Review: Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookloverunleashed.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #9
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Manny Manello
Heroine: Payne
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: March 01, 2011
Started On: February 23, 2017
Finished On: June 04, 2017

Lover Unleashed by JR Ward is the ninth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and brings to readers the story of Payne, born to the Scribe Virgin, and thus the twin of Vishous. The revelation that his twin is alive comes in an earlier book, one that shocked me to boot. I cannot even imagine the depth of feelings that must have coursed through Vishous himself when the fact was made known to him.

Payne is a heroine who is powerful in a way that only one born out of such a union can be. Like Vishous, Payne’s beauty is such that it has the ability to take away the breath of those who come across her. Her beauty is one that mesmerizes people for the lack of a better word. What is more stunning is the immense power that she holds in her hands, which comes to light with the divulgence of the unthinkable she had done to the man who had sired her.

It is also Lover Unleashed that brings a new band of “enemies” to the turf of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a group of fighters from the vampire race who are just as vicious in their manner when it comes to the war with the Lessers. Yet, they do not identify themselves as a Brotherhood. Xcor, the group’s leader is a vampire to contend with and then some, a bastard born to the Bloodletter himself, walking on a path to avenge the death of his father, a murder that he had never forgotten nor forgiven.

Payne’s appearance in the Brotherhood company comes through a tragic event that unfolds, leading Dr. Jane Whitcomb, the shellren of Vishous to seek the services of chief of surgery at the hospital where she had worked prior to her “death”. Manny is brought in to the Brotherhood compound on the premise of helping Payne where Jane’s medical abilities fall short. While bringing in people, especially humans who are none the wiser to the existence of the vampires as a race is a big no, Wrath, the King makes an exception owing to the extenuating circumstances and his involvement in what leads to the circumstances.

Manny’s appearance in Payne’s life brings forth a connection neither would have thought possible. For Manny, the possessiveness that streaks through him as his gaze lands on Payne in her hospital bed is one that shocks him to the core, almost as if his very DNA recognizes Payne as his and his alone. While Vishous and the rest of the Brotherhood might have other ideas where Manny is concerned, Payne is as drawn to him which brings forth complications that aren’t as black and white to resolve.

Alongside Payne and Manny’s developing story, it becomes a testing period for Vishous and Jane’s relationship as well, which was something I loved in the story. Vishous is someone who has a penchant for sex of the darker variety, an aspect of himself that he had “given up” on when he had embraced his love for all that is Jane. However, with dark memories rising up from his past, Vishous is at a loss as to how to deal with them, and the friction between him and Jane is one that was painful to read about, but a much needed one in my opinion.

Someone like Vishous, who had undergone so much, and carries such a powerful weapon on his own self, a man with such a dark past – that doesn’t just find a cure overnight because they have fallen in love. Even if love of the kind that vampires have is an all consuming one, I believe that JR Ward did immense justice to both Vishous and Jane’s characters by bringing to light this side of their relationship, and the role that Butch plays in all of it to help them.

It is often difficult to review books so well written, especially of a series of the caliber of Black Dagger Brotherhood, because so many things keep happening at the same time, which makes these books the stellar reads they are. The stories continuously keep evolving in a way that leaves readers on the edge, and I believe the same must happen to JR Ward herself when it comes to the places her immensely complex characters take her.

I loved so many things about Manny and Payne’s relationship, together with the way Vishous and Jane faced their own troubles and made things work – because their love is worth all that and more. All throughout the story, there was one thing that kept circling in my mind – the fact that Manny is over the top hot. The way Payne and Manny want each other was is out of this world hot, burning up my eyeballs and then some, and I enjoyed every single aspect of it.

The friendship and love that exists between Butch and Vishous is one that was tested as well, with Butch having to step outside of his comfort zone to help his Brother for whom he would practically lay down his own life for. There is an understanding between them that is hard to put in words, but materializes so beautifully under Ward’s craftsmanship.

When all is said and done, Lover Unleashed delivers a story that is well rounded in every way. Each book in the series continues to amaze me in a way I would never have thought possible. I know that I should not be surprised any longer when it comes to JR Ward and this series, and yet the fact that she continually does so is reason number one that I would keep coming back for more.

Wholeheartedly recommended for fans of the series and those that love well rounded tales of the paranormal romance genre that delivers scorching and such well done scenes of passion!

Final Verdict: Lover Unleashed, the ninth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is just as astounding as the rest. JR Ward is an author not to be missed for this very reason!

Favorite Quotes

Pushing into the examination room, he—
Oh . . . dear God.
Oh . . . Lord above.
The patient on the table was lying still as water and . . . she was probably the most beautiful anything he’d ever seen: Hair was jet-black and braided into a thick rope that hung free next to her head. Skin was a golden brown, as if she were of Italian descent and had recently been in the sun. Eyes . . . her eyes were like diamonds, both colorless and brilliant, with nothing but a dark rim around the iris.
“Manny?”
Jane’s voice was right behind him, but he felt as if she were miles away. In fact, the whole world was somewhere else, nothing existing except for the stare of his patient as she looked up at him from out of her immobilized head.
It finally happened, he thought as he burrowed under his shirt and took hold of his heavy cross. All his life he’d wondered why he’d never fallen in love, and now he knew: He’d been waiting for this moment, this woman, this time.
The female is mine, he thought.

“Teach me,” she said darkly, her lips parting, her hips rolling under his own. “Take me.”
Her hand moved between the two of them and found his erection, rubbing at it, making him moan.
“I am empty without you,” she said. “Fill me. Now.”
With an invitation like that, he didn’t give anything else a second thought. Fumbling around, he shoved his scrubs down his thighs and then. . .
“Oh, fuck,” he groaned as his hard cock slipped up her slick core.

With his tremendous strength, V repositioned her in the blink of an eye, pivoting her around and shoving the sheets out of the way so he could lift her hips up and over his torso. Her thighs were split over his face and—
“Vishous,” she said around his erection.
His mouth was slick and warm and right on target, fusing with her sex, latching on and sucking before his tongue snaked out and licked inside of her. Her brain didn’t so much turn off as explode, and with nothing left to think with, she was blissfully lost in what was happening and not what had gone before. She had a feeling V was the same. . . . He was all about the stroking, lapping at her and sucking on her, his hands digging into her thighs as he moaned her name against her core.

“Fuck, I need you,” he cursed.
On another quick burst of power, Vishous lifted her as if she didn’t weigh more than the sheet did, and the shift was not a surprise. He always preferred to come inside her, deep inside of her, and he spread her legs before settling her on top of his hips, his blunt head nudging into her . . . and slamming home.
The invasion was not just about sex, but him staking his claim, and she loved it. This was the way it should be.
Falling forward and bracing herself against his shoulders, she stared into his eyes as they moved together, the rhythm pounding until they came at the same time, both of them going rigid as he jerked inside of her and her sex milked him. And then V flipped her onto her back and shot down her body, going back to where he’d been, his mouth fusing on her, his palms locking on her thighs as he ate at her.
As she came hard, there was no break or pause. He surged forward, stretching up both her legs and swording in, entering her on a solid stroke and taking over.

The brush of her lips was nothing but velvet, except the anticipation of what was to come had him hyper-focusing so everything was magnified. He knew precisely where she was—
The scrape was viciously soft as she nuzzled him.
Then her hand snaked around to his nape and clamped on, holding him in place so hard, he realized she could snap his neck if she wanted.
“Oh, God,” he moaned, giving himself over completely. “Oh—fuck!”
The strike was strong and sure, two points going in deep, the sweet pain robbing him of sight and sound until all he knew was the sucking draw at his vein.
That and the massive orgasm that rolled through his balls and pumped out the head of his cock, his hips jacking up against her as his erection kicked and jerked . . . and kept going.

“Do this thing you want to me, healer,” she moaned. “Whatever it is. I know you are holding back.”
A growl came out of him and he moved so fast that the only thing that could have stopped him was her saying no. And that word was evidently not in her vocabulary.
In a flash, he was between her thighs, his hands spreading her wider, her sex laid open and weeping in the face of his male urge to dominate and mate.
He gave in. Fuck him, but he let himself go and kissed her core. And there was nothing gradual or gentle about it; he dived in with his mouth, sucking at her and tonguing her as she cried out and scratched at his forearms.

Vampire . . . he thought. Beautiful vampire.
Mine.
As that thought coalesced in his mind, he acted on autopilot, shifting his head to the side, offering his jugular to her—
He didn’t have to ask twice. In a great surge, Payne sprang up, all but launching her whole body onto him, her hand shoving into his hair and tightening on his nape. As she held him in her grip, he was utterly immobilized, hers for the taking . . . prey for her predator. And now that she had him, she moved slowly, her fangs dropping to his skin and dragging up the column of his throat, making him stiffen in anticipation of the puncturing and the sucking. . . .
“Fuck!” he barked when she bit him. “Oh . . . yeah . . .”

“I want more of you,” Payne murmured as she nuzzled him.
Well, he was still hard as stone even though he’d—
“I want you in my mouth.”
Manny’s head kicked back and he groaned as his cock twitched like it was taking a jog down there. But as much as he wanted her, he wasn’t sure she knew what she was in for. Even the thought of her lips on his—
Payne’s head went down into his lap before he could find the breath to speak, and there was no preamble; she sucked him right down, pulling him in and holding him in her wet, warm mouth.
“Fuck! Payne!”

Snaking a hand around the back of her neck, he drew her lips close to his throat. “Take me.”
The sound she made had him orgasming inside of her—it was too fucking hot for him to hold back. And as his cock spasmed, her fangs struck deep into his vein.
The sex went wild. She moved against him, her tight core fisting him up and milking him as he came again . . . and then he started to pump his hips hard. The drinking and the crazy rhythm swept them both away into a heady pounding of bodies that he knew they were each going to feel in the morning: There was nothing civilized to this; it was male and female distilled down to the most primal core.
And it was the very best of anything he had ever had.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Cry for the Moon by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookcryforthemoon.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Yorktown Towers, #4
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Simon Zebriskie
Heroine: Marielle Brandt
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 01, 1988
Started On: December 15, 2016
Finished On: December 17, 2016

Widow of six months, Marielle Brandt turns up with her five year old daughter Emily and eighteen month son Christopher at the doorstep of Farnum’s Castle, against all the advise doled out by the elderly attorney, who from the onset tries to convince her to sell the derelict building which Marielle is now to call home.

Left destitute with a mountain of debt by her husband, Marielle leaves behind a life which she particularly wouldn’t miss. The attorney goes as far as to tell her that the building is haunted, which does not in the least deter a very undaunted Marielle. The determination with which she was going to make Farnum’s Castle perhaps borne a bit out of the fact that she has nowhere else to go.

When one of the tenants of the building, the mysterious Simon Zebriskie encounters the very young Marielle, whom he considers so owing to perhaps his failed marriage from before, he is distrustful. Not so much because she is untrustworthy, but a distrust that stems from a side of himself that he had thought had gone dormant that comes to life with Marielle’s presence.

Simon is a man paying penance for something that had meant the end of life as he had known it, which had afforded him a life of luxury that is a distant memory from what his life is like now. With an odd cast of secondary characters who magically brings the “Gothic” side of the story alive, Cry for the Moon is once again a testament to Anne Stuart’s ability that remains unrivaled even with the multitude of romance writers out there.

A book written when I was in my early childhood, and yet even today stands firm with the test of time is exactly why I would always pick an Anne Stuart to chase away my reading blues. In Simon, there is the deliciously tender hero that any reader would fall in love with. Minus the anti-hero qualities that makes Anne Stuart so famous in the development of heroes in her novels, Simon is a man haunted by a past that makes him aloof and reluctant in many ways to confront his rioting emotions when it concerns Marielle.

Marielle on the other hand, is the strong, kind, and yet emotionally scarred heroine that anyone would root for. Her reluctance to step into anything with Simon comes from a marriage that had failed her miserably when all had been said and done. Having gotten married at a young age, Marielle would rather forge ahead on a path of her own making and do it alone, and yet, she cannot help but be ensnared by the passion that rises to the surface and explodes with every deliciously lazy kiss that Simon lays on her.

Final Verdict: Beautifully rendered, Cry for the Moon belongs in the collection of gems with which Anne Stuart has enriched the reading lives of many a romanceaholic like myself. Recommended.

Favorite Quotes

“Let go of me,” she said, her voice a hushed command in the still room.
“Yes,” said Simon, not moving.
“We can’t do this.”
“No,” he agreed.
“Simon.”‘ Her voice held a very definite note of warning.
“Yes,” he said. Then, “No.” And then he dipped his head, blotting out the moonlight, and his mouth caught hers.
Unbelievably, it had been years since she’d been kissed. Possibly not since the night Christopher had been conceived, and she wasn’t even sure of that. And she’d never been kissed the way Simon was kissing her, all urgency gone now, slowly, thoroughly, his mouth touching and teasing and tasting, nudging away her panic until she had no choice but to soften her mouth, to part her lips for him, to let him take possession with a sudden sly ferocity that left her trembling beneath him.

Suddenly she decided to shock him in return, to prove to him that she wasn’t the skittish little coward he seemed to think her. Reaching out with the tip of her tongue she touched the firm contours of his lips, teasing the edge of his teeth, exploring, very gently, very shyly.
She was unprepared for the intensity of his reaction. He’d been standing there completely passively, hands at his sides, when a strangled groan caught at the back of his throat and he pulled her into his arms, his tongue meeting hers. He picked her up and turned her in his arms, pressing her against the graffiti-covered wall of the apartment as his tongue took up where hers had left off.

Simon paid no attention to her protests. He kissed her, his mouth covering hers and sealing her objections as his long, deft fingers stroked and caressed her. Now she was clutching his arms, fingers digging into his hard-muscled flesh. She wanted to beg him to stop—except that she didn’t want him to stop. She wanted him to keep on, keep on forever, his hand between her legs invading her, arousing her, taking her from blind innocence to someplace dark and dangerous and overwhelming.
Marielle tore her mouth away from his. “No!” she choked. “No, stop! I can’t stand it! I can’t…”
“Yes, you can.” He was relentless, and for just a moment she fought him, pushing against him. Then the first wave hit, a jolt of sheer, agonizing pleasure shooting through her with the power of an electrical charge. She went rigid in his arms, shock and reaction keeping her still for a moment. Then her body convulsed against him as wave after endless wave of response twisted her into a helpless rag doll.

She shut her eyes, still tense, still waiting. But he made no move at all, despite the power vibrating in his arms, despite the need covering his body with a fine film of sweat. “Look at me, Marielle.” There was a hoarse note of pleading in his voice, one she couldn’t resist. Her eyes shot open. “Say something, Marielle. Anything.”
“I thought you liked me quiet.” It didn’t sound like her voice. It was raw with need and wonder and emotion.
He still didn’t move. “Not that quiet. Say something, Marielle. Say you want me.”
The ghost of a smile twisted her mouth. “Of course I want you. I’ve never in my life wanted anyone the way I want you. I never thought I’d want anyone the way I want you. I want you, I need you, I…” His mouth silenced the last, dangerous statement that might have slipped out, and his body pushed into hers, settling deep.

Maybe it was the two glasses of wine, or the roller coaster of emotion she’d been riding; maybe it was just time to take a chance and stop being so damned serious. Marielle lifted her flowing black chiffon skirts, just high enough to expose black lace ankles and spiky black shoes, and sauntered across the room toward a wary-looking Simon. “Saint Simon,” she murmured, her voice low and throaty when she reached him, “am I another one of your charity cases?” And before she could think better of it she reached up and pressed her red-painted lips on his, her heady perfume enveloping them both.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Lover Mine by J.R. Ward

Format: E-booklovermine
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #8
Publisher: Signet
Hero: John Matthew
Heroine: Xhexania
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 1, 2010
Started On: November 02, 2016
Finished On: November 06, 2016

Having finished Lover Avenged, I quickly set out to read Lover Mine, the story where John Matthew and Xhexania (Xhex) finally come together. With the way Ward had left things when Lover Avenged ended, with Xhex having being taken hostage by Lash, none other than Omega’s number one and the leader of the Lesser’s, I couldn’t wait to find out what wonders Ward would bring forth, especially when it came to John’s character.

John’s beginnings is one that sets him apart from the rest of the members of the Brotherhood. Revealing more would be spoiling it for those who have never read the series. His past when it comes to light, reveals the extent of his involvement, not only in Wrath the King’s life when he was child, but also Xhex herself, when she was born as a half breed vampire with a Sympath side that she hides from the rest of the world.

John’s second chance at life had come at a cost. It had meant that his journey to becoming part of the Brotherhood had once again being a test of his steadfastness, will, and strength. Bearing many similarities to the way his life had been forged in the past; through sweat, tears, and blood. John’s sense of loneliness is one that goes deep into his past, his need to belong and be loved an integral part of him that had being tested sorely when Tohrment had disappeared on him.

John’s attraction and deep connection with Xhex is exactly the reason why John and Xhex fit so perfectly together. While one might think John is the one that brings baggage to their relationship, Xhex redefines the whole concept itself by the past hurts and scars that she has from the pain she carries in her heart. Tough on the outside, a warrior to boot, and dominant in her own right, Xhex and John should not have fit together so perfectly – but for more than one reason, they do. That is perhaps the basis of why their relationship is amazing on so many levels, because Ward has brought together two people who should not have worked, and yet they do, and beautifully so, against all odds.

I am a fan of strong heroines, but for me, there is strong, and then there is the constant need for a heroine to outdo all the males in her vicinity and prove her capabilities beyond the male in her life that grates on my nerves. How Ward managed to allay all my fears that I might not like Xhex if she came on too strong was one more reason for me to adore their relationship. Because for me, Xhex gives as good as she gets. When she does give into John and his love which has both its tender and violently possessive edge to it (all in a good way, of course), it brought forth so much emotion in me that I felt that all the pain that John and Xhex had undergone before had been totally worth it!

One of the other aspects of the story that stood out was Qhuinn and Blay’s side story- I even noted down at one point that their mini story that was developing was way more interesting than it should be – but then again, that is exactly what you get when you pick up one of the Black Dagger Brotherhood novels. You sink your teeth into a story so juicy that you are rooting for a million things that is happening in the book, even the notorious villain himself.

That brings me to Lash and why I found his character fascinating on a level that had me at one point even “rooting” for the Lessers. I put rooting here very lightly because I found Lash to be a worthy opponent in the age old fight between the Vampires and the Lessers, i.e. in reality the fight between Scribe Virgin and Omega. A well done villain in my opinion, makes the reader question why they turned out the way they did.

In my opinion, Lash never stood a chance when it came to the larger scheme of things. Firstly his genetics had basically set in stone what his future would turn out to be like. Secondly, being brought up as part of the Glymera (the elite and rich of the Vampire society) had perhaps meant that his “evil” side had been given room to nurture and grow in a way that we continually see even when it comes to the human race. It was those fleeting moments of regret that coursed through Lash that grabbed me the most, thinking to myself that perhaps, had Lash being given the chance, he might have defied his genetics and turned out to be someone worthy of saving.

One of the major disappointments for me when the story ended has to do with how Lash’s character met his ultimate demise. I would have thought that Ward would continue to give him enough “armor” to take the fight between the Lessers and the Vampires to the next level. But then again, given Omega’s character itself, I would say that perhaps Lash’s end when it came, was quite fitting in a way. But I definitely wanted to see more of him in the series because he brought an edge that wasn’t there before when all was said and done.

When I turned the last page of the novel, I kept wondering to myself, when would John’s real identity emerge, and what a game changing revelation would that be in the larger context of things – given how history ties him to a lot of significant events that had taken place and shaped the lives of the Brotherhood as they are now.

Highly recommended! This series in its entirety is one that needs to be read by everyone who is a fan of urban fantasy and paranormal romances.

Final Verdict: Beautifully put together in way that makes for compelling reading. Mesmerizing is the way Ward manages to make mincemeat out of 700 plus pages of a novel, never letting the reader off the hook until the very last page is turned.

Favorite Quotes

“Better yet,” Blay drawled, “why don’t you just kiss me–” Blay was whipped around and shoved hard against the dresser, the chest of drawers slamming against the wall with a thunder. As cologne bottles rattled and a brush hit the floor, Qhuinn forced his lips down hard on Blay’s, his fingers biting into Blay’s throat.
It didn’t matter, though. Hard and desperate was all he wanted from the guy. And Qhuinn was clearly on board, his tongue shooting out, taking . . . owning.

Typical of her, she was the one who put him to her sex. Xhex covered one of his hands with her own and got him right where they both wanted him to be.
Hot. Silky. Slick.
The orgasm at the head of his erection broke free the instant his fingers slipped through and came flush against the entry he was dying to breach: There was absolutely no holding the release back and she laughed in a throaty way as he jetted his marking on her legs.
“You like the way I feel,” she murmured.

“Come in me,” she groaned, as she pulled at his shoulders. John lifted his head and moved up her body, his arousal nudging against her inner thighs, getting closer.
She kissed him hard, grinding her mouth against his as she shoved her hand down between them and guided him where she needed him-His massive body torqued at the contact as she bit out, “Oh, God . . .” The blunt head of him parted her and he slid in nice and slow, filling her, stretching her. She arched so he could go all the way in and shifted her palms down his smooth back to the dip at the end of his spine . . . and even lower so that she could sink her nails into his ass.

His face was an erotic mask of the features she had seen so often, his lips drawn back off his long, white fangs, his brows down tight, his eyes blazing, his jaw clenched so hard that his cheeks had hollows in them. With every thrust, his pecs and his abdominals popped, the sweat on his skin gleaming in the dim light. The sight of him was the chaser to what he felt like deep in her, the sucker punch that came on the heels of the body shot, knocking her out completely.
“Take my vein,” she growled at him. “Take it– now.”

“Listen, John Matthew.” She took his chin in her hand. “You’re not turning me into one of those females who goes gaga over her lover. Not happening. I’m not hardwired for that.”
Her voice was stern and she meant every word–except the instant he rolled his hips and that huge arousal pushed into her, she purred. Purred.
The sound was utterly foreign and she’d have sucked it back down her throat if she could have. Instead, she just let out another of those decidedly non-tough-guy moans.

Her leathers were on the floor a split second later. Then with a quick hop, she jumped up and locked her thighs around his waist. Reaching down, she positioned him against her sex and squeezed her heels into his ass, making the penetration so very real. As his arousal sank deep, she took all of him, the sliding push enough to make her orgasm wildly.
Riding her release, her fangs shot out into her mouth, and John broke the kiss to tilt his head and flash his vein.
The puncture was sweet. The strength that came from him meteoric.

With a silent curse, he grabbed onto her thighs and squeezed, her muscles shifting under his hold, and he didn’t stop there. He drew his hands farther up, to the juncture where her legs met her torso, that electric crease drawing him to where they were joined.
His thumb slipped into the carnal heart of her and found the top of her sex, rubbing it in circles-In the dim light from the bathroom, he watched her arch back, her fangs cranking down on her lower lip in an effort to keep herself from crying out. He wanted to tell her to let her roar free, but he didn’t have time to pity her discretion–he came hard, his lids squeezing shut as he shuddered beneath her.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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Review: Lover Enshrined by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookloverenshrined
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #6
Publisher: Signet
Hero: Phury
Heroine: Cormia
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: June 03, 2008
Started On: October 05, 2016
Finished On: October 16, 2016

For someone who used to write down so many reviews per month, my lack in keeping up has become so bad that I am actually writing down a review for a book that I finished reading more than a year ago. This review might contain spoilers for those who have not read the series or even the book, so be warned.

Lover Enshrined, the 6th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a novel that stands out in many ways. It is the novel that brings to life the story of the Primale of the Vampire species, i.e. Phury, who takes on the role of being the designated vampire male who would mate and impregnate all the Chosen to bring about the next generation of Vampires. However, Phury breaks from tradition by bringing Cormia, the first female of the Chosen he was supposed to mate with back to the Brotherhood compound instead of completing the mating ritual, which is where Phury’s story begins.

Phury has never had it easy in his life, his battles forever being about people that he loved, his sacrifices when one actually reads through the series and ponders about it, which are immense in nature. His twin brother Zsadist, who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child had haunted Phury for the better part of his life, the quest to hunt for his brother and bring him back being what had driven him then. His return had meant Phury never did get over “paying” for something that had never been his fault to begin with. But guilt has a way of taking root inside even the best of us, and Phury’s character is one afflicted with a lot of it that brings about a self-sacrificial edge to him.

If things couldn’t get any worse, Phury falls for the very woman that had brought Zsadist immense happiness – perhaps one more way of ensuring that his suffering is a continued one. Phury also battles with the addiction of smoking – the Vampire world’s equivalent of being a drug addict owing to the voice inside his head which never quits. All that combined makes Phury a character that one wants to delve deep inside of, and I found him to be one who was truly fascinating in his own worth.

Cormia, for whom there would never have been a choice of refusing the Primale and her designated role in life had it been anyone else but Phury, finds the change of pace from what life would have been to what an amazing mass of contradictions it had become mind boggling at first. Throughout the first couple of months of living on the compound, Cormia finds herself slowly gravitating towards the male that had been thrust upon her without choice, and suddenly finds that she wants Phury for herself, and that sharing him as what was dictated by the rules was not exactly what she wants for her and the Primale.

What deviates the focus from the main protagonists of the story is the fact that there is so much else happening in Lover Enshrined, which is in one way what makes the Black Dagger Brotherhood series the stupendous one that it is. As a reader who was rooting for Phury in a large way, I found myself wanting more of their story in the book than Ward actually delivered. But then again, I understood the need that propelled the various threads of stories that emerged in the book, much needed to keep the series rolling in different and equally fascinating directions that never fails to amaze me.

Rehvenge’s role in the book, together with John Matthew and Xhex’s were quite alluring in their own rights. As I was reading through Lover Enshrined, I knew that I wanted their stories to be the next in the series – after all, JR Ward makes a compelling case for each of the main characters and even the side ones that she brings to light in the series.

Omega’s role – the main source of evil in the series was equally fascinating for me. Having never received the gift of giving life, Omega’s role had always been one where he is always a step behind the Scribe Virgin, his sister, who had been granted the ability by the Maker. But Omega’s deeply ambitious plan that comes to light in the story is one that could prove to be a game changer, all because it was cunning enough, and long term enough for the destabilization of the Vampire race from bottoms up. That I believe is what a good villain does to a story – shake things up to a point where your mind cannot comprehend the way out of the mess that is happening right in front of you.

The most deeply emotional scenes of the book for me included the scene where Tohrment came back and the reunion that happens between him and John Matthew. That was a scene truly worth all the emotions that coursed through me at that point. JR Ward also managed to surprise me beautifully towards the end when Zsadist sang for Phury. I was at times disappointed and frustrated with Zsadist for not being more “grateful” towards his brother. But then again, given the extent of scarring emotionally and physically of Zsadist’s character, I would say that the ending Ward delivered was what made up for all of it and gives the reader deep insight how Zsadist views the bond between himself and his twin Phury.

One more thing that I liked was the fact that Ward never made light of Phury’s addiction, even with the highly evolved physiology of vampires that makes them fast healers. Ward made Phury suffer every excruciating inch of going through the detoxing process, which I believe finally gave Phury that freedom to start living. Truly living.

Final Verdict: For fans of complex plots and fast paced novels that are equipped with rich dialog, character development, infused with burn-the-pages variety of hot sex! JR Ward definitely has no equivalent!

Favorite Quotes

“Kneel,” he said in a dark voice.
As Cormia sank down onto her knees, the brush fell out of her hand. Without a word, the Primale leaned into her, his huge arms going around her. He didn’t draw her to him. He undid her hair, all of it, the chignon and then the braid.
He growled as he fanned her hair out around her shoulders, and she became aware that his body was trembling. Without warning, he grabbed the back of her neck and pulled her into his throat.
“Take from me,” he demanded.

Holy mother of Words . . . His blood was a fire, first in her mouth then down in her gut, an alll-powerful wave that filled her out from the inside, giving her a strength she’d never known before.
“Harder,” he bit out. “Suck me. . . .”
She ran her arms under his and sank her nails into his back and took great pulls from his vein. She grew dizzy — no, wait, he was pushing her backward, taking her down onto the floor. She didn’t care what he did to her or where they ended up, because his taste was all-consuming as she consumed him. All she knew was the fountain of his life at her lips and down her throat and in her belly, and that was all she needed to know.

“Sit up on the table,” he said in a hoarse voice. “Please.”
She did as he asked and crossed her legs . . . and, holy hell, didn’t that robe of hers fall open, splitting wide up to her thigh. When she tried to close the gap, he whispered, “Leave it.”
Her hands stilled, then shifted back and flattened on the table to support her upper weight. “Is this all right?”
“Don’t. Move.”
Phury took his time as he drew her, the chalk becoming his hands going over her body, lingering on her neck and the swell of her breasts and the curve of her hip and the long, smooth expanse of her legs. He made love to her as he transferred her image onto the blackboard, the sound of the chalk a rasping noise.
Or maybe that was his breath.

“Take from me,” she said.
His eyes flared and he prowled up her body, kissing her stomach and pausing at one of her nipples, giving it lapping attention. And then his fangs were over her throat. “Are you sure?”
“Yes— oh, GOD!”
His strike was hard and deep, and it happened so fast . . . just as she ’d imagined it would. He was a Brother in need of what sustained them all, and she was nothing fragile to be broken. She gave and he took and another surge of that wild tension began to build in her again.
She shifted on the table, spreading her legs. “Take me. Whilst you do this . . . be in me.”

“Take your robe off.”
“Why?”
“Because if I do it, I’m going to shred it.”
Her chin lifted and her lids dropped, so that even though she had to look up to meet his eyes, she was still staring down her nose at him. “Why do I need to disrobe?”
With every territorial bone in his body, he growled, “I’m going to mark you.”

She slammed the spigot to the left and threw open the door. As the rush of water was cut off short, she confronted the Primale.
He was naked. Erect. Fully fanged.
The roar he let out was that of a lion, and as the sound reverberated off all the marble in the bathroom, she got even wetter between her legs.
He came at her, and she didn’t fight him as he grabbed her around the waist and popped her off her feet. He wasn’t gentle, but she didn’t want gentle—and to make sure he knew it she bit him in the shoulder as they came into the bedroom.
He roared again and dumped her on her bed, her body bouncing once. Twice.

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ARC Review: A Cold Dark Promise by Toni Anderson

Format: E-bookacolddarkpromise.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice, #8.5
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Alex Parker
Heroine: Mallory Rooney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: November 15, 2017
Finished On: November 24, 2017

A Cold Dark Promise by Toni Anderson is a novella that fans of the Cold Justice series would adore. One reason being that this novella brings to readers the wedding of Alex Parker and FBI Agent Mallory Rooney, the main protagonists from the debut book of the series.

Alex’s character was one of the main reasons why I fell in love with the Cold Justice series initially. Toni Anderson’s way of putting a story together is another, and there was ruthless edge to the story that made me think of Anne Stuart’s books as well, which I obviously adored. Having come a long way since, A Cold Dark Promise takes place with a 27 week pregnant Mallory, getting ready to tie the knot with Alex, in order to celebrate their love, and make things official before the baby were to arrive.

However, a member from Alex’s dark past comes calling, and even though Alex wants to turn away from the plea put forth by a grieving mother, he finds that he is not as ruthless as he thinks himself to be, which is how Alex finds himself in the south of France, where a mission that he had thought would be simple, turns out to be anything but.

I absolutely adored this novella. I am mostly never a fan of short length novels, because though they rarely serve their purpose, and they usually fail to deliver just enough to satisfy readers. But I had no such complains with this little number and I believe that Toni has done a remarkably impressive job out of delivering a well rounded story that readers can sink their teeth into.

I loved Alex and Mallory’s shared moments as described in the story. There is a normalcy to their whole relationship that makes their love that much more real and relatable. There is no dramatic flair to it, but yet it is deep and as meaningful as they come, which is why I adored the bits of their lives that Toni brought to light in this story.

Moments of truth like Mallory grappling with the fact that she doesn’t particularly like it when Alex might be in the line of danger while she herself wants the independence to put herself on the line when it comes to her work as an FBI agent; those are the things that struck me the most in the story.

I also enjoy how Toni brings together the cast from various other stories in the series. I sometimes have a problem with how some authors seem to have too many cooks spoiling the broth so to say, when too many protagonists from other stories seem to become the centre stage of the story. Toni also does an impressive job of portraying male friendships; rather than making them sappy in a way some authors tend to do, or go overboard trying to generate the whole “bro” vibe, I think Toni’s understated way of handling things works beautifully.

The mini secondary romance tucked into the story was just the icing on the cake – Reilly being a wonderful, wonderful hero that I fell in love with, just as hard and just as fast.

Definitely looking forward to more in the series. Toni sometimes describes her imagination as being dark – but I love just how dark it can get, with the possibility of there always been more.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Warm fuzzies is not what I would normally associate with a Toni Anderson, but this little number does it!

Favorite Quotes

Licks of pleasure spiraled into a cyclone of lust. His fingers dipped between her thighs and she moaned. Finding her ready, he turned her away from him, arranging a pillow beneath her baby bump and another cushioning her head. This was her favorite position now she was pregnant and he knew it. Alex moved behind her and slid deep inside and she came with a deep shudder. He leaned up, squeezed her nipple even as he thrust slowly in and out. She could lie like this for hours, days, it felt so good. She shook with pleasure, and she couldn’t bear for it to change but…
“More, Alex. Deeper.” It was a private joke between them, but the hoarseness of her voice took her by surprise. He got to her every single time.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

Format: E-bookthelotuspalace
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Pingkang Li Mysteries, #1
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Bai Huang
Heroine: Yue-ying
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 27, 2013
Started On: February 07, 2016
Finished On: September 25, 2016

As is the norm with historical romances written by Jeannie Lin, the series entitled The Pingkang Li Mysteries is also set in Tang Dynasty, China in 847 AD.

The story is centered around a pleasure house known as The Lotus Palace, an elite house of courtesans in the pleasure quarter of the North Hamlet, also known as Pingkang li. Yue-ying, the heroine of the story, is a personal assistant going on four years to Mingyu, an elite courtesan at The Lotus Palace. Having been deemed not proper courtesan material Yue-ying had been relegated to the status as such.

Bai Huang on the other hand, is a well-known figure in the entertainment district. A notorious flirt, who is loose with his money, and considered to be openly courting Mingyu.

When the youngest of four beauties at The Lotus Palace gets murdered, that is when the story actually begins, with Bai Huang coming under suspicion from the investigating head constable and the magistrate of the district.

Though it took me a couple of tries to get through the first few chapters of the story which was a bit slow for my liking, I am glad that I persevered and kept going because the larger part of the story was one that I enjoyed in every way possible. I would go as far as to say that what unfolded then was classic Jeannie Lin in every way and that I had missed indulging myself in the beauty that she creates in her stories.

The Lotus Palace is a story that has a lot going for it. Multi-faceted characters, be it the lead or secondary characters, with the story being rich in detail when it comes to Chinese culture, history, and the hierarchical differences that existed between the different members of an establishment, even one such as a pleasure house as The Lotus Palace. Furthermore, the murder mystery proved to be an intriguing aspect to the story that kept me turning the pages as I got deeper into the story.

Bai Huang is one of those lighthearted heroes that has an abundance of charm to their character at first glance. But it is Yue-ying that sees through the facade that he puts up, the man beneath all the pretense and frivolities that he presents to the larger society. Even though Yue-ying promises herself that the likes of Bai Huang are not for women like her, it proves to be harder than she thinks when it comes to defying the tidal wave of desire that Bai Huang’s kisses and caresses unleash in her.

Bai Huang’s courtship of Yue-ying was a beautiful one for me. His gentle wooing and firm stand when it actually came down to it proves to be too much for even Yue-ying to walk away from. Yue-ying’s past is one that is dark, one that rightfully should have made mincemeat out of a lesser woman. But Yue-ying proves time and yet again that she is made of sterner stuff than what people usually judge her to be. As she helps Bai Huang to uncover the truth behind the murder that has shaken the entertainment district to its core, Yue-ying discovers that a future with a man like Bai Huang might be possible, if she would be willing to put herself on the line and put her trust in him.

Recommended, for fans of richly crafted historical romance novels!

Final Verdict: Beautifully told in a way that is uniquely Jeannie Lin, The Lotus Palace is a book not to be missed.

Favorite Quotes

She had never done this before, she realized a moment before she pressed her lips onto his.
His mouth was warm and yielded only a little as she moved closer. She parted her lips to test the texture of his lips and, with the smallest touch of her tongue, the taste of the kiss. She could sense the shudder that traveled through him. It made her breath catch and her stomach flutter with excitement.
This was a gift indeed, but not one that he gave to her. It was a gift that she took for herself.

She could feel his presence over her and hear the deepening of his breath. Her fingers curled reflexively over the pallet as she waited. His first touch upon her could be anywhere and her skin tingled with anticipation.
He laid the flat of his palm between her shoulder blades, pressing lightly. The weight was possessive, but reassuring. He slid it along her spine in one broad stroke.
“You can breathe, love.”
There was amusement in his tone. It was the second time he’d used such an endearment with her. It was presumptuous, but the words still made her quiver.

“This, you like,” he murmured before bending to kiss her.
She sighed against him, accepting the kiss, returning it. The soft caress of his lips quickly grew hard and urgent. Though he tried to hold his weight off her, his hips moved restlessly and she could feel how aroused he was. Yet he did nothing more than kiss her. Yue-ying circled her arms around Bai Huang’s shoulders and arched into him, losing herself in the simple pleasure of touch and warmth and closeness. And of him.

Her hand paused on his abdomen, her little finger just brushing the scar beneath his ribs, before dipping lower.
He shuddered as her hand closed around him. He had been aroused for days, living so close to her, hearing her dressing and washing from the other side of the wall. Her fingers circled him and her hand ran along his entire length, stroking him until he was so hard it bordered on pain. Her grip was knowing, teasing, merciless.

She rested her palms flat against his chest once she was fully seated onto him and the moment of stillness drove him mad. He wanted to thrust up into her, to seek more of that heat and the unbearable pressure of her surrounding him, but if he did it would be over quicker than it began.
Her weight shifted in his lap. She bent to kiss him on the chin. The gesture was sweet, almost innocent, but the change in position caused her muscles to tighten intimately around him.
“Yue-ying.” He gritted out her name.
She had begun to move over him and he was enslaved inside her. Her voice was a seductive whisper against his throat.
“Lord Bai.”

The last of his control was gone. He couldn’t think to pull out of her. He couldn’t stop the flood of his seed into her and the dark wave of pleasure came with such force that he was blinded. He held on to Yue-ying and distantly heard her cries through his own release as he continued to stroke her. Then she was shuddering against him and clinging to him, her nails digging into his shoulder.
It was beautiful. He had no other words for it.

“Last night,” he began.
She stopped him. “Lord Bai.”
“You’re blushing.”
“The day is uncustomarily warm,” she returned without pause.
“Is this love?” he asked simply. His voice was low and sensual.
“Scholars and their romantic notions,” she chided, though her heart was hammering inside her.

There were no preliminaries, no soft caresses or whispered words. Though sensation built within her, the act wasn’t as much about pleasure as it was about possession. Even when he took her breast into his mouth as her pleasure rose, it was an attempt to claim her further. His tongue rasped against her nipple until she wept and moaned. With each thrust of his hips, he was willing her climax, her surrender to him. And she did surrender, her muscles taut and straining until she thought she would break.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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ARC Review: Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

Format: E-bookseeingred
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: John Trapper
Heroine: Kerra Bailey
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: August 15, 2017
Started On: July 02, 2017
Finished On: July 25, 2017

“Two minutes after you knocked on the door of my office, I was fantasizing your mouth taking me.”

Seeing Red, the latest novel by Sandra Brown was amazing in so many ways. From start to finish, Seeing Red delivered a story of the kind that is rare in the genre today. Ms. Brown has always been an author that pushed the boundaries of “convention” that many authors safely stick to when writing their books. So it is not surprising that when a new novel from Ms. Brown hits the stand, I am always eager to get my hands on it.

Seeing Red tells the story of John Trapper, ex ATF agent, whose mundane existence of a life starts to unravel the minute television journalist Kerra Bailey comes seeking him for an interview to do with his father. Trapper had been just 11 years old when his father, Major Franklin Trapper had become a hero in the eyes of the country owing to his daring rescue of victims of a hotel bombing that had shocked the nation. Trapper’s life had changed drastically, so had Kerra’s, and it is only when their lives entwine at this point that everything starts to unravel.

Seeing Red starts off with an introductory chapter that blows one’s mind, and it does not let up from that point onwards. Taking the reader to the days since before the event and then beyond, Seeing Red delivers a story that goes deep into understanding the lengths to which a cult-like society would go to in order to protect an age old secret. From one harrowing experience to another, Ms. Brown does an amazing job of weaving the multiple threads of the story together to deliver a story that was mind blowing in all the good ways.

Trapper, oh dear Trapper; he is the kind of hero that Ms. Brown has perfected along the years of writing romance novels. I have always been a fan of her hard-edged heroes who do not conform to the standards of behavior as is expected by majority of readers of the genre nowadays. This is exactly one reason why I adore Ms. Brown’s books. Because they never fail to deliver a hero that is delicious, sexy as they come, and can talk dirty like the best of them that makes you quiver on the inside.

Trapper has his own vulnerabilities and scars that he hides. However the ingenuity in the buildup of his character lies in the fact that he hasn’t grown bitter throughout what life had dealt him with. Taking second stage in his father’s life from a tender age had definitely left its mark, so had how his career had turned out, all because Trapper had not given up on pursuing what he had felt was right.

When his path crosses that with Kerra’s, for the first time in a long while, he starts to give a damn, which of course makes him irritable and then some. However, Kerra’s unrelenting nature and her way of standing up for herself means that for Trapper walking away was no longer an option. Nor was standing on the sidelines and watching Kerra get hurt in the aftermath of the can of worms that she had opened up with her interview.

The sexual tension between Kerra and Trapper was off the charts, and Ms. Brown delivered on that exceptionally well. On the suspense side, with all the twists and turns that came, the ending and the revelations were explosive enough to make me go “oh my god” every couple of pages. Yes, it was that good!

Definitely and absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Seeing Red is Sandra Brown at her exceptional best. A good Sandra Brown goes a long way towards curing all reading woes.

Favorite Quotes

“I’m not him. I’m not noble, not a gentleman, not a hero, understand?”
“That wasn’t so hard to deduce.”
She thought the putdown would anger him, but he retaliated by gently placing his palm against her cold cheek. He brushed his thumb across her beauty mark.
“I noticed this right off, and the whole time you were sitting there in my shabby office, wearing your city get-up, acting all sassy and know-it-all, you want to know what was going on in my mind?” He ceased the stroking motion of his thumb, stopping it right on the small mole. His mouth lowered to within a hair’s-breadth of hers and he whispered, “Figure it out.”

“Why do you ask? Do you know him?”
“By reputation only. Everything I’ve read about him says he’s secretive. Keeps his business private. Shuns media attention.”
“All true. I had to finagle him.”
His eyes narrowed to slits. “That sounds like really dirty foreplay.”
She laughed, but stopped laughing when he slid his hand under her hair at the nape of her neck and turned them until her back was to the door. Leaning in, his lips skimmed her beauty mark on their way to her ear, where he whispered, “I’d like for you to finagle me.”
She didn’t speak a word, didn’t move, didn’t do anything except give herself over to his body heat and largeness and maleness and sexiness, the blend of which seeped into her like a potent restorative.

He moved his hand up from her nape to cup the back of her head and held it in place while their mouths opened to each other. During the deep and greedy kiss he worked his free hand under her top and into the elastic waistband of the baggy pants. He lightly ground the heel of his hand against her hipbone while his fingers curved around the slope below her waist. He drew her hips forward. She gladly went along with his subtle invitation, and their parts fit together perfectly on the first attempted connection.
He groaned, “Christ, Kerra. Please tell me I’m gonna get to fuck you.”

“You never asked what I was thinking.”
“When?”
“In my office while you were sitting across the desk from me looking all prissy and disapproving. Did you ever figure out what was going through my mind?”
Sounding prissy and disapproving, she said, “I didn’t want to know.”
He grinned. “I was thinking about your beauty mark.”
“That’s it?”
“Disappointed?”
“Surprised. I thought it would be something crude.”
“No. I was focused on your beauty mark, thinking it looked like a speck of dark chocolate and wondering if it would melt against my tongue.” He dabbed his tongue against it now, then a second time. “Hmm. Still there. Guess I’ll just have to keep testing it.”

“I might’ve been thinking about more than just your beauty mark,” he whispered. He shifted closer, covering half of her, and used his nose to nudge aside the collar of the tracksuit jacket so he could nibble her neck, then lowered his head and nuzzled her breast, rubbing his open mouth against the hard tip, taking love bites of it through her t-shirt, pushing at it with his tongue.
“You’d blush to know all the places my wandering mind has taken me. I’ve touched you, tasted you…” He wedged his hand down between them and cupped her sex. “…everywhere.”

“I want to take you like that,” he whispered as he dragged his open mouth down her neck to her collarbone, then lowered his head and rubbed his face against her breasts.
“I haven’t forgotten how you feel inside. I want to be there. In you deep.” His voice was rough and low, his lips aggressive against her raised nipple under her t-shirt. “It may never happen, but the mere thought of any other man being on you, in you…I’d want to kill him.”

Taking her face between his hands, he fused his mouth to hers, pressing his tongue deep, thrilling to the way she hummed her pleasure. He might have gone on forever just kissing her if not for a greater hunger that he must gratify or die.
He worked her top up over her breasts. Her bra was lacy and sheer and only half there to start with. The cups were easily lowered. He took a moment to cradle a breast in each hand. “I freakin’ love that,” he murmured.
“What?”
That they get so hard so fast.
The words were in his mind, but he didn’t say them aloud because by the time he thought them through he was already taking one nipple into his mouth and toying with the other, deriving pleasure from the pleasure he was giving her.

He dipped his head and sucked her nipples in turn, causing her to whimper.
Even during this love play, he didn’t stop pumping into her. He probably had been this hard before, probably as strained and blood-infused and lust-mad and unable to command the instinctual mating movement of his hips.
But if so, he didn’t recall it, because this was the only time that mattered. He wanted this time to be an exorcism and possession at once. Doom and salvation. He wanted it to be both carnal and sacred.
He wanted this to be the fuck Kerra would remember for the rest of her life.

His voice low, Trapper said, “It felt good, Kerra.”
“It did,” she whispered back.
It was simple, but, in its way, profound. He wasn’t one to make romantic declarations, and if she said anything now, it would be more than he would want to hear.
She was perilously close to letting this evolve into something that would leave her heartbroken. She was perilously close to becoming like Marianne. But she wouldn’t take back having made love to him. Not for the world.

He took her hands and stretched her arms above her head. Fitting her palms into his, he linked their fingers and began to stroke her inside. As before, he wanted her to remember this, because it would be engraved on his memory: the feel of her around him, the way she hugged his hips with her thighs, the sexy undulation of her belly against his, the sight of his chest hair dusting the hard tips of her breasts.
The kiss.
He kissed her, and, of all the other mind-blowing sensations, it was that of her mouth so greedily taking his tongue that caused his control to burst. When it did, she arched up and ground against his straining pelvis and brought on another soul-rending orgasm.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBook

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