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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Showcase – Dark Horse # 2 By Laura Wolfe. Author @ Fire and Ice Young Adult & New Adult Books


Dark Horse #2

Barn Shadows


 

A year after her tumultuous exit from the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy, seventeen year-old Brynlei returns determined to confront her demons and win Foxwoode's elite Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll at the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to question whether her condition as a "highly-sensitive person" is to blame or if something more sinister is at play.

As Brynlei becomes consumed with discovering the history of the unearthed doll, the bizarre happenings escalate to dangerous levels. She soon realizes that someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the threatening events at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?

 

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Horses
Mystery  Teens
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Excerpt

Flames lashed out against the night sky. Plumes of smoke billowed through the windows, and wooden beams popped and snapped with violence. Brynlei choked on the ash-filled air as fire consumed the roof of Cabin 5. Her body shook. She’d been inside the crumbling structure only a moment earlier. Ignoring Bruce’s shouting, she inched closer to the fire, searching for any sign of Grace. A gust of wind rushed through the trees, pushing a wall of heat toward her, scalding her skin. Brynlei raised her arms to shield her face from the scorching air, but the heat overwhelmed her. She staggered backward and collapsed.
 
Snapshots flashed through her mind: The probing blue eye of the antique doll. The faded, black-and-white photo in the mess hall. Grace’s empty bunk. The Top Rider trophy she’d likely never hold. She thought of Rebecca coasting through another summer at violin camp while Brynlei couldn’t seem to escape the secrets of Foxwoode. How could this be happening again? A sour weight pooled in her stomach. Brynlei was the only one with a glimpse of understanding, the only one who could help. She had to uncover the truth—before it was too late.

 

 Three Weeks Earlier

Brynlei adjusted her position on the overstuffed couch in Mindy Preston’s office. It seemed as if she made one wrong move the fluffy cushions might swallow her whole. She shifted her weight and righted herself so as not to completely disappear. Framed diplomas hung in a familiar formation behind the psychologist’s desk. The paint on the walls had been refreshed at some point in the last year and a half to a lighter shade of blue.
“It’s nice to see you again.” Mindy smiled and lowered her plump body into a chair across from Brynlei. She couldn’t help but notice that Mindy’s chair was trim and sturdy. The psychologist leaned forward, a notepad resting on her lap.
“Thanks.” Brynlei nodded and pressed her palms into the cushions. She hadn’t thought it would be a big deal to come here again, but now she sat on the couch avoiding Mindy’s expectant eyes. She’d rather be any place at all—anyplace in the world except back here talking about her feelings with a total stranger. Not that Mindy was a total stranger. She’d been the only one who understood Brynlei’s distress after she’d watched the deer die. Mindy had been the one who diagnosed her as a highly-sensitive person, or ‘HSP’. Still, Brynlei had only agreed to meet with the woman again because her parents forced her. The meeting had been her mom’s idea—a prerequisite to her returning to Foxwoode.
“How have you been?” Mindy leaned forward. Behind the black-framed glasses her eyes held an earnest look, as if nothing was more important to her than how her patient had been feeling. Brynlei remembered why Mindy Preston made a perfect psychologist.
 
“Good.”

“What brings you in today?” Mindy adjusted the glasses resting on her nose.

“My parents.” She dug the toe of her shoe into the shag rug in front of her. “I mean, they said I had to come here before they let me go back to Foxwoode Riding Academy this summer.”

“Why do you think they wanted you to do that?”

“I guess they don’t want me to get distracted like I did last year.”

Mindy nodded. “Can you tell me more about that?”
 
Brynlei’s heart pounded as she began to speak. “Last summer, I finally got to go to Foxwoode for three weeks. It was a big deal. Someplace I’ve been trying to go for years.” Brynlei’s feet fidgeted and she forced herself to be still. “Anyway, I kept noticing a girl in the woods. Strange things happened in my cabin—items missing, lights turning on and off at night—things like that. I thought it was a ghost.”“And it wasn’t?” Mindy cocked her head to one side.

“No. She was a real person. Caroline Watson. She’d been hiding in the woods for four years.”

“And no one knew about this?” Mindy scrunched her eyebrows together.

“No. I guess I was the only one who noticed her presence there.”

“That makes sense, given your sensitivities.” Mindy jotted something on her pad of paper. “How did you feel when you realized that she was a real person and not a ghost?”

“Like an idiot. Instead of focusing on riding while I was at Foxwoode, I wasted three weeks chasing a ghost who wasn’t there.”

“I see.”

“And my friend, Anna, got kicked out because of me. And I got this other guy, Bruce, in trouble, too.”

“And Caroline? She’s okay?”

“Yeah. She might even be better off now.” Brynlei plunged deeper into the couch before sliding herself forward. “I had to tell Caroline’s secret in order to save a horse that had been injured.”

“So some good things happened because of these distractions you mentioned?”

“I guess.” Brynlei swallowed, but her throat was dry. “I’m a little nervous about going back to Foxwoode. People might make fun of me or even be angry.”

 “Would that bother you?”

“Yes. I’m a highly-sensitive person, remember?”

Mindy smiled. “Of course. Will you see these people again? Anna, Bruce, and Caroline?”

“Yeah, Anna is coming back. We kept in touch. I emailed Bruce to apologize for getting him into trouble, but he never responded. And I’ve talked to Caroline a couple of times. She’ll be working as a riding instructor at Foxwoode this year.”

“It sounds like you’ve done all the right things.” Mindy crossed her arms in front of her chest. “You can only control yourself. You can’t control how other people respond to you.”
Brynlei nodded. She had done everything in her power to make things right. If only she could return to Foxwoode and leave the drama behind, focus on nothing but winning Top Rider.

“Let’s go back to your sensitivities.” Mindy flipped a page in her notebook. “You’ve seen ghosts before. I remember you telling me about your grandma the last time you were here.”

“Yes.”

“So, it wasn’t so outlandish that you thought you saw a ghost at Foxwoode.”

“I guess not.”

“Have you had any experiences like that lately? Seeing people who are no longer alive?”

“No. Not lately.” Brynlei’s childhood friend, Mr. Brentwood, popped into her head. Her parents had assumed Mr. Brentwood was imaginary, but they were wrong. They just couldn’t see him. That was a long time ago, though. She didn’t feel like explaining it to Mindy.

“When I saw you last, you’d been ruminating over negative thoughts. The deer being hit by a car, things like that.” Mindy tapped her pen. “Have you had problems with those kinds of obsessive thoughts lately?”

“Not really.” Brynlei shifted her weight on the enormous cushion. She averted her eyes to stare at the diplomas hanging behind the desk. Suddenly, heat rushed to her face. She closed her eyes as a flood of worries overcame her.

“Brynlei. If there’s something that’s bothering you, now is the time to talk about it.”

Brynlei exhaled. “Well, there are a few things I’ve been thinking about.”

“Why don’t you tell me about them?” Mindy leaned forward even farther.
 
She started with Luke. She’d spent way too much energy on him; it would be a relief to get that situation off her chest. Only, once Brynlei opened her mouth, she couldn’t stop talking. She told Mindy about her date with Luke. About Jackson Woods. About her college applications and uncertain future. She didn’t know which direction to go or how she’d survive without Rebecca. The closer college loomed, the more she worried she was running out of time to own a horse of her own.

“It looks like we’re just about out of time.” Mindy nodded toward the clock on the wall.

Brynlei swung her head around to follow the woman’s gaze. How had time passed so fast? The original purpose of her visit returned to her.

“So...” Brynlei paused, her breath shallow in her throat.

“So?” The psychologist cocked her head.

Brynlei’s knee bounced under her hand. At last, she exhaled and the all-important question spilled out with her breath: “Will you give me the green light to go back to Foxwoode?”

 Mindy looked down and shuffled a few papers before making eye contact. Brynlei edged forward in her seat.

“I’m going to tell your parents that I think you are a thoughtful, caring young woman who is capable of dealing with life’s ups and downs and anything Foxwoode throws at you this year.”

 Brynlei wanted to leap from the couch and squeal, but instead she nodded and struggled to suppress a wide grin. Mindy smiled back and then scribbled something else on her pad of paper.

“Remember the breathing exercises to calm your anxiety.”

“Okay.” She envisioned the steps she’d taken so many times: in through her nose, out through her mouth.

“And Brynlei, try to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.”

“Okay.” She wasn’t sure how that would solve anything, but she’d give it a try.

“Have a wonderful time at camp.” Mindy stood and held out her hand. Brynlei flailed in the pillows before emerging from the cocoon-like couch. She shook the psychologist’s hand and walked out the door, not sure if she’d resolved any of her issues. Still, her shoulders felt looser, as if some of her worries had floated away.
 
“How’d it go with the shrink?” Rebecca peered over the top of two cups of Starbuck’s coffee on the table, her tangle of auburn curls pulled into a messy ponytail. The door jingled as two customers entered the coffee shop. Steam hissed from behind the counter.

“Fine.”

“You still crazy?”

“Yep.” Brynlei smiled. She didn’t expect anything less from her best friend.

“I could’ve told you that for free.” Rebecca smirked.

“I’m leaving in the morning.”

“Me, too.”

Rebecca was heading to violin camp at Interlochen while Brynlei was at Foxwoode, just like last summer.

“I’ll text you when I get back.”

“Sweet.” Rebecca slurped the foam off the surface of her latte. “Piece of advice. When it’s time to tell ghost stories around the campfire, why don’t you shove your fingers in your ears? Or better yet, jump in the lake.”

Brynlei rolled her eyes. “Thanks. I’ll remember that.”

“It’s the least I can do. And I do mean the very least.”

Like so many times before, the two girls erupted into laughter.
 
Laura Wolfe
LAURA WOLFE has been writing stories ever since winning the prestigious 'Young Author' award in the first grade. It wasn’t until years later that Laura realized everyone in her class received the same award, but by then it was too late. She’d been bitten by the writing bug. Today, Laura combines her love for writing with her other passions. She is an accomplished English rider, animal lover, and environmental advocate. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing games with her highly-energetic kids, horsin’ around at the barn, cooking vegan food, or spoiling her rescue dog.
Laura holds a BA in English from the University of Michigan and a JD from DePaul University College of Law. Her writing has been published in multiple magazines, including Practical Horseman. Laura lives in her home state of Michigan with her husband, son, daughter, and dog. She dreams of living in a log cabin on a minimum of one hundred acres, ideally, in a slightly warmer climate.
 
Available Dark Horse Series
Dark Horse #1
Trail of Secrets
Spending three weeks of her summer at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy in northern Michigan should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode, she can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched.
Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows.
Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted “Top Rider” award. Someone soon discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. When Brynlei finally uncovers the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she must make an impossible choice—protect a valuable secret, or save a life.
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GENRE
Horses
Mystery
Teens
EBOOK
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Showcase- I Wish You Love By Nancy Pirri Satin Romance


I Wish You Love


 

Amy’s Gift

 

How does efficient personal assistant, Amy Gallagher, gain the amorous attentions of her boss, James Kent? By playing tricks—until they backfire on her and she finds herself definitely under his radar!

 

Winning Sylvia’s Heart

 

A broken-hearted Sylvia Maxwell finds true romance, with more than candy kisses and clichés, with Jack MacNamara, her next door neighbor.

 

Wishes and Kisses

 

For Angelina Marrone's twenty-first birthday she receives a birthday present to remember; a night in the arms of sexy escort, Burke Severson, along with the proverbial birthday spanking.

 

When Maggie Loved Patrick...then John

 

Maggie discovers her fiancé, Patrick, is cheating on her once again. When she catches him in bed with his secretary, she wants revenge. Then John, the secretary's fiancé, approaches her with a plan. Maggie gets much more than she bargained for.

 

Riding Blue Steel

 

One woman, biological clock ticking; one widowed father with no desire for more children. Is it lust or love at first sight at a Bikini Bike Wash?

 

Genre: Contemporary Romance Anthology

A RED SATIN ROMANCE - HOT

 

BUY FROM


 

Excerpt

 

Amy's Gift

 

“Damn! Where in the hell are my clothes?”

James Marshall Kent, owner of Kent’s fine clothes for men and women, stared into his closet, unable to believe his eyes. Every article of clothing he owned had been removed. Clad in a towel he’d hitched around his waist, he stalked over to his bureau and started opening and slamming drawers.

No underwear, no t-shirts, not even one pair of socks. Someone had cleaned him out. And he had a pretty good idea of the thief’s identity; Amy Gallagher, his beautiful but naughty personal assistant of one year.

He’d been the victim of several pranks over the past month, and had yet to identify the prankster. He guessed it was his assistant, since everyone else he employed was scared of him. It irked him she wasn’t.

James slammed the last drawer shut and thought about Amy’s recent comments to him. ‘Lighten up,’ and ‘You take life way too seriously’.

Amy’s words irritated him. None of his employees dared to talk to him that way—except her. The fact of the matter was her words were true, still, the woman needed to show respect for him as her boss. He’d show her serious, with a trip over his knee for a good old-fashioned spanking, if he discovered her to be the culprit who’d absconded with his clothes. Then the unwanted image of taking her to his bed and lavishing her ass with kisses, over the marks left from the imprint of his hand, entered his mind. With a shake of his head, he dismissed the ridiculous idea. But damn if the woman didn’t tick him off!

He let go of the towel and threw himself down on his back on the bed. He should have been on the road home to White Plains by now, where he planned on spending a quiet Christmas—by himself.

Bah. Humbug. He knew his employees felt that way about him and he liked it that way. Christmas was just like any other day to him—since Stephanie left him six years ago. Chagrinned, he realized he still hadn’t gotten over his ex-fiancée. No, that wasn’t true. He’d gotten over her, so much, in fact, he refused to allow any other woman to get close to him again, including Amy.

He sat up, swiped his still damp black hair back from his forehead, and grinned. He’d go downstairs and fetch some clothes; so much for his assistant’s pranks. Ironically, she’d forgotten he owned a clothing store right downstairs.

Yet he knew Amy wasn’t an ‘airhead’, but the best damned assistant he’d ever had. Though, by her ‘come hither’ looks at him over the past several months, he guessed she’d developed a crush on him. As soon as he saw her again, he’d set her straight and inform her he wasn’t the marrying kind.

He rose from the bed, picked up the towel and tucked it in around his waist again then headed toward the door. The phone rang and he paused. Who in the hell would be calling him on Christmas Eve? He picked it up on the third ring.

“Yes,” he barked.

“Mr. Kent?”

Amy. Guilt must have driven her to call him.

“Are you there?” she asked.

“Yes, Miss Gallagher?”

“Are you…are you mad at me?” she rushed out.

He dropped the towel again. “Why would I be?” He made his voice smooth as silk and calm as a sea with not an ounce of wind in the air.

“Because I stole your clothes.”

“It was you.”

“Yes.”

“Were you the one who replaced my bottle of Spice cologne with the women’s counterpart, Spicier?”

“Yes.”

“And the other pranks?”

“All me,” she confessed.

“Dare I ask why?”

“I wanted your attention.”

“Rest assured you’ve got it. Can you think what I’d like to do to you at the moment?”

“Uh, well, I can’t. I imagine you’re angry, though.”

“Angry?” he said through gritted teeth. “I was supposed to have left for home over an hour ago.”

“I thought you were spending Christmas alone. At least you told all of us at the office you were.”

“I am,” he snapped. “I like my privacy, damn it, and planned on spending the next week catching up on some reading.”

“Whew! I was worried you had family coming and I made you late.”

“Hell, no. My family is spread across the country and spending time with their own families.”

“Okay. I’ll return your clothes, once you hear me out.”

“Where—are—you?” he snarled.

“In the office.”

“How’d you get by the night guard?”

“I hid there until everyone left at the end of the day.”

“Come up here. Now.”

“Why?”

“Talk, you said you need to talk to me,” he reminded her.

She didn’t say a word for a long while, then whispered, “I’m on my way.”
 
 
Nancy Pirri
Nancy Pirri Nancy Schumacher is the owner-publisher of Melange Books, LLC, writing under the pseudonyms, Nancy Pirri and Natasha Perry. Nancy has been a member of Romance Writers of America and her local chapter, Midwest Fiction Writers, for several years. She is also one of the founders of a second Minnesota RWA chapter, Northern Lights Writers (NLW).
 
January 1, 2011, Nancy opened her digital and print on demand, multi-genre house, Melange Books, LLC. In January, 2012, Melange's new young adult imprint was created, Fire and Ice Young Adult Books. In May, 2014, Melange's new highly romantic imprint, Satin Romance, opened.
 
 

 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Author Tara Fox Hall Shares - A Demon’s Point of View, for her latest novel A Good Year.


A Demon’s Point of View

Demons are not my first choice of protagonist, yet my new series centers on the demon Shaker, and his human Debbie, as their relationship transitions from strictly business to romance. I’d already explored vampires, shifters, and sorcerers/witches in my Lash and Promise Me Series, and wanted a male with new powers and weaknesses. So Shaker, who previously appeared in bit parts in both of these other series, finally got his chance for the spotlight.

A Good Year begins with Debbie feeling like she's being backed into a corner with no way out, and then Shaker appears, offering her a solution which she is hesitant about, but desperate and also pragmatic enough to take. Shaker begins his service by saving her life from her colleague Rebecca's cursed bracelet, then begins maneuvering behind the scenes to solve the problems facing Pandora Productions, from acquiring scripts cheaply to orchestrating murders when people won't comply to his psychic nudges. He helps Debbie assemble a team, including human Sheila, the demons Song, Harp, and Rack, plus a few supernatural investors which lets Pandora quickly go from a struggling company about to be bought out to a real force in the indie film world. In short time, the veneer covering the atrocities Shaker's willing to commit on Debbie's behalf began to horrify her. Yet she's already committed, there's no turning back.

There is something twistedly seductive in having someone who is literally willing to do anything for you, and is bound to obey your every command. That kind of power is both compelling and terrifying, like a loaded gun; make the wrong decision and you might cause not only your own death, but also the deaths of others. Debbie gets in deeper and deeper, both in what she and Shaker are doing for Pandora Productions to be successful and her feelings for Shaker, who in spite of his evil is essentially her slave, with no hope of ever being anything else.

I thought of how a real demon would feel facing master after master for eternity, never being allowed to live your own life, always being judged for what you were born into, with zero chance for redemption.  They'd be pretty miserable, perhaps using that misery to fuel the evil they feel compelled to do by Satan. But doing evil makes a person feel regret, and I think a demon would feel that, and the feeling would just get worse the older the being got. Shaker is pretty jaded and resigned to his existence when he meets Debbie, citing in defense of his actions repeatedly, “I’m a demon, and this is what demons do.” But by the end of the book, he believes that as long as they are bound he has a chance to be happy, however briefly, instead of the hell outside Hell he's been living. Debbie gives Shaker that sense of being more of a partner in their relationship, instead of her servant. But it remains to be seen if Shaker can truly be redeemed, or what kind of future they can hope to have.



Blurb:
Faced with losing Pandora Productions as well as her best friend Rebecca to the smarmy Paul, savvy film executive Debbie makes a pact with the demon Shaker, agreeing to bind herself to him as his human master in return for killing Paul and securing Pandora’s future. Yet even as Pandora gains accolades and renown, Debbie’s strong resolve begins to crumble under the weight of her actions. And the pleasure she finds in Shaker’s arms is becoming more than sex. Is Debbie doomed to lose her heart as well as her soul to a demon who has only been waiting for the chance to claim both?
Excerpt:
“I never asked you to kill anyone,” Debbie said defensively. “I never asked you to—”
“You asked me to save your company, and I’ve done it,” Shaker shouted, the boom of his voice shaking the room like a small earthquake. He loomed over her. “What did you think was going to happen? I’m a demon out of Hell! What did you think I would do when you unleashed me on your enemies?”
“These are human beings—”
“Who matter as much as insects splattered on a windshield,” Shaker snarled. “Humans are just another species who think that they are superior to all others…a prevalent notion in all evolved creatures. They are not.” He stared down at her. “You are not superior to me, Mistress.”
Debbie looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. “But I am human. How do I know you won’t hurt me, too, Shaker?”
“Honestly?” he said gruffly, his expression softening. “You don’t. But the same could be said of any human man you know, Mistress.” He leaned in closer, tilting his head. “And I kiss better than most.”
Debbie didn’t know what to do when the demon’s lips met hers. She leaned back involuntarily, but Shaker just leaned forward farther, his lips pressing hers. His kiss was nothing like she’d expected it to be: not brutally strong, or too hot, or even too provocative. It began as a chaste kiss; gentle, languid, warm, with just a hint of passion to come if the merest sign was given. The longer it went on, the hotter Debbie got, the urge to open her mouth growing each moment. Just as she gave in and relaxed into Shaker’s embrace, he pulled back from her, ending the kiss, his red eyes staring into hers, his desire mirroring her desire.
 
Buy Links:
AMAZON: HTTPS://WWW.AMAZON.COM/GOOD-YEAR-UNHALLOWED-LOVE-BOOK-EBOOK/DP/B01MYBIYK7/
 
Enter the Rafflecopter for 5 signed print books until 3-31-16: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/625485ee21/
Goodreads Giveaway for a signed copy from 3-15-16 to 3-31-16: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34145627-a-good-year
 
 
 


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Coming soon Tangled Web of Love – By Joanne Rawson


I am so excited to announce that my latest novel, available in paperback and eBook will be available soon from Satin Romance

Just a little taster

Faith formed a unique relationship with her boyfriend, Paul.

Liking their independence, doing what they wanted without consulting the other, and they had never said those three significant words, I love you, that none of their friends or family could quite understand.

However, there is one complication in their relationship, Paul’s snobbish father, who thought Faith an unsuitable lady friend for his son. In fear that his son would marry Faith and - interbreed; he demanded Paul to stop seeing her.

When Paul suddenly does a disappearing act, Faith decides whatever it was between her and Paul was over. He could come back on bended knee, begging and kicking, but there wasn’t a chance in hell this time they would get back together. However, when Paul returns unannounced, he finds Faith in the arms of another man.

What happens next is a tangled web of double dating, secrecy, sexual favours, and betrayal.



Saturday, March 11, 2017

New Releases for Melange Book, Satin Romance and Fire & Ice

Showcase - ‘A Good Year’ Unhallowed Love Book One By Tara Fox Hall


A Good Year

Unhallowed Love Book One


There's no Heaven . like Hell.

Faced with losing Pandora Productions as well as her best friend Rebecca to the smarmy Paul, savvy film executive Debbie makes a pact with the demon Shaker, agreeing to bind herself to him as his human master in return for killing Paul and securing Pandora’s future. Yet even as Pandora gains accolades and renown, Debbie’s strong resolve begins to crumble under the weight of her actions. And the pleasure she finds in Shaker’s arms is becoming more than sex.

Is Debbie doomed to lose her heart as well as her soul to a demon who has only been waiting for the chance to claim both?

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

“To another fabulous year at Pandora Productions!” Mrs. Rebecca Pall said cheerily, flashing a red-lipped smile at her employees. Her husband Paul raised his glass, his expression slightly less enthusiastic.

If you only knew, Debbie thought, clapping with the others at her sides, the fake smile plastered on her face slipping the slightest fraction. You’re about to lose your company, along with your husband.

She had had to arrange it, of course. Paul hadn’t the guts to kill. His thrilling attributes were few and far between. Their affair hadn’t been one of lust, at least on Debbie’s part. Paul’s assets were what she lusted for: the multi-million dollar company called Pandora Productions that she had given her life to help build.

True, the idea of the film production company had been Rebecca’s, back when they were both students in business school and eager to make their mark on the world. Debbie had been reluctant, knowing how hard it was to launch a business in a normal economy, much less a recession. But Rebecca had been insistent that if they focused on quality content, superb editing, and cutting edge special effects, Pandora Productions could become not only a reality, but an ultra-successful one. Caught in the enthusiasm and drive of her new friend, Debbie had signed on. It was Debbie herself who in her zeal for mythology and legends had come up with the name Pandora Productions.

Rebecca had that gift, that charisma to draw people to her causes. With a few bright techs and film students. Pandora Productions had become a reality. Just a campus organization at first, it quickly became renowned for excellent short films. Then, in sophomore year, their short film about discrimination won second place at the Sundance Film Festival. More prestigious awards followed, as the films became longer and better, the result of investing in top-of-the-line equipment and more talent flocking to the Pandora name. Finally, with the epic fantasy Blue Daylight, Pandora Productions had won the coveted Gotham Award, the most prestigious American award available for independent films.

It hadn’t been a glamorous ascent, but the result of hours and years of hard work, skipped meals, all-nighters, and hard decisions. Rebecca and Debbie had been together through it all, side by side, the best of friends.

Then had come Paul Pall, a handsome film student five years younger than Debbie and Rebecca and eager to make his mark on the world. As his name suggested, he had cast a shadow not only on the company, but also on Debbie and Rebecca’s friendship.

Debbie had known that the insufferable Paul had his sights on the company she had slaved for, that all it represented to him was an easy future. She avoided him, and advised Rebecca to do the same. But her friend that had for years seen every pitfall and shyster for what they were was suddenly blind. Worse, Rebecca had turned against Debbie, accusing her of jealousy.

Debbie had thought about leaving, and starting over. She had the skills and the contacts. But why should she, after all the years she had put into Pandora? A decade had passed. The unrelenting work of building up a business that had been fine in her early twenties wasn’t something she was eager to repeat. No, Paul had to go.

But what about Rebecca? Debbie hated to throw away her friendship after all they had struggled through together. So Debbie made plans for Paul alone, deciding once he was gone that Rebecca would become the friend she used to be, especially with Debbie’s staunch shoulder to cry on. Murder was out; there was too much risk. No, what better way to show Paul for the villain he was than to seduce him, then expose the affair to Rebecca in a tearful confession?

Enduring Paul’s touch had been the hardest part of Debbie’s plan. Thankfully, the man was a ten minute wonder, and not at all concerned with her satisfaction. After a month of sordid couplings, Debbie readied herself for a confession just before Christmas, when she thought it would have the most effect. It was also the most her conscience would stand for. She had never kept anything from Rebecca before now, and the guilt and shame of being with her best friend’s husband was unbearable.

Then had come the surprise meeting a week ago, Paul looking on while Rebecca told her that they had decided to sell their shares of Pandora to one of the Hollywood film conglomerates, Titan Pictures.

Debbie had been stunned. “But...they’ll dissolve Pandora!”

“No,” Rebecca had assured her. “We’ve made sure that Pandora will survive, and you’re not going anywhere, either, Debbie. You’ll head up the company. I’m signing papers January 2nd to attest to that.”

“Rebecca would have signed them already,” Paul put in. “But she was looking out for you, Debbie. She made them stipulate that your job as CEO of Pandora was non-negotiable.” He winked at Debbie.

He likely told her to cut me loose. Bastard, Debbie thought.

“Everything will be the same,” Rebecca continued. “Except that you’ll be running Pandora on your own. Titan plans to reduce the workforce, but that’s the only change. They want Pandora to focus more on independent films—”

And Titan will call all the shots, Debbie thought darkly. I’ll be nothing more than a figurehead. “Are you retiring?”

“We need to focus on having a family,” Paul said, putting his hand over Rebecca’s. “With her hectic schedule here at Pandora, Rebecca hasn’t been able to relax enough.”

“I can take on more work,” Debbie said quickly, seeing a glimmer of hope. “If you’d only said something, Becky—”

“Deb, I haven’t been able to conceive,” Rebecca said harshly, strain etching her face. “It’s been close to two years, and nothing. I want to have a family before it’s too late.”

Debbie blinked, stunned. Rebecca had never mentioned getting pregnant to her at all, or even wanting to have children. How had they drifted so far apart? “I didn’t know.”

“Take the job,” Paul said, offering her a meaningful smile. “You’ve made Pandora a success, Debbie. It’s time you took a break too, and enjoyed life.” He kissed Rebecca’s cheek. “We’re going to. We’ve had a long talk about recommitting to one another.”

Paul had confessed an affair, just not with her, and in that action, nullified her plan. Her shame of the past month had been for absolutely nothing. Debbie settled her face into neutral with effort, seething with frustrated anger.

 

“I’m going to announce you as the new head of operations on the first day of the New Year,” Rebecca said, shouldering her purse. “You and I will also sit down with Titan that morning to talk about transitioning my duties to you. But please don’t let anyone else know yet, okay? This was Pandora’s best year yet. I want Pandora’s New Year’s Eve party to focus on that.” Rebecca smiled. “Have a merry Christmas, Debbie.”

Debbie nodded. “I won’t. Merry Christmas.”

Rebecca and Paul had exited, leaving Debbie to stew in thoughts of vengeance, wounded betrayal, and indecision. Many possible actions filled her mind for the next hour, as she tried to think of what to do. But no scenario she thought up brought Rebecca back to her and got rid of Paul.

“God damn him!” she shouted finally, shoving the top of her desk’s contents to the floor. “Damn him to Hell!”

“A common wish this time of the year,” said a sulfurous voice.

Debbie blinked. Out of the shadows stepped a monstrous creature, a demon from the dark ages. His upper torso was bare, his skin flushed red, straight black hair in a short ponytail. His lower body was animal: dark brown fur and black cloven hooves. A loincloth swathed his hips, made of some kind of tanned leather.

“What are you?” Debbie said, unafraid. “Some kind of method actor? Auditions have been closed for Hell’s Gate since Tuesday.”

The thing chuckled. “No, I’ve no interest in being in pictures. But this is an audition of sorts, yes.” The thing moved closer. “Didn’t you say you wanted Paul in Hell? Or did I misunderstand you?”

“Get out,” Debbie said, kneeling to gather up scattered paper and pens from the floor. “I’ve no time for your bullshit.”

The thing dropped to its haunches, then grabbed her left arm with its hand. “I’m no concoction of man’s making, human.”

Debbie screamed, the heat of the thing’s touch blistering her skin. She pulled backward, sprawling on her ass on the floor, a handprint of reddened skin on her forearm.

The thing stood, then offered its hand, each finger tipped with a shiny black claw. Debbie took a deep breath, then grasped the proffered limb, the heat now that of normal human flesh. She examined it carefully, looking for the telltale signs of makeup, prosthetics, or other fakery. There were none.

“You’re real,” she said shakily, standing on her own.

“If you are done inspecting me,” the demon uttered, “we can get to business, hopefully.”

“You want my soul,” Debbie stated. “In return for taking care of Paul, I’d gladly give it.”

“Not really,” the demon said in an offhand manner. “I want a favor from you, to be determined later. In exchange, I’ll take care of Paul.”

“How?” Debbie said.

The demon held out his hand again. This time, it held a bottle, the label ornate and handwritten. “There will be a party on New Year’s, or so your friend mentioned. Serve this to them.”

“I don’t want Rebecca hurt,” Debbie replied.

“Paul will be the only one affected,” the demon assured. “I will protect you. Once he is stricken, I’ll take it from there.”

Debbie nodded, then took the proffered bottle. “Agreed. What do I call you?”

“Shaker,” the demon said its smile of shark’s teeth chilling. “Good doing business with you, Deb.”

Another round of boisterous clapping jolted Debbie out of her memories. She forced a smile on her face, as Rebecca and Paul threaded their way through the crowd to her.

“I’m so glad the speech came off well,” Paul said happily. “Knowing it’s the last one I’ll ever have to make is such a relief.”

“Shh,” Rebecca chided. She turned to Debbie. “Do you have a moment? I wanted to give you a little something.”

“Yes,” Debbie said eagerly. “I have something for you and Paul, too. Let’s go into my office.”

The three slipped away from the other partygoers down the hall to Debbie’s office. Carefully, Debbie unstopped the bottle, and poured three glasses. “A toast,” Debbie said, raising her glass. “To Pandora, and to us, who have worked our asses off, and now will reap the rewards.”

The three clinked glasses, then sipped the wine. “A strange taste,” Paul said, looking at the label quizzically. “I really like it, though. Where did you find it?”

“A new friend,” Debbie said, smiling. “He said it was a good year.”

“From us,” Rebecca said, offering Debbie a small wrapped box.

Debbie put down her glass and opened the box. It was a small chest, engraved in winged creatures. She opened it, to reveal a small charm bracelet made of gold and pearls. “Thank you,” Debbie said, a stab of guilt making her flush.

Rebecca took out the bracelet, and began fastening it on Debbie’s wrist. “So tell us all about your new friend, Debbie. You never mentioned him—”

 

Paul bellowed, then went to his knees, his face flushing, eyes wild as blood ran from his temples where black prongs were erupting. Debbie and Rebecca screamed, then moved backwards from the flailing man.

“Paul!” Rebecca shouted, starting for her husband. “No,” Debbie said, grabbing hold of her friend. “He’ll hurt you!”

Paul convulsed, his body rippling, becoming more powerful as clothing ripped, revealing reddening flesh and growing muscles. His lower torso began undulating, becoming reptilian as scales formed and claws burst outwards from his shiny Brooks Brothers shoes.

“Paul!” Rebecca screeched, fighting free of Debbie. She flung herself toward Paul, reaching toward his hands to hold him down. Paul flailed, his taloned hand connecting with Rebecca. She fell backward, her skull caving slightly as it smashed into the edge of Debbie’s desk.

“No!” Debbie yelled, hurrying to her friend. She pulled with all her strength on Rebecca’s prone form, dragging her away from Paul.

“What...have you done...to me?” Paul rasped out, his red eyes focusing on Debbie. “You...bitch—” He darted for her on all fours, claws raking the floor.

Shaker appeared, grasping Paul by the nape of his now scaly neck. “Not a chance.” With a smile at Debbie, he and Paul disappeared.

Debbie sighed in relief, then reluctantly left Rebecca’s side, calling for help.

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Genres

Paranormal
Demons
Romance
Series
? Heat Level: 3 Boiling

Sensual, yet more explicit love scenes, and the language may be more graphic and direct.


AUTHOR LINKS



Melange Books: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/tarafoxhall/index.html






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