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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Her Web Master by Normandie Alleman


MATURE READERS 18+

Genre: Erotic Romance/BDSM


An online connection. 
Masked by anonymity.
No cameras. 
No pictures. 
Curiosity ignited to intrigue. 

I thought I knew what I was getting into, but had no idea how far we would go... My intention was to test the waters, dip my toe in the wading pool. Instead I surrendered to the world of seduction and submission as he submerged me--body, mind, and soul--into an ocean of eroticism. Emails, texts, and hidden identities, were one thing. 

But now, coming face-to-face with the mystery man, the star of my fantasies, both terrifies and completely thrills me. If all goes according to plan, he will intensify the exquisite bond we share by transporting me to that glorious intersection between agony and ecstasy. 

If not, everything we've built will come crashing down around us, destroying my dreams in the process. Either way, there is no going back. Because I want more. Much more. 

He always says, "For every ounce of pleasure, a price must be paid." And I am going to pay... 

Warning: If you’re not a fan of dirty talk or dominant alpha males, “Her Web Master” may not be for you, but if you're looking for a filthy online boyfriend who will make your toes curl, meet Sophie’s mysterious Dom.






EXCERPT

I stared at the ice cubes in my glass, all that was left of my first drink. I was only allowed two, so I relished the sensation as bourbon sank deliciously into my bloodstream, numbing me ever so slightly. I tried to wait patiently for the next cocktail to arrive, but patience had never been my strong suit. 

An only child, spoiled rotten by my parents who’d all but given up on having children when I came along, I wasn’t accustomed to waiting. But today of all days, I needed that next drink to calm my frayed nerves. The restaurant at the Omni Hotel wasn’t crowded, about what one expected on a Thursday late afternoon. The elegant décor looked to be the result of a recent remodel, and I wondered who had done it. My mother would want to know the name of the designer. 

She served as the director of Fort Worth’s Junior Cotillion, as well as on a number of museum boards, and she’d taught me to stay abreast of all things related to the arts, but right now considering the hotel’s new look only helped distract me from an imminent meeting with the most important man in my life. I was excited yet anxious because this would be my first meeting with my lover. 

Our first meeting face-to-face. He’d left strict instructions for me to sit at the table he reserved for us. He requested I sit with my back to the entrance. This tricky move on his part allowed no way for me to see him as he entered. If his intention was to control and torture me, it was working. A loose strand of hair tickled my cheek, so I tucked it behind my ear. My hair wasn’t choosing this inopportune moment to misbehave. It always misbehaved. 

I watched for the waiter, again wanting that drink, but as much as I hated being outside my comfort zone, I loved the naughty, decadent feeling I got from doing something simply because my Master told me to. When I submitted to his demands, I stepped outside my safe little world, the one where my ex-husband ignored me for years, where all my friends had children, where I felt inconsequential. With him I wasn’t invisible. He relied on me. Sure it was for things of a sexual nature, but to me, that was something, and I felt fulfilled for the first time in ages. 

A few months ago, when I’d been supremely pissed at my cheating husband, I went online. I admit it, I’d been looking for trouble, which was mind-numbingly easy to find. I hadn’t intended to find a darker side of myself with needs that could never have been met by my philandering husband. I’d never meant to find someone. I’d merely been looking, searching—for what, I wasn’t sure. 

What I did find was a whole new world of dominance and submission, self-inflicted pain as well as pleasure, and sexual satisfaction with a stranger. A man who reached out and touched me in corners of my soul I hadn’t known existed. 

We spoke every day, I performed sex acts upon myself at his command, and sent him reports on the intimate and sometimes humiliating tasks he gave me. I was his submissive, and he was my Master, and every aspect of our relationship took place over the internet. I addressed him as “Sir”, but in our chats he went by the moniker, “MC.” 

We communicated only via Skype, email, chats and the occasional phone call. That is, until today. I always insisted we not use a webcam, even though he implored me to do webcam “sessions.” My privacy was of the utmost importance to me, so I always refused. I’m a kindergarten teacher at one of Fort Worth’s finest preparatory schools! I couldn’t take the risk of being videotaped during our play sessions. So the only notion I have of what my Master looks like is a product of my imagination. 

But today he flew to Houston to meet me in person. To have a real “play date.” In the flesh. 

A chill ran across my flesh, leaving a trail of goosebumps in its wake. The waiter set my second bourbon in front of me. Always cognizant of my manners, I thanked him with a smile. I had been born into one of the wealthiest families in Texas and I’ve been given every advantage. I attended the right boarding schools, wore the right clothes, and behaved as any proper debutante should. And what had that gotten me? 

An unfulfilling marriage to an unfaithful jackass and a lifetime of trying to meet other people’s expectations rather than my own. I sipped my drink then smiled. But not today. Today I was doing what I wanted for a change. I would finally meet the man who dominated me for the past four months. My stomach roiled with anticipation. What would he look like? Would it matter? Of course whatever he looked like, he wouldn’t be the “Master” I’d daydreamed about. Things never worked that way. 

It would be like conjuring an image for the hero in a book, and when a movie is made, the actor never matches the character in your head. Always a disappointment. I’d tried to prepare myself for that from the beginning. I never pictured MC to be a handsome movie star. Instead, I envisioned him as rather average, with salt-and-pepper hair and kind features. For some reason I pictured him wearing glasses, possibly he had a beard. In any case, it wasn’t his physical appearance that was captivating. MC awakened a primal response in me. He exposed my mind to a world in which I could be open about my sexual desires. A world where the wanton girl inside me was encouraged to come out and play, rather than squelched and pushed into a back closet where she had always lived. He controlled my sexuality, sensing my deepest, darkest needs. And it didn’t hurt that he made me feel cared for and cherished at a time when I desperately needed that. 

I wanted to please him. Draining my second drink, I considered a third. I sighed deeply at the thought of the swats that MC would rain down on me for breaking his two-drink maximum. It made me wriggle in my chair, and the excitement between my legs spread down into my toes. 

My phone showed it was 5:12, and my tummy tightened. Any minute now… He told me he would be here at 5:15. The wait had been both excruciating and delicious at the same time—a perfect reflection of our relationship, a testimony to both pain and pleasure. 

“Close your eyes, my pet.” The familiar voice came from behind my chair. It was a sound I’d come to crave and hearing it sent shivers of anticipation dancing down my spine. 

Suddenly, I wanted to freeze that moment in time, to stop things while things were still beautiful between us, before reality could mar the fantasy. A hand circled my nape. His touch was like an electric current, setting my skin aflame. I leaned back against his fingers, shamelessly aching for more, though I knew I should maintain my composure because we were in a public place. But it was all I could do not to moan out loud.

He wrapped my long hair over his wrist and gripped it firmly. “I see you were looking at your phone. Did you think I’d be late?” 

“N-n-n-no.” 

“Good. I’m going to sit beside you, to your left, but you will keep your eyes closed until I tell you to open them. Do you understand me?” 

“Yes.” 

“What did you say?” He pulled my hair tight, and I immediately wondered if anyone in the restaurant noticed.

“Yes, Sir.” My heart thumped hard in my chest. 

“That’s better.” He let go of my hair, and I yearned for him to touch me again. I kept my eyes closed, though I knew I must look an odd spectacle. 

“Was that your second drink?” I nodded. 

“I expect you to answer me properly.” I squirmed in my seat. 

“Yes, Sir.” 

“Would you like another one?” 

“Yes, but you said I could only have two.” 

“Do you plan to be a good girl today?” 

“Yes, Sir.” 

“Since you followed my directions so well and this is something of a special occasion, you may have another one. What would you like?” 

“I’ll have a bourbon and water, please, Sir.” 

“That’s a mighty strong drink for a young lady.” 

I wasn’t that young, but I appreciated the chivalrous thought. “My grandmother taught me that if you drink bourbon and water it won’t sneak up on you the way sweeter drinks will. That way a lady can always take care of herself.” 

“Smart woman, your grandmother.” 

I listened as he ordered more drinks, my eyes closed the whole time, feeling ridiculous. Then I gave up and lowered my head, pretending to look at the ground. I’d spent my entire life being worried about what people thought of me. It was exhausting, trying to be perfect all the time. Part of me was dying to cheat, to open my eyes to see what this dynamic man actually looked like, while the other part was enjoying the game and wished it could go on forever. Because once I saw his face, nothing between us would ever be the same. The fantasy would disappear, replaced by a yet-to-be-known reality, with only a few of the fragments of our mutual projection remaining.



A former psychologist, Normandie has always been fascinated by human behavior. She loves writing quirky characters that are all too human. Fiber arts, baking, and Pinterest are a few of her favorite pastimes. She lives on a farm with a passel of children, hunky husband, and a pet pig who’s crazy for Red Bull. If you’d like up to the minute new release info on Normandie’s books text RACYREADS to 24587.

Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor

Critically acclaimed author Melissa Kantor masterfully captures the joy of friendship, the agony of loss, and the unique experience of being a teenager in this poignant new novel about a girl grappling with her best friend's life-threatening illness.


Zoe and her best friend, Olivia, have always had big plans for the future, none of which included Olivia getting sick. Still, Zoe is determined to put on a brave face and be positive for her friend.

Even when she isn't sure what to say.

Even when Olivia misses months of school.

Even when Zoe starts falling for Calvin, Olivia's crush.

The one thing that keeps Zoe moving forward is knowing that Olivia will beat this, and everything will go back to the way it was before. It has to. Because the alternative is too terrifying for her to even imagine.

In this incandescent page-turner, which follows in the tradition of The Fault in Our Stars, Melissa Kantor artfully explores the idea that the worst thing to happen to you might not be something that is actually happening to you. Raw, irreverent, and honest, Zoe's unforgettable voice and story will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.



EXCERPT 

Livvie woke up with a fever Sunday, and she missed school Monday. Monday night when I talked to her she said she’d be in school Tuesday morning, but then she texted me and said she’d woken up with a fever again and her mom was taking her to the doctor. 

I called Livvie at the start of lunch Tuesday, but she didn’t pick up the phone. I was standing by my locker, finishing leaving her a message, when Mia Roberts turned down the corridor. 

Mia was the girl on the soccer team I knew the least. She’d been new freshman year (before coming east she’d lived in L.A.), and unlike the rest of the team (who hung out pretty much exclusively with one another), Mia hung with a lot of different people. And she didn’t just not hang out exclusively with the team; she also looked nothing like the other girls we played with, all of whom—whether white or black, Asian or Hispanic, freshmen or seniors—were very . . . American looking. Clean-cut. Like, you could use any one of them in photos for an anti-drug campaign. 

But Mia’s hair was bleached white except for the tips, which were blue. When she wasn’t wearing her soccer uniform, she wore black pretty much exclusively, down to black motorcycle boots or Doc Martens. 

“Hey,” she said. Today she was wearing a pair of black leggings with lace at the bottom and a black tank top. Her dark eyes were heavily made up with black liner. 

“Hey,” I said. I put my phone in my bag. 

“You heading to lunch?” Mia asked. I nodded, and she gestured for me to accompany her. “Let’s do it.” She was chewing gum, and while I watched, she blew a small bubble, then cracked it loudly between her teeth. 

I fell into step beside her. “I love cracking my gum. It drives my mom batshit when I do it, though.” 

“Well, your mom’s not here now, is she?” Mia reached into her bag and pulled out a pack of Juicy Fruit. 

I eyed the pack suspiciously. “I don’t know. Sugar gum. Kind of a gateway drug, isn’t it?” 

“Try it,” she said, wagging the pack at me. “The first slice is free.” 

I reached for a piece, unwrapped it, and popped it in my mouth. “Oh my God,” I said as the fruity taste exploded on my tongue. I had to close my eyes for a second to savor the experience. “This is the first nonsugarless gum I’ve had in years.” 

“I know, right?” said Mia, smiling triumphantly. “The dentist loves me. My mom says I’m sending his kids to college.”

“It’s worth it,” I assured her. 

We passed a circle of football players, including Calvin and Jake. Each guy was surrounded by a healthy harem of cheerleaders. Jake looked up, saw me, and waved. I waved back. Calvin glanced my way also, but even though we were both at the Grecos’ practically every day, his glance slid over me as if I were some exchange student he’d never seen in his life. 

Inwardly I rolled my eyes at what an ass he was. 

“So,” said Mia, “how come you don’t do soccer anymore?” 

“Um, because I so totally sucked at it?” I offered. 

Mia laughed, but she didn’t correct me, which I appreciated. 

“Does that mean you went back to dancing again?” she asked. 

Here was concrete proof of how little anyone outside the dance world understood it. I imagined a universe in which Olivia and I had randomly decided to take a year off from dancing and then—equally spontaneously—decided to return to it. I let myself see the two of us as Mia must have seen us. In control. Masters of our destiny. 

The fantasy was awesome, which may explain why I lied to her. “Nah. I was kind of over dance.”

“Got it.” We turned down the hallway toward the cafeteria. It was more crowded here, with some people shoving to get in and others shoving to get out. 

“You know,” said Mia, turning to me, “freshman year I was überintimidated by the two of you.” 

I practically choked on my gum. “You were?” 

“I was!” Mia imitated my tone exactly, then laughed. “Is that so surprising? You’re both tall and gorgeous. And you disappeared into Manhattan after school every day.” We stepped into the river of kids headed to the cafeteria. “I saw you once at The Nutcracker when my mom and I took my niece. I mean, I didn’t see you see you. Like, I couldn’t pick you out. But your names were in the program.” 

I shook my head, as much at the idea of Mia’s being at the ballet as at the thought of her searching for us in a sea of dancers. “That’s so weird. I mean that we were on your radar like that.” 

Mia raised an incredulous eyebrow at me. “It’s not weird, Zoe. You and Olivia were famous. I figured you were way too cool to hang out with regular people like me.” 

“Really? You thought we were cool?” I squeaked, so uncool that both Mia and I laughed. She held open the door to the cafeteria and I followed her in. As we joined a table, I composed a text in my head to Livvie, telling her about how cool and terrifying the population of Wamasset had once found us. 

•••

I was irritated that Livvie didn’t respond to my text, which was, frankly, hilarious. Wasn’t she just sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Weiss, our pediatrician? Or sitting at Driscoll’s Pharmacy waiting for her mom to fill a prescription? Or sitting and waiting for me to call her? I didn’t stay home sick from school all that often, but when I did, that was my routine. The bell rang, ending math, our last period of the day, and Mr. Schumacher nodded in my direction. “You’ll give Olivia the homework.” 

“Sure,” I said, then muttered under my breath, “if she ever texts me back.” 

I went to my locker and slowly made my way outside. It was sunny but way cooler than it had been that morning, and I shivered, wishing I’d worn a jacket. The football team was heading out to the field all the way on the other side of the campus. I considered asking Jake if he knew where Olivia was, but the team was so far away I couldn’t even figure out which of the uniformed guys he was. 

Just as I decided it wasn’t worth bothering, since Jake wasn’t going to have any idea anyway, my phone rang. Livvie! Finally. I dug my phone out of my bag. 

But it wasn’t Livvie. It was some 212 number I didn’t recognize. This was getting so annoying. 

“Hello?” 

“Zoe?” 

It was Livvie. But why was she calling me from an unfamiliar number?

“Livs!” I was so glad to hear from her I wasn’t even mad that she hadn’t called me back earlier. “Where have you been all day? Whose phone are you calling from?” 

“My phone’s out of juice. Zoe, I have to tell you something.” 

Olivia’s voice sounded thin, as if she were calling from far away on a line with a bad connection. It didn’t help that it was super noisy in front of the school, where all two thousand members of the student body seemed to have chosen to gather before heading off to their afternoon activities. I pressed my free hand to my ear, trying to hear better. 

“Where are you?” I moved away from the crowded concrete circle by the front entrance and onto the lawn.

“Zoe, I’m . . . I’m at the hospital.” 

“The hospital?” For some reason, I thought of the twins. Could one of them have been in an accident? The possibility made my heart drop. Tommy and Luke could be super annoying, but they were also adorable. Last year, when they were in second grade and neither of them had their front teeth, Tommy would pronounce Zoe “Thoe.” 

“I’m sick, Zoe,” said Livvie. 

“Wait, you’re sick?” I was still thinking about the twins. “Hang on a second . . . what?” 

“I’m at UH,” said Olivia. University Hospital was only a few blocks from the Fischer Center, where NYBC was located. We’d driven by it every day on our way to and from dance classes and performances, its glass towers telling us we were just minutes from our destination or that we’d begun the journey home. 

“But you were just at the doctor’s office.” I knew, even as I said it, that it was a stupid thing to say. It wasn’t like there was no way to travel from the doctor’s office to the hospital. 

Olivia’s voice was freakishly precise. “The doctor found a bruise on the back of my leg,” she said. 

“I saw that!” I shouted, remembering the bruise from when I’d slept over Saturday night. It was dark purple and spidery, and I’d almost asked her about it, but then we’d started talking about something else and I’d forgotten. 

Livvie continued. “Well, she saw it and she asked how I’d gotten it, and I said I didn’t know, and then she found this other one on my arm—on the back—” 

“I didn’t see that one,” I admitted. Why was I interrupting her? I pressed my lips together to get my mouth to stop asking questions. 

“It’s there,” Olivia told me, as if I’d doubted her. “I saw it in the mirror. Anyway, then the doctor started asking about the bruises, and how long I’ve had the fever, and then my mom said that I’d been really tired lately and she asked if maybe I could be anemic. And Dr. Weiss said she wanted us to go to the Med Center.” 

The Med Center was a cross between a doctor’s office and an emergency room. They had X-ray machines and doctors and stuff, but I didn’t think you would go there if you were having a heart attack. “Yeah,” I said, “I know where that is. Remember when my dad stepped on a nail last summer? My mom and I took him.” 

Looking back at that conversation, I can’t help wondering: Did I know? Did I know what was coming, and did I think that as long as I wouldn’t let Livvie say the words, they wouldn’t be true? 

“They took blood,” she went on. “And they found abnormal cells.” 

“Abnormal cells,” I echoed. 

“Abnormal cells,” she repeated. “And they said they wanted us to go to UH so they could do a bone marrow aspiration. That’s when they take some bone marrow out of your pelvic bone with a needle.” 

“A needle? Oh God, Liv.” I clutched my arm in sympathy, even though I knew that wasn’t where your pelvic bone was. 

“My dad came,” Livvie said. Her voice caught for a second, but she didn’t cry. “He came to meet us, and the doctor said that they’d found blasts in my bone marrow.” 

“What does that mean?” I whispered. 

“They admitted me,” she went on, ignoring my question, “and they put in this thing called a central line. It’s so the medication gets right into your body.” 

“The medication?” My voice was a whisper. 

“I have leukemia, Zoe.” 

I gasped.  

“But that’s . . . that’s impossible.” It was impossible. I knew it was impossible. How could Olivia have leukemia? 

“There’s a . . . I mean, there has to be some mistake. How could you be getting medicine already?” Somehow that was the most implausible part of what she’d told me. I’d slept at her house Saturday night. She’d been fine. I’d talked to her this morning. Eight hours later she was in the hospital and getting medicine? How could they even diagnose what she had that fast? 

“It’s true, Zoe.” Olivia’s voice quivered. I heard a voice in the background, and Livvie said, “My mom wants me to get off the phone. The doctor just came in. Can you come? I need to see you.” It sounded like she was starting to cry. 

“I’m on my way,” I said, my voice fierce. Then I said it again, as if maybe she would doubt me. “I am on my way.” 

“Okay,” said Livvie. “Love ya.” 

We always said Love ya. We ended every phone call, every chat, every conversation the same way. 


See you tomorrow. Love ya. 
Gotta go. Love ya. 
My mom’s calling. Love ya. 
I have leukemia. Love ya. 


“I love you, Livs,” I said, my voice nearly breaking on her name. 

“I love you too, Zoe,” she answered. I could hear that she was crying. And then she was gone. 

I stood on the edge of the lawn, the phone still pressed to my ear. Cars pulled in and out of the parking lot, and kids tumbled from the building, taking the stairs two at a time as they raced into the liberty of the afternoon. The sky over my head was almost painfully blue, the grass a bright and vivid green. It was a crisp, beautiful, perfect fall day. 

All that beauty was completely wrong. The sky should have been black, the grass withered, the students wailing with grief. Olivia is sick! I wanted to howl. What are you people doing? My friend is sick! It was impossible—the sky, the cars, the kids walking around as if it were a day like any other day. Nothing made any sense. 

Before I could start screaming, I turned and raced for home.






Melissa Kantor lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family. Her most recent book, "Maybe One Day," tells the story of two best friends and what happens when one of them gets sick with a life-threatening illness. "When I was in my twenties, my father was diagnosed with leukemia. I always wanted to write about what happened to him, but it took me two decades to write this book. I think I needed that time to figure out what I wanted to say."

Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan M. James


She should not exist.

He should not love her.

Claire Brennan has been attending Emerson Academy for two years now (the longest she and her mom have remained anywhere) and she’s desperate to stay put for the rest of high school. So there’s no way she’s going to tell her mom about the psychic visions she’s been having or the creepy warnings that she’s in danger.

Alec MacKenzie is fed up with his duties to watch and, when necessary, eliminate the descendants of his angelic forefathers. He chose Emerson as the ideal hiding place where he could be normal for once. He hadn’t factored Claire into his plans. . . .

Their love is forbidden, going against everything Alec has been taught to believe. But when the reason behind Claire’s unusual powers is revealed and the threat to her life becomes clear, how far will Alec go to protect her?


Excerpt #1

"Have you ever had an empanada?" Claire asked Alec, as they finished retrieving their books and headed toward the library stairwell.

"Are we always going to play the 'Has Alec Eaten This?' game?" he asked quietly.

Claire worried that she'd offended him, until she saw a good-natured smile tug at his lips. "I'm just curious. I mean, after the pizza thing—I've never met anyone before who hadn't—"

"Let's put it this way," Alec interjected. "If it's fried, fattening, caffeinated, alcoholic, or high in sugar content, it's safe to assume that I rarely eat it—or have never tried it."

Claire stared at him. "Why?"

"Are your parents fitness freaks, or do they just hate you?" Erica said.

Alec stiffened visibly. "They just followed a healthy lifestyle, which I continue to embrace. But they . . . died when I was young."

Erica went red in the face. A silence fell.

"Way to go, Erica," Brian said, clapping. "That was awkward."

"I'm sorry." Claire felt terrible.

"Me too." Erica looked at her feet.

"Thanks, but . . . don't worry about it. It's okay."

All at once, Claire understood Alec's earlier comment about her mom. No wonder he's often so quiet and moody, she thought, her heart going out to him. It was bad enough to grow up without a father. But to have no parents at all? That was too awful to contemplate. She'd assumed Alec had moved here with his parents because of a job transfer or something. Who does he live with? she wondered. A grandparent? An aunt or uncle? She wasn't sure this was the right moment to ask.

They neared the bottom of the stairs, where the construction crew was still working atop a three-tiered scaffolding tower. Claire spied Neil standing just beyond it by the drop-off circle. He waved at them and shouted something Claire couldn't hear over the annoying beeping noise of a truck backing up.

The four of them passed underneath the scaffolding, heading toward the circle. They were halfway through the makeshift corridor when Claire heard the sudden, loud roar of an engine. To her horror, the truck was speeding backward toward them. Before she could think or move, the vehicle collided with the base of the scaffolding with a devastating crash.

The screech of tearing metal ripped through the air as the entire structure overhead began to collapse.

A huge wooden platform barreled down directly at them.

Claire screamed and ducked, a single thought popping into her mind: I'm going to die.

Frozen in terror, Claire fixed her gaze on the heavy wooden platform hurtling toward their heads, which was a split second away from crushing them all.

But it never did.

Somehow, impossibly, the platform seemed to hover for a fraction of a second in midair. Alec stood tall above her, one arm extended, fingers splayed, as if magically holding up the platform by sheer willpower. She heard screams and shouts from above as suddenly the whole board tilted to one side. In her peripheral vision she caught sight of three men landing safely on the pavement nearby.

Before Claire could blink, Alec's arms were wrapped around her and their friends and then they were airborne. They landed heavily and painfully on the concrete, out of harm's way, as the entire scaffolding tower smashed to the ground beside them in an explosion of dust, screeching metal, and splintering wood.

The thundering clatter echoed in Claire's ears as they all lay in a heap. Dust stung her eyes, but as she blinked it away her gaze briefly locked with Alec's. Then, just as suddenly as he'd tackled them, Alec was up on his feet and gone.

* * * * * * * * *

Excerpt #2

Below them, a million lights twinkled through the darkness. The only sounds were the wind in her ears and the drone of the city far below.

"It's beautiful," Claire said softly.

"In the past, I loved to watch the people down below. Now I like it even better, because I'm one of them."

"Let's make sure you keep it that way."

Alec drew her into his arms and held her close against his chest, his handsome face and dark blond hair bathed in moonlight. "That's my plan."

Claire's stomach fluttered at the look in his eyes, which were infused with emotion. Alec lowered his head and brought his lips close to hers. "Ready?" he murmured softly.

Claire nodded, her heart jumping. As she wrapped her arms around him, she closed her eyes, willing her mind to stay in the moment and reciting her mantra. But at the first touch of his mouth on hers, all thoughts fled like leaves on the wind. She became immersed in the exquisite joy that spread through her as his body pressed tightly against hers. It was wonderful. Magical. Effortless. Visionless. She felt as if she was floating.

I love you, she thought, her heart so full, she thought it might overflow or burst from her chest. If only she had the nerve to say the words aloud.

When Claire opened her eyes and met his gaze, she couldn't help but smile, which inadvertently interrupted the kiss. The breeze brushed through her hair, and she felt her skirt fluttering against her legs. How can that be? Claire wondered, with the part of her mind that could still think. How could the wind pass through the low wall beside them?

In her peripheral vision, she suddenly caught sight of something strange—the rooftop was several yards below them.

Below them?

Claire gasped. Looking down, she discovered that they were hovering in the air in each other's arms.

"Oh my G—" she began.

"Shhh," Alec cautioned swiftly. "I'm concentrating. You wanted to fly, didn't you?"

Claire's heart pounded wildly as she reveled in Alec's protective embrace. She held on to him even more firmly, soaking in the twinkling lights of the city all around them as they slowly began to spin.

And spin.

And spin.

Letting all her fears go, Claire brought her lips back to his.




Syrie James is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, including Jane Austen's First Love, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Nocturne, Dracula My Love, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet:Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages, awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor's Picks by Library Journal, named a Great Group Read by the Women's National Book Association, a Discover New Writer's Selection by Barnes and Noble, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine.

Syrie is a member of the Writer's Guild of America and a life member of JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America). She enjoys writing both novels and screenplays. Syrie says, "Many people can't wait for the weekend to arrive. It's the opposite for me. I truly love my jam-packed weekends, but from the time I turn off the computer on Friday evening to the moment I'm back in my chair on Monday morning, I'm anxious to get back to the characters I left in limbo, who are just waiting for me to continue their story."


Ryan M James is a writer, editor & director with a diverse range of creative and technical experience in both film and video games. By day, Ryan works as an editor for the games industry. Under cover of night, he conjures stories for print, screen, and web. With his production company, has co-written two screenplays, directed an independent feature, and created the machinima webseries A Clone Apart.

Syrie James


Ryan M. James