Monday, June 26, 2017

Storming the Castle by Arianna Hart ❤️ Book Tour & Gift Card Giveaway ❤️ (Contemporary Romance)



Sam Castleton has fame, houses all over the world, and one really big problem—he’s got an album due and he can’t write. All he wants is a quiet place to get his head straight. Dale, Georgia, seems like the perfect quiet spot to try to hear the music again and get some lyrics down on paper.

With her daughter’s paternal grandparents making a sudden appearance and the difficulties of running her own lodge and being a single mom, Faith Adams doesn’t have the time to worry about the mysterious stranger staying in one of her cottages, no matter how sexy he is.

Her newest guest may be surly, but his money is good, so she’s willing to overlook his surly nature. If only she could ignore the way he awakens a searing hunger in her...





“Knock-knock. Sam?” Faith called in through the door as she opened it. It was the first time she’d been in the blue cottage since the night she’d shown it to him. The flowers she’d left for him were dead, and he had two full bags of garbage tied up and set near the door, but other than that, the place didn’t look half bad. Clean dishes rested on a drying board next to the sink, some pencils and paper were on the coffee table, and a half-full bottle of Gatorade was on the kitchen counter. Considering she hadn’t been in to tidy up, it was a pleasant surprise.

“I’ll be down in a second,” he answered from the loft.

She could smell soap and steam and figured he must have just taken a shower. Don’t think about him walking around up there naked.

“I can leave the laundry basket and come back if you’d like.”

“No, it’s—shit—fine.”

“Is something wrong?”

“Not wrong, just irritating. I waited too long to do laundry and now I only have one pair of clean jeans left.”

“I can take care of that in no time.”

“I mean, that’s all I have left. One pair of jeans. All my shirts and stuff are nasty.”

“Oh.” Faith’s face got hot as she realized what he wasn’t saying. His bare feet appeared on the steps and she tried not to look at the front of his jeans and imagine him going commando underneath.

Thank God, the pile of laundry he carried blocked his view of her, because she was sure she was staring. A thin line of dark hair trailed from his belly button down to the waistband of his low slung jeans and a few drops of water sparkled in the light.

For the last two weeks, every time she’d seen Sam, he’d been in running shorts and a T-shirt. Seeing him shirtless sent her blood pressure through the roof. Her mouth watered and she imagined capturing those droplets with her tongue as she followed the path to what waited behind the fly.

“I think this is all of it,” he said, dropping the pile of laundry on the couch.

“Did you remember your towels? I brought you some new ones.” Her voice was thick and raspy, and she tried to discreetly clear her throat while looking anywhere but at his naked chest.

“Yeah, they’re in the pile.”

“Good. Great. I’ll just strip the…ah, the bed and put on the new sheets.” She scooped the clean linen out of the laundry basket and bolted for the stairs. “Just put your laundry in the basket, and I’ll bring it with me when I go back to the house.”

If her face got any hotter, she’d burst into flame.




   

Luca by Sarah Castille ❤️ Book Blitz & Gift Card Giveaway ❤️ (Romantic Suspense)



Luca is the second book in a full-length, standalone series by New York Times bestselling author, Sarah Castille, set in Las Vegas and featuring deliciously sexy mafia bosses and the women who can’t help but love them.

Luca Rizzoli was nearly destroyed by a brutal betrayal that cost him his family. Now a ruthless crime boss in Las Vegas, he lets nothing touch his frozen heart...until a smoldering encounter with a beautiful stranger ignites his passion. One night isn’t enough for a man who takes what he wants—and Luca will do whatever he can to possess his mysterious temptress...

Police detective Gabrielle Fawkes lives for revenge. She lost everything at the hands of an unforgiving ruler of the Vegas underworld. Now she wants to see him six feet under. But when a near-fatal attack leads her into Luca’s arms, what was meant to be one night of unbridled passion becomes something forbiddingly more. Luca has his own agenda, but when strong, determined, kick-ass detective Gaby sets her sights on her target, Luca feels compelled to stand by her side and protect her at all costs. However, pursuing danger comes at a high price—and both Gaby and Luca must work together in order to eliminate the dark enterprise that threatens them.




“You’re mine, Gabrielle. You were mine from the moment we met. Nico wants me to end our relationship after we find Garcia, but we will find a way to make it work, even if I have to leave the family.” He claimed her with a kiss, fierce and demanding, so passionate her knees went weak and she had to clutch his shoulders to stay upright.
She wanted to believe him, but it seemed an impossible task. From what she understood, there were only two ways out of the Mafia: death and witness protection. And after what he’d just told her about his father, there was no way she could let him make the choice that would mean losing the one thing he’d been struggling for all his life. She didn’t want Luca without that chunk of flesh. She wanted him whole.
“What were they going to do to you?”
“Hurt me. Maybe break a few bones.”
“Because of me,” she said bitterly.
“Because I broke the rules.” His rough hand cupped her cheek, his thumb brushing lightly over her jaw. “Mio angelo. I would endure any hardship for you. I will welcome the pain because it gives us time to be together. Every extra day I get to spend with you is worth a dozen bruises.”
“Luca.” His name was a prayer on her lips. She had lost David. She wasn’t going to lose Luca, too. There had to be a way for them to be together that didn’t involve him getting killed or beaten with a baseball bat or losing the honor that was such an important part of his life. “I think I just showed you I would make the same sacrifice for you.”
“And you will be punished for it.” He wrapped his arms around her so tight she could barely breathe.
“Punished?”
He buried his face in her neck, nuzzled behind her ear, his five o’clock shadow a sensual burn over her skin. “I will give you more pleasure than you can bear.”
Gabrielle swallowed hard and all her awareness suddenly centered on the pulse of arousal between her thighs. “I want you to be rough.”
“I’ll be rough.”
“I want you to tear me apart so you understand that how you feel about me is how I feel about you. How your pain is my pain. How I couldn’t sit there and watch you suffer.”
He drew in a ragged breath. “I will break you and then I will put you together again. I will mark you so that every time you look in the mirror you think of me, and every man who dares look at you knows you are mine.”
“I want to be yours, Luca,” she whispered. “And I want you to be mine.”
“Sei mia per sempre, anima e cuore. Senza di te non vivo piu. You are mine forever,” he translated for her. “Body and soul. Without you, I couldn’t live.”
She surrendered to him, unable to do anything but feel as he feathered kisses down her throat to the sensitive juncture of her neck and shoulder.
And then he leaned down and bit her so deliciously hard she screamed.




    



Harper's Place by Sheryl Winters ❤️ Book Blast & Gift Card Giveaway ❤️ (Contemporary Romance)



Harper Grey is fed up with over-bearing men. Her father wants to sell the family hamburger joint to her brother because a woman could never make it successful.

Harper knows she has the same flair for business as her mother, and sexy Navy SEAL Patrick O’Brien dares her to prove it to the world.

When duty calls and Patrick must leave her side, will Harper be strong enough to make her dream a reality?





Aunt Adelina’s dining room hasn’t changed in years. The same flower embroidered tablecloth adorns the long, low kitchen table. The material is only slightly yellow with age and protected by a heavy plastic covering. The hard, low-backed captain chairs have me squirming in my seat. Across the table from me, Tony and Dad shovel Aunt Adelina’s spinach lasagna into their mouths as if this were their last meal.

“So how’s the job hunt going?” Tony smirks. “I sent you that link for the secretarial position at my company didn’t I?”

I am here only for Aunt Adelina and her free food, I remind myself even as I twist the bread on my plate into tiny pieces onto my plate. “Was that the email I deleted?” I reply in a voice as sweet as maple syrup. I also blocked your fool-ass account.

“Now Slugger,” Dad says with a heavy frown. “I know Tony meant well. He tells me things have been rough since you quit Just Burgers.”

That is so not how I remember it. “My life isn’t rough. It’s gotten considerably better, and I didn’t quit, you fired me so you could shut down Just Burgers instead of letting your daughter run it remember?” I drawl out the ‘r.’

Uncomfortable silence reigns at the table, only broken by the crunching of a dinner roll by Aunt Adelina. In contrast, Uncle Ed’s hand is extended in the air with a roll clutched tight in his fist.

Dad clears his throat but not before shooting a dagger-filled look at me. “Harper, about that. I counted on you to help me with the cleaning of the store. You know my arthritis acts up in the winter and—”

I leap to my feet. “Yes, and I expected to be treated as part of the family and not just a helper when it’s convenient.”

“Who wants another garlic roll? Here, pass this around.” Aunt Adelina thrusts the basket into my hands. The basket has traveled the table so many times tonight I’m amazed it doesn’t have its own airline miles.

“It’s a good thing you closed the store, Dad.” Tony shoots a sly glance in my direction. “It was more than time for you to get out of that money pit. Wintering in Florida will be the best thing that ever happened to you.”

Tony shovels another piece of lasagna onto his plate, and I fist my hands at my side.

“Tony, are you sure you want that big of a piece?” The words erupt from my lips before I can stop them. “You’re getting kinda chunky, especially around the middle.”

“What?” Tony’s head jerks up. He straightens and sucks in his breath as if it will make his beer gut disappear.

“That’s one thing I admire about Patrick. He works out every day. My boyfriend picked an active job.” I glance at Tony’s midsection. “And you. You picked a job where you will get progressively fatter. By the time you’re forty-five, we’ll be picking out your coffin.”

Aunt Adelina coughs into her napkin.

“Listen, Harper, just because I finally got Dad to see reason, doesn’t mean that you need to take it out on us. Dad closing down shop and not selling to you was for your own good, you know,” Tony says. “We thought about it carefully, weighed the pros and cons.”

“My own good! You are a sneaky toad of a brother. You have no clue what’s for my own good because you take the safe road, always! I’ve got half a mind to—”

“Enough arguing.” Aunt Adelina’s thundering voice has the entire table turning toward her. “It’s time for pie.” She grabs my arm and tugs me toward the kitchen. “Young lady, you will help me.”

“I’m not serving Tony. He’s fat enough,” I say over my shoulder loud enough that the sneaky toad will hear me.

“Harper Elizabeth Gray! Enough squabbling with your brother.” Auntie releases my arm and grabs up a pie knife, pointing its blunt end at me. “You will pretend to be nice if it kills you. We are a family and we will act like it.” She slices into the lemon meringue while I continue to stew. “Now give this to Tony.” Aunt Adelina slaps a full plate of pie into my hand and pushes me toward the dining room.

“Fine.” I hesitate, turn and grab another plate she’s dished up, and slide that pie on top of Tony’s. Grinning, I scoop up an extra spoon of whipped cream, smothering both pieces. Ooo… With my free hand, I locate auntie’s secret stash of chocolate chips and sprinkle some on top just for the hell of it. What is it about Tony that makes me feel like a ten-year-old again?

Aunt Adelina groans. “Child, you’ll be the death of me.”

Tony accepts his piece, but not after giving me a pointed sneer. I pat my much slimmer stomach and smile as wide as I can.

I no sooner reach the kitchen than another slice of pie is shoved into my hand. Dutifully, I begin passing plates around the table again. When everyone has been served, I clear the table of dishes and escape to the quiet of the kitchen. The silence of the small room is a pointed relief. Twenty more minutes to the gift opening. Five minutes of Dad and Tony glaring at me over matching pink bow ties. Fifteen more minutes to clean up the living room and say my goodbyes. One hour to the subway and I’ll be home by midnight.

I can do this!

Filled with irrational anger, I begin scrubbing away at the plates. Stupid men and their inability to do any amount of dishes.

“Well, now, little girl. It’s not like you to slam things and run away.” Aunt Adelina drops an empty pie plate on the counter. “You want to tell me what’s going on? You didn’t break up with that nice young soldier of yours did you?”

The bitterness I’ve been keeping inside, the many days of stomping the pavement looking for a backer, the many nights of trying to come up with just the right words to convince bankers to loan me cash crashes down on me. “How come you’re not mad because they let Just Burgers go instead of helping me buy it?”

“Oh, honey.” She picks up a dish towel and dries off the plate I hand her. “Why should we be mad? It’s just the way the world is.”

“Chauvinistic you mean?”

“This whole thing reminds me of when your mom and dad started that damned money pit of a restaurant. Elizabeth had her heart set on some name and your father just wouldn’t give in. He was like that over the salad bar she wanted so bad. She would have been so ahead of her time.” Aunt Adelina pats me on the shoulder. “Your father loves you, baby girl, don’t ever forget that. It’s not his fault that he could never see the forest for the trees. Some men are like that. So damn fool stubborn they just can’t admit when they are wrong.” She dumps the empty ham platter into the soapy water. “So are you still committed to this dream of yours?”

I lift my chin. “I need time to regroup. I know what you’re thinking, that I’m wasting my time at the corner station, but it’s money coming in. I’ve been turning in resumes on my days off. I was told I needed experience, a backer, and capital.” Thank you, Mrs. Anderson. “I plan on working on one thing at a time.”

Can she hear the desperation in my voice?

Aunt Adelina sighs as she puts a plate into the cupboard over her head. “Well, the gas station is good honest work. That reminds me, I found something of your grandmother’s that I wanted you to have.” She peers around the corner, lifting up piles of mail off the counter. “Now where did I put my handbag?” She leaves the room and comes back a few moments later, her large black purse swinging from her arm. “I have to remember to clean this out. Do you remember that house Grandma Alicia lived in? That big rambling structure?”

“Yes.” Mom hated having to sell the house after Grandma died. She and Aunt Adelina split the profits in half. And Dad and Mom used her share to start Just Burgers. Aunt Adelina used hers to buy her home.

Aunt Adelina pulls out a photograph and hands it to me. It’s the three of them standing in front of that old house. Aunt Adelina, Mom, and Grandma, three of the toughest, hardest working women I know.

“Put that on the mantle.” She pats me on the shoulder. “Then you look at it every day. That’s a picture of women who know what good, hard drudgery is. You work at your gas station if you have to, to make ends meet, but don’t you dare ever give up.”

I finger the photograph. These women would never give up, but this is so hard. “I’m scared I’ll never get a loan.”

“You’ll get it, Harper. You just need faith. Mountains aren’t moved in a day. You just keep trying and I’ll just keep being proud of you.”

The photo bends in my hand and I carefully smooth it out. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll fail? What if no one ever believes in me the way you do, what if—”

The palm of her hand shushes me with one movement. She pulls me in by the shoulders with a gentle squeeze. “Enough. You are Harper Gray. The strongest, smartest kid I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. You come from a long line of strong women. Now hand me that dish. We’ve got to get these done or we’ll never get to opening those presents.”

Breathe Harper, remember you are a professional. You meet hot guys every day.


    

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Game On Askole by Gail Koger ❤️ Spotlight & Gift Card Giveaway ❤️ (Sci-Fi Romance)



Tihar travels to Earth to find and claim a Jones female. He knows they are fearless, psychic warriors, and talented in bed sport. Ten minutes after meeting Sarah, Tihar knows the feisty little human is the one he has been searching for. Now he must convince Sarah that she's meant to be his. He thinks Earth girls are easy. he’s about to learn that messing with a Jones female is never a good idea.

The first time Sarah sees Tihar, she's a wee bit freaked out. The Askole warrior has tentacles, snakelike features, and black, armored-plated skin. Even weirder, she finds him strangely attractive. Tihar's torso is sculpted perfection and his black scales are actually kind of sexy. Who knew challenging Tihar to combat would start the Askole mating dance?

As the two grow closer, their romance comes to a screeching halt when Askole rebels attack Tihar's home world. He tells Sarah she is his heart's destiny and that he will love her to the end of time, then he abruptly severs their mental bond and disappears. Sarah's left reeling from shock, but she's a Jones and isn't about to let a galactic war stop her from hunting down her mate. Can the two of them find their way back into each other’s arms?

Publisher's Note: The first half of Game On Askole is a prequel to Vexing Voss, and the second part moves forward three years.


With a frightened whinny, the horse skidded to a complete stop.

The light faded, and a seven-foot-tall medieval knight, complete with black horned helmet and armor, stood there.

The horse took one look the knight and started bucking. I flew off and landed on a prickly bush. “Yeow!”

Sam sailed over the horse’s head and crashed into the knight. He, she, or it just stood there. The black armor seemed to absorb the light until all we saw was its glowing yellow eyes.

“Sonvabitch! That smarts.” I yanked a thorn out of my ass and very carefully climbed to my feet. Was the knight in cahoots with the Tai-Kok or the Coletti? Either way, it was bad for us.

Sam stared up at the knight and asked mentally, “Am I seeing things, or is that a medieval English knight?”

“It does look like one, but medieval knights don’t carry laser pistols. It’s alien. Got any weapons?”

“A knife. You?”

“Nope.” I eyed the knight. “That armor looks pretty heavy. We should be able to outrun him.”

“My thoughts too.” Sam got to her feet.

A deep growly voice asked in my head, “Do you belong to the Jones clan?”

I said out loud, “Oh my God, it’s talking to me, Sam.”

“Me too, and psychically.”

“The vibes I’m getting from it are definitely male.” Goose bumps skittered over my skin. It was like my entire body was being stroked with a feather. “And he’s horny,” I added.

“You think he’s looking for Kaylee?”

I shrugged. “Who knows?”

The knight pushed an emblem on his gauntlet. The helmet shrank away, revealing an alien nightmare. Tentacles squirmed about his snakelike features. His black skin had armor-plated scales. He cocked his head to one side and bared some evil-looking fangs.

“Is that a smile?”

“Could be. I think he’s trying to look friendly,” my cousin said incredulously.

“Friendly?” I chortled. “That smile would send most sensible people running for their lives.”

“Yup. Good thing we aren’t sensible.”

The alien’s red forked tongue slithered over his lips.

We both took a step back. Sam pulled her knife. “If he tries to eat us, I’m slitting his throat.”

The knight’s compelling yellow eyes studied us as he asked again, “Do you belong to the Jones clan?”

Sam sidestepped the question with one of her own, “Who are you?”

“I am called Tihar.”

I could see why Voss had picked him to be my interrogator. Tihar was damn scary looking. “He’s working with the Coletti,” I told Sam and switched to mind talk, “You’re an Askole?”

“I am,” Tihar said proudly.

I casually glanced around for something I could use as a weapon. Nothing but rocks and cactus. “What do you want?”

“I seek females from the Jones clan.” The Askole suddenly picked Sam up.

My cousin stabbed him in the neck with her tactical knife. The blade didn’t even break the skin.

Tihar disarmed Sam and sniffed her. “You smell like Kaylee. Do you share her talent in bed sport?”

“What? No!” Sam squawked in outrage.

Good God, Kaylee’s mental broadcast of her bedroom activities had the entire male population of the galaxy wanting their own hot-to-trot Jones female.

“Hey, knock it off, you pervert.” Sam smacked wildly at the tentacle slithering over her chest. “How do you know Kaylee?”

“We had many adventures on the planet Roma.” Tihar dropped Sam and reached for me.

I ducked under his outstretched arm and took refuge behind a Saguaro cactus. “You do not want to smell me.”

Moving faster than the eye could follow, Tihar zoomed around the cactus and scooped me up. I gasped as he stuck his nose in my armpit.

Tihar inhaled, and his tentacles stood straight up. “Gak. You stink worse than Davit blood worms.”

“I do, don’t I?” I couldn’t resist touching Tihar’s face. His skin kinda felt like a rattlesnake’s. Dry and scaly. “Put me down. C’mon, big guy, I don’t like being manhandled.” One of Tihar’s tentacles stung my neck. “Ow!”

“Clever little female, you are disguising your scent.” His tentacle crawled down the front of my jumpsuit. “You are a Jones female with fine breasts.”

Shit! It was like being groped by an octopus. I gripped the silky tentacles and yanked them off my breasts. “On Earth, you don’t put your hands on a woman without permission.”

“Askole mating rituals allow us to touch a chosen female.” A tentacle caressed my face. “So soft.” Without any warning, Tihar spun me upside down and jammed his face in my crotch.

Sam had the gall to laugh. “Is that romance Askole style?”

God, I hoped not. I punched him in the jaw and shouted mentally, “Stop that!” I rubbed my knuckles. Damn. It was like hitting a brick wall.

The Askole flipped me around. “How else am I to determine if you are fertile?”

“A medical scanner,” I retorted and swatted at another tentacle. “Why do you need to know if I’m fertile?”

“I am looking for a strong female to mate with.”

Oh, hell no. I squirmed frantically. “Put. Me. Down. Now!”

“I will offer three times the bride price for you and the other female.”

“No! We are not for sale,” Sam yelled.

Tihar totally ignored her. “Who is the head of your clan?”

“The Overlord. Release her,” Voss growled. Blood covered the left side of his face.

Oh, thank God. I couldn’t believe how happy I was to see the Battle Commander. Voss, on the other hand, looked like he wanted to throttle me. It wasn’t my fault he forgot to duck.

“I came to this world to find and claim a Jones female. You will not stop me,” Tihar bellowed.

“You can have a Jones female. But not these two. Give Sarah to me.” Voss bared his fangs.

I shot Voss a venomous glare. “You’re giving away Jones women like prizes now? Become our allies and win a hot-to-trot mate?”

“I will fight you for Sarah.” Tihar’s gaze was full of deadly resolve.

Sam rolled her eyes. “Should have known. Testosterone is universal.”

Seizing handfuls of Tihar’s tentacles, I jerked them as hard as I could. “Hey! I’m a warrior. I have killed over eight hundred Tai-Koks in battle. You will treat me with the respect I deserve.” I gave him my best batshit crazy stare. “Got it?”

“Yes, lady warrior.”

“Put me down.” To my utter surprise, Tihar obeyed. I eased away from him.

“I will give the Overlord four times the bride price for this one. She is worthy to be my mate.”

“Lucky, Sarah,” Sam quipped.

Out of nowhere, Rho popped in, seized Sam, and poof. They were gone.

Damn. That was one sneaky move.

His gaze never leaving the Askole, Voss commanded in his perfect English, “Come to me, Sarah.”

I willingly took a step toward the Battle Commander.

Tihar’s enormous armored hand clamped down on my shoulder. “I have claimed this one.”

“Like hell you have,” I snarled. “Let go of me or I will hurt you.”

The Battle Commander tensed and bellowed, “Do not attack Tihar, Sarah. It will signal your interest in mating with him.”

“What? You’re joking? Right?”

“I am not,” Voss responded.

A cackling laugh broke from Tihar. “She has already struck me.”

Voss spat something that sounded like a curse word. “Do you know what you have done?”

“He was sniffing my crotch,” I yelled in exasperation.

Tihar taunted Voss. “The mating dance has begun, and not even the Overlord can stop it.”

“No! It hasn’t,” I interjected. “I’m human, and your rules don’t apply to me.”

“Your world is now part of the Coletti Empire. The Battle Commander knows our customs and failed to properly protect you. As a warrior, you can challenge me to combat.” Tihar’s rather toothy grin was alarming. “Do you dare duel with me?”

I opened my mouth to respond.

Tihar bellowed a terrifying war cry.

“Mwah-hah-hah.” I bellowed back and gave myself a mental head whack. I had watched that minion movie with my five-year-old cousin way too many times.

Voss and Tihar stared at me in utter disbelief.

“What was that?” Voss’s mouth twitched as if he was struggling not to laugh.

Putting on my best poker face, I replied, “My battle cry. Why?”

“The purpose of a war cry is to frighten your enemies. Not reduce them to laughter,” Voss answered.

“I’m a fighter pilot. I seldom engaged in hand-to-hand combat.”

“As my mate, you will need a proper war cry,” Tihar announced.

“Thanks, but I’ve got one. Now prepare to get your ass kicked. Mwah-hah-hah.”

Tihar’s tentacles curled tightly. “It is foolish to think you can beat me, lady warrior. Surrender now.”

My temper flared to life. “Surrender? Not in this lifetime.”

“Think hard before you challenge me.” Tihar touched his gauntlet, and his armor simply shrank away. “Do you think you can subdue me?” He stood perfectly still, allowing me to inspect him.

Not a chance in hell, which was why I planned on cheating. A sigh escaped me. Tihar’s torso was sculpted perfection. Thick muscles corded his arms and legs. Who knew black scales could be sexy?

Another tap, and Tihar was completely nude. “Can you refuse this?”

My eyes bugged as I stared at Tihar’s super-duper hard-on. Holy cow! Askole had humanlike penises, humongous balls, and no pubic hair. Huh? Would you look at that? Even his man parts had scales. I linked with Sarah. “Get a load of this.”

“Kinda busy. Talk later.”

“Okay, but Tihar is hung like a bull elephant.”

Voss threw his hands up in disgust. “Quit staring at his body. You are only encouraging him, Sarah.”

“He is an eyeful.”

“I am also a master of the thousand delights,” Tihar proclaimed.

Voss crossed his arms and declared, “The only way to become a master is to have had sex with a thousand females.”

“You’re a man-whore?” Had to admit I was a bit disappointed.

“No, a teacher. I have taught many females in the pleasure houses these techniques.” Tihar held out his hand. “Surrender, and I will begin your lessons.”

“How about I teach you a little-known fact?”

Tihar’s tentacles flared warily. “What would that be?”

“Never underestimate a Jones.” Reaching out with my mind, I mentally grasped Tihar’s balls and twisted them viciously. “We might be small, but we make up for it in pure meanness.”

The Askole let out a wheezing gasp and dropped to his knees. “She is a cunning and ferocious female.”

“Without a doubt,” Voss agreed. “Know this. All females of Kaylee Jones’s lineage have been pledged to Coletti warriors. Taking Sarah will violate the treaty your father signed with the Overlord. Do you wish to start a war?”

“Sarah is mine.” Tihar’s voice was a still a bit raspy.

I tightened my grip. “I belong to no one. If—or when—I decide to mate with a male, it will be my choice. I won’t be forced.”

“There are many benefits to being my mate. I am the commander of my father’s western battle fleet. I have never been defeated. My holdings are vast, and you will be one of the wealthiest females in the Askole Empire. Plus, I have much experience in bed sports,” Tihar informed me.

Like that made it all better? Okay, maybe a little. I released Tihar’s balls. “Stay away from me, or next time I will unman you.”

“You did not win the challenge, lady warrior.” Tihar’s armor reappeared like magic, and I didn’t like the determined glint in his yellow eyes.

“Arrgh! You’re an alien. I’m a human. Our parts won’t fit.”

“You think only Colettis can alter DNA?”

Horror rocketed through me. Oh, dear God. Me with black scaly skin and fangs? How did I stop this madness? Could I? One way or another, I would be converted, and when that happened, I would no longer be human. I turned to Voss. “Can Tihar modify my DNA?”

“Yes, but he won’t. His father, the High Commander, will not allow it,” the Battle Commander responded. He grasped me around the waist and teleported.

“Fear not, little warrior, I will come for you.”

With Tihar’s promise still ringing in my head, Voss and I were abruptly standing in a demolished sick bay. A Coletti wearing a medic’s red jumpsuit was sprawled on the floor and appeared to be unconscious.

A scanner whizzed by my head and hit the wall with a loud crash.

Whoa! Aunt Tess had Rho in a headlock and was doing her level best to choke him out.

The Battle Commander tightened his grip until I had trouble breathing.

Samantha ducked Rho’s attempt to grab her and jabbed him in the hand with a pressure injector filled with a sedative. The big Coletti swayed unsteadily on his feet.

Voss pulled his laser pistol and calmly stunned Sam. She collapsed to the floor as violent muscle spasms contorted her body.

Rho fell backward on top of Aunt Tess. Her arms and legs wriggling frantically under his heavy weight. “Help!”

Bastard! I summoned every ounce of psychic power I had and hurled it at Voss.

The Battle Commander grunted and shook his head as if to clear it. “With the proper training, your psychic battle skills will be adequate.”

Adequate? I’d give him adequate. I threw another mental punch.

Voss blocked my blow easily. “The Jones clan’s battle with us is over. You have been defeated.”

“As John Paul Jones once said, ‘I have not yet begun to fight.’”

The Battle Commander’s voice was low and dangerous. “Once we reach Tanith, you will be mated to Lothel, and you become his problem.”

“I think Tihar will have something to say about that,” I blustered.

“The Overlord will never permit that.” Voss picked the pressure injector off the floor and thrust it against my neck. “Now you join your clan in the stasis chambers.”

Everything went black.

Copyright © Gail Koger

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