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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ARC Review: Wildfire by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookwildfire
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Fire, #3
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Malcolm Gunnison
Heroine: Sophie Jordan MacDonald
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: February 14, 2017
Started On: January 28, 2017
Finished On: February 09, 2017

Wildfire is the 3rd book in the explosive Fire series, a spin-off from the delectable Ice series by Anne Stuart. Readable as a standalone, Wildfire tells the story of the Committee operative Sophie Jordan MacDonald who had made the blunder of falling for the charm that her target had exuded in spades, and marrying the monster with whom she had suffered for the past 3 years. Knowing that no one from her former life as an operative would be coming to rescue her as she had bungled up the mission in a major way, Sophie is counting the days until she can escape, that is until Malcolm Gunnison walks into her life and throws everything into a spin.

Malcolm’s mission is one that is straightforward. But the minute Malcolm crosses paths with his target’s wife, the whole operation changes its focus. Malcolm who is not given to feelings of the tender kind finds himself strangely fascinated by a woman he knows he should be able to walk away from. The fact that Sophie’s husband outlines his plans when it comes to her does not help matters. In fact, it pushes Malcolm and Sophie together in a way that makes the sparks literally fly.

Though Wildfire would not be my favorite book in the series thus far, it still carries the trademark Anne Stuart style in delivering a story that heats up and delivers from the onset. The one thing that irked me was the continued references towards how Sophie had been a rookie who should not have been sent into the mission that had changed her life so drastically. The repetitiveness of that particular statement almost throughout the book was a bit off putting to say the least.

Nevertheless, with Malcolm, Anne Stuart once again presents her readers with a hero as ruthless and delicious as they come. There is no turning away from the mastery he wields in the bedroom – well the bedroom comes later, but hey, you get what I mean. If you have ever read an Anne Stuart book, it is how she delivers bad boys of the kind that makes you want that keeps you coming back for more. That and the wit and charm she puts so effortlessly into her books. And she does not disappoint when it comes to Wildfire.

I loved Sophie as well. Her vulnerability and her strength was a combination that made me fall and root for her. The ending when it came was classic Anne Stuart as well. I couldn’t have asked for more!

Final Verdict: Wild is the fire that rages between two operatives who have no intention of falling in love. Deliciously sensuous in the way that only Anne Stuart does it!

Favorite Quotes

“Touch me and I’ll kill you.”
“You and what army?” Before she knew what was happening, he’d crossed that last bit of space, slid his arm around her back, and yanked her against his hard body. “Don’t be a hypocrite. We both want it, and it helps the mission. Man up, Jordan.”
It was a shock, hearing her maiden name for the first time in years. She could feel him, his hard cock unmistakable beneath his jeans, pressing against her stomach. “I don’t think that’s exactly what you’re expecting me to do.”

He was right. She’d wanted this from the moment she first saw him, whether she wanted to admit it or not, and his tongue in her mouth was the first claim—her response, the first acceptance.
His body pressed hers against the wall, and she felt him reach between them, unfastening his jeans, and she panicked for a moment, lashing out at him. He caught her wrists, holding them tightly together, and began to pull up her skirt. She wanted to shove him away, she wanted . . . she wanted . . .

He shoved into her, and she gasped, shocked at the unexpected size of him, the thick cock deep inside her, so good . . . so good . . . and she tightened her arms and legs around him as spasms of pleasure washed over her. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe, she just wanted to feel. She needed this to last forever, and she rode him, his hands on her hips, sliding her up and down on his cock. She threw her head back, wanting to scream, and he sank his head against her neck, his teeth against her shoulder, the sting of his bite sending her over the edge.

Another wave hit her, and this time she did cry out, a wordless sound of rich pleasure, and he pulled away from the wall, turning around, still holding her as he moved, in and out, his thickness a wicked torment, harder, deeper, until he was suddenly rigid in her arms, in her body, his breath rasping as he poured himself into her, punctuated by each jerk of his hips, and she let go, let go of everything, drowning in sensation, in him, in Mal.

“Move back,” he said hoarsely. “Please.” Her face was very still. She hadn’t touched him yet, but he could feel her long, cool fingers so close to him that he wanted to groan. “Why?”
“I want to suck your breasts.”
“It doesn’t turn me on,” she said in her cold little voice.
“Maybe you haven’t had the right person do it.”

He took her other breast in his strong hand, squeezing her just to the point of pain but no further, and she bucked again, letting out a tiny moan.
He lifted his head. “In case you ever find yourself in a position to make love to a woman,” he murmured, “you need to remember that breasts are different with everyone. A lot of women need gentle coaxing, almost worshipful attention. But more women than you’d imagine need a little roughness.” He pinched her breast, and he saw the reaction in her face, the dazed expression in her brown eyes. They’d been soft before, except when she was staring at him in rage, but now they were positively unfocused in reaction to what he was doing. “You’re one of the ones who need a little roughness.”

“Come in my mouth,” she whispered.
He no longer had a choice. His body bucked, and she held onto his hips, taking him in, everything, her fingernails digging into his skin, and as he exploded he thought he felt an answering orgasm ripple through her body as she straddled him.
She drew back, away from him, sprawling on the floor in what should have been graceless exhaustion but instead looked like pure sexual abandon. He’d climaxed, come hard in her mouth, but he wanted more from her, he wanted her every way he could have her, and this time it was for nobody’s pleasure but theirs.

She began to shiver, and he thought that if she dared to make any sound, she would have told him she couldn’t take any more, but he knew she could. That ripple of reaction was hardly strong enough to take her over the edge, give her the release she needed, and he kept up his steady pace, into her, deep, so deep, and he heard an almost imperceptible sound from the back of her throat. It made his cock swell even more inside her, and he slid his hand under them, finding her slick clitoris, circling it. She was shaking so hard he felt the need to hold her together, keep her safe, pushing, pushing, until she froze, a low, keening sound coming so quietly from within her, a sound more powerful than a full-throated scream, and he went over the edge with her.

She was beginning to stir, getting restless, and he knew she was going to pull away, and he wouldn’t be able to stop her, not without drawing attention to them. With strong but gentle hands he turned her in her arms, pushing her hair back off her face, and put his mouth on hers, kissing her with extraordinary sweetness. He swallowed her strangled sob, and she kissed him back, sliding her arms around him and pulling him close, so close, their sweat-slick bodies growing chill in the night air, and he wanted to say something, tell her something, but he couldn’t imagine what. So he simply kissed her, until she pulled away from him, disappearing silently into the darkness.

She wrapped her legs around his slim hips, her fingers tight on his shoulders as he moved inside her, steady, deep, and she wanted more, needed more. This was like nothing she’d ever felt before, it was sex, it was fucking, it was making love. Her heart seemed to flow through her body, into his, a total joining that beckoned her, frightened her, almost destroyed her. He was so big it hurt, a sweet pleasure-pain that simply moved her deeper into this dark, magic, scary place where there was no Sophie, no Mal, just them, sliding together in the murky light, and she felt another orgasm building inside her, deep and powerful, and she knew if she climaxed her heart would explode, and she didn’t care, didn’t care at all.

He reached down, caught her hand, and pulled it away from him, shoving her onto her back. He was going to leave her there, wet and wanting, he was going to turn his back on her and walk away . . .
The hell he was. He shoved her legs apart, moving between them, and thrust his cock into her so hard she cried out, not in pain but in fierce satisfaction. She was everything he wanted—she was nothing but trouble.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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ARC Review: Cold Secrets by Toni Anderson

Format: E-bookcoldsecrets
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice, #7
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Lucas Randall
Heroine: Ashley Chen
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 31, 2017
Started On: January 10, 2017
Finished On: January 27, 2017

The 7th book in the Cold Justice series brings to readers a story that drives home the point that Toni Anderson is an author who delivers on all fronts where the romantic suspense genre is concerned. Every single book in this delectable series has been a hit for me, the subject matter that Ms. Anderson takes on in each of the stories being ones that are often difficult to write about with a measure of objectivity and impartiality. In Cold Secrets, Ms. Anderson delves into the world of sex trafficking, especially that of children who gets the short end of the stick where the fastest growing industry in the criminal world is concerned.

It all begins with the hunt for a little girl, where FBI Agent Lucas Randall finds himself going undercover as a john, the girl who is believed to have been kidnapped by an international ring of sex traffickers. The operation goes horribly wrong, with Lucas barely managing save his own life. Thus begins the hunt for a group of people who always seem to be one step ahead of the team of FBI agents allocated for the task, which is how computer expert and FBI agent Ashley Chen finds herself crossing paths with Lucas.

From the moment these two meet, there is an awareness that is almost palpable in the air. Ashley is someone who holds herself aloof and centers her life around work. She believes that the mistakes that she has made owing to wanting “normalcy” has cost her too much in her life and therefore has no intention of saying yes to the answering heat that flares to life deep inside of herself where Lucas is concerned. At first, Lucas is a bit skeptical of the talent and determination that drives Ashley. While Ashley herself is determined that this would be the case that would prove her worth to the establishment, she finds herself drawn deeper into a case that could hit far too close to the lies that has practically defined her past to a point.

Cold Secrets brings forth a multi-layered story, where as each layer is revealed makes the reader go a-ha!, just like that. I believe that that is part of the ingenuity that makes Ms. Anderson the master she is in weaving stories of the kind. The issue of sex trafficking as well as that of pedophilia is handled, both with the kind of sensitivity that won my wholehearted approval. Neither of these issues are easy to talk about, probe into, dissect and discuss. But I believe that in Cold Secrets, Ms. Anderson has definitely done a praiseworthy job of including the pertinent details without getting bogged down in the unnecessary when it comes to the story.

Being the geek I am, I especially loved the tidbits about the technological aspects that Ms. Anderson included in the story. Well researched is how I would conclude all the facets explored in the novel. Considering the fact that Ashley is someone who works on computers and has dreams of becoming part of the cyber-crime security expert team, there is a bit of jargon that needs to be handled in a way that does not bore the less tech savvy members of the readers community. I loved it all. The statistics, the intricate working mechanisms behind the DarkNet, and the role the Tor browser plays in all of it; all of that were intellectually stimulating to this brain of mine.

Another aspect that is part of the Cold Justice series is the way it delves into issues that relates to how the lines between liberty and privacy and the grey areas that agents often have to work around in order to nab criminals whose nefarious tendencies are protected by the letter of the law that they manipulate by using an army of highly paid lawyers. The fact that this requires painstaking work on the part of law enforcement officials, requiring them to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s is one that is at times frustrating, but then again, that is what the justice system is all about. I love how these stories sheds light onto all these aspects without getting procedural about the whole thing. That is one of the many reasons that I would always keep coming back for more where Toni Anderson is concerned.

Another facet of the story that I adored were Lucas and Ashley, both of whom I loved. Lucas is just so darn sexy and admirable in the way that he knows how to “handle” someone as prickly and difficult as Ashley, and I mean that in the best way possible. Lucas is light where Ashley is darkness in comparison. Lucas is open and frank in his interest when it comes to Ashley, but with her, it is a fact that she is constantly warring with herself to not make the same sort of mistake that could be costly as her past had taught her. Even with all that, the sizzling attraction that at times you could cut through with a knife makes it impossible to turn away from and that is exactly what happens to Ashley when it comes to Lucas. The sexual tension was done perfectly well, the scenes of passion just as much! The ending when it came, I could not have asked for anything better.

A job well done, Ms. Anderson!

Final Verdict: Ms. Anderson wows readers yet again by taking on Chinese organized crime & spinning a tale that hits all the marks!

Favorite Quotes

Yesterday, she’d kissed him. It was only fair to return the favor.
He dipped his head, captured her lips and she opened her mouth with a groan. It was like diving into sin and temptation. Heat and pleasure flared between them and made the frigidity of the night, the damp dirtiness of the alley, and the grim reality of the case, all disappear.
Her body rose to meet his and he dove deeper, tangling his tongue with hers, feeling the fervor of her response. He didn’t let go of her wrists, but his other hand tugged her silky shirt out of her pants so he could reach inside and cup those perfect breasts.
Lace scraped his palm and made him instantly rock hard.

“I like you, Ashley, or haven’t you figured that out yet?”
Fear entered her gaze and she turned her cheek away from his touch. “Please don’t.”
“Please don’t what?” he asked. “Like you? You think I kiss every woman I come across in the street?”
Ashley sent him a disdainful glare. “If either of us had had a condom you’d have gotten your reward for that kiss, and you know it.”
He was so close he could still smell traces of her arousal and it twisted his good sense. “I had my reward, sweetheart. Watching you lose it isn’t something I’m going to forget anytime soon.”

“Don’t be naive, Lucas. You don’t have to like someone to fuck them,” she snapped.
Her attempt to push him away didn’t surprise him, but it did make him angry. “You’re right. I wouldn’t have to like you to fuck you, but God help me, I do.” He leaned closer. “And after feeling you come all over my fingers I really want to fuck you. So keep that in mind next time you follow me down a back alley at midnight.”

His hands urged her on, harder, faster. And even though there were no spaces left to fill she still wanted more of him; she wanted to swallow him whole. He sank his fingers into her long hair, rearing up until he could graze her neck with strong white teeth. Still he demanded more, forcing her to keep chasing that edge again, but with him this time. He nudged her knees wider
apart and she sank even further down his length and cried out. He lay back on the bed and his fingers found her nipple and clit, pinching them both at exactly the same time and making her shatter. Her cries echoed off the walls.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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ARC Review: In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookinthebarrenground.png
Read with: Adobe Reader for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran
Heroine: Tana Larsson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 16, 2016
Started On: August 03, 2016
Finished On: August 06, 2016

In the Barren ground of the soul
nothing can grow.
For here is bitter and cold where
the sun hangs low.
Where a midnight caribou mutilation
awakens a howl of emptiness with ice
where once there was heart.
And it comes with hunger
for blood in its mouth.
For, in the Barrens of the soul
monsters take toll . . .

Loreth Anne White is an author whose name belongs right up there with the masters of the romantic suspense genre. Label her books as romantic suspense or thrillers, either way, you get a story that is worth your time and money in gold, and In the Barren Ground, her latest procedural romantic suspense novel fits right in.

Set in The Barrens, a vast wilderness in northern Canada bordering the Arctic Circle, the terrain is as unforgiving and harsh as they come. When winter rolls in, few are the numbers of people around, and predators come out to stalk whatever food they can scrounge up from the vast areas of hostile territory.

Constable Tana Larsson takes up a post in the remote fly-in community of Twin Rivers because of mistakes of her past, to escape the memories that haunts her more than she would like it to. Though the isolation of the town makes her question her decision at times, Tana knows deep inside that she needs a place as such to lick her wounds in private, to let herself heal and in the process learn to fit in and accept her new role as a mother to be.

When Tana gets called in to cover a wolf mauling that had cost the lives of two students, the evidence at hand suggests something more sinister at work, a force that looks as if it has been in operation for over a span of years, none of it jiving with what the people of Twin Rivers has believed up till now. Though the folks of the town are less than helpful in their hints that Tana is stirring up bad spirits by going deeper into a case that had already cost the sanity of a law enforcement personnel before her, Tana is determined to piece together the clues that points towards a meticulous and horrific serial killer at work.

With the help of a local bush pilot known as Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran, who elicits the sort of reactions from her that are not at all welcome, Tana enters into a dangerous game with a killer who has pretty much perfected the art of killing and getting away with it. The ritualistic nature of the kill, the patterns of it suggesting a sort of violence that is deep rooted in issues of the kind for which help of any sort might never ever be enough.

Before this, I had the misfortune of reading a procedural romantic suspense novel a year or so earlier, which nearly put me to sleep and made me want to bang my head against the wall. The narration of all the procedural aspect made the book intensely dry and made me want to weep from the effort it took for me to finish the book. So my apprehension when it came to reading this was a given, since In the Barren Ground is also characterized as a procedural romantic suspense novel. My worries were totally unnecessary, as I found myself totally captivated by the story that unfolded, a trait that has always held true when it comes to every single book I have had the fortune of reading when it comes to Loreth’s work. Loreth sports a mind of the kind that delivers dark and edgy, the kind that I absolutely, wholeheartedly revel in.

In the Barren Ground, while procedural, it made me appreciate all the more, the intensive and at times tedious work that officers of the law enforcement have to put in in order to get a case right, and to do it right as well. The evidence gathering, collating, picking up the clues and patterns; all of it and more requires a mind that is keen as well as intelligent, and a heart that believes in justice and doing it right and not taking short cuts, because you never know which piece of evidence would end up becoming the pivotal piece in a case.

I loved Tana‘s character. There is strength and resilience in her, the sort that knows when she needs help and when she can do it alone. I think this is basically the first thriller of the kind that I have read, in which the lead character did not go in half cocked, thinking she could save the day just by turning up. No. She used her God given intelligence which made her see that to face off a killer of the kind who takes pride in the planning, the lure and the hunt should not be taken lightly, because if Tana were to piece it all together, the whole world of the killer comes tumbling down. I loved that about this story and that was definitely one of the highlights.

Crash’s character was an absolute delight. Crash is a man who throws all your assessments of his character sideways, his character as appealing on the inside as on the outside. What drew me to his character was how he could read people, how he understood where they were coming from, the career which he had worked in before honing skills in him that turned out to be pretty useful when all was said and done. Crash has his own agenda which he seeks, his own demons to fight, his own past that is filled with regrets of the kind that could break a guy. But Crash perseveres, and knows which battles to fight and which ones to give up, which made me love him all that more!

The killer in this novel, well, that is the masterpiece when it comes right down to it. Loreth’s imagination takes the reader to places where some might not even want to go. Those who have delicate sensibilities might not like where her stories take them. But for me, Loreth’s stories are the high that I seek whenever I pick up a thriller of the kind. The fact that the identity of the killer totally surprised me, something that has been happening too rarely lately for my sake, was one of the winning aspects of this story! Be prepared for a killer that has multiple facets to the character, a testament of the mastery that Loreth holds over the genre.

The setting itself is one that lends credence to the whole story. Definitely not the kind of place you would want to end up with a killer who enjoys the hunt and is relentless. Loreth’s writing is so evocative, and I always keep repeating this point in my reviews; it just feels as if you are one with the story. As if you are standing at the edge of The Barrens, the cold seeping through, right into your very bones, the chill you feel when you encounter the malicious intents of a killer for whom all reason had been lost, and the subtle, yet strong connection that forges to life between two unlikely protagonists; all that and more, and you feel every single aspect of the story to the deepest recesses of your soul.

This is a story that sends chills running up and down your spine, taking you to the edge of your seat and back. Be prepared to lose sleep and to read through the night. Brace yourself to become engrossed and engaged in a read that would have you turning on every light in your house, because that is how edgy and real the story that unfolds is. Definitely and absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Taunts and haunts you! An irrefutable page turner!

Favorite Quotes

It was 3:48 p.m.
Nearly ten minutes away from pickup time. Only five more days before she was due back at school.  With her friends. Her mom. But as Selena  slid  into  oblivion,  she  realized  she  would  not  make  her  twenty second birthday. Perhaps, she thought in an absurd final moment of consciousness, this basin in which she lay beneath the cliff face was one of those  “dreaming  places” where  she should  never have stopped  to rest, or to empty what she had from those bags . . .

Tana banged on O’Halloran’s door, praying she’d find him in a better  state  than  Jankoski.  The  door  opened  almost  immediately,  startling her.  Warm light spilled out into the night. His dark-blond hair stood on end. He wore a tight, long-sleeve tee.  Tattoos poked out from the base of his sleeves. His jeans slung low  on his hips. He grinned, and it put dimples into his rugged, weather-browned cheeks, amusement into his light-green eyes. He reminded her of a scarred and cocky junkyard dog. An edginess crackled through her. Because he intimidated her. Just a little.

“You know why they call this place Headless Man?”
“I’m sure you’re about to tell me.”
“Two prospectors were found a few miles southeast from here, in the twenties, sitting  with their backs leaned up against  a cliff face, just like  we’re doing.  Fully dressed.  Boots on,  packs and  picks and  guns at their sides. Only trouble—no heads. Just gone. Just the two torsos propped  there like they were having a good old chat. Still had  diamonds in their bags.”
She turned to him. “They ever find the heads?”
“Nope.”
“How’d the heads been removed?”
“Ripped. Clean off. Bodies all intact, just those heads torn off their stumps.”

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Review: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookthebourbonkings
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Bourbon Kings, #1
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Hero: Jonathan Tulane Baldwine
Heroine: Lizzie King
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 28, 2015
Started On: July 09, 2016
Finished On: July 25, 2016

The Bourbon Kings is the first novel in a sweeping saga that tells the tales of the lives of the four siblings of the Baldwine family. It is not a simple story by any means. With multiple threads of the story happening at once, The Bourbon Kings is a novel that does justice to the reader by delivering a page-turner that is difficult to put down.

Jonathan Tulane Baldwine (Lane) returns home to the news that his mother might be at death’s door – not his birth mother, but the woman who raised all four of them with love and affection that was so glaringly absent from their lives. Lane, who otherwise had no inclination of returning, finds that his love for the woman that he had hurt beyond redemption by marrying another is still very much the owner of his heart. Furthermore, Lane also finds that the family is at the precipice of a change that could devastate them all, a change that could leave them all defenseless in the wake of it, if Lane were not to take up the reins as required.

Lizzie King swore to herself that she would never be taken in by Lane or anyone who looks as good for that matter. But the minute Lizzie’s paths crosses with that of the son that has returned, she finds that she is as helpless in the wake of want, desire and love that courses through her as much as Lane. The family politics that Lizzie has always stayed away from as an employee of the manor is what turns the tables for Lane and Lizzie, the knowledge that nothing was as she believed it to be when it comes to the deep and dark secrets of the family.

The Bourbon Kings is not a story that tells the tale of Lizzie and Tulane’s tale of love alone. It sweeps through the lives of the 4 siblings, Edward Westfork Bradford Baldwine, Virginia Elizabeth Baldwine otherwise known as Gin and Max, the one known as the free spirited sibling, the only sibling who didn’t make an appearance in the debut novel.

Edward is the hated son, the eldest who faced his nightmare at the hands of kidnappers in South America. Edward is a character that you feel for deeply, helpless at being unable to do anything much but read along, horrified at the extent of the betrayal that had basically crippled his life.

Gin being the only female sibling, is the one that carries the scars of having given birth to a daughter that she had felt ill-equipped to look after  with basically no support I am guessing, from whom she is pretty much estranged. Gin’s true love remains forever lost to her because of a decision that she is “forced” to take in the heat of the changes that comes to the family dynamics. A decision that had my heart do a dive because of the imminent sorrow I felt for her and the only man she has ever truly loved – the father of her daughter. It once again made me feel helpless as I could basically feel the horror that Gin’s life is going to be, a horror perhaps of her own making, which nevertheless does not make it any easier to swallow.

While Lane and Lizzie’s obstacles remained to be the broken trust that had shattered Lizzie in a way that she had never gotten over since Lane left the estate after his marriage and the woman who pretty much is still Lane’s wife who still lives on the estate, it is the events that takes place within the family, the deaths that came that had Lane reeling from the impact more than anything else that turns all their lives upside down. The fact that their entire family business is at peril, the name of the richest and oldest families in the bourbon making business facing the imminent threat of being dragged through the muck being the reason that requires Lane to step up and fill in the shoes that had been Edward’s role up till the moment he had cut ties from the family.

This being my first J. R. Ward, I was a bit apprehensive and pretty much excited to finally delve into something she had written. All because Ms. Ward is a name that you come across multiple times if you are lover of the romance genre. I found mixed reviews up on Goodreads for this book, perhaps given the fact that most of Ms. Ward’s fans are those of her urban-fantasy/paranormal series known as The Blackdagger Brotherhood of which I became a fan right after I finished The Bourbon Kings.

Talent of the kind that can juggle multiple lines of stories in one setting and deliver on each and every single one of them leaving the reader begging for more is one of the rarest in the world of books, especially when it comes to the romance genre. I found myself totally captivated by the immensely complex and yet profoundly broken and beautiful tale of love, lust, betrayal, jealousy, suspense and heart wrenching pain that Ms. Ward has created with this series. I became a fan from page one itself.

Looking forward to the next installment in the series, Angels’ Share, which has already come out. I can’t wait to see where Ms. Ward takes these characters that have embedded themselves in my heart from the get-go.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Sweeps you off into a setting that delivers a riot of emotions of the page turning kind!

Favorite Quotes

“You need to go now,” he said in a tight voice.
Yes, she told herself. I do.
And yet for some crazy reason, she whispered, “Why?”
“Because if I wanted you when it was just a game”—that stare of his locked on her mouth—“in my current mood, I’m desperate for you.”

He never thought he’d get this again, and though he would have liked to do a slow-and-sweet, he couldn’t. Too desperate.
He was rough with the waistband of her shorts, tearing at the button, the zipper, ripping them down her legs. And then he slid his hand between her thighs, pushing her cotton panties out of the—
Lizzie called out his name in a hoarse voice that nearly made him come right then and there. And as her fingers bit into his shoulders, he stroked her harder.
“Hurt me,” he growled as she dug into him. “Make me bleed …”

Lifting Lizzie up off the floor, he relished the way she locked on to him with her powerful arms. One tearing jerk of the zipper on his slacks and his arousal was ready to go. He split her underwear in two, and then—
The roar he let out into her neck was like that of an animal, but he paid no attention to the sound. The slick hold of her sex was a sensation he felt over his entire body, and he orgasmed immediately. So long … so long, that he had dreamed of her, and regretted what had happened, and wanted to do things differently. And now he was where he had prayed to be: With every pumping release into her, he was rewinding time, putting things back to rights, repairing the wrongs.

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ARC Review: Sting by Sandra Brown

Format: E-booksting
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Shaw Kinnard
Heroine: Jordan Elaine Bennett
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 16, 2016
Started On: July 12, 2016
Finished On: July 14, 2016

I have been so excitedly looking forward to the next big thriller by Sandra Brown, an author who has continued to rock my world with most of her published works, with very few misses in between. Sting is exceptionally plotted in this regard as well, with enough twists and turns to make for a riveting read.

Shaw Kinnard is a hired mercenary who is recruited to kill Jordan Elaine Bennett (Jordie), sister to and only living relative of Joshua Raymond Bennett, a much-sought-after criminal who escapes from Witness Protection, putting Jordie’s life in danger, because of those elements that wants to get to Joshua through Jordie. When the sanctioned hit goes horribly wrong, Shaw takes Jordie hostage, determined to make a deal with who hired him. After all, Shaw has been in the game far too long to be taken for a fool.

From the moment Jordie lays eyes on Shaw, she knows he is more trouble than worth thinking about. But then, the choice is taken from her hands when she becomes captive to the very man she responds to in a way that leaves herself questioning her sanity, which brings forth a pretty interesting dynamic between Shaw and Jordie.

The craftiness of the plot lay behind the ending of the story, a twist that I never foresaw coming! While I could guess to the truth behind Shaw’s character from the start, having read a hero with similar background in a prior novel of Ms. Brown’s, the ending pretty much blindsided me with how brilliant it was!

While I had a wee bit of a problem in connecting with either Shaw or Jordie on an emotional level, I felt that Sandra did more than justice to the story by giving readers an ending that they would mull over for the time to come.

Recommended for fans of thrillers and romantic suspense!

Final Verdict: Delivers a plot of great ingenuity & attests to why Ms. Brown is a renowned master of the game!

Favorite Quotes

“I’m telling you everything I know. Please believe me. Believe—”
“Hush, Jordie.”
The command was softly spoken but imperious. He brought his mouth down on hers ungently and without restraint. The back of her head was encompassed by his hand and held in place with inescapable strength. His other hand settled on her neck.
While his thumb stroked the sensitive underside of her chin, his stern lips pressured hers to separate, and when they did, the sleek glide of his tongue against hers caused an overspill of heat throughout her. Angling his head the other way, he made an even deeper foray into her mouth.
But then he groaned with frustration and raised his head. “I had to do that. Just once.”

“Stop it. I mean it, Shaw. I don’t want this.”
“No, you don’t want to want it. Big difference.”
Then he angled her head and kissed her the way he’d imagined, the way his drugged mind had fantasized it, the way he’d craved to from the first time he got a good look at her face.
He didn’t care how many ethics codes he was violating, or how many federal agents were in the next room, or—God forgive him—if Billy Panella himself was on the other side of this door, unless she put words into action and stopped him, he was going to get carnal with her mouth. He was going to mate with it for as long as she and time allowed.

She let go of the duffel bag. It dropped softly onto the toe of his boot. He pushed it aside, inched closer to Jordie and leaned into her, making adjustments in alignment that fit them together like puzzle pieces and caused her breath to catch. He hated the damn bulletproof vest that shielded her breasts from the pressure of his chest.
Her hand came up between them. She ran her thumb across the scar on his chin, then scraped it lightly with her teeth. He took a love bite of her wet, plump lower lip. Then they were kissing again, frantically. Maybe it was the mad recklessness of this whole thing that made it so goddamn good.

Lifting his face away from hers, he whispered roughly, “I’m going to have you, Jordie.”
Her eyes were still angry, but now also lambent with arousal as she stared into his.
“You know it as well as I do, don’t you?”

“All I’ve thought about,” he said, breathing the words against her neck, “being like this…inside you.”
Her response was to clench.
“Ah, dammit, Jordie, don’t. I don’t want to rush it.”
“Neither do I.”
“But I can’t help moving.”
“Neither can I.” She arched her hips up and rocked against him.
He groaned, planted his hands above her shoulders, and levered himself up. Then, as he’d promised her, he told her straight out: “I’m gonna fuck you now.”

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Review: Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-bookdukeofmidnight
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #6
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield
Heroine: Artemis Greaves
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: October 15, 2013
Started On: June 27, 2016
Finished On: June 28, 2016

Duke of Midnight is the 6th book in the Maiden Lane series and by far my most favorite. Towards the end of Lord of Darkness, the 5th book, once again Elizabeth Hoyt makes a startling revelation, perhaps the most astonishing one at that since the series began. The identity of the 3rd Ghost of St. Giles, this time someone who is more driven by his own personal vengeance against those that had done him and his family wrong, a member of the nobility, not to mention a member of the Parliament itself; Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield.

Readers who have had their run ins with Maximus in previous books in the series would have been hard pressed not to be intrigued by all that he is. Projecting a cold and formidable front, the Duke of Wakefield is someone who seems to be as straitlaced as they come, his utter dislike or perhaps even hatred for gin and makers of gin something that is known all over the country. While Maximus works hard to push through relevant laws that could tackle with gin making, something which he believes most passionately is the core reason behind the decay of society, at night, Maximus dons the mask and costume of the Ghost and traipses through the worst of slums in London, in the hopes of finding clues that would lead him to the villain he has been pretty much searching for a major part of his adult life.

Artemis Greaves is a character that came into prominence through the introduction of her beautiful cousin Lady Penelope Chadwicke into series, for whom Artemis is companion to. Lady Penelope is someone who wants nothing but the best for herself. Thus, determined to have Maximus as her husband, Penelope embarks upon the quest with much fervor, which does earn her the attention of Maximus in his usual cool, aloof and calculated manner. There is no joy in a transaction which Maximus believes suites him rather well. There is no fire that burns in him to possess Lady Penelope, unlike Artemis her companion who makes him want to go into hiding with her by his side and forget the whole world.

Artemis gets under his skin without Maximus knowing of it, their interludes during the quiet hours of the morning on his estate grounds something that pricks and prods at him until his emotions are tangled up in need for none but Artemis. But Artemis is one with her own agenda to push forward. Someone who is ready to do anything for the freedom of the one man for whom she would lay down her whole life for, even if it means enlisting, bribing or even coercing the help of the powerful Duke himself to do so.

There are multiple reasons why Duke of Midnight ended up being my favorite of the series. For anyone who knows of my reading tastes, I am someone who is drawn to dark characters, a bit ruthless and driven by needs that they cannot control when it comes to the heroine in question, no matter how hard they may try. Maximus was that hero for me from the Maiden Lane series. Brought up to take his rightful role as the Duke, the responsibilities of being one are thrust upon him at a tender age when both his parents get killed. Maximus has to grow up overnight without having time to properly grow into the duties required of him. Thus makes Maximus a hard man, a man who is principled, a man who often times comes off as cold, aloof and removed from the rest of the world, an image that serves him well most times.

Maximus is also the only Ghost of St. Giles who actively continues his training for the role, having turned part of his home into a training facility where he subjects himself to grueling hours of training so that he is one lethal machine of brawn, intelligence and strong will, focused on getting to the truth behind the murders of his beloved parents and making those responsible pay.

That strong ironclad will of Maximus was something that I admired and bemoaned over in equal doses. There is something quite alluring about a man who knows his own mind, well, for that matter I love a woman who knows her own mind as well – but with Maximus, him being my favorite hero in the series, I am allowed to be a little biased. The fact that his attraction and want for Artemis clouds all his senses does not make him give up on what he has planned for his life, but rather, he wants Artemis on his terms, as hard headed and stubborn it makes him. But the beauty of it when it comes to heroes who are strong minded comes in their submission to the greater force of love for the heroine, which is an aspect I enjoyed in Duke of Midnight. The moments of jealousy which overtakes Maximus during the heady encounters with Artemis, the ones that makes him go all “mine” with sheer possessiveness – those were the moments I reveled in.

Artemis is a heroine who shone equally bright in the story. With a future that looked bleak, with nothing to her name but the goodwill of an uncle who took her in, Artemis’s determination to work against the odds nevertheless, to prove the innocence of her brother was something that resonated deep within me. Even her burgeoning feelings for the Duke is something Artemis is willing to sacrifice in order to see to it that her beloved brother is removed from Bedlam, where he is rotting away into an existence that would prove to be the death of him, sooner rather than later.

I believe that Artemis is the best fit for someone with such powerful emotions and desires as Maximus. She is able to get through to him in a way that no one else can, her ability to read him so effectively being a quality of utmost importance given how easily he can don on a mask that would show to to the rest of the world that nothing touches him, when in fact things deeply do. Artemis dares him to show to her that side of his that few would ever see – the one without the artifice that society dictates he wears whenever he goes out and about. That for me, was the beauty behind the union between Artemis and Maximus when all was said and done.

Loved it all, which is why I would recommend this book with the whole of my heart!

Final Verdict: Earthy & evocative, with just the right touch of erotic; scorches the pages & moves the heart.

Favorite Quotes

A shrill whistle rent the air. Percy, who had been trotting along beside them, lifted his head alertly before racing to Wakefield’s side. Bon Bon scrambled on short little legs to keep up with his new friend.
Artemis watched the dogs go and found herself staring at the duke. He was looking in her direction, and even at this distance he was commanding, almost as if he were demanding something of her.
She felt light-headed.
Then Penelope tapped him on the arm and he turned to the other woman to smile and make some comment.
Artemis shivered despite the bright sunshine.

Something quickened in him, rising, hardening, reaching eagerly for the challenge. She was no soft society lady. She might disguise herself thus, but he knew better: she was a goddess, wild and free and dangerous.
And a most suitable opponent.
He picked up Lady Penelope’s gloves and, unsmiling, saluted Miss Greaves with them. She bowed to him, equally grave.
Maximus turned to the house, thinking. He had no idea how he would do it yet, but he meant to best her. He’d show her that he was the master, and when she’d admitted his victory… well, then he’d have her. And he’d hold her, by God. His huntress.
His goddess.

Ridiculously, he thought he could feel his heart beat faster. Despite their antagonism, despite her threats to his equilibrium, he wanted to see her, and right now he wouldn’t examine why.
In another few steps he made the clearing with the pond and looked about. He could see the dogs milling a quarter way around the pond—even Bon Bon was there—but he couldn’t yet see her on the path.
And then he did see her and arousal went straight to his cock.
Artemis Greaves was in the pond, as graceful as a naiad, her skirts bound up at her waist, standing thigh deep in the sparkling water.
How dare she.

Maximus glanced away so she couldn’t examine too closely the expression on his face. “Who was he?”
“Thomas Stone. The son of the town’s doctor.”
He sneered. “Beneath you.”
Her gaze hardened. “As you so kindly pointed out, my father was notorious for his flights of fancy. Too, I had no dowry to speak of. I couldn’t very well be choosy. Besides”—her tone softened—“Thomas was quite sweet. He used to bring me daisies and violets.”
He stared, incredulous. What sort of imbecile brought such common flowers to a goddess? Were it him, he’d shower her with hothouse lilies, peonies overflowing with perfumed bloom, roses in every shade.
Bah, violets.

“What”—he turned and seized both her arms—“has gotten into you?”
“He’s dying,” she whispered furiously, trembling within his grasp. “I didn’t receive the letter until almost noon—because Penelope didn’t think it important enough to give it to me earlier. Apollo is lying in that hellhole dying.”
His jaw set as he searched her face. “I can have a carriage readied for you to return to London within the hour. If the roads are—”
She slapped him, quick and hard.
His head turned slightly with the blow, but other than that his only reaction was the narrowing of his eyes.
Her chest was heaving as if she were running. “No! You must go to London. You must get him out. You must save my brother because if you don’t, I swear upon everything I hold holy that I’ll ruin both you and your illustrious name. I’ll—”
“Little bitch,” he breathed, his face turned fiery red, and he slammed his mouth against hers.

“You come to a bachelor’s rooms—bedroom—well after dark all by yourself to give him a trinket you could just as easily hand him in the morning.” His voice was mocking. He wanted to break her suddenly. To make her feel the rage he did at the situation they had been placed in. Were it not for her history—and his—he might’ve courted this woman. Might’ve made her his wife. “Have you no care for your reputation?”
She stepped toward him until she was so close he fancied he breathed the same air as she and when she tilted her face up to look at him he saw that she wasn’t nearly as calm as he’d imagined.
“No,” she murmured, her voice a siren’s song, “none at all.”
“Then I’ll be damned if I will,” he muttered and kissed her.

He pulled back, his chest heaving, and looked at her angrily. “Don’t start something you mean to stop.”
She met his gaze squarely. “I don’t mean to stop.”
His eyes narrowed. “I cannot give you marriage.”
She’d known. She’d never thought he could—she would’ve sworn so had she been asked a minute earlier—but his blunt words were an arrow of pain piercing her heart nonetheless. She bared her teeth in a smile. “Have I asked you to?”
“No.”
“And I never shall,” she vowed.

She shivered.
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten when your fichu slipped from your dress,” he murmured. “Strange, for I’ve seen more immodest décolletages at every ball I’ve ever attended, yet I’ve been entirely unable to remove the thought of your breasts from my mind.” His gaze flicked up to hers, dark and enigmatic. “Your breasts and other parts of you. Perhaps it’s the very fact that you usually cover yourself so modestly in public that makes the unveiling that more anticipated. Or perhaps”—he bent and whispered in her ear—“it’s you. Merely you.”

He slid his thumb between her folds and found that nub at the top, pressing down as he watched her face. She arched involuntarily, the sensation singing through her limbs.
A muscle ticked on his jaw, his face stern and ruthless, as he pressed again, his finger finding her entrance and slipping in.
She bit her lip, staring back at him, refusing to break their gaze, wanting him to continue.
“God,” he whispered. His nostrils flared suddenly, and seemingly against his will, he kissed her.

She held her breath.
His eyes flicked open to look at her. “Be brave.”
She raised an eyebrow, waiting.
He grinned.
There was a pinch, a growing pressure. She tensed. It hurt. He was so big and she felt suddenly small and fragile. Was this truly meant to be?
He leaned down and brushed his lips against her nose. “Sweet Diana.”
Then he shoved hard.
She inhaled. It burned, but that didn’t matter. She was called Artemis, and a huntress could withstand pain.

“Diana,” he whispered. “My Diana.”
She touched the corner of his lips, and he opened, taking her thumb into his mouth, biting tenderly on her flesh.
She felt his belly rubbing against hers, the wet slide of his hard flesh in hers, the brush of his chest against her nipples, and she liked it. There was no pain now, only a feeling of closeness. Of animal intimacy. Perhaps she’d been wrong: perhaps this was the moment a woman was nearest to the wild animal: when she was without constraints or thought, no society telling her what she must do and what she must not. Free from civilization.
They were bound together in this primitive act.

She opened her eyes to find him watching her like a predator. Calculating, waiting.
He held her gaze, and she saw a faint smirk curl one corner of his mouth. The rug was suddenly gone from her lap, and then she felt the slide of her skirts up her legs.
“Do you remember that morning?” he asked, his voice impossibly deep. “You emerged from the pond like a goddess triumphant. You’d flaunted your ankles the day before”—he brushed warm fingers over her left ankle, making her shiver—“but that morning I saw the tender curve of your inner thigh, the sweet bend of your knee, the shy sweep of your calf. You revealed them as coyly as a siren singing a man to his ecstatic death—and you didn’t even know it, did you? By the time you reached the shore I was hard as iron.”

His thumbs rubbed slow circles on her hipbones as if to gentle her or maybe to keep her relaxed. Although if that were his purpose, it wasn’t working. She still held his gaze in defiance, but her breath was quickening as if she were climbing a staircase.
Abruptly he looked down.
He stilled, simply staring at her. He made no movement, but there was a wild possessiveness in his eyes that made something inside her stretch and purr in response. He wanted her. Wanted this part of her. She was suddenly jealous of any other woman he’d ever looked at like this. He hadn’t the right—they hadn’t the right. This look, his expression, this moment was only between them and no one else.
They were a universe of two.

His movements were sharp and abrupt as he drove himself into her again and again. He was nothing like the sophisticated aristocrat he was in front of others. One corner of his mouth twisted in a sneer, his eyes a glaring furnace. He used her body for his own pleasure, for his own need, working her up and down on his cock. He was little more than an animal now.
And she gloried in it. She—she—had driven him to this. Had made a man who captured kings and foreign diplomats with the surety of his eloquence quite simply lose his mind.
He pushed up with all his might, shoved to the hilt within her, and froze, head thrown back in an agony of pleasure.
She leaned forward and delicately licked the salt sweat from his lips as his seed flooded her.

He lay on top of her, his upper body braced on his arms but his hips and legs weighing her down. Trapping and holding her.
“You’re mine,” he said, laying his cheek against hers. “Mine and no one else’s.”
“Maximus,” she warned.
“Yield, Diana,” he whispered, parting her legs. She could feel the thick heat of his cock pressed hard on her bottom. “Yield, warrior maiden.”
“I’m not a maiden. You took that.”
“And I would again,” he growled. “I’d steal you away and keep you in a castle far from here. Far from any other man. I’d guard you jealously and every night come to your bed and put my cock into your cunny and fuck you until dawn.”

“Do you want that, Diana?” he muttered into her ear, his breath humid on her skin. “Do you want to be mine and only mine, away from this cursed world, in a place inhabited by just we two?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, her voice fierce.
He levered himself up. “I’d go a-hunting in the day and kill a fine stag. I’d bring it back to our hidden castle and dress it and cook it over a fire and then I’d sit you on my lap and feed you, morsel by morsel. All your sustenance would be by my hand and mine alone.”
She laughed then, for she knew he didn’t truly want such a biddable doll. She squirmed and turned in a sudden movement so that she lay facing him.
“No, I’d hunt with you by your side,” she said as she reached up to pull his face down to hers. “I am your equal, my lord. Your equal and mate.”
“So you are,” he breathed, and bit her lip.

 “Diana,” he murmured in her ear, licking. “Diana, you are everything I’ve ever wanted and shall never have.”
Tears pricked at her eyes and she opened her mouth to sob.
“That’s it,” he said. “Weep for me. Bear my pain. Take my come. For I can give you nothing else.”
And he thrust into her in hard, sharp punches, each movement striking against that place within her. She gritted her teeth and bowed her head into the pillow. It was too much. Too little. A continual assault against her senses.

He opened his eyes. “Never leave me.”
She shook her head, breaking free from his rein and rising like the huntress she was. She let his poor cock slip to the very mouth of her before slamming herself back down. She rode him. Her thighs were strong and lithe, her brows drawn down in resolute purpose, and her lips were parted wide in something very like wonder.
It was the last that made him move. Dear God, if he couldn’t have anything “else, if she was determined to hollow him out and leave him a husk, then he would remember this:
Artemis riding him like the goddess of the hunt.

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