Sunday, 19 February 2017

One day...

If I'm really really lucky, I might be able to catch a few days of actual fiction writing soon.

*sobs*

Friday, 17 February 2017

Let slip the dogs of smut

This is me last night, recording a podcast across the unending void of Skype, for the Sexy Librarian 😊



Since I reluctantly paused in writing The Prison of the Angels (Book of the Watchers 3)  I have written 18 blog posts for the upcoming launch tour of Vol.2 : In Bonds of the Earth. My brain is like soup and I'm feeling quite ill this week, frankly, but luckily Sexy Librarian Rose buoyed me up with her enthusiasm!

The IBotE BLOGTOUR kicks off on Wednesday 22nd February at Simon Bestwick's place and runs until I'm clean out of people who will talk to me.

The Official Facebook Launch Party is on 1st March and EVERYONE is welcome to drop in - we will be having competitions and silly games and I'm sure as hell getting the cocktails out, because I'm planning to do a video reading of at least one excerpt!

So do please contact me if you'd like to host me in the blog tour:

janine dot ashbless at gmail dot com
Meanwhile I will go back to my glass of wine ... 😉

"I will free them all."

When Milja Petak released the fallen angel Azazel from five thousand years of imprisonment, she did it out of love and pity. She found herself in a passionate sexual relationship beyond her imagining and control – the beloved plaything of a dark and furious demon who takes what he wants, when he wants, and submits to no restraint. But what she hasn’t bargained on is being drawn into his plan to free all his incarcerated brothers and wage a war against the Powers of Heaven.

As Azazel drags Milja across the globe in search of his fellow rebel angels, Milja fights to hold her own in a situation where every decision has dire consequences. Pursued by the loyal Archangels, she is forced to make alliances with those she cannot trust: the mysterious Roshana Veisi, who has designs of her own upon Azazel; and Egan Kansky, special forces agent of the Vatican – the man who once saved then betrayed her, who loves her, and who will do anything he can to imprison Azazel for all eternity.

Torn every way by love, by conflicting loyalties and by her own passions, Milja finds that she too is changing – and that she must do things she could not previously have dreamt of in order to save those who matter to her.

In Bonds of the Earth is the second in the Book of the Watchers trilogy and the sequel to Cover Him With Darkness.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

So long, Samhain


It's a tough time for romance publishers, it seems. Not only did Ellora's Cave close its doors in January, Samhain is now following suit. They tried downsizing but it didn't work. The market is swamped with self-published novels of varying quality, and Amazon has traditional publishers by the short and curlies.

I have only one book with Samhain; my Arabian Nights romance Heart of Flame. So your chance to get your hands on it (in its current format) is running out! All rights will revert to me in March, but it'll need a new cover/publisher/me to finally get my finger out and learn self-publishing... There may be some delay!



 By day, Taqla uses her forbidden sorcery to move freely about the city of Damascus in the guise of an old sage. Her true identity known only by her faithful servant woman, Taqla is content with the comfortable, if restrictive, life that keeps her safe from the control of any man. Until she lays eyes on a handsome merchant-traveler. Suddenly her magical disguise doesn’t rest so easily on her shoulders. When long-time widower, Rafiq, hears that the Amir’s beautiful daughter has been kidnapped by a scheming djinni—and that she will be given in marriage to her rescuer—he seeks the help of “Umar the Wise” to ensure he will be that man. Yet as he and the disguised Taqla set off, he senses that his prickly male companion is hiding something. In a moment of dire peril, all of Taqla’s secrets are stripped bare—her fears, her sorcery and, worst of all, her love for Rafiq. Yet the princess’s life hangs in the balance, and there is no running away or turning back. Even though passion may yet betray them all…




This is Samhain's official letter to readers:

"Greetings, Samhain Readers.

It's with a heavy heart that we announce Samhain Publishing will be closing at the end of February. Due to the declining sales we’ve been experiencing with this changing market we’ve come to the sad conclusion it’s time to call it a day.

The last of our new titles launch February 21st; I hope you will check them out and support them as you have so many other Samhain titles through the years."

Our site will go dark at the end of the day, February 28th. Please take a few moments and visit, buy what you might have been planning on getting someday in the future, but download and back up your bookshelf because you won’t have access to it after February 28th.

Thank you for all your support through the eleven years we’ve been open. It’s been a pleasure to bring to market new voices in publishing and new works from familiar authors. From start to finish, we’ve always kept what the reader wants in mind and hope you enjoyed what we had to offer."


Buy 'Heart of Flame' at Amazon US

Monday, 13 February 2017

Blue Monday: Samantha MacLeod guests

Every Monday I post a wicked excerpt for your entertainment!

Today Samantha MacLeod is back with her latest story, Persephone Remembers the Pomegranates, which is published TOMORROW for Valentine's Day.


You’ve heard it was the pomegranate.

Those six juicy, ruby seeds, staining my lips and fingers. Sealing my fate. Damning me.


Well, maybe so.


But that’s not entirely the truth.



He had a chariot, a great black chariot leaping and dancing with blue flames. It have terrified me once, but his hands held my arm as I climbed to the seat, and I was not afraid. I suppose we must have vanished through a cleft in the earth, descending to the underworld. We must have crossed the River Styx, gone past the great three-headed Cerberus.

I noticed none of it. Once we mounted the chariot, he pulled me onto his lap and pressed his lips to mine, and all I remember of the journey was the way he made my body burn. My legs wrapped around his waist, my chest pressed to his, and I felt his arousal throbbing against the loose weave of my chiton. His breath caught in his throat when I moved my hips against his. As I ran my fingers down his back, his body responded to my touch, my lips, my fingers, as though I were the driver and he the chariot.

I didn’t even notice when the chariot stopped. I was kissing his wrist, feeling his pulse hammer jaggedly beneath his pale skin, listening to his gasping breath when he caught my chin in his hand and turned my head to face his. He kissed me and, as he kissed me, he stood, lifting me. I let him carry me, feeling his strong body move beneath me.

He walked with me until we were in a great, dark room, a room filled with burning candles and the heavy scent of flowers, lilies and roses. It was a room, I would slowly realize, he had prepared just for me. A room filled with things he imagined I would enjoy, with flowers I loved, with fabrics that would feel good against my naked skin.

But at the moment all I cared about was him, his lips and fingers and hands, his hard body against mine. He lay me on the enormous bed in the center of the room, and then he followed me down, his hand traveling up my robes for the first time.

I gasped as his fingers danced over my inner thighs. But he hesitated before my sex, running his fingers lightly over the curls of my hair without pressing, without entering. His hands pulled back my chiton, slipping the fabric over my hips and off my shoulders until I lay before him naked and trembling. Only then did he remove the himation from his own chest, revealing the pale lines of his muscular abdomen and strong arms.

I knew what men and women did when they were naked. I’d seen it often enough, with the animals. Athena and my mother explained it in cold, clinical detail. Both of them emphasized the pain I’d experience my first time, and the drudgery I could expect after that. So I hesitated, my breath catching in my throat when I saw his hungry eyes.

His brow furrowed. “What’s wrong?”

“What happens now?” I said, and then I cringed at the sound of my own voice. I sounded like such a child.

He smiled. “Now, I kiss you,” he said.

I sighed, relieved. I thought I knew kissing.

Once again, I was wrong.

His lips started on my neck, caressing the sensitive skin beneath my ear, and his breath on my collarbone made my entire body shiver. He traced my shoulders with his lips, his tongue dipping to the hollow in my clavicle. His lips moved to the swell of my breasts, taking one nipple gently into his mouth, cupping the other in his strong hand. I moaned again, that strange, animal noise, and his teeth closed gently around my hardened nipple. My hips began to rock of their own accord; I was losing control of my own body, first my voice and now my pelvis.

His lips traced a line of kisses between the swell of my breasts and down my navel, down to the delicate mound of hair between my legs. I gasped as his head dipped between my wet thighs. I’d never known you could be kissed there.

And, oh, when he kissed me—

My eyes closed as heat and pleasure rocked through my body. His lips and tongue moved inside me, and my hips swayed under his touch, rising and falling, coming to meet him. I didn’t know my body could burn like this, could feel so good. I lost the ability to speak, my voice a rough stream of moans and cries and then near soundless whispers of, “Yes, yes, yes…” Don’t stop, I thought. Don’t ever stop. The room spun as he brought his hand to the crest of my sex, pressing gently.

And my body exploded.

I shook under his touch and flooded with heat, my breath pressed out of my lungs, my mind a blank red emptiness. I thought for a moment I had died. Then I took a deep, jagged breath and opened my eyes to see him next to me. Yes, I thought. Yes, him.

I reached for his neck and pulled his face to mine, kissing him deeply. I tasted myself on his lips, salt and a touch of distant sweetness. I kissed him until my body began to burn again, and I felt his lips curl into a smile.

“Persephone,” he said, his voice rough. “I would make you my queen.”


Buy Persephone Remembers the Pomegranates at:

Amazon US :: Amazon UK

 Born and raised in Colorado, Samantha MacLeod has lived in every time zone in the US, and London. She has a bachelor’s degree from Colby College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago; yes, the U. of C. really is where fun comes to die.


Samantha lives with her husband and two small children in the woods of southern Maine. When she’s not shoveling snow or writing steamy sex scenes, Samantha can be found teaching college composition and philosophy to undergraduates who have no idea she leads a double life as an erotica author.

Samantha MacLeod's website
Twitter
Facebook
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Amazon author page

Friday, 10 February 2017

Please still be magic!


This week I risked my entire writing career and had my shower enclosure torn out and a new one installed. Then I had to repaint the bathroom of course...

Why's it a risk? Well, if you're a writer one of the questions you get asked most frequently is, "What do you do to get over writers' block?" And the answer for me is, "I take a long shower."

I had a magic shower, you see. Every time I got stuck on the logistics of a scene, the choreography of some sexual gymnastics, or the flow of a piece of dialogue, I could be sure that all I needed to do was stand under the water for long enough and it would all sort itself out in my head, like a miracle.

Will the magic work with the new shower? I don't know yet!

I have high hopes of the inspirational laminate backing board though (no more tiles and grout for me, suckas!). It's blue with a white marble effect, but as I told Mr Ashbless, "It just looks like there's been a gigantic cum-fight."
 

And now nobody can unsee that 😈😈 😈

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

"Exactly what you want from your sexy angels"



Reviews have started going up on Amazon!

"Did the sequel live up to its promise? Well, emphatically. Intensely, bravely and daringly. Janine Ashbless is a writer who is staunchly committed to her characters, her plot and her action. This book just chews on the marrow of its idea – there is such wealth of detail and research, and it revels in the characters’ chemistry. In romance terms, it deals with the whole struggle of loving an angel so convincingly... Azazel hasn’t lost any of his heroic attraction and Milja is both realistically human and impossibly courageous and… well, sorry, but she’s kinda feisty. A Buffy for the new century, perhaps. Well, not exactly, but I like her. I’m gnawing my fist waiting for book three. Then there’d better be a movie.

What are you waiting for? Buy it! Quick!"



"I pre-ordered this from the publisher, knowing I'd get it sooner than the official release date. And Oh. My. Goodness. I'm so pleased I did..!
My biggest concern was that it wouldn't be so incredibly all-encompassing and immersive a storyline as Cover Him With Darkness but I wasn't disappointed. From the very beginning, it's as hot, raw, sexy and intelligent as the first book.
And like the first, the storyline has the echoes and trappings of the fairytales and bible stories we've been taught and have read but it digs deeper, retelling the old myths with new insight; an obvious labour of love and research for the author."



Thank you Jo Murphy and Anna Sky!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Blue Monday: Piper Denna guests

Every Monday I post a naughty excerpt for your entertainment!

Today's guest is Piper Denna, with an excerpt from her short story His Undoing. It appears in the gloriously provocative anthology Sacred and Profane: Erotic Priest Romance, edited by Torrance Sené.


 Ten stories of temptation, romance, and blasphemy featuring Sonni de Soto, Piper Denna, Torrance Sené, Charlotte French, Bronwyn Green, Leandra Vane, Mira Stanley, Jordan Monroe, H K Carlton, and Jillian Boyd.

Not even men of the cloth are exempt from God’s greatest gift: Love. In
Sacred and Profane: Priest Erotic Romance, you’ll find stories of clergymen stepping outside their vows, pastors weaving divinity into their seductions, nuns and parishioners confessing to their body’s every earthly desire, and more.

Are you aroused by the blasphemous dance of sex and religion? The dangerous edge of eroticism contained within submission to something beyond oneself? The taboo juxtaposition of holy and sensual? Then
Sacred and Profane welcomes you.


She looked back at him, brows raised.

“Don’t believe you could lead me astray, Shasta.” Her half-smile faltered, so he rushed on. “I mean, because I’ve already gone astray... in spirit, at least.”


“A... alone?” She crossed her arms over that gorgeous chest.


He shook his head. Sucked in a deep breath. “With you.” And a few dozen other females, back in the porn-phase. But she didn’t need to hear about that now.


“Oh.” Her smile broadened. “So you were thinking with your...” She looked down at the front of his jeans, no doubt noticing he was hard for her. Unable or unwilling to voice the words, she blushed.


“Thinking with my dick?” His breath caught, saying it out loud. “Yes.”


“Maybe it’d like to get out and do some talking?” She stepped closer, cupped him, and all of last night’s heat came rushing back. “A little handshake?”


He caught her face between his hands, kissed her plump, sweet lips, the corner of her mouth, back for a taste inside, a suck at her tongue.


She’d worked his jeans open, her hand slipping under the waistband of his briefs and then those soft, small, hot fingers slid over his head, wrapped around him.


“Shasta.” Heat arrowed through his gut; his balls tightened. Hell. He couldn’t lose control of himself now, in her hand.


“You sure about this... What should I call you?” Her eyes met his as she squeezed, tugged.


Not pastor. He half laughed, relieved for the minor distraction. “Just Luke is fine. Or Lucas. And yes. I’m sure. You?” If she wanted to back out, he’d have trouble walking away upright, but he’d go.


“Yes.” She kissed him and he tried to focus on kissing back, but her hand on his cock filled the world, stroking, sliding through precome.


Would she like it if he came in her hand? Girls in porns wanted it on their chests or faces, but he didn’t feel like that was realistic. “Shasta,” he managed. “If you keep doing that...”


“Oh.” She broke away from his mouth, looked around the room. “Here. Sit.” With a small push, she directed him to a dining chair. When he’d sat, she helped him work his jeans down to his ankles, then when he’d toed off his shoes, she pushed the jeans to the floor. Before he could process that she wasn’t going to get naked or climb on or finish the hand job, she’d knelt and covered him with her mouth.


“Fuck.” He hadn’t uttered that profanity since his teen years, but it seemed fitting now. Her mouth, so wet, so hot, so... sucking while it moved. Her hands, cupping his balls just tight enough. And Lord, she made hot little sounds of want while she did it. He found himself sliding down in the chair to give her more reach, more depth. When she nudged his legs apart, he spread them and she knuckled below his balls and sweet hell he knew if she went for his hole he wouldn’t stop her but one of his balls was disappearing and the blood rushed through his ears and he thrust into her mouth, moaning like a crazy man. And then it was zipping out of him in hot wonderful streaks he couldn’t see but he could hear her gulping and the thought of it in her throat made him come harder, made him want to fill her, every hole.


She let go of him with a little sucking pop, looked up at him with eyes round, pupils dilated, lips red and swollen.


Satisfaction warred with searing need to own her, to complete her, make her scream his name.




Buy Sacred and Profane in paperback or e-book at:
Amazon US :: Amazon UK
Smashwords
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
iBooks

About Torrance Sené, editor:
 

Torrance Sené (www.dieromantic.com) resides in the southeast USA. When not writing, she can usually be found feeding her addictions to tea, British telly, Marvel, and books. Her other work is found in Best Erotic Romance 2013 (Cleis Press), Paranormal Erotica (Mischief Books/HarperCollins UK), Love Slave: Passion and Love Slave: Heatwave (Lit Select), Exchange of Power (Torquere Press), and Love of the Game (Sexy Little Pages). She is currently at work on her first full-length novel set to be released in spring 2017.

Friday, 3 February 2017

A year in my wood

In December 2015 we bought a wood. I tried to take a photo every month at the same spot - I seem to have lost some of them, but this might give you an idea of the seasonal changes:

February
March

May

June

August
September
November
December

January

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Blogalogalog

William Blake: The Great Red Dragon and the Woman clothed in Sun (1805-1810)
Hah - that picture rather reminds me of the cover for In Bonds of the Earth ;-)

I have had to put aside my WIP on Book 3 for the moment, as I'm prepping a load of blog-posts for the In Bonds blog tours. Posts of my choice, author interviews, character interviews, excerpts...

Promo is no writer's favourite bit of the job, but some of this work is proving interesting and useful for the final volume. Character interviews get my inside my protagonists' heads, author interviews put forward questions that make me consider my process more deeply, and post subjects ("So, how are the angels in your novel different to everyone else's?") help me be more conscious of my themes.

It's going to feel so weird when it's all over and I move on to another series! Wot, no more angels?! Surely not!

Same artist: The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed With the Sun

Monday, 30 January 2017

Blue Monday

Every Monday I post a filthy excerpt for your entertainment!

In my ongoing efforts to save the Northern Hemisphere from the winter blues, I'm posting an excerpt from my truly reprehensible short story Scorched, which appears in the heat-themed anthology Playing with Fire

Emerald has been cheating on her boyfriend Max with their roomie Greg...



“Let’s see them.”

Obediently she drew up her skirt to expose stocking tops and the triangle of silky material. He smiled. “Like that. You buy them for me?”

Emerald nodded.

“But Max will get a kick out of them too, I bet.”

“Mm.” That was the thing about this purchase, she thought: she’d be getting double value.

“You know I can hear you two at night? The walls in this place are pretty thin.” He savored the way she blushed. “Not that you’re exactly quiet. But I hear every thump of the headboard, every little groan and squeal.” He caressed the towel-covered knot of his cock, and the bulge twitched visibly. “Drove me nuts for a year, doll.”

“I’m sorry.” Her voice was husky.

“I can even hear the sound he makes when he slaps your fat ass.”

Emerald’s eyes widened: Greg’s brutal crudity was one of the things that made him so different from Max. He was shamelessly honest and it was one of the things that made her hot. He liked the fact that she had a big ass, and he told her so. He liked the fact she was a slut, and the more he treated her like one the more she acted that way. “Does it annoy you, hearing us?” she asked.

He smirked. “I just grin and join in for the ride, doll.”

“Oh.”

“Now show me that big bum of yours.”

Turning, Emerald pulled up the back of her skirt. She heard the intake of his breath.

“Fuck, yes,” he said in awe as she wiggled her backside. “I want that.” He stood, the better to run his hands over her ass-cheeks and down the barely clothed split between them. The elastic was taut across her asshole, the gusset stretched tight over pussy lips that already felt swollen. Greg’s fingers crudely but very accurately found the sinkhole of her cunt through the cloth.

“You won’t be able to take these back to the shop, doll. They’re already wet.” Every poke of his fingertips on the sodden cloth exacerbated that situation and Emerald whimpered. There was the sound of a towel hitting the carpet. “You ready for some of this?”

Glancing over her shoulder, Emerald saw the cock she was getting to know so well: heavy, dusky, with a bit of a lean to the right, it stood proudly despite the scrotum beneath that seemed to be trying to drag it down by sheer virtue of its weight. That was the thing about Greg: his dick was good but his balls were something else, and they produced prodigious quantities of come. Emerald was sure they were to blame for the swiftness with which he recovered and was ready for more. Was she ready? “Oh yes.”

“Then get down and ask nicely.”

Falling to her knees, she shimmied out of her dress and faced the object of her desire, wetting her lips. It swayed a little and Greg stroked it up and down.

“Please,” she said sincerely.

“Not good enough, doll.”

“Please, sir…” Leaning forward, she delicately tongued those big balls in their velvet pouch.

“Better.” His glans was glistening.

“I want it so much.” She kissed his bollocks and licked her way up his shaft.

“That’s ’cos you’re a slut, Emerald,” he sighed pleasurably. He was so clean from the shower that he was almost tasteless until she sucked the faintly salty pre-come from the eye of his cock. Putting her hands on his hairy thighs, she lost herself in the art and the pleasure of giving him head. He wrapped his fingers in her hair, guiding her, unhurried. He pushed all the way to the back of her throat and when she took the length without gagging he nearly purred. “Emerald.”

She opened her eyes and looked up at him, knees splayed and ass thrust out, her mouth wrapped around his turgid cock.

“I’ve got a surprise for you.” He nodded over her shoulder.

Confused, it took a moment before she broke away and turned. There in the doorway, arms folded, stood Max with a face like stone.

“Shit!” squealed Emerald, clapping her hand over her mouth as if she could hide the fact it had just been pleasuring their flatmate’s cock. “Oh shit! I’m sorry!”

“Yeah,” said Max. “You look sorry.”

She tried to scramble to her feet but Greg’s hand tightened in her hair, shoving her back down: that was such a shock she went momentarily limp. “Oh no,” he said. “Time to face the music, Emerald.”

“You knew?” she shrieked.

“Of course he knew.” Max came into the room and hunkered down so as to be on eye level with her. “He told me what you two were planning today. He told me everything. What did you expect? He’s my mate, isn’t he?”

“But he started it!” It sounded childish even as she shouted the words, but she meant it. The furtive affair had begun one evening that summer when she and Greg had been lying out on the roof, in swimwear, listening to their MP3 players. Greg had, without warning and without a word, rolled over and put his hand square on her breast.

“Like you resisted,” replied Max.

Emerald gaped. She hadn’t resisted. She’d let Greg squeeze her tit and then pull down her bikini top to play with them both, his hand firm and slow. She hadn’t struggled or protested or even spoken, pinned to her towel by the sunlight and the glint on his opaque sunglasses, overwhelmed by his assurance. Her nipples had stiffened to his touch and her breasts had heaved to meet him. After ascertaining her response to his tweaking and pinching and kneading, he’d slid his hand down to her sex and explored that, sliding inside her bikini bottoms to find her hot wet softness, her yielding openness. And when she started to tremble and twitch he’d heaved himself on top of her and fucked her, not even bothering to remove her bikini. Then he’d rolled away and gone back to reading his Mac magazine, still without a word.

“It…it just happened. I don’t know how.” After that, it had only taken a possessive slap on her butt as she leaned over the sink to water the plants, or a confident tweak of her nipple as she met him in the corridor, to teach her that her whole body was tuned to his key. She’d waited home one morning, pleading that she had stomach cramps, and then as soon as Max went out to catch the bus she’d gone naked into Greg’s room to endure his triumphant smile and submit to his voracious appetite. He’d fucked her on every piece of furniture in the house by now. “It was his idea,” she wailed.

“It was your idea, Emerald.” Max’s eyes were like blue Arctic ice. “I saw the way you looked at him. I knew you wanted to fuck my best mate, no matter how much you denied it. So I told him to make a pass and see how you’d react. I was right, wasn’t I?”

“Oh my god!” Realization came crashing in on her. “You’re out of your mind!”

“Really?”

“It’s been three months!” she gasped. “You knew all this time?”

He nodded. “I knew. I knew the first time, when you were all over me that evening, hot and gagging for it like you were in heat. Was it guilt, or are you just a horny little bitch? I knew every single time you fucked him, Emerald, because you were…so different. Pliant and eager. Like he’d greased you up for me. I knew all right.”

“Shit,” she whispered, seeing him in a totally new light, remembering the ferocious intensity of his lovemaking over these past months. She’d been too wrapped up in herself to question it. “Max, this is twisted…”

Twisted.” He smiled sourly. “Hey, you’re the one who decided one man wasn’t enough for your hot little cunt. Well now you’re going to put your money where your mouth is.”

“What d’you mean?”

Greg, who’d kept quiet so far, laughed. “You reckon you need two men to satisfy you, doll. Well, this is where we test that out once and for all.”



Buy Playing with Fire at:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Google Play

Friday, 27 January 2017

Preview excerpt: In Bonds of the Earth

Time to share an excerpt from my forthcoming novel, In Bonds of the Earth (Book of the Watchers 2)!

It's not a Blue Monday so I'm keeping the really rude bits under wraps ... for the moment 😉

Milja has gone to look at an important exhibition of Ethiopian art in a Chicago gallery ... but an old 'friend' shows up to distract her:


“Milja?”

Roshana? I spun so quickly on my new heels that I lost my balance and, toppling, clipped my glass against a display case. My champagne flute shattered at the stem. “Oh crap!” I yelped—and looked up into a face that wasn’t Roshana’s at all. The face of the man I least wanted to ever see again in all the world. The least, and maybe the most.

Egan Kansky. The man who’d saved me and betrayed me. The man who’d snatched me from under the noses of my enemies and taught me to trust him, only to try to deliver me to his own masters.

Egan, who’d done his best to bury Azazel for an eternity of torment again, for the good of us all. I’d let him hold me as we slept together. He was the gentlest, most caring man I’d met apart from my own father—yet I’d seen him coldly shoot dead the thug who tortured me.

Egan: Irish-American, ex-military, now Vatican agent. He’d stepped in front of a bullet for me.

There were no words for the confusion of feelings in my breast right at that moment, seeing him there before me. His square face looked a little more lined than I remembered, but his sandy-blond hair still stuck out over his forehead and his eyes were still that blue strangely flecked with gold; eyes for staring at horizons. The formal evening jacket suited him; way more than it would Azazel, say.

“Egan?” Go away, go away, I can’t bear to see you, I thought, but the words refused to rise to my lips. “What are you doing here?”

I was actually shaking.

He didn’t answer. Instead he sank to his knees before me. It took a moment for me to realize what he was doing; picking up the pieces of my broken glass. Standing again, he dropped them deftly on the tray of the waiter who’d hurried over. “Thank you,” he told the young man.

“I’m sorry,” I gabbled to the waiter, “I’m not used to wearing heels.”

“No problem, madam. May I get you another glass?”

“No… No, thanks.”

The distraction reset our conversation. As we looked back at each other Egan smiled, tentatively. “Hello, Milja. How are you? You’re looking…very well.”

I blushed, wishing that the saleswoman hadn’t persuaded me into a dress quite so short or so tight, wishing that my hands weren’t trembling. “I’m good.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

The depths of all that we dared not speak about yawned like the Grand Canyon. “You made it out then?”

“Yes. I walked.” He gestured with open hands. “Then hitch-hiked.”

I brushed my fingers over my face, wanting to hide.

“How’s your hand?”

Of course. The last time he saw me I’d just had my finger broken. “It’s fine. He fixed it.” I didn’t have to say Azazel’s name.

Egan nodded, sucking his lips in. “Are you still with him?”

“You don’t need me to tell you that, one way or another,” I said, finding some backbone at last. “Your people will have been keeping an eye on me, I assume.”

He looked suddenly uncomfortable. I got the distinct impression he was winging it. “I’ve recused myself from that particular mission.”

“Meaning what?”

“Sure, I told my superiors that I couldn’t in good conscience accept their plans for you.”

Imprisonment. Breeding. The murder of my children. “I bet that was a fun conversation.”

He grimaced. “That it wasn’t. But they accepted it. I’m not here on their behalf.”

“You’re not planning to kidnap me, then?”

He shook his head. “No. You won that round, Milja. You were right and I was wrong.  You were an innocent. I ask your forgiveness.”

That was it: his apology. I stared at him mutely.

“Liking you…” He blinked and looked over my shoulder. “It wasn’t what I planned. It messed things up, from the point of view of my superiors. But I don’t regret it.”

My eyes stung and my throat felt swollen, but I knew no tears would slip down my face. “Thank you for letting me choose,” I said, my voice a wobbly whisper. “You did let me choose, didn’t you?” Between you and Azazel?

“Yes.”

“I chose him. Now go away. Please.” I turned my back on him, staring blindly into the reflection of the glass case.

From behind, he put both hands on my waist. My world flipped upside down. His breath was on my hair, his warmth against my back. “Milja,” he whispered, his lips soft against my ear, “that’s not forever. You can change your mind.”

If Azazel sees this, I don’t know what will happen.

I shut my eyes, swaying, almost leaning back against him. I wanted him to slip his arms right around my waist. I wanted to turn within the circle of his arms and press my face to his chest, breathing in the warm sweet scent of him.

Here’s the thing, the terrible stupid thing. Azazel loved me, Azazel was powerful as a thunderstorm, and he would protect me from men and angels even if he had to tear the world apart and drown it in blood to do that. But I never, ever felt safe with Azazel. I felt safe with Egan. Even with everything I knew and everything I guessed, even in moments of horror and rage, there was a part of me that instantly and instinctively fitted into the shield of his arm, that felt like this is my home, I belong here. I could think of no other way to articulate it to myself.

“Choose again,” he whispered, sending shivers from the whorl of my ear down my neck and my spine, right inside me. “Please—come outside with me. We need to talk.”



In Bonds of the Earth is published through all the usual outlets on March 1st.
If you have a Paypal account you can order an early paperback copy - HERE

And if you want to catch up, Part 1 of the trilogy: Cover Him with Darkness, is available from
Amazon US
Amazon UK