from the incessant neediness, were the only way she’d made it through the last few days.
If she could work in the back, making the donuts instead of serving them, she’d have a better chance at not eating anyone, or not getting arrested for having sex in public. But Ninsy was protective about the food preparation.
She ate another donut hole. A few leaves of fresh basil in the mix would give these tasty guys a hint of herbal goodness. Not that she wanted to tell Ninsy how to run her business. At least she had a business. A legitimate one.
No other paranormal being Jada had come across wanted to work for a living. Well, she was going to. Didn’t matter that she was forced to at this point. There was a sense of relief in knowing that if she put in the time and effort, she could make a life for herself like Ninsy had.
At least she hoped she could.
Jada studied the recipe cards and menu offerings, even though she was on a first name basis with every sugary carby breakfast item Nine Holes offered, until she was too exhausted to think about anything other than going to bed.
Leon hated the day, as all demons did, and used the night to his advantage. He thought the whole emo wanna-be vampire counter-culture was hilarious, and a it was great place to find willing-ish victims. She and the rest of the coven kept whatever hours he did even though she and Portia and the other demi-demons could go into the sunlight just fine thanks to the human part of themselves.
She never had though. Before this week, she’d never seen the sun so many times in her life. She might be half creature of the night, but no one had ever told her how beautiful a sunrise was.
However, having to adjust her schedule and get up at noon, had felt like gross o’clock. Tomorrow she had to be at work at six in the morning. That used to be her normal bedtime.
Her head bobbed and the crash of trash cans in the alley behind the building jerked her from drifting into sleep. Time for bed.
She had just enough time to get in a good nap before she had to be downstairs to start the coffee pots. All she’d need then was some caffeine and adrenaline to get her through the morning.
Boy, was she wrong.
The next morning was hell on earth.
“Hey, lady. You gonna get us those crullers, or what?”
Yeah, just as soon as she finished shoving frosting up her nose, because gah, the guy at the counter smelled delicious. In a I-vant-to-suck-your-blood way.
“Be right there.”
This was the third time she’d refilled their order because every time she got a whiff of eau de sexy golfer boy she force-fed herself half their order to keep from doing something worse.
She’d already gained five pounds this week. What was five more?
The second she turned around with the bag of donuts, minus one, the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and O positive hit her in the teeth. “Miss, do you have pumpkin spice creamer?”
Jada bet the woman would taste exactly like pumpkin pie. “Not for a few more months. It’s only Spring. Sorry.”
She bit the inside of her lip to keep her mouth shut and her fangs hidden.
She handed the order over and the next man in line practically assaulted her and her senses. “You’re not out of chocolate raised glazed, are you? That’s my lucky donut. I have to have at least two or my handicap will go through the roof.”
Early morning golfers were more superstitious and demanding than a thousand-year-old incubus. Sheesh.
“Are you Eric?” The oh, so edible Eric? “Ninsy had me save you a couple. I’ll run and grab them.”
Run right out the back door and into oncoming traffic. Because a traumatic brain injury might be the only way to get her mind off sucking every single person in the café drier than a day-old donut.
Except it would take her body only a few hours to heal any broken bones, so a crushed skull and some squished brains would only save her from one day of mouthwatering, soul-sucking torture.
Plus, she’d probably lose her job.
She’d been a fool to think she could be around humans without wanting to turn the café into a blood bath or an orgy. Stupid.
Her stomach growled. “Shut-up, you.”
Ninsy laughed and shoved a mug of herbal tea into Jada’s hands. “Oh hey, Miss cranky-pants. Not a rise and shine gal, huh?”
Ninsy had more burns on her arms this morning. She really should wear gloves or something around the oven and fryers.
“Sorry, I wasn’t yelling at you. I’m working on the whole morning person thing.”
“Sip on that. It’ll get you through.” Ninsy tipped her chin toward the cup, but before Jada could say thanks, the timer on the oven went off and the bell at the cash register dinged.
She took a quick scalding sip of the hot beverage and grabbed Eric the Edible’s good luck donuts.
A line four deep waited at the counter and she raced to fulfill all the orders. Being ultra busy kept her blood-lust at bay. Or maybe it was that tea.
Either way, she made it through the shift without snacking on anything with a heartbeat. She did owe the till her day’s wages, plus tomorrow’s and most of next week’s for all the donuts she’d eaten.
Worth it.
The only thing left was the plate of strawberry rhubarb Danishes that no one seemed to want.
The café was empty for the moment. Ninsy had said she needed more rhubarb and decided to try the fresh basil in the blueberry donut recipe. She popped over to the market down the street to get her fresh produce.
Jada got busy bussing the tables, refilling the coffee bar condiments, and congratulating herself on controlling her emotions and hunger.
She’d learned one important thing. Leonard had lied. He’d always made her think she’d die if she didn’t get regular, almost daily, servings of blood and sex.
The half human part of her was perfectly happy to be on a see-food diet. It was the crybaby emotional demon part of her, that needed a good spanking and to be put to bed.
Ooh. Spanking. Mmm-hmm.
Ack. No. Naughty libido.
She thought the sugar and chocolate overdose was working to suppress that base urge too. Apparently not.
What she needed was a better plan than eating her way into oblivion, and size a hundred and seventeen jeans, to get over her need for blood and sex.
Too bad there was no such thing as Vampires Anonymous. She could sure use a sponsor and a twelve-step program.
Maybe she’d invent the steps for herself. Step one, admit you have a problem.
Got it.
She stood facing the display case filled with the remaining day’s offerings. They were as good of witnesses as she could ask for. She raised her right hand. Was that what she was supposed to do? It felt appropriate, so she went with it.
“Hello, my name is Jada and I’m a succubus.”
“Hello, Jada.”
Jada’s mouth and throat went dryer than the day-olds.
Donuts didn’t talk, so that meant someone else, someone with a deep sexy I’m-going-to-fuck-you-till-you-scream-my-name voice had heard what she’d said.
The glass of the display case only reflected the bottom half of whoever stood behind her. What a bottom half it was.
Walk away, she told herself. Go straight into the back and turn on every noisy piece of equipment and pretend this guy didn’t exist.
He’d go away.
Or not, and then he’d leave a bad review on Yelp, telling people a crazy lady had ignored him.
Damn.
Jada slowly turned while also shrinking down into herself. What in the world was she going to say? She was rehearsing for a play. Oh, hell, could she get any more cliché?
She’d simply offer him a donut and ignore the whole I’m a succubus thing. He was here for a donut anyway. This was a donut shop.
The sooner she got him his food, the sooner he’d be on his way and she could, silently, work on coming up with her other eleven steps.
“Hi. Welcome to Nine Holes, would you like a coffee with your donut today?”
Holy Swiss meringue buttercream. He was even more good looking from the waist up.
Dark skin, tribal tattoos on his arms, and blue eyes that reminded her of the waterfalls coming down into a lagoon at the edge of the ocean. Those eyes went wide, and he stepped back, like she’d shoved him. The bone carving on a cord he wore around his neck glowed with a brilliant blue light.
She’d seen that light before.
The skin over her breastbone tingled and she rubbed at it through her shirt. Oh. The necklace the woman in white had given her moved under her fingers.
Try as she might, she hadn’t been able to remove the necklace all week. She took a quick peek down her shirt and the charm that hung at the end of the chain was glowing too.
The customer narrowed his eyes at her and stepped directly into her personal space bubble.
“No, I want the soul shard you took from Cage Gylden.”
The closer he got, the more she wanted to rub herself all over him like a cat looking for some snuggles. She glanced outside. Yep. Still light out, so he wasn’t an incubus turning his allure on her. Which was the only thing she could compare this feeling running through her whole body to. She’d better get away from him, whatever he was. “Uh, I don’t think we have that flavor, but I can check in back.”
“Good try. You’re not going anywhere.”
He grabbed her arm and they both looked at where his skin met hers. A zap of dynamite more fulfilling than any sex energy she’d ever had overwhelmed her. All the bloodlust and need from the morning dissolved and the empty place inside of her didn’t feel so hollow anymore.
Scales rippled across his arms and neck, and the head of a dragon tattoo stretched up from under the collar of his shirt, literally moving across his neck.
What was this guy? Not incubus, not demon, not human.
The looked at each other and at the same time said, “What are you?”
A smile that made Jada go weak in the knees spread across the mystery man’s face. His eyes twinkled, and he placed one hand on her back and wrapped the other around her waist, pulling her to him. Each place he touched her tingled, intensifying the buzz of the necklace between her breasts.
This must be what the hypnotic allure she used on her victims felt like. Who cared if he was going to eat her? It was going to be awesome.
Adrenaline pumped through her like a syringe pushed it in. Her heart raced, and her lungs worked overtime. But, not from fear. Oh no. This was pure unadulterated, unfiltered, unimaginable lust. Different than the bloodlust she fought against. That had an angry, dark, empty force. The stranger’s touch filled her straight up to the top with excitement and butterflies and all the feels.
It all felt so damn good. She wanted him to kiss her. Stupid. Crazy. Why would he do that? One point seven seconds ago he’d been accusing her of theft.
He brushed his lips across her mouth, pushing his bottom one against hers, asking her to open for him. The only men she’d ever kissed were under the spell of the allure. She was still so surprised by his move to kiss her she didn’t respond, until he nipped at that lip.
Oh, yeah. She parted her lips and inhaled his flavor. His tongue played with hers, testing and tasting her as she did him. He was sour candy and the sea. She couldn’t get enough of him.
She pushed her hands into his hair and returned his fervor as good as he gave. Geez, he was a good kisser.
“Ahem.”
His lips were everywhere she wanted them to be and his tongue was doing things she didn’t even know she liked.
She was probably a slobbering mess, and he could be running the most popular kissing booth in the universe.
“Ah-ah-ahem.”
He broke the kiss way before she was ready. She could go on kissing him for days, and not need food, water, or air.
“Ahhhhhemmmmm. Sorry to interrupt.” Someone stood just inside the doorway to the café.
Eek. She hadn’t even noticed the bell over the door ring, much less another being in the room. Jada was staring up at her kisser and only caught the person out of the corner of her eye. How long had the voyeur been there?
Her guy flicked his gaze back and forth between her eyes and lips, but then stepped back, turning to be by her side.
Jada blinked a few times trying to get her brain out of the gutter and back into her head.
“I see you’re not hurting for sustenance then.” Her sister walked up to the counter. She was looking very cool in her dark glasses, black leather jacket and messy bun.
“Portia? What are you doing here?” Leon had sent her sister away, a mini-banishment. Plus, he didn’t allow anyone from the coven out into town during the day. Jada had been gone a week without so much as even a sighting of any of her brothers or sisters.
She planned to try to get in touch with Portia someday, but not yet. She wasn’t ready.
Portia looked around the café and ran a finger over the top of a table, sauntering closer, as if she didn’t care about this conversation in the least. It was a skill Jada coveted.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your snack?”
The guy placed his hand on the small of her back, all possessive like. “No, she isn’t.”
The kissy face with Mr. Sexy-pants was great, and there was more going on with him that she’d figure out later. But she didn’t belong to anyone anymore, so he could take his possessiveness and put it up his butt.
He was right though. Even if she didn’t know his name, and she’d find it out as soon as she found out why Portia was here, she still wouldn’t introduce him to another succubus.
Dibs.
He was hers.
Jada shuffled to the side and out of his grasp. He growled, quietly enough that only she heard.
Portia glanced between the two of them and quirked her head to the side. “I’ve come to take you back.”
For the first time, probably ever, she felt a little bit proud of herself. A tiny modicum of the hatred for who and what she was had faded, if only for a few minutes.
Going back to live with Leonard, letting him dictate her life, would only push her further into the darkness.
“Back? To Leon, the coven. I… I don’t need them anymore.”
That might be a lie right now, but she was doing everything she could to make it into truth. This week had been hard. Today especially had tested every resolve she had to give up sex and blood.
“Don’t do this, Jada. No one survives without a coven. My month away taught me that. At least I had Geshtianna’s coven to take refuge in when I got to the continent. You’ve got nothing.”
“I have everything I need. I’m not going back. I can’t live like that anymore.” Jada reaffirmed what she’d said with a shake of her head.
Neither of them had to pretend Portia didn’t know what Jada meant.
“You still can’t change what you are. Why do you continue to make it so hard on yourself?”
Portia’s words echoed Leon’s. She was the closest thing Jada had to a real sister, but even Portia fell in line with Leon’s way of thinking.
“You’re the only one I regret leaving, but I’m not going back. I must do this. I want to know what it’s like to be human too, not just a succubus.”
The stranger grumbled something under his breath that definitely included some swearing.
That was not how she’d intended on telling him she was a demon. Crap.
“I was hoping you’d listen to reason, but since you won’t, maybe you’ll hear this.” Portia looked the guy up and down before she continued. She must have decided he was okay. “The demon dragons are coming for you tonight. Leon won’t let any of us do anything about it as long as you’re in your rebellious phase.”
The guy stepped up. “Tell me now why demon dragons would be after this woman.”

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Tangled Dreams by Anne Bartolucci



Can unorthodox restaurant reviewer Audrey Sonoma and Officer Damien Lewis find the missing goddess Persephone, face their biggest fears, and work together to stop the waking world from being overrun by creatures from the Collective Unconscious? Or will their nightmares become real – and permanent – when the pathways open for good?




~ EXCERPT ~


From  Chapter  Two:  

Audrey  stopped  just  inside  the  door  and  stared.  Two  girls  in  diaphanous  green  dresses  and  glittery  wings  stood  in  front  of  the  pastry  case  and  debated  over  which  treats  would  make  them  too  heavy  to  fly.  The  barista  didn't  seem  to  think  it  was  odd,  but  then,  he  had  horns  growing  out  of  his  head  and  wore  strange,  furry  pants  under  a  tailored  hipster  shirt.  Meanwhile,  a  couple  of  short,  stocky,  bearded  men  in  rough  work  clothes  sat  and  sipped  at  large  coffee  mugs  that  looked  more  like  beer  steins.  In  addition  to  the  barista,  there  seemed  to  be  another  presence  behind  the  counter,  a  patch  of  fog  that  moved  as  though  preparing  drinks.  

Audrey  almost  backed  out  of  the  café,  but  she  took  a  deep  breath  and  joined  the  line.  Maybe  they're  in  costume.  Is  the  Decatur  Halloween  parade  today? Is  this  a  side  effect  of  the  sleeping  pills  Kyle  gave  me?  Another  thing  to  ask  if  he  ever  comes  over  again.  

Her  stomach  again  twisted  with  the  feeling  something  was  terribly  wrong,  but  ten  times  stronger  than  the  day  before.  I've  been  too  much  in  my  head  lately.  Maybe  I  need  a  vacation.  She  hadn't  even  noticed  the  store  next  door  moving,  and  she'd  been  here  every  day  except  when  she'd  gone  to  a  Halloween  parade  in  Little  5  Points.  She  preferred  to  blend  into  the  background,  to  watch  rather  than  be  observed.  

She  ordered  and  paid  for  a  coffee  and  muffin,  and  she  was  so  busy  gawking  at  the  strange  costumes  on  the  way  down  to  the  seating  area  that  she  almost  ran  into  the  one  human-looking  guy  who  stood  in  line — her  coffee  shop  cop.  She  stepped  back  to  avoid  sloshing  her  coffee,  but  one  of  the  fairy-looking  girls  turned,  and  Audrey  lost  her   balance  trying  to  avoid  being  poked  by  a  wing.  A  pair  of  strong  hands  reached  out  and  steadied  her.  She  looked  up  and  found  herself  inches  from  his  gray  eyes.  Something  like  electricity  jolted  through  her,  and  she  had  to  drop  her  gaze  to  his  metal  nametag,  which  said,  "Lewis."  

"Thank  you,"  she  said  and  looked  back  at  his  face.  He  had  a  dimple  in  one  cheek,  and  the  stubble  on  his  face  gave  him  an  almost  dangerous  look.  But  she  had  to  say  something.  "I'm  such  a  klutz  first  thing  without  my  coffee."  

"You're  welcome,"  he  replied  with  a  smile,  and  the  dimple  deepened.  "It's  last  thing  for  me,  and  I'm  the  same  way  without  that  final  pickup."  The  pressure  of  his  hands  eased,  but  he  didn't  release  her  completely.  "You  steady  now?"  

"Yes,"  she  said.  She  wished  she  hadn't  when  he  let  go  of  her  arms,  leaving  cold  spots  where  his  fingers  had  been.  Her  heart  beat  in  her  throat,  and  she  couldn't  help  but  notice  the  dark  circles  under  his  eyes,  which  were  striking  with  his  coloring.  Damn,  even  tired  looked  good  on  him.  

She  didn't  want  their  encounter  to  end,  so  she  offered,  "Please  let  me  get  you  a  cup  of  coffee  for  saving  me  from  falling  down  the  stairs."  

"That's  quite  all  right."  He  had  reached  the  front  of  the  line,  and  the  horned  barista  handed  him  a  coffee.  
  
"No  charge,  sir,"  the  creature  said  in  a  squeaky  voice.  "Thanks  for  stopping  by  and  for  your  service."  
  
"Thanks,"  the  police  officer  said.  
  
"Can  I  get  you  a  muffin  or  something?"  Audrey  persisted.  "The  chocolate  chip  ones  are  quite  good."  
  
"I  appreciate  it,  but  it's  not  necessary."  

Audrey  followed  him  to  the  side  bar,  where  he  put  cream  in  his  coffee.  Keep  talking,  keep  talking...  "Do  you  get  free  pastries,  too?"  
  
He  shook  his  head,  and  Audrey  noticed  the  flush  in  his  cheeks.
  
"Oh,  no,  I  didn't  mean  to  imply  you  shouldn't."  Her  face  heated.  "I'm  sorry,  I  should  let  you  go  protect  and  serve  or  whatever  it  is  you  do."  She  bit  her  tongue.  "And  that  sounded  even  worse."  
  
He  turned  back  to  her,  his  expression  bemused — thank  goodness — rather  than  insulted.  "Maybe  you  should  drink  some  more  coffee,"  he  said.  "And  try  to  have  a  nice  day."  
  
She  watched  him  leave  through  the  back  door  to  the  patio  and  couldn't  help  but  notice  his  butt  still  looked  prettyamazing  in  his  uniform  pants.  

What  the  hell  was  that?  I  don't  usually  get  flustered,  and  him  being  a  hot  guy  shouldn't  matter  since  I  have  a  boyfriend.
  
But  I  was  a  lot  closer  to  having  breakfast  with  him  than  with  Kyle.  Not  that  I  could  ever  date  a  cop.
  
She  pushed  the  old,  sad  thoughts  away  and  avoided  looking  at  the  other  patrons.  She  held  her  head  high  as  she  left,  but  one  of  the  winged  girls  snickered,  probably  at  her.  
  
The  crystal  and  magic  store  was  open  when  she  came  out.  Needing  something  to  distract  her  from  her  self-bashing  thoughts — Officer  Lewis  must  think  I'm  an  idiot — she  checked  her  watch:  eight-thirty.  Early  for  retail,  but  maybe  they  were  trying  for  pre-Halloween  business.  Maybe  they've  got  something  that  can  calm  my  dreams.  What  are  those  net-looking  things  with  the  dangly  pieces  called?  Dream  catchers.  She  took  another  look  at  the  dragon  and  pushed  through  the  door.

#  

"Man,  some  guys  have  all  the  luck."  Lieutenant  Charles  Allen  MacKenzie  caught  up  to  Damien  later  that  morning.  He'd  had  to  return  to  the  station  after  leaving  his  house  keys  in  his  locker.  Sleep  deprivation  was  a  bitch,  and  coffee  could  only  do  so  much.  
  
Jolted  out  of  his  haze — why  couldn't  he  just  be  left  alone? — Damien  rubbed  his  eyes.  He  tipped  the  coffee  cup  to  dislodge  that  last  drop  before  replying,  "Yeah,  Charlie,  my  body  doesn't  like  being  on  nights,  and  I  managed  to  not  talk  too  long  to  a  pretty  girl  at  Java  Lemur  when  I  stopped  by  earlier.  Some  lucky  bastard  I  am."  

"C'mon,  dude,  forget  about  the  coffee  shop  chick."  
  
"She  was  kinda  cute  when  she  got  flustered,"  Damien  murmured.  "Really  pretty  green  eyes.  She  offered  to  buy  me  breakfast."  I  should've  been  nicer.  She  must  think  I'm  an  idiot  or  a  jerk.  But  he'd  never  been  good  with  women.  Had  never  bothered  to  learn  how.  
  
Of  course  Charlie  pounced  on  the  information.  "But  she  was  wearing  clothes,  right?  You  get  to  haul  three  beautiful  women  to  the  E.R.,  one  of  them  buck  naked,  and  then  some  hot  girl  wants  to  buy  you  food,  and  you  don't  consider  yourself  fortunate?"  
  
"Not  really."  Damien  laced  his  fingers  behind  his  head  and  stretched.  "But  you're  jealous,  aren't  you?  You  haven't  gotten  that  close  to  a  naked  woman  since  Academy,  when  you  tried  to  seduce  Cindy  Lawson  for  her  forensic  notes."  
  
"It  would've  worked,  too,  if  she'd  taken  any."  
  
Damien  snorted  at  his  friend's  rueful  expression.  He  couldn't  be  jealous  of  Charlie  even  if  they'd  graduated  from  Police  Academy  in  the  same  class.  Charlie  had  quickly  risen  through  the  ranks  and  been  made  a  detective  and  a  special  lieutenant  with  an  office.  Damien,  on  the  other  hand,  was  still  a  uniformed  officer  who  rotated  on  and  off  night  shift  and  took  whatever  computer  was  available  if  he  had  to  correct  a  report.  

Yeah,  yeah,  that's  my  choice.  It  keeps  me  from  having  to  date.
  
"Your  three  Jane  Does'  cases  have  been  given  to  my  team  to  investigate,"  Charlie  said,  "so  I've  got  some  questions  for  you  before  we  try  to  talk  to  them."  
  
Damien  just  wanted  to  go  home  and  sleep,  but  he  knew  he'd  feel  better  with  his  friend  managing  their  cases,  so  he  said,  "There's  not  much  to  tell,  but  go  ahead.  Everything  should  be  in  my  reports."  
  
Charlie  rubbed  his  temple  with  his  pen.  "That's  the  problem."  
  
"What  is?"  
  
"The  reports.  All  they  have  filled  out  are  the  times  they  were  filed  and  your  name.  Nothing  else."  
  
"What?"  Damien  swallowed  against  the  rush  of  adrenaline.  "They  were  complete  when  I  uploaded  them."  

"That's  what  Cherie  said.  Even  saw  the  sergeant's  signature  on  them.  But  now  they're  blank."  

“Damn  computers."  Damien's  heart  thudded  and  his  face  heated.  Had  he  been  so  tired  he’d  fallen  asleep  in  his  car  and  only  dreamed  he  saved  them?  But  the  clerk  had  seen  the  reports.  "I  don't  know  what  to  tell  you,  Charlie.  I'll  redo  them  before  I  go."  
  
"Nah,  don't  bother  right  now,  just  give  me  the  scoop."  
  
Damien  fished  the  memories  from  his  fatigue-fogged  brain.  "The  first  call  came  in  October  seventeenth.  Some  chick  in  a  weird  outfit  wandering  down  College  Avenue."  
  
Charlie  scribbled  in  his  notepad.  "Okay.  What'd  you  do?" 

“Picked  her  up.  Good  thing,  too,  since  she  looked  like  she  might  try  to  climb  the  fence  to  the  tracks.  Might  have  already  tried.  Her  hands  were  scratched,  so  I  ended  up  taking  her  to  the  DeKalb  E.R.  after  she  said  she  needed  help."  

"Did  she  say  anything  else?"  
  
"Nah,  she  was  mostly  incoherent  after  that.  I  just  got  her  in  the  car  and  to  the  E.R.  and  handed  her  off  to  Rizzo,  the  attending."  
  
"And  the  other  two?"  
  
"Same  story.  October  eighteenth  and  then  this  morning,  the  second  without  the  bloody  hands,  but  the  third  looked  like  she'd  been  in  a  fight  with  a  barbed  wire  fence.  I  ended  up  taking  them  to  DeKalb,  and  with  them  being  confused,  I  followed  the  substance  abuse  protocol.  The  only  difference  was  that  the  one  last  night  was  naked.  At  first  people  thought  it  was  a  convincing  Halloween  costume,  but  the  poor  girl  was  as  out  of  it  as  the  other  two."  
  
"Did  Rizzo  do  drug  screens?  Are  they  back  yet?  And  are  the  girls  still  there?"  
  
"Yes,  and  he  said  they'd  be  in  this  morning.  I  can  introduce  you  on  my  way  home  if  you  like."  He  looked  at  the  now  empty  coffee  cup,  his  poor  judgment  hitting  him  along  with  the  jitteriness  that  occurs  when  too  much  caffeine  meets  too  little  sleep.  But  if  he  didn't  go  to  Java  Lemur,  he  wouldn't  get  to  see  the  cute  girl.  "It'll  be  a  while  before  I  can  sleep,  anyway."