Treasure Hunters by Caitlyn Willows

TreasureHunters

 

TREASURE HUNTERS
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense
Copyrright 2005, 2017

Crushed by the emotional and financial burden as guardian of five children, newspaper reporter Rika Kiley struggles to make ends meet. And just when she’d met the most incredible man.

Ryan Fletcher isn’t about to let anything come between him and the woman of his dreams. He’ll do whatever is necessary to help keep Rika’s family together. Why can’t Rika realize and accept what he’s offering?

A two-million-dollar sailing race is the answer to Rika’s problems. But it is the real deal or a scam? With Ryan right by her side, she is determined to find out. Now all they have to do is survive a grueling race when someone else is just as determined to see them dead.

Author Note: This is updated version of a story originally released in 2005.

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REVIEWS

FIVE BLUE RIBBONS!!!A truly magnificent story… It pulled at my heart strings when Ryan lets Rika know that he is her partner in all ways, even facing the responsibilities of raising her family. No matter the dangers or challenges Ryan and Rica face their love just seems to grow stronger. I could not wait to turn the page to see how their unconditional love and devotion to each other would help them face their next challenge. This story is so fantastic I cannot wait to see what Ms. Willows comes up with next. ~Briana Burress, Romance Junkies

FIVE STARS!!! [A] scorching contemporary erotic romance…. The sex is hotter than the sands on a Florida beach in August. The scenes are beautiful to read, there are a lot of them and you will be reaching for every toy you own. Treasure Hunters is a fully developed book with great characters and really sizzling lusty sex. ~Julie Esparza, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

RECOMMENDED READ!!! FIVE ANGELS!!! Ms. Willows has given us another great book to sink our teeth into. The suspense will keep the reader on the edge of their seat, biting their nails, and waiting to see what happens next. The sex between these two is so hot and steamy that the reader will be looking for the first snow bank they can find. Rika and Ryan are both strong and loving characters that readers will have an easy time identifying with them. If you love a good romance with suspense, then this is the book I highly recommend you read. ~Donna, Fallen Angel Reviews

FOUR STARS!!! The chemistry between Rika and Ryan is hot from the beginning to end. TREASURE HUNTERS is fast moving and entertaining story with its passion and suspense. ~Cassandra Buckles, Coffee Time Romance

FOUR UNICORNS!!! This story was a really good read. The story keeps you on your toes wondering what was going to happen next. This author out did herself with this book. It has it all, hot sex, love and oh yeah Hot sex again. ~Nicole, Enchanted In Romance

EXCERPT

Ryan brushed his thumb over her silky cheek. “Suppose you can wrangle a week’s vacation out of that editor of yours? There are a couple of beaches in Hawaii with our names on them.”

Her eyes brightened. “What about your work?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “Man can’t work day and night, especially if he has a beautiful woman waiting for him.” He danced his other hand up her ribs. “Besides, I was thinking a weekend back here at least once month might be in order. I hate the idea of being away from you for six months.”

Rika laced her fingers around his neck. “I’d like that very much. Who knows? Maybe I can manage a long weekend every month too. I’ve got a little tucked away, and there’s always plastic.”

Ryan wanted to cheer. They were on the same page. Not that he liked the idea of her going into debt for him. He’d see she didn’t. But—damn—she wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her. This was it. She was the one.

“Why don’t you grab our wine and we can plan.” She dropped kisses along his jaw.

Ryan captured her lips in a deep kiss, then pulled away. “Be right back.” He kissed her all the way down her body.

After tossing the spent condom in the trash can beside her dresser, Ryan walked on to the kitchen. The telephone blasted out a ring, startling him.

“Want me to get that?” he asked.

“No, let it go. It’s probably Mom about going shopping tomorrow. Mom can truly shop till she drops.”

He grabbed the bottle of wine and their glasses, listening as the answering machine picked up. There was a choked sound, then a man’s voice.

“Damn it, Rika. Where the hell are you? It’s Andy. Mom and Dad…” He smothered what sounded like a sob. “Becky…Dan… There was a car wreck. They’re dead, Rika. They’re all dead.”

Ryan stared in dumbstruck silence for what seemed like hours, searching for the words to tell the woman he was falling in love with news no one should have to hear.

“What’s taking so long?” she called out. “Are you talking to my mom?”

He wanted to cry. Setting the wine aside, he returned to the bedroom. Rika sat up the second she saw him. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Ryan sat beside her, pulling her hand into his, forcing himself to meet her gaze. “Honey, that was Andy…”

*          *          *

Rika sat on the edge of her parents’ bed and fingered the diamond solitaire necklace at her throat—a Christmas gift from Ryan. More guilt. She hadn’t gotten him a thing. It was all she could do to make sure the kids had what they needed for Christmas. He’d brushed it off by saying she’d had much more important things to worry about, like five children who were suddenly under her guardianship. If only he knew how bad things really were.

She blinked back tears. That was something she was determined to hide from him. Knowing Ryan as she now did, he’d try to fix it all. That was hardly fair to him.

He’d been a godsend to her these last two weeks—helping her with funeral arrangements, dealing with the parade of people and sympathetic phone calls, sitting by her side in court while she got guardianship of her sister, youngest brother, nephew, and two nieces. He’d even had their Christmas dinner catered by Fletcher’s. Everywhere she went, everything she had to do, all she needed was to turn and his shoulder was there.

Ryan loved her. He didn’t have to say it, Rika knew. She loved him too. That’s why it made this so much harder to do. She had no choice.

“Ryan’s here.”

Rika glanced up at her twenty-one-year-old brother. People didn’t believe she and Andy were related. His hair was golden brown, his eyes a brown that merely hinted at green depths. The only other sibling who’d had red hair was Becky, and Becky was gone. She hadn’t even passed that trait on to her three children. Rika was the odd one now. All the rest looked like Andy.

She had to protect him too. He deserved the same opportunities Rika and Becky had had in life. He didn’t need to know Rika had spent every dime, and then some, on hospital bills and the funerals. The fools hadn’t even had health insurance and forget life insurance.

“Thanks.”

“You’re going to do something stupid, aren’t you?”

She wanted to laugh. God knew, she wanted to laugh. The truth hurt too much. “Yes, I probably am.”

“Then maybe you need to do it at his place. I can watch things here.”

Rika shook her head. She’d made her decision, painful though it was. It was best to get it over with. She forced herself to stand, then prayed her legs would hold her. “I’ll talk to him on the patio.”

Andy muttered something under his breath. Rika strongly suspected he was calling her an idiot and lacing a few curse words in there as well. If he only knew how much this was breaking her heart.

Blinking back tears, she walked into a living room sprawled with bodies. Ryan sat in her father’s recliner, flanked by her young nieces. Kristi and Amy adored him. What child wouldn’t? He talked to them on their level, paid attention to what they had to say. She’d never in a million years forget how they’d cuddled under his arms after the funeral, telling him their fears, crying until they’d fallen asleep.

Yep, she was stupid all right. But how fair was it to ask him to take on this burden?

He smiled when she entered the room. That smile faltered when he saw the look on her face. He knew. Rika buried her face in her hands and started to cry. In an instant, his arms were around her. He kissed the top of her head and drew her out the back door.

“You’re scaring the hell out of me, honey. Please don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”

That made her cry all the more. “I have to, Ryan. Relationships take time and work—”

“But I—”

“Please don’t say it. Don’t make this harder than it is.” She burrowed deeper into his arms, weeping against his chest. “I’ve got five children to take care of. How do I possibly find time for…”

“I’m here for you, Rika. I can help. We can do this.”

She glanced up at the pain in his eyes and damned the light from the kitchen window. “You’ll be in Hawaii for six months. I’ll be here. I can’t just pick up and go. This can’t work.”

“And I say it can. Damn it, I don’t want this to end. I need you. I want you. I l—”

She clamped her fingers over his lips. “Please don’t. It’s not fair to you to ask you to take a backseat. It’s not fair to you to ask you to put up with all of this.”

He kissed her fingers and pulled her hand into his. “Even if I want to?”

“It won’t work. Even the best of established relationships would have a hell of a time. You’ll be gone for six months. It’s best to end it now.”

“Just like that.”

She forced herself to nod. “It kills me to say it, but…yes.”

“This isn’t over, Rika. It can work. It will work.”

If he kept this up, she’d cave. Why couldn’t he understand it was better to get this over rather than drag the heartache out?

“Give me a chance. Give us a chance.” He kissed the curve of her neck at that spot he knew weakened her resolve. Desire welled up with her sigh. “Matt or Kevin can take over the job in Hawaii.”

Rika forced her senses back in order. “You leave tomorrow. How is that fair to them to have them uproot their lives and families at the last minute?” Reluctantly, she stepped from the warmth of his arms. “You have responsibilities just like I do, and people who’ve depended on you a lot longer than I have. Please…just go.”

She reached to unclasp the necklace. His hands stopped her.

“Don’t. There’s enough pain in my heart right now without you doing that.”

Tears drifted down her face. Ryan kissed her lips, then brushed by her and left. Rika waited until she heard his Cherokee start up, then sank to the patio chair and cried what was left of her heart out.

She didn’t know how long she sat there in the cool night air—long after Andy and their next younger sister, Robyn, had put the little ones to bed. She didn’t have the will to move. Her heart had walked out the door with Ryan. Yes, it was her doing, but that made it all the worse—not only had she broken her own heart, but that of a wonderful man. She heard the back door open and half prayed he stood there. It was Robyn instead.

A clear match to Andy, the seventeen-year-old held out the cordless. “Ryan’s on the phone. Apparently, you’re not answering your cell.”

Rika’s shaking fingers wrapped around it. Robyn ducked back inside.

“You don’t give up easily, do you?”

“Not when there’s every reason not to. We’re good together.”

He was so right about that. “With everything the way it is, I don’t see how we can survive the time and distance…for one thing. For the other—”

“Let me prove to you we can weather this. Every relationship has its tests. Ours just came a little sooner than we might have liked.”

“How can you prove—”

“Find a private room. Go in it and lock the door.”

He was going to wear down what little resistance she had left by talking. She should hang up now and end it. It seemed too cruel an act. Ryan deserved better than that.

“All right.” Back inside, she debated on whether to use the bathroom or her parents’ room. With only one bathroom for all of them, the bedroom was the better option for a few minutes of privacy. Ignoring Andy and Robyn, she walked inside, then shut and locked the door behind her.

“Are you there?” he asked.

“Yes.” Her voice came out on a ragged sigh.

“Is the door locked?”

“Yes.”

“No chance of interruptions?”

“The children are asleep. Andy and Robyn are still up.”

“Good. Touch your breasts for me, honey.”

Rika gasped. “I—”

“Close your eyes and touch them. Pretend your hands are mine. Pretend my lips are around your nipples.”

She sank to her knees. “My bra—”

“Unhook it. You know how you love my hands on your tits.”

“I do,” she breathlessly replied. One hand shook as she released the hook. Once free, she closed her eyes and cupped her breast.

“Tell me how it feels, sweetheart.”

“Soft, hot. It…it wants your mouth.”

“And it’s there, wrapped around your nipple.” He sucked in a breath. “God, I love how it gets hard under my tongue. I love how you arch into my mouth, begging for more with those sweet sounds you make.”

Rika swallowed her shyness. “And your dick feels so hard against my…against my…”

“Say it, sweetheart. Say how much your pussy wants my cock.”

“Is it in your hand? Are you stroking it slowly?”

“Just like you would, honey. Touch your clit. Play with it. Tell me how sweet and swollen it is.”

Rika shoved her hand into her jeans. “I’m so wet.”

“Who makes you wet?”

She sucked in a breath as she slowly massaged her clit. “You, Ryan. You make me wet and horny. I want you fucking me all the time. Are you hard for me?”

“Always. I’m going to come fast, honey. That’s what you do for me. But I want to wait for you. I want to hear you come. I want us to come together.”

“I’m close. I’m so close.”

“Do it, sweetheart. Give your pussy what it wants.”

Her fingers swirled faster. “I’m going to come.” The moment exploded on her. Rika bit back the urge to cry out. Hearing him come on the other end of the line heightened her release. The feeling subsided by small degrees.

“I love you, Rika,” he said through pants of breath. “I love you and I’m not going to let you go. Give us time, honey. Please.”

“I love you, Ryan, so much. But—”

“No buts, sweetheart. Time. Please.”

She found herself nodding, then realized he couldn’t see. “Time…okay.”

“I think I’ll see about getting us headsets.”

She laughed lightly. Maybe they could get beyond this. Ryan being gone might work to her benefit. She’d be able to get things under control without him seeing her implode. “I should come over and give you a proper send off. Think you’re up to it?”

“I’m crushed you’d ask that.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet. I’m on my way.”

Rika punched the off key and stared at the phone. A lot could happen in six months. She was panicked, that’s all. There was no reason to drag Ryan down with her. She could handle this just fine. He’d never need to know.

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Have Mercy by Caitlyn Willows

HaveMercy

HAVE MERCY
by Caitlyn Willows
Contemporary Erotic Romance (BDSM, menage)
December 2017
Cover Artist – Trace Edward Zaber

Ike expects a lot from a woman. Someone who can match his own unique needs and then some. He’s been lusting after Mercy for months. It’s time to make his move or move on.

Past relationship disasters have made Mercedes damn scared to date. This time she’s playing for keeps, she’s playing for Ike, and he’s going to know upfront she plays hard.

His response to the news…Have Mercy! And she’s going to have him right back because she is one lady who can give as good as she gets.

NOTE: This is a reissue of a previously released story.

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Ike Campbell winced with every sour note that came out of Dottie Sullivan’s mouth. The DJ should have stuck with playing music and letting people dance under the strobe of colored lights twirling overhead. Karaoke was never a good idea when people were sober. Offering it after a couple of drinks was excruciating. At a party that was supposed to commemorate the merger of Sullivan Advertising and Byers Promotional Support…

Ike shook his head, and not for the first time. The joining of ad giants Sullivan and Byers was a big deal, but it seemed a little over the top to have the event happen on Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a marriage. It was a business venture. Still, everyone had been on edge waiting for the final papers to go through. The party was the bosses’ way of letting the employees blow off a little steam, have fun, and bond—Sullivan Advertising in Los Angeles, Byers Promotional Support in New York City. The problem was, most of them were overcompensating while they waited for the stroke of midnight on the east coast when the merger became final. Nerves, he supposed.

Despite that, everyone seemed to be having a good time. Awful as the singing was, Ike had to admire those brave enough to risk humiliation and get up there. He sure as hell understood the need to cut loose.

Since he’d transferred to the Los Angeles office six months before, he’d been one hundred percent focused on work. There were still boxes around his house that needed to be unpacked. The stress was starting to show. Not so much outwardly—he really didn’t like taking his frustration out on others—but he felt it crawling inside.

He’d been missing New York a lot lately. The visit to the family at Christmas had been just that, a visit. He hadn’t had any time to slip away to his favorite club and indulge his needs. He sure as hell hadn’t had any time to research any clubs locally. The offer he couldn’t refuse to transfer to Sullivan had started to feel like a prison sentence. No one was more relieved than Ike that the merger was finally complete. Come this weekend…

That made him smile. That’s exactly what he’d planned to do—come until his balls collapsed. All he needed was a place…and a partner…or partners. One particular lady came to mind.

Ike’s body tightened at the thought of having Mercedes Suazo over his lap, her sweet ass bared. He’d been mesmerized by her from the second he’d arrived at Sullivan Advertising, one of the largest and best ad agencies in the Los Angeles area. There was an aura about her that hinted of something more. At least, that’s what Ike’s testosterone-laden mind wanted to believe. Though they worked in separate departments, he’d done his best to see their paths crossed often. Working twenty-four seven made hooking up impossible. The best he’d been able to accomplish was wolfing down a quick lunch with her…and their coworkers. But the work was over. He was taking that shot…if he could find her again.

He craned his neck scanning the crowded room. again. He’d seen her when he’d arrived, looking so hot every cock in the place probably lifted its head in appreciation. After flashing him a smile he interrupted as let’s play, she’d disappeared into a group of women on the far side of the room, and he’d been dragged off to sit with the people from his section. He’d waited for her long enough. As soon as everyone toasted the merger, he was going to find her and explore that smoldering heat he’d seen in her deep brown eyes.

Eddie Kohler plopped down beside him. “God, that’s painful. Someone take the mic from Dottie. Please.”

His slurred voice was loud enough to carry over the music. Under normal circumstances, his nose was shoved so far up the boss’s ass that he couldn’t breathe. He was clearly too drunk to realize he’d insulted the boss’s wife…and everyone, including the boss, had heard him.

“Dottie’s having fun. Who’s cares?” Ike shot the man a glare. “If you think you can do any better, you go up there.”

Eddie snorted. “I’m not gonna go up there and make a fool of myself.”

“I can see your point.” Ike smirked. “Why waste the energy when you can sit here and do the same thing?”

Eddie smacked his beer bottle on the table. “You’re an ass.” Nevertheless, he shoved to his feet and staggered through the tables toward the stage. In less time than it had taken for Ike to issue his challenge, Eddie had the microphone in his hand. At least he’d had the presence of mind to wait for Dottie to finish.

“If you thought that was off-key, wait until you hear this. I guarantee I’d win any worst singer contest.” He snapped his finger at the DJ, and the music started—Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman! Any ill will Eddie’s previous comment had created dissipated in the explosion of laughter that followed.

“Now that’s painful.” Mercedes Suazo’s voice sank into Ike’s veins like warm honey.

Goose bumps rained over his neck and trickled down his body when her breath touched his ear. He’d been fantasizing about having her spread naked before him, and here she was. She’d come to him. It was all Ike could do to not grab her and hoist her over his lap. He swore the look in her eyes begged him to do just that.

Message received, baby.

The goddess slipped into the seat Eddie had vacated. The heat from her body radiated to him, scoring a path straight to the hard-on that raged every time he was near her, saw her, or thought about her. And he thought about her a lot.

She was the fantasy he beat-off to in the shower—her bare ass over his lap red from spanking, her standing over his bound body whip in hand. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d come thinking of her. Staring at her now, at her big brown eyes, those full lips that begged to be kissed, that silky fall of dark brown hair…

His cock throbbed for freedom. This was pain—this unrelenting ache of wanting her.

Gypsy Fire by Caitlyn Willows

GypsyFire

 

GYPSY FIRE
by Caitlyn Willows
Paranormal Romance (Short Story)
August 2007
Cover Art ©Lacey Savage

“Once you’ve been kissed by gypsy fire, there’s no turning back. The quicker one accepts their fate, the happier they’ll be. Whoever holds gypsy fire holds the key to riches beyond imagination. It is a powerful ally and a dangerous foe.”

That’s the family legend behind a mysterious coin owned by Riley Hathaway’s great-grandmother and left to her. But she felt the fire for attorney Patrick Spencer long before the coin sliced their fingers and mingled their blood. While her sisters fight for ownership of the coin and the riches they know it will bring, Riley learns its true wealth. Only Patrick can stoke true gypsy fire, and only he can quench it.

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Review:

This is a cool story; one with passion, fire, and genuine emotions throughout. The situation the couple finds themselves in only fuels the fire between them and makes them enjoyable. A wonderful quick read that leaves you with some unexpected twists that will delight the reader. Another winner for Ms. Willows. ~Matilda, Coffee Time Romance

EXCERPT

Patrick Spencer watched Riley Hathaway battle the grief threatening to overwhelm her. Even with makeup, pale freckles stood out against her otherwise porcelain skin. Freckles…the curse of every redhead he’d ever known. Of the three he’d had to deal with in the last month, he was ready to throw two of them into the Pacific Ocean with lead boots. The third one? Well, it was hard to believe she was related to the other two. He would have done anything to spare her this pain.

He’d known Fiona Hathaway since he was a boy filing pocket parts in the California Code Annotated at his family’s law office. Who would’ve guessed he’d be the one to handle her estate now? She’d been old then at seventy-five. Now approaching one hundred, her time left was measured in hours. She’d outlived everyone in her family except her three great-granddaughters.

When it came right down to it, her active lifestyle was what had brought her down. One misstep as she rushed out the door a month before had sent Fiona tumbling off her front porch when she hit a spot weakened by termites. Riley had called the exterminators that very day to have the place inspected and fumigated. Fortunately, they caught the infestation at the beginning—only that one spot would need to be replaced.

Unfortunately, Fiona had hit her head and broken her hip on the flagstone walkway. At some point pneumonia had set in and refused to leave, despite the regime of antibiotics the doctor had placed her on. She’d been fighting hard but losing fast. Her periods of awareness had been few and she’d been barely coherent during them. Each breath more labored than the one before it.

When his grandfather and father had asked, Patrick didn’t hesitate to take the lead in seeing her affairs ran smoothly during this time. He’d helped Riley settle her at home with a visiting nurse so Fiona could pass in peace in her own bed as she’d wished, and he was at the house almost as much as Riley. Once he realized what opportunistic bitches Heather and Jillian were, Patrick made sure he was always there when Riley was not. No one was going to take advantage of Fiona. He remembered her laughing blue eyes, sharp wit, quick smile, and the peppermint pillow mints she always carried for “good little boys and girls.” Riley had all of those qualities too, right down to the mints in her purse.

Her sisters, however, were a piece of work. Even now they paced the corridors outside Fiona’s bedroom, waiting like vultures for the old girl to draw her last breath. Part of his job was to see they didn’t pick her apart afterward—or rather, her estate. Fiona’s instructions had been clear. He was here to help carry them out.

While Heather and Jillian were greatly inconvenienced by Fiona’s lengthy stay on earth, Riley was heart-sick over her inevitable demise. She spent as many hours as possible by her great-grandmother’s side, holding her hand, tracing the blue veins showing through Fiona’s paper-thin skin, talking and reading to her, kissing her wrinkled cheek, falling asleep in the chair beside her. He’d caught Fiona’s smile focused on Riley more than once. Just as quickly as it appeared, it would fade as her body pulled back inside itself.

Fiona’s eyelids fluttered open, scattering his thoughts. His breath caught in fear that this was her last moment. He wanted to wrap his arms around Riley and shield her from the pain. To bury his face in her thick, red hair while he dealt with his own grief at the passing of one hell of a woman. So far he’d fought the urge to touch Riley in more than a casual manner, trying to keep a professional distance out of respect for her and his family’s business. But Patrick was losing that battle, just as surely as Fiona was losing the one she waged. He wanted to kiss Riley, slow and sweet, easing his way in and then pulling her tight against a body that had been hard as a rock since the second they’d met. He wanted their naked flesh burning against each other’s, fire whirlpooling around as they touched, tasted…

“Hi, Gram,” Riley said softly.

Patrick snapped his thoughts into place. His perpetual erection wasn’t so easily tamed when it came to Riley. He ordered it to physically subside, then did his best to ignore the throbbing monster.

Riley combed her fingers through Fiona’s silver-white hair. She’d kept it brushed and neat for her. Fiona had always been meticulous about her appearance—a trait all her great-granddaughters inherited. Heather and Jillian might be bitches from hell, but they dressed to understated perfection, as Riley did—not too much, not too little, just right for whatever the occasion might be. On this late fall day, when Southern California could be extra warm or cold depending on the minute, that was a thin sweater with slacks for the older sisters, a skirt for Riley. A skirt he desperately wanted to get under.

“Sweetheart, you look so tired.” Fiona’s voice was breathy, hard for her to get out.

She slid her gaze from Riley to him. The sparkle in her blue eyes had dimmed. Patrick admitted not seeing that glint of life scared him.

“You too,” she told him.

Her thin hand shook as she reached for the pendant that rarely left her neck—a silver coin with a silver chain threaded through a hole drilled at the top. She grabbed the coin too tightly, cutting her finger on the thin edge.

“Gram, here, let me help.” Riley’s hand shook as much as Fiona’s. “What are you trying to do?”

“Give to you. Yours now.”

“Oh, Gram.” A tear slipped down her cheek. The pain of her loss—his loss too—knifed through Patrick’s heart.

“Take it,” Fiona told her.

Riley snatched up a tissue from the box on the bedside table and blotted the blood from Fiona’s hand. The injury looked no worse than a bad paper cut. Riley plucked up the necklace and gently turned it around until the clasp was at the front. Her hands still shook too much to unlatch it.

“Here. Let me.” Their fingers brushed in passing. Sensation like liquid warmth slithered up his arm.

He thought he caught the semblance of a smile on Fiona’s lips as he unhooked the clasp. Once it was free, he cupped the pendant in his palm and let the chain slither down on top of it. Blood remained from Fiona’s cut. He watched the small spot settle in his heart-line.

Fiona wrapped her thin fingers around his wrist. Her grip was feather-like. “You’re holding gypsy fire. Once you’ve been kissed by gypsy fire, there’s no turning back. The quicker one accepts their fate, the happier they’ll be.” Her chuckle was swallowed by a coughing spell.

He and Riley tried to prop her up to clear her lungs. When the fit had passed, she sagged into the pillows. “Send those other two in here. I want to speak to them alone.”

“Fiona—”

“Alone, Patrick. Riley needs some fresh air. See she gets it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He offered a smile and plumped her pillows behind her while Riley smoothed the bedcovers in place. She added a kiss to Fiona’s cheek, blinked away a rush of tears, and let him lead her from the room.

Patrick liked how she fit beside him—the right height at his shoulder, the right pace with his, the right everything, whether she wore flats like now or heels. He’d taken to having that proprietary touch of his hand to her back when he escorted her through doors. She’d never so much as flinched. In fact, he’d swear there were times she leaned into his touch. That action always made him feel omnipotent, as if he could conquer the world.

Her rust-colored sweater was tucked into a matching shin-length skirt, and he couldn’t help wondering if her skin was as soft as the sweater. With every step they took, her skirt brushed against his leg, distracting him all the more. He watched the way her shoulder-length hair kissed her neck and longed to pull it away and do the same, letting his lips memorize every inch.

Her sisters pounced on them when they walked into the hallway. Their gloomy presence could dim a supernova. They dulled the light in this otherwise bright old house. In the month he’d known them, Patrick hadn’t heard Heather or Jillian utter a kind word about anyone…unless it was a man they were interested in impressing. Both had tried over-the-top flirtations with him on that first day—hookers were less bold—then moved on to other fishing grounds when they learned he wanted nothing to do with the bait they tossed out. It didn’t take a genius to see these women were always looking for the easiest way, felt the world owed them a favor, and were out to get anything and everything they could grab. These were not nice women, a fact that detracted from their hot-as-hell looks.

That’s what made it so difficult to believe they shared the same genes as Riley. The older two had already blown through two trust funds and an inheritance and now circled, waiting for more. Riley had gotten a business degree, opened her own craft store, and tucked the rest away for the children she planned to have one day. She took care of Fiona too, making sure she had whatever she needed.

“Gram wants to see you,” Riley told them.

When Heather darted past her to go inside, Riley grabbed her arm and yanked her to a stop.

Don’t upset her.”

Heather’s always-icy blue stare chilled a few more degrees. She didn’t bother with a response, just jerked free and swung open the door. Jillian hurried to catch up.

“That goes for you too,” Riley told her.

Her middle sister ignored her and shut the door in her face.

“Come on.” Hand at her back, Patrick turned her away. “Let’s walk around the garden.”

It gave him peace when he did so, and he was sure it did Riley, since he’d found her there on more than one occasion.

Riley glanced at the door over her shoulder, then placed her hand against his chest, right over his blue-striped tie. Could she feel the thump of his heart beneath it? Could she sense he wanted her hand lower, pressed against yet another erection, just as she pressed against the silk tie? On impulse, he wrapped his fingers around hers and squeezed.

“I need…” She paused, lips parted. She focused on his mouth, then shifted her gaze to their locked hands. He realized he still had Fiona’s necklace in his palm.

“I believe this is intended for you.” Patrick folded the pendant into her hand.

Smiling, Riley closed her fingers around it. “I never thought I’d see the day it came off her neck permanently. She would’ve raised holy hell if she found out the staff had removed it at the hospital when she was admitted. Fortunately, I was able to retrieve it before she regained…” She gave a light laugh. “I guess I can’t say she’s ever fully regained her senses.”

Patrick touched the silver chain that dangled from her hand. “She was aware enough to know it was still around her neck. Imagine her upset if she’d found it gone.”

That brightened her smile. “True.” She rubbed the thin coin between her fingers.

“It was as much a part of her as the peppermints she carried in her purse. When I was a kid, I asked her if it was pirate treasure. She said…” He laughed lightly at the memory. She’d said then what she’d told them minutes before.

“It’s gypsy fire. Once you’ve been kissed by gypsy fire, there’s no turning back. The quicker one accepts their fate, the happier they’ll be. Never forget that, young Patrick.”

Riley held the silver up between them. Age had worn the impressions on it to bare visibility and made it blade-thin. “Gypsy fire. That’s what she always called it.”

“I remember.” Patrick touched the surface next to her thumb. “It’s very old.”

“Centuries…if you believe the tale.”

“I don’t think I ever heard that one.”

Though Fiona had spun other stories for him when he visited the law office. She knew how to capture a child’s imagination. Even at the ripe “old age” of thirty-two Patrick still liked to hear them.

Riley’s eyes held some of the mischief he’d seen in Fiona’s. “Ages ago a necklace was forged over a campfire by a gypsy man for his gypsy love—”

“Over a gypsy fire.”

Riley giggled. “Exactly…and don’t forget this was in days of yore.”

He gave her a nod. “Of course. Continue, please.”

“He forged each coin from the finest silver, infused it with love. The hole in this one was drilled by his hand when he drilled the others to link. No one knows how many coins the necklace held, but it’s believed to have been a small fortune. On the night he was to give it to her, he found her ravished by another. He used the necklace as a garrote and strangled the man. It broke, scattering coins everywhere.

“Our lovestruck couple gathered as many as they could find and fled from the kingdom, for to stay meant certain death for one and banishment for the other. No one knows what became of them. Some say they lived happily ever after. Some say evil was attached to the coins once the man was killed. The coins are still found every so often, part of the gypsy fire, for there were so many on the necklace, the couple couldn’t take them all. One thing everyone does agree on is—”

“Once you’ve been kissed by gypsy fire, there’s no turning back. The quicker one accepts their fate, the happier they’ll be.”

“Yes. Gram always told us too, that whoever holds gypsy fire holds the key to riches beyond imagination. It is a powerful ally and a dangerous foe. Choose wisely.” She laughed. “Rather like in an Indiana Jones movie.”

This was the happiest he’d seen her since they’d met a month before. Damn, he wanted to kiss her. Those bright blue eyes so filled with life looked into his right then. Patrick couldn’t breathe, much less think straight. Their fingers were still locked around the coin. Bound, some part of his mind said. Her lips parted—soft, inviting.

Time slowed as he bent toward her. He felt her breath become part of his. He was hot. Gypsy fire.

Their lips touched, froze together. A sigh settled them into the tender caress. Then, in unison, their tongues reached out, became one. The kiss deepened. His mind folded in on itself. He felt the touch of her chest to his, then her pelvis. But the coin locked them as one, not their arms. He deepened the kiss but it was Riley who demanded it of him. He wanted to feel her flesh, the heat of it, the silk of it, inside and out.

The bedroom door whipped open, shattering the moment. Still, they didn’t jerk from the kiss, merely pulled apart.

“Where the hell is it?” Heather demanded. She zeroed in on the coin clasped between their fingers. “Give me that. I’m the oldest. It’s rightfully mine.”

She snatched it away before they could stop her. The edges sliced through Patrick’s fingers like a razor. Riley’s gasp mirrored his. She’d been cut as well. He caught her hand and pressed his wounded fingers over hers while he glared at Heather.

“Fiona gave it to Riley,” he told her.

“Don’t.” Riley lifted her uninjured hand. “It’s not worth fighting over. All that matters is Gram. I have all I could possibly want or need.”

“I don’t.” Heather held up the coin. “But I’m going to.”

“Then I hope you enjoy it.” Riley slipped free of Patrick’s hold and walked away.

Heather’s smirk of triumph led her back to her great-grandmother’s side.

Bring Me To Life by Caitlyn Willows

BringMeToLife

 

BRING ME TO LIFE
by Caitlyn Willows
Short Contemporary
December 2017
Cover Art – Trace Edward Zaber

Amy Thornton felt as if she’d died the night her husband was killed. Now, two years later, she’s ready to starting living again, and she knows just the man to help her do so. All she has to do is get him to admit he wants her as much as she wants him. One call to Colbert Escort and Security Services brings owner Josh Colbert running to her door and with him all the emotions she’d forgotten exist. Little does she realize the power in her hands–to crush Josh’s heart or to bring it to life.

Author note: This is a re-issue of a previously released title.

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Reviews:

FIVE LIPS! Bring Me To Life is a beautiful, sexy, exciting, and absolutely exhilarating love story that you don’t want to miss reading! I chose it because of the superb reputation of Caitlyn Willows as well as the intriguing storyline. I expected good, even great, and was rewarded with fantastic, riveting, delightful, and completely immersing! Josh is amazing. His insecurities are sweet, touching, and very real and Amy’s wants and desires, clear and focused. The way that these two come together is hot as well as poignant and moving. Between the tender emotion and entertaining banter, I loved Bring Me To Life and am confident that you will too! ~Kerin, Two Lips Reviews

FIVE HEARTS! What a wonderful story! Bring Me to Life is a novella with a unique plot and is told in such a manner that it is extremely easy to feel as if you are part of the narrative. The romance is explicit from the very beginning, but it is not so “over the top” that it becomes a tale of nothing but sexual encounters…. an incredibly sexy story about love the second time around and the mistakes made when two people are actually “too close” to the situation to realize the pitfalls which can sabotage their pending relationship. The book is captivating and one worthy to be read more than once. Good job, Ms. Willows! I appreciate the chance to read this and believe that others will be thrilled when they, too, read this book! ~Brenda Talley, The Romance Studio

BRING ME TO LIFE is sexually and emotionally charged. Amy and Josh have deep feelings for one another and it’s time they explored said feelings. Throw off the covers and get ready for some heat when you open up BRING ME TO LIFE. ~Sinclair Reid, Romance Reviews Today

FIVE HEARTS! This is a very touching, emotional story of two people who have held their feelings back, but in one night let everything out. It is a story that will have the reader turning the pages to see how their relationship turns out. The reader will certainly feel the heat between these two multi-dimensional characters as Ms. Willows brings them together very intimately. BRING ME TO LIFE is a very evocative story. This reviewer found this story very emotional. It gave her a warm tingly feeling at the end and made her sigh with content. Caitlyn Willows is a new author for this reviewer and this will certainly not be the last book she reads. Ms. Willows masterfully blends a great romance with emotion and sensual, erotic love scenes. This reviewer will be looking for more! ~Valerie, Love Romances And More

FOUR CUPS! Delightfully sexy and touching. Ms. Willows puts heart into this story as a widow decides to come back to life. Fabulous characters; this couple is perfect for each other and the author makes sure the reader feels it. Set at a steady pace with touching moments and wickedly erotic love scenes, this is truly a romantic romp not to be missed. ~Wateena, Coffee Time Romance

The chemistry between the couple was explosive and erotic in nature. Their love scenes are sure to leave you breathless with desire and panting for more. Enjoy! ~Nikita Steele, Joyfully Reviewed

Bring Me to Life by Caitlyn Willows is one tale that any reader will love from its sexy hero to Amy’s courage to continue going on and become stronger than ever. I loved Amy for here is a woman who has known heartache with a loving man to learn that it is not wise to stay secluded and hidden from life for the past two years. Now if there ever was a man to be her other half that is Josh Colbert. Here is a guy who knows what he wants and that’s Amy. These two are not only sexually compatible but man they heat up the pages even without the love scenes, and only Caitlyn Willows can bring two people like them together in a short story book. ~Lena C., Fallen Angel Reviews

FOUR STARS! [A]n interesting story about the aftermath of death and the start of living again. There are intense and arousing sexual scenes between Amy and Josh (read this out loud with someone you love!) I was amazed and aroused. The sexual encounters are important to the plot, but they also fit perfectly into Amy and Josh’s continuing love story. The characters are well written, including a secondary character that provides comic relief. I have again enjoyed a book written by Ms. Willows! ~Marcy Arbitman, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

BRING ME TO LIFE is a heart-warming story about a second chance at love. Josh and Amy are very interesting and independent characters who need each other in order to feel alive. Caitlyn Willows has written a wonderful story that touched my heart and made me root for these two characters to find the love they deserve. This is a story that should not be missed! ~Robin, My Book Cravings

Excerpt:

Amy Thornton’s hands shook as she read the newspaper ad for the fifth time. She couldn’t believe she was considering this act of desperation. She didn’t know what else to call it. Morning light streaming through the windows of her breakfast nook spilled over the ad. Was it calling her attention to it, or trying to make her see how stupid this was?

Perched on the edge of her chair, she jiggled her legs under the table, trying to expend nervous energy, while she weighed her decision for the thousandth time. She was lonely, sad, and all the sex toys in the world didn’t help ease that deep ache inside. She needed to be held, touched, loved on. With Dan’s death two years ago, she’d died too. She needed someone—anyone—to bring her back to life, and she knew just who that someone was going to be.

She pushed the newspaper back and returned to nibbling her raisin toast. Amy would be the first to admit it had taken her a long time to pull herself out of that pit of shock, grief, despair, and depression. It still strangled her heart each time she recalled that awful night. One minute she and Dan were standing outside Mario’s Trattoria waiting for the valet to bring their car around. The next minute Dan was dead, along with six other people—all victims of a driver who’d fallen asleep at the wheel. Yes, it’d been a very long time to crawl from the pit—eighteen months. But she was out now, ready to breathe in life once more.

Unfortunately, it appeared as though their friends and associates weren’t ready for her to do so. It didn’t take long for Amy to see the sad truth—most everyone respected Dan too much to make a move on his widow. Any men who smiled her way were snagged aside fast and told to back off. While Amy had appreciated that consideration during the first year, it had grown very trying later when she was ready to explore the world that awaited her.

But she was the widow of the sainted Dan Thornton—whose legend seemed to grow each day—and now the head of his multi-million-dollar production company. Her reputation could not be besmirched, or that of the company. A liaison with the wrong man could end in disaster for all, or so she’d been advised by her directors. She wondered if they were more concerned she’d marry and her new husband would attempt to take over the company. Not that anyone had said anything, but she could see worry in their eyes.

It was the same look she got that first day she’d walked into the boardroom and announced she’d be stepping into Dan’s shoes. She’d expected the cool reception they’d given her. It was the same frosty demeanor Dan had received when he’d taken over after his father’s death five years ago. It didn’t take long for him to win them over.

Amy followed his example and didn’t back down. The directors had eventually warmed to her when they realized she wasn’t a ball of fluff and knew what the hell she was doing. Now they guarded her like a queen in a fairy castle. Any white knight attempting to rescue her was drowned in the moat before a single digit touched her drawbridge.

Amy sighed and drew the paper toward her again. She didn’t need rescuing, she needed male contact. She needed to get laid. Was it asking so much? Out of the millions of men in Los Angeles, wasn’t there one with balls enough to scale the battlements and fuck her good and proper?

She buried her head in her hands. It was more than that. She wanted to laugh again, feel the warmth of another body next to hers as she slept, to not be single at a table of couples. She wanted Josh Colbert.

She couldn’t say when she’d realized Josh was the main person responsible for chasing away would-be suitors. She’d noticed it by accident two months before at a party. Some actor had cornered her over a platter of mini-quiches—a nice-looking man, with an interesting smile, who seemed capable of intelligent conversation. Amy had been intrigued. She’d turned away to set her champagne glass on the tray of a passing waiter. When she looked back, the man was gone. Josh had him by the arm, their heads bent in serious conversation. The actor moved on to other prey, studiously ignoring her.

Curiosity had her seek out another male at that same party. Josh wasted no time cutting him off. Then another and another, until Amy was fairly certain she had the answer she was looking for. Josh wanted her for himself. So she’d flashed him what she presumed was a knowing smile over the fresh champagne flute she’d toyed with. His brown eyes had dilated, his nostrils flared while his long fingers tightened around his glass. Her glance down had revealed his tux was considerably tighter across his crotch.

Yes, definitely interested.

Getting him to make a move, however, was a different issue.

Years of marriage had taught her a lot about male pride. She couldn’t come right out and confront Josh with how he felt, not when she couldn’t be sure how he’d react. Now that her eyes had been opened to the possibilities, she wanted him in her arms, not running the other way screaming denial.

Josh and Dan had been friends for a long time. Dan had given Josh part of the start-up money to help get the Los Angeles franchise of Colbert Escort and Security Services going. It had turned out to be a good investment. Dan had recouped his investment and then some in less than six months. Josh had been more than grateful for the help.

Amy needed to make sure that elephant was banished completely. Josh had to admit he wanted her because that’s what he wanted, not out of any feeling that he owed Dan, or, heaven forbid, that he had to protect Amy from all the men in the world, even himself.

Josh wasn’t inclined to let other men near her. He wasn’t inclined to approach her either. Someone needed a little prodding. She’d been alone long enough. They were going to resolve this. Either Josh would step up to the plate and admit his feelings, or he would step away and let Amy move on. Although doing the latter felt akin to another death all over again. Her heart and body were set on him.

Since that party she hadn’t been able to get Josh out of her mind. His smile, his laugh, the light in his eyes, the way the edges of his brown hair curled ever-so slightly against his collar. She’d seem him dressed to the nines and stripped down to swim trunks. His looks could devastate a woman’s senses no matter what he wore. Amy could almost feel herself tucked against that hard body as they danced. Could easily imagine his weight bearing her into the mattress as she wrapped her legs around him. Could almost taste his lips as they merged with hers.

Damn his stubbornness. The man needed a serious wake-up call.

It seemed like hiring an escort from his company was as good a place to start as any. Perhaps that would open his eyes.

Her palms sweated as she reached for her cell phone. She wiped them on her white shorts. There’d be no tennis with the girls today if this worked according to plan. The privacy of her home was a good place for a trial run. Her friends often teased her, but Amy was really glad now that she and Dan had never had live-in staff. The cleaning, landscaping, and pool maintenance services all came once a week. If she had a large gathering, which hadn’t happened since before Dan’s passing, she hired a caterer. It was one of the smartest moves she’d ever made. The one she was about to make remained to be seen.

She punched in the number before her courage failed her. A woman picked up on the second ring, answering in smooth, cultured tones. “Colbert Escort and Security Services, how can we help you today?”

You can get Josh Colbert’s tight buns over here.

“I’d like a dinner escort for this evening. I’d like to inquire about your special services and rates.”

That ought to get his attention. Colbert wasn’t a front for prostitution. Their agreements were very specific about the services they provided, and especially those they did not provide. But many of the escorts were trained massage therapists. The prospect of Amy nude with a man’s hands roaming her body ought to give him pause.

“Excellent. I’m Nancy and I’ll be more than happy to make the arrangements.” Her confidence boosted Amy’s. This ploy really might work. “Let’s start with the basics.”

That involved Amy’s name, address, phone number, billing information. They progressed to the evening’s date—where she wanted to go, if she wanted limo service. She opted for a quiet dinner in a romantic restaurant and no limo.

“Excellent.” She heard the keyboard tap out the information through the phone. “Now for our special service… Do you want male or female? Before or after the date, or for an extended period of time?”

Amy’s confidence faltered. What if this didn’t work? Suddenly being naked, even under innocuous circumstances with a strange man didn’t feel so enticing. The last thing she wanted was to set up a schedule for massages when she already had one.

“Let’s forget about that one.”

“Gone. If there should be a need, please know your escort is fully trained in all the arts.”

She resisted the urge to ask which ones. Getting Josh’s attention was one thing, making veiled innuendoes about his business was another. She wanted him in her bed, not pissed off.

“Now, what type of man would you like? Being as specific as possible will help us match your wishes.”

“Well, I’d like for him to not look like he’s fifteen.” She and Josh had frequently joked about how young everyone was starting to look to them.

Nancy’s soft laughter filtered back. “Boy, do I know what you mean. Lately, they’re all starting to look like high school students to me. Our boss teases me about that all the time.”

Amy smiled. She’d bet some of their older clientele liked them looking on the young side. Maybe she should really rattle Josh’s cage and pick the youngest escort she could find. No, this had to be believable if she was going to pull it off.

“No baby faces,” Nancy said, and Amy heard the click of the keyboard as the woman typed in the information. “What else?”

“No taller than six feet. No shorter than five-ten. More muscle than lean but not overweight. I also want him fit, not muscle bound. Brown hair and eyes. Strong hands, a good sense of humor, well read, a gentleman, punctual, and…” Laughter swallowed the rest of her list. “I guess I was a little too specific.” She’d pretty much described Josh.

“Not at all,” Nancy quickly assured her. “We want you to have a good time. You won’t be able to do that if you’re focused on some facet you find distressing. Anything else?”

“No, that’s all I can think of.”

“Excellent, give me a few seconds to access our files to see who’s available. Ah, here we are. Brian Ross. In fact, he just walked in and is nodding his acceptance as we speak. Would you like to talk to him?”

“No. That won’t be necessary. I’ll see him tonight.” Unless she missed her guess, Brian Ross wouldn’t get within five miles of her house.

“Good. Six it is. One of our representatives will be by shortly with paperwork for you to sign. We have to ensure you’re completely aware of the services you’ve requested, and of the ones we cannot provide. You’ll also have our nondisclosure agreement. We want nothing to distract from the evening. This gets it all out of the way before then to help keep the night enjoyable.”

“Wonderful.” Perfect, in fact. “Thank you. I appreciate your attention to the small details.”

“Thank you so much for calling Colbert Escort and Security Services.”

Amy set the phone down. Phase One complete. Now for Phase Two—wait for Josh to show up and pray her minimal acting skills held up.

A Corner Of My Soul by Caitlyn Willows

CornerSoul

 

A CORNER OF MY SOUL
by Caitlyn Willows
Short Paranormal Suspense
April 2008
Cover Art – Trace Edward Zaber

Natalie Gray has lived in a corner of Doug Carlyle’s soul since the day they met. She’s his light in a dark world, the good that cuts through the evil his mind too often sees. She’s his anchor, his heart, his future. The world and all its horrors can wait. This is the time for them. He wasn’t anticipating someone else had a different agenda. He won’t be caught unaware again. Natalie’s become a part of his mind. Now he has to shut her out to save their lives. That alone is a tricky balance that could cost him the love he holds so dear.

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Reviews:

5 STARS! This new offering from Caitlyn Willows is unlike anything I’ve ever read from her. While reading her work is usually a guaranteed substitute for foreplay, this dramatic story of suspense and intrigue left me feeling nauseous from the tension at times as well as breathless with the passion at others. I loved Doug for wanting to get to know Natalie, to woo and court her before he fell into the sack with her even though he knew from the beginning how she felt about him. I loved him even more when he read in Natalie’s mind that she’d come to protect him and he felt humble gratitude. I could identify with Natalie’s belief that she was best for the job because, to save someone she loves, she would fight harder than anyone else. She wouldn’t give up before there was no breath left in her body. I was also thrilled that when I thought I had everything figured out, there was another twist that surprised me. With the building sexual tension and the wonderfully escalating danger, by the end I felt my emotions had been manipulated by a master. Don’t miss A Corner of My Soul. ~ Karen Haas, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

FOUR ANGELS! [A]n exciting, erotic adventure from beginning to end. Doug and Natalie have great chemistry and are both delightful, intriguing characters that were fun to get to know and easy to like. I really enjoy Ms. Willows’ smooth, comfortable writing style and the heat she adds to every story. A Corner of My Soul is a fast-paced romp with sensual, sexy encounters that are sure to excite and delight readers. ~Tammy, Fallen Angel Reviews

FOUR HEARTS! The climax is chilling and satisfying. [A] spooky and engrossing novella. ~Lynn Bushey, The Romance Studio

Excerpt:

Doug Carlyle reeled his fishing line across the water, hoping to entice a bluegill into grabbing the fly. It was all about patience. He’d learned that from the cradle up, right here at the family cabin every summer. The lesson had served him well in life, so had the hours perched on his dad’s knee—or grandfather’s or uncle’s. When work was especially tough, Doug wrapped himself in the love of his family, if only in his mind. Here on the lip of this beautiful freshwater lake, he could recharge from the horrors work thrust his way. Sunlight glinted off the blue-green surface like a million stars at night. The breeze sifted through the towering trees and calmed his soul.

It was especially nice to be here when summer heat melted a person to nothing in the city and all the crazies came out. Although, with late afternoon thunderstorms starting to move into the mountains, it might wind up being colder than Doug preferred. If the rain got too bad, he’d not only be stuck inside the cabin, he’d be stranded when the roads washed out. Just him and the thoughts and voices of others that crept into his mind.

He sighed and cast his line again. He had books, beer, supplies, blankets, and extra jackets in the closet if the walls closed in and he needed to walk it off. He’d manage. He always did.

Doug couldn’t remember when he’d realized he was different from other children. In his family his ability was a given. Doug was glad for that. They had the “sight,” as his grandmother called it. They’d shown him how to use it wisely, how to deal with some of the things he saw that weren’t so nice, how to protect himself. Still, no one was happy when he’d decided to go into profiling. The discipline involved with that work helped him hone his gift and have it mean something.

The family respected his need to make a difference, but they worried. He’d seen it in their minds. They helped him stay grounded despite their concerns, giving him distance when he needed, wrapping him in love when he needed that too. Without that he risked overload. It had happened to his older cousin with near lethal results—another reason the family didn’t want Doug involved in police work of any kind. At that point it was a little too late. Doug had made the commitment and wouldn’t back away from it. He monitored himself daily, sometimes hourly, to keep in check and notice the internal signals telling him it was time to clear his head of the garbage collected from other people.

So he lounged in one of the two Adirondack chairs on the dock built by his maternal grandfather, cold beer and bottled water in a cooler by his side. The cabin, with the wooden steps Doug and his father had built the year before were a mere stone’s throw away. The motorboat tied next to him bobbed as if begging to be taken out for a spin. His family had left the day before, giving Doug a few days to cleanse his mind before heading back to work. He missed them, but he also treasured this quiet time. No one’s thoughts to intrude on his. No having to put up his blocks. At least no one in his general vicinity.

People occasionally occupied other cabins dotting the lakeshore. The closest at the moment was at the farthest end a mile down, and Doug could tune the honeymooners out. It wasn’t easy when their passion poured his way. With his family gone and without the distraction they’d provided, sexuality from the couple seeped into Doug’s head, adding to the agony of being away from the woman of his dreams. He felt like a voyeur beating off each time to give himself relief, imagining himself sliding into Natalie Gray while he did so.

Oh, well…what they don’t know…

Smiling, he cast his line again. That’s when he felt the presence of another drift into his head, and not just any other person. Natalie was driving up the road.

He parked his fishing rod in the bracket and stretched to his feet to face the arrival. Nothing the honeymooners could project would equal the feeling of seeing Natalie pull her Ford Escape to a stop before the cabin, right behind his Jeep Cherokee. She’d lived in a corner of his soul from the first time they’d met the previous year. At the time they’d both been involved with other people. He’d known the instant he’d seen her that she was the one…and he hadn’t been able to do a thing about it, except be patient and wait until the time was right.

He’d ended his own relationship right away. Doug couldn’t continue being with Bette when he knew she was out there. It wasn’t fair. He liked Bette too much to use her. Two months later, Bette met the love of her life. Now they were married with a baby on the way. It hadn’t take long for Natalie to be single once more either. Still he waited for that perfect moment, wanting her more than anything else, yet content to get to know each other better.

He’d felt a nudge from the universe that last time they’d had coffee. It wasn’t the most opportune time since he was leaving for the cabin within hours. Once she was finally in his arms, Doug knew he’d never want to let her go. All he could do was sow a seed for when he returned—a subtle touch up her arm, along with a promise to see her when he got back. The warmth that had pulsed from her when he’d done so had made it doubly hard to leave. He’d missed her like crazy every day since, took her image with him to bed each night in the crowded cabin. No wonder he’d caved so quickly from the honeymooners. Now Natalie was here, firing up his libido, wiggling into his heart all the more.

Doug opened his mind and probed hers. She was here on business, but he also felt joy overlaid on the dark news she had to deliver. Happiness rippled through her when she waved and flashed him a smile. He waved and smiled back, heartbeat racing in time with hers. His erection rivaled the size of the pine trees around them. He shoved the tips of his fingers in his jeans pocket and watched her pick her way down the wooden steps toward him, wanting her more with every inch that brought her closer.

She’d gone casual for her visit wearing jeans, sneakers, and a dark green T-shirt that came a hair shy of clinging to her torso. Her long brown hair was pulled up in a ponytail that dangled to her shoulders. Sunlight filtering through the treetops and dark clouds glinted off the red highlights. When left loose, her hair shone like treasure. Doug knew it would feel like thick strands of silk running through his fingers. He wanted to drown in the smell of her, that combination of scents unique to Natalie alone.

“I should have known better than to try to sneak up on you.”

Who needed the sun when there was a smile like that beaming on him?

“When did you know I was here?”

Doug shrugged. “Probably when you turned down the road. It’s hard to tell. I was fishing, pondering the lint in my navel, and wondering when the newlyweds on the other side of the lake were going to go at it again.”

Natalie laughed. “Hard life.”

He grinned. “Very hard when they’re hot and heavy.” And I want you so bad I can taste it.

She’d reached the bottom step. Her brown eyes sparkled with humor. She was genuinely glad to see him, despite her original reason for seeking him out. Doug wanted to delay that discussion as long as possible.

“It was a long drive for you. Would you like a beer or a bottle of water?” He reached for the small cooler between the chairs, already knowing her selection.

“Sure.” Obviously she knew he knew. Doug liked that. Natalie had always accepted him for what he was. Not once had she questioned anything.

Her long fingers brushed his as she took the water. A tingle zipped up his arm and he felt the jolt of impact in her head. Perhaps putting up some walls would be polite.

“I would have called, but someone’s cell phone seems to be off.” Natalie twisted the cap off and took a long drink.

Doug’s gaze locked onto the slender column of her neck as she swallowed. The image of her lips wrapped his cock, sucking him down doubled his agony. “What can I say?” He shrugged a shoulder and motioned her to one of the chairs. “Spotty service. Forgot to bring the charger. I’m on vacation.”

“The dog ate my homework. The sun was in my eyes. My shoelace was untied.” Natalie eased into the low-slung chair with a contented sigh. “God, it’s beautiful up here. I haven’t been to the mountains in ages. I could fall asleep right here, right now.”

“Go ahead. I’ll wake you in an hour…if the storm doesn’t open up first.”

They eyed the darkening sky.

“It looks like the clouds might win that race.”

“You realize if it starts to rain we’ll be stuck here for a bit. You don’t want to be on those roads in a storm. Flash floods, mudslides…”

Natalie took another sip of water and stared at the lake, now turned gray-green and choppy from the approaching storm. “I can think of worse fates than being stuck in a mountain cabin with you.”

Doug grinned like he’d hit the jackpot. As a matter of fact, maybe he had.

She glanced at him from the corner of her eye. “Your pole’s bent.”

Thinking of the erection swelling his jeans, Doug started to glance down.

She snickered. “Your fishing pole.”

Doug laughed at himself. “Sorry.”

“No, you’re not.” She winked and polished off the water.

“You caught me.” He pulled the rod from its brace and reeled in a bluegill. “Looks like you’re my good luck charm. This is my first bite since I’ve been here.”

“Always happy to help.”

“Stay the night, and I’ll be happy to cook you dinner as your reward.”

Natalie eyed the sky, then cast him another sidelong glance. “Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.”

“Great.” He unhooked the fish and placed it in the second cooler of ice. As much as Doug wanted her, there was that nasty business that had brought her here. “Now that we’ve had foreplay, want to tell me why you’re really here?”

All trace of humor faded. Doug was damn glad he’d put his walls up. He didn’t want to see the darkness in her mind. She was going to share it soon enough.

Natalie closed her eyes, rested her head against the back of the chair, and folded her fingers over her stomach. “Give me a bit. I’d like to soak up a few more minutes of peace.”

“Take as long as you need.” Doug tossed out his line. Anything to keep the world’s darkness at bay. Anything to keep her with him as long as possible.

Hired Hand by Caitlyn Willows

HiredHand

HIRED HAND
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Contemporary – Novella
August 2016

Socialite Melissa Brody is beyond livid when she discovers the trust fund she’s been waiting for is tied to a Texas dude ranch. In order to inherit, she has to prove herself worthy. She has to work at the ranch for six months!

Colton Adams has helped his father manage the Double-Trouble Dude Ranch for years. Now comes the cowboy’s biggest challenge—make sure the partner’s granddaughter is ready to take the reins. It’s apparent from the get-go Melissa is in sore need of something, and Colton is just the man to give it to her.

Hired Hand was previously published in 2004. It has been re-edited and re-released for your reading pleasure.

 

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REVIEWS:

5 CUPS!!! Hired Hand is a funny and sexy story of a woman trying to work for the first time in her life. Melissa comes from a privileged background but now must find out how to cope with real life, which she does, marvelously so; meanwhile Colt imagines the hardships to come but in actual fact Melissa surprises him, in a whole heap of ways. This was a fantastic read for me, a story of hope, romance and of course, lots of hot, smoldering sex. ~Sheryl, Coffee Time Romance Reviews

5 STARS!!! A short story with a full plot that keeps your attention to the last page…a satisfying sensual romantic read. ~Patrice Storie, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

FIVE UNICORNS!!! [O]ne of the best short contemporary romances I’ve read in quite awhile… Hired Hand is a well-rounded story that seems to be missing nothing! Hot, erotic love scenes blend flawlessly with characters that you grow to love and an ending for Melissa and Colton that totally satisfies while leaving the reader anxious to have stories for the secondary characters that were introduced. Caitlyn Willows Hired Hand will not disappoint readers of erotic contemporary romance. ~Melissa, Enchanted In Romance

FOUR RIBBONS!!! The sparks fly as soon as Melissa and Colt set eyes on each other and the pages just ignite throughout the rest of the story. Ms. Willows takes the spoiled heiress and shows us that she can work hard for her money and the man of her dreams. HIRED HAND is a story filled with romance and love that will make you sigh and keep you turning the pages. ~Bea Sigman, Romance Junkies

FOUR ANGELS!!! A fresh, erotic read that is sure to entertain. The story is delivered with humor and raw sexuality that makes Melissa and Colton fun characters to get to know. There are moments of outright hilarity that will have readers applauding the style with which Colton tries to prepare Melissa for becoming the newest hired hand. ~Amanda, Fallen Angel Reviews

FIVE HEARTS!!! I have to warn you; the jeans scene is just hilarious. And I just love these two characters; I enjoyed the fact that they fall for each other so easily, that their preconceptions are easily pushed aside with little hindrance, and that they are absolutely made for one other. The lust between the two is instantaneous. For romance readers looking for a perfect relationship story, this one can go right up there will the best. ~Glenda K. Bauerle, The Romance Studio

EXCERPT:

Colton Adams crushed his empty Coke can in his fist. The glorious day they’d all been waiting for was here. Melissa Brody was twenty-five. Whoop-de-do. Little did he realize he was the one who was going to be assigned to babysit her. His father and grandfather stared at him over the supper table. He’d been tag-teamed and he damn sure didn’t like that. Where the hell were his brothers? And the women—they’d scurried out of the dining room like rats deserting a sinking ship.

“Fine,” he finally said. “I’ll pick Miss Priss-Ass up at the airport and bring her here. She can stay out of our way for the next six months, then pick up her prize money and be on her way.”

Granddad dusted his fingers through his sparse, white hair. At least he still had hair. Dad lost his long ago, and it didn’t look hopeful for Colt either. It was just as well. Getting it cut regularly was nothing but a hassle. He’d often thought of shaving himself bald and being done with it.

“I understand how you feel, Colt,” Granddad said. “But I have an obligation to Asher. He and I worked hard to build this place. He didn’t want to give it away to someone who wouldn’t appreciate what it took to earn it.”

“Well, what the fuck do you want me to do?”

Pick that time for Mom to walk in. She tsked and patted his shoulder. “Such language. And here I thought I’d raised gentlemen.” She put a slice of hot apple pie in front each of them, then left.

Colt pushed his aside. His stomach was too soured now to enjoy it. He turned to his father, hoping to get him to see some sense. “Dad, she’s going to get in the way. We’ve got a business to run. I don’t have time to—”

“We’re always needing an extra hand around here. From what Dan says, it isn’t going to hurt Melissa to work for a change. While he and her mother understood the value of hard work, her stepmother has spoiled her from the start. Dan felt so guilty over the child losing her mother he let it go. By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.”

“So we’re supposed to help him fix it.”

“Don’t raise your voice, dear,” his grandmother said from behind him. “It’s unbecoming.” She scooped vanilla ice cream onto the pie slices and left.

They were in cahoots, all of them. He couldn’t even get a good mad going without someone yanking him to a stop. “Why me? Why can’t Wes do it?”

“With a baby on the way, he’s got enough to worry about.”

“If he’d kept it in his pants, he wouldn’t have that problem,” Colt grumbled. Sure enough Wes swung through the door and plopped down in the chair beside him. Even had the nerve to steal his apple pie!

“You’re one to talk,” his brother said around a mouthful of food. “Although, maybe if you took it out of your pants more often, you wouldn’t be so damned grouchy.”

He was on the verge of telling Wes to fuck off when his mother placed another piece of pie before him. Grandma was right behind her with the ice cream. Colt threw up his hands and pushed away from the table.

“Will you all just—”

Five sets of brown eyes stared at him, waiting for him to finish. It was no use. He was surrounded. A good man knew when to quit.

“All right. You win. I’ll pick her up at the airport. But”—he lifted his finger—“we’ve got a group going out and another coming in the next morning. I’m not making two trips.”

Dad smacked the table. “Perfect time for her to start learning the ropes.”

Colt swallowed a mumbled complaint, grabbed his pie, and stomped out to the porch swing.

The bunkhouse was just settling down. One by one lights clicked off in the guestrooms. His brother, Trent, would be about done cleaning up the community room where they gathered for meals and other events. After a warm day, a breeze now kicked the stars around. He could hear the horses’ slow gaits in the pasture beyond as they found their places to graze and rest. When it was warm, they let the horses stay out. In the winter, they’d all be in the barn, safe and cozy.

Business boomed at the Double-Trouble Ranch. Tourists couldn’t get enough of playing cowboy. The Adamses gave them what they wanted, and they still kept coming—some from as far away as Japan and Germany. That seemed to be where they got the most out-of-country visitors. From time to time, they’d also host a group from whatever conference was going on in Austin. Most of those were just for the Friday night hay rides or the Saturday night barbecue and dancing. The Adams family ran this place with a precision the military would envy. They had to or it would all go to hell.

Working a ranch was rough enough. Opening it to tourists doubled the work. Adding the oil drilling concession helped fill the coffers. They’d done so well, they could easily hand it over to a staff and the family could sit back in style. But where was the fun in that?

Colt loved the thrill of rounding up the herd, of seeing the birth of a new calf, or any of the other animals for that matter. And nothing tickled him more than to hear the squeal of a child as he rode a horse for the first time. Or the unrepressed giggle of one of the tourists as they roped their dummy bull. Hand it over to someone else? Over his dead body.

Now the princess herself was coming. As far as he was concerned, she could take her money and leave. Obviously, he wasn’t going to get his way on that. It had always frosted him that a portion of the ranch earnings always wound up in her trust account. She’d never had to do a thing for it, except be born. There might be some sweet justice here in seeing her dirty her lily-white hands. They should have bought out her share long ago, but Granddad refused to even consider it, and Dad backed him up.

The screen door squeaked open. Granddad joined him on the swing. They sat there watching the stars while Colt finished his pie. Then he set the plate aside and leaned back.

“You’re too quiet, Granddad. You got something on your mind. Pissed about her coming?”

“Nope,” he said with a sigh. “Just praying I can live up to my word to do right by her. I don’t want her leaving here without us having done everything we can to make her live up to her potential. If there’s going to be a failure, let it be hers, not ours.”

“Why?”

“Because I gave my word.”

Noble to a fault, but then weren’t all the Adamses?

“What if she doesn’t make the cut?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “Guess we keep trying until she does. She won’t get that trust or any further money from it until she can prove herself. Guess it’ll be up to her to decide when she comes back.”

And operations would be interrupted each time she did. It was best to get this over with now. “I’ll do everything I can, Granddad.”

“Going to have to do more than that, Colt.” He rubbed his knees as he leaned forward. “I know it’s not your nature, but I want you to ride her hard. I want you dogging her twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I want her broke and tamed. I don’t want anyone saying we didn’t do everything in our power to bring her around to understand there’s nothing more rewarding than a good day’s work.”

“And you’re willing to sacrifice your first-born grandson to do so.” Colt feigned hurt.

His grandfather chuckled and clapped him on the back. “Wes and Andrea have the baby coming. Trent is too swayed by a pretty face. So, yes, the vote for you was unanimous. Just remember to guard your jewels. Some of them fillies kick pretty hard.”

 

 

 

Rough Cut by Caitlyn Willows

RoughCut-NoLogo

ROUGH CUT
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Romantic Suspense
August 2016
Cover Artist – Scott Carpenter

The only thing six months of undercover work have gotten FBI Agent Tony Driscoll is a chronic case of the hots for Blythe Smithers—an itch he definitely decides needs scratching.

Blythe’s been waiting for Mr. Right, but what harm is there in a little fling with the sexy massage therapist while biding her time?

A tryst turns into teamwork as Tony and Blythe search for smuggled diamonds—a fortune someone is willing to kill to possess. As love nudges lust aside, can Tony and Blythe live long enough to enjoy it?

NOTES: Re-release, previously titled Undercover Lover, re-edited and better than ever!

Finalist-2006 Golden Quill Award
Finalist-2005 HOLT Medallion
Finalist-2006 EPPIE Award

BUY LINKS

Excerpt:

Tony left the building as he’d arrived—through alleys, side streets, and many blocks between it and where he’d parked. Massage clients waited.

He passed the morning working absentmindedly, longing for the day when he could put this undercover assignment behind him. Most of his clientele were rich, pasty white, and overweight. The only bright spot in this whole business had been Blythe, and she had been from the start. His problem now was how to hang on to her once his work here was done.

More guilt tweaked him. He was using her now to get to the Cambridges, and he sure didn’t feel good about that. Plus, once the Cambridges were behind bars, she’d be out of a job. He didn’t feel good about that either and knew he definitely wouldn’t be one of her favorite people after that happened. Hell, she didn’t even know his real name. Somehow he had to find a way to tell her what was going on. Trent would have a fit, thinking he’d compromised the investigation. But Tony’s instincts told him he could trust Blythe. With her close connection to the Cambridges, she might be able to help. That also meant putting her at risk, so she had the right to be fully informed.

Tony kneaded a roll of fat on the middle-aged woman before him. She grunted like a pig. With every day that passed, he hated this work more and more. Trent wasn’t the only one who was impatient for results. Right now, the only woman he wanted to lay hands on in any manner was Blythe.

“Okay, Mrs. Powell, all done for today.” He wiped his hands on a length of toweling while he gave her wide berth.

She tucked the sheet around her. “So soon? Feels like you just started.”

Felt like hours to him. Tony forced a smile he didn’t feel. “I know what you mean. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

A little before noon.

Just enough time to get to Stephanie’s office building before Blythe left. If he hurried. He reached the place with no time to spare. Watching from the far side of the parking lot, his breath caught when Blythe walked out. A raging hard-on shot to life seconds later. Blythe was dressed in hot pink capri pants with a matching floral camp shirt. White sandals graced her slender feet. Sunglasses covered her eyes.

He shifted in his seat as he palmed his erection, trying to find a more comfortable position that simply didn’t exist. Blythe always had that effect on him. In the months before, he’d been able to handle it. But now that he’d had her? Misery. It was all he could do to stay in the truck and not rush her.

The image of him dragging her to the truck, throwing her in the backseat, and fucking her until the struts cracked under the pressure was sweet. Something to put on their to-do list—when it was dark and not in a public place. Although forbidden sex and the danger of being caught would certainly make things hotter. He bet he wouldn’t have to do much talking to convince Blythe.

He pulled his wandering thoughts to a screeching halt and tried to focus on the job.

After a quick look in both directions, she crossed the street. Now all he had to do was get past the security guard, who was what had made entering at night impossible. Blythe’s presence during the day had hindered Tony’s chance to search Stephanie’s office.

He waited until he saw Blythe’s cherry-red Sentra turn the corner, then strode into the building like he did every weekday—ready to give Stephanie her daily massage. The guard never challenged him, and building security didn’t require anyone to sign in. It was almost as if the guard was there for show, a visual deterrent to anyone coming in who shouldn’t. Tony nodded a greeting the man’s way and continued on.

So far, so good.

The hallway was deserted. Like all the other times he’d been here. In less time than it took to think about it, he had the lock picked and was in.

Tony stowed his table and bag near the door. Where in the hell should he start? He had one hour to hit pay dirt. A sign on Blythe’s desk invited customers to ring the bell because she was in back.

He glanced that way. Light from an open closet door caught his eye. He edged toward it, scanning piles of papers, files, and samples as he went. Nothing looked promising.

He pushed the door open wider and smiled. It wasn’t a closet after all. It was a huge workroom cluttered with furniture in various stages of upholstery. Rolling steel doors covered the delivery entrance. It wasn’t the safest place to hide diamonds, but Stephanie sure didn’t lack for niches to do so.

Tony aimed for the workbench against the wall. His foot hit something hard in his haste. Metal skittered across the tile—a tack hammer. He glanced around and saw a black Naugahyde sofa. Each seam was edged in sparkling gems.

It’s too simple. Too obvious. And perfect. No one would ever guess they were diamonds. The smuggled gems were supposed to be rough. There was nothing to say they hadn’t been polished. Stephanie did have acquaintances in the jewelry business. Someone could be convinced to do her a favor, for the right amount of money.

He retrieved a jeweler’s loupe from his duffel bag of tricks, then hurried back for a closer look. Damn. Rhinestones, every single one of them. Even the ones in the bowl holding the supply.

Back to square one, and time was running out.

* * * *

Blythe pushed her lettuce around her plate. She’d been unable to concentrate for most of the morning. At least at the office she could mindlessly do finish work on the Caplin sofa while every other thought focused on Tony.

She missed him, couldn’t wait to see him again, craved him more than the richest chocolate. Silly, when they’d only been involved less than a day. After watching him all these months, trying to avoid him now was useless. He was every fantasy come true and then some.

Fling, my ass. She was already stuck on the guy. For all she knew, she had been all along.

Blythe cursed herself a thousand times over. He wasn’t what she wanted. Yet the idea of ending it tore her in two. She didn’t know what the hell to do.

“I swear you haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”

She looked Eileen Cronkite’s way. A frown had pulled her perfectly arched eyebrows together. Frustration darkened her blue eyes as she flicked back a wayward strand on her long, black hair. They went to lunch once a month, jabbering the hour away. Eileen sure got a raw deal this time.

“Something’s on your mind. Give it up.”

They’d known each other since high school and had always shared their darkest secrets and desires. Why should this be any different?

Blythe set her fork aside. It was different. It felt too private, too special to share. “All right. I’ve met someone. No. I’ve met the someone. We are absolutely, positively sexually compatible in every single way. He’s charming, considerate, funny, great looking.”

“But?”

God love her, at least Eileen didn’t cheer. “He’s lacking on the career issue.”

They waited while the waiter cleared their plates.

“He sounds like everything you’ve ever wanted.” Eileen’s voice was low, for Blythe’s ears only.

She nodded. The memory of him set her body thrumming for attention, and not just for the sex. Their camaraderie over breakfast kept tugging at her heart.

“Is his job so important?” Eileen’s question was softly spoken.

Blythe had been asking herself the same question all morning. She laughed lightly. “I guess I wanted someone with a little more ambition.”

“What does he do?”

“He’s a masseur. Door-to-door. Like a salesman.”

Eileen shrugged. “Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any ambition. They can make good money. His way means little overhead. Maybe it’s what makes him happy. Isn’t a happy sex god more important than a self-centered, power-hungry maniac?”

She had a point. “I’m afraid, Eileen.”

“Of what? Of falling in love?”

She nodded. “Of being hurt. Of making a mistake. Of having a broken heart. You name it.”

“Of living?” Eileen stirred her straw through her iced tea. “You’ve never mentioned any man before. Obviously, this is someone you’ve just met. Aren’t you jumping to conclusions?”

“I’ve known him for about six months. I’ve just avoided him.”

“Until now.”

“Yeah. I caved. I couldn’t help it. I was like a time bomb ready to explode. And he…” Blythe couldn’t put it into words.

“Tell me about him.” Eileen flicked her long fingers through the air. “Besides the sex stuff.”

Blythe had always admired her friend’s hands—smooth, long fingers with perfect nails. Eileen took care of them too, sometimes to obsession, changing the polish every day or several times in one day. Even during tax season, when she worked hellacious hours.

Blythe pulled in a breath as she struggled for the words to explain Tony. How she wasn’t afraid in his arms. The comfort and warmth she felt curled beside him at night. How thoughtful he was to have coffee ready. His consideration and respect in not rushing out, in wanting to date. She was offering free sex, and he wasn’t biting. Damn it, Tony seemed to want more. But the only thing she could tell Eileen was, “His kisses make me want to melt.”

Eileen rolled her blue eyes. “Oh boy, you’ve got it bad.”

“I told him I don’t want him to kiss me anymore.”

Eileen laughed so hard heads turned their way. “And you think that’s going to help?”

Blythe covered her eyes with one hand. It sounded ridiculous, even to her ears, even knowing how one kiss destroyed her senses. “What am I going to do?”

“Why try to analyze it? Why not take what comes? Enjoy the great sex, the princess treatment I assume he’s offering you, and let nature take care of the rest.”

Easier said than done. It wasn’t Eileen’s heart they were talking about here.

“It could also be that you’re so horny, anything will get you going. It’s been forever since you’ve gotten any.”

Blythe removed her hand and shrugged. “No one’s caught my interest.”

“Well, I’d say you’re plenty caught right now. Take advantage of it before the next long dry spell. If there is one.”

Sound advice. Maybe she was overanalyzing this. It was just that Tony was so different from what she’d expected. She’d seriously misjudged the man. Every bad thing she thought about him was wrong. He was caring, funny, charming, attentive, and right now, she sorely regretted having blown him off for lunch.

Blythe laughed to herself. There’s an image for you. She should have “blown him off” for lunch. It sounded much more intriguing than picking apart a relationship that might or might not exist. This was new, fun, exciting. He was everything sexual she craved in a man and had never found. And here she was, missing out on a great nooner to complain to Eileen.

With any luck, she might just be able to catch him before his next client. Surely Stephanie had his phone number somewhere.

She tossed some bills on the table. “Sorry, Eileen, gotta run.”

“I bet I can guess what you’re about to do.”

She smiled. “I’ll leave that to your imagination.” Luck was with her. Every light was green on the way back to the office. Excitement pushed the accelerator just beyond the speed limit. Once she arrived, it was all Blythe could do to keep from running into the building. She nodded a greeting to the guard and hurried down the hallway.

Please, let him be available.

She shoved the key into the lock, ducked inside, and froze. His massage table and bag were propped against the wall.

“Tony?”

SHIT. HE WAS caught. He glanced at his watch. She was back way early. He had to think of something fast.

Tony grabbed a length of drapery tassel. “I’m in the back. Are you alone?”

He looped the ends over brackets in the wall, then twisted his wrists through the silken cord and waited for her like a sacrifice.

“I am. How did you—”

Blythe stopped short of the door. Her smile was quick as she raked her gaze over him. “I’m liking this.”

“I stopped by on the off chance you might’ve changed your mind. The door was unlocked.”

“Really? Odd. I’ll be right back. I need to make sure that door is locked this time.”

By the time she returned, Tony’s hard-on pulsed for freedom.

Smiling, she knotted his wrists to the brackets. A flick of her fingers opened the button on his jeans and sliced his zipper down.

“Now, Mr. Blake, about that blowjob. You are about to have the best one of your life.”

 

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Forbidden Fruit by Caitlyn Willows

ForbiddenFruit

FORBIDDEN FRUIT
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Contemporary – Novella
July 2016

Abby Strickland has always had crush on Richard Braddock, her best friend’s father…her father’s best friend. With Richard’s divorce six years before, that crush turned to longing, longing to love. If only Richard knew. At Melanie Braddock’s wedding, Abby decides it’s time to get this out of her system. No matter how forbidden, Abby knows she’ll regret it more if she never tries.

Richard Braddock hasn’t seen Abby Strickland in six years, and he blesses the distance those years have given him. Not only can he see the beauty in the woman she’s become, he can also fully appreciate it…and want her more than he’s ever wanted a woman. And while Richard knows he risks the wrath of their families if he acts on his feelings, he also knows he cannot resist a taste of forbidden fruit this sweet.

BUY LINKS

 

REVIEWS

FIVE ANGELS! Caitlyn Willows has written a very moving and sexy story. Forbidden Fruit is a book that you will want to read over and over. The story is very moving and shows that love can conquer about anything. Ms Willows is a very talented author and she can write some very hot and sexy love scenes. They just keep getting hotter and hotter. Forbidden Fruit will leave you hot. ~Moonluster, Fallen Angel Reviews

FIVE STARS! Both Abby and Richard Braddock are wonderful and sexy characters. Ms. Willows does a fantastic job as always in bringing together a wonderful story full of heat, interesting and dynamic characters whose sex appeal leaps off the pages, and a believable plot. In this instance Ms. Willow tackles the difficult topic of falling in love with a much older and sexy man who also happens to be a family friend and neighbor. There is also a suspense subplot that is woven into the story to keep readers on the edge of their seats. All these elements continue to make this book one captivating read…a true winner. ~Aggie Tsirikas, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

4.5 BLUE RIBBONS! FORBIDDEN FRUIT is an awesome read. Love knows no boundaries regardless of age. Caitlyn Willows did a perfect job of portraying these two characters; it’s almost as if she took a page from my life. This is a book I will be recommending to everyone I know. ~Shayla, Romance Junkies

FOUR HEARTS! Caitlyn Willows has penned an adventurous and explosive erotic romance with Forbidden Fruit! Abby and Richard’s growing bond is very beautiful and very sensual. Ms. Willows has once again captured my attention with this heartwarming and truly romantic story of a timeless love, ready to be explored at any and all ages. ~Sarah W., The Romance Studio

4 CUPS! This is fabulous romantic tale, with real life situations and complications. The characters have depth first and you are kept entertained by the secondary characters as Richard and Abby discover each other, and on your toes as danger is involved. A fast paced romance with plenty of action and hot spicy sex scenes. Wateena, Coffee Time Romance

I loved that this was not a typical older man/younger woman story; there was a certain history, and more happiness at stake than just Abby’s and Richard’s. Sometimes the best things in life start out forbidden. ~Cerise, Joyfully Reviewed

EXCERPT

Make this right, Richard reminded himself when he finally found Abby at the Golden Nugget. She was hunched over one of the quarter slots. Even from where he stood Richard could see the machine was paying out. Abby was raking up credits big time. The wins didn’t translate to her face. She looked sad, lost. All he wanted to do was wrap his arms around her. That roused the beast in his pants. As it hardened he also stiffened his resolve and took the seat next to her.

“You look like you’re doing very well.”

Abby snapped her head his way. A second later she gave him a smile so bright her whole body glowed. “This is a nice surprise.”

At least she wasn’t upset. In fact, she twisted around to face him more fully.

“Mom and Dad with you?”

“They went to see Lance Burton.” He pointed to the machine. “You’re up to a two thousand credits.”

Abby glanced at the digital display. “So I am. I hadn’t noticed.”

Lovely as this innocent conversation was, it didn’t solve the problem. Richard didn’t know if Abby was still mad and just making nice or what. It didn’t matter. It was time to fix this. “I’m glad I found you. Actually, I was looking for you.”

She cocked her head to one side. “Really?”

Richard reached for her hand, then pulled back. Touching her would really mess everything up at this point. “I wanted to apologize for earlier.”

Abby curled her fingers over his arm, much in the same way he’d seen Erin do to Ron earlier. He wondered if it had the same effect on his friend as it did on him—a conduit of electricity straight to his cock.

“It was my fault. I shouldn’t have baited Pam.”

“No, no.” He took a chance and placed his hand on top of hers. “Not Pam, me. I wanted to apologize for my… Look, Abby, you’re a beautiful woman. I haven’t seen you in six years. I can’t control how my body reacted, but I never should have—”

Her soft fingers against his lips cut off his words. “You think you insulted me? No.” She shook her head, locking her gaze onto his. “Trust me, you have no idea how thrilled I was to find you interested. I’ve wanted you for so long.”

The last came out on a whisper. Richard struggled for something coherent to say. Nothing would come out. All he could do was stare into her sparkling brown eyes.

“The only reason I came to the wedding was to see you.” She traced her finger against his chin. “I had to know if you looked as great and tempting as I remembered. You look better, by the way, and more tempting than ever. I didn’t know what to say, how to tell you.”

She dusted the other hand along his thigh, sending tiny shock waves to his groin.

“Then you wrapped your arms around me and I felt you.”

She started to drift upward to his crotch, then stopped.

“I thought it was just a reaction, but your thumbs… I knew then. You want me too.” Abby laughed lightly and eased away. “I had this grand seduction scheme in my head. As I was sitting at the table, I thought of how upset the families would be if they found out. So I told myself I was stupid to consider it in the first place. That hurt too.”

“So you left.”

Abby nodded and glanced down. “I’ve been sitting here calling myself a fool for that too. Then you showed up.”

He lifted her chin on the pads of his fingers. “Our families don’t need to know. This is our business.”

A sigh loosened the tension in her shoulders. Dropping his hands to her knees, Richard bunched up the dress slowly until he could reach bare skin. It was silky, warm. A hint of her arousal drifted to him, urging him to take what she offered—as if he needed encouragement. He circled his thumbs against her thighs, stopping halfway to his goal.

“I want to love you, Abby,” he said softly. “I want to take you upstairs and feel you quiver beneath my touch when I make you come. I want to love you as a woman was meant to be loved—thoroughly. I want to bury myself in your heat and lose myself in the wonder of your beautiful soul.”

“I want that too,” she breathlessly replied. “Just one night, Richard. I don’t want to tie you down or make you promise forever to me. Just one night to fulfill my dreams.”

“Then let’s make it a night we’ll never forget.”

She nodded and pushed to her feet as he stood.

“Are you forgetting something?” Smiling, he pointed to her winnings.

Abby giggled and punched the “cash out” button. The machine made the sound of coins dropping. When that show was over, it printed her receipt. She smiled. “Five hundred dollars. Not too shabby from one twenty dollar bill.” She stepped up to the redemption machine nearby and in less time than it took to think about it, she was holding her cash.

“So, your room or mine?” she asked.

“Have you eaten?”

“No, but…”

“Dinner first. I didn’t eat much either.”

“But, I thought…”

Richard leaned forward, his mouth close to her ear. “Relax, sweetheart. There are many ways to make love that have nothing to do with sex. This is our night. Let’s explore them.”

“On one condition… My treat and we splurge.” She shoved half of the money deep into his front pocket, setting his cock on definite overload.

“Your wish is my command, ma’am. I know just the place.”

She rewarded him with a smile. “Lead the way. I’m all yours.”

He was going to make sure of that.

 

My Salvation by Caitlyn Willows

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MY SALVATION
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotica – Short Paranormal
April 2014 (previously released in November 2006)
Cover Art © Lacey Savage

A traffic accident took away Aaron’s salvation, his fiancée Melinda. Lost and grief-stricken, he plunged back into his former days, drowning his grief in mindless parties and drunken debauchery, until a random accident of his own threatens his very soul. Trapped at the crossroads of heaven and hell, he finds himself in limbo, waiting for the Powers That Be to determine his fate. Now, as his soul hovers between eternal bliss and endless damnation, Melinda returns from the grave to help him earn his salvation once more.

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REVIEWS

FIVE HEARTS! Beautiful, amazing, enthralling-I cannot think of enough words to describe this magnificent short story! I found myself intrigued and aroused-my, oh my Melinda and Aaron had erotic sex. They pulled me along with them in their graphic sex. Then there were the parts of plot where I just wanted to cry. Ms. Willows has an unbelievable ability to wring emotion out of her readers. Melinda, who is dead and Aaron, who wishes to be dead are surprisingly well described for a short story. The plot flows absolutely seamlessly, even when twists come in the story. I cannot remember a story ending which I have enjoyed more. Brava, Ms. Willows! ~Marcy Arbitman, The Romance Studio

4.5 BLUE RIBBONS! Caitlyn Willows takes us on a fascinating journey of self-discovery with this short tale. I could have easily cried for Aaron, his beloved Melinda and the life that they should have had together. It’s very easy to understand his disappointment and how simple it would be to slip into his old ways after such a loss. At the same time, you get the feeling that Melinda may have physically died but she never truly left him in spirit. Ms. Willows brings us the life after death experience in a beautiful heart-touching way that readers won’t soon forget. ~Chrissy Dionne, Romance Junkies

[A] heart-wrenching story that is sure to pull heavily on your emotions. There were moments where I was teary eyed, instances where I shook my head in shame and times where my spine was tingling with heated passion. My Salvation was so engrossing that I read it in one setting. I could easily see the love shared between Melinda and Aaron. Their chemistry was very passionate and expanded across time. There is not much more I can say without giving away the plot; however, I took great pleasure in reading Melinda and Aaron’s story and I am sure once you discover My Salvation you will enjoy it also. ~Nikita Steele, Joyfully Reviewed

EXCERPT

Aaron Crane hoisted the bottle of Absolut to his lips and chugged it. He’d passed the buzz-stage quite some time ago, yet he still maintained a death grip around the neck. The vodka dulled the pain in his heart, filled the void in his soul, and faded the memories that assaulted him even in his dreams.

“Are you taking a leak or what?” Joe Sanchez hollered back.

“Keep your panties on,” Aaron yelled back.

He heard the other three snicker in response, most probably because Aaron had used the word “panties” rather than for the insult he’d intended. God, they really were an immature bunch. None of them had evolved beyond the mentality of a college freshman. Fun was belching contests, seeing who could piss the farthest, and laying down quarter bets of whatever game was on TV, while they scratched their balls and scarfed pizza. Aaron was the only one of the bunch who held a steady job. If he kept partying with these guys, he’d be standing behind them in the unemployment line, and he knew it. Insurance companies liked their claims adjusters alert and attentive, not to mention timely, and he’d been none of those lately. Hungover, emaciated, and perpetually tardy were more likely descriptions.

And yet, in his grief, Aaron had chosen to return to this comfort zone rather than setting out on his own. The more time he spent with these four, the more he disliked them…and himself. But then, he’d hated life and himself since the night Melinda died. The only thing he wanted was to be dead, too. That’s how he felt inside—dead.

He tossed back another drink. Who the hell got the bright idea to stop off in the middle of the desert? They were halfway to Vegas. Why the fucking side-trip?

“Screw it.”

Aaron sank to the nearest boulder and stared across a landscape silvered with the light of a full moon. A warm breeze washed over him. They’d made love under a moon like this once, with only the wind as their blanket. Melinda had wrapped her legs around his. They’d clutched each other as closely as two people could as they soared to the stars watching over them.

He’d loved everything about her from the moment they’d met—her beauty, her goodness, her laughter, her mind. Melinda made him want to be a better person. Hell, he had become a better person, shrugging off his errant ways to be the man she’d want. She was his salvation. Everything he’d dreamed of had seemed to fall in his lap once she’d beamed her smile over him. Paths Aaron never knew existed opened. The world, the future, was golden.

The day he proposed they’d scoured the Internet for the perfect honeymoon spot. There was really only one choice—Desirata. Melinda had read about the idyllic island chain in a travel magazine; a tropical paradise where all a person’s needs were met. It was off the beaten tourist path, exclusive, private—visitation was granted on a person’s needs, not their wealth. Melinda filled out the application, her eyes shining the whole time.

“I know they’ll accept us,” she’d said.

Aaron didn’t care where they went. As long as they were together, he’d give her the world if he could. What better place to start than on a white sand beach perched on the edge of a crystal blue-green ocean?

And just like that…she was ripped away from him. All because some fool blabbering on a cell phone ran a stop light at sixty miles per hour. She’d died clutching the envelope containing the Desirata application.

Grief had torn him in two. He’d tried so hard and for what? To bury the woman he loved? It was all for nothing. In the end, that’s all he had…nothing.

Aaron had quickly reverted to his previous ways, hoping to drown out the unrelenting pain that haunted him day and night. He hated life, hated the four rowdy friends who couldn’t wait to pull him back into their fold. Where once he’d found some measure of joy in the constant partying, now it was merely an escape from the horrors of an unjust world.

He closed his eyes as the breeze brushed over him, lifting the hairs on his arms. His mind drifted with the sensation, imagining Melinda was here with him, gently dancing her fingers against his skin. She’d kiss her way down his throat, while she toyed his nipples into hard dots meant for suckling. While her lips played there, her hands would wander to his cock, stroking, kneading…

Aaron clutched at the erection that burst to life. “Not now…please.”

In his present state, relief wouldn’t be possible. He was too drunk. The fact he had a hard-on at all was a shock. But with memories of Melinda assaulting him, his dick refused to obey the rules. All he could think about was how great her lips felt around him, how tight her hot pussy felt when he was inside, and how painfully lonely the world was with her gone.

Emotion clogged Aaron’s throat. Tears welled up behind his eyelids. Hand shaking, he lifted the bottle to his lips. A sudden gust of wind knocked him off-balance. Arms flailing, he toppled backward. The vodka bottle shattered against the boulder.

Aaron sat on the hard cushion of sand. Moonlight glinted off the shards of glass. Fear welled up inside him. He needed the forgetfulness in that bottle. The pain in his heart was too much to bear without it.

He hugged his knees to his chest. That’s when he noticed the blood. His hand was cut and he hadn’t—still didn’t—felt a thing. Heartache was more than he could bear, but a cut like this…nothing. It was really bleeding, too.

Wonder if it needs stitches? In his fogged brain he tried to calculate the distance to the nearest hospital. A coyote’s howl nearby snapped him upright. He was just pondering whether they could scent blood like a shark when he heard Joe stomping back his way.

“What the fuck, man. You comin’ or not?”

“I fell. Jesus, cut me some fuckin’ slack.”

Aaron shoved himself to his feet. He staggered there for a second or two, then followed Joe. At least the hard-on was gone. He glanced down to make sure and stumbled over his feet, nearly plowing into the other man.

Joe caught his shoulder to steady him. “You okay? Jeez, what happened to your hand?”

Aaron pulled away when he reached for it. “Bottle broke. It’s just a cut. It’ll stop bleeding soon. What was so all-fired important that we had to stop in the middle of nowhere?”

“Check it out.” He motioned to where the other three stood, just beyond a sign that read, “Government Facility. Restricted Area. No Trespassing.”

What little morality Aaron had remaining reared its head. He pulled Joe back. “Are you nuts? This is a restricted area. You’re going to have us thrown in jail.”

“Like we’re gonna get caught way out here. And since when did a little something like rules stop you?” He trudged onward.

Aaron followed reluctantly behind. God only knew where they were. Visions of Area 51 gendarmes swooping down on them filled his head. They weren’t in that area, were they? He’d paid no attention to the direction in which Joe had driven. His only interest had been in reaching the bottom of the bottle.

“What is it?” he asked as he crept forward. Please don’t let it be an alien, his drunken brain whined.

“Take a look.” Joe pointed to six rectangular boxes. They looked like—

“Are those caskets?” Aaron asked.

“Sure enough.” He actually sounded proud of the discovery. “I found them the last time I came through. I was looking for a place to take a leak and there they were. Suppose it’s a desert cemetery someone dug up?”

Aaron frowned. They were old coffins, nothing more than pine boxes. But they didn’t have the aged look he would have associated with a desert cemetery. Still…it was night. “Where are the bodies that were inside?”

“Ewww…” Joe adopted a spooky voice. “Maybe it’s a vampire lair.”

“Shut the fuck up, idiot. Let’s get out of here.” He turned to go.

“Scaredy-cat. I’ll pay you fifty bucks to lay down in one.”

The other three snickered—their comment on everything.

So, that’s what this was all about. Aaron tossed up his hands. “Whatever. I’ll play your stupid game.” Anything to get out of here and on the road. The bleeding hadn’t stopped. He really needed to find a hospital.

He staggered over to the nearest coffin. A wave of dizziness overwhelmed him. Shaking his head to clear it, Aaron hoisted himself inside and stretched out.

“Satisfied?” he asked. “Pay up.” But he couldn’t move. Weakness overwhelmed him.

I’ll just close my eyes for a minute.

His mind slipped into the limbo stage of twilight sleep. Soon the nightmares would take him and there was nothing Aaron could do to stop them. He drifted on a sea of nothingness. Two tunnels lay ahead—one dark, one light—and there he hovered, waiting…waiting…waiting.

 

High Roller by Caitlyn Willows

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HIGH ROLLER
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – SciFi/Futuristic – Short Story
April 2014 (previously released February 2006)
Cover Art ©Lacey Savage

When Nikos Dirvan’s spaceship crashes to Earth near Las Vegas, he is thrust into a world he’s only read about. One thing he does know is how a woman should be treated. Carla Fletcher needs two things–to escape her manipulative husband and to heal her soul. Can this strange high roller help her as he’s promised?

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REVIEWS

FIVE HEARTS! Caitlyn Willows pens a fascinating story with characters for whom the reader feels an immediate empathy. Nikos and Carla are both endearing characters, poised against the backdrop of that hateful villain Drake and his father, and this reviewer found herself cheering for the couple from the very beginning. This was my introduction to the stories of Ms. Willows and she has moved to my must-read-authors list. ~Annie, The Romance Studio

FOUR RIBBONS! HIGH ROLLER will take you on a breathtaking ride as you read through the pages as quickly as you can, because you can’t wait to see what happens next! Will love ultimately conquer all? Love, not only for another person, but love for oneself as well? You’ll have to read HIGH ROLLER to find out! I can’t wait to see what Ms. Willows has in store for us next! ~Kimberly, Romance Junkies

FOUR ANGELS! Caitlyn Willows has written an imaginative short story that might not end exactly how readers envision at the beginning. However, the conclusion is quite sweet and well deserved. Nikos learns more things in Las Vegas then he imagined he would. Carla finds something in Nikos that she never expected. With touching passion, Carla and Nikos offer readers a wonderful connection that will leave a smile on their face. High Roller is a quick read, but one that is pleasurable and worth spending an hour curled up with. 4 Angels! ~Shayley, Fallen Angel Reviews

EXCERPT

Nikos Dirvan fought the controls of his star runner, silently willing stealth mode to stay on-line. The small ship shot through the moonless night like a meteorite. If he lost invisibility, it sure wouldn’t look like one, though. Earth’s military forces would be on him before he knew it, if that happened. He’d be captured, his recon mission compromised, and…well…he’d sure never see his home world again.

Rumors abounded of how vessels had been confiscated and pulled apart by Earthmen. Their captains and crews were imprisoned like animals to be studied copiously, then horribly dissected at their demise and kept locked for all eternity in a vault to be constantly evaluated. Those souls never knew the peace of a final resting place…or so it was said.

But the Talorian government never fell prey to rumor. They lived for facts. Hence this fact-finder project. For years Nikos’ people had been quietly monitoring those on Earth, gathering information under the cloak of invisibility. Occasionally, Talorians would filter into mainstream society for more in-depth analysis. The wealth of data they’d collected was staggering. The rumors had never been confirmed or denied, but Nikos’ coworkers were careful not to be detected. So far, so good…until tonight.

He’d hit a dense patch of polluted air over an area called Los Angeles minutes before, clogging the star runner’s intake manifolds. Nikos had lost power in seconds. He’d barely had the time to switch command control into the sub-unit generator before the small ship started hurtling to earth. Banking hard, he’d managed to keep aloft, gliding on the thermal currents while the sub-unit kept the cloaking shield in place. That safeguard wasn’t going to last long. Already, the violet warning light flashed in a frantic plea for immediate attention. Any minute now…

“Warning. Shield integrity at critical low. Evasive action necessary to avoid detection.”

The computer voice synthesizer mimicked the panic this moment decreed. The designers had felt weaving emotion into the program would provide solace to captains on long, lonely flights. But at this moment, the voice was a definite irritant, digging beneath his skin like the shrill cry of a rashuka searching for its covey, who were likely only mere yards away.

Nikos liked animals as much as the next person, but rashukas had to be the stupidest avians ever created. Their nests consisted of a couple twigs tossed precariously on the low-hanging limbs of the whisper tree, where they were prey to everything taller than knee height. They were horribly nearsighted, perching on anything and anyone. But they were a beautiful breed boasting colors of turquoise, lavender, and crimson among their feathers. They were devoted parents, friends, and they mated for life. Those qualities made their annoyances worth bearing…most of the time.

“Warning. Shield integrity—”

Nikos punched off the screech. He needed focus, not distraction. If Command wanted to provide solace for their captains, they could have reinstated the soft Companion Comfort beds that gave pleasure on command. Now there was a benefit he could stand. Though not as sweet as plugging his cock into a real woman, the simulation would have given him much needed relief on these long flights.

Unfortunately, one previous captain had spent too much time in the bed and little on his mission. Word filtered through the ranks the man had actually managed to short-circuit the device from overuse. More tales indicated he’d been engaged in his favorite pastime and was nearly detected. Nikos didn’t know what of it was true, if any. The story could very well have been conjured so Command would have an excuse to remove the beds. They wanted their pilots alert and on edge. Nikos was certainly that—alert and on edge.

The small craft shuddered. It was time to find a safe haven. The desolate patch of desert below looked perfect. He pointed the bow downward, fighting gravity to glide to a soft landing. Gravity won. Fanning the air brakes, Nikos managed to level out, but he was still closing the parallel distance fast. He saw the outcropping of rock too late. One smack tumbled the runner nose over tail. Sand, rock, and other debris flew by the viewing port. A final tumble landed his craft upright. It skidded to a stop in the cradle of brush perched on the bank of a dry wash.

Nikos slowly peeled his fingers from the steering column and dared a breath as he assessed any damage to himself. Other than shaken nerves and a desperate urge to relieve himself, he seemed fine. A green flicker caught his eye through the viewport, a clear sign the shield was failing.

“Re-route all systems to shield integrity,” he told the computer as he unsnapped his seatbelt and punched the audio back on.

“Shield integrity holding,” the computer calmly replied.

“How long will the sub-unit generator keep the shield intact?”

“Twenty-hour Earth hours.”

Normally, that would be enough time to clear the intake manifolds, but with the landing he’d just had…

“Computer, damage report.”

“Ruptured fuel line. Fuel dissipating rapidly. Other damage is cosmetic and will not interfere with flight. Generator is charged for twenty-four Earth hours. Using stored power in the mobile pack will give an additional six hours.”

“How much fuel is gone?”

There was a moment of silence. “Fuel tanks are now empty.”

Nikos closed his eyes and leaned into the headrest. “Is the rupture repairable?”

“Affirmative. A laser torch will fuse the edges.”

Then it was probably a good thing the tanks were empty; he would have had to purge them anyway to avoid a fire. As long as he hugged the ship, the shielding would also hide his presence and repair efforts.

He shoved to his feet and snagged the laser torch from its lock-hold on the toolbar as he walked to the hatch. There he paused at the door, hand poised over the access panel. His first taste of Earth air. Nikos wished he could be happier about it, wished he could explore and indulge his curiosity. If he made it back to port after this trip, maybe he could convince Command to promote him out of Overflights and into Contacts.

He pushed the panel and inhaled the fresh scent that drifted through the open portal before hurrying to his task. A dark patch in the sand spread out from his vessel, a telltale sign of leakage. The warmth from Earth’s sun would evaporate it come daylight. Running his fingers on the underside of the hull, Nikos quickly found the breach and sealed it.

Now to refuel.

He slipped inside the ship, returning the torch to its designated spot. “Computer, please scan for the nearest source for fuel.”

“Nearest source is fifty miles northeast. City of Las Vegas. Scanners reveal a profusion of rich fuel transportable in multiple containers. However, acquisition must be made with Earth coinage and in heavily populated areas. Protocols call for—”

“Acknowledged.” Nikos knew the directive by heart—assume Earth attire, identity, and mannerisms. Hopefully, the monetary denominations his predecessors had acquired would be sufficient to purchase his fuel and be on his way.

He retrieved the Earth clothing, so much more binding than his pasfa-soft flight suit. At least the colors were similar—midnight blue. He tucked the cap on his head wondering what the significance was of the image on the front—a pirate from early Earth days named “Raiders.” The white shoes were comfortable enough and were called “Nike.” Earthlings seemed to be fond of naming their clothing. The shirt had a symbol over the heart. The pants were named Dockers. A strange custom, but who was he to judge?

Nikos looped the thin, webbed mobile pack around his waist, tucking the laser torch into his pocket. It could make an effective weapon if necessary. He prayed it wouldn’t be.

“Warning,” the computer nagged. “Use of mobile pack will diminish energy reserves.”

“Note to Command,” Nikos replied. “Mobile pack needed to acquire fuel. Assuming Earth protocol to do so. Computer, if the sub-unit generator should fail before my return, your instructions are to notify Command and self-destruct. Acknowledged?”

“Affirmative, Captain Dirvan. This vessel will self-destruct in twenty-three hours, thirty minutes.”

“Instituting Earth Protocol Omega. Dirvan out.”

“Acknowledged.” The computer’s console faded to black.

Nikos stepped into the desert night once more, sealing the hatch behind him. He activated the mobile pack, sealing himself from view as he moved away from the vessel. Safely away, he lifted into the sky and aimed for the halo of lights called Las Vegas.