#CampNaNoWriMo

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Yay! It’s Day 1 of Camp NaNoWriMo and I’m already plugging away at my official project for this month: Scavenger (Dark Day Isle, #2) Revision with a goal of 45,000 words by July 31st. Here’s the Most-Likely-To-Change synopsis:

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It’s only day two of the week-long getaway on Dark Day Isle, and already Tessa is having doubts about her temporary Master’s real reason for bidding on her at the auction. After an intense confrontation, there’s no going back to the way things were before between them…yet, that might be for the best.

At a luncheon social, Tessa learns details about the resort she’d never expected and the information will ease more of her concerns, while piquing her curiosity higher. Together, Tessa, Gema and Kip only seem to deepen the mystery surrounding their anonymous host, rather than getting any closer to the answer.

One thing the unknown mastermind knows best, though, is how to throw a party and that’s further proven with the evening’s selected activity. Both Tessa and Master Felix’s competitive spirits come out to play during the kinky festivities, but they’re not the only ones hoping to scavenge a prize by the end of the night.

While I’ll be trying to meet my word count goals every day – I’m simultaneously working on the tail end of Shades Soirèe (Matron City Trilogy, #2) which is way overdue to my publisher and I think they’re assembling a task force as we speak to collect it! So, I won’t be around much this month – but there are a couple of events you won’t want to miss out on…

July 3-7: Avarice Unforgiving (Hell on Earth, #2) will be 100% FREE on Amazon

July 10-14: The #AwesomeAmazonAuthors #FollowFive are at it again! Beginning July 10th, one lucky winner will have the chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card in the second easiest giveaway on earth. All you have to do is follow us on Goodreads for your chance to win.

July 12th: Release Blitz for Little Queen (The Úlfrinn series, #2) hosted by Goddess Fish. The book actually released today and is already available for purchase on all your favorite retail sites, but the 12th will include a $25 Gift Card Giveaway for entries, excerpts, teasers and a $10 gift card to a random host.

Good Luck to all my fellow Campers, hope we all reach our project goals this month!

#TacoTuesday

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Image source: redwhiteandblueberries.com

By now most of you know this has nothing to do with food and everything to do with your WIPs or published books! If not, then check out the original post HERE for the purpose. No time like the present to join in – just leave a pingback in the comments below so we can check out your post!

Now for the fun parts…

Writer’s Menu

Onions: Not everyone cries when they cut onions: share an outside-influence type circumstance/object that caused a character to tear up – or – notably didn’t, when they should have.

The moment they stopped moving and the shadows spat them out into an unlit room, Zoe went back to struggling and cursing her abductor. Beyond his enticing scent and the warmth of his unyielding body was the fragrance of a floral sweetened breeze and the kind of heavy, humid heat that immediately brought the deep south to mind. Where they were and why it was dark, Zoe had no clue. She could see through large, mostly undressed windows that it was a moonless night, yet it had just been morning in New York a second ago.

“I’m sorry it had to be this way, little doe,” Hex said at last. “If you’d quiet down, I could explain–”

Fuming one last time, Zoe stopped fighting and screaming. She didn’t need him to explain what she already knew, but she wasn’t about to miss the chance to get free of his hold. After several moments, he slowly pulled his hand away from her mouth. She remained perfectly still, until he released her completely. The second he did, she whirled and doused him right in the eyes with the pepper spray.

He stood there with his lids closed and patiently waited for her to finish, when what he should have been doing, was screaming in searing, tearful agony while begging her for mercy!

Once the can was depleted, he lifted the hem of his t-shirt to wipe the chemical from his face. Zoe tried and failed to ignore the fact that he was finally solid. That the veil of shadows had retreated completely and despite the natural darkness, she was seeing him fully for the first time. Along with the delicious display of hard packed abs and mouthwatering chest he revealed by using his shirt like a towel.

Pepper spray dripped onto the bridge of his nose from his bangs, where the most inhumanly pale eyes of silver peeked out at her. Hex traced his finger over the droplet, then stuck it into his mouth and made a sour face.

“That’s disgusting,” he remarked. “What is its purpose?”

“AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!” Zoe blew her cool, throwing the spent canister across the room.

~ #WIP Hexed (Hell on Earth, #4)

Reader’s Menu

Onions: Name a favorite book you read where a character was brought to tears by an outside influence (ex: poked in the eye, thick smoke, laughing too hard, etc.) -or- where a character was notably incapable of being brought to tears for any reason.

CoverBlackDogNightsThe first book that comes to mind is Black Dog Nights by Ren Monterrey (a pen name of Karen M. Bryson). This was the second story I’d read in her The Club series, the first being Sapphire Beautiful. “The Club” is an exclusive, highly secure and anonymous company that allows rich men to hire girlfriends, and they each have their personal reasons why they would even need this kind of service. The women are vetted carefully and usually have a desperate, last-resort purpose for even applying for this money-making opportunity. (This might go the other way, as well, but in the books I’ve read, it’s always been a rich man and poor woman).

As unrealistic as that sounds, Ren Monterrey never fails to make her male protagonists uniquely different from any other main male character out there on the market (mine, included! LOL). In Black Dog Nights, Jae Rothko is no exception–but it takes some reading to discover that. By all appearances, he’s just another cookie-cutter wealthy and successful man blessed with gorgeous looks and unparalleled skills in the bedroom that lean heavily toward dominant.

Then we learn that Jae’s issue is medical and incurable. That he’s incapable of expressing emotions of any kind. It’s not that he doesn’t feel them, he just lacks the chemical in his brain that triggers everyone else in the world to display their feelings. Which, tends to have all of his lovers accusing him of being an emotionally stunted Alpha-Hole who just wants to regard them as possessions without any heart. Awww…poor Jae. By the way, that wasn’t too much of a spoiler, so don’t let it stop you from reading, there’s plenty more to the story than that.

I haven’t read all of Ren’s books and while I tend to find some things to nit-pick in each of those I have, they’re all truly good, HEA erotica stories that are definitely worth reading just to get a break from the same ol’, same ol’ when it comes to male leads!

Next week’s ingredient is…Tomato!

Tomato for the Writer: Embarrassment and/or ridicule often play a part in our character’s journey. What was one of your main character’s inescapable, red-faced moments?

Tomato for the Reader: Share a book you’ve read where you were so embarrassed for the main character by something they themselves did or where they were ridiculed so badly, it left a lasting scar impression on you.

 

#MusicMonday

Contagious

by Trapt

I was sick of restrictions, sick of the boundaries
About to close the door
Such a lack of conviction, no real connection
What should I settle for?
But you caught my attention, you built on the tension
You left me wanting more
Now I don’t know what to do with myself, do with myself
I don’t want nobody else

I let you in, I let you in, and you infected me
Can’t get enough of you
Can’t get enough of you
I breathed you in, I breathed you in, and now I’m in too deep
Don’t think I’m pulling through
Don’t think I’m pulling through
Can’t get enough of you
(Can’t get enough of you)

You’re so contagious
Running through my veins
You’re so contagious
Hanging onto every word
You’re so contagious
And I can’t get away
You’re so contagious
And now I know for sure there is no cure

I saw your intentions, I gave you permission
Go ahead and start the war
I was out of addictions, by my own admission
Oh, I’ve been keeping score
But you made an exception, you taught me a lesson
Who cares where we’ve been before?
You would never leave me all by myself, all by myself
You don’t want nobody else

I let you in, I let you in, and you infected me
Can’t get enough of you
Can’t get enough of you
I breathed you in, I breathed you in, and now I’m in too deep
Don’t think I’m pulling through
Don’t think I’m pulling through
Can’t get enough of you
(Can’t get enough of you)

You’re so contagious
Running through my veins
You’re so contagious
Hanging onto every word
You’re so contagious
And I can’t get away
You’re so contagious
And now I know for sure there is no cure

I am burning in your fire (there is no cure)
I have only one desire (there is no cure)
Now I don’t know what to do with myself, do with myself (I can not deny her) (there is no cure)
Now I don’t know what to do with myself, do with myself
I don’t want nobody else

I let you in, I let you in, and you infected me
Can’t get enough of you
Can’t get enough of you
I breathed you in, I breathed you in, and now I’m in too deep
Don’t think I’m pulling through
Don’t think I’m pulling through
Can’t get enough of you
(Can’t get enough of you)
Can’t get enough of you!

You’re so contagious
Running through my veins
you’re so contagious
Hanging onto every word
You’re so contagious
And I can’t get away
You’re so contagious
And now I know for sure there is no cure

You keep running, you keep running, you keep running through my veins [x4]
(You’re so contagious, there is no cure, you’re so contagious)

I do not own any rights to this song, lyrics or video. All rights remain with the artists and their respective agents. No copyright infringement intended.

Hmmm… have no idea why I’m thinking of songs with words like boundaries, restrictions and permission… Oh, right. Camp NaNo’s coming up & I’ll be working with Master Felix and his little fox again. 😉 😛 Enjoy!

Sensual Sentient ♥ Episode 4

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If There Be Giants

The instant their boots punched the rocky ground at the base of the cliff, Blake grinned with the thrill still rushing through all of them. “God, I love gravity!”

“That was exhilarating,” Ketha agreed. “I’ve never actually propelled before.”

“Less chatter, more science,” Sida commanded.

“And she claims I have a one-track mind,” Blake muttered, as he and Isiah started toward the mine ahead of them.

“You know, if you accidentally tazed him with a proton pistol, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” Ketha offered, while she and Sida finished unharnessing themselves.

“All comm links are still open, Lieutenant,” Blake’s rough voice pointed out.

“Gotta love an observant man,” Ketha sighed, causing Sida to grin at her with new-found appreciation.

That grin only increased, when they finally caught up to the men and found Blake standing with his arms crossed over his chest and an unimpressed scowl on his face.

“Alright, heads up crew, there’s a chance we’ll be faced with a cave-in once we reach the end of the mine, and if it’s unstable–” Sida began.

“No sudden noises, got it,” Blake finished for her, dropping the pretense of being offended under the seriousness of that possibility.

Inside the mine, their lights revealed more of the same crude tools marks along the low ceiling and walls. The deeper they went, the sharper the edges of those marks became from lack of erosion. Sida paused when Blake crouched and ran his gloved fingers over the lower portion of the wall to their right.

“Look at this,” he glanced at her. “It’s the same powdery residue caused by short or single-burst propulsion thrusters.”

“Like from a remote cargo sleigh?” she asked, crouching beside him to investigate.

“Yeah, but it shouldn’t do this,” he said, holding his glove out to show her.

Sida ran her own gloved fingers over the residue. “There’s no bonding,” she replied in confusion, when the powder transferred to her gloves, as well.

Standing, Blake looked all around them. “Given the lack of elements, I’d say these were left within the last fourteen months, give or take, but not much longer than that. They’re way too fresh.”

“Just like the tools outside,” Sida agreed, yet what that meant she had no clue. It was apparent someone had beat them there and found something in the mine worth hauling out, but what? Starblood was her first fear, but that wouldn’t require a cargo sleigh. No planet produced that much in a single vein. “Let’s keep moving.”

Along the way, they found more areas of residue and then the pottery shards started. The closer they got to the bend in the shaft, the more evidence of their ancient miners. The baked clay remnants had most likely belonged to urns of oil for torches, refreshments for consumption by the miners, or both.

“Look what we have here,” Blake said quietly, when they finally reached the end.

“Wow,” Ketha whispered. “It looks like the inside of a temple.”

Pillars built on a much smaller scale than those in the city stood like support columns along the outer walls of the mine, except the very back where the cave-in had slid down to fill most of the chamber, crushing everything in its path.

“Well, that proves your theory, Lieutenant,” Blake nodded at Ketha. “Now, you want to hear mine?”

“Nope, I’ve already heard it up here,” Sida replied, pointing at her own temple. “That was no natural disaster, it was very deliberate.”

“Which opens up a whole new realm of possibilities from a slave uprising to a civil war,” Ketha accepted grimly. “Maybe some of the citizens disagreed with slavery, or maybe they were frightened by the slaves due to their massive size and wanted to block their only way in.”

Those were both really good theories, considering where the damage had been purposely rendered.

“Captain!” Isiah hissed over the comm link from somewhere among the rubble. “Over here.”

Sida rounded the left side of unnatural stalagmites and other jutting pieces of rock or debris. Squeezing through a narrow gap, she came upon Darling crouched in the only available space, so leaned over him to see what he was so interested in.

Aquacælestis Divinus,” he exhaled, his light shimmering off a half-dollar sized puddle of iridescent liquid deep in the crevice of the rubble.

“Starblood, Ensign,” she grinned excitedly, slapping him on the shoulder. “Learn it, like it, use it. Blake!”

“On it,” he replied. After Isiah set the probe to hover near the find, he and Sida moved out of Blake’s way and waited for the report. “It’s not a lot.”

“Superb scientific deduction, Commander,” Sida remarked dryly. “I saw that much with my own damn eyes. What I need to know is if we can use it?”

“With the right amount of additives we should be able to, Captain,” Blake returned just as dryly, before turning sincere. “At any rate, we have to try, don’t we?”

Yes. Yes, they did. “Alright, you two get it contained and see if there’s more without risking another cave-in,” she ordered. “I’ll call in the request. Minnows, you’re with me.”

Aboard the small shuttle located about two klicks east of the mine, in the only clear portion of the trench, Sida sent the request to her crew still manning their ship in orbit. Surprisingly, it only took thirty minutes to get a reply back, which was fast even under the best conditions.

“Must be my lucky day,” she muttered to herself.

“Captain, Fleet Admiral Dent is coming on Vidlink One,” Lieutenant Commander Winston rushed out, her expression filled with apology.

Jumping out of the chair, Sida brushed her clothes off, straightening them and her hair in record speed. She was standing at full attention, when the screen crackled on, revealing a large, robust older man with silver hair cut to perfection. The stars on his uniform were nearly blinding, they’d been polished so profusely.

“Admiral,” Sida saluted, wondering why the top dog of all top dogs was doing something as mundane as answering a contact request.

“Captain Marx,” Joaquin Dent, five-star Fleet Admiral of the entire Galactic Interstellar Navy of Earth and its Solar Systems, aka GINESS, greeted. “You sent a request. Report.”

She knew the FADM was a no-nonsense man and the lines carved into his aged face weren’t all wrinkles, so she didn’t hesitate. “Sir, while conducting our mission to locate and verify proof of the lost planet Molta Cremyss, we discovered the existence of what appears to be an ancient mine, where one of my ensigns has found Starblood. It is a very small amount, Sir. Permission to attempt a World Opening?”

“Molta Cremyss,” Dent repeated. “Have you verified this planet is truly one and the same?”

“We have not verified that at this time, Sir.”

“But you found a mine?”

“A single shaft, sir, partially caved-in,” she replied. “To look for more Starblood could cause further damage without proper precautionary re-stabilizing procedures put into place first, which my crew and I are ready to do should you prefer it, sir.”

He seemed to contemplate that for a moment, before responding. “Meddling with an unstable environment is an unnecessary risk without a guarantee, Captain. Permission for a World Opening granted. Keep me informed.”

“Sir, yes, sir,” she saluted again.

When the screen blinked out, revealing her starmap instead, Sida slowly relaxed her stance and hailed her ship.

“Winston, was my request for contact sent through the usual channels?” she asked.

“Yes, Captain, I’m so sorry, I had no idea the Admiral would respond, himself–”

“Relax, Winston, it’s okay,” Sida cut her off. “Do me a favor, though and check into all the latest news from Earth. Send the most current links to my personal unit.”

“Will do, Captain.”

“We’ll be attempting an Opening. Send the usual roundup and tell Barnes to bring me three extra grunts. If we’re successful, they’ll be going with me. Maintain current orbit and contact Barnes if necessary, but nothing changes until you hear otherwise.”

It took another two hours for the second shuttle to arrive with the rest of her field team and the soldiers. By then, Ketha had already shoved gear packs together for everyone, and they’d loaded them on cargo sleighs to take back to the mine. When she spotted Blake and Isiah suiting up just outside the entrance from half a klick away, she halted Barnes and his men.

“Stay here and wait for the all clear,” she ordered.

Once Sida and the rest of her team were suited up, she set her Xtreme World Opener to neutralize, while Blake loaded the newly formulated capsule of Starblood into his rifle and set it to Activate.

“Comm links on?” Sida checked. “Barnes, can you hear me?”

“You’re good to go, Captain,” he replied.

“Activate gravity and pressurization systems.”

A resounding grunt of discomfort echoed through the link, when everyone obeyed. In an oxygenated environment, despite how thin, it was as good as wearing a lead suit. The weighted pull toward the ground caused perspiration to break out over Sida’s skin with the effort to remain standing, yet it would’ve been just as impossible to get knocked over as it was to lift her boot from the ground.

“Okay, Commander,” she said. “Fire.”

Blake shot the capsule at the largest, flattest portion of the cliff wall and the Starblood splattered like a paintball. It started glowing almost instantly, reaching levels that had all of their face masks tinting black as night. Cheers went off through the link, their success evidenced by the brightness. When the light dimmed and diminished completely, they were faced with a far smaller Opening than they were used to, but one person at a time could fit through without their packs. Those would have to be tossed through one at a time, as well.

Red skies came into view, suggesting the likelihood of a volcanic planet, with the dark silhouettes of thick, tropical vegetation. It appeared to be night time, but not a single one of them put much stock on appearances alone in their line of work.

“Probe,” Sida ordered.

Isiah tossed it through the Opening and watched the screen on the remote in his hands, as the readouts started showing up.

“Quite a bit more sulfur in the air than usual, but otherwise oxygen levels are really good. Better than here, that’s for sure. No indication of pollutants normally found near modern cities, which opens a few variables. I’m picking up mildly elevated amounts of minerals in the moisture, which means the air might have a tangy flavor. Temperature is a lovely seventy degrees Fahrenheit with a seventy-five percent humidity level typical of tropical climates, and the wind is a calm two knots.”

“Mildly elevated amounts, or we’ll be dead from lead poisoning by morning?” Sida questioned.

“No worries, Captain. The air might have a slight coppery taste, but that’s all,” he answered.

“Alright, suits off. Barnes, move in.”

After they’d each rolled their suits up into their packs, the crew entered the Opening one-by-one, the next in line tossing their pack to the last person to climb through. Finally, it was just Sida, who’d tossed her pack to Blake. Turning, she addressed Barnes one last time.

“As soon as I’m through, activate the Curtain, put one man here and hold base at the shuttles.”

“Yes, sir,” he saluted.

Sida climbed through the odd Opening, having to bend low and pull her knee up high to manage it. The moment she was fully, and officially, on a completely different planet, she removed her NISS helmet and turned to watch the Curtain go up. Octagonal pockets of energy replaced their view of the debris littered trench. It would keep everything from microscopic bacteria, pollen and insects all the way up to the force of a boulder running downhill in an avalanche from getting through.

Sida tucked her helmet into her pack, then pulled the cap free from her back pocket. She unrolled it and tugged it down over her head just as the rest of her crew had already done. They all wore their Standard Exploration Uniforms with Advanced Automatic Ballistic Vests over their jackets and All Terrain Boots on their feet.

“Are we dealing with volcanic activity?” It was the first thing she wanted to know.

“The sulfur content would indicate as much, but that,” Isiah paused and gestured to the crimson sky with rolling dark clouds. “is not the reflection of molten lava flow. It encompasses the entire sky and it’s steady, rather than fluctuating. And those really are clouds, not ash.”

“A Red Dwarf system?” she pondered aloud. “It’s too warm.”

“I agree, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a Red Dwarf present,” Blake interjected. “What does this remind you of, Captain?”

Sida turned to check out the small mountainside their Opening had appeared in and ran her hand over the uneven stone, frowning from the shallow, sharp-edged grooves. “It’s nearly the same as the crude tool marks from the mine. Do you think they came through and tried to start one on this side, as well?”

“Possibly,” he mused. “Maybe the natives took them by surprise.”

“Then, what? They enslaved them?” Sida shook her head in disagreement. “They would’ve just made the natives dig the mine for them afterward.”

“Yeah,” Blake sighed, before stilling and turning his light eyes on her slowly. “Sida, if this is the home of those giants…”

Startled, Sida opened her mouth, then closed it and narrowed her eyes at him. “Bad Jack! So bad!” she shot under her breath, before pivoting back to the rest of their crew. “Alright, kids, listen up. I want you three to get real comfy right here and guard this Opening. No fires. If this really is this planet’s night cycle, you obviously won’t need the heat and your rations can cook themselves.”

“Yes, sir,” the three grunts she’d stolen from Barnes saluted, then started setting up their camp right away.

“Crew, we need higher ground so we can get a better idea of what we’re dealing with, but in the meantime, we treat this like any other exploration. Remember your training, keep your weapons on neutralize with reserves at max power, until we establish contact with this planet’s possible inhabitants and determine whether they’re hostile or not,” she continued. “Also, we’re in a tropical environment, which means higher risk for carnivorous and poisonous flora and fauna, so stay on your toes and keep a wary eye out for plants that looks suspiciously well fed.”

“The optimism of your speeches always gives me goosebumps, Captain,” Blake smirked, switching his rifle settings over and feigning a full body shudder.

“Cheap thrills, Commander,” she returned, following her own weapon instructions, before looking him over pointedly. “I’m a sucker for cheap thrills.”

© A.C. Melody

♥ Thank you for reading! You can find previous episodes under The Wicked Web link on the menu bar above. Until next time….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sensual Sentient ♥ Episode 3

BadJack2

Image source: pinterest.com

Bad Jack

“That wasn’t rock climbing,” Blake grit out two hours later, when they finally reached the top of the cliff. Hauling himself over the ledge, he anchored the lead and started helping everyone else. “That was a goddamn expedition.”

Sida kept her pussy comment to herself, knowing he’d just counter with something like: “you offering?” He always had an inappropriate comeback. While most people needed inspiration or opportunity for their minds to slide into the gutter, Blake’s owned real estate there.

“Holy stars,” Ketha exhaled, when Blake helped her over the edge first.

Once everyone was topside, they detached their harnesses and took a moment to drink in the sheer megalithic size of the deserted city. Every building, statue, fountain and pillar put them right into familiar territory. It was unnerving. Sida’s gaze followed the cracked remnants of a toppled column about twenty yards ahead and to their left, completely blocking their path. She nearly ordered everyone to put their climbing gear back on, since that might be the only way to get over it.

“And it’s still a long way to the summit,” Blake exhaled, his gaze rising to the top of the tallest stepped pyramid in the distance.

“Bad Jack,” Sida snapped at him. “No more magic beans for you.”

He chuckled, rolling his shoulder with equal parts unease and determination. “And here I thought space was the only thing left to make us feel small and insignificant,” he remarked, before flashing that hidden grin at her again. “Guess next time you’ll take the bottom like a good girl.”

Sida patted the butt of her rifle, which was still on her favorite setting despite the engaged safety. “You wanna be the bastard, Yarring?”

Blake snorted. “Cap, I’ve never not been the bastard.”

“You keep giving me reasons to agree with you, it’s going to confuse the hell out of our crew,” she warned.

“There seems to be an actual source of vegetation up here,” Isiah interrupted, too used to their banter to be fazed.

“Just keep an eye on the mine shaft below, let me know when we reach the heart of the city,” Sida ordered. “We won’t find any answers until we can clear this road block, though, so let’s get a move on.”

“I thought the Maya had the whole stairway to heaven thing in the bag,” Ketha muttered, when they reached the downed column.

Due to its massive circumference and smooth surface, they really only had two choices; either bust their way through it or waste several hours walking around it. It was a tough call for a group of scientists. Fortunately, while Sida was still contemplating, they came across a section that was already partially broken and crumbling. It took little effort to carefully blast their way through just the already damaged area by using a relatively weak setting on their rifles. Pausing on the other side, Sida snatched Blake’s binoculars from his vest to get a closer look at the city, now that the view was completely unobstructed.

“Commander, I see glyphs,” she grinned.

“On it,” he reciprocated, running ahead.

“Ensign, where are we in relation to the mine now?”

“Higher than before,” Darling answered. “There’s definitely a steady sloping grade from the surface to the lowest point in the mine, which is the bend. From there to the entrance, it’s almost completely flat.”

Sida hooked the binoculars on her belt and looked around. “That doesn’t make any goddamn sense. A single shaft well should indicate a Qanat system, but there’s only one access point and it’s at the highest elevation, not the lowest. Unless they had gravity-defying water, I think we need to find more evidence behind the true purpose for this mine.”

“I agree. Another three klicks and we’ll be at the city center, Captain,” he replied.

“Good, any readings on what kind of ore we might otherwise be dealing with?” she asked.

“I’ve got trace amounts of the usual recipe, but nothing concrete. We’ll have to dig into deeper sediments for samples.”

“There should be aqueducts,” Sida noted aloud a moment later. “Every civilization had advanced water systems in place by the time they were building cities of this magnitude. They had rain basins, diverted rivers, something to bring fresh water to the citizens.”

Minnows glanced over her shoulder, though they could no longer see the ledge. “That trench could have been a river at one time, which might explain why only part of the city caved in.”

Sida nodded in agreement, though none of them had seen any evidence of that from below. There would be natural markers, different levels of sediment lining the cliff walls like artwork from the water slowly drying up over time. Unless it evaporated all at once. That was an eerie thought, but then so was the very Earthling-like city they were marching toward.

“Or, perhaps water hadn’t been a necessary part of their diet,” Isiah suggested. “It’s kind of sad when you think about it.”

“Then don’t,” Sida suggested.

“Can you imagine our planet dying before we’d even made it out of the iron age?” he persisted.

“Yet, he does it anyway,” Sida grumbled to herself. “Yarring, what have you got for me?”

“Obviously, they made it off this planet, so logically, they were far more advanced than we ever were during our iron age,” Ketha debated with Isiah.

Sida rolled her eyes. “Commander!”

Why did she always get stuck with the kids, while he went to play in the rubble? Something was seriously wrong with that setup.

“You guys aren’t going to believe what I’m looking at,” Blake’s voice finally came through the comm links in their mini-masks. “These NTs…they’re humanoid.”

“Yarring, have you ever seen the Bremm?” she scoffed. “Ogres would be considered more humanoid.”

“These aren’t Bremm, Cap,” he returned. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was staring at the tomb walls of one of our own ancient sites. I’m seeing similarities to all of them. They kept record of everything in the same fashion, too. Farming, fishing, ceremonies, battles…wait–”

“Commander?” Sida prompted, when several moments of silence ticked by.

“Shh.”

Sida arched a brow. He did not just shush her.

“I found the city center events,” he finally spoke again.

“And?” she snapped.

“There’s some kind of procession, NTs climbing onto a platform from an underground chamber right in the heart of the… fucking Christ,” he cut himself off. “It’s an auction block, the bastards were slavers. There’s something extremely off about these glyphs, Captain. Not only are the slaves also humanoid, they’re depicted as being much larger than the citizens.”

“Define much larger,” she replied, peering around at the ginormous city.

“A whole other race kind of larger,” he answered. “And judging by the monoliths used to construct these megaliths, I wouldn’t be shy about labeling them giants.”

“Starblood,” Sida said, looking at Isiah. “Any trace?”

“Not on the surface,” he answered, eyes a little wide. “Giants, Captain? They enslaved giants to build all of this?”

“Yeah, I think they did,” Blake answered for her.

“So much for your advanced theory, Lieutenant,” Isiah remarked to Ketha. “If we find Starblood, no one left this planet by ship.”

“We need to get into that mine,” Sida intervened firmly. “I prefer my facts to be of the non-speculative variety. Why don’t we have a reading on this supposed chamber under the city?”

“I’m not showing any cavities other than the mine, itself, which abruptly stops about a hundred yards below the surface,” Darling confirmed.

“Could have been a cave-in,” Minnows suggested, pointing to the crumbled roads. “These aren’t exactly Imperial quality.”

By the time they reached the city center, Blake was just meeting up with them. “I didn’t find anything depicting the Bremm and I’m really starting to doubt they were ever here. Maybe this isn’t Molta Cremyss, after all, but a completely unknown planet. None of the glyphs I found are pointing toward the apocalyptic event that caused everyone to abandon the home world, but I’m willing to bet all of my gambling debts there’s a lot more where those came from.”

“That’s a lot of negative credit, Commander,” Sida smirked, reluctantly amused.

“I’m a giving man, Cap,” he shrugged. “We need to find their version of a Valley of the Kings.”

“Assuming they buried their dead,” Ketha interjected. “Many ancient civilizations used funeral pyres.”

“I love how scientists are always looking on the bright side of things,” Sida grinned. “Darling, run a perimeter scan fifty yards out and see if you find anything interesting.”

“Got it, Captain.” He didn’t get far, before he was waving them over. “Hey, look at this.”

They all approached the broken, rectangular pattern he was dusting off in the rocky dirt. Crouching at various sections, they all started doing the same, revealing a kind of lip about fifty-five yards long and twenty yards wide.

“This was the auction block,” Blake stated first, studying it more carefully. “Or at least the foundation of it.”

“Which means, this had to be where the entrance to the underground chamber was,” Sida pointed to a large area of the ground that bowled toward the center. “Looks like cave-in wins the pool. Good call, Minnows.”

“If that led to the chamber, and its somehow connected to the mine shaft, we could be looking at trouble,” Blake swore under his breath. “What do you want to do now, Cap?”

It was another tough decision. They were already topside, had spent two hours getting there and another making it to the city center, yet the chance of there being Starblood underground pulled at her.

“What we always do, Commander,” Sida decided. “Find the door to the next planet. Back to base, crew.”

Rising to her feet, Sida peered around the city of ruins once more, suppressing the desire to say the hell with protocol and go racing right into every building, turn over every stone, and learn everything she could about the NTs who’d lived there, because the similarities to Earth couldn’t be ignored. They could very well be standing right in the middle of a missing link in their own evolution. Their own origins. To say she was intrigued was a cosmic understatement. She wanted answers five minutes ago.

First, they needed to solve the mystery of the mine.

Thank you for reading! If you’re just tuning in, check out The Wicked Web link on the menu above for previous episodes. Until next time…

#TacoTuesday

Welcome to week 2 of Taco Tuesday. If you’re just joining in, no worries, there’s no time limit. You can check the original post here to get the objective and start building your own delicious book taco! Now, for our next layer…

Writers Menu

Meat: Main Characters are the ‘meat’ of your story, give us one of your favorite ‘first’ meets between a leading duo (or trio+ all are welcome here!)

The door chimed open, bringing the aromas from the pier, warm ocean air, an abundance of alcohol and…candy. Arching a brow, Kazi put his pencil and sketchpad down, then left his tiny back office. He stopped short just beyond the curtain, unable to move until he’d taken in every centimeter of the curvy brunette eying his prints on the wall. She was native something, her tanned skin natural, rather than sun induced. Her ebony hair was long and looked just as silky to the touch as her partially exposed flesh. Revealed by the white sleeveless t-shirt that stopped shy of her lower back.

Deciding he’d loitered long enough, Kazi entered the main room and had to steady himself again, when she turned to face him. Her toned stomach and sexy navel was the perfect preamble to the sensual flare of her hips. Her beautiful face was nothing but exotic with higher cheekbones, further confirming his suspicions about her heritage. Eyes like pale emeralds locked onto his, a little unfocused despite the clash of fire and ice.

“You, tattoo me,” she ordered, the alcohol-induced slur did nothing to stem the damage her husky voice had on his system.

Before Kazi could utter the single word poised on the tip of his tongue, his drunk, would-be customer stumbled to the nearest bed.  She dropped her purse to the floor, then stretched along the length of it on her stomach.

Odin’s breath, she looked like a centerfold with the way her lower back dipped so deeply before the rise of an ass that defied all reason. The kind that could tempt even the sanest, most faithful man on earth. As a free agent, Kazi wasn’t in any danger of those crimes. He was, however, unyielding when it came to his own rules.

“You’re not getting a tattoo tonight, sweetheart,” he denied her.

“Yes, I am,” she insisted, as she cushioned her head on her arms and let her eyes droop closed. Long, dark lashes cast shadows along her prominent cheekbones. “I want a tramp stamp.”

Kazi grimaced, unable to hide his disappointment. “Why?”

“Does it matter? I have money, so get to inking.”

Kazi heard the bitter anger in her tone. Bad breakup? Cheating husband? He was torn between an unexpected need to defend her honor and the urge to hit someone simply for being that insurmountably stupid. Gods, he couldn’t get the smell of cotton candy out his nose!

“And what is it that you would have tattooed there?” he asked, though it wouldn’t change the outcome. She wasn’t getting a tattoo by him this night or any other she decided to stumble into his parlor drunk.

If it was a man’s name, Kazi was going to bash someone’s face in, honor and stupidity be damned.

Lifting her head, she looked at him with a murderous curve to her absolutely edible lips. “Mistletoe. So the whole world knows it can kiss my ass.”

~ Moon Tides (The Úlfrinn series)

Readers Menu

Meat: What was the most unique, hilarious or epic ‘first’ meeting of Main Characters you’ve ever read in a book?

His Hostage coverI can’t name the most unique, because the book isn’t out yet and I don’t do spoilers – BUT – the same author brought her two Main Characters, Hal and Evie, together for the first time in an epic way in His Hostage. Anna Adler’s debut novel was my first introduction to ‘meet-by-abduction,’ rather than abduction after the fact or even an abduction that was premeditated. As a ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ kind of kidnapping, Hal and Evie’s first meet was an instant thrill that kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next!

Once again – if you’re reading this consider yourself tagged!

 

Next Tuesday’s ingredients are Beans!

Beans for the writer: Details are a fat free way to fill out your story, whether real or fictitious, what was your favorite place to describe?

Beans for the reader: Which book or series had such a spellbinding knack for detail that you feel like you’ve actually been there in person? (You get extra cool points for choosing a book that has never been adapted to film.)

Thief of Dragons ♥ Episode 19

WardenTsaoShin

image source: TsaoShin @ Deviantart.com

Gentlemanly

Arcylaen paused across the threshold of his study. Flicking the light on at last, he gave his brother a dubious look.

“This is a new tactic,” he remarked, hanging his suit jacket up, while Brejeir sipped from the diamond cut snifter in his hand.

“Yeah well, desperate times and all,” Brej replied. “Since your latest strategy is largely cowardice, avoiding anyone and everything that might have any kind of contact with your own Ward.”

“Brother–”

“No, Cylaen,” Brejeir cut him off, downing the rest of his whiskey and rising. “You weren’t here to deliver the bad news, or to see how well that went over. She’s beyond upset, and with every right to be so.”

“What would you have me do?” Arcylaen demanded. “Let her be the Ward of Haraj or Gwyn? Let them have complete control over her, and command her to do things against her will? Should I just let her roam freely about the city unprotected, so she can be captured and used against me as a pawn, just because her Echelonite chose me?! Is that what I should do, brother?”

“No, Cyl. You should be here when she needs you,” Brej stated firmly. “Not burying yourself in work just to avoid her.”

“I’m not–”

“Oh, bullshit,” Brej waved his hand in frustration. “You haven’t seen or spoken a single word to her all day, which is an extreme change from stalking her, I might add.”

Cylaen rolled his eyes at his brother’s exaggeration, no matter how slight it was. “You don’t understand, Brej. I feel her all of the time. I am constantly aware of where she is. You don’t know how difficult it is to concentrate on anything else, when she’s always right there in the peripheral of my consciousness. I don’t even trust myself to be in the same room with her. I can’t risk saying something the wrong way again.”

“What do you mean ‘again’?” Brej narrowed his eyes.

Releasing a heavy sigh, Cylaen helped himself to a drink he desperately needed. “Last night, I just… I told her to go to bed. They were just words, Brej. Something anyone might have said, but she couldn’t stop herself from following through the motions, as if she had no control over her own actions. I had to order her to stop undressing in front of me!”

Brejeir stared at him with parted lips and wide eyes. “Holy…wow.”

“Yeah, that about covers it,” Arcylaen nodded grimly. “Talex was right. I’m no better than the Black Dogs of Cayen.”

“Now, you just hold on a goddamn minute. You don’t get to talk about my brother that way–”

“This isn’t a joke, Brejeir,” Cylaen leveled him with a dark scowl. “I used my position, my power and influence to persuade the Council to side with me, to rush Leandra through the Warden Rites. How does that make me any better than them? How does that make me a good leader, that I would use those things to get my way?”

“For her protection, Cyl!” His brother countered. “After what you just told me could happen, simply by the way you worded something so mundane, I believe that more than ever before, how can you not? No, you did the right thing, brother. You know for a fact Haraj, at least, would take full advantage of his control over her.”

The dark, vile rage that swam through Arcylaen confirmed that his brother was right, but that didn’t make their circumstances any less volatile. They were traversing through landmines now. “It doesn’t matter. That is how they are treating the situation. Haraj said as much this morning, Brej, you heard him with your own ears. They’re calling for my position to be revoked and once the other Houses get wind of Leadra’s Echelonite’s choice, they’ll side with the Griffin and push for my removal as the Dragon’s Head. This isn’t about her guilt or innocence anymore, brother, this is a struggle for power, which puts us all in danger.”

“Then fight it, Cylaen. Run for office, get voted in and start making changes to these ridiculous laws!”

“That could take up to a year, and you know it. The elections are still two months away, and laws don’t get changed overnight, even when it appears that way. It takes months of planning, drafting and getting them passed through all of the right channels first,” Arcylaen shook his head, put the snifter to his lips and stilled.

His entire mind filled with Leandra’s presence. It shivered down his spine to ignite his lust and touch on all his concerns about their predicament. Even Jesper stirred on his shoulder, aware and confused.

“I can feel her,” he exhaled.

“You already said that,” Brej huffed.

“No, right now, I can feel her… everywhere,” Arcylaen stated, whipping his head around, as if he might see her there. “It’s like she’s in a hundred different places at once.”

Half expecting to see Leandra standing outside of his study, Arcylaen stared in confusion at the empty hallway, then kept going. He headed back into the foyer and took the grand staircase two steps at a time, with Brejeir right on his heels. It felt like he was chasing receding shadows that were always a step ahead of him, until they became one concentrated presence beyond the door to her room.

It didn’t make a lick of sense!

“Leandra?” He knocked on her door, but no answer came.

Trying the knob, he was a little relieved to find it unlocked. He gestured for his brother to wait in the hall, then stepped into the dark room. More relief filled him, when he saw the distinct shape of her tucked under the covers in the middle of the bed. He approached the side of it, and leaned down to brush the dark locks from her peaceful face. Her Echelonite was nowhere to be seen, but that was normal for them in sleep. Their symbiotic companions tended to slip into an unconscious stasis while their host’s slumbered, rendering them invisible to the naked eye.

“Arcylaen?” she stirred.

Her eyes blinked open, even as her black panther appeared on the pillow beside her head with a big yawn.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” He straightened quickly, glancing at the open doorway to see Brejeir walking away with a pleased smirk on his face.

Ugh. Brothers.

“What are you doing in here?” she asked in sleepy confusion, sitting up while hugging the blankets closer to her chest.

“I felt…” How to explain? “I don’t know what I felt, exactly. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Stifling a yawn, she pushed her silky hair back from her beautiful face and studied him for a moment. “I’d have felt a lot better if I didn’t have to hear how the Council session went from Brejeir, instead of you.”

Sighing, Arcylaen sat down on the side of the bed and lifted her fingers with his. “I know,” he admitted. “What happened last night…it worried me, Leandra and it angers me. What if the next time, it’s something dangerous? What if I say the wrong thing while we’re in public? I’m second guessing every little word before I speak now, and the worst of it is, when it comes to my desires for you, kitten, I want to tell you what to do. I want to tell you to kiss me, strip for me, to do so many things and I can’t. Because, I want you to do them of your own free will, not by the force of some ancient Rite.”

Could she understand his frustrations and concerns? Was it a man’s ego, alone, driving his anger or a man’s desire, alone, that craved those moments of her yielding to him willingly? Leandra appeared surprised by his confession, but not put off, thank the Divine.

“You could always suggest it,” she finally said.

“Suggest what?”

“That I kiss you, rather than commanding it,” she elaborated. “If you’re already trying to be cautious about how you word everything else, then why not do the same for your desires?”

Because, in the heat of the moment, who in the hell was thinking clearly? Still, it might be worth a shot. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly. He rephrased what he wanted about five different times in his head, before choosing his least favorite, merely because it felt the safest.

“Why don’t you kiss me?”

“No,” she answered, then beamed at him. “See? It worked!”

Arcylaen arched a brow at her. “That’s a matter of opinion.”

Still smiling, she straightened her shoulders. “Okay, ask me again, but this time try wording it more how you want to. I think as long as you keep it in the form of a question, it will work.”

Giving her an option defeated the purpose, couldn’t she see that? Even though he wanted her to give into him willingly, didn’t mean he wanted to pose it as a damn choice.

“Why don’t you give me a kiss, right now?” he suggested on a low growl, his frustration increasing.

“Okay,” she replied, holding his gaze. “But, only because I want to, not because it didn’t work.”

Leaning forward, Leandra pressed her mouth to his before her words even registered all the way. Liquid heat poured down Arcylaen’s throat from the contact, his lust rising recklessly, because he couldn’t separate it from all his other emotions. There was a startling possessiveness, stemming from having faced off with two other men that wanted complete control over her. It had taken a lot more willpower than he’d been prepared for not to threaten their very lives, if they ever came within a hundred feet of Leandra.

The mere thought of it had him pulling her into his arms, banding them tighter around her, as if they could always keep her safe. Keep her his. When her arms slid around his neck, accepting and wanting, his entire chest filled with pride. His desire was like molten gold, shimmering through his veins and he knew if they didn’t stop soon, he wouldn’t be able to at all.

“Leandra,” he exhaled, trying and failing to break away from her delectable mouth. The feel of her soft lips and the delicious heat of her tongue.

“More,” she begged, tightening her hold around his neck. “Please, more.”

“Leandra,” Arcylaen moaned, when she rose higher, squishing her breasts into his chest and kissing him deeper. There were no mixed signals, her desires were being broadcast loud and clear. It was just too dangerous. “Leandra, we need to stop.”

His body hated those words. He hated those words, which meant it had to be the right thing to do. Shivers of lust ignited through his muscles, when her hand dove into his hair and pulled his head back so she could peer into his face.

“Arcylaen, stop trying to be a gentleman when we both know you’re not,” she advised with a sultry smirk. “Is this really the sum of your intentions? Just kissing?”

Stunned, Arcylaen laughed, but it was just as naughty as her words made him feel. Hell no. Kissing was far from being the sum of his intentions, and the little minx knew exactly how to goad him with that challenge, using his own words against him. Was it any wonder he was so attracted to her?

“You’re not ready to know the sum of my intentions, Leandra,” he vowed, a warning served with a smile. “Nor am I settled enough at the moment to prove that to you.”

He saw the determination darken the desire in her yes, before she pressed into him further, her fingers curling around his collar when she attempted to capture his mouth again. It killed him to stop her, when every fiber of his being was aching to lunge.

“Don’t,” he began, gently cuffing her wrist to pull her hand from his shirt. Swallowing the rest of that command, he took a deep breath and tried again. “Please, don’t push at my restraints when they’re already close to snapping, Leandra. I’m angry. I don’t want that anywhere near you, near us, especially our first time together.”

Her features softened with understanding, but there was still a deep well of determination she wasn’t even trying to hide. It only made Arcylaen burn hotter for her.

“Will you stay here with me, then, for just a little while?” she asked.

“That is something I’d never say no to,” he conceded. Despite the further strain it put on his lust, it helped slake some of his possessiveness, at least. When Leandra made to pull the covers aside for him, Arcylaen quickly placed his hand on them to stop her and shook his head. “I’ll be okay on top of the blankets.”

With a heavy sigh, she waited for him to toe off his shoes and stretch out beside her with the barrier of clothing and bedding between their bodies. Snuggling into his arms as close as she could get, his little kitty cat just couldn’t stop herself from expressing her unhappiness. Something he found just as mesmerizing as the rest of her, because it was refreshingly honest.

“I don’t think I like your gentlemanly side, Dragon.”

Pulling her into him even closer, Arcylaen inhaled the exotic perfume of her hair and smiled wickedly into the darkness. “A temporary setback, kitten, I assure you. Very temporary.”

Thank you for reading! If you’re just tuning in, you can find all previous episodes of Thief of Dragons under The Wicked Web link on the menu above. Up next, Episode 20.

p.s. I normally don’t publish twice in one day, unless someone is in need of an Arcylaen-fix. 😉  Hope this did the trick!

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