Check out our great releases in romance and women’s fiction for October!
Waitlisted by Laurel Gans
Dominion of the Eth by J.C. Owens
Dreams of Fate by Elyzabeth M. VaLey
Can’t Make You Love Me by Brien Michaels
Winter in Paradise by TC Archer
Genre: Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction
Editor: Thalia S. Child
Cover Artist: Annie Melton
Kacey Barlow had no idea it would be this hard to get into grad school. Her well-to-do family has been attending IU for generations, and admissions had been recruiting her since high school! She was a shoo-in—that is, until they gave her the boot.
She can’t tell her parents, and can’t stand the thought of her friends going off to grad school without her. Her grades are slipping. Her professors can’t remember her name, and her tutor, Taylor, won’t stop hitting on her when they’re supposed to be studying.
Okay, maybe that last one isn’t so bad. But it’s not going to help get her a seat in another school…and applications are due in two weeks…
I hop on the freeway, speed for nearly an hour, and roll past three obvious stop signs to get to my destination.
My tires screech to a halt and I attempt to mask my emotions as I casually walk into the newish brick office building. I take a quick ride in the elevator up to the third floor. I walk down the hallway and see a familiar glass door on my right. Etched in the glass is a picture of a tooth and the words “Diane Barlow, DDS.” A sense of pride flashes over me. That’s my mom.
I enter and the new face working behind the front desk catches my eye. That’s strange. I wonder where Julie is today. She’s always here! I love seeing her. Every time I stop by she makes me wear a sticker that says, “I got my teeth cleaned by Dr. Barlow!”
The new lady’s wearing multi-colored scrubs and talking quite loudly on the phone to a patient. Hasn’t this lady ever heard of HIPAA? Now the whole world knows some poor guy needs to have his cavity filled next Wednesday at noon. As soon as she hangs up the phone, I politely cut in.
“Excuse me. I’m here to see Diane Barlow.”
“She’s busy. Do you have an appointment?”
An appointment? I don’t need an appointment! I’m her baby!
“Well no, but—”
“Then I can’t help you. She’s booked all day.”
“No, you don’t understand. I’m not a patient—”
The phone rings. The evil lady picks up the phone with one hand and holds up one finger with the other. She gave me the finger! Well, not that finger but it’s still very rude!
“Mmmhmm…mmmhmmm…yes…no…OK… We’ll get back to you. Buh-bye.”
The lady slams down the phone and seems to ignore the fact that I’m still standing here. I give her a second out of courtesy… Yep, she’s definitely ignoring me.
OK, one last chance, lady.
“Could you please tell Diane Barlow to come to the front desk? It’s important.”
“You don’t understand…”
All right, it’s time.
“No, you don’t understand. My name is Kacey Barlow. I’m her daughter.”
A fake smile grows over her face. Suddenly, she’s as friendly as Barney the Dinosaur…with a few drinks in him.
“Oh, you’re Kacey! Oh, you are adorable! I’ve heard all about you. Hang on, hon. I’ll get your mom.”
She presses a button on the phone and like magic my mom appears. She’s dressed in her green scrubs and tennis shoes. Just the sight of her makes me feel better.
“Kacey, is everything OK?”
“Yeah. I had the afternoon free so I thought I’d come visit!” I say.
She gives me a big hug. “Well, it’s great to see you! I see you’ve met Paula.” She gestures to the front desk lady.
“Yes, we have! She’s a doll!” Paula says.
“Come on, I’ll take you to the back.”
She puts her arm around me and we walk toward her office. It takes every ounce of energy in me not to turn around and give Paula a little glare. What a phony.
I love my mom’s back office. She has this huge oversized cherry desk in the center which, I must say, looks absolutely perfect. Whoever picked it has great taste (Hint hint…it was me!). On it, she has her new upgraded laptop, an adorable bronze desk lamp (again, all me!) and some silk plants (we’re not really gardening people). On one wall, she has her diplomas all framed. On the other, she has pictures of (you guessed it!) me dating back over two decades. I was so cute!
I sit down on one of the chairs across from her desk. My mom closes the office door and takes a seat next to me. The only thing left to do is get it all out in the open.
I have to tell her everything from the beginning, starting from when that idiot Mark Boyd interrupted my perfect afternoon off. I’ll leave out the part about the burnt waffle, the tight pants, and the illegal parking. That would be superfluous.
Once I get it all out, I know I’ll feel better. Moms have a way of making everything all better no matter what it is. I’ll say, “Mom, UI said they don’t want me anymore.” Then my mom will give me one of those big reassuring hugs and say, “Baby, it’s their loss! A better school will accept you and you’ll go there! Let’s go get some ice cream.” Then we’ll go to Dairy Queen and I’ll at least get a free hot fudge sundae with nuts and sprinkles out of this whole mess.
“So, how’s school going for you?” my mom asks.
“Yeah? All your classes are going well?”
“Yeah. I took my physics test yesterday. I think it went really well!”
“And how’s o-chem? Still giving you trouble?”
I shrug. “Eh, a little but I’m getting through it.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not like any of these grades matter.” She gives me a smile. “You’re already into grad school.”
My eyes widen. There’s my cue. Should I take it? Maybe I can tell her later.
No, Kacey! It’s now or never. OK, deep breath. You can do this.
“I actually wanted to talk to you about that.”
“About your grades?”
“No, about grad school.”
“Sure. What is it?”
I look down at my lap and try to hope for the best. It’s not like she’ll be mad. How could she be? I didn’t really do anything wrong!
“I’m not… I mean…”
Just say it!
“The thing is… What would you think…”
Come on, almost there.
“What would you think of…me applying to a couple other schools?”
All right, that didn’t really come out as planned but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Here’s the plan. I’ll get accepted to an even more exclusive school. Then one day, months from now, maybe over dinner or coffee, I’ll casually mention this whole Indiana debacle. Then we’ll laugh about this whole situation at my white coat ceremony at some other (way better) school.
“You don’t want to go to Indiana anymore?”
Oh no! She looks hurt—like really hurt—like I personally offended her. I need a quick recovery now!
“No, no! It’s not that. It’s just…I want to look into all my options. That’s all.”
“But, I thought you loved UI.”
“I did! I do! I just want to do a little research before I make anything final. That’s all.”
I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but when my mom wants me to do something, she tells me so in some sort of mom code. It’s like she pretends she’s not telling me what to do but in reality, she knows I’m getting the message loud and clear.
“You should do what you want, Kacey. It’s your life, not mine.”
Yet somehow the words she’s saying and the look on her face don’t match up.
“So, you don’t care if I apply to other schools?” I say.
“No! I mean at Indiana you’d be third generation on both sides of the family at one of the top dental schools in the nation but that shouldn’t be your deciding factor, sweetheart,” she says.
“So, you don’t mind?”
“No. Just because at Indiana you’d be close enough to home that your parents can still see their only child whom they love… Why should that affect your decision?” she says.
“So, it’s OK if I don’t go to Indiana?”
“Absolutely! It’s not like you’d be the only member of this family not to. Your Great-Uncle Harry didn’t and look where he ended up.”
I can’t look where he ended up. Uncle Harry went missing five years before I was born.
“If you don’t want me to, I’ll stick with Indiana,” I say.
“I want you to do what makes you happy,” she says.
“So it’s OK if apply to some other schools?”
“Yes. I’m sure there are lots of other schools where both your grandfathers’ work is on display in the library. You should apply there.”
I am so screwed.
Dominion of the Eth
Wings, Book 2
Genre: M/M Romance/Fantasy
Heat Level: 4
Editor: Katriena Knights
Cover Artist: Amanda Kelsey
The collar would stay, for Rylis would never free Tamrin…
Childhood memories of the Eth did no justice to what Rylis Tanyan would encounter in the depths of the Teeathun forest. But what he had treasured before had betrayed him, and now he must fight to escape the confines of the forest and his feelings for Tamrin, the Eth whom he’d loved long ago…
Rylis spread his wings and leapt into the air, wings beating strongly. He glided over the area, circling, physically draining his energy that wanted a target, a release—anything to relieve the confusion and pain that seemed to have possessed his whole being.
He saw Tamrin pause in his weeding, turning on his knees to watch Rylis’s flight, perhaps concerned he would try to test the barrier once more.
Rylis found himself pleased the healer was watching, and he rolled in the air, increasing his speed as he shot upwards and looped sharply, displaying battle tactics as he changed direction abruptly, almost braking in the air before stooping downwards straight at Tamrin.
The Eth did not flinch as Rylis swept by, drawing up at the last moment to avoid the healer. He just continued to watch.
Rylis wanted the Eth to know who he was—a commander, a warrior, a possible threat, no victim at all.
He tried to ignore the part of him that smugly wanted to show off, wanted Tamrin to see him as—
He grunted in disgust at his own thoughts.
When he had at last drained himself sufficiently, he landed with precision just a few feet from Tamrin’s position.
The Eth had returned to his weeding and did not look up.
Rylis could not help feeling a little disgruntled in some fashion that made no sense at all.
At last the Eth rose to his full height. His tunic and pants were covered in dirt, and his hands and claws rubbed absently on the cloth as if Tamrin’s thoughts were far away from his physical self.
Rylis could safely watch him, his fascination seemingly little dulled by proximity and time.
This close, it was clear that Tamrin was at least a head taller than Rylis and broader in the shoulders. He was lean and lithe, his muscles smooth and toned with daily use, not the honed musculature that Rylis had as a warrior.
Still, his strength was evident, and Rylis was not foolish enough to believe that the slim form did not hold power. It was simply more hidden, more secretive.
Rylis shivered, then frowned to quell the impulses that wanted expression. The part of himself that had always wanted to have a lover that could take charge now and then—
He sucked in his breath. Again he was thinking of Tamrin as a sexual being. Where in the hells was this line of thought coming from?
He jerked from his musings as Tamrin turned and walked away, gesturing at him to follow with one dirty hand. Rylis hesitated before he followed, his eyes fixed on the end of that braid where it tapped repeatedly on that firm, beautiful…
He closed his eyes, beginning to be convinced he was losing his mind.
The healer was an enemy, no more than that, and that was all he could ever be.
Dreams of Fate
Elyzabeth M. VaLey
Genre: Erotic Romance/Paranormal
Length: Short Story
Editor: Jennifer Fitzpatrick
Cover Artist: Mina Carter
There are more to dreams than meets the eye…
When Alisha, Queen of the elves, meets Lord Tarmo in the dead of the night, she recognizes him as the man who has plagued her dreams. Soon, she discovers that he too has been dreaming with her. The problem is that Tarmo is a vampire.
Afraid of the power Tarmo holds over her body, Alisha does not want to believe that their dreams are visions of destiny. But once they touch, neither can deny the passion that binds them for all time…
As the lights were rekindled, Alisha took in the man before her. A pale white face with deep blue eyes full of recognition stared back at her. Her breath hitched in her throat, and her heart beat so fast she thought she would faint. She gripped the arms of her chair until her knuckles turned white and she could feel the wood digging into her skin. She knew the man as if he’d been by her side all her life. Yet she had only seen him in dreams, until now.
No words came to mind, only images: hands entwined, kisses in the dark, his lush mouth lavishing attention on her neck, imprinting his essence on her soul. His fingertips brushing her breasts, her hands entwined in his hair while he feasted on her body. She on her knees relishing the taste of him…
Alisha felt a flush creep over her cheeks, and she had to swallow hard before she could speak. “My Lord Tarmo, welcome. What pressing matters do you bear that could not wait until the morrow?” If the news he brought was so urgent that it couldn’t wait until formal court, then she couldn’t be bothered about niceties either.
“My lady, the news I bring cannot be told in the open. I would confer with you in private.” His deep voice made her body churn with desire. His blue eyes bore into hers, almost as if he was reading her very soul.
Can’t Make You Love Me
Genre: M/M Erotic Romance/Contemporary
Length: Short Novel
Editor: Thalia S. Child
Cover Artist: Mina Carter
It’s just a crush…right?
Sean has had a serious crush on Dylan for years, he’s just never known how to tell him. So when the opportunity arises to show Dylan how he really feels, how is Sean supposed to resist?
It doesn’t matter how straight Dylan is, he knows attraction when he feels it. The only problem is that things seem to be progressing further than he’d like, and Sean shows no signs of turning back. Dylan needs to make a choice—and the sooner, the better—because the longer he waits, the more likely things will get out of hand. But how can he turn away his best friend without losing…his best friend?
The two of them fell into silence again and Sean flopped down on his bed. Dylan sat down next to him. Sean wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he was so happy to see Dylan he wanted to cry. He stared at the wall opposite him and scooted an inch away from Dylan. He couldn’t take being that close. Sean’s mind was racing when Dylan spoke again.
“I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“Thinking about what?”
“About what happened.”
When Sean looked in Dylan’s direction, he met the other boy’s eyes. “Look … I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was—”
“I think I liked it.”
Sean froze, his mouth still open, though the ghost of what he had been getting ready to say had already vacated his brain. He blinked several times before closing his mouth.
“No,” Dylan said, shaking his head. “I know that I liked it. I think that’s why I freaked out like I did… I wasn’t supposed to like it that much.”
“I don’t know what happened.” He looked down in the direction of his knees and seemed to be talking more to himself now than he was to Sean. “I did everything I could think of… Fucked everyone I could think of, but it still wouldn’t get out of my head.” He looked back at Sean. “Every time I close my eyes, it’s all I see. Why, Sean? Why’d you do it?”
Sean opened his mouth, realized that there was nothing he could think of to say, and shut it again.
“Tell me it was just some freak thing, bro. Tell me that you’re not a…” He stopped himself, seemingly unable to bring himself to say the word that was on his mind.
But Sean already knew what it was. He looked away from Dylan’s eerily unblinking gaze. “I am,” he told the illustrated calendar on his wall.
“Damn it, Sean!” Dylan roared. He sprang up from the bed as though he had been electrocuted and started to pace the room. “How long have you known?”
Sean flinched at the sudden volume of Dylan’s voice. “Ninth grade.”
“Ninth grade? Ninth grade! You’ve known that you were gay for six fucking years and you didn’t tell me?”
“Look at yourself! Look at how you’re acting!”
Dylan stared him down. “I don’t give a shit that you’re gay, asshole. I’m pissed off because you didn’t tell me!”
“Well what was I supposed to say? Hey Dyl, guess what, I’m gay?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what you were supposed to say! You were supposed to tell your best friend that something about your life had changed!”
“Stop yelling at me!” Sean was starting to feel the telltale signs of anger. If he didn’t calm down soon, the blood that was beginning to boil and heat the underside of his skin would send him over the edge. He and Dylan might actually come to blows. “I didn’t think that you were going to take it well, so I didn’t tell you.”
“But it’s not up to you to figure out how I’m going to take things. You tell me and you let me deal with it.” He shook his head and resumed his pacing. “Dude, you saw me almost every day. How could you keep something like─”
“Because I started liking you!” Sean blurted and then clapped a hand to his mouth.
Dylan stopped in his tracks and looked at Sean once again. “What?”
Sean was horrorstruck as he lowered his hand. He couldn’t believe he’d just said that. What was going to happen now? Bottom lip quivering, he looked Dylan in the eye. “At first, I was just scared that you were gonna make fun of me. But then I started liking you and… I was afraid that you wouldn’t be my friend any more if you knew.” His heart was hammering in his chest. He had vowed to himself that he would never admit to Dylan his true feelings, yet here he was, sitting in his bedroom, waiting for Dylan to say that he never wanted to see him again and storm out of his life forever.
“It’s OK,” Sean said. He broke eye contact and studied his toenails. “I understand.”
“What? What do you understand?”
“That you don’t wanna be friends anymore.”
A frustrated roar tore through the air and Sean looked up in time to see Dylan punch his wall hard enough to leave an imprint in the dried plaster surface. He turned on Sean. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Do you really think I’m going to just stop being your friend because you suck dick?”
“No. I think that you’re gonna stop being my friend because…” His confidence fled, and his voice dropped until it was barely more than a whisper. “I want to suck yours.”
The silence that followed Sean’s admission was deafening. It closed in on Sean and pounded at his ears as though they were drums.
Sweat had broken out on Dylan’s forehead. He opened his mouth, seemed to think better of what he was about to say and closed it again. His eyes darted towards the door.
That was the reaction Sean had been waiting for. “I…um…” He nodded, trying to ignore the feeling of his heart sliding away from where it belonged in his chest.
Dylan swallowed audibly, then spoke. “I need to use the bathroom.” And he turned on his heel and left the room, his face more confused than Sean had ever seen it.
And just like that, Sean was alone, as he’d always feared he would be.
Tears seeped from the corners of his eyes before he knew how to stop them. The flow was light at first, but the more he thought about what he’d just lost because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, the harder the tears fell. He wiped away the ones that had already fallen and tried to stem the flow of the ones that were still coming, but to no avail. He had known all along that Dylan would leave him once he found out, so why did it hurt so badly?
Sean lay back on his bed and turned on to his side so he was staring at the wall. He blotted still more tears and jumped when Dylan spoke from the doorway.
“Is that really what you want?” His voice sounded shaky to Sean, as though he was afraid of the question he was asking.
“Is what…” Sean’s voice deserted him and his breath caught in his throat. He’d turned over and caught sight of Dylan standing in the doorway.
Dylan was still wearing his shirt, but nothing else.
Winter in Paradise
Genre: Erotic Romance/SF-futuristic
Editor: Charlotte Cowie
Cover Artist: Mina Carter
On a planet turned to ice, only a warm heart is worth dying for.
When Major Kelly Andres awakens to find Major Byron Grayson gone from the cave that has been their military base the last five months, she realizes he has disobeyed her orders. He’s gone to activate the quantum disruptor that he hopes will draw enemy fire, enabling the Provisional Army to attack the enemy armada. It’s a suicide mission. And Grayson knows it.
Kelly has no intention of letting Grayson die alone in the frozen wasteland that planet Onyx has become since the war began. She’s determined to find him and bring him back to base, because when they die, she wants him in her bed.
Major Kelly Andres woke from the nightmare, unable and unwilling to move. The feeling of depression and aloneness lingered like an Uldaran Howler bug waiting in the shadows of the cave to feed upon her carcass. In the dream, she was cold, freezing cold. Her fingers and toes where dead and black. Frost sparkled on her skin. Purple bruising and dead flesh spread from the frostbitten digits up her hands and feet to her wrist and ankles. She had felt no pain, only dead lifeless stumps that made her certain her hands and feet would be amputated—the kind of certainty with which a person knows their name, rank, and serial number. She was always cold and alone in the dream. So very alone.
She shivered despite the thick furs that cocooned her in warmth. The nightmare always left her hollow with the conviction she would spend her life with no hands or feet, deformed and unloved. She remained unmoving, sorting through her emotions. It was only a dream. She was in her bed, under her covers, facing away from her man. He was always warm, as if he had a fusion reactor at his core. So much heat radiated from him, she couldn’t hold him long when they settled beneath the covers for the night. Her body clenched with the need for his warmth—and his readiness to fill her. If she cupped his balls, he’d wake with a hard cock and make her feel loved. The memory of dead hands and feet would vaporize.
Kelly snaked a hand behind her, but only cool sheets met her fingers. She rolled to face him and stretched out again. He wasn’t within reach. She opened her eyes. The yellow cave-light seemed to emanate from all directions, an effect created by walls carved of clear crystal. The top fur on his side of the bed lay flat on the mattress. He must have risen as he often did to check the instruments and surveillance systems. She shifted toward the main part of the cave, pulse already accelerating in anticipation of seeing the muscled buttocks she’d felt beneath her fingers countless times these last five months. But he wasn’t standing among the consoles, storage drives, or quantum communicator.
She pushed back the furs and sat up. She hugged herself against the chill. The atomic power unit, the source of the yellow glow, provided too little heat to be wearing only panties. They were surrounded by sold mountain crystal, but couldn’t chance much heat. If the enemy detected them, their planet—and their people—would have no chance for survival.
“Byron?” she called.
Only the whisper of fans and the faint beep of the power sequencer answered.
Still no answer. The one room cave, her and Major Byron Grayson’s duty station, was only forty feet wide. She swung her feet to the cold stone floor, yanked a fur off the bed, and dragged it around her bare shoulders.
“Grayson, damn you, answer. This isn’t funny.”
She forced back panic and approached the surveillance station. The weather monitors displayed the same uniform whiteout and gale winds that had swirled ice crystals outside the station ever since they broke free of the Kirsovals’ tyranny.
“Byron, you’re scaring me.”
His furs still hung by the exit, but… Her blood chilled. His enviro-suit was gone. Heart pounding, Kelly leaned forward and looked to the far left. Half hidden from view, a smaller storage cabinet sat beside a large locker. The small locker was open and the quantum disruptor that had been stored there was gone. She couldn’t mistake the message behind the disruptor’s open case. That was like him. No note, no good-byes, just an open door that stated I’ve taken matters into my own hands.
Anger replaced fear. The fool had disobeyed orders. Her orders. They were officers in the Provisional Army and she was the senior officer on this mission—senior by four months, but senior nonetheless—and she had ordered him to stay put. Worse yet, he’d promised. He’d promised!
She dropped the fur and rushed to Biometrics, located in the right hand corner of the cave. The readout indicated his suit had been gone for four hours and had dropped off telemetry link two hours ago. The computer had extrapolated how much power his suit would have used during the last two hours based on the weather conditions outside and subtracted that from how much remained when he lost contact. A red 0% flashed on the monitor.
Kelly blinked away hot tears and glanced at the furs just inside the tunnel leading to the exit. Two sets hung on the wall. An enviro-suit would maintain his core temperature for ten hours when wearing the furs, but he’d worn only the suit. She turned and batted the weather monitor around to face her. Green numbers glared bright against the black monitor that showed the outside temp the same today as it had been yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that: sixty below zero.
Her heart constricted. By now, his suit would be drained of all power. She couldn’t imagine the powerful body that had ridden her into a delirious frenzy night after night lying frozen and alone in the ice somewhere. How would she live without ever feeling his touch again, the flutter that always began in her stomach when he looked at her, the feeling in that moment when his cock invaded her? What would she do without him?
Damn him and the ridiculous honor that compelled him to forego his furs in hopes the enemy would detect his body heat and not search for smaller heat signatures like that of the shielded station…and her. Was this proof why lovers shouldn’t be stationed together? No, the most glorious part of love was undeniable devotion.