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Wishful Thinking by Sandra Sookoo

Title: Wishful Thinking
Author: Sandra Sookoo
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
Publication Date: December 5 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59578-885-6
Genre: Contemporary/Fantasy
Length: 54 pages

Heat Level: erotic
Other:  oral play
Reviewer: Gabrielle
Date: 12/29/11

 This book brings us a hot retelling of a childhood fairytale. Jovie has been evading her coworker’s roaming hands for what seems like forever and now he has tricked their boss into thinking the impossible. Who in their right minds would actually think a woman could transform paper into gold bars but that is exactly what has happened. Jovie is locked in a conference room and threatened with not only her job but her reputation as well.

 Just like the fairy tales that we grew up with this one brings us a romance and a story of evil versus good. Yet this story contains so much more in the romance department. I loved Rand, he is a great man who has spent centuries locked away by a curse and when he is finally able to be release he must make a hard choice. Seeing the relationship build between Rand and Jovie was a nice read.  As with all fairy tales the characters must make a life altering choice to save their true love.

If you enjoy fairy tales and romance this story is one that should not be missed.


Where the Rain is Made by Keta Diablo

Where the Rain is Made
By:  Keta Diablo
Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Published:  August 20, 2010
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Length:  Novel 
Heat Level:  Spicy
Reviewer:  Toni
Date:  December 28, 2011




A decadent-looking savage has captured Francesca DuVall and her brother, Marsh. Now she must spend every waking moment planning an escape. She didn’t count on the powerful draw of desire interfering with her scheme in the camp of the brutal Cheyenne dog soldiers.

Ethan Gray is a curator at a national museum...most of the time, but when he travels through time to help his beloved People he becomes Meko, leader of the most revered and feared tribe of the plains. Although their worlds are decades apart Meko can’t resist the dark beauty he kidnapped during a raid. He has many battles to fight but none he wants to win more than the one that will capture Cesca’s heart forever.

From the windswept plains of Colorado and the harsh life of a Dog Soldier to the placid life of a curator their love was fueled by passion and kindled by destiny.



Welcome to the world of time travel. Hold on tight because we are going to soar into the clouds and delve into the amazing world of the People, the Cheyenne’s.

Francesca Duvall had a quiet life taking care of her father and her younger brother, Marshall. All that changed in an instant the dog soldiers descended onto her home and killed her father. Now she and her brother are prisoners of savages and her only goal is to save them both or at least her brother no matter what she must do.

Ethan Gray is a man with a mission to save his People. He is devoted to their existence and to protect their way of life. He is a Wanderer, a man destined to travel through time to protect the Cheyenne. He is a modern man living in the past, sacrificing his own happiness for the good of the People. His current mission is to save his tribe from being massacred. He never anticipated finding his heart and soul in the eyes of a frightened woman.

Their love is forged on blood, pain and honor. Two people who are from different times and different worlds. Together they must protect their hearts, each other and the People. These were violent and turbulent times and this is their story.

I think this story can be considered a “lite” paranormal. He is a shapeshifter, but only when he travels thru time. He seems to be semi-immortal. I got the impression that he gets to decide when he wants to die, beyond that this is a time travel historical. While Ethan is a contemporary man, most of the story takes place in the past.

Due to Ms. Diablo’s storytelling I wanted to learn more of the Cheyenne and dog soldiers. She pulled me in with vivid descriptions and intense scenes. She made my heart break reading about their history and their devotion to family. I felt like I was transported back into time and was living on the plains with these great people.

Where the Rain is Made is rich in detail. You can almost see and taste the scenery with Ms. Diablo’s descriptive and well written words. You are immersed into the dog soldier’s world and transported into the exciting and frightening life of the People. While this is a lite paranormal read, I still considered it time well spent; time that was enjoyed and will hold a place in my heart. The People are now a part of me and I thank Ms. Diablo for sharing their rich but tragic existence with me.

Don’t miss Where the Rain is Made. Action, passion and history merge together in this gripping tale. I hope that there are more stories of the Gray’s adventures. I plan to be first in line to get the next installment.

Welcome DC Juris with a free holiday read!



"A Torottun Christmas"


Jinsu eased out of bed and tiptoed down the hall to Tristan's art room, where Kelan already waited. He peered over his brother's shoulder at one of Tristan's drawings. "He's so homesick. What are we going to do?"

Kelan shrugged. "Give him a piece of home, obviously." He pulled one of the sketches down. "Although I'm not sure where we will find…what did he call this?"

"A Chris Mass Tree." Jinsu frowned. Tristan had said the things were grown at farms, but the one he had drawn seemed to look like any ordinary tree. "Perhaps we can cut one from the forest?
"We'll have to. I don't know what to do about lights, though." Kelan held the paper closer for a better look. "These are on some kind of rope."

"Tristan called them strings. What about the orbs we hang for night festivals?"

"Those are awfully large." Kelan shook his head.

Jinsu took the paper from Kelan and studied it. His twin had a point; the orbs would never fit on a tree. They needed something just like them, only miniature. His eyes widened. "I have an idea! What about Pelldor? He can make tiny lights."

"The toy maker?" Kelan grinned. "That's perfect! He can probably even make the decorations. They're small like toys, after all."

"If you can keep Tristan occupied tomorrow, I can get everything set up." Jinsu's heart skipped a beat at the though they'd be able to pull this off for their mutual lover.

"What will you tell Pelldor, though? He can't know about Tristan's world," Kelan warned.

"Of course not." Jinsu frowned again. What would he tell the old toy maker? "I'll tell him…I'll tell him it's for a friend's daughter to decorate her room."

Kelan patted him on the shoulder. "Good thinking! We'd best get back to bed. If he wakes up without us, he'll be suspicious."

Jinsu carefully replaced the drawing in the exact same spot Tristan had put it, and followed his brother back to bed, though he knew he'd barely be able to sleep.

***

Keeping Tristan out of the house the next day proved nearly impossible, but Kelan somehow managed to pull it off. They returned that evening, Kelan leading the way inside.

Tristan gasped as Kelan stepped aside. "What…?"

Jinsu stood beside the tree, grinning from ear to ear. Pelldor had outdone himself. From the soft glow of the dozens of tiny orbs, to the intricately detailed ornaments, the tree certainly resembled the ones in Tristan's drawings.

Tristan crossed the room, mouth open, eyes wide and brimming with moisture. He circled the tree again and again, shaking his head. "I can't believe you two did this," he murmured.

"Why not?" Kelan spoke up. He moved to stand beside Jinsu and slid an arm around his twin. "You deserve a taste of home, after all you've given up for us."

"Is it a good Chris Mass present?" Jinsu asked.

Tristan faced them; tears flowing freely down his cheeks. "It's the best Christmas present ever."

Kelan took Jinsu's hand and led him over to the tree. They pulled Tristan into a hug, Kelan had to bite back his own tears at the strength of Tristan's grip, and how Tristan trembled. He stroked a hand through Tristan's hair and kissed Tristan's neck. "Happy Chris Mass, love."

Tristan raised his head and kissed Kelan, then Jinsu and back to Kelan, then Jinsu again. "I don't know what to say," he whispered.

Jinsu smiled and fitted his arms around Tristan's waist. "You don't have to say anything. Just enjoy it."

"It"—Kelan reached down and palmed Tristan's cock through his pants—"and perhaps us."

Tristan grinned and pulled them both close. "I think we have some packages to unwrap!"

***



Tristan and his alien lovers, twins Jinsu and Kelan, are from The Sky People Trilogy, which includes "Dream Come True", "The Door Under the Bridge", and "Follow His Heart."





"Dream Come True" blurb/buy link:



Driven by dreams of his soul mate, Tristan, Jinsu steps through the portal to Earth, leaving all he has ever known behind. Little does he know that Tristan has had dreams too, but unlike Jinsu, Tristan doesn't believe in them. When they meet, will they both discover that dreams really can come true?








"The Door Under the Bridge" blurb/buy link:



Tristan and Jinsu are back! It's now seven months into their fairy-tale romance, and Tristan and Jinsu couldn't be happier. But when Jinsu falls ill with a mysterious, lingering condition, everything changes. Jinsu's magic is dying and taking him with it. Suddenly the couple's desire to find a way back to Jinsu's home world is more than just a dream--it's a necessity. With Jinsu's time quickly running out, Tristan is forced to seek help from someone he'd hoped to never, ever lay eyes on again.








"Follow His Heart" blurb/buy link:



In the conclusion to The Sky People Trilogy, Tristan awakens on Torottu, but the portal wasn't meant for humans, and he's been near death since his arrival almost ten months ago. That's okay, though, because now that he's awake, he and Jinsu can start their life together. The problem? Jinsu has no idea who Tristan is--the return trip through the portal erased his memory of Earth, of their relationship, of Tristan himself. Winning Jinsu's heart again won't be easy, especially if Kelan, Jinsu's twin, has anything to say about it. Kelan loves Jinsu, too, and he won't be put aside for Tristan. Not again. Tristan knows his only chance for happiness--and the only chance for Jinsu and Kelan--is to follow his heart.







And a little something extra:
Caliph's Favorite Holiday Memory

We shifters don't celebrate Christmas as you humans know it—instead, we celebrate Alms.  Alms has no religious connotation, it's simply a time of year when those who have share with those who don't. My most treasured memory of Alms is the first one I spent with my kitten, Mateo, and our son, Jonus. Mateo and I visited the local shops and vendors for gifts for Jonus and each other. I loved the simple pleasure of sharing such a mundane thing with Mateo. 



We gave Jonus a new bow and arrow, and his very first wooden practice sword. Mateo and I exchanged rings. I remember how my hands shook as I slid Mateo's on, how he held his hand up to the window to see the light glinting off the band, and how he cried happy tears.



We roasted and carved a bruta pig Jonus had managed to catch the day before—his first one!—and afterward, I watched as Mateo taught Jonus how to fight with his sword in the middle of our sitting room. We ended the day around a crackling fire in the hearth; Mateo lounging in my arms while we listened to Jonus read us a story he'd written.  I suppose it sounds very simple by usual standards, but being with my kitten and my son, finally, as a family, was the most incredible gift I could've received.


Sweet Magik (Klaus Brothers Series, #2) by Penny Watson

Title: Sweet Magik (Klaus Brothers Series, #2)
Author: Penny Watson
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: 11-04-2011
ISBN: 1-60154-921-0
Genre: Holiday, Paranormal
Length: 302 pages
Heat Level: Spicy
Reviewer: TJ
Date: December 22, 2011

Oskar Klaus' job is killing him. Not even his favorite hobbies (extreme snowboarding and browsing old bookstores) are enough to snap him out of his funk. It's not easy living in the shadow of four successful older brothers and a father named Santa. Little does he know that a kiss on New Year's Eve is about to turn his life upside-down.

Kiana Grant's Manhattan life is a world away from her childhood in Oahu. She traded sunsets and surfing for a respectable career in library science, but Oskar Klaus is a temptation that's hard to resist. Before she knows it, she's in the midst of an outrageous adventure in the North
Pole, dealing with mischievous elves, wicked demons, and a devastating attraction to Santa's youngest son.

There's just one problem...a bitter elf hell-bent on revenge threatens the future of everyone in the North Pole, even Santa himself...
 

I can honestly say that I have been holding my breath waiting for this story to come out. I absolutely loved the first Klaus brother book and could not wait to read more. Thank goodness my very high expectations were met with this adventure. Penny Watson has a charming style I just can’t get enough of. Oskar is a bad boy who loves books so that makes him perfect in my eyes. Kiana is a likable heroine who I found easy to relate to. Watching the youngest Klaus hottie land his happily-ever-after was fantastic. I enjoyed witnessing Oskar and Kiana figure out their feelings for one another. The inclusion of some black magic and many laugh out loud moments makes this a lovely holiday fairy tale. I absolutely love the world Ms. Watson has created, in fact I wish I could move there myself. I hate the snow but I would be so willing to bear it for a chance to live in this magical place and meet the fabulous Klaus family. I cannot wait to see what the other brothers get up to. I look forward to making reading this and the first book a new holiday tradition. All I need is a big cup of hot chocolate and a copy of the Klaus brothers’ romances and my holiday is complete.


Whispers by Suzanne Rock


Title:    Whispers
Author:   Suzanne Rock
Publisher:    Loose ID
Publication Date:    November 2011
ISBN: 9781611186574
Genre Historical Paranormal Menage
Length:   89 pages
Heat Level:    Scorching HAWT
Other: Menage, Anal, m/m,  Oral
Reviewer:  Suki
Date:   December 21st 2011

Rose is skeptical when Lady Denville hires her to take care of some ghosts in her townhouse. She expects to find a nest of rats or leaky water pipes. Instead she finds two sexy spirits intent on fulfilling her every sexual desire. They introduce her to a whole new world of pleasure -- and a curse that may destroy them all.

Lionel and Jonathan have been trapped in the townhouse for decades, waiting. When Rose walks in, they know that she is the one with the power to save them. The key to their freedom lies within reach, and both men must put aside their differences if they ever hope to break the curse that binds them to the townhouse. As the men set out to seduce Rose and gain their freedom, their sexual desire turns into something more. Now they must be honest with the woman they love, or stay imprisoned in the spirit world forever.

Ms. Rock has given us an amazing story with gripping characters and sex that will knock your socks off. Rose is desperate for money, her husband left her in debt and now she has to find a way to support herself, not easy when society looks down upon members of the Ton working. So to make ends meet, she is forced to take jobs clearing ghosts from the homes of her clients. So far all the ghosts have been nothing more then oddities about the houses. UNTIL she walking into Lady Denville’s house and two spirits have sex. Not only can she see them, they can see and touch her. And the ghosts see the way to break the curse that binds them to the house and might set them free. But is Rose ready to let down her society morals and do what must be done to set them free.

This book takes you on a sexual adventure that changes the three in the house forever. If you are looking for a sexy book to steam up your nights this is the one for you. I highly recommend it. Look forward to more from this author and checking out her back list. 


Whispers in the Dark by Cia Leah

Title:   Whispers in the Dark
Author:   Cia Leah
Publisher:    Red Rose Publishing
Publication Date:    September 2010
ISBN: 9781604357783
Genre  Contemporary Suspense
Length:   32000 words
Buy Link    
Heat Level:    Sensual
Reviewer:  Suki
Date:   December 21 2011

Thriller novelist, Amanda Carter returns home to her childhood lakeside home to help her pregnant sister. Memories swamp her and fill her with dread and when night descends on Whispers, she feels her old childhood fears return. She must stay and help her mentally unstable sister, Tracy, who insists she is carrying the demon's child.

Whispers with its dark secrets and creeping lake fog enfolds many a nightmare and a terrifying killer.

Amanda has come home because her sister is in trouble after years of running away from her past. She is now faced with the very things she writes about.  Ms. Leah has created very engaging likeable characters in this story; every character has depth and secrets that are brimming to be told.

While I love the mystery surrounding the house, to truly enjoy this story my suspension of disbelief was stretched a bit too thin in this story. Warning Spoilers Alert.  I cannot imagine any person staying in a house where they know a killer can get in and out freely. To leave a pregnant traumatized sister in this house seems beyond the realm of reality. This is one of many instances that left this reader scratching her head as to the motivations of the characters. Small town or not, I could not believe that the sheriff didn’t do more investigations into certain matters.

And although I loved the hero and heroine, their love story seemed rushed and the conclusion happened so quickly it was jarring. Please do not get the impression that I disliked the story. It was enjoyable and it took me a long time to figure out who done it. I think for some this might be just what they were looking. 3.5 Diamonds.



Pleasure Playground 2: Power Play by Eliza Gayle


Title: Pleasure Playground 2: Power Play
Author: Eliza Gayle
Publisher: Loose Id LLC
Publication Date: November 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61118-663-5

Genre: BDSM

Length: 144
Heat Level:  Erotic
Other:  anal/oral play, BDSM
Reviewer: Gabrielle
Date: 12/17/11

Eliza Gayle does it again. This second book in the Pleasure playground series is a wonderful read. This time we meet Daegan and Jennifer. Both have pain in their pasts that they must deal with before they can move forward and enjoy each other but when that past comes calling it may just be the end before they even begin.

I don’t know whom I loved more Daegan or Jennifer? Daegan is a strong Dom who is ready and willing to fight for what he wants and what he wants is Jennifer. Jennifer is a strong woman who has always had to stand on her own and must learn to trust and rely on others. Not only does she find herself a great man but she also finds that she has some great friends that care deeply for her. I loved watching Jennifer blossom. With the help of Daegan she finds the place she always longed to be in. The two make a beautiful couple. Each finds what they need in the other and love grows quickly.  I also enjoyed the glimpses we get of Eve and her men in this story.  This is a great book in a wonderful series and I hope that we get to visit this world again.


Steaming by Vanessa Barger

Title:  Steaming
Author:    Vanessa Barger
Publisher:  Decadent Publishing Company, LLC  
Publication Date:    March 2011
ISBN:   9781936394920   
Genre YA Steampunk
Length:   42,000 words
Heat Level:    1
Other: A few kisses
Reviewer:  Suki

My name is Cornelius Latimer, and I have fallen in love. The object of my affection isn’t tall and blonde with all the right curves. It isn’t even human. My love belches smoke and breathes fire. My world runs on steam and hard metal, and I am a master of both. My Uncle, Rufus Harrison, has funded my expeditions. He’s gifted me with a lab containing all the parts and space I could possibly need. For weeks I have been toiling over my journals, crafting my biggest and best creation yet. It’s heady, this feeling of power. But I made a fatal error. I told a friend about my machine. And now someone who should not know, does. I should tear everything apart, but I can’t.

Steaming from Vanessa Barger was a surprising page turner. I say surprising because it took me a while to get through the first few pages, honestly there was a moment when I didn’t think I could read more, not because it wasn’t well written, it just wasn’t my style of writing. But once I got about a chapter in, WOW the adventure begins and NEVER EVER stopped until the very end. Cornelius is naïve, young, insecure and a bit of a loner. He prefers his gadgets and inventions to the people of London.

UNTIL…until that fateful night at the ball when a beauty catches his eyes and he is smitten. But as you can imagine, things don’t go as planned. The Time Keeper is the perfect steampunk villain and tBea is the perfect Steampunk heroine/co hero.

I was genuinely drawn into the characters and the plot. I enjoyed entering the world Ms Barger created and couldn’t be more pleased that I didn’t let my initial feeling stop me from reading what was a very enjoyable read. The steampunk aspect wasn’t over played in the story,  many steampunk books forget that the plot must be there for the steampunk to work. This book set in nearly any time period would have worked, the story was that strong. The author left the door open for a sequel, one that I will buy on its release day.



Relieving Zoe’s Virtue by Eve Edwards


Title: Relieving Zoe’s Virtue
Author: Eve Edwards
Publisher: Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61333-144-6
Genre: paranormal erotica
Length: 39 pages
Heat Level:  Erotic
Other: anal/oral play, 1Night Stand
Reviewer: Gabrielle
Date: 12/8/11


After so many duds Zoe is giving up on finding her prince Charming. Having found her last boyfriend in bed with another woman, Zoe enlists the help of a dating site. What she finds is more than just a one-time deal but can she trust in her feelings or is it just infatuation?

  I enjoyed this quick and fast paced read. Zoe is a great woman. I just love her sense of humor. Her quick wit had me laughing out loud at times. As we watch her brave the unknown we meet her date Sinnon. I have to agree with Zoe that he certainly is something else. The sparks ignite between the two right from the start and quickly turn into flames. I loved seeing their relationship develop into more. The two make a wonderful couple.

 The author does a great job of bringing the reader along on Zoe’s adventure, making this book not only a hot read but a fun one as well. My only complaint is that this book was to short. I would have loved to see more from Zoe and Sinnon, they are both wonderful characters and had me enthralled throughout their story.



The Knight Before Christmas - Cassea Major


A Good Knight!

By Casea Major



Marianne Caldwell put the finishing touches on the tree. Not that the five-foot shrubbery needed any extra. The little thing was decked out with five hundred lights, six-dozen ornaments and twenty-five feet of the finest silver garland sold at Macy's. This tree was pimped to the high heavens. She breathed in the fresh evergreen scent as she tied on the small, red, velvet bows, praying for everything to be perfect.

Mare had never waited until Christmas Eve to put a tree up before. She'd never spent Christmas away from her family, either. Nor had she ever been wildly, madly, passionately in love with anyone. Until now. It seemed this was a year of firsts.

Her first one-night stand had turned into her first experience of "shacking up." Dad had taken a little bit of backlash from his conservative Baptist congregation over that one. But in the end, Robert had won them over. Or maybe Michael had. He was the most precious 5-year-old that had ever existed. It was hard not to love him…or his father.

She smiled, admiring her handy work. The little guy would be surprised when he came back from his grandparents. She glanced at her watch. Hopefully her big guy would be just as surprised. Her heart fluttered at the thought of his sapphire eyes and dark, wavy hair. Fifteen minutes and his shift at the station would be over. They would spend their first Christmas together. Maybe tonight would be the night she'd waited for. She hoped so.

Robert was the man of her dreams. She giggled. When he actually kept his hands to himself and let her dream. She'd never met a man with such insatiable…appetites yet so attentive and caring.  But something was missing. He loved her, she was pretty sure. Everything he did made her believe it was true, but he'd never spoken the words outright. And now she was beginning to feel as if maybe she'd been kidding herself. She'd actually said the three little words twice during lovemaking. But he'd not responded in kind, and the rejection was driving a wedge in her heart.

She shook her head to rid herself of the horrid thought. This holiday was going to be perfect. That's why she'd decided on the tree last minute. Robert said he didn't want one, but it wouldn't be the same without it.

Her timer buzzed. The smell of the toasted sugar and creamy butter filled the Brooklyn apartment. She hurried to the kitchen at the same time keys jingled and the front door opened.

"Yo, babe. I'm home. Are ya decent?"

She hollered back, "Define decent. I'm in the kitchen."

Giving him a quick glance over her shoulder, she smiled as she placed the cookies on the cooling rack.

He strolled in and sidled up behind her. "Damn, that looks good." He rested his chin on her head and slipped his muscular arms around her waist. "And the cookies, too."

She laughed and leaned back against his broad chest. Even though his shifts were only twenty-four hours, being without him for a full day was like living without a limb—doable but a struggle. Her chest tightened. "I missed you." Though those weren't the words she wanted to tell him. She held her breath waiting for him to respond.

He spun her around. "I missed you, too, Dallas."

Closing her eyes, she tried not to let the disappointment show in her face. Though they'd been living together since October when she'd transferred from Dallas to New York with her company, she'd moved in with the understanding that it wouldn't be permanent. But the truth was, she didn’t want to go anywhere, and she wasn't looking very hard. However, if he didn't make a move soon she would feel forced to leave.

He brushed her nose with his and softly kissed her lips. God, when he did that her legs turned to jelly every time, and she forgot any reason she should be displeased with him. His warm mouth opened over hers, and he lazily caressed her lips. His hand slid under the elastic waistband of her yoga pants to trail electric desire across her behind. Digging his fingers into her flesh he pulled her flush against him, his arousal evident at her hip. Her body responded without thought. She laced her arms around his neck and held him tightly.

He pulled from the kiss and whispered, "Where's Michael?"

She breathlessly answered, "Still with his grandparents."

His breathing sped. He swept her up and carried her to the living room, laying her on the sectional. She shucked off her bottoms as he unbuttoned his jeans. God, he was gorgeous, and she would never get enough. The juncture between her legs throbbed, and her private placed readied to receive him. He unzipped the loose fitting denim and began to push them to his knees but stopped suddenly. His face clouded.

Mare lifted and propped her body up with her elbows. "Honey, what's wrong?"

His face was so strange—a mix of so many emotions she couldn't catalogue them all. His head turned toward the corner and snapped back to her, revealing only one emotion—anger. "What the fuck is that?" He raised his hand toward the tree.

Her heart jumped up in her throat. A shiver slithered across her shoulders and her voice squeaked out like a meek mouse. "A Christmas tree."

He glared at her. "I told you I didn't want a fucking tree, Marianne."

She sucked in a breath. He'd used her given name. Not good. She swallowed the lump in her throat and tried to keep her voice from cracking again. "I know, but I just thought it'd be nice."

"You just never fucking listen, do you? You act like this is your house, and you do anything you goddamn please." He jerked the zipper up on his pants and paced in front of her. "And I'm fucking sick of it."

She scrambled to find her clothes. Tears welled in her eyes, and chills covered her from scalp to toenails. So many emotions swirled around in her mind she couldn't lay claim to any single one. Hurt, shame, fear. Had she overstepped her boundaries? She hadn't realized his severe aversion to Douglas Fir trees. Maybe it was just an aversion to her.

Was he just being nice by letting her stay with him? He was getting lots of sex. Clearly, he didn't think this a long term thing. And now he was sick of her.

She blinked back the flood and tried to gather herself. What should she do? Afraid to meet his gaze, she watched his feet pace back and forth in front of the tree. His hands fisted and flexed.

Think, Marianne. Why is he acting like this? All the horrible self-doubt came crashing in, and the desire to run overwhelmed her. She evened her breathing, but the tears trailed down her cheeks. She'd take down the tree and go. Her heart ripped in two at the thought, but there was nothing to be done about it.

She ran to the bedroom, grabbed a box of Kleenex, and got the storage bin she'd bought. Robert sat on the couch, head in hands. He didn't look up when she came in. She slowly began to remove the bows and place them in a storage bag. With each piece she took off, her heart broke a little more. Sharp pains of what might have been stabbed through her mind.

The delicate glass ornaments felt cold and light in her hand, and the glitter left a residue on her fingers which sparkled like magic in the twinkling colored lights. This was how her mom decorated a tree – with every color. You can never have too many lights, she'd always said. Mare had never wished for home more desperately in her life.

A sharp rap on the door and voices outside startled her. Robert never looked at her but strode to the door. She continued to pull ornaments from the tree and wrap them in tissue, placing them carefully in the bin.

After a few brief words at the door, Michael came tearing into the room. Even through her tears she couldn't help but smile when the little boy gasped. "Cool, Daddy. A tree for me?"

Before Robert could answer, Michael jetted around the circumference, taking in every light and ornament. "Look a Shrek! And a Woody, Daddy."

Robert came up behind Michael. "Son—"

Mare stopped to watch, wondering how he was going to explain why they couldn't keep it, because she couldn't understand it herself.

Michael grabbed Robert's hand. "Daddy, you're helping Marmie decorate the tree for me?"

Marianne gasped. He'd never called her that before. She shot her apprehensive gaze to Robert, whose face had drained of all color.

He blinked. "What did you call her?"

The sweet angel smiled and with his other hand took her hand. "She's my Marmie." His lilting matter-of-fact tone shattered her heart, and she started to sob.

"Jesus." Robert's eyes filled with tears, and he pulled her to his chest. "Baby, stop now. Shhh. I'm so sorry…I'm so sorry." He pushed the hair out of her eyes. "Don't cry. It's gonna be okay."

They spent the next two hours putting the tree back together, decorating Christmas cookies, and watching Christmas shows until Michael fell asleep. Robert carried him to his bed while she cleaned up the kitchen. Nothing had been resolved other than the Christmas tree. And now seemed as good a time as any to make the break that appeared inevitable.

She dried her hands on a cup towel and turned off the light. The living room was dark except the twinkle of the tree. Robert sat in the corner of the sectional watching the lights flicker. She sat a distance away, careful not to touch him.

The lump formed in her throat again and began to throb. She stared down and laced her fingers, unable to look at him. "I've decided to go back to Dallas. I don't really want to look for a place here by myself. I think my company will let me transfer again. At least I know my old boss will take me back." She took a deep breath. "I wish it could've worked out. But I understand these things don't always. I mean, look at The Bachelor, for God's sake. These types of things don’t typically last, and there's no shame in that. We can go our separate ways…" You're rambling, Mare. Get to the point. She peeked up at him.

He stared at her with eyebrows knitted and a perturbed look on his face. She gulped.

He gestured vaguely with his hand. "You finished?"

Mare nodded.

"Good. Because for starters, you're not going anywhere except right here in my arms." He grabbed her and pulled her into his lap. The warmth of him engulfed her. She hadn't realized how cold and empty she'd felt. "As for you and I not working out, that's crap and you know it. We're great together. You and Michael are the best things in my life, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let you go." He cupped her chin and gazed straight into her eyes. "I'm sorry I acted like an asshole earlier. You scare me, Marianne. This whole thing scares me. The last time I let a woman in..." His voice broke. He closed his eyes and sighed. "When Victoria died, a piece of me died with her. I haven't had a Christmas tree in my house since then. But you come in and muddle my heart and fuck with my familiar life..." He dropped his hand to his side and stared up at the ceiling. "Jesus Mariann, I love you so much it scares me shitless."

Liquid warmth poured over her. "You do?"

He captured her gaze. "Baby, I've loved you from the minute I laid eyes on you." He pulled out a little black box and handed it to her.

Her heart pounded against her ribs and her had trembled. She opened the lid and a gasp escaped her lips. A two-carat round-brilliant diamond sat in a classic six-pronged platinum setting.

"Marianne, will you marry me?"

"You bet your ass I will." She grasped his face and pressed her lips to his.

He slipped the ring on her finger and gave her a long, luscious kiss.



Merry Christmas to all and to all a good Knight!

After signing up for a one-night stand through an exclusive matching agency, hopeless romantic Marianne Caldwell is swept away to a medieval land where she hopes to spend the night with a worthy man of honor.

Unsure of how she got from the Castillo Hotel in Las Vegas to a castle in the English countryside, Mare finds Robert, whose stunning physique and winning smile immediately convince her he's the Robin Hood she's been seeking.  But despite his efforts in saving her from a corrupt sheriff, his Jersey Shore accent and coarse ways unravel her romantic visions.

With her fairytale fantasies coming unhinged, Mare must decide if Robert is just a crass car salesman from Brooklyn or the chivalrous knight she's looking for.

Major Love ~~~ Major Romance

Prior to becoming a writer of romantic fiction, Casea Major worked in the legal field for a non-profit dispute resolution company for ten years.  She is now a full-time mom to three preschool children with whom she and her husband live happily...most of the time.  When she isn't chained to her laptop, she enjoys Cary Grant movies and crocheting.



Helping Santa by Nicole Zoltack




“Hey, Mom, what’s up?” Rebecca Williams asked through her blue tooth.
“Just calling to see how you are. Are you sure you want to be all alone for Christmas?”
Rebecca rolled her eyes. “Mom, I’ll be fine.”
“But Christmas is about spending time with loved ones.”
And Rebecca’s list of loved ones had shortened recently. She'd broken up with her boyfriend, Derek, last week. They were better off as just friends. “I’ll stop by on Christmas Eve to give you two your presents. Listen, I’m driving, gotta go. Love you, bye.”
Rebecca pressed the disconnect button and made a left turn, on her way to the mall to buy her parents’ said presents. Up ahead, a car was pulled over to the side, its four-ways on. She had to giggle when she saw the driver was dressed in Santa garb, complete with a beard, although he was far too lean to be a convincing Santa.
She pulled up behind him and parked her car. “Do you need any help?” she asked, even though she doubted she could do anything.
He glanced at her. “Ho ho… hello, Becca.”
His jovial laugh changed into a familiar voice.
“Jason?” Rebecca couldn’t believe it, but there was no mistaking the twinkling blue eyes. Jason Carter had been her high school sweetheart. “I mean, Santa?”
Jason had started to remove his beard but snapped it back into place. “Someone’s trying to get off my naughty list by helping me out.”
She laughed. How long had it been? Once or twice after graduation, at parties, when it had been strained and awkward since she had decided to go to a school across the country. She’d thought about him on and off over the years, and always compared her boyfriends to him. Didn’t all girls do that with their first love?
Rebecca cleared her throat. “Well, first, Santa, it’s Rebecca now. And what’s wrong?”
“I’m waiting for a tow. Got a flat.”
“Santa doesn’t know how to change a tire?”
He grimaced. “If only it was that easy.” He pointed to the frame, which was horribly bent, cutting into the tire, rendering the car undrivable. “The tow should be here any minute.”
“That’s good at least.”
“Yeah, but I have to get to the mall in a fifteen minutes.” He shook his head, and a dark lock of hair peeked out from beneath his white wig. “I don’t know how I’m gonna make it in time.”
“I’ll—”
Just then, the tow truck arrived. The driver, a short, pudgy man who would have made a great looking Santa if not for his dour expression, spoke with Jason for several minutes before hitching his car.
Jason walked over to Rebecca, who leaned against her car. “I’m sorry, I should have told you to leave. I’m fine.”
“Oh really? Is Grumpy gonna give you a ride to the mall?”
He shrugged. “I haven’t asked him yet.”
She snorted. “I don’t think he’ll be willing to. Doesn’t strike me as having the Christmas spirit.”
Jason winced. “The poor kids…” he muttered.
Rebecca’s heart warmed. The Jason she had known had thought all kids were terrors. The few times she had convinced him to help her babysit neighborhood kids had done nothing to change his mind. How else had Jason changed in the past almost ten years?
She smiled. “Santa, where’s your Christmas spirit? Hop in.”
“I don’t want to inconvenience you.”
“It’s not a problem, I was going to the mall myself.”
His grin was barely visible through his bushy white beard. “Great, hold on a sec, let me make sure that everything is squared away with Grumpy.” He winked.
She laughed and watched him walk away. The Santa suit, although precious, gave her no indication as to whether or not Jason still had the same athletic form he had had in high school. If only he would take off the costume…
With a blush, she returned to her car and started it, and the heat.
A minute later, Jason sat beside her, and they were on their way.
***
Jason snuck glances at Becca. Whoops, Rebecca. Her hair was just as bright a blond as it had been in high school, her brown eyes that same spark. Her heavy winter coat prevented him from seeing the rest of her, and his mind kept providing examples.
He coughed to clear his thoughts.
“Oh no, don’t tell me Santa’s getting sick,” she teased.
“I’m fine,” he said, his voice a little tight. “How have you been?”
“I’m fine,” she parroted, her voice still teasing.
“Good.” He wanted to pummel her with questions—when had she moved back home, was she living here now, was she seeing anyone…. But so much time had passed, he had no claim on her now.
Hell, he should have fought harder, changed her mind or gone out there with her. But he hadn’t been as smart as her, and although athletic, he hadn’t gotten a full scholarship anywhere, and had to go to a state school. Becca—Rebecca—had gotten into her dream school with several scholarships, and her parents had paid the little balance that remained.
“Quarter for your thoughts?”
“A whole quarter?” He yanked his beard down. It was scratchy and unbearable in the heat of the car, although he welcomed the warmth; he’d been waiting for the tow car for a good fifteen minutes before Becca—Rebecca—came along.
“Yes. I’m in a giving mood today.” She glanced over and smiled at him.
“Just thinking you’re an angel for helping me like this.” He winced. Could he sound more desperate?
“Just one of your helpers.” She pulled into the mall parking lot but instead of parking, she stopped at the front entrance. “Here you go.”
Dropping him off. So sweet, and yet he regretted the extra minute they could have had. “Thank you so much.” He readjusted his beard and then reached for the door handle.
“Wait a second.” She undid her braid and pulled out a few bobby pins. “Come here.”
Jason leaned over.
She lifted his wig and secured his hair back with the pins. Then she pulled his wig down. Cupping his cheeks, she moved his face left and right. “There,” she said with a satisfied nod. “Can’t have you destroying little ones’ dreams.”
He grinned. They were so close he hardly had to move to kiss her.
He glanced down at her hands. She was wearing gloves, making it impossible to know if she were engaged or married.
Jason gulped and pulled back as a large knot formed in his stomach. “You’re one helpful helper,” he said, his voice a little rougher than he intended. If Rebecca was married, she might even have a child by now, could be here to buy for him or her.
What the heck was wrong with him? He had loved Becca once, but they hadn’t spoken in almost ten years. How could his feelings for her still be so strong? “Now as long as you don’t do anything naughty, you can expect some nice presents from me on Christmas,” he said, prolonging their time together as long as possible.
She smiled but said nothing, and Jason opened the door and climbed out. After a wave, he said, “Thanks again,” turned around, and entered the mall.
***
Rebecca waited until he walked inside to drive away and find a parking spot. She turned the car off. With a groan, she pressed her forehead to the steering wheel. “Why?”
Jason had never left her tongue-tied before. That was some of the reason why they had been so perfect together in high school, despite their traveling in different circles, her a brain, him a jock. Lots of other crushes had left her stammering and red-faced, but not Jason.
“Does that mean you’ll be sneaking into my house?” she should have said to him. Light and flirty without being too over the top. “Or even, so I’ll be seeing you again?”
She banged her head into the steering wheel again, and her car honked. “I’m pathetic.”
Get it together, girl.
Rebecca walked into the mall. A blast of warm air hit her, and she untied her pea coat.
She rounded the corner, and there before her was Santa’s workshop. Tall, with a chimney, lots of garland, and a huge Christmas tree with presents beneath it, it looked every part of a magical scene.
A large line of excited children waited to see Santa. Rebecca walked around them. Hiding behind yet another Christmas tree, she spied Jason. He sat on a black chair, looking impressively heavy, a pillow most likely. A mom was trying to convince her little girl to sit on his lap.
Jason said something, and the girl laughed. She gave a shy smile and climbed onto his knee. He whispered into her ear, and the girl smiled widely. A flash and the mom exclaimed, “It’s perfect!”
Rebecca pressed a hand to her chest. She was nearing thirty, and she’d thought she would have started her family before now. Although she loved working as an accountant—math had always been her favorite subject—she had never wanted to only have a career. She’d returned home to start her own business, and it was flourishing nicely. What had Jason done since graduating?
Rebecca shook her head and walked away. She had shopping to do. Reminiscing and wishing wouldn’t change anything.
Maybe she would call her mom and tell her she would be coming over for Christmas after all. Being lonely never felt so lonesome before.
***
A couple of hours passed, and Jason stood and stretched.
Heather, the photographer, nodded. “The line’s not bad. Want a ten minute break?”
He nodded. “Please.”
He walked away after Heather put out the signs that said Santa was feeding his reindeer and would be back in a few minutes.
His back was sore but he couldn’t complain. The delighted smiles of the kids as they whispered their Christmas wish list to him more than made up for a little discomfort.
When his older brother had asked him to fill in this year because he was too busy with his newest family addition, Jason’d scoffed at the idea. To humor Jeff, he’d donned the suit for his nephews. After seeing little Rick gasp and believe, Jason readily agreed.
It wasn’t until Rick had been born three years ago that Jason loved a little kid. He even entertained the idea of becoming a father one day himself, if he could ever find the right woman.
That is, if he hadn’t already had her and lost her.
After high school, Jason studied and became a reporter. For the longest time, he struggled at the bottom of the ladder, but in the past two years, he had finally made some headway and earned the promotion of investigative reporter. His editor-in-chief had given his blessing for the Santa project, and Jason had been writing several seasonal pieces, ever since Thanksgiving had passed.
“Quarter for your thoughts?”
His heart skipped a beat as he whirled around.
Rebecca stood behind him. She held out a Cinnabon and an extra fork. “Santa needs some fattening up.”
He grinned. She wasn’t wearing gloves anymore. Even better, she wasn’t wearing a ring. After he shoved some cinnaminny goodness into his mouth, he said, “Actually, what Santa needs is a Mrs. Claus.”
“Excuse me?” Her eyes grew wide as saucers as they sat on a nearby bench.
“For pictures. On the weekends.” He nodded toward the workshop.
Her cheeks stained a bright pink. “I…”
“You don’t have to, Becca,” he rushed to add. “I’m sorry. Rebecca.”
“You can call me Becca.” She smiled, and her cheeks turned from pink to red. “Or Mrs. Claus on the weekends.”
He ho ho hoed as he pulled her close for a hug. She whispered something about this Christmas not being a lonely one after all.
Oh no, he definitely didn’t think it would be lonely. Santa and Mrs. Claus were made for each other, just like he suspected he and Becca were.
My bio:

Nicole Zoltack writes fantasy/paranormal, romances, horror, historical, for adults, YA, MG, and PB, novels, short stories, and flash pieces. She's also an editor for MuseItUp Publishing and eTreasures Publishing, and a freelance editor for Passionate Writer Publishing.

When she isn't writing about girls wanting to be knights, talking unicorns, and zombies, she spends time with her loving family. She loves to ride horses (pretending their unicorns, of course!) and going to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, dressed in period garb.

To learn more about Nicole and her work, visit her website at www.NicoleZoltack.com or her blog at http://NicoleZoltack.blogspot.com.

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